On the 12th of September 1923, the charter establishing the ‘Aero Company OY’ (Aero Ltd.) was signed in Helsinki heralding the birth of what would become Finnair, the National carrier of Finland. On the 9th of October the same year, the company was entered into the trade register beginning operations on the 1st November following the first shareholders meeting.
Aero OY was founded by Gustaf Snellman, Fritiof Åhman and Bruno Otto Lucander. Consul Bruno Lucander became the company’s first managing director, bringing with him experience in long-distance air travel gained in his time as General Manager of the company ‘Finland Spedition-Central Ab-Suomen Välityskeskus O/Y’ from 1918. His company had handled the interests of the Estonian airline ‘Aeronaut’ in Finland, when Aeronaut had begun operating flights from Tallinn to Helsinki.
Lieutenant-Colonel Arne Somersalo, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) served as a technical advisor to the board of directors from 1923. The company received 500,000 Marks from the Government upon its founding; this was increased to 1 million Marks on the 12th December. Aero OY carried 269 passengers in its first year.
Late in 1923, the Estonian airline Aeronaut was acquired by the German company Junkers Flugzeugwerke A.G. and a Junkers F.13 went into service on the Helsinki route. The aircraft was a single-engine monoplane, equipped with a closed cabin and seats for four passengers. The crew consisted of a pilot and a mechanic.
Aeronaut had shown that the Junkers F.13 was up to the challenge of operating in the harsh conditions of Northern Europe which convinced Lucander that the aircraft should be the first choice for Aero.
In summer 1923 Lucander concluded an agreement with the Junkers Flugzeugwerke A.G. for the delivery to Aero of one aircraft plus technical help and personnel in exchange for a 50 per cent holding in the Finnish company.
On the 14th of March 1924, Aero took delivery of its first aircraft, a German-registered Junkers F.13 D-335. The Junkers Factory pilot Heinrich Putz flew the aircraft to Helsinki three days later. Its maiden commercial flight was on the 20 March 1924, when it carried 162 kilos of mail from Helsinki to Tallinn.
Aero was based at Katajanokka, Helsinki where in 1923 the facilities consisted of a small terminal building and one seaplane ramp.
On June 2nd 1924, Aero began operations from Helsinki to Stockholm with the cooperation of the Swedish airline ABA. Operations were conducted with the Junkers fitted with floats because at that time Helsinki and Tallinn had no airfields.
Stockholm offered a rail link to Gothenburg, which offered flight connections to Copenhagen, Oslo and London. Both ABA and Aero operated between Helsinki and Stockholm during the summer. The Helsinki to Stockholm route was not as successful as the Helsinki to Tallinn route which was supported by the Nord-Europa Union of airlines which was supported by the Junkers factory with a connection to Königsberg, which in turn had a rail link to Berlin.
During the summer of 1924, Aero employed its first Finnish pilot, Gunnar Lihr, which brought the total number of employees to seven. The company was keen to interest the Finnish people in aviation giving 833 public demonstration flights in 1925.
Regular flights between Helsinki and Tallinn continued throughout 1925, in May 1926 the Junkers factory’s Nord-Europa Union and the Trans-Europa Union were merged into a single conglomeration of sixteen airlines. The Union of German airlines formed soon after this with the absorption of the German company Aero Lloyd into Deutsche Luft Hansa. Support for Aero OY from Junkers would decline after this merger as the Junkers factory focused its attention on the larger German carriers.
In 1926, Aero purchased a three engined, 9 passenger Junkers G 24 with help from the Government in the form of a state guaranteed loan. The aircraft was bought to Helsinki on the 4th June and put into service on the Stockholm route. The Junkers G 24 was equipped with skis which restricted its operations to the summer months.
In 1927, Aero became a member of IATA (The International Air Transport Association); The company was given the code, “AY”, which stands for Aero Yhtiö which means “company” in Finnish.
Later that year, the company’s Managing Director Bruno Otto Lucander, embarked on Aero’s first around-Finland flight. Several journalists were embarked on the flight taking the first flying tour of the country which went as far north as Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle.
The aim of the tour was to demonstrate to Aero’s board of directors that the commercial domestic routes of the company could be expanded to include the territories to the north.
At this stage Aero was enthusiastic about the possibility of building one or more permanent airports on land. They were however keenly aware that the 3 million population of Finland with its 187,888 lakes, were reluctant to build airstrips on land. As a result Aero remained with its current seaplane operations, opening Turku-Ruissalo air harbour in May 1927 enabling flight traffic to start between Turku and Stockholm.
During June 1928, an Aero Junkers F.13 piloted by Gunnar Lihr took part in the search for the explorer Umberto Nobile’s airship Italia, which had crashed on Spitzbergen after running into a storm on the way back from Nobile’s failed flight to the North Pole. Lihr succeeded in rescuing one of the expedition team, a feat which brought considerable publicity in the world’s press for both Lihr and Aero.
The fortunes of Aero looked set to change when in August 1929 Managing Director Bruno Otto Lucander died suddenly. Gunnar Ståhle, one of the original three directors from 1923, took over. The fortunes of the company looked in doubt as there was talk of a sell-out from Aero’s major stake-holder, Junkers. However, Finnish investors stepped in and saved the company. So at the beginning of the 1930’s Aero became an entirely Finnish operation.
The 1930s began in a spirit of Nordic cooperation. Aero and ABA launched the ‘Scandinavian Air Express’. This was done to market both Aero’s and ABA’s routes between Helsinki and Stockholm and Aero’s Helsinki-Tallinn route. Onward flight connections to major European destinations from Stockholm opened up the European market to Aero. Flights to Copenhagen became available as did an Aero operated route to Amsterdam from Stockholm.
The first major passenger carrying aircraft was purchased by Aero in 1932. This was a Junkers Ju 52/3m on floats. This was a three-engined, low-winged large aircraft seating 14 passengers.
Initially the aircraft was restricted to flying in the summer months only as it was on floats. It was quickly fitted with wheels which would enable the aircraft to fly the economically lucrative Helsinki-Stockholm route. The first Ju 52/3 went into service on 1 July 1932. In the period 1932-42, Aero took delivery of five Ju 52/3m aircraft.
On the 8th September 1935 the dream of the Aero Company’s board of directors would be realised with the opening of Finland’s first civil airport at Turku Artukainen. The opening of Stockholm’s first civil airport at Bromma on the 23rd of May 1936 increased the pressure on Helsinki to open its own international hub. Flights began from Malmi in December 1936, although the airport was not opened officially until May 1938.
Aero’s seaplane fleet would be consigned to history with a last seaplane flight from Helsinki Katajanokka to Stockholm Lindarängen on 15 December 1936. After this, the fleet was completely on wheels, and Aero operated at last from solid ground.
Aero expanded its fleet in March 1937 with the purchase of two D.H. 89A Dragon Rapides. The aircraft, a seven passenger, 2 piston-engined bi-plane was purchased with a special purpose in mind; it would take on Finland’s first scheduled domestic service between Helsinki and Viipuri. This service started on the 1st of May 1937. Just two days afterwards the service between Helsinki and Tampere was started. In 1938 the Viipuri route was extended to Imatra and the Tampere route extended to Vaasa. A year later, the northern route was extended as far as Oulu and Kemi.
During the 1930s Aero OY consolidated its existing services extending only its Tallinn route via Riga and Kaunas to Berlin. There were however many plans for international services set to coincide with the 1940 Olympic games due to be held in Helsinki.
To realise these plans, two Focke-Wulf FW 200B Condor Aircraft were ordered by Aero in 1938. The FW 200 was a German all-metal four-engine monoplane originally developed by Focke-Wulf as a long-range airliner which resulted from a proposal by Kurt Tank of Focke-Wulf to Dr. Rudolf Stuessel of Deutsche Lufthansa to develop a landplane to carry passengers across the Atlantic Ocean to the USA.
This fitted in with Aero’s plans to develop a transatlantic service in cooperation with other Nordic airlines. The war unfortunately curtailed Aero’s plans for the time being. They never received their Condors as all available aircraft were requisitioned by the Luftwaffe and the Olympic Games due to be held in 1940 in Helsinki never took place.
In 1939 war broke out across Europe. The Russians and Germans invaded Poland; Russia invaded Finland on November 30th 1939 and then Estonia in 1940. The Finns forced the Soviet Union to the negotiating table in March of 1940 ceding up to 10% of its territory in the armistice. The Estonians weren’t so lucky. They were occupied. All available transport aircraft in Finland were requisitioned by the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force).
Aero’s Dragon Rapides were requisitioned for use by the 4th Supplementary Flying Regiment. The Junkers 52 transports were put to work on the new Vaasa to Stockholm route as it was deemed too dangerous to operate these vulnerable aircraft out of Helsinki. However the Turku-Stockholm route was still flown on an irregular basis.
The Finnish Air Force would be Finland’s first operator of a commercial airliner with a retractable undercarriage, the Douglas DC-2. The DC-2 was an airliner and transport aircraft of U.S. manufacture. It accommodated three crew and 14 passengers. The first DC-2 baptized “Hanssin-Jukka” achieved almost legendary status as a bomber in the Winter War and later as a personnel transport. Carl Gustaf von Rosen bought the aircraft from KLM and donated it to the Suomen Ilmavoimat. Two additional aircraft were purchased in 1949. The DC-2 was in use until 1955. The Air Force operated three DC-2s from 1940 to 1956.
Of the 3,900 passengers carried during the Winter War, 1,500 were children evacuated to Sweden. On one flight, an Aero 14-seat Junkers Ju 52/3m carried 42 passengers, of whom 26 were children.
Between the Winter War and the Continuation War (13th March 1940 to 25th June 1941), Aero resumed flights to Tallinn on the 2nd April 1940 and to Stockholm two days later. The service to Tallinn was severely disrupted when on June 14 while the world’s attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany a day earlier, one of Aero’s Ju 52 transports was shot down by the Soviet Air Force.
Two Soviet bombers downed one of Aero’s Junkers Ju 52/3m fleet “Kaleva” flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki and over 120 kilograms of diplomatic mail by two French embassy couriers. A US Foreign Service employee Henry W. Antheil Jr., the French couriers and other passengers were killed in the crash.
On June 17th Estonia fell to the Soviet Union. The occupation was complete by June 21st and Aero’s operations to Tallinn ceased for the duration of the war.
The company instead switched its attention to starting flights to Petsamo in Northern Finland. This service finally began on 2 June 1940. Known as the “Petsamo Express”, it flew passengers from Helsinki to Petsamo via Tampere, Vaasa, Kokkola, Oulu, Kemi, Rovaniemi and Sodankylä in eight and a half hours. In October 1940, Mariehamn was added to the domestic network. The peace between Finland and the Soviet Union would not last.
The Continuation War began on the 22nd of June 1941 and lasted until the 19th September 1944. Throughout this second war between Finland and Soviet Russia, Aero aircraft made a considerable number of transport flights both in Finland and abroad. Despite the war-time conditions, Aero flew to Berlin during 1943 and 1944. Fuel shortages were a problem, but flights to Rovaniemi and Stockholm continued.
During the Continuation War with the Soviet Union, Aero was forced to operate out of Pori on a temporary basis as both Helsinki and Turku airfields had been placed under military control. Aero found once again that its major assets had been requisitioned by the Imavoimat.
When peace finally came Malmi Airfield was placed under the control of the Allied Control Commission (ACC). Aero’s fleet was transferred to Hyvinkää where flights to Stockholm were resumed in January 1945, both direct and via Turku and Mariehamn.
These flights were stopped by order of the ACC. Aero were not able to re-start services until August 1945 and these services were restricted to domestic flights only.
After the war Gunnar Ståhle left his post as managing director of Aero. The board of directors accepted his resignation in December 1945.
Aero was approaching a new era. It was obvious that as long as it remained a private company it would not manage to make the major acquisitions necessary nor cover the rapidly rising operating costs. As a result, the Finnish State acquired a 70% majority holding in the company in 1946. The remaining 30% was held by private companies, the situation remains much the same today.
Gunnar Ståhle was succeeded as Managing Director of Aero first by C.J. Ehrnrooth and then by Uolevi Raade. On 14 June 1947, Lieutenant-General Leonard Grandell was appointed managing director.
Aero’s administration was reorganised. A 12-member Supervisory Board (later increased to 18 members) appointed a six-member Board of Directors, with the Chairman of the Board also serving as the company’s President & CEO.
Aero chose the Douglas DC-3 as its first post war passenger carrying aircraft. The DC-3 was manufactured in vast numbers during World War 2 and hundreds of these were available from US surplus stocks in Europe. Aero began operating the type in May 1947 and began using the name Finnish Airlines on all of its aircraft. The first stewardesses were recruited to fly on the DC-3’s; initially they only flew on the Helsinki-Kemi and Helsinki-Kuopio routes.
The introduction of the DC-3 foresaw the phasing out of Aero’s older assets and led to standardisation of the fleet: in 1947, the last Rapide was sold and the DC-2s were withdrawn from service. Two Ju-52/3m aircraft remained in service until 1949, when they were also retired.
In 1949, Aero became a member of the new IATA (International Air Transport Association), the airline code AY, was re-instated after being withdrawn during the war and is still in use by Finnair today. In 1951 Aero flew from Helsinki to nine domestic and four foreign destinations.
Helsinki finally got it’s Olympic Games in 1952. It was a notable year for Aero with passenger numbers topping 100,000 for the first time. Helsinki Airport was opened in June near Seutula. The official opening took place on 10 July, and by October all flights had been transferred from Malmi to the new airport.
Although Aero converted its original 21-seat DC-3s to carry 26 passengers, aircraft of this type had had their day. In September 1951, Aero ordered three twin-engine Convair 340s from the USA.
The Convair had a modern fuselage, engines and systems. It also featured a pressurised cabin. The aircraft was put into service on 19 April 1953 on the Helsinki-Copenhagen-Dusseldorf route. Initially it carried 44 passengers; the number was later increased to 52. In the period 1953-1964, Aero purchased a total of eight Convair 340s. The Convairs meant that Aero was able to begin scheduled flights between Helsinki and Moscow becoming the first western airline to operate this service.
In spring 1953, Aero started to use the name Finnair in its marketing. This became the company’s official name on 25 June 1968.
Finnair, the flag carrier of Finland was born.
The aircraft depicted are the Revell 1:144 Airbus A320 and the Eduard 1:144 Junkers Ju-52/m transport. Both kits were completed by the editor in July 2017.
Mauno Koivisto, who has died aged 93, was Finland’s last Cold War president, serving two six-year terms from 1982 to 1994 and cautiously steering the country out of isolation and into the European Union.
Popularly known as “Manu”, he was once described in the New York Times as a “self-made man who regularly wears darned socks and who conveys the impression of sturdy self-reliance, without the slightest vestige of pomp or show”. He was a great favourite with Finnish voters.
“Finlandisation” was the derogatory term used in the West to describe the country’s Cold War policy of remaining neutral but in reality being highly compliant with the Soviet Union. As a veteran of both the bitter 1939-40 Winter War against the Soviets and the so-called Continuation War of 1941-44, Koivisto understood as well as any the need for Finland to establish a modus vivendi with her huge, volatile neighbour.
He had had his knuckles rapped in 1968 when, as Finland’s prime minister under the long presidency of Urho Kekkonen, his government had condemned the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, earning a thinly veiled piece of sabre-rattling in the Soviet newspaper Izvestia calling for the establishment of Soviet military bases in Finland against a supposed West German threat. The situation only calmed down after a meeting between Kekkonen and the Soviet statesman Alexei Kosygin, followed by a “vacation” trip to Moscow by Koivisto two weeks later.
Under Kekkonen, who had served as Finland’s president from 1956 to 1981, there had been considerable media censorship and limitations on freedom of expression, to the extent that many questioned whether the country could be regarded as a democracy.
Books deemed critical of the Soviets had been banned, along with numerous films including The Manchurian Candidate. Soviet defectors were sent back as a matter of policy; Soviet atrocities were not reported and Finnish nationalist groups were heavily restricted.
A lanky man with a long, craggy face, in his early years as President Koivisto continued the policy of “active neutrality”, including the practice of returning Soviet defectors to the Soviet Union. But at the same time he introduced modest measures of democratisation, refraining from using some of the more authoritarian powers assumed by his predecessor and encouraging parliamentary institutions.
Above all, he charted a new course in foreign policy by cultivating good relations with both East and West, a task made easier by the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin in 1985. The two men became close and Koivisto, who was fluent in Russian, helped to broker improved relations between the USSR and the US; in 1990 he hosted a summit meeting between President George HW Bush and the Soviet leader.
The early 1980s were a period of free-market prosperity in Finland, buoyed up by relatively cheap supplies of Soviet energy and the market in eastern Europe for Finnish consumer and industrial goods that would have been difficult to sell in the West.
The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, created huge structural and political problems. In the early 1990s Finnish unemployment soared to about 14 per cent, the economy plunged into recession and the delicate political balancing act with Moscow began to look shaky as the three neighbouring Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, sought to establish their independence and looked to Finland for support. Suddenly caution seemed to be a luxury Finland could ill afford.
Koivisto worked hard to persuade the West of the urgent need of the Soviet Union (and subsequently of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States), for external economic support. While he avoided any public support of the Baltic independence movement, its representatives were allowed to work from inside Finland.
Meanwhile, gambling on his continuing good relations with Russia’s leaders, he began the process of leading Finland out of international isolation. When in 1990, after German reunification, he unilaterally renounced the military clauses of the 1947 Paris Treaty, which placed restrictions on Finnish defence forces, there was no official protest from Moscow.
The following year, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, he renounced the 1948 Finnish-Soviet pact, which pledged Finnish military assistance if Russia were attacked from the north and which had hindered Finland’s integration with European security structures. Emboldened by the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1992 Koivisto initiated the process of Finnish accession to the European Union, the final terms of which were agreed on the day he left office. Finland joined the EU in 1995.
The son of a ship’s carpenter, Mauno Henrik Koivisto was born on November 25 1923, in the southern port city of Turku. At the beginning of the Winter War in 1939 he volunteered aged 16 for a field firefighting unit.
During the Continuation War, he served in a reconnaissance detachment operating behind enemy lines. He was awarded the Order of the Cross of Liberty (2nd class) and was promoted to the rank of corporal.
After the war, Koivisto joined the Social Democratic Party and graduated from the University of Turku with a degree in Philosophy and a PhD in Sociology. After graduation he became a banker, rising to become managing director of the Helsinki Workers’ Savings Bank from 1959 to 1967.
By this time he had emerged as a key figure among the Social Democrats and he went on to serve as chairman of the board of the Bank of Finland, a position he retained until 1982 and in which he was widely credited as the architect of the country’s prosperity.
He also served twice as prime minister, from 1968 to 1970 and 1979 to 1982, and despite friction over Czechoslovakia, he succeeded in moving cautiously beyond the limited Finno-Soviet sphere, overseeing Finland’s membership of the OECD in 1969 and participation in UN peacekeeping operations.
He also announced that Finland would play host to the 35-nation European Conference on Security and Cooperation that would lead to the Helsinki accords of 1975. However, he backed off from a proposed Nordic Economic Union with other Scandinavian countries for fear of jeopardising Finland’s neutral status.
In his spare time Koivisto liked playing volleyball, whittling and relaxing in a log cabin outside Helsinki that he had largely built himself.
In 1952 he married Tellervo Kankaanranta, who survives him with their daughter.
Mauno Koivisto, born November 25 1923, died May 12 2017
Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, is located in the Baltic sea between Sweden and Latvia, and represents the most strategically important defensive stronghold in the entire Baltic region. The Swedish government decided in March 2015 to begin reestablishing a permanent military presence on Gotland, starting with an initial 150 troop garrison, consisting primarily of elements from the Swedish Army. It has been reported that the bulk of this initial garrison will make up a new motorised rifle battalion, alternatively referred to in other reports as a “modular-structured rapid response Army battalion”. A later report claimed that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and an Air Force “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to also be based on the island to support the new garrison and further reinforce the defences. Prior to the disbandment of the original garrison, there had been a continuous Swedish military presence on Gotland in one form or another, for nearly 200 years.
The original Gotland garrison, also known as the Visby Garrison, could trace its roots back to at least 1811. That was the year the Gotland National Conscription was formed to strengthen the islands defences after the Russians had briefly occupied the island two years before. Although, the “new” garrison was just the latest in a long line of Swedish military forces protecting the island, and consequently the rest of Sweden, continuously since the 1640s. The exception being the 23 days when Russia occupied the island during the Finnish War (1808–1809), after Gotland had been left undefended due to errors in overall Swedish strategy early in the war.
In 1887, a new country wide conscription system replaced a number of previous regional recruitment and reserve systems, including the Gotlands nationalbeväring (the Gotland National Recruitment) The existing regiment defending Gotland under that system was reorganized into two new regiments, the Gotland Infantry Regiment and the Gotland Artillery Regiment. Those two units would go on to provide the bulk of the garrison forces both directly and indirectly, throughout the various crisis that threatened to overtake Sweden (including two World Wars and the Cold War), for most of the next two centuries right up to the final dissolution of the garrison in 2005.
From 1811 to 1873, the commander of military forces on Gotland (at that time, effectively a military district in its own right) also served as the governor of the island and during the existence of the Gotland National Conscription (1811–1892) the commander was by default the senior officer of that regiment. Under the military reorganisation of 1892, the then commander and his successors (up until 1937) automatically became the senior officer of the Gotlands infanteriregemente that succeeded the Gotlands nationalbeväring. He remained in charge of army troops on the island, even though Gotland was no longer the center of a military district under the new 5 area (district) system which lasted up to shortly before World War II.
During World War II, Gotland was part of both the VII Military area [area=army district] (from 1942) and the Gotland Naval District, both of which the senior military officer on the island acted as head of. Army and air force units assigned to Gotland came under the former, while naval, marine, and coast artillery units based on/out of Gotland came under the jurisdiction of the latter. With a change in the Naval Districts (see naval section below) in 1957, the commanding officer lost his maritime responsibilities, but regained them in the 1966 military reorganisation that created the Gotland Military Command (the Gotlands militärkommando), or MKG, and which changed the VII. Military area into the new expanded Eastern Military District or Milo Ö (also known as Milo Z) which was now headquartered out of Södermanland.
This command structure continued relatively unchanged until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, when Milo Ö was stood down in 1991. The MKG remained operational into 2000, albeit increasingly downgraded in importance despite concerns,with a corresponding steady reduction in the units and capabilities under the MKG. In the now discredited Swedish Defence reform of that year, the MKG was replaced with the, in theory, autonomous Gotlands Military District (the Gotlands militärdistrikt) or MDG, which despite its name, only had control over the island itself (that control was also severely constrained by the existence of the, later infamous, post-Cold War Swedish Fortifications Agency). In practise this meant the MDG was responsible for overseeing the Army garrison units remaining on the island, along with coordinating with any reserve and civil defense elements still in place. There were, and as of 2015 still are, no maritime or coastal defense units remaining on the island, with the exception of a couple of naval units that did not come under the new MDG and which in any case were withdrawn in 2004. The MDG was stood down in December 2004, with the remaining garrison forces being abolished in 2005.
Alongside the Swedish Army, the Swedish Navy have played a major role in the garrisoning of the island over the last two centuries; not only helping to defend the island but also using it as a well placed base to defend Sweden and its interests in the Baltic Sea. Prior to (from 1931) and during World War II, Gotland was the headquarters of the Gotland Naval District. In 1957, during the Cold War, Gotland became part of the (now defunct) Sound Naval District, headquartered at the Muskö naval base. The Sound Naval District itself came under the new joint Eastern Military District in 1966, with operational control of naval units (including coastal defense forces) in the area of the former Gotland Naval District being returned to the commanding officer of the new MKG centered on Gotland.
In the early part of the Cold War (late 1940s to late 1950s), elements of one of the three major task forces that then made up the navy’s front line strength, including cruisers and destroyers, were based out of Gotland’s various anchorages and harbours. This was in addition to locally based elements of the Coastal Artillery’s significant support fleet, which included coastal minelayers, inshore minesweepers, and patrol craft. However, in 1958, a doctrinal switch from heavier surface combatants to smaller ASW combatants (increasingly corvette sized and smaller) and Fast Attack Craft began with most of the former being retired without replacement. The operations of these new combatants were still coordinated with submarines though, which, along with the fact that some major combatants weren’t immediately retired (e.g. the two Halland-class destroyers), ironically helped to disguise the problems with relying so heavily on light combatants in the short term. In the late 1960s, this shift towards lighter types accelerated, though more for political and economic reasons than military.
For Gotland, this meant that the naval units based out of the island by the 1970s were mostly light combatants such as FACs with relatively short range, though there were still a few larger corvettes mixed in. Submarines were generally not based out of Gotland at this point, being housed in purpose built bases such as Muskö, though they still made port visits.
By the early 1980s, flaws with the “FAC based doctrine” had become impossible to ignore, with incidents such as the so-called Whiskey on the rocks confrontation proving that the Swedish Navy had become outgunned in the Anti-surface warfare arena, and that even in areas where it should have had a local advantage in such as Anti-Submarine Warfare it was materially outmatched by potential aggressors, with intruding submarines able to breach Swedish waters almost at will.
In the short term, the navy and government attempted to address these issues with various emergency measures and programs, such as the hasty revamping of the Ytattack-81 (the Surface combatant-81) project into what would become the Stockholm corvette program. Another hastily introduced program was the construction of four new heavy coastal missile batteries based around the Rb-15 missile, one of which was placed on Gotland. Delivery and installation of the systems was to take place from 1987 to 1992. Existing installations such as coastal gun batteries and mine stations were continuously upgraded. In the longer term, among the new programs that were started in the late 1980s were two to provide replacements for various FAC and corvette classes; the Ytstridsfartyg Mindre (the Surface Combatant Small) and the Ytstridsfartyg Större (the Surface Combatant Large) programs. In the post-Cold War cutbacks of the early 1990s, those two programs were merged into a single program, the YS2000 (the Surface Combatant 2000) program, that later became the Visby-class stealth corvette. Originally, it was planned to have a class of 10 in two variants; the ASuW/Anti-Air ‘Series II’ and a lower cost ASW dedicated ‘Series I’. Finally, only four Series Is and a single Series II were built in the 2000s (with a second Series II being cancelled), and even those were not fully manned or equipped as part of further economy measures to support other non-defence areas. As a result of this reduction in class size being decided on in the late 1990s, plans for some of the Visby-class corvettes to be based out of Gotland were scrapped. This was against a background of severe cutbacks for the navy at that time, which would continue into the 2010s. Those cutbacks apparently also led to the cancellation, just prior to the disbanding of all coastal defence units on Gotland, of plans to install elements of the KAFUS coastal/underwater surveillance network in and around the island.
In an echo of events from over 60 years earlier, the navy would lose its Marinflyget in 1998, with its helicopter units being absorbed by the air force’s new ‘joint’ Helikopterflottiljen (Helicopter Wing) (the Army also losing its helicopters to this new wing). The air force then promptly retired the former navy ASW helicopters without any immediate replacement.
The resulting lack of ASW helicopters, along with the operationally incomplete state of the Visby-class corvettes, were issues that would become apparent just under a decade and a half later, during the ‘October 2014 Submarine incident’ when the military made a prolonged search without any public results, for alleged underwater activity.
Swedish Air Force elements have operated from the island since the late 1920s. The Swedish Air Force was created by the amalgamation of the air arms of both the army and the navy in 1926. The formation of the new air force would leave the navy without an air branch until it was reestablished in the late 1950s with the navy’s first helicopters. Swedish Naval aviation had already established a major presence on the island in the late 1910s, so the air force was able to take over or share some facilities with the navy, as well as building ones of its own, such as the Bunge and Roma airfields in the late 1930s. By the outbreak of World War II, the Flygvapnet was well established on Gotland. The air force’s general wartime strategy in regards to Gotland was primarily based around bombers, in particular 20 B-17s based at Bunge airfield and seaplane torpedo bombers out of Fårösund. The intention was to use them against enemy ships in the support of the navy and coastal defence units (including both gun batteries and minefields), that were the islands first line of defence against an invasion. The air force also had fighters and reconnaissance aircraft based on the island to further support the island’s defence, the latter also including seaplanes.
Even into the Jet Age, and the Cold War, the Swedish Air Force insisted on remaining being able to operate from semi-prepared airstrips and dispersed emergency airfields, which influenced its equipment development and procurement choices greatly along with the development of tactics and strategies. This allowed the air force major flexibility in its role of defending Gotland and the rest of Sweden against intruders. In some respects, this flexibility made the air force more capable than most NATO member air-forces who, especially before the advent of such aircraft as the Harrier and the A-10, were arguably over reliant on permanent airbases and long concrete runways, unlike their Soviet foes, who put in at least as much effort as Sweden into being able to disperse and operate their tactical aircraft from semi-prepared airstrips and other temporary or semi-permanent locations, including those based around specially strengthened stretches of road.
For Gotland, this meant the air force was not only able to operate out of Visby Airport (especially after its BAS-60 upgrade in 1968) and its existing airfields such as Bunge and Roma, but also from semi-prepared sites such as the Visby 1 and Visby 2 highway strips, which were officially classified as dispersed emergency (wartime) airfields as per Sweden’s general overall Cold War doctrine.
Apart from the threat of direct Soviet aggression against Gotland and the rest of Sweden, another potential wartime problem was to increasingly weigh on the minds of both the island’s defenders and Sweden’s politicians: cruise missile transits. In the event of an all out war, the airspace of neutral Sweden was seen by both NATO and Warsaw Pact planners as a possible handy shortcut for the flight paths of cruise missiles that both sides were developing, and in the case of the United States had already deployed, during the 1980s. The airspace in and around Gotland was one of the areas of Sweden seen as especially vulnerable to transit by cruise missiles en-route to their targets. A particular worry in Sweden in the early 1980s was that the US would program some of their new nuclear armed cruise missiles to fly through Swedish airspace on their way to targets in the Soviet Union. This was seen as a violation of the country’s neutrality, so Sweden officially stated that it would be obliged to shoot down any such missiles that were fired over Swedish territory in wartime. In light of this policy a number of major anti-cruise missile exercises were held by Sweden during the 1980s, at least one of which was held in and around the island. As the decade went on, fears grew that the Soviet Union would be at least just as likely to violate Sweden’s neutrality in this manner; such fears regarding the two superpowers were only partially eased by the advent of the (defunct as of 2014) INF Treaty.
Late 1980s plans to reinforce the air cover over Gotland, including one for the reactivation and deployment to the island of an additional J-35 Draken squadron to take place in the early 1990s, were to be overtaken by world events such as the Revolutions of 1989 and the Soviet dissolution.
After the end of the Cold War, the air force’s presence on Gotland had rapidly diminished to practically nothing by 1992, with the final withdrawal of deployed elements of the F13 Wing including a Saab 37 Viggen fighter detachment from Visby Airport. This was a direct result of the initial cutbacks by Swedish politicians seeking the peace dividend in order to, among other things, to fund increasingly costly social programs in an economic downturn (in part caused by the fall of the Soviet Union). Due to this, the Bunge airfield was closed in 1991. The Roma airfield had been deactivated in 1988. In the intervening years, the air force has been absent from Gotland, with only the occasional transport or support aircraft (such as ASC 890 Airborne early warning and control) making visits to Visby Airport as part of an exercise or similar.
In the 2010s, the relatively dilapidated state of the county’s defences had to be addressed by the Swedish government, with a newly resurgent Russia stepping up probes of Sweden’s defences alongside those of her neighbours with both air and sea incursions. The most noted of these to date occurred in March 2013, when two Russian Tupolev Tu-22M nuclear capable bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27, were able to enter Swedish controlled airspace unimpeded and simulate strikes against targets in and around Stockholm with the Swedish Air Force unable to effectively respond at any time during the incident. During their operation, the Russian aircraft skirted around Gotland. In the aftermath of this highly controversial failure to avert the intruders, the air force for the first time in many years deployed a detachment of four Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighters to Visby Airport. This short lived deployment was followed by another smaller one the following year, consisting of two Gripens. However, because of their strictly limited nature, these deployments were seen by observers as unsuccessful PR exercises rather than a coherent response. By the close of 2014, Swedish public confidence in the government’s ability to defend the country had dropped to 20% or lower, depending on the poll. This was a continuation of a general trend that could be traced back to even before the Stockholm incident, but which had rapidly worsened in its aftermath.
In late March 2015, it was reported that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and a “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to be based on Gotland in order to support the new garrison and further reinforce the island’s defences.
In April 2015, a decision was made to reestablish troops permanently on Gotland within three years. The recruitment started in September 2015. The Battlegroup Gotland is to consist of 300 personnel, half of which are soldiers and half a permanent staff. As of 2016, the main issue of where to house the battle group was still unresolved. The barracks in Visby formerly owned and used by Gotland Regiment were evacuated and sold to a private company in 2006. Since 2006, the property is used by the Gotland County Administration and several private companies.
The re-militarization of Gotland once again reopened the debate about a possible threat to Sweden from Russia and Sweden’s accession to NATO.
The Battlegroup Gotland (18th Battlegroup) will fall under administrative control of the Skaraborg Regiment, which will also train the troops destined for Gotland. The battlegroup will be based at the Tofta firing range near Visby and will field 301 men.
18th Battlegroup (18. Stridsgruppen):
180th Staff Company “Havdhem”
181st Armored Infantry Company “Roma” with 12x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicles, 1x Bgbv 90 armored recovery vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
183rd Tank Company “Lärbro” with 11x Stridsvagn 122 main battle tanks, 1x Epbv 90 forward observation vehicle, 1x Bgbv 120 armored recovery vehicle, 1x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
185th Logistic Company “Garde”
In the meantime, before the 18th Battlegroup is ready for deployment on Gotland (originally scheduled to begin in 2018), it was hoped that a combination of an increase in training rotations by mainland based regular army units to the Tofta range, combined with some rather public exercises around the island by the Särskilda operationsgruppen since late 2015, would be enough to discourage any Russian adventurism.
However by Autumn 2016, the regional situation was considered to have deteriorated even further. So much so that following representations from the current Supreme Commander Micael Bydén, the Swedish Government reluctantly agreed that Gotland’s defences would have to be reestablished on a much shorter timescale than previously mooted (despite ongoing major divisions within the current ruling parties with regards as to the strategy & resources required to defend Sweden). To this end, the Supreme Commander announced on the 14th of September 2016 that not only would the deployment of the 18th Battlegroup to Gotland would be moved up to the first half of 2017, but also a rifle battalion from the Skaraborg Regiment which was then in the middle of a training rotation at Tofta, would now be held in place on Gotland as a interim garrison. A few Giraffe 40s normally on the strength of the Luftvärnsregementet (Lv 6) are to be attached to the battalion to provide some early warning capability. Despite this though, neither air defence vehicles such as the Luftvärnskanonvagn (lvkv) 9040, nor MANPADS have been attached to the garrison battalion to take advantage of this local radar coverage.
The plan is to within a few months relieve the battalion with another battalion or a equivalent formation, which will then remain in place until the 18th Battlegroup is ready to take up it’s posting.
The La-5’s heritage began even before the outbreak of war, with the LaGG-1, a promising yet underpowered aircraft – turning a full circle, for example, took 20 seconds. The LaGG-3 was a modification of that design that attempted to correct this by both lightening the airframe and fitting a more powerful engine. Nevertheless, this was not enough, and the lack of power remained a significant problem.
In early 1942, two of the LaGG-1 and -3’s designers, Semyon Lavochkin and Vladimir Gorbunov, attempted to correct this deficiency by experimentally fitting a LaGG-3 with the more powerful Shvetsov ASh-82radial engine. Since the LaGG-3 was powered by an inline engine, they accomplished this by grafting on the nose section of a Sukhoi Su-2 (which used this engine). By now, the shortcomings of the LaGG-3 had caused Lavochkin to fall out of Joseph Stalin‘s favour, and factories previously assigned to LaGG-3 construction had been turned over to building the rival Yakovlev Yak-1 and Yak-7. The design work required to adapt the LaGG-3 to the new engine and still maintain the aircraft’s balance was undertaken by Lavochkin in a small hut beside an airfield over the winter of 1941-1942, all completely unofficially.
When the prototype took flight in March, the result was extremely pleasing – the fighter finally had a powerplant that allowed it to perform as well in the air as it had been supposed to on paper. After flying, the LaGG-5, Air Force test pilots declared it superior to the Yak-7, and intensive flight tests began in April. After only a few weeks, the design was modified further, cutting down the rear fuselage to give the pilot better visibility.
By July, Stalin ordered maximum-rate production of the aircraft, now simply known as the La-5 and the conversion of any incomplete LaGG-3 airframes to the new configuration. The prototype was put in mass production almost immediately in factories located in Moscow and in the Yaroslav region. While still inferior to the best German fighters at high altitudes, the La-5 proved to be every bit their match closer to the ground. With most of the air combat over the Eastern Front taking place at altitudes of under 5,000 m (16,404 ft), the La-5 was very much in its element. Its rate of roll was excellent.
Further refinement of the aircraft involved a fuel-injected engine, further lightening of the aircraft, and fixed slats to improve all-round performance. This was designated the La-5FN and would become the definitive version of the aircraft. A full circle turn took 18–19 seconds. Altogether, 9,920 La-5s of all variants were built, including a number of dedicated trainer versions, designated La-5UTI. Several La-5s had three Berezin B-20 cannon installed in the nose capable of a salvo of 3.4 kg/s rounds. Further refinements of the aircraft would lead to the Lavochkin La-7.
In the summer of 1943, a brand-new La-5 made a forced landing on a German airfield providing the Luftwaffe with an opportunity to test-fly the newest Soviet fighter. Test pilot Hans-Werner Lerche wrote a detailed report of his experience. He particularly noted that the La-5FN excelled at altitudes below 3,000 m (9,843 ft) but suffered from short range and flight time of only 40 minutes at cruise engine power. All of the engine controls (throttle, mixture, propeller pitch, radiator and cowl flaps, and supercharger gearbox) had separate levers which served to distract the pilot during combat to make constant adjustments or risk suboptimal performance. For example, rapid acceleration required moving no less than six levers. In contrast, contemporary German aircraft, especially the BMW 801 radial-engined variants of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 front line fighter, had largely automatic engine controls with the pilot operating a single lever and electromechanical devices, like the Kommandogerät pioneering engine computer on the radial-engined Fw 190s, making the appropriate adjustments. Due to airflow limitations, the engine boost system (Forsazh) could not be used above 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Stability in all axes was generally good. The authority of the ailerons was deemed exceptional but the rudder was insufficiently powerful at lower speeds. At speeds in excess of 600 km/h (370 mph), the forces on control surfaces became excessive. Horizontal turn time at 1,000 m (3,281 ft) and maximum engine power was 25 seconds.
In comparison with Luftwaffe fighters, the La-5FN was found to have a comparable top speed and acceleration at low altitude. In comparison with the Bf 109 the La-5FN possessed a slightly higher roll rate; however the Bf-109 was slightly faster and had the advantages of a smaller turn radius and higher rate of climb. In comparison with the Fw 190A-8 the La-5FN had a slightly better climb rate and smaller turn radius, however the Fw-190A-8 was faster at all altitudes and had significantly better dive performance. As a result Lerche’s recommendations for Fw190 pilots were to attempt to draw the La-5FN to higher altitudes, to escape attacks in a dive followed by a high-speed shallow climb, and to avoid prolonged turning engagements. Utilizing MW 50 both German fighters had superior performance at all altitudes.
The La-5 had its defects. Perhaps the most serious being the thermal isolation of the engine, lack of ventilation in the cockpit, and a canopy that was impossible to open at speeds over 350 km/h. To make things worse, exhaust gas often entered in the cockpit due to poor insulation of the engine compartment. Consequently, pilots ignored orders and frequently flew with their canopies open.
In general, Soviet pilots appreciated the La-5 as an effective fighter. “That was an excellent fighter with two cannons and a powerful air-cooled engine”, recalled pilot Viktor M. Sinaisky. “The first La-5s from the Tbilisi factory were slightly inferior, while the last ones from the Gorki plant, which came to us from Ivanovo, were perfect. At first we received regular La-5s, but then we got new ones containing the ASh-82FN engine with direct injection of fuel into the cylinders. It was perfect. Everyone was in love with the La-5. It was easy to maintain too.” Nevertheless La-5 losses were high, the highest of all fighters in service in USSR, not considering those of the Yak-1. In 1941-45, VVS KA lost 2,591 La-5s, 73 in 1942, 1,460 in 1943, 825 the following year and 233 in 1945.
Perhaps the most famous pilot to fly the La-5 was Marshal of AviationIvan Nykytovych Kozhedub known as the Allied ‘Ace of Aces’. He was born on June 8th 1920 and died August 8th 1991 and was a Soviet military aviator and a World War IIfighter ace. Kozhedub took part in the Korean War as a commander of the 324th Fighter Air Division. He is credited with 64 +2 (P-51) individual air victories, most of them flying the Lavochkin La-5. He is one of the few pilots to have shot down a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet. He was made a Hero of the Soviet Union on three occasions (4 February 1944; 19 August 1944; 18 August 1945).
After his first military flight on 26 March 1943, he operated on the Voronezh Front and, in July over the Kursk battlefields. His first kill was a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka shot down over Pokrova on 6 July 1943. By 16 August he had claimed eight air victories. He was promoted to Mladshii Leitenant (Junior Lieutenant). Then his unit moved towards Kharkiv. At this time he usually flew escort for Petlyakov Pe-2 twin-engine bombers. During World War II, he then served as a fighter pilot in several areas (Steppe Front, 2nd Ukrainian Front, and 1st Belorussian Front) and at different ranks, starting from senior airman up to the deputy commander of the air regiment. He claimed his 61st and 62nd victories, his final claims, over Berlin on 16 April 1945.
Kozhedub holds the record for the highest number of confirmed air combat victories of any Soviet or Allied pilot (effectively the Allied “Ace of Aces”) during World War II. He is regarded as the best Soviet flying ace of the war, and is associated with flying the La-5. He was also reputed to have a natural gift for ‘deflection shooting’, i.e. the rare ability to hit targets from very oblique angles.
Kozhedub’s World War II record consists of:
330 combat missions
120 aerial engagements
62 enemy aircraft shot down, including one Me 262 jet fighter (possibly Uffz Kurt Lange of 1./KG(J)54.).
Zvezda’s 1/48 La-5 kit comes in a 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 inch) box, The box art is actually a false lid – it lifts off to reveal a corrugated cardboard box with a hinged lid that closes tightly to create a strong little container. It looks a bit industrial, but this is a box that’s unlikely to get crushed in the post or mail.
The kit contents consist of 4 sprue frames, 3 in injection moulded grey plastic and one frame contains the clear parts. All of the grey plastic parts are finely moulded, with precise but restrained panel line and where appropriate rivet detail. The control surfaces are nicely done, with sharp trailing edges and separate ailerons. There is no flash, no blemishes and no sink marks.
A single decal sheet providing options to model 3 examples of the La-5 and a 6 page fold-out instruction sheet are provided in ‘exploded-view’ format with black and white three-view painting instructions on the reverse.
As with the LA-5 and LA-5FN kits, the cockpit is assembled as a unit on top of the single-piece upper wing. The upper wing half is an impressive piece of engineering, and includes some major cockpit structures as well as fully detailed wheel wells.
Also in common with Zvezda’s previous 1/48 kits is the inclusion of a complete and highly detailed engine. With careful assembly, painting and weathering, and perhaps the addition of a little extra plumbing, you’ll end up with a lovely 14-cylinder two-row radial Shvetsov M-82 engine.
The real advantage of the Zvezda range over its competitors is that you do not have to construct the engine in order to complete the kit. In my opinion, too many manufacturers over-engineer their kits by making the engine integral to the build process, which can cause problems. For example, if you misalign one component in the engine build, often the engine will not fit and the kit is ruined (I speak from experience here). This is not the case with Zvezda. However, they do provide the modeller with the opportunity to build a complex engine with the cowlings removed that would grace any diorama.
Lastly, the canopy components, provided in their own sealed bag are excellent. They are beautifully moulded, clear and are a perfect fit.
The construction phase began with my usual wash of all of the parts in a warm soapy solution to remove the mould release. The grey plastic components were then primed with grey auto-primer from a rattle-can.
The build looked a little daunting at first, as the cockpit interior consists of a 6 piece frame and the fuselage is furnished with a full set of bulkheads. The engine consists of 27 parts (these include 18 exhausts). As mentioned earlier, it is not necessary to build the engine if you don’t want to. Even though I chose to model the La-5 with the cowlings closed/fitted, I decided to build the complete engine to find out if the unit would fit inside the fuselage halves once they were closed. It was a little time consuming but the fit was excellent and I think an important exercise for the purposes of this article.
With the engine completed, I set it to one side and began the wing assembly. The lower wing is a one piece component; the upper sections are supplied in four parts. The wing was glued, taped and set to one side to dry.
The cockpit internal frame came next. Despite my initial trepidation, this stage went together surprisingly easily. The interior was airbrushed with Humbrol matt 147 Gull-Grey and weathered lightly with heavily thinned Windsor & Newton Ivory Black, to pick out the interior details such as the ribs and bulkheads.
At this stage, it is recommended that the rear-quarterlight windows are fitted before closing the fuselage halves, the cockpit accessories were also added at this stage, such as the trim wheels, throttle assembly, cockpit floor, control column and rudder pedals, pilot’s seat and headrest.
The rear tail-wheel assembly and bulkhead was then constructed before the fuselage halves were glued, joined, taped and left overnight to dry.
Stage 8 involves the fitting of the control panel. Two are supplied in this kit. One has had the instruments drilled out, allowing the modeller to dress the unit themselves, the other is smooth and is designed so that a decal can be affixed.
Stage 9 sees the wing slats and flaps glued into place and the fitting of the engine to the cockpit frame. This again was a straightforward process, thanks to Zvezda’s excellent engineering.
The final ‘main construction phase’ is stage 10; this involves the fitting of the cowlings, canopies (which I had pre-masked with Eduard’s La-5 mask), the horizontal tail surfaces and elevators and finally, the rudder.
Camouflage & Markings
The Zvezda La-5 has marking options for three aircraft:
Three subjects are presented and these can be found on a single decal sheet. The printing was good, however, some of the Red Stars had a partial white outline. The surrounding carrier film was commendably thin and the depth of colour was excellent.
La-5 “White 60”, 3rd IAK, May 1943
La-5 “White 23” flown by Lt. Patoka, 240th IAP, August 1942
I chose to model: Lavochkin La-5 “White 04” flown by V.M. Dmitriev, 4th GvIAP, Baltic Sea Fleet, summer 1943. I chose this machine as it is likely that it would have seen action against Finnish and German Fighters in the Baltic and Gulf of Finland which is the general theme of this website.
The La-5 lower-surfaces were airbrushed with White Ensign Models WEMCC ACS01 WW2 Soviet VVS All Blue. Once dry, the undersides were masked off in preparation for the upper-surfaces being airbrushed with White Ensign Models WEMCC ACS03 WW2 Soviet VVS All Green. Blu-tac was used to mask the camouflage demarcation-line and filled in with masking tape. The airframe was then given a coat of Humbrol 33 Black.
The decals were applied using micro-sol and micro-set decal setting solutions and set to one side to dry overnight. The following morning, the La-5 was given a coat of Johnson’s Klear.
Stages 11 and 12 complete the build with the oil cooler intake, undercarriage, Pitot tube, tail-wheel doors, cowling fan, propeller and propeller hub. The aerial wires were added using ‘Little-Cars’ 0.2mm wire and finally the aircraft was given a coat Xtracrylix Matt Varnish.
Another excellent, well-engineered kit from Zvezda of an extremely potent aircraft. I recommend this kit wholeheartedly and am looking forward to future Zvezda projects such as the Yak 3, Su-2 and La-5FN.
At the outbreak of the Winter War in Finland on the 30th of November 1939 – 13th March 1940 and the beginning of the Continuation War on the 25th of June 1941, the pilots of the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) and later the Luftwaffe in the Arctic would have faced large quantities of obsolete Polikarpov I-152, I-153 and I-16 aircraft (seen here on the right of the pictures below). The best aircraft in the Soviet inventory at this time were the MiG-3 and LaGG-3, which were still not a match or just on a par with Ilmavoimat aircraft.
By the summer of 1943, the La-5, Yak 3 and Bell P-39N/Qs were beginning to appear over the Baltic, Gulf of Finland and the Artic North giving parity between the opposing Air Forces in terms of equipment. By the end of the Continuation War in September 1944, Soviet tactics and the combat skills of VVS pilots had largely caught up with their Ilmavoimat and Luftwaffe counterparts.
Abanshin, Michael E. and Nina Gut. Fighting Lavochkin, Eagles of the East No.1. Lynnwood, WA: Aviation International, 1993. ISBN unknown.
Bergström, Christer. Bagration to Berlin – The final Air Battle in the East 1944-45. Hersham UK, Classic Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-903223-91-8.
Bergström, Christer. Kursk – The Air Battle: July 1943. London: Chevron/Ian Allen, 2007. ISBN 978-1-903223-88-8.
Bridgman, Leonard (ed.). “The La-5”. Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
Drabkin, Artem. The Red Air Force at War: Barbarossa and the Retreat to Moscow – Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Military, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-563-3.
In April 1943 as Finland was fighting the Continuation War against the USSR, the Finnish Air Force bought 24 Ju 88s from Germany. The aircraft were used to equip Lentolaivue 44 (LeLv 44 or No. 44 Sqn), which had previously operated the Bristol Blenheim which was transferred to No. 42 Sqn upon the arrival of the Junkers 88. The Ju 88 was a complex aircraft, most of 1943 was used for training crews in strategic and tactical bombing techniques, including; dive-bombing, level bombing and defence against enemy fighters. A handful of bombing missions were undertaken during 1943. The most notable was a raid on the Lehto partisan village on 20 August 1943 (in which the whole of No.44 squadron participated), and a raid on the Lavansaari air field (leaving seven Ju 88 damaged from forced landing in inclement weather). During the summer of 1943, Finnish maintenance engineers discovered that Ilmavoimat Ju-88s had suffered stress damage to the wings. This had occurred when the aircraft were used in dive bombing operations. Restrictions in dive-bombing tactics were immediately implemented. The dive brakes were removed and the aircraft was limited to a 45-degree angle dive (compared to 60-80 degrees previously employed). In this way, they tried to spare the aircraft from unnecessary wear. (This Revell review kit is modelled with the dive brakes removed).
During February 1944, the Soviet Long-Range Bombing Group conducted 3 large scale raids against Helsinki. The Finnish Air Force, lacking the numbers to respond to strategic raids of this scale, developed a unique and effective answer to the bombing of Helsinki. A series of remarkable tactical operations were tested by Squadrons PLeLv 42 and 46. On the 29th of February 1944 against Soviet Long Range Aviation bases near Leningrad, when Finnish bombers, including Ju 88s, followed Soviet bombers returning from a night raid on Tallinn. On the 22nd of March 1944, the Ju 88s of PLeLv 44 conducted their own operation by following their Soviet counterparts back to their air-base at Aerosan, Petsnajoki.
The Finnish bomber group matched their height and tactical formations. Once the Finnish group reached their destination, they joined the Soviet aircraft in the landing circuit, at the moment the Soviet bombers began to land; the Finns opened fire and bombed the airfield fuel reserves, ammunition dumps and the landing bombers. Several bombers were destroyed due to being parked in line-abreast outside of their hangars. Several raids of this type took place. The whole bomber regiment took part in the defence against the Soviets during the fourth strategic offensive. All aircraft flew several missions by day and night, when the weather permitted.
No. 44 Sqn (re-named Pommituslentolaivue 44 or PLeLv 44 on 14 February 1944) was subordinated Lentoryhmä Sarko during the Lapland War (now against Germany), and the Ju 88s were used both for reconnaissance and bombing. The targets were mostly vehicle columns. Reconnaissance flights were also made over northern Norway. The last war mission was flown on 4 April 1945.
After the wars, Finland was prohibited from using bomber aircraft with internal bomb loads. Consequently, the Finnish Ju 88s were used for training until 1948. The aircraft were then scrapped during the following years. No Finnish Ju 88s have survived, but an engine is on display at the Central Finland Aviation Museum, and the frame structure of a German Ju 88 cockpit hood is preserved at the Finnish Aviation Museum in Vantaa. The Suomen Ilmavoimat aircraft code for Ju 88 was JK.
A single Ju 88 A-4, survives in Scandinavia; Werk Nr.0881478 4D+AM (ex-Stammkennzeichen of BH+QQ)
This aircraft is displayed at the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum, the Norwegian Aviation Museum at Bodø Airport. On the 13 of April 1942, it was returning from an attack on Soviet ships when it ran out of fuel. The crew bailed out in the vicinity of Snefjord but the aircraft continued its flight and, remarkably, was left comparatively intact after crash-landing on a hillside at Garddevarre in Finnmark in the far north of Norway. It remained there until recovered by the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum in 1988.
Junkers Ju 88 in Finnish service (Source: Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 9, Kari Stenman & Kalevi Keskinen).
Below is a list of every Junkers 88A-4 that served with the Suomen Ilmavoimat during World War II. The list includes the fate of each aircraft:
Delivered 10/4 1943, crashed 29/12 1943
Delivered 10/4 1943, used as a crew trainer after the war
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 10/4 1943, landing damage 26/8 1947 and not repaired
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 10/4 1943, crashed 1/7 1944
Delivered 10/4 1943, landing damage 1/6 1944 and not repaired
Delivered 20/4 1943, shot down by German fighter 10/10 1944
Delivered 20/4 1943, used as a trainer after the war
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 20/4 1943, used as a trainer after the war
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 20/4 1943, shot down 23/6 1944
Delivered 20/4 1943, crashed 5/6 1946
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44
Delivered 20/4 1943, crashed 5/6 1946
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 11/4 1943, exploded during landing 18/7 1944
Delivered 11/4 1943, shot down by german AAA 15/10 1944
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44
Delivered 20/4 1943, crashed 15/6 1944
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44
Delivered 10/4 1943, put into storage 17/10 1945
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 1/4 1943
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 11/4 1943, damaged during take-off 29/7 1944 and was not repaired
Delivered 20/4 1943, used as a trainer after the war
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 10/4 1943, damaged by own bombs 20/8 1943 was repaired and stored
Delivered 10/4 1943, crashed 18/6 1947
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 20/4 1943
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 20/4 1943
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 20/4 1943
LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
Delivered 20/4 1943, crashed on the flight to Finland 23/4 1943
German Flak Defences during the Lapland War were effective, claiming at least one confirmed Finnish Junkers Ju-88A-4R. I./Flak Rgt. 15 was attached to the XVIII Gebirgs Korps in October 1944, providing Flak defence around the Sturmbock stellung and Kilpisjärvi stellung until the 15th of April 1945 when the unit was re-located to the South of Norway.
One Finnish Junkers 88 was lost to Flak over Kilpisjärvi on the 15th October 1944, during the Lapland War.
Lentolaivue 44 or Pommituslentolaivue 44/PLeLv 44 from the 14th of February 1944:
Flying Squadron 44 became the best equipped Finnish bomber squadron after receiving new Junkers Ju 88A-4/R bombers from Germany in the spring of 1943.
The inexperience of LeLv 44 crews with the Ju-88, resulted in a number of accidents and some losses. Germany refused to sell more bombers to Finland due to shortages of their own, this restricted the squadron’s effectiveness until the summer of 1944, when an official training programme was implemented and the Ju-88s began flying combat missions escorted by new Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighters, Finnish bomber formations didn’t suffer any losses due to Soviet fighters during the heavy summer campaigns of 1944.
Flying Unit: Finnish Name (and Abbreviation), Airbases, Notes (Name in English)
Squadron Commander / Flight Leader
Flights and Planes .
Lentolaivue 44 (LLv.44, since 3.5.42 Le.Lv.44) (Flying Squadron 44) Siikakangas (Ruovesi), 5.7.41- Mikkeli, 29.9.41- Onttola (planes only: 16.4.-28.4.43 Pori, summer 43 Luonetjärvi, ?.9-?.9.43 Utti, occasionally also Immola, Nurmoila, Tiiksjärvi Naarajärvi)Bomber squadron. BLs were relieved to Le.Lv.42 on 20.2.1943 and squadron was converted to new Junkers Ju 88A-4 bombers being operational again on 30.5.1943.1. Lentue (1st Flight) (-20.2.43 BL -> 4.43- JK) . .2. Lentue (2nd Flight) (-20.2.43 BL -> 4.43- JK) . . . . .3. Lentue (3rd Flight) (-20.2.43 BL -> 4.43- JK) . .4. Lentue (4th Flight) (27.4.-15.11.43 JK) Operational only between 27.4. – 15.11.1943.Osasto [Detachment] Räty (JU) (25.5.42 – 23.10.42) Höytiäinen (Hirviranta / Kontiolahti) Originally known as Sairaankuljetuslentue (Ambulance Flight). Moved from Le.Lv.48 on 25.5.1942 for transport and special operations missions. On 28.6.1942 subordinated to Intelligence Department of Chief HQ (PM Tied.Os.)Osasto [Detachment] Malinen (HE, JU) (5.43 -?) Höytiäinen (Hirviranta / Kontiolahti) Formed in spring 1943 for special operations missions. On 1.7.1943 subordinated operationally to Er.P 4 / PM Tied.Os. .
B. Gabrielsson T. Meller (20.2.44-) .E. ItävuoriK. Lehmus (KIA) T. Iisalo (23.6.44-) .J. Saarinen
The Junkers Ju 88 assembly line ran constantly from 1936 to 1945, and more than 16,000 Ju 88s were built in dozens of variants, more than any other twin-engine German aircraft of the period. Throughout the production, the basic structure of the aircraft remained unchanged.
This kit is a brand new mould. Thankfully, it bears no resemblance to their Ju-88 A/D kit and the difference really shows. Revell’s new release Ju-88A-4 is supplied in an end-opening style box. The kit comprises 191 parts in pale grey plastic on 9 sprue frames and 15 clear parts on four linked frames. The clear parts are excellent. In fact the whole kit possesses the kind of quality that you would expect from a kit twice the price.
The grey-plastic parts are beautifully detailed with recessed panel lines, the cockpit is furnished to a standard that you would expect from a 1/32 scale kit, there are no obvious flaws. I was looking forward to this build. In addition, a 15 page instruction booklet is provided with each stage represented in an ‘exploded-view’ format. The decals provide the modeller a choice of two Luftwaffe examples and are clear and appear to be in good register.
I set the parts out after washing them in a warm soapy solution to remove the mould release and carefully studied the instructions. Revell instructions are black and white and printed on inexpensive paper, presumably to keep the costs down. This is great for the pocket but daunting to the modeller, given the large number of small parts that would be required to fit into the cockpit area.
I sprayed all of the grey plastic sprues with grey auto-primer from a rattle-can and cut the relevant cockpit parts from the sprues detailed in stages 1 to 13. This was a time consuming process. Each stage was given a dry-fit, then airbrushed, then pre-shaded, detailed and post-shaded. However, with time and patience the results are extremely pleasing. I have a feeling that this 1/72 scale kit may have been scaled down from their 1/32 sale Ju-88, how they can produce such fine detail at £16.99 is beyond me, especially since my last 1/72 scale kit review of the Airfix Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 provided just the Pilot’s seat for the cockpit. The interior was airbrushed using Humbrol 67 tank grey, the fronts of the navigation station and instrument panel was painted black and the instrument dials and switches were painted white, red or yellow depending on the directions from the instruction manual and from colour pictures from the internet and book references.
Once the cockpit had been completed, the tail-wheel was constructed and the fuselage halves were joined. Then the cockpit unit was glued to the rear fuselage, taped and set to one side to dry overnight. I decided to mask the entire canopy components at once, as this process can be time consuming; these were then placed securely in a zip-lock bag.
Sections 17 to 25 were the next stage of the build. This consists of gluing the upper and lower main wings together and taping them as well as the wing tips, wing flaps and ailerons. The same process was repeated for sections 28 to 31, which were the horizontal tail surfaces and tail-plane. All sub-assemblies were then allowed to set overnight.
Stages 32 and 33 were the final assemblies of the day, which was the construction of the engines and nacelles with cowlings. The exhausts were painted with citadel colour scorched brown and glued into the nacelles, the front of the engines are the only components that are exposed; these were painted black and dry-brushed with Humbrol 11 silver when they had dried. The nacelles were glued together, taped and allowed to dry.
The next day, the wing assemblies, tail, tail-planes and canopies were glued together. The MG 131’s were glued to the inside of the canopy and lower-gondola before these components were glued to the airframe. Again, these were left overnight to dry. The aircraft that I had chosen to build was a Suomen Ilmavoimat Lapin Sota (Finnish Air Force Lapland War) aircraft, which carried an internal bomb load and were predominantly used for reconnaissance duties for the Finnish Ground Forces. Therefore, the external bomb racks and bombs were not required. Additionally, the Finns removed the dive brakes from beneath the wings of their Junkers Ju-88A-4/Rs due to airframe fatigue. The aircraft were still able to dive-bomb targets but were restricted to a 45 degree angle as opposed to the usual 60-80 degree dive angle.
Before the Ju 88 went to the paint shop, the undercarriage was constructed, wheels painted (Hubs – Humbrol 67, tyres – Tamiya XF-85 Tyre black).
Camouflage & Markings
Techmod’s 1/72 Junkers Ju-88A-4 decals offer 6 aircraft to choose from. Two are Luftwaffe examples, one based in Nurmoila, Finland, the other is an example based in Sicily in 1943. I chose ‘JK-268’ one of the four Finnish Air Force aircraft. This machine belonged to 3/PleLv 44 based at Onttola in Finland during June 1944. The aircraft took part in the Lapland War, survived the conflict and continued in service with the Ilmavoimat after the War.
The aircraft was given a second coat of grey primer from a rattle-can and the undersides were airbrushed overall in RLM 76, which was taken up the fuselage sides. The undercarriage main and tail-wheel doors were similarly sprayed. The undersides of the wing-tips (approximately 1/3rd of the wings) were airbrushed using white ensign models WEMCC ALCW21 RLM 04 Gelb. The airframe was then masked and airbrushed V.L. Green, a combination of 6 parts Humbrol 116, 6 parts 117, 1 part 163 and 1 part matt white. Once this had dried, the upper-surfaces were masked and airbrushed with thinned Humbrol 33 black. The propellers and spinners were airbrushed with Humbrol matt 241 schwarzgrünand given RLM 04 Gelb tips.
Once the masking had been removed, the decals were applied, the Techmod decals went on very nicely, they were thin but there was no hint of the camouflage showing through them. The undercarriage was fitted, as was the aerial wire. The airframe was then given a coat of Johnson’s Klear to seal the decals.
I honestly don’t think you can get a better aircraft for your money. It was exquisitely detailed, went together beautifully and really is a must for anybody interested in the Finnish Air Force in World War II. I really can’t recommend this aircraft enough.
On the 9th of June 1944, the Soviet Union opened a major offensive against Finnish positions on the Karelian Isthmus and in the area of Lake Ladoga. On the 21.7 km (13.5 mi)-wide breakthrough segment the Red Army had concentrated 3,000 guns and mortars. In some places, the concentration of artillery pieces exceeded 200 guns for every kilometer of the front (one every 5 m (5.5 yd)). On that day, Soviet artillery fired over 80,000 rounds along the front on the Karelian Isthmus. On the second day of the offensive, the Soviet forces broke through the Finnish front lines. The Soviets penetrated the second line of defence by the sixth day. The Soviet pressure on the Karelian Isthmus forced the Finns to reinforce the area. This allowed the second Soviet offensive in Eastern Karelia to meet less resistance and to capture Petrozavodsk by 28 June 1944. According to Erickson (1991), James Gebhardt (1989), and Glantz (1998), the main objective of the Soviet offensives was to force Finland from the war.
German help for Finland
Finland especially lacked modern anti-tank weaponry which could stop Soviet heavy tanks, and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop offered these in exchange for a guarantee that Finland would not seek a separate peace again. On the 26th of June, President Risto Ryti gave this guarantee as a personal undertaking, which he intended to last only for the remainder of his presidency. In addition to delivering thousands of hand-held Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck antitank weapons, Hitler sent the 122nd Infantry Division, the half-strength 303rd Assault Gun Brigade, and LuftwaffeDetachment Kuhlmey to provide temporary support in the most threatened defense sectors.
With new supplies from Germany, the Finnish army halted the Soviet advance in early July 1944. At this point, the Finnish forces had retreated about one hundred kilometres, which brought them to approximately the same line of defence they had held at the end of the Winter War. This line was known as the VKT-line (short for “Viipuri–Kuparsaari–Taipale“; it ran from Viborg to the River Vuoksi to Lake Ladoga at Taipale), where the Finnish Army stopped the Soviet offensive in the Battle of Tali-Ihantala in spite of Soviet numerical and materiel superiority. The front stabilized once again.
Finland’s exit from the war
A few battles were fought in the latter stages of the war. The last of them was the Battle of Ilomantsi, a Finnish victory, from 26 July to 13 August 1944. The struggle to contain the Soviet offensive was exhausting Finnish resources. The German support under the Ryti-Ribbentrop Agreement had prevented a disaster, but it was believed the country would not be able to hold another major attack. The Soviet advances against German Army Groups Center and North further complicated matters for Finland.
With the front being stable so far, it was a good time for Finland to seek a way out of the war. At the beginning of August President Ryti resigned to allow Finland to sue for peace again, which the new government did in late August. The Soviet peace terms were harsh, but the $600,000,000 reparations demanded in the spring were reduced to $300,000,000, most likely due to pressure from the United States and Britain. However, after the ceasefire the Soviets insisted that the payments should be based on 1938 prices, which doubled the amount. This sum constituted half of Finland’s annual gross domestic product in 1939.
The conditions for peace were similar to what had been agreed in the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940: Finland was obliged to cede parts of Karelia and Salla, as well as certain islands in the Gulf of Finland. The new armistice also handed all of Petsamo to the Soviet Union, and Finland was further compelled to lease Porkkala to the Soviet Union for a period of fifty years (the area was returned to Finnish control in 1956).
Harsher conditions included Finnish payment of $300,000,000 ($4 billion in today’s dollars) in the form of various commodities over six years to the Soviet Union as war reparations. Finland also agreed to legalise the Communist Party of Finland (after it had made some changes to the party rules) and ban the ones that the Soviet Union considered fascist. Further, the individuals that the Soviets considered responsible for the war had to be arrested and put on trial, the best-known case being that of Risto Ryti. The armistice compelled Finland to drive German troops from its territory, leading to the Lapland War 1944–45.
Germany and Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union since June 1941, co-operating closely in the Continuation War. However, as early as the summer of 1943, the German High Command began making plans for the eventuality that Finland might make a separate peace agreement with the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to withdraw their forces northward in order to shield the nickel mines near Petsamo.
During the winter of 1943–1944, the Germans improved the roads from northern Norway to northern Finland by extensive use of prisoner of war (POW) labour in certain areas. Casualties among these POWs were high, in part because many of them had been captured in southern Europe and were still in summer uniform. In addition, the Germans surveyed defensive positions and made plans to evacuate as much materiel as possible from the region and made meticulous preparations for withdrawing their forces. On 9 April 1944 the German withdrawal was named Operation Birke. While in June 1944 the Germans started actively constructing fortifications against an enemy advance from the south, the accidental death of Generaloberst Eduard Dietl on 23 June 1944 brought Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic to the command of the 20th Mountain Army.
Change of Finnish leadership led the Germans already in early August 1944 to believe that Finland would attempt to achieve a separate agreement with the Soviet Union. The Finnish announcement of the cease fire triggered frantic efforts in the German 20th Mountain Army which immediately started Operation Birke and other material evacuations from Finland. Large amounts of materiel were evacuated from southern Finland and harsh punishments were set for any hindering of the withdrawal. Finnish forces were moved to face the Germans, which included the 3rd, 6th, and 11th Divisions, the Armoured Division as well as the 15th and Border Jäger Brigades.
On 2 September 1944, after the Finns informed the Germans of the cease fire between Finland and the Soviet Union, the Germans started seizing Finnish shipping. However since this action resulted in a Finnish decision not to allow ships to sail from Finland to Germany and nearly doomed the material evacuations of Operation Birke it was rescinded. After the order was called off, the Finns in turn allowed Finnish shipping to be used to hasten the German evacuations. The first German naval mines were laid in Finnish seaways on 14 September 1944, allegedly against Soviet Naval Forces, though since Finland and Germany were not yet in open conflict at the time the Germans warned the Finns of their intent.
On 15 September 1944 the German navy attempted to seize the island of Hogland in Operation Tanne Ost. This immediately prompted the Finns to remove their shipping from the joint evacuation operation. The last German convoy departed from Kemi on 21 September 1944 and was covered with both submarines and later (south of Åland) by German cruisers. After the landing attempt, a Finnish coastal artillery fort prevented German netlayers from passing into the Baltic Sea at Utö on 15 September as they had been ordered to intern the German forces. However already on 16 September a German naval detachment consisting of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen escorted by 5 destroyers arrived to Utö. The German cruiser stayed out of range of the Finnish 152 mm guns and threatened to open fire with its artillery that outdistanced the Finnish guns unless the Finns allowed the German netlayers to pass. The Finns permitted the netlayers to pass due to the threat posed by the heavy cruiser.
A Finnish landing operation started on 30 September 1944 when three transport ships (SS Norma, SS Fritz S and SS Hesperus) without any escorts departed from Oulu towards Tornio. They arrived on 1 October and managed to disembark their troops without any interference. Also a second wave of four ships on 2 October and a third wave – three ships strong – managed to disembark largely without trouble with only a single ship being lightly damaged by German dive bombers. On 4 October bad weather prevented Finnish air cover from reaching Tornio which left the fourth landing wave vulnerable to German Stuka dive bombers which scored several hits sinking SS Bore IX and SS Maininki alongside the pier. The fifth wave on 5 October suffered only light shrapnel damage despite being both shelled from shore and bombed. The first Finnish naval vessels Hämeenmaa, Uusimaa, VMV 15 and VMV 16 arrived with the sixth wave just in time to witness German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor bombers attacking the shipping at Tornio with Henschel Hs 293 glide bombs without results. Arrival of naval assets made it possible for the Finns to safely disembark heavy equipment which played an important role during the Battle of Tornio.
Sailors on Finnish ships in German-held ports, including Norway, were interned, and German submarines sank several Finnish civilian vessels. German submarines also had some success against Finnish military vessels, including the sinking of the minelayer Louhi. The most dire result of Finland concluding the Moscow Armistice with the Soviet Union was that now Soviet naval forces could circumvent the existing German naval mine barriers located on the Gulf of Finland by using the Finnish coastal seaways. This allowed Soviet submarines now based in the Finnish archipelago to gain early access to the German shipping in the southern Baltic Sea.
The cease fire agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union contained requirements that the Finns break diplomatic ties with Germany and publicly demand the withdrawal of all German troops from Finland by 15 September 1944. Any troops remaining after the deadline were to be disarmed and handed over to the Soviet Union. Even with the massive efforts of the Germans in Operation Birke this proved impossible, the Finns estimating it would take the Germans three months to fully evacuate. The task was further complicated by the Soviet demand that the major part of Finland’s armed forces be demobilized, even as they attempted to conduct a military campaign against the Germans. With the exception of the inhabitants of the Tornio area, most of the civilian population of Lapland (totaling 168,000 people) was evacuated to Sweden and Southern Finland. The evacuation was carried out as a cooperative effort between the German military and Finnish authorities prior to the start of hostilities.
Finnish Order of Battle:
75,000 Troops, comprising;
Border Jäger Brigade
JR 50 Infantry Regiment
JR 53 Infantry Regiment
Most of the 75,000 Finns served until the end of October 1944, but the number dropped to 12,000 men in December 1944.
The Finnish Jäger Brigade was formed during the Civil War in Finland (27th January to May 1918) the Jägers were engaged on the “White” (non-communist) side in the war and formed the nucleus of the new Finnish Army. In Finland, these 2,000 volunteers were simply called The Jägers (Finnish pl. Jääkärit).
Finnish Armoured Division
HQ of the Armoured Division
1st Armoured Battalion (T-26, T-26E light-tanks), Armoured car company with FAIs and BA-10s
2nd Armoured Battalion (T-26, T-26E, a heavy tank company with KV-1s, T-28s and T-34 medium tanks)
Lentolaivue 28 (LLv.28) and TleLv 13, Mörkö-Moranes took part in the Lapland War as reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft. 41 aircraft were converted from remaining stocks of M.S. 406 and 410 fighters. 13+ aircraft.
Tiedustelulentolaivue 12 (TLe.Lv.12 -Reconnaissance Squadron 12) formed on the 14th of February 1944. The Squadron flew six V.L. Myrsky Fighters during the Lapland War. The Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron 12 Myrsky aircraft detached to Fighter Squadron 26 and moved to Kemi on the 23rd of October 1944. Three days later a two-ship Myrsky section flew the first war mission for the aircraft type in the Lapland War when they flew a recce mission to the Muonio-Enontekiö area. The Myrskys flew a few missions in November, when one aircraft was lost in a forced landing after take-off. The Myrskys returned to their peace time base in early 1945.
Lentoryhmä Sarko, Pommituslentolaivue 44 (PLe.Lv.44), Junkers Ju 88A-4/R, 10 Aircraft.
LeR 4, Pommituslentolaivue 44, Dornier Do 17 Z-1, 2 and 3, 10 Aircraft.
Finnish air assets were supported by 617 aircraft of the 7th Soviet Air Army.
Finland’s 159 Messerschmitt Bf 109’s were not committed to the campaign due to concerns that confusion would ensue in aerial combat with Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 aircraft.
On the 3rd of October 1944 During the War in Lapland, HLeLv 26 Brewster’s covered the Finnish landings in Tornio and achieved the final aerial victories of the Brewster 239. Six Brewster 239s intercepted 12 Junkers Ju-87D’s shooting down two. The main role of Brewster’s during this war was reconnaissance, and no aerial opposition was met. Because of highly accurate radar-guided German FLAK heavy casualties were suffered. 4 Brewster’s were shot down by FLAK and 2 pilots were killed. Two aircraft were lost in accidents. In January 1945 the squadron was disbanded and all seven surviving Brewster’s were sent for refurbishment at the State Aircraft Factory – Valtion Lentokonehtedas (VL).
Two Finnish Junkers Ju-88A-4/Rs were lost during the Lapland War. Wrk. No. 0883860, GL+QM, delivered to the Ilmavoimat on 20/08/43, was shot down by a German Fighter on 10/10/44. Unit: LeLv 44. The second, Wrk No. 0883863, KG+KE, delivered 11/04/43, was shot down by German AAA on 15/10/44. Unit: LeLv/PLeLv 44.
Wermacht Order of Battle:
20th Mountain Army: 214,000 Troops (including units stationed in Norway)
XVIII Mountain Corps; SS Mountain Division North and the 7th Mountain Division
XXXVI Mountain Corps; 169th Infantry Division and the 163rd Infantry Division
Gebirgsjäger (German pronunciation: [ɡəˈbɪʁksˌjɛːɡɐ]) are the light infantry part of the alpine or mountain troops (Gebirgstruppe) of Germany and Austria. The word Jäger (meaning “hunter” or “huntsman”) is a characteristic term used for light-infantry or light-infantryman in German-speaking military context.
LXXI Corps; 230th Infantry Division, 270th Infantry Division and the 199th Infantry Division
XXXIII Corps; 14 Luftwaffe Field Division, 702nd Infantry Division and the 295th Infantry Division
LXX Corps; 269th Infantry Division, 280th Infantry Division, 274th Fortress Division and the 710th Infantry Division
Most of the 214,000 Germans served until the end of August 1944, but the number dropped quickly as the Germans withdrew or proceeded to Norway.
All Luftwaffe units had left Central and Southern Finland at the signing of the Armistice Agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union in Moscow on September the 19th 1944. Detachment Kuhlmey, based at immola airfield had left by the 23rd of July, Schlachtgeschwader 3s Junkers Ju-87Ds left Pori airfield the same day. I./JG 302 Messerschmitt Bf 109G6/R6 Nightfighters returned to defence of the Reich duties on May the 15th 1944. The remainder of Luftwaffe units based in Finland were either re-assigned to the Eastern Front to bolster German efforts to stop the Soviet advance; sent to France in order to fight Allied Forces in Normandy or re-located to Norway where German units continued to fight Soviet Air Regiments which were clearing the remainder of the German forces based in Finland from the Arctic. German units in Northern Norway undertook missions against the Soviet Air Force from 12 Air-bases, including; Bardufoss, Bodø and Kirkenes.
Luftlotte 5 (Air Fleet 5, North)
During 1944 Luftlotte 5 was reorganized; Nord Ost became, briefly Ff Eismeer before becoming Ff 3; Nord West became Ff 4; and Lofoten became Ff 5.
On the ground LgK Norwegen became Kommandierende General der Luftwaffe (K.G.) in Norwegen, covering ground and air formations in Norway, while LgK Finnland became K.G. Finnland, with a similar remit in Finland and, later, northern Norway.
As the Soviets advanced North and Westwards from 1944, these organizations became increasingly irrelevant as German forces were forced to retreat and their air strength diminished. By the end of World War II they existed largely on paper.
Approximately 27-36 Focke-Wulf 190A-8 and Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 Aircraft.
III./JG 5 and IV./JG 5 were transferred to the Arctic Front from Southern Norway in August 1944. The Gruppe joined the first of several large air battles commencing on October 9, opposing the final Soviet offensive against Petsamo. When the day was over, III. and IV./JG 5 had claimed 85 Soviet aircraft shot down (among them the 3,000th victory for JG 5) against the loss of only one pilot killed.
Prior to the start of the Soviet Offensive, the defending Germans had been ordered to abandon Petsamo on 15 October and Kirkenes by the beginning of November.
In November 1944 IV./JG 5 returned to Southern Norway. Up to the end of the war this unit formed the air defence against the Allied raids on targets in Norway, principally the submarine bases at Trondheim and Bergen.
As the Finns wanted to avoid devastation to their country, and the Germans wished to avoid hostilities, both sides wanted the evacuation to be performed as smoothly as possible. By 15 September 1944 a secret agreement had been reached by which the Germans would make their withdrawal timetable known to the Finns, who would then allow the Germans to destroy roads, railroads and bridges. In practice, friction soon arose both from the destruction caused by the Germans and from the pressure exerted on the Finns by the Soviets, and there were several incidents between the armies. The Finns deployed their 3rd Division, 11th Division, and 15th Brigade to the coastal area, the 6th and the Armoured Division to Pudasjärvi, and the Border Jaeger Brigade to the eastern part of the country.
The first open violence between Finnish forces and the 20th Mountain Army took place 20 km southwest of Pudasjärvi, at around 08:00 on the 28th of September 1944, when Finnish advance units first issued a surrender demand then opened fire on a small German rearguard contingent. This took the Germans by surprise, as the Finns had previously agreed to warn them should they be forced to take hostile action against them. After the incident partial contact was re-established: the Germans told the Finns they had no interest in fighting them, but would not surrender. The next incident took place on 29 September at a bridge crossing the Olhava river between Kemi and Oulu. Finnish troops, who had been ordered to take the bridge intact, were attempting to disarm explosives rigged to the bridge when the Germans detonated them, demolishing the bridge and killing the Finns’ company commander, among others. On the 30th of September the Finns attempted to encircle the Germans at Pudasjärvi by way of flanking movements through the forests, and managed to cut the road leading to the north. By then, however, the bulk of the German force at Pudasjärvi had already left, leaving behind only a small detachment which, after warning the Finns, blew up a munitions dump.
Fighting intensified on 1 October 1944, when the Finns launched a risky seaborne invasion near Tornio, on the border with Sweden. The landing had originally been planned as a diversionary raid, with the main assault to take place at Kemi, where the Finnish battalion-sized Detachment Pennanen (fi. Osasto Pennanen) was already in control of important industrial facilities on the island of Ajos. Various considerations – including a far stronger German garrison at Kemi, already alerted by local attacks – made the Finns change the target to Röyttä (Tornio’s outer port). The Finns initially landed the 11th Infantry Regiment (JR 11), which, together with a Civic Guard-led uprising at Tornio, managed to secure both the port and most of the town, as well as the important bridges over the Torne River; however, the attack soon bogged down due to disorganization – some of it caused by alcohol looted from German supply depots – and stiffening resistance. During the ensuing Battle of Tornio the Germans fought hard to retake the town, as it formed an important transportation link between the two roads running parallel to the Kemijoki and Tornionjoki rivers, respectively. Their forces initially consisted of Division Kräutler (of roughly reinforced-regiment strength) and were later reinforced with an armored company (2nd company of Panzer Abteilung 211), two infantry battalions, and the Machine Gun Ski Brigade Finnland. The Finns reinforced their troops with two infantry regiments (JR 50 and JR 53) and managed to hold the area, beating back several German counterattacks. Heavy combat lasted for a week, until 8 October 1944, when the Germans were finally forced to withdraw.
Meanwhile Finnish troops were advancing overland from Oulu towards Kemi, the 15th Brigade making slow progress even in the face of meager German resistance. Their advance was hampered by the efficient destruction of roads and bridges by the withdrawing Germans, as well as a lack of fighting spirit in both Finnish troops and their leaders. The Finns attacked Kemi on 7 October 1944, attempting to encircle the Germans with a frontal attack by the 15th Brigade and an attack from the rear by Detachment Pennanen. Strong German resistance, civilians in the area, and ‘liberated’ alcohol prevented the Finns from fully succeeding in trapping all the Germans. Though Finnish forces took several hundred prisoners, they failed to prevent the Germans from demolishing the important bridges over the Kemijoki river once they began their withdrawal on 8 October.
Further action in The Lapland War
As Allied war efforts against Germany continued, the leadership of the 20th Mountain Army, as well as the OKW, came to believe it would be perilous to maintain positions in Lapland and in northern Norway east of Lyngen, and began preparations for withdrawal. After long delays, Hitler accepted the proposal on 4 October 1944, and it was codenamed Operation Nordlicht on 6 October 1944. Instead of a gradual withdrawal from southern Lapland into fortified positions further to the north while evacuating all material, as in Operation Birke, Operation Nordlicht called for a rapid and strictly organized withdrawal directly behind Lyngen fjord in Norway while under pressure from harassing enemy forces.
As the Germans withdrew, movement was mostly limited to the immediate vicinity of Lapland’s three main roads, which constricted military activities considerably. In general the actions followed a pattern in which advancing Finnish units would encounter German rearguards and attempt to flank them on foot, the destroyed road network preventing them from bringing up artillery or other heavy weapons. As Finnish riflemen slowly picked their way through the dense woods and marshland, the motorized German units would simply drive away and take up positions further down the road.
Finnish forces began pursuing the Germans. The Finnish 11th Division advanced north from Tornio on the road running along the Torne River while the 3rd Division marched from Kemi towards Rovaniemi. After the 6th and the Armoured Division linked up at Pudasjärvi they advanced northward, first towards Ranua and then to Rovaniemi. The Border Jaeger Brigade moved north along the eastern border, depositing border guards as it advanced. Due to the destruction of the road network the Finns were forced to use combat troops for repair work; at times, for example, the entire 15th Brigade was committed to road construction. Finnish forces advancing from Kemi towards Rovaniemi did not see any real action, as Finnish troops on foot were not able to keep up with withdrawing motorized German units; however, on the road leading from Ranua towards Rovaniemi there were several small battles, first at Ylimaa, then Kivitaival, then Rovaniemi. North of Rovaniemi the Finns encountered heavily fortified German Schutzwall positions at Tankavaara. On the road running along the Torne and Muonio rivers, the German withdrawal went so smoothly that there was no fighting until the Finnish 11th Division reached the village of Muonio.
At Ylimaa on 7 October the Finns captured documents detailing German positions, forcing them to fight a delaying action off their pre-set timetable; however, as the forces were roughly even numerically, the Finnish lack of heavy weapons, and exhaustion from long marches, prevented the Finnish Jaeger Brigade from trapping the defending German 218th Mountain Regiment before it received permission to withdraw on 9 October. At Kivitaival on 13 October the tables were turned and only a fortuitous withdrawal of the 218th Mountain Regiment saved the Finnish 33rd Infantry Regiment from being severely mauled. The German withdrawal allowed the Finns to surround one of the delaying battalions, but the German 218th Mountain Regiment returned and managed to rescue the stranded battalion. The first Finnish units reaching the vicinity of Rovaniemi were components of the Jaeger Brigade advancing from Ranua on 14 October. The Germans repelled Finnish attempts to capture the last intact bridge over Kemijoki river and then left the mostly demolished town to the Finns on 16 October 1944.
Finnish demobilization and difficult supply routes began to take their toll, and at Tankavaara barely four battalions of the Finnish Jaeger Brigade attempted, unsuccessfully, to dislodge the German 169th Infantry Division, 12 battalions strong, entrenched in prepared fortifications. Finnish forces first reached the area on 26 October but gained ground only on 1 November, when the Germans withdrew further to the north. At Muonio on 26 October the German Kampfgruppe Esch, 4 battalions, and the 6th SS Mountain Division “Nord” again had numerical and material superiority in the form of artillery and armor support, which prevented the Finns from gaining the upper hand, despite initially fairly successful flanking operations by the 8th and 50th Infantry Regiments. The Finnish plan had been to prevent the SS Mountain Division, marching from direction of Kittilä, from reaching Muonio, and thereby trap it; however, the delaying actions of Kampfgruppe Esch and the destruction of the road network made it impossible for the Finns to reach Muonio before the SS Mountain Division.
The Petsamo-Kirkenes Offensive
After the armistice between the Soviet Union and Finland on 4 September 1944, the Petsamo region (though still largely occupied by the Germans) again became part of Russia, and the Finnish government agreed to remove the remaining German forces from its territory by 15 September (leading to the Lapland War). During the retreat of the German 20th Mountain Army, called Operation Birke, the decision was made by the German Armed Forces Command to withdraw completely from northern Norway and Finland in Operation Nordlicht. During the preparations for this operation, the Russians went over to the offensive on the Karelian Front.
The Stavka decided to move against the German forces in the Arctic in late 1944. The operation was to be undertaken jointly by the Karelian Front under the command of General Kirill Meretskov and the Northern Fleet under Admiral Arseniy Golovko. The main operations were to be conducted by 14th Army, which had been in the Arctic since the beginning of the war. Meretskov was provided with several units specially configured to meet the requirements for operations in the far north. The 126th and 127th Rifle Corps consisted of light infantry with a number of ski troops and naval infantry. The Soviets also had 30 engineer battalions, numerous horse- and reindeer-equipped transportation companies, and two battalions equipped with U.S.-supplied amphibious vehicles for river crossings. In addition, the Soviets massed thousands of mortars and artillery pieces, 750 aircraft, and 110 tanks (while the Germans lacked any armour), making Soviet forces far superior to the Germans.
Soviet preparations, which had lasted for two months, had not gone unnoticed by the Germans. The highly capable General Lothar Rendulic, who served as both head of the 20th Mountain Army and overall theater commander, was well aware of the threat posed by the upcoming offensive. Prior to the start of the Soviet drive, the defending Germans had been ordered to abandon Petsamo on 15 October, and Kirkenes by the beginning of November.
The offensive can be divided into three phases: the breakthrough of the German position, the pursuit to Kirkenes, and the battle for Kirkenes, including the southward pursuit that followed it. During the offensive several amphibious landings were conducted by naval infantry and army units. Initially, the Germans’ intended withdrawal was hampered by Hitler’s strict orders to Rendulic to evacuate all supplies from the Petsamo region before abandoning it.
Despite intensive planning before the offensive, the initial attack on 7 October immediately met with problems. Poor visibility made it difficult to co-ordinate artillery and fire support, slowing the assault; nevertheless, after some fierce fighting the Soviets broke through the German lines on the Titovka River. Blowing up the bridges behind them, the Germans retreated. The Soviets pursued, and over the following days conducted several amphibious landings to cut off the German forces. On 10 October the Germans shifted the 163rd Division, which was already withdrawing from Finland to Norway, to the Petsamo region to bolster their defenses. On 13 October the Soviets were poised to attack German forces around the town of Petsamo, and units of the 126th light Rifle Corps were able to establish a roadblock on the only escape route; however, troops of the German 2nd Mountain Division was able to clear the roadblock on 14 October, securing the retreat of Rendulic’s forces. The Soviets captured Petsamo on 15 October, but due to supply problems, then had to halt the offensive for three days.
For the rest of the campaign the Soviets advanced after the withdrawing Germans along the coast of Norway, with the Soviets trying to block and cut off German units on their retreat. But because of constant supply shortcomings and German delaying efforts, which forced sizable forces to be detached to road reconstruction, the Soviets were not able to achieve success and the Germans escaped with the bulk of their forces intact. The Germans abandoned Kirkenes on 25 October and finally on 29 October Meretskov halted all operations except reconnaissance.
The Soviet offensive ended with a victory for the Red Army, however the Wehrmacht20th Mountain Army successfully performed an orderly retreat with the bulk of its forces intact just like it did against Finnish forces during their retreat through Lapland carried out at the same time. Soviet failure to inflict clear defeat on the withdrawing Germans was largely due to the supply issues caused by efficient German destruction of road connections in the area. With often the only road available being out of service due damage and mines both supplies and heavy equipment, like artillery, could not be transported to front lines in sufficient quantities while lighter equipped forces were at disadvantage against heavily armed German forces.
In the same area the Northern Fleet operated an air arm with a total of 275 aircraft, but these were not called upon to support the offensive of the ground forces, but rather used to target the German shipping along the coast of Norway.
German air assets in theatre had been estimated at a total of 160-180 aircraft, of which half were fighters. These included Bf-109 and FW-190 fighters, Arado-66 night bombers and Ju-87 Stukas. The Soviets thus on paper enjoyed a 6-to-1 superiority in air strength.
German retreat to Norway
For most practical purposes the war in Lapland ended in early November 1944. In north-eastern Lapland after holding the Finns off at Tankavaara the Germans withdrew swiftly from Finland at Karigasniemi on 25th of November 1944. The Finnish Jaeger Brigade pursuing them had by then been depleted in manpower due to demobilization. In northwest Lapland there were on 4th of November only 4 battalions of Finnish troops left and by February 1945 a mere 600 men. The Germans continued their withdrawal but stayed in fortified positions first at Palojoensuu (village ~50 km north of Muonio along the Torne river) in early November 1944 from where they moved further to positions along the Lätäseno river (Sturmbock-Stellung) on the 26th of November. The German 7th Mountain Division held these positions until the 10th of January 1945 when northern Norway had been emptied and positions at Lyngen fjord were manned. Some German positions defending Lyngen extended over the Finnish side of the border, however no real activity took place before the Germans withdrew from Finland on 25th of April 1945.
From the start of the war the Germans had been systematically destroying and mining the roads and bridges as they withdrew. However after the first real fighting took place the German commander, General Lothar Rendulic, issued several orders with regards to destroying Finnish property in Lapland. On the 6th of October a strict order was issued which named only military or militarily important sites as targets. On the 8th of October after the result of the fighting in Tornio and Kemi region became obvious the Germans made several bombing raids, targeting factory areas of Kemi and inflicting heavy damage on them. However on the 9th of October the demolition order was extended to include all governmental buildings with the exception of hospitals. On the 13th of October all habitable structures, including barns, though making an exception for hospitals and churches, were ordered to be destroyed north of the line running from Ylitornio via Sinettä (small village ~20 km NWN of Rovaniemi) to Sodankylä (including the listed settlements) in northern Finland. Though it made sense from the German perspective to do this to deny pursuing forces from getting any shelter it had a very limited effect on the Finns who unlike the Germans always carried tents with them and did not require any shelter.
At Rovaniemi the Germans initially concentrated mainly on destroying governmental buildings but once fire got loose several more were destroyed. German attempts to fight the fire however failed and a train loaded with ammunition caught fire at Rovaniemi railroad station on the 14th of October, resulting in a massive explosion which caused further destruction as well as spreading the fire throughout the primarily wooden buildings of the town. German attempts to fight the fire had failed by the time, on the 16th of October, they abandoned the now ruined town to the advancing Finns.
In their retreat the German forces under General Lothar Rendulic devastated large areas of northern Finland with scorched earth tactics. As a result, some 40–47% of the dwellings in the area were destroyed, and the provincial capital of Rovaniemi was burned to the ground, as were the villages of Savukoski and Enontekiö. Two-thirds of the buildings in the main villages of Sodankylä, Muonio, Kolari, Salla and Pello were demolished, 675 bridges were blown up, all main roads were mined, and 3,700 km of telephone lines were destroyed.
In addition to the property losses, estimated as equivalent to about US $300 million in 1945 dollars (US$ 3.93 billion in 2014), about 100,000 inhabitants became refugees, a situation that added to the problems of postwar reconstruction. After the war the Allies convicted Rendulic of war crimes, and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, although charges concerning the devastation of Lapland were dropped. He was released after six years.
The military casualties of the conflict were relatively limited: 774 killed in action (KIA), 262 missing in action and about 3,000 wounded in action (WIA) for the Finnish troops, and 1,200 KIA and about 2,000 WIA for the Germans. 1,300 German soldiers became prisoners of war, and were handed over to the Soviet Union according to the terms of the armistice with the Soviets. The extensive German land mines caused civilian casualties for decades after the war, and almost 100 personnel were killed during demining operations. Hundreds of Finnish women who had been engaged to German soldiers or working for the German military left with the German troops, meeting diverse fates.
Kijanen, Kalervo (1968). Suomen Laivasto 1918–1968 II. Helsinki: Meriupseeriyhdistys/Otava.
Leskinen, Jari; Juutilainen, Antti, eds. (2005). Jatkosodan pikkujättiläinen (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö. ISBN978-951-0-28690-6.
Lunde, Henrik O. (2011). Finland’s War of Choice: The Troubled German-Finnish Alliance in World War II. Newbury: Casemate Publishers. ISBN978-1-61200-037-4.
Bjørn Hafsten[et al.](1991). Flyalarm – Luftkrigen over Norge 1939-1945, Sem & Stenersen AS. (ISBN 82-7046-058-3).
Deposits of nickel were found in 1921, after Petsamo became a part of Finland, and in 1934 the deposits were estimated to contain over five million tonnes. Mining operations were started in 1935 by Canadian and French corporations.
Construction of a road from Sodankylä through Ivalo to Liinakhamari started in 1916 and was completed in 1931. This made Petsamo a popular tourist attraction, as it was the only port by the Barents Sea that could be reached by automobile.
In the Winter War of 1939–1940, the Soviet Union occupied Petsamo. In the following peace agreement only the Finnish part of the Rybachy Peninsula, with the area of 321 square kilometers (124 sq mi), was ceded to the Soviet Union, although the Soviets had occupied all of Petsamo during the Winter War.
In 1941, during World War II, Petsamo was used by Nazi Germany as a staging area for the attack towards Murmansk. In 1944, the Red Army occupied Petsamo again, and Finland had to cede it to the Soviet Union as part of the Moscow Armistice signed on September 19, 1944; the total ceded area was 8,965 square kilometers (3,461 sq mi). On July 21, 1945, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union decreed to establish Pechengsky District with the administrative centre in nickel on the ceded territory and to include this district as a part of Murmansk Oblast.
The beginnings of Finnish co-operation with Germany
After Nazi Germany’s assault on Scandinavia on April 9, 1940, Operation Weserübung, Finland was physically isolated from her traditional trade markets in the west. Sea routes to and from Finland were now controlled by the Kriegsmarine. The outlet of the Baltic sea was blockaded, and in the far north Finland’s route to the world was an Arctic dirt road from Rovaniemi to the ice-free harbour of Petsamo, from where the ships had to pass a long stretch of German-occupied Norwegian coast by the Arctic Ocean. Finland, like Sweden, was spared occupation but encircled by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. With direct support by Marshal Mannerheim a volunteer unit was formed and sent to Norway to help the fight against the Nazi army. The ambulance unit participated in the war until the Germans conquered the area in which it was serving. The volunteers returned to Finland.
Especially damaging was the loss of fertilizer imports, that, together with the loss of arable land ceded in the Moscow Peace, the loss of cattle during the hasty evacuation after the Winter War, and the unfavorable weather in the summer of 1940, resulted in a drastic fall of food production to less than two thirds of what was Finland’s estimated need. Some of the deficit could be purchased from Sweden and some from the Soviet Union, although delayed deliveries were then a means to exert pressure on Finland. In this situation, Finland had no alternative but to turn to Germany for help.
Finland seeks German rapprochement
Germany has traditionally been a counterweight to Russia in Baltic region, and despite the fact that Hitler’s Third Reich had acquiesced with the invader, Finland perceived some value in also seeking warmer relations in that direction. After the German occupation of Norway, and particularly after the Allied evacuation from northern Norway, the relative importance of a German rapprochement increased.
From May 1940, Finland pursued a campaign to re-establish the good relations with Germany that had soured in the last year of the 1930s. Finland rested her hope in the fragility of the Nazi–Soviet bond, and in the many personal friendships between Finnish and German athletes, scientists, industrialists, and military officers. A part of that policy was accrediting the energetic former Prime Minister Toivo Mikael Kivimäki as ambassador in Berlin in June 1940. The Finnish mass media not only refrained from criticism of Nazi Germany, but also took active part in this campaign. Dissent was censored. Seen from Berlin, this looked like a refreshing contrast to the annoyingly anti-Nazi press in Sweden.
After the fall of France, in late June, the Finnish ambassador in Stockholm heard from the diplomatic sources that Britain could soon be forced to negotiate peace with Germany. The experience from World War I emphasized the importance of close and friendly relations with the victors, and accordingly the courting of Nazi Germany was stepped up still further.
The first crack in the German coldness towards Finland was registered in late July, when Ludwig Weissauer, a secret representative of the German Foreign Minister, visited Finland and queried Mannerheim and Ryti about Finland’s willingness to defend the country against the Soviet Union. Mannerheim estimated the Finnish army could last a few weeks without more arms. Weissauer left without any promises.
Continued Soviet pressure
The implementation of the Moscow Peace Treaty created problems due to the Soviet Vae Victis-mentality. Border arrangements in the Enso industrial area, which even Soviet members of the border commission considered to be on the Finnish side of the border, the forced return of evacuated machinery, locomotives, and rail cars; and inflexibility on questions which could have eased hardships created by the new border, such as fishing rights and the usage of Saimaa Canal merely served to heighten distrust about the objectives of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet attitude was personified in the new ambassador to Helsinki, Ivan Zotov. He behaved undiplomatically and had a stiff-necked drive to advance Soviet interests, real or imagined, in Finland. During the summer and autumn he recommended several times in his reports to the Soviet Foreign Office that Finland ought to be finished off and wholly annexed by the Soviet Union.
On June 14, Soviet bombers shot down the Finnish Junkers 52 passenger plane Kaleva. All nine passengers and crew perished.
On June 23, the Soviet Union proposed that Finland should revoke Petsamo mining rights from the British–Canadian company and transfer them to the Soviet Union, or to a joint venture owned by the Russians and the Finns. On June 27, Moscow demanded either demilitarization or a joint fortification effort in Åland. After Sweden had signed the troop transfer agreement with Germany on July 8, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov demanded similar rights for a Soviet troop transit to Hanko on July 9. The transfer rights were given on September 6, and demilitarization of Åland was agreed on October 11, but negotiations on Petsamo continued to drag on, with Finnish negotiators stalling as much as possible.
The Communist Party was so discredited in the Winter War that it never managed to recuperate between the wars. Instead, on May 22, the Peace and Friendship Society of Finland and Soviet Union was created, and it actively propagated Soviet viewpoints. Ambassador Zotov had very close contacts with the Society by holding weekly meetings with the Society leadership in the Soviet embassy and having Soviet diplomats participating in Society board meetings. The Society started by criticizing the government and military, and gained around 35,000 members at its height. Emboldened by its success, it started organizing almost daily violent demonstrations during the first half of August which were supported politically by Zotov and a press campaign in Leningrad. The government reacted forcefully and arrested leading members of the society which ended the demonstrations in spite of Zotov’s and Molotov’s protests. The Society was finally outlawed in December 1940.
The Soviet Union demanded that Väinö Tanner be discharged from the cabinet because of his anti-Soviet stance and he had to resign August 15. Ambassador Zotov further demanded the resignation of both the Minister of Social Affairs Karl-August Fagerholm because he had called the Society a Fifth column in a public speech, and the Minister of Interior Affairs Ernst von Born, who was responsible for police and led the crackdown of the Society, but they retained their places in the cabinet after Ryti delivered a radio speech in which he stated the willingness of his government to improve relations between Finland and the Soviet Union.
President Kallio suffered a stroke on August 28, after which he was unable to work, but when he presented his resignation November 27, the Soviet Union reacted by announcing that if Mannerheim, Tanner, Kivimäki, Svinhufvud or someone of their ilk were chosen president, it would be considered a breach of the Moscow peace treaty.
All of this reminded the public heavily of how the Baltic Republics had been occupied and annexed only a few months earlier. It was no wonder that the average Finn feared that the Winter War had produced only a short delay of the same fate.
Compared to the early spring, during the summer of 1940, Finland was not high on the agenda of British foreign policy. To gain support from the Soviet Union, Britain had appointed Sir Stafford Cripps, from the left wing of the Labour Party, ambassador to Moscow. He had openly supported the Terijoki Government during the Winter War and he wondered to Ambassador Paasikivi ‘didn’t the Finns really want to follow Baltic Republics and join the Soviet Union?’ He also dismissively called President Kallio “Kulak” and Nordic social democracy “reactionary“. The British Foreign Office had to apologize for his language to Ambassador Gripenberg.
Britain opposed Finnish-Swedish cooperation and provided support for the Soviet Union to scuttle the initiative, until it became apparent in late March 1941 that it had driven Finland in the direction of the Germans, but by then it was already too late. Finnish foreign trade was another critical issue as it was dependent on the British Navy and the Ministry of Economic Warfare was extremely strict when issuing those so that even Finnish trade (and relations) with the Soviet Union suffered from it.
During the nickel negotiations the Foreign Office pressured the license owning British-Canadian Company to “temporarily” release the license and offered diplomatic support to Soviet attempts to gain control of the mine with the precondition that no ore would be shipped to Germany.
Improved relations with Nazi Germany
Unbeknownst to Finland, Adolf Hitler had started to plan his forthcoming invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) now that France had collapsed. He had not been interested in Finland before the Winter War, but now he saw the value of Finland as an operating base, and perhaps also the military value of the Finnish army. In the first weeks of August, German fears of a likely immediate Russian attack on Finland caused Hitler to free the arms embargo. The arms deliveries stopped under the Winter War were resumed.
The next visitor from Germany came on August 18, when a representative of Hermann Göring, arms dealer Joseph Veltjens, arrived. He negotiated with Ryti and Mannerheim about German troop transfer rights between Finnmark in Northern Norway and ports of Gulf of Bothnia in exchange for arms and other material. At first these arms shipments were transferred via Sweden, but later they came directly to Finland. For the Third Reich, this was a breach of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as well as being for Finland a material breach of the Moscow Peace Treaty—that in fact had been chiefly targeted against cooperation between Germany and Finland. It has been disputed in retrospect whether the ailing President Kallio was informed. Possibly Kallio’s health collapsed before he could be confidentially briefed.
From the campaign to ease the Third Reich’s coldness towards Finland, it seemed a natural development to also promote closer relations and cooperation, especially since the much-disliked Moscow Peace Treaty had, in clear language, tried to persuade the Finns not to do exactly that. Propaganda in the censored press contributed to Finland’s international re-orientation—although with very measured means.
Soviet negotiators had insisted that the troop transfer agreement (to Hanko) should not be published for parliamentary discussion or voting. This precedent made it easy for the Finnish government to keep a troop transfer agreement with the Germans secret until the first German troops arrived at the port of Vaasa on September 21. The arrival of German troops produced much relief to the insecurity of average Finns, and was largely approved. Most contrary voices opposed more the way the agreement was negotiated than the transfer itself, although the Finnish people knew only the barest details of the agreements with the Third Reich. The presence of German troops was seen as a deterrent for further Soviet threats and a counterbalance to the Soviet troop transfer right. The German troop transfer agreement was augmented November 21 allowing the transfer of wounded, and soldiers on leave, via Turku. Germans arrived and established quarters, depots, and bases along the rail lines from Vaasa and Oulu to Ylitornio and Rovaniemi, and from there along the roads via Karesuvanto and Kilpisjärvi or Ivalo and Petsamo to Skibotn and Kirkenes in northern Norway. Also roadworks for improving winter road (between Karesuvanto and Skibotn) and totally new road (from Ivalo to Karasjok) were discussed, and later financed, by Germans.
Ryti, Mannerheim, Minister of Defence Walden and chief of staff Heinrichs decided October 23 that information concerning Finnish defence plans of Lappland could be given to the Wehrmacht to gain goodwill, even with the risk that they could be forwarded to the Soviet Union.
When Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov visited Berlin on November 12, he demanded that Germany stop supporting Finland, and the right to handle Finland in a similar way to Baltic States, but Hitler demanded that there should be no new military activities in Northern Europe before summer. Through unofficial channels, Finnish representatives were informed that “Finnish leaders can sleep peacefully; Hitler has opened his umbrella over Finland.”
Attempted defence union with Sweden
On August 19, a new initiative was launched for co-operation between Sweden and Finland. It called for a union of the two states in exchange for a Finnish declaration of satisfaction with the current borders. The plans were primarily championed by the Swedish Foreign Minister, Christian Günther, and Conservative party leader Gösta Bagge, Education Minister in Stockholm. They had to counter increasing anti-Swedish opinions in Finland; and in Sweden, Liberal and Socialist suspicions against what was seen as right-wing dominance in Finland. One of the chief objectives of the plan was to ensure greatest possible liberty for Sweden and Finland in a presumed post-war Europe totally dominated by Nazi Germany. In Sweden, political opponents criticized the necessary adaptations to the Nazis; in Finland, the resistance centred on the loss of sovereignty and influence—and the acceptance of the loss of Finnish Karelia. However, the general feeling of Finland’s dire and deteriorating position quieted many critics.
The official request for a union was made by Christian Günther on October 18, and Finland’s approval was received on October 25, but by November 5, the Soviet ambassador in Stockholm, Alexandra Kollontai, warned Sweden about the treaty. The Swedish government retreated from the issue but discussions for a more acceptable treaty continued until December when, on December 6, the Soviet Union and, on December 19, Germany announced their strong opposition to any kind of union between Sweden and Finland.
Road to war
During the autumn of 1940, Finnish generals visited Germany and occupied Europe several times to purchase additional guns and munitions. Mannerheim even wrote a personal letter January 7, 1941 to Göring where he tried to persuade him to release Finnish purchased artillery pieces Germany had captured in Norwegian harbours during Weserübung. During one of these visits, Maj. Gen. Paavo Talvela met with Chief of Staff of OKH, Col. Gen Franz Halder and Göring January 15–18, 1941, and was asked about Finnish plans to defend itself in case of new Soviet invasion. The Germans also inquired about the possibility of someone from Finland coming and giving a presentation about the experiences of the Winter War.
After the resignation of president Kallio, Risto Ryti was elected by parliament as the new president of Finland December 19. Johan Wilhelm Rangell formed a new government January 4, and this time the far-right IKL party was included in the cabinet as an act of goodwill toward Nazi Germany.
Finland had negotiated with the Germans since spring 1940 about the production of Kolosjoki nickel mines in Petsamo. On July 1940 Finland made a contract with the German company I.G. Farbenindustrie: 60% of the nickel produced was to be shipped to Germany. The negotiations alarmed the Soviet, which in June claimed for a 75% ownership to the mine and to a nearby power plant together with the right to handle security in the area.
According to German reports, the ore body of Kolosjoki mines had a value of over 1 Billion Reichsmark, and it could fulfil the demand of nickel in the Third Reich for 20 years. Later on, in the end of 1940, the Germans raised their estimate of the Kolosjoki nickel reserves four times larger.
The nickel deposits were a lesser known reason for Allied and German interest in the area during World War II, as potentially of great importance for production of arms and munitions. Both the planned Franco-British support of Finland in the Winter War, and German occupation of Denmark and Norway (Operation Weserübung) were partly motivated by control of the nickel mines.
Nickel is a vital component in the production of Steel Alloy. Alloy steel is steel to which additional alloying elements have been intentionally added to modify the characteristics of steel. Common alloying elements include: manganese, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, boron, titanium, vanadium, and niobium. Additional elements may be present in steel: manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, and traces of oxygen, nitrogen, and aluminium.
Other materials are often added to the iron/carbon mixture to produce steel with desired properties. Nickel and manganese in steel add to its tensile strength and make the austenite form of the iron-carbon solution more stable, chromium increases hardness and melting temperature and vanadium also increases hardness while making it less prone to metal fatigue.
During the period between the Winter War and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, there were disputes between Finland and the Soviet Union over mining rights in Petsamo. Finland refused to allow the Soviet Union to mine nickel in Petsamo. This was one of the causes of hostility between the Soviet Union and Finland, which led to the Continuation War. As part of the German invasion, troops from Norway occupied the Petsamo region in 1941, securing the nickel supply.
The Continuation War ended in September 1944, with Finland’s capitulation. Finland ceded Petsamo to the Soviet Union. All subsequent nickel production there has since been under Soviet or Russian authority.
Negotiations with the Soviet had dragged on for six months when the Soviet Foreign Ministry announced January 14 that the negotiations had to be concluded quickly. On the same day, the Soviet Union interrupted grain deliveries to Finland. Soviet ambassador Zotov was recalled home January 18 and Soviet radio broadcasts started attacking Finland. January 21 Soviet Foreign Ministry issued an ultimatum demanding that nickel negotiations be concluded in two days.
When Finnish military intelligence spotted troop movements on the Soviet side of the border, Mannerheim proposed January 23 a partial mobilization, but Ryti and Rangell didn’t accept. Ambassador Kivimäki reported January 24, that Germany was conscripting new age classes, and it was unlikely that they were needed against Britain.
Finnish Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Heinrichs visited Berlin January 30 – February 3, officially giving a lecture about Finnish experiences in the Winter War, but also including discussions with Halder. During the discussions Halder “speculated” about a possible German assault on the Soviet Union and Heinrichs informed him about Finnish mobilization limits and defence plans with and without German or Swedish participation.
Col. Buschenhagen had reported from northern Norway February 1 that the Soviet Union had collected 500 fishing ships in Murmansk, capable of transporting a division. Hitler ordered troops in Norway to occupy Petsamo (Operation Renntier) immediately if the Soviet Union started attacking Finland.
Mannerheim submitted his letter of resignation February 10 claiming that the continuing appeasement made it impossible to defend the country against an invader. He took his resignation back the next day after discussions with Ryti and after stricter instructions were sent to negotiators: 49% of mining rights to the Soviet Union, the power plant to a separate Finnish company, reservation of the highest management positions for Finns and no further Soviet agitation against Finland. Soviet Union rejected those terms on February 18, thus ending nickel negotiations.
After Heinrichs’ visit and the end of the nickel negotiations, diplomatic activities were halted for a few months. The most significant activities of that time was the visit of Colonel Buschenhagen to Helsinki and Northern Finland February 18 – March 3 when he familiarized himself with the terrain and climate of Lappland. He also had discussions with Mannerheim, Heinrichs, Major General Airo and chief-of-operational-office Colonel Tapola. Both sides were careful to point out the speculative nature of these discussions, although later they became the basis of formal agreements.
Already in December 1940, leaders of Germany’s Waffen-SS had demanded that Finland should show its orientation towards Germany “with deeds”, by which it was clear that it meant enlistment of Finnish troops to the SS. The official contact was made on March 1, and in the following negotiations the Finns tried in vain to transform the troops from SS to Wehrmacht, in commemoration of the World War I-era Finnish Jäger Battalion. Ryti and Mannerheim considered the battalion necessary to reinforce German support of Finland; thence the nickname “Panttipataljoona” (“Pawn battalion”) and the negotiations were concluded on April 28 with the Finnish conditions that Government, Civil Guards or Armed Forces would not enlist and that all military personnel wishing to participate must first take their leave of the Finnish army. (These conditions were designed to limit Finnish commitment to Nazi Germany.) The enlistment was carried out in May, and in June the troops were transferred to Germany where a Finnish SS battalion was founded June 18. Foreign minister Witting informed Sweden, where similar activities were also conducted, already on March 23 about possible enlistment. The British ambassador to Helsinki, Gordon Vereker, notified the Finnish Foreign Ministry May 16 on the issue, demanding an end to the enlistment.
Relations between Sweden and Germany strained in March, and on March 15 Sweden mobilized 80,000 more men and moved military units to the southern coast and western border making it even more likely that Sweden couldn’t support Finland if war broke out. This also affected Swedish-Finnish co-operation as the Finnish interest for intelligence exchange diminished considerably during April.
Race issues were sources of particular concern: the Finns were not viewed favorably by the Nazi race theorists. By active participation on Germany’s side, Finnish leaders hoped for a more independent position in post-war Europe, through the removal of the Soviet threat and the incorporation of the related Finnish peoples of neighboring Soviet areas, especially Karelia. This view gained increasing popularity in the Finnish leadership, and also in the press, during the spring of 1941.
From February to April, Germany prepared Barbarossa in secret, and apart from the above contacts, no operational or political discussions were concluded during this time. Instead they published disinformation, such as claims that the German troop buildup in the East was merely a ruse ahead of a planned invasion of Britain (such a plan had been considered under the codename Operation Sea Lion) or safe training locations from British bombers, to hide their real intentions. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece beginning on April 6, suspicion of German intentions increased in Finland, though uncertainty still prevailed as to whether Hitler really intended to attack the Soviet Union before the Battle of Britain was concluded.
However, the Finns had, in the past, learned bitterly how a small country can be used as small change in the deals of great powers, and in such a case Finland could have been used as a token of reconciliation between Hitler and Stalin, something which the Finns had every reason to fear, which is why relations with Berlin were considered of the utmost priority for the future of Finland, especially so if the war between Germany and Soviet Union failed to materialize.
Once again the German Foreign Ministry sent Ludwig Weissauer to Finland May 5, this time to clarify that war between Germany and the Soviet Union would not be launched before spring 1942. Ryti and Witting believed that, at least officially, and forwarded the message to Swedish Foreign Minister Günther, who was visiting Finland May 6–9. Witting also sent the information to Finnish-ambassador-to-London Gripenberg. When the war broke out only a couple of weeks later, it was understandable that both Swedish and British governments felt that the Finns had lied to them.
Part of that disinformation campaign was a request to ambassador Kivimäki that Finland should offer proposals for a new border that the Germans could pressure the Soviets to accept in negotiations. On May 30, 1941 General Airo produced five alternative border drafts for delivery to the Germans, who should then propose the best they felt they could bargain from the Soviet Union. In reality, the Germans had no such intentions, but the exercise served to fuel the support among leading Finns for taking part in Operation Barbarossa.
Operations like Barbarossa don’t begin without some advance notice, and worsening of Soviet-German relations, which began with the meeting in Berlin November 12, was visible around the end of March 1941. Stalin tried to improve relations toward the Third Reich by taking the leadership of the Soviet government May 6, backed off from unimportant issues, and fulfilled all trade deals even as German deliveries were late. Part of this policy was also improving relations with Finland. A new ambassador, Pavel Orlov, was named to Helsinki April 23 and a gift of a trainload of wheat was presented to J. K. Paasikivi when he retired from Moscow. The Soviet Union also renounced opposition to a Swedish-Finnish defence alliance, but Swedish disinterest and German opposition to that kind of alliance rendered the proposal moot. Soviet radio propaganda against Finland also ceased. Orlov acted very conciliatory and soothed many feelings which had been raised by his predecessor, but as he failed to solve any critical issues (like the disagreement over Petsamonickel) or to restart grain imports from Soviet Union, his line was seen only as a new façade on old policy.
British-ambassador-Vereker saw Finland moving towards Germany, and due to his reports, the British Foreign Office had requested easing Finnish trade regulations in Petsamo March 30. On April 28 Vereker reported that the British government should pressure the Soviet Union to return Hanko or Vyborg to Finland as he saw it as the only possible way to secure Finnish neutrality in the case of German-Soviet war.
The Petsamo crisis had disillusioned Finnish politicians, especially Ryti and Mannerheim, creating the impression that peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union was impossible, and that Finland would survive in peace only if the Soviet Union was defeated, as Ryti presented it to US ambassador Arthur Schoenfeld on April 28. The effect of this general feeling was that voices advocating closer ties with Germany grew stronger and the voices advocating armed neutrality within Finland’s new borders (some among the Social Democrats, and some of the more left-leaning in the Swedish People’s Party) softened. Contacts with Sweden’s Conservative Foreign Minister Günther showed an enthusiasm unusual for the Swedes for the anticipated “Crusade against Bolshevism“.
After the successful occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece by the spring of 1941, the German army’s standing was at its zenith, and its victory in the war seemed more than likely. The envoy of the German Foreign Ministry, Karl Schnurre, visited Finland May 20–24, and invited one or more staff officers to negotiations in Salzburg.
Cooperation with Germany
A group of staff officers led by General Heinrichs left Finland on May 24 and participated in discussions with OKW in Salzburg on May 25 where the Germans informed them about the northern part of Operation Barbarossa. The Germans also presented their interest in using Finnish territory to attack from Petsamo to Murmansk and from Salla to Kandalaksha. Heinrichs presented Finnish interest in Eastern Karelia, but Germany recommended a passive stance. The negotiations continued the next day in Berlin with OKH, and contrary to the negotiations of the previous day, Germany wanted Finland to form a strong attack formation ready to strike on the eastern or western side of Lake Ladoga. The Finns promised to examine the proposal, but notified the Germans that they were only able to arrange supply to the Olonets–Petrozavodsk-line. The issue of mobilization was also discussed. It was decided that the Germans would send signal officers to enable confidential messaging to Mannerheim’s headquarters in Mikkeli. Naval issues were discussed, mainly for securing sea lines over the Baltic Sea, but also possible usage of the Finnish navy in the upcoming war. During these negotiations the Finns presented a number of material requests ranging from grain and fuel to airplanes and radio equipment.
Heinrichs’ group returned on May 28 and reported their discussions to Mannerheim, Walden and Ryti. And on May 30 Ryti, Witting, Walden, Kivimäki, Mannerheim, Heinrichs, Talvela and Aaro Pakaslahti from Foreign Ministry had a meeting where they accepted the results of those negotiations with a list of some prerequisites: a guarantee of Finnish independence, the pre-Winter War borders (or better), continuing grain deliveries, and that Finnish troops would not cross the border before a Soviet incursion.
The next round of negotiations occurred in Helsinki on June 3–6 regarding some practical details. During these negotiations it was decided that Germany would be responsible for the area north of Oulu. This area was easily given to them because it was sparsely inhabited and non-critical to the defence of the more important southern provinces. The Finns also agreed to give two divisions to the Germans in northern Finland (30 000 men) and to the usage of airfields in Helsinki and Kemijärvi (Because of the number of German aircraft, airfields at Kemi and Rovaniemi were added later). Finland also warned Germany that an attempt to establish a Quisling government would cut co-operation and that they considered it very important that Finland not be the aggressor and that no invasion should be launched from Finnish soil.
The negotiations for naval operations continued on June 6 in Kiel. It was agreed that the Kriegsmarine would close the Gulf of Finland with mines as soon as the war began.
The arrival of German troops participating in Operation Barbarossa began on June 7 in Petsamo, where SS Division Nord started southwards, and on June 8 in the ports of the Gulf of Bothnia where the German 169th Infantry Division was transported by rail to Rovaniemi, where both of these turned eastward on June 18. Britain cancelled all naval traffic to Petsamo June 14 in protest of these moves. Starting from June 14, a number of German minelayers and supporting MTBs arrived in Finland, some on an official naval visit, others hiding in the southern archipelago.
Finnish parliament was informed for the first time on June 9, when first mobilization orders were issued for troops needed to safeguard the following mobilization phases, like anti-air and border guard units. The Committee on Foreign Affairs complained that parliament was bypassed when deciding on these issues, and protesting that Parliament should be trusted with sensitive information, but no other actions were taken. Swedish ambassador Karl-Ivan Westman wrote that the Soviet-minded “Sextuples”, the far-left Social Democrats, were the reason that parliament couldn’t be trusted in foreign policy questions. When Soviet news agency TASS reported on June 13 that no negotiations were ongoing between Germany and the Soviet Union, Ryti and Mannerheim decided to delay mobilization as no guarantees had been received from Germany. General Waldemar Erfurt, who had been nominated as liaison officer to Finland on June 11, reported to OKW June 14 that Finland wouldn’t finalize mobilization unless the prerequisites were granted. Although the Finns continued on the same day (June 14) with the second phase of mobilization, this time the mobilizing forces were located in northern Finland and later operated under German command. Field Marshal Keitel sent a message on June 15 stating that the Finnish prerequisites were accepted, and the general mobilization restarted on June 17, two days later than scheduled. On June 16, two Finnish divisions were transferred to the German army in Lapland.
An airfield in Utti was evacuated by Finnish planes on June 18 and the Germans were allowed to use it for refuelling from June 19. German reconnaissance planes were stationed at Tikkakoski, near Jyväskylä, on June 20.
On June 20 Finland’s government ordered 45,000 people at the Soviet border to be evacuated. On June 21 Finland’s chief of the General Staff, Erik Heinrichs, was finally informed by his German counterpart that the attack was to begin.
To the opening of hostilities
Operation Barbarossa had already commenced in the northern Baltic by the late hours of June 21, when German minelayers, which had been hiding in the Finnish archipelago, laid two large minefields across the Gulf of Finland, one at the mouth of the Gulf and a second in the middle of the Gulf.
These minefields ultimately proved sufficient to confine the Soviets’ Baltic Fleet to the easternmost part of the Gulf of Finland until the end of the Continuation War. Three Finnish submarines participated in the mining operation by laying 9 small fields between Suursaari Island and the Estonian coast with first mines being laid at 0738 on 22 June 1941 by Finnish submarine Vetehinen.
Later the same night, German bombers, flying from East Prussian airfields, flew along the Gulf of Finland to Leningrad and mined the harbour and the river Neva. Finnish air defence noticed that one group of these bombers, most likely the ones responsible for mining the river Neva, flew over southern Finland. On the return trip, these bombers refueled in Utti airfield before returning to East Prussia.
Finland feared that the Soviet Union would occupy Åland as soon as possible and use it to close naval routes from Finland to Sweden and Germany (together with Hanko base), so Operation Kilpapurjehdus (Sail Race) was launched in the early hours of June 22 to deliver Finnish troops to Åland. Soviet bombers launched attacks against Finnish ships during the operation at 0605 on 22 June 1941 before the Finnish ships had delivered the troops to Åland but no damage was inflicted in the air attack.
Individual Soviet artillery batteries started to shoot at Finnish positions from Hanko early in the morning, so the Finnish commander sought permission to return fire, but before the permission was granted, Soviet artillery had stopped shooting.
On the morning of June 22, both the Soviet Union and Finland declared that each would be neutral in respect of the other in the war that was now underway. This precipitated unease in the Nazi leadership, which tried to provoke a response from the Soviet Union by using both the Finnish archipelago as a base, and Finnish airfields for refuelling. Hitler‘s public statement worked in the same direction; Hitler declared that Germany would attack the Bolshevists “(…) in the North in alliance [“im Bunde”] with the Finnish freedom heroes”. This was in flat contradiction of the statement made to parliament by British Foreign Secretary Eden on June 24 affirming Finnish neutrality.
Finland did not allow direct German attacks from its soil to the Soviet Union, so German forces in Petsamo and Salla had to hold their fire. Air attacks were also prohibited, and very bad weather in northern Finland helped to keep the Germans from flying. Only one attack from Southern Finland against the White Sea Canal was approved, but even that had to be cancelled due to bad weather. There were occasional individual and group level small arms shooting between Soviet and Finnish border guards, but otherwise the front was quiet.
To keep a close eye on their opponents, both parties—and also the Germans—performed active air reconnaissance over the border, but no air fights ensued.
After three days, early on the morning of June 25, the Soviet Union made its move and unleashed a major air offensive against 18 cities with 460 planes, mainly striking airfields but seriously damaging civilian targets as well. The worst damage was done in Turku, where the airfield became inoperable for a week, but among civilian targets, the medieval Turku Castle was also destroyed. (After the war, the castle was repaired, but the work took until 1961.) Heavy damage to civilian targets was also sustained in Kotka and Heinola. However, civilian casualties of this attack were relatively limited.
The Soviet Union justified the attack as being directed against German targets in Finland, but even the British embassy had to admit that the heaviest hits had been taken by southern Finland, and airfields where there were no Germans. Only two targets had German forces present at the time of attack: Rovaniemi and Petsamo. Once again Foreign Minister Eden had to admit to parliament on June 26 that the Soviet Union had initiated the war.
A meeting of parliament was scheduled for June 25 1941 when Prime Minister Rangell had been due to present a notice about Finland’s neutrality in the Soviet-German war, but the Soviet bombings led him to instead observe that Finland was once again at war with the Soviet Union. The Continuation War had begun.
One year later, in May of 1942, Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5) ‘Eismeer’ was assigned to Petsamo Airfield to protect the nickel mines from Soviet attack, initially; they were equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7 ‘Jabo’ (fighter-bomber). The unit remained in Petsamo until February 1944 until being forced to retreat to Kirkenes in Norway by Finnish Forces in the Lapland War. In addition to Petsamo, Luftwaffe units flew missions from Helsinki-Malmi, Turku, Utti, Immola, Kemijärvi, Kemi and Rovaniemi airfields, from 1941 to 1944.
Coming Soon: Eduard’s 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7 build review; flown by Hptm. Günther Scholz, Gruppenkommander of III./JG 5, Petsamo, August 1942.
Notes: Eduard 1/72 scale mask CX215 for Pe-8 used at £5.99 from Hannants UK.
The development and combat history of the Petlyakov Pe-8 can be seen in the previous article on this website by clicking on the picture below:
When the box for this kit came in the post, I was astonished at its size. I knew that the Pe-8 was big, but this was impressive. The box is also beautifully illustrated, is made from strong good quality cardboard and is in the ‘flip-top’ opening style, which makes a project of this scope much easier to manage, as the parts can be stored in the box with the lid open where they can be easily accessed.
This was my first Zvezda kit and I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed at a box full of quality parts. The kit comprises seven large frets in grey injection moulded plastic and one fret of clear parts. Also included are the decal sheet and a 12 page black and white instruction booklet with 54 easy to follow steps. The moulds are crisp and clean with fine recessed panel lines and the initial dry fit of the fuselage and wings indicated that this kit would go together accurately without any major concerns.
The parts were carefully washed in a weak warm soapy solution to remove the mould release. Once dry, the contents were primed with grey auto primer from a rattle can. The build began with the AM-35A engines. An unusual feature of this aircraft is the addition of two 12.7-millimeter (0.50 in) Berezin UBT machine guns in the ShU barbettes in the inner engine nacelles. Construction of the four engines is straight forward, the fit is excellent and the process ends at step 13 of the instruction booklet.
Stages 14 to 21 deal with the construction of the wings. To give you an idea of the scale of these units they represent 39 metres in span compared to the B-17G which is 31.62 metres. The wheel bays are well detailed with cross bracings and rib frames. The upper and lower halves of the wings were glued, taped and left overnight to dry. Once dry, the four engine units were added to the wings which were fitted without the need for any filler. The wings were then set to one side whilst the undercarriage was painted using Humbrol 129 grey (this included the wheel hubs). The large main-wheels were easy to paint, however, masks are provided for the hubs in Eduard’s Pe-8 mask set.
The only slightly challenging aspect of this kit was the assembly of the four-piece undercarriage. Just a little care and concentration was required and once this sub-section had been completed, the wheel-well doors were glued into position.
Sections 23 to 48 deal with the interior construction of the Pe-8. Zvezda’s kit is well furnished with an engineer’s station, navigators table, bulkheads which include windows above the bulkhead access doors and a well detailed cockpit. The pilot and co-pilot are seated in a tandem configuration, which adds further interest to this fascinating aircraft.
The Petlyakov Pe-8’s defensive armament consists of a retractable ShVAK in the MV-6 dorsal turret, another ShVAK in a KEB tail turret, twin ShVAKs in the nose turret and as mentioned earlier, two 12.7-millimeter (0.50 in) Berezin UBT machine guns in each ShU barbette in the inner engine nacelles. The turrets were masked with Eduard’s Pe-8 mask set and the gun positions were assembled as per sections 23 to 32 of the instructions, and then left to one side to be added later in the build process.
Section 33 deals with the preparation of the fuselage halves. Once the interior had been airbrushed, in this case with Humbrol Hu33 Black, the clear windows were fitted and the window to the rear of the passenger door was cut-out using a hobby knife. This procedure is clearly shown in sections 33 and 34.
Once all of the interior sub-assemblies had been constructed, they were attached to the fuselage floor and the integrated main-spars and then glued into position into one of the fuselage halves. The tail-plane main-spar was added together with the tail-wheel and the fuselage halves were then glued together, taped and left overnight to dry.
Next, the dorsal turret and fairing was fitted as well as the two-piece canopy, tail cap and pre-assembled horizontal tail surfaces. This was followed by fitting the nose and tail gun positions before the wings were attached. After the kit had dried, a small amount of filler was added around the engine nacelles and the seams were rubbed down using 600 grit wet and dry paper.
I decided to build the FAB 5000Kg Bomb, displayed with the undercarriage doors open. Alternatively the FAB 2000 NG bomb can be used giving the modeller the choice of two massive munitions that this impressive aircraft carried.
Camouflage and Markings:
After researching the combat history of the Petlyakov Pe-8, I wanted to build one of the aircraft that took part in the raids against Helsinki, Tallinn and Pskov in 1944. The camouflage scheme was simple but looked effective. From 1943 onwards the Soviet Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (Russian: Avia Polk Dahl’nevo Deystviya—APDD) began adopting deep black ‘noch’ undersurface camouflage intended for night operations, with the upper-surfaces a combination of deep black and Soviet VVS ‘All Dark Green’.
The airframe was airbrushed with Humbrol Hu33 black before being masked off in preparation for the distinctive (White Ensign Models WEMCC ACS18) WW2 Soviet VVS all Dark Green. The decals were then applied using micro-set and micro-sol decal setting solutions. This particular Petlyakov Pe-8 represents ‘Red 8’ of the 45th Division of the Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (APDD). This machine is unusual in that it includes upper-wing stars, which were rare on ‘noch’ or night Bombers.
The final stage of construction involved adding the propellers and spinners, aerials and aerial wires, before a final coat of Johnson’s Klear was applied to seal in the decals.
This kit surpassed all of my expectations. It represents excellent value for money, it is beautifully detailed and it provides the modeler the opportunity to build Soviet ‘Heavy Metal’ from the World War 2 era which is usually the preserve of the post-war age. As for Zvezda, I cannot recommend them enough. I am looking forward to building their Ilyushin Il-4T Torpedo Bomber. I am definitely a convert.
Helsinki was bombed several times during World War II by the Soviet Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (Russian: Avia Polk Dahl’nevo Deystviya—APDD), the largest of which took place during 1944, when Soviet Petlyakov Pe-8 Heavy Bombers flew 276 sorties against Helsinki, Tallinn and Pskov. In February 1944, 3 raids were undertaken by the Pe-8 over the city of Helsinki. The raid of the 06th of February 1944 was the largest, comprising 24 Pe-8 bombers from the 45th Division of the Long-Distance Bomb Group. During the second raid on the 07th of February 1944, two super-heavy 5.4 tonne FAB-5000 bombs were dropped on Helsinki, one destroyed the cable works, and the other struck the railway works.
When the Soviet Union attacked Finland during the autumn of 1939, Helsinki’s Air Defence was largely unprepared. The defence consisted of four heavy anti-aircraft gun batteries comprising three to four guns each (the 1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment); one light Anti-Aircraft Gun battery and one Anti-Aircraft machine gun Company.
By February 1944 Helsinki was protected by 13 light and heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun batteries. Air defenses included 77 heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns, 41 light Anti-Aircraft Guns, 36 search-lights, 13 acoustic locators and 6 radars supported by visual spotters. The Air-Defence network was based on the German model and was considered extremely effective in countering the Soviet threat. In fact, when the Allied Control Commission visited Helsinki after the war, its leader Soviet General Andrei Zhdanov was extremely perplexed by the lack of damage.
The Helsinki Air Defence system was supported by 12 German Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6 Night-fighters of Jagdgeshwader 302 based at Malmi and the German Night-fighter Direction vessel (Nachtjagdleitschiff) Togo, From October 1943, Togo cruised the Baltic Sea under the operational control of the Luftwaffe‘s 22/Luftnachrichten Regiment 222. In March 1944, after the three great Soviet bombing raids on Helsinki, she arrived in the Gulf of Finland to provide night fighter cover for Tallinn and Helsinki.
Helsinki’s air defenses prioritized stopping bombs from reaching the city over the destruction of air targets. In a special type of barrage, several batteries would fire a wall of flak in front of the approaching bombers in an attempt to scare them into dropping their payloads too early and breaking away. Anti-Aircraft shells had been jury-rigged by drilling the fuse-hole larger and filling the extra space with magnesium mixed with aluminium, turning their explosion from a dull red to a searing white.
Civil defence was well organised and effective in Helsinki. Due to a far-sighted City decree in 1934, air raid shelters had been constructed in all high-rise building basements. All buildings were required to have an appointed civil protection supervisor who was not in the reserves or the armed forces, and as such was usually unfit for military service. This person was tasked to see that all occupants made it to the shelter in an orderly fashion.
There were a few larger shelters built into solid rock, but it was not possible to fit all the citizens of Helsinki into these. Some hospitals were also equipped with subterranean shelters where patients could be relocated during air raids. Others, such as the Children’s hospital, were moved outside the city. One hospital was entirely underground, below the Finnish Red Cross building. Much of the Air Defence system of Helsinki was operated by the City’s Citizen Volunteers which were drawn from organisations such as Suojeluskunta, which provided 16 year old male volunteers to man the Anti-Aircraft Guns and The Lotta Svärd organization, which provided Female volunteers to operate the Searchlight Batteries.
Soviet bombing raids on Helsinki during World War II have come to be known as “The Great Raids against Helsinki”. These began on the 30th of November 1939 just 3 hours into the Winter War. Helsinki was bombed a total of eight times during the Winter War. Some 350 bombs fell on the city, resulting in the deaths of 97 people and the wounding of 260. In all, 55 buildings were destroyed.
The Soviet bombings led to harsh reactions abroad. U.S. President Roosevelt asked the Soviets not to bomb Finnish cities. Molotov replied to Roosevelt: “Soviet aircraft have not been bombing cities, but airfields; you can’t see that from 8,000 kilometers away in America”. Molotov is said to have claimed that the Soviets were not dropping bombs but dropping food supplies to the city. The Finnish response was to develop the ‘Molotov Cocktail’ petrol bomb, said to have been so named as it was ‘the drink to go with the food that the Soviets have given us’.
Helsinki was bombed 39 times during the Continuation War. The majority of deaths and damage caused to the City were during the three big raids of 1944. 245 people were killed and 646 were injured from 25th June 1941 to the 19th September 1944.
1 91 deaths on 30 November 1939 2 22 deaths on 9 July 1941 3 51 deaths on 8 November 1942
The Great Raids of February 1944 consisted of three large-scale raids directed at the Finnish capital which were designed to break the resolve of the Finnish people, thus forcing the Finnish Government to the negotiating table in order to end the Continuation War. The raids were conducted on the nights of 6–7th, 16-17th and the 26-27th of February. Joseph Stalin had obtained British and American support for this measure at the Tehran conference in 1943. In this manner the USSR hoped to force Finland to break its ties with Germany and agree to a peace settlement.
Finnish air defense forces counted 2,121 bombers in the three raids of February 1944, which dropped more than 16,000 bombs. Of the 34,200 shots fired against the bombers, 21,200 were with heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery, and 12,900 were with light Anti-Aircraft Artillery. The Finns deceived Soviet pathfinders by lighting fires on the islands outside the city, and only using the searchlights east of the city, thereby leading the pathfinders to believe that it was the city. Only 530 bombs fell within the city itself. The majority of the population of Helsinki had left the city, and the casualties were quite low compared to other cities bombed during the war.
Of the 22 to 25 Soviet bombers lost in the raids, 18 to 21 were destroyed by Anti-Aircraft Artillery fire, and four were shot down by German night fighters.
The first bombs fell at 19:23. Some 350 bombs fell within the city and approximately 2,500 bombs outside of Helsinki. The total amount of bombs dropped (including the ones that fell into the sea) amounted to some 6,990. Approximately 730 bomber aircraft participated in the raid. The bombers arrived in two waves: 18:51–21:40 on the 06th of February, and 00:57–04:57 on the 07th of February.
The defense fired 122 barrages. The light Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 2,745 shots and the heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 7,719 shots. The Finnish Air Force had no night fighters at this time.
100 people were killed, and 300 injured. More than 160 buildings were damaged. The Anti-Aircraft defenses had issued several false alarms in the days leading up to the raid, which had lowered the population’s reaction time considerably.
The second great raid: 16–17 February
After the first raid, a German night fighter group of 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6 fighters with special night fighting equipment of Jagdgeshwader 302 were transferred to the Helsinki-Malmi Airport from the Estonian front. These managed to shoot down six bombers during the following two raids. The anti-aircraft batteries fired 184 barrages and downed two bombers. Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery batteries fired 12,238 shots and light Anti-Aircraft Artillery batteries fired 5,709 shots.
Most of the population of Helsinki had voluntarily evacuated to the countryside and the remainder took to their shelters at the first warning. This reduced casualties significantly.
383 bombers participated in the second raid. 4,317 bombs fell on the city, the sea and in the surrounding area, only 100 bombs fell within the city. The warning was sounded at 20:12 and the bombers approached again in two waves: 20:12 to 23:10 on the 16th of February and 23:45 to 05:49 on the 17th of February. The first wave tried to concentrate the bombing by approaching from different directions. The second wave of aircraft came in smaller groups from the east. Finnish intelligence had intercepted messages one hour and 40 minutes before the raid and warned the air defence, which had time to prepare. The air defence sounded the warning 49 minutes before the raid. Radar picked up the first aircraft 34 minutes before the beginning of the bombings.
This time casualty figures were much lower: 25 died and 29 were injured. 27 buildings were destroyed and 53 were damaged.
The third great raid: 26–27 February
On the evening of 26th of February, a single Soviet reconnaissance aircraft was spotted over the city. It was a sign of the coming attack. The weather was clear, which helped the attackers. Again Finnish Radio Intelligence intercepted messages of the forthcoming raid, this time 1 hour and 28 minutes before the bombing would commence – although the Soviets tried to maintain radio silence.
Five minutes later, the air surveillance grid, manned by Lotta Svärd auxiliaries, reported approaching bombers. A silent alarm was sounded in the city in good time before the raid. Street lights were turned off, trams and trains were stopped and radio transmissions ended. Because these measures were taken, the enemy had more difficulty finding their target. Citizens proceeded to the shelters in a timely and orderly manner.
The first bombers were picked up by Finnish radar at approximately 18:30, 25 minutes before they would arrive. A few minutes later, the night fighters took off and flew to their pre-determined positions. The Anti-Aircraft Artillery had also been forewarned. The air raid warning was sounded at 18:45. Anti-Aircraft Batteries opened up at 18:53. At 19:07 the first bombs fell.
This last great raid differed from the two previous ones. The battle lasted for some 11 hours and was divided into three different phases. The first one was in the evening and lasted for four hours and concentrated the attacks against the city. The second one was mainly focused on the defending Anti-Aircraft Artillery, but with little success. The last wave hoped to finally flatten the city, but the majority of the aircraft turned away when met with fierce Anti-Aircraft Artillery barrages and night-fighters. The all clear signal was finally sounded at about 06:30 in the morning on the 27th of February.
The damage, compared with the first night, was limited: 21 people were killed and 35 wounded; 59 buildings were destroyed and 135 damaged.
The heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 14,240 shots and the light Anti-Aircraft Artillery 4,432 shots. Nine Soviet bombers were destroyed. 896 bombers participated in the raid on Helsinki. They dropped 5,182 bombs of which only 290 fell on the city itself.
The damage of the great raids
Thanks to the efficiency of the Anti-Aircraft Artillery and the deception measures that were employed, damage was limited. Only 5% of the bombs fell within the city, and some of these fell in uninhabited park areas causing no damage. In the order of 2,000 bombers participated in the three great raids on Helsinki and dropped approximately 2,600 tons of bombs. Of the 146 people who died, six were soldiers; 356 were wounded. 109 buildings were destroyed. 300 were damaged by shrapnel and 111 were set on fire. The Soviets lost 25 aircraft.
After the war, the Allied Control Commission led by Soviet General Andrei Zhdanov visited Helsinki. Zhdanov was perplexed by the limited damage the city had sustained. The Soviet leadership thought that they had destroyed the city completely and that it was these bombings that had forced the Finns to the peace table.
The Finnish Air Force responded to the air raids with series of night infiltration bombings of APDD airfields near to Leningrad. The first of these tactical attacks was called “The Night of the Bombers” by their Finnish crews. Finnish bombers – Junkers Ju 88s, Bristol Blenheims, and Dornier Do 17s – either tailed or in some cases even joined formation with returning Soviet bombers over the Gulf of Finland and followed these to their bases. Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen describe the action that took place: “On 25th February the air force CO ordered bomber squadrons PLeLv 42 and 46 to attack these bases under suitable conditions. The Russians were to be mislead by the Finnish bombers joining the formations at night over the Gulf of Finland, when returning, say from a mission to Helsinki. Bomber squadron 46 tested the new tactics on the night of 29th February. Four Dornier Do 17 bombers too off and joined a returning Russian bomber stream over the Gulf of Finland.
The bombers flew to Levashovo airfield and invidually bombed the lit airfield at 2230. The bomb rows hit parked aircraft and shelters. Several fires were built up and a strong explosion shook the airfield. The flak opened fire when the Finns were already on their way home.” Each Dornier Do 17 was equipped with 20 x 50 kg bombs with 0,08 second delay. When the bombers took off and flew towards the Gulf of Finland their own AA artillery at Kotka gave them a goodbye greeting, as they didn’t seem to know the identity of these strange bombers flying in middle of the night. The Finnish bombers navigated their way into middle of the Gulf of Finland, all lights off, looking for a suitable Soviet bomber formation… Finding one, the Finnish Dornier pilots joined the enemy bombers unnoticed, slowly creeping their way inside the Soviet formation.
It took a lot of skill and nerves (a lot of nerves, when thinking about it 60 years later) to stay in the formation, as the Soviet pilots might recognize the strange looking bombers at any moment. After all, the German built Dorniers had completely different outlooks to the Soviet bombers, consisting primarily of Li-2s, B-25s, IL-4s and A-20 Bostons, with two squadrons of heavy Pe-8s. After crossing the front lines the Soviet planes suddenly turned their navigation lights on, feeling safe over their own side of the front lines. With sudden inspirations the Finnish pilots followed the example. With all lights on the huge bomber formation consisting of both Soviet and Finnish bombers flew eastwards, more and more inside the enemy territory, shining brightly in the dark sky.
The Soviet bombers arrived at their home field and readied themselves for landing. The Finnish pilots kept their nerve – and actually joined the Soviet night bombers in their landing circuit, still with navigation lights on. One by one the Soviet bombers landed, with the rest – Finns included – approaching the field. The bombers circled the Soviet airfield, brightly lit in the winter night of the northern hemisphere, landing one by one. And finally – the last Soviet bomber had landed and the bright lights of the field welcomed the last four bombers seen circling in the landing pattern. But instead landing these bombers opened their bomb bays, throttled up and filled the field with 80 shrapnel bombs, filling it with destruction…. The sudden attack was immensely successful. With no warning given, the four Finnish bombers gained complete surprise and attacked the Soviet night bomber field with no opposition.
The Soviet anti-aircraft artillery didn’t have any time to react. The bombs hit the plane rows and plane shelters. Several fires and a large explosions were seen. Keskinen-Stenman comments: “Encouraged by the successes, all regiment squadrons were ordered on March 2nd to participate on large scale attack against Leningrad area airfields. The opportunity came on March 9th when APDD bombers returned from the bombardment of Tallinn, Estonian’s capital. Nineteen Finnish bombers from all four squadrons joined several formations between Seiskari and Kronstadt and followed the APDD aircraft to Gorskaya, Levashovo and Kasimovo airfields.”
After the huge success of these four bombers the whole bomber regiment was ordered to readiness. It took until March 9th until the weather and other conditions made new attack possible. The four bomber squadrons of Flying Regiment 4, the whole Finnish Air Force bomber command, sent total of 19 bombers (or 21, depending on source). 10 Blenheims, 5 Dornier Do 17s and 6 Junkers Ju 88s took off for their mission. Once again the bombers infiltrated the Soviet bomber formations. The Blenheims of PLeLv 42 (bomber squadron 42) followed the APDD from north of Seiskari. PLeLv 44 joined the Soviet bombers near Kronstadt fortress island with five Ju-88s. PLeLv 46 joined the Soviet bombers near Kronstadt with five Dorniers. And PLeLv 48s Blenheims followed the Soviet bombers from Kronstadt.
Tactics were similar to the previous mission. Either the bombers joined the Soviet formation and flew alongside them, with landing lights on and joining the landing pattern, or the Finns followed slightly behind. Surprise was total both ways, bombs started to rain on the Soviet airfields when the last bombers were still landing or taxiing on the field. Bombs and the shrapnel struck without warning, Soviet losses of material and personnel were high, as personnel were not sheltered. On some occasions the Finnish bombers attacked while landing operations were still in progress, this must have caused extreme confusion when the airfield defenders saw aircraft still circling the field and couldn’t know whether they are own bombers trying to land or if there are still more Finnish bombers ready to attack.
An example of the effectiveness of these attacks is the bombing of Gorskaja airfield by three Blenheims of PLeLv 48. The three bombers hit their target from 1400 meters, 2140-2145. The planes dropped 28 x 100 kg explosive and 16 x 15 kg firebombs. Hits were observed in the north side of the field with five planes burning. Two more planes were burning in southeast corner of the field, with one storehouse exploding. Paavo Alava, a Blenheim pilot from Bomber Squadron 42, was on the BL-151 on the attack at March 9th. He describes the mission: “Our five planes took off with bellies filled with shrapnel- and firebombs. The tension rose in the cockpit when we were over the Gulf of Finland looking for a suitable enemy formation. There they come! Several planes flying at 500 meters east of Seiskari island, flying eastwards. We performed a quick turn and then as quietly as we could, joined their formation. I could see clearly how the neighbor’s boy sat in his turret, carefree.
A small light was on, he must have already dreamed of the coffee waiting on the ground. There they go! Li-2s and so close that I could shoot them with my machinegun. Sure hit! But I must restrain myself – the mission would fail if they recognize us. Another Soviet bomber formation flew towards us from east – they’re going to bomb Tallinn… Here we were – red stars over Gulf of Finland, with blue swastikas in middle of them. We are over Kronstadt, when the Ruskie planes start flashing signals with red and white lights. We see responding signals from ground. I guess this is permission to come in and land… The planes turn north towards Gorskaja. It was interesting situation – Soviet lead bomber navigates the formation to their home field, which would soon be bombed by enemy bombers flying in the same formation.
The field appears – all lights on. Large numbers of planes are in the landing pattern and more in ground, our four Blenheims dropped their bombs from 1200 meters. One of our Bombardiers remarked “Best regards from the people of Helsinki”. I can see the explosions in the rows of bombers and aircraft shelters. A huge explosion takes place as the fuel storage tanks go up in flames and planes are burning on the ground. This was one of the most successful missions in the history of our squadron. Everything worked perfectly from the beginning to the end.”
Keskinen-Stenman: “At around 2130 they released the bombs on landing airplanes, parked aircraft and runways, causing huge explosions and numerous fires on all airfields. The attacks came as total surprises and only at Levashovo airfield the AAA was on alert, though did not inflict any damage. The airfield strikes continued. On April 4th 34 bombers attacked Kähy airfield north-east from Leningrad, where aerial reconnaissance had observed 57 aircraft. Bombs were dropped at 2030 causing huge explosions. 23 large fires were counted by the retreating bombers. Further strikes were flown during May.” Aarno Ylennysmäki was bombardier in PLeLv 48’s Blenheims and flew a mission in 3rd May against yet another Soviet airfield. He describes the mission: “Vector 270 degrees, five minutes to target, I heard on headphones. The pilot turned and matched altitude to ordered 2900 meters. Then he pushed throttles forward and accelerated to over 300 km/h. At that speed they’d stay a shorter time at the target area over the AAA fire. We would be the 2nd last wave. Behind us follows only the big Stukas, Ju-88s, with their 1000 kg bombs.
Now I saw the first bomb explosions ahead, from the first bomber wave. I took them as my target and then continued to give more exact commands to the pilot as we approached. Two degrees left, straight, one right, here we go, straight ahead. I could see a row of Soviet aircraft in the light from the other burning planes and the row was running straight on the aiming line of the mechanical bombsight. Then the line, aiming dot and the beginning of the plane row connected and I released the bombs. The plane wavered as it got lighter and the signal lights came on showing all the bombs had been released successfully. Only now I had time to watch out and noticed the anti-aircraft fire cloudlets around our plane. Aki, in his turret behind us, was watching downwards when he noticed that a searchlight was trying to find us. He called suddenly “DIVE!”. The pilot pushed his stick almost to the instrument panel and the plane dropped quickly almost thousand meters lower. Then he pulled back and leveled the plane at 1500 meters. The G forces pushed us to our chairs at almost three times our normal weight. A moment later Aki called that a night fighter had flashed past us, just lower. We kept sharp lookout but didn’t see it anymore. The whole regiment returned without any losses. The planes from Onttola base had landed at Immola. The chatter of almost 30 pilots filled the field and we found out, that an enemy night fighter had followed the bombers almost as far as Immola. Next day the Commander of the Air Force arrived to the base and awarded medals to a number of the crews”
Mr. Torsten Sannamo was radio operator / gunner at Bomber Squadron 42 in the time of these attacks. He participated in the bombing of Kähy airfield May 3rd 1944. Mr. Sannamo describes his attack: “Our squadron was the first to arrive to the target. Our bombing altitude was 3100 meters. The enemy AAA fire did not reach our altitude, at least in my case, and my pilot Akke dropped the bomb load on the barracks of the enemy base. From my turret I saw several fires coming up. Our squadron had two groups, both with five planes. Any attacking fighter would have been met with machine gun fire from five guns, but we didn’t see any fighters and we landed at our base at Värtsilä at 2200.” The night of May 18th saw the largest attack against any single target. 42 bombers took off, 41 bombed Mergino airfield right after midnight. The attack was lead by PleLv 44 with their 8 Junkers Ju 88s, with 2 firebomb torpedoes, 1 x 500 kg, 26 x 250 kg and 80 x 50 kg bombs.
Next in the target was PleLv 46 with 9 Dornier Do 17s, altitude 1500 meters, 120 x 50 kg and 30 x 100 kg bombs. Then came the Blenheims, first PleLv 42 with 13 Blenheims, then PleLv 48 with 12 Blenheims. 42 bombed from 1800 meters, PleLv 48 from 1600 meters. The first major night infiltration bombing took place on 9 March 1944 and they lasted until May 1944. Soviet casualties from these raids could not be estimated reliably, however, large scale raids on Helsinki by the APDD were stopped soon after these infiltration attacks began.
Torsten A. Sannamo: Kundina hesassa flygaajana krigussa
Jukka Piipponen: Onttolan punaiset pirutMäkelä, Jukka (1967). Helsinki liekeissä. Helsinki: Werner Söderström osakeyhtiö. p. 20.
Keskinen-Stenman: Suomen Ilmavoimien historia 4 – LeR4
Helsingin suurpommitukset Helmikuussa 1944, p. 22
Jukka O. Kauppinen; Matti Rönkkö (2006-02-27). “Night of the Bombers”. Retrieved 2010-04-12. Cite uses deprecated parameters (
P. Hirvonen: Raskaan sarjan laivueet
help)Martti Helminen, Aslak Lukander: Helsingin suurpommitukset helmikuussa 1944, 2004, WSOY, ISBN 951-0-28823-3
Kurt Kuhlmey was born on the 19th of November 1913 at Insterburg, East Prussia. He served with distinction in the Luftwaffe (Wehrmacht) from 1934 to 1945 and went on to serve in the post-war German Air Force from 1956 to 1971.
Kuhlmey was a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka pilot, accumulating over 500 combat missions on the type. In July 1942 he was rewarded for his leadership and bravery with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) military decoration, a fitting reward for a long and distinguished career.
Like many pilot cadets in the fledgling Luftwaffe of the 1930s, Kuhlmey learnt to fly gliders at the age of 15. A cadre of future Luftwaffe pilots would learn to fly at one of the many gliding schools situated around Germany, providing the nation with trained aircrew in anticipation of the coming war.
Kuhlmey joined the Luftwaffe in 1934, he was commissioned in 1936 after the completion of his flying training and was assigned to the 162nd dive bomber division in Schwerin, where he began flying the Ju 87 Stuka.
Kurt Kuhlmey’s wartime career began on the 1st of September 1939 with the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland. Kuhlmey also took part in Operation Weserübung (Unternehmen Weserübung) – The German invasion of Denmark and Norway on the 9th April 1940 and the campaign in France and the Battle of Britain.
He also took part in operations against Malta, including the 10 January 1941 Stuka attack on HMS Illustrious. Illustrious narrowly escaped this engagement, suffering extensive damage from six bomb strikes which destroyed the sick bay and ward room. On the 16th and 19th of January, she was attacked again whilst under repair in Malta, which resulted in some flooding in her outer hull compartments and a minor list. On 23 January she sailed to Alexandria, Egypt for temporary repairs, arriving at noon on 25 January.
As part of I./StG 2 Kuhlmey participated in Operation Barbarossa (German: Fall Barbarossa, literally “Case Barbarossa”), beginning on the 22nd of June 1941. In April 1942, he was promoted to Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of II./StG 3 whilst stationed in North Africa. He was further promoted to Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander, Schlachtgeschwader 3 (SG 3) on the 18th of October 1943.
SG 3 was re-assigned to Finland when on the 09th of June 1944 the Soviet Union launched a major offensive on the Karelian Isthmus. The Soviet Army forced the Finns to abandon their defensive lines and on 20 June took Viipuri, the second largest city of Finland. SG 3 was sent to reinforce the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force). SG 3 was re-formed into Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey (Detachment Kuhlmey) with Oberst Kuhlmey commanding a composite unit comprising elements of I./SG 3, I./SG 5, II./JG 54 and NAGr.1.
Detachment Kuhlmey‘s actions in Finland during 16 June and 21 July 1944 were hugely influential in the final outcome of the offensive and of the Continuation War. Together Finnish Air Force units and Detachment Kuhlmey made 1,020 bombing sorties against the Soviet troops and armour. The Soviets lost some 300 tanks, 120-280 aircraft and over 20,000 troops. As a result the Soviet advance stalled, and ensuing peace talks led to a cease-fire between the Soviet Union and Finland on 4 September.
Leaving SG 3 in December 1944, by March 1945 Oberst Kuhlmey was Geschwaderkommodore of SG 2“Immelmann”, and in the last weeks of the war was on the staff of the General der Schlachtflieger.
After being released from American captivity in July 1945, he rejoined the military in November 1955, as a Colonel. Attending courses at Williams and Luke Air Force Base in the USA, he received flying training on the F-104 “Starfighter”. On 11 September 1959 he was promoted to Brigadier General and retired a Major General. He died on 30 April 1993.
Brütting, Georg (1995). Das waren die deutschen Stuka-Asse 1939 – 1945 [These were the German Stuka Aces 1939 – 1945] (in German). Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch. ISBN978-3-87943-433-6.
Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN978-3-7909-0284-6.
Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight’s Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN978-3-938845-17-2.
Price: £20.69 available from Kingkit (subject to availability)
Decals: Seven Options
Notes: Montex Maxi Mask 48031 used.
This kit represents one of three 1/48 scale Gloster Gladiator’s that Roden offer. There are seven decal options to choose from. Since I had recently written an article on The Swedish volunteer unit, Flygflottilj 19 that fought in Northern Finland during the Winter War of 1939-1940, I elected to model option VII, Gloster Gladiator J-8A , “Yellow F”/284 of Flygflottilj F 19 (Royal Swedish Air Force), March 1940.
Like the Norwegian example, this kit was also built using the wooden two-bladed propeller; however, a three bladed propeller is included to enable the modeler to build later examples.
The only other difference apart from the addition of the ski sprue are the decal options these are:
Gloster Gladiator Mk.II, B/N5585, No.247 Sqn RAF, Roborough, August 1940, flown by PO N.I.C. Francis.
Gloster Gladiator Mk.II, HE-K/Serial unknown, No.263 Sqn RAF, Battle of Norway, spring 1940.
Gloster Gladiator Mk.II, GL-255 of LLv 26, Finnish Air Force, Winter War, Finland, Mensunkangas, flown by Kersantti (Sergeant) Oiva Tuominen (44 victories in total, 6.5 on the Gladiator), February 1940.
Gloster Gladiator Mk.II, GL-269 of 1/LLv 26, Finnish Air Force, Winter War, Finland, Utti, flown by Kapteeni Paavo Berg (5 victories), February 1940.
Gloster Gladiator J-8A, “Yellow A”/271 of Flygflottilj F 19 (Royal Swedish Air Force), Winter War, Finland, Pilot unknown, winter 1940.
Gloster Gladiator J-8A, “Yellow F”/284 of Flygflottilj F 19 (Royal Swedish Air Force), Winter War, Finland, Lake Kemi, flown by Fänrik (2nd Lieutenant) FHI Lacobi, January 1940.
Gloster Gladiator J-8A, “Yellow F”/284 of Flygflottilj F 19 (Royal Swedish Air Force), March 1940.
Despite this kit being identical to the Roden Norwegian Gloster Gladiator Mk.II (with the exception of the skis), I found the build challenging. For reasons that only modelers can understand, one kit will go together like a dream without any difficulties at all and another will prove problematic to say the least. The most trying of assembly processes proved to be the construction of the wing struts and the upper-wing. Perhaps the ease of construction of my Norwegian Gladiator made me overconfident. Needless to say, I shall be taking greater care in future.
Despite the self-imposed draw-backs, I was pleased with the result and no Winter War collection would be complete without a Flygflottilj F 19 Gloster Gladiator Mk.II.