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C.-F. Geust
International Assistance to Finnish Air Force during the Winter War 1939-1940*

"In January 1940…approximately one thousand American pilots were sent to Helsinki….

England sent to Finland 214 cannons, 101 aircraft, 185 thousand projectiles, 17.700 air bombs, 10.000 anti-tank mines… The French government sent not only 179 aircraft, 472 heavy cannons, 500 machine guns, 795 thousand projectiles, 200 thousand grenades and some thousand sets of various ammunition, but was also the first European government to initiate massive recruitment of volunteers for the war against USSR. In addition to England, France and USA, also Sweden, Norway, Italy and Germany provided assistance to Finland."1

The Finnish Air Force was created on March 6, 1918, and is thus one of the oldest air forces in the world.2 In the 1920s and 1930s a number of partly conflicting doctrines for the Finnish Air Force were proposed. With the enormous Soviet industrial and military might (quickly developing during the five-year plans of the 1930s) next to Finland, the task to organize Finland´s air defense was formidable. Funds available were very limited, and Finns did generally not seriously believe in military conflicts.

Up to mid-1930s naval aircraft were considered optimal for Finnish topography with long shorelines of the Baltic Sea and Finnish lakes. In winter naval aircraft could operate on skis. Performance differences between floatplanes and land-based aircraft were not considered critical. However, the fast development of military aviation, and its use in international conflicts, showed clearly that performance of land-based aircraft was far superior. Bombers were generally seen as instruments of air power.

In 1931 General Mannerheim was appointed chairman of the National Defense Council. He was very "air-minded", and directed drafting of an Air Force development plan aiming at 17 squadrons (of which 3 fighter squadrons, 5 ground support squadrons, 3 maritime support squadrons and 6 long-range squadrons, totaling 221 combat aircraft) in 1932. At this time the Finnish Air Force consisted of seven only partially equipped squadrons, in total 81 aircraft. Because of difficult economic situation, not even reduced plans could be realized.

In Finland relatively more emphasis on fighter aviation was put than in many other countries. Fighter tactics was also very modern, with flexible fighter pair as basic tactical unit. Both pair leader and wingman acted according to "see first -shoot first" principle, which encouraged personal initiative. All Finnish fighter pilots got extensive marksman training in air gunnery.

Aircraft and engine licences acquired in late 1930s turned out to be of utmost importance for the forthcoming development of the Finnish Air Force and the Finnish aviation industry.

Bristol Mercury radial engine (840 hp; UK). A Mercury engine licence was signed in 1935 by Tampella Ltd. in Tampere, and was to be decisive for the subsequent choice of aircraft licences.

Bristol Blenheim (BL, two-engine bomber, Mercury engine; UK). On October 6, 1936 18 Blenheim bombers were ordered. A production licence was signed April 12, 1938, but no licence-produced aircraft were delivered before the Winter War.

Fokker D.21 (FR, single engine monoplane fighter, Mercury engine; Netherlands). On November 18, 1936 7 aircraft were ordered, and a production licence for 14 aircraft was signed (later expanded to unlimited production). The first Finnish produced Fokker D.21 was ready on November 11, 1938. Two batches of total 35 FR produced by State Aircraft Factory (VL) in Tampere were delivered between November 1938 and July 1939. The Fokker fighters formed the only modern fighter squadron in autumn 1939, and were the most important aircraft throughout the Winter War. The Fokker was very robust and very stable gun platform. Winter War score: 130 victory claims, 13 FR lost (10 in air combat), 8 pilots killed in action.

Fokker C.X (FK, light dive bomber and reconnaissance biplane, Pegasus engine; Netherlands). First order for four aircraft, and production licence was signed on May 18, 1936. Two batches of total 30 Fokker C.X were produced by VL in 1938. Winter War score: 587 missions, 8 FK lost, 14 aviators killed in action.

Finland´s geopolitical situation changed dramatically after signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on August 23, 1939. On October 5, 1939 Finland was invited to Moscow for "concrete political negotiations", which however were interrupted on November 13, 1939. Meanwhile USSR had got air force and naval bases in the Baltic countries. Finland started to mobilize its army already on October 6 as so-called "Extraordinary Exercises", fortunately winning some time for preparations.

In autumn 1939 delegations were sent abroad to purchase armament (in particular aircraft and artillery). However, most countries refused to sell arms after September 1, 1939. Prices were also much higher than expected - arms are very expensive when really needed! Traditional Finnish-German trade relations were seriously impaired by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and Germany blocked all deliveries of goods from its enemy countries.

In autumn 1939 only Italy was ready to sell combat aircraft. Sweden reacted also positively to Finnish appeals (but had no aircraft to sell), although the Swedish government avoided carefully official commitment. Transit via Sweden was the only import route open.

Fiat G.50 (FA, single-engine monoplane fighter). 25 Italian Fiat fighters were purchased on 23 October 1939, with another 10 Fiats ordered 13 January 1940.

The first two Fiats were dispatched 14 November 1939 by train from Italy via Germany to Sweden, and assembled in Malmö. The two fighters were flown to Finland in December 1939, and allocated to the Test Flight of the VL-factory in Tampere. Two attacking SB-bombers were shot down by the test pilots.

In early December 1939 Germany stopped transit of war material to Finland because of Soviet protests. Six Fiats awaiting shipping to Sweden in northern Germany were returned to Switzerland, from where they were slowly transported to Sweden. The remaining Fiats were delivered by ship from Italy to Sweden, and flown to Finland by Finnish pilots, arriving from February 11, 1940. Two Fiats were lost during transit (one Hungarian volunteer ferry pilot disappeared over the Baltic Sea). The last Fiat arrived on 19 June 1940. The Fiats were used operationally from February 15, 1940.

Like the French Moranes the Fiats were mistaken for Spitfires by Soviet bomber crews. 13 air victories were claimed with Fiats, one Fiat was shot down in combat and two pilots were killed in action (of which one Italian volunteer).

On 30 November 1939 the Red Army crossed the over 1.000 km long land border with Finland. The Soviet navy blocked the Finnish ports and the Soviet Air Force bombed Finnish cities (including Helsinki and Viipuri).

During the Winter War (lasting 105 days until 13 March 1940) some 100.000 aviation bombs were dropped on 690 cities and villages. Some 1.000 persons were killed by bombs, 540 seriously wounded and 1.300 lightly wounded. 157 multi-store buildings and 1.800 wooden houses were destroyed, and another 700 stone buildings and 4.100 wooden houses were seriously damaged.

Sweden. Already on 3 December 1939 some Swedish officers proposed a Swedish volunteer Corps to be sent to Finland. On 8 December 1940 the Swedish government donated eight (obsolete) aircraft to Finland, which were immediately flown to Finland. These aircraft had no combat value and were allocated to rear training units.

On 14 December 1940 the Swedish government gave permission to organize a volunteer aviation regiment, called F 19. Next day twelve Hawker Hart light bombers and twelve Gloster Gladiator fighters were released (only four Harts were in fact allocated). The regiment was quickly organised, mainly from the Hart-equipped light bomber wing in Östersund, and the Gladiator-equipped fighter wing near Stockholm. Personnel strength was some 250 men (of which 12 fighter pilots and 9 light bomber aviators). Operational area was Northern Finland, with main base at Veitsiluoto, Kemi. The tasks included support of Finnish ground forces and air defence of the main cities (Oulu, Kemi and Rovaniemi) in northern Finland. Before arrival of F 19 no fighters were available for air defence of the entire northern half of Finland!

F 19 arrived in Kemi 10 January 1940. Already two days later the Soviet AF base at Märkäjärvi (east of Kemijärvi) was attacked. Unfortunately three of the four Harts did not return (two crashed in a mid-air collision, and one was shot down by a Soviet I-15bis). Three aviators were able to reach Finnish lines, two were taken prisoner and one was killed. After its first mission (which despite the losses clearly showed that the air superiority of the enemy was no longer unchallenged). F 19 fought bravely and skilfully, particularly against attacking bombers.

In February 1940 it was clear that F 19 needed more and better aircraft. Funds for new aircraft were donated by Finnish cities and industries, and also by Swedish organizations and individuals. Twelve Fiat CR 42 biplane fighters were ordered from Italy by the Royal Swedish Air Board for F 19 in the second half of February 1940. The Fiats were optimistically expected to be available within one month. However, the Fiat CR 42 fighters arrived in Sweden only after the end of the Winter War.

Meanwhile modern fighters had arrived in Finland, and Finnish AF was no longer interested in Italian biplanes. Corresponding funds were released for purchase of Brewsters from USA, and the Fiats were taken over by the Swedish AF.

In parallell with the purchase of Fiat fighters the Royal Swedish Air Board wanted to purchase up to 40 Italian bombers for F 19. On February 29 some 12 Savoia bombers were preliminary promised for immediate delivery. The Swedish AF planned also transfer of heavy B 3 (Ju 86) bombers to F 19 for attacks to strategic targets in the Murmansk area. On March 11 a bomber group was assembled in Västerås, and corresponding preparations were made in Veitsiluoto. After the peace treaty two days later the Swedish bomber group was dissolved, and all plans to acquire Italian bombers were scrapped. As all bombers considered for F 19 were rather obsolete, it is highly unlikely that the well-defended Murmansk airspace could have been penetrated without considerable losses.

F 19 claimed nine air victories on 464 missions. The regiment lost five aircraft, two Gladiators (of which one in combat) and three Harts. Three pilots were killed (of which two in air combat), and two were taken prisoner (both returned to Finland in May 1940). After the Winter War the personnel and aircraft of F 19 returned to Sweden (except a Junkers F.13 transport which was transferred to Finnish Air Force).

F 19 was a unique effort among the international assistance in the Winter War. The self-contained unit fought on its own, incorporating own supply and maintenance, not needing support from scarce Finnish resources. Both personnel and equipment were adapted to arctic conditions. Full attention of Finnish AF could thus be directed to the main fronts in southern Finland.

Virtually all Swedish aircraft factories and workshops were also assembling Italian, British, French and American aircraft for Finland. Without this effort the Finnish Air Force would apparently not have received any imported aircraft during the short campaign, and practically all aircraft deliveries to the Swedish AF (also lacking modern aircraft!) were delayed for several months.

Several of the highest officers of the Swedish Air Force during the 1950s and 1960s were F 19 veterans, including four Generals and AF Wing Commanders and the AF Chief Medical Officer. F 19 combat experiences were also significant when drafting the Swedish AF cold-war doctrine.

England. On 3 December 1939 the Finnish Minister in London G.A.Gripenberg was instructed to purchase 30 aircraft immediately: "Only three days after the outbreak of the war, on Sunday, December 3, I received an order to purchase 30 aircraft immediately - Spitfires, Hurricanes or Gladiators…. After I had received permission to buy 20 Gladiators immediately and 10 later, I was instructed to acquire 25 to 30 Gauntlet planes, but they had already been sold to South Africa. When this order was approved, I was requested to ask for 24 Blenheim bombers. And so it went, day after day."3

The Allied countries expected the Finnish defence to collapse rather quickly, and the interest to dispatch weapons, in particular aircraft to Finland was rather small. As Finland resisted the invaders surprisingly vigorously, with several Soviet divisions bogged down in the Finnish forests Allied opinions gradually changed.

Especially after the expulsion of USSR from the League of Nations on December 14, 1939, when member countries were instructed to give Finland all possible assistance, the Allied plans to assist Finland became more concrete. On 19 December 1939 England and France started to plan military invention in Finland.

Gloster Gladiator (GL, biplane fighter). Already December 5, 1940 the British government promised 20 Gladiators to Finland. One week later (December 12) Gripenberg signed a contract with Gloster Aircraft Co.4 20 Gloster Gladiators were to be delivered immediately, price 80.000 £. Somewhat later ten more Gladiators were donated. All Gladiators were taken from RAF maintenance units. Despite repeated Finnish appeals, only after one month the Gladiators were dispatched by ship to Bergen, and by train to Linköping where they were assembled by British and Swedish technicians. Finnish pilots flew the Gladiators to Finland, arriving between January 18 and February 18, 1940.

The first-line use of Gladiators in south-east Finland came to an end already on February 29, 1940 when Ruokolahti ice base was surprisingly attacked by Soviet fighters causing big losses. The remaining serviceable Gladiators were allocated to reconnaissance squadrons.

The Gladiator score in the Winter War counted about 700 missions and 37 victory claims. 14 Gladiators were lost (of which 11 in combat), and seven pilots were killed.

Hawker Hurricane (HC, single engine monoplane fighter). On January 9, 1940 the official request for "at least 30, if possibly 60 Spitfires or Hurricanes" was repeated. The English attitude to delivery of Spitfires was strongly negative, but negotiations concerning Hurricane fighters (with more moderate performance) continued. Although Hurricane deliveries were opposed by RAF, on 24 January 1940 the British Minister of Air Sir Kingsley Wood informed that Finland can buy "twelve, not sixty Hurricanes".

The 12 Hurricanes were released on February 2, 1940 (the contract was signed February 17, 1940 by Minister Gripenberg with Gloster Aircraft Co.). The Hurricanes were not new, but taken from RAF stocks, and expensive (unit price 9.785 £, compared to ex-works price 6.000-7.000 £!). From 25 February 1940 the Hurricanes were flown to Finland via Norway and Sweden by rather inexperienced Finnish pilots. One fighter was damaged in Scotland and left behind, and another crashed in Norway during the ferry flight. Ten Hurricanes arrived in Finland between March 8 and 10, too late to participate in the Winter War.

Bristol Blenheim (BL). On Christmas Eve 1939 the British Air Ministry agreed to sell 12 Blenheim Mk.IV ("long-nose") to Finland, total price 264.000 £. On January 17, 1940 the aircraft were handed over to Finnish crews which had arrived in England in early January 1940. As the bomb racks had not been modified for Finnish bombs, 1.500 British 120 pound bombs were also acquired. Because of unfavourable rack arrangement the aircraft could carry only five bombs, or half of the normal bomb load!

The Blenheims were ferried by Finnish pilots via Norway and Sweden to Finland. Ten Blenheims arrived on January 21, 1940. One bomber disappeared over the North Sea, and the last one was delayed by an accident in Sweden and arrived May 31, 1940.

In February 1940 the Air Ministry released another batch of twelve Blenheims, this time short-nose Mk.I ("short-nose"). Although this batch was taken from the inventory of RAF No. 2 Group, the deal was made with Bristol Aeroplane Co. (total price 240.000 £). This batch was flown to Finland via Norway and Sweden by English crews, which arrived 26 February in Juva.

The Blenheim score (all Blenheim batches included) in the Winter War was 423 missions, 12 Blenheims lost (of which seven in air combat), 21 aviators killed and one taken prisoner. Five Soviet fighters were claimed by Blenheim MG-gunners.

Gloster Gauntlet (GA, biplane fighter trainer). 29 (of 30 promised!) Gauntlet fighter trainers were donated by South Africa and released in late December 1939. The Gauntlets were taken from RAF stocks. 24 trainers arrived in crates by ship to Gothenburg. Nine aircraft were assembled in Linköping and flown to Finland between 10 March and 12 April 1940. Another 15 Gauntlets arrived by ship to Finland in May 1940.

Westland Lysander (LY, high-wing reconnaissance aircraft). According to Gripenberg delivery of 70 Lysanders was approved on January 19, 1940, after an order for 17 Lysanders was already signed on 8 January. Nine Lysanders were dispatched by ship to Gothenburg 24 February 1940. After assembly in Gothenburg they were flown to Finland between 21 March and 3 May 1940.

A second batch of eight Lysanders was to be flown by British pilots to Finland via Norway, but only two aircraft arrived in Finland on March 5 (one crashed in Norway). Thus only eleven Lysanders arrived in Finland. According to Gripenberg 30 Lysanders were sent on March 5, but none of this batch arrived.

Blackburn Roc (RO, single engine dive bomber). On 28 December 1939 50 single engine and 15 twin-engine dive bombers were requested from England. On 25 January 1940 33 Roc, or 20 Skua and 13 Roc aircraft were promised. In March 1940 several Roc aircraft (with Finnish AF codes already painted!) were to be flown by British pilots from Scotland to Sweden, and on 8 March Finnish pilots were ready to depart to Sweden to ferry the Rocs to Finland. After the peace treaty 13 March 1940 all plans to deliver aircraft from England were cancelled, and no Rocs arrived in Finland.

Polish exile-government. After Anglo-French plans to assist Finland were formulated on December 19, Gen. Sikorski (Prime Minister of the Polish exile-government) assumed that participation of Polish soldiers on the Finnish side could influence the Finns to recognize Polish exile-government.

The question of Polish aid was also convenient to the French. After a meeting between Gen. Denain (Chief of the French Military Mission at the Polish Government) and Gen. Zajac (Chief of Aviation Command, in March 1940 Commander Polish AF) on 22 January 1940 it was decided to send a volunteer Polish AF squadron (commanded by Maj. Kepinski) to Finland.

In early 1940 no less than 7.000 Polish air force personnel had arrived in France (including some 650 skilled pilots). The appeal for volunteers to the "Finnish squadron" (to include 30 pilots and 30 technicians) met big enthusiasm, with some 150 applications received. On 12 February 1940 the Polish military attaché in Stockholm was instructed to agree the details of the use of Polish Air Force units in Finland.

A total 80 Caudron C.714 monoplane fighters were promised (apparently intended both for the Polish volunteer squadron, and also directly to the Finnish Air Force).

During the training of the Polish squadron in Lyon news of the peace agreement 13 March 1940 was received, and all plans to assist Finland were cancelled. Six Caudron fighters were already in transit for Finland, another ten in the port of Le Havre, and three more in transit from Paris to Le Havre.

Only six Caudron fighters arrived in Finland in crates at the end of May 1940, and turned out to be entirely unsuitable (weak armament, long take-off and landing run) for Finnish conditions. Already in September 1940 all Caudrons were grounded. It is thus very questionable whether the Polish volunteer Caudron-squadron really would have been of any use.

FRANCE. MORANE-SAULNIER MS.406 (MS, SINGLE-ENGINE MONOPLANE FIGHTER). 50 MORANES WERE DONATED BY FRANCE IN LATE DECEMBER 1939, BUT ONLY 30 ARRIVED IN FINLAND. THE MORANE FIGHTERS WERE DISPATCHED IN CRATES TO MALMÖ, SWEDEN. AFTER ASSEMBLY BY FRENCH AND SWEDISH TECHNICIANS IN MALMÖ, THE MORANES WERE FERRIED TO FINLAND BY FINNISH PILOTS 4-29 FEBRUARY 1940. A NEW FIGHTER SQUADRON WAS SET UP AT SÄKYLÄ IN SOUTH-WESTERN FINLAND TO RECEIVE THE MORANES. THE PORTS AND CITIES IN THIS REGION (ESPECIALLY TURKU, BUT ALSO PORI, UUSIKAUPUNKI, MARIEHAMN ETC.) HAD REPEATEDLY BEEN BOMBED BY SOVIET BOMBERS FROM BASES IN ESTONIA, AND WERE IN URGENT NEED OF INTERCEPTOR DEFENCE.

The appearance of Moranes was apparently entirely unexpected for the Soviet bombers, which suffered rather heavy losses to the opposing "Spitfires". The French fighter was never correctly identified during the Winter War. Its outline, vaguely similar to Spitfire - combined with possible Soviet intelligence information of Gripenberg´s attempts to buy Spitfires, may explain the misidentification.

On 7 March 1940 several Moranes were transferred to south-east Finland for ground-attack against the Red Army units at Bay of Viipuri.

The Morane fighters claimed 14 air victories on 288 missions in the Winter War. One Morane was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery at Bay of Viipuri, the pilot was wounded.

Potez 633 (two-engine dive bomber). On 12 March 1940 the volunteer Groupe aérien de volontaires francais en Finlande (GAVFF) was formed in France. This unit was to consist of 12 Potez 633 bombers, three Bloch fighters and one Dewoitine 338 transport aircraft. Later also separate fighter units (equipped with Morane 406 and Koolhoven FK.58 fighters) were to be formed.

Already the day before 10 Potez 633 and the Dewoitine 338 transport had taken off to Tangmere, England bound for Finland via Stavanger, Norway and Västerås, Sweden. After the peace agreement the aircraft returned from England to France, and all further operations were cancelled.

Koolhoven FK.58 (fighter). 46 Dutch-made Koolhoven FK.58 fighters of French AF were also earmarked for Finland as possible expansion of GAVFF.

USA. BREWSTER B.239 (BW). IN OCTOBER 1939 THE FINNISH MILITARY ATTACHÉ IN USA COL. P.ZILLIACUS MADE ENQUIRIES ABOUT AMERICAN FIGHTER DELIVERIES. WHEN THE WINTER WAR BROKE OUT THE RATHER UNKNOWN BREWSTER-FACTORY REMAINED THE ONLY FEASIBLE ALTERNATIVE. AS THE AMERICAN LEGISLATION PROHIBITED ALL SALES OF MILITARY MATERIAL OWNED BY US GOVERNMENT, POSSIBLE AIRCRAFT DEALS HAD TO BE MADE WITH PRIVATE PARTNERS.

The Finnish Prime Minister R.Ryti and the Finnish Minister in Washington Hj.Procopé proposed to President Roosevelt that 100 fighters under construction for USAAF would be sold to Finland before actual delivery (when the aircraft were still formal property of the factories!), referring to a precedent in 1927 when aircraft engines were sold to USSR by Curtiss Co. (These engines were originally ordered by the US government, and replaced by more modern Curtiss-engines.)

Applying this formula, on December 16, 1939 Finland bought 44 Brewster F2A-1 fighters (under production for US Navy, which later receive the newer F2A-2), for a total price 3.4 million $. The Brewsters were delivered in crates by ship to Bergen in Norway (the first batch was shipped from New York 13 January 1940), further by train to Sweden, and assembled in Trollhättan by American, Swedish, Norwegian, English and Finnish technicians. The Brewsters were flown from Trollhättan to Finland by Finnish pilots between 1 March (when eight Brewsters arrived) and 1 May 1940.

The Brewsters arrived too late to participate in the Winter War, but were to become the best combat aircraft of the Finnish AF during the first two years of the Continuation War 1941-1944.

Germany. After the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact Germany provided practically no assistance to Finland, which caused much bitter feelings in Finland as Germany was considered a traditional partner. In early December 1939 transit of Fiat G.50 fighters purchased from Italy was stopped by Germany, and fighters already awaiting shipping to Finland were returned.

PRIVATE DONATIONS. DOUGLAS DC-2 (DC, TWO-ENGINE TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT, MODIFIED TO BOMBER)

One DC-2 passenger aircraft was bought by Swedish airline pilot Count C.G. von Rosen from his former employer (Dutch airline company KLM) and donated to Finland. After modification to carry bombs the aircraft was allocated to Finnish AF on 19 February 1940. One night bombing mission was performed by von Rosen himself.

Koolhoven FK.52 (KO, single engine two-seater biplane reconnaissance aircraft). Two Dutch Koolhoven FK.52 aircraft were also bought by C.G. von Rosen and donated to Finland. The aircraft were used for maritime reconnaissance from 4 March 1940.

A number of civil aircraft were also donated by non-governmental organizations and private persons in England and Sweden. These aircraft included Fokker F.VIII, DH 86 and Junkers F.13 outdated passenger aircraft (mainly intended for ambulance use), and some light aircraft (Beech 17, Waco, Raab-Katzenstein RK-26) and were of no military value.

Warbooty (ex-Soviet) aircraft. 24 Soviet aircraft force-landed in Finland were also repaired and taken into use by Finnish Air Force. However only three ex-Soviet aircraft were allocated to AF squadrons before March 13, 1940: one DB-3 bomber which had landed at Hauho on 29 January 1940 was taken into use one month later, and two I-15bis fighters were allocated to a training squadron. Finnish AF had altogether 103 ex-Soviet aircraft in its inventory 1939-1944.

AIRCRAFT PRODUCTION AND MAINTENANCE. BEFORE WORLD WAR II FINNISH INDUSTRY LACKED PRACTICALLY ENTIRELY ALL HIGH-TECH CAPABILITIES. THE NEW AIRCRAFT AND ENGINE LICENCES IMPROVED THUS SIGNIFICANTLY THE TECHNICAL LEVEL OF THE INDUSTRY. SIGNIFICANTLY BRISTOL CO. HAD BEEN IN BIG DOUBTS WHETHER THE LICENSED ENGINES AND AIRCRAFT COULD BE PRODUCED IN FINLAND. HOWEVER, IN AUTUMN 1939 PRODUCTION OF MODERN FOKKER FIGHTERS, BLENHEIM BOMBERS AND MERCURY ENGINES WAS IN FULL SWING.

Finnish technical personnel proved capable of extensive maintenance and repair of battle-damaged aircraft, and foreign specialists assisted in handling of new aircraft. Non-compatibility of new aircraft provided however tremendous practical problems. Finland received 16 different aircraft types, with 12 different engines and 11 different radios during the short Winter War. Also superficially similar equipment turned out to be non-compatible: eg. although both Brewster and Fiat fighters were equipped with 12.7 mm calibre machine guns - the ammunition was however not interchangeable! Also very few of the new aircraft were adapted to operation in sub-zero arctic conditions, why extensive modifications were requested.

The VL Chief Designer, Dipl.Ing. Edward Wegelius got apparently the impulse to devote his future career to industrial standardization as result of the struggles with non-standard equipment during the Winter War. Wegelius became ultimately Chairman of the International Standardization Organisation (ISO) in the 1960s!

Personnel resources. When new aircraft started to arrive in Finland in January-February 1940 lack of skilled pilots was an acute problem. Ferrying of aircraft from England and/or Sweden was often made by pilots lacking appropriate qualifications. Miraculously only very few aircraft were lost on ferry flights. New and unknown aircraft were flown in combat immediately upon arrival - after only one or two acquaintance flights, without normal conversion training. A small Test Flight of skilled test pilots was attached to VL, and took part in the air defence of Tampere with any airworthy fighter available.

In order to set up new squadrons the existing squadrons were "thinned out". It is very questionable how long scarce pilot resources would have lasted in the longer daylight periods in spring. The technicians faced also enormous difficulties with the big number of aircraft types, every fighter squadron operating different aircraft. Repeated squadron relocation to temporary bases on frozen lakes did not make the life easier, either.

In addition to the well-organised Swedish F 19, a big number of spontaneous volunteers turned up at Finnish missions in various countries and applied for service in the Finnish Air Force. The volunteers were in general unaccustomed to conditions in Finland, and did naturally not know the Finnish language. They lacked in most cases also appropriate flight training, and required excessive attention by Finnish supervisors and instructors. Only very few volunteers could be accepted in combat squadrons.

The rest were sent to various training units, having primarily "public relations" value only. Most volunteers with sufficient basic training were allocated to LLv 22, which received Hurricanes and Brewsters in March 1940. The short-lived squadron (which has been called "foreign legion" of Finnish AF) was formed near Lahti during the very last days of the Winter War, and counted four non-Finnish pilot officers and ten non-commissioned officers, representing ten different nations in its ranks. The technical personnel of LLv 22 were similarly "international".

Many foreign pilots got unfortunately lost during their first (in some cases only!) acquaintance flights over snow-covered Finnish forests and frozen lakes. Take-off and landing accidents on snowy and slippery runways were also very common.

There were however also a few positive exceptions:

Seven Danes served as fighter pilots with Fokker- and Gladiator-fighters, and claimed a total of seven Soviet aircraft shot down. Four Danes were killed in action.
One Italian fighter pilot was killed in action with a Fiat G.50.
Two Hungarian fighter pilots flew Fiat G.50-fighters. One Hungarian disappeared over the Baltic Sea on a ferry flight from Sweden.
In addition to the Swedish F 19 some other Swedish pilots served also in squadrons of the Finnish AF, and made a few operational missions.
In connection with delivery of various new aircraft, factory test pilots and mechanics were also sent to Sweden to supervise assembly, and to test-fly aircraft. Most of these skilled specialists went later to Finland to instruct their Finnish colleagues. They were naturally not "volunteers" in the literal sense of the word, and absolutely not comparable to the above mentioned group.
Most volunteers departed from Finland in spring-summer 1940. Some British citizens stayed in Finland even up to summer 1941, when they were interned (and departed later). A summary of all foreign volunteers in the Finnish Air Force in the Winter War is presented in appendix 4.

Basic training abroad. During the Winter War training of pilots for the Finnish AF was naturally speeded up. Basic (non-military) flight training was also arranged by the national civil aviation clubs of Sweden and Norway.

Ten Finnish pilot-students of the Finnish Air Force College were sent to Sweden in January 1940. Somewhat later another group was sent to Norway. The Swedish course was arranged in Eskilstuna 11.02.-09.04.1940. After the shocking news of the peace agreement 13 March the enthusiasm of both students and instructors decreased dramatically. The course was discontinued after the German invasion of Denmark and Norway 9 April, and the Finns returned home.

The other group of Finnish pilot-students arrived in Steinsfjorden in Norway only a few days before the peace agreement 13 March 1940. The Norwegian course was also discontinued after April 9. Some Finns considered joining the Norwegian armed forces to fight the Germans, but after second thoughts all Finns returned home.

In summer 1940 some Norwegian AF officers (including the legendary Ole Reistad) wanted even to set up a reciprocal Norwegian flight course in Finland. Reistad would ultimately set up his "Little Norway" in Canada, where Norwegian aviators were trained to fight Luftwaffe in RAF squadrons.

Offensive plans in March 1940. On 1 February 1940 the Finnish bomber regiment LeR 4 was ordered to perform Blenheim photo-recce missions to Soviet AF bases in Estonia. This order was repeated 10 February, when the Finnish Foreign Ministry also proposed bombing of the Soviet naval base at Liepaja in Latvia!

On 24 February 1940 detailed information about Finnish AF bases in south-west and northern Finland, and also detailed information of the Leningrad area was delivered to Anglo-French representatives in anticipation of Allied intervention.

In early March 1940 Allied intervention plans became very detailed. Gripenberg was in continuous contacts with British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax in London, and asked for "one hundred bombers to be sent immediately to Finland". On March 6 Gripenberg was finally informed that 36 Blenheims (three squadrons) would be sent to Finland. The number of aircraft was limited by the estimated Finnish capability to receive assistance, Finland was judged able to receive only 12-20 aircraft immediately, the rest would be shipped afterwards.

On 9 March 1940 Lord Halifax told Gripenberg that if Finland were to break up the peace negotiations with the Soviet Union, England would deliver 50 bombers to Finland. These bombers were to be flown to Finland by RAF pilots immediately after an official Finnish appeal for military assistance. Eight aircraft would take off in four days, and the rest (42 aircraft) in eight days. The British transfer crews would return to England, but later volunteer bomber crews would be sent to Finland. Halifax stressed that Finland had only three days to make its appeal, thereafter the bomber group would be dissolved as it was urgently needed elsewhere.

The Finnish appeal was never presented, and the peace treaty signed in Moscow 13 March 1940 changed the course of history. No British or French bombers were ever sent to Finland.

It is very unlikely that the promised Allied bomber force would have arrived in time to have a decisive impact on the outcome on the Winter War, as the Finnish Army was virtually on the brink of collapse when peace was signed. In parallel with Finnish intervention plans, the Allied forces also planned to bomb Soviet oil wells in Baku. The Soviet willingness to make peace with Finland was apparently influenced by knowledge of the Allied plans, including the intervention in Finland and the bombing of Baku.

The peace treaty was signed in Moscow at night 12/13 March 1940. All Allied intervention plans were immediately cancelled. The aircraft already in Sweden were ultimately delivered to Finland, but aircraft awaiting delivery in France and England did never arrive. A summary of all aircraft promised and actually delivered is presented in appendix 4. Only less than half of the over 400 aircraft promised to Finland arrived, and most arrived far too late to participate in combat. Except for the Swedish F 19 squadron the numerous (although far from the "thousand American pilots" mentioned by the History of the Great Patriotic War!) volunteers were of no real use to the Air Force, and were in fact only a nuisance!

The failed Allied intervention plans led to heated debates in both France and Britain. Already on 12 March the French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier declared in the Chamber of Deputies: "175 aircraft had been delivered to Finland". Former Prime Minister, leftist Léon Blum replied that only "30 Morane fighters and a dozen Potez 63 bombers had actually left France for Finland", and in addition "a few Caudron and Koolhoven aircraft had received export licences". Next day Daladier tried once more to defend his case: "the Potez bombers have certainly reached the Finnish front in time" (in fact not a single Potez bomber arrived in Finland!). The French public opinion blamed both the Finnish government for not having presented the appeal for assistance, and also the Swedish government for its negative attitude to transit of Allied troops. On March 20 the Daladier cabinet lost a vote of confidence and resigned.

In Britain the intervention plans were debated in Parliament on 19 March. Prime Minister Chamberlain presented his plans to assist Finland, and was heavily by criticised by the opposition (in particular by Conservative Harold Macmillan, future Prime Minister).

Minister Gripenberg summarized Chamberlain´s arguments in his memoirs as follows5: "From the outbreak of war until March 1, I requested a total of 214 planes of all kinds. Chamberlain stated in his speech /19 March/ that the British government promised us 152 planes and sent 101. This figure is almost right. As a matter of fact, the British sent 102 planes, but one /Hurricane fighter/ was badly damaged when it was wheeled out of its hangar at an air base in Scotland, and another crashed on its way to Norway.6

But Chamberlain's report that the British government promised 152 planes does not agree with the figures I myself received from British authorities, because I noted and reported to my foreign ministry that we had been promised 187 planes (30 Gladiators, 30 Gauntlets, 12 Blenheims, 70 Lysanders, 33 Rocs and 12 Hurricanes). I do not know how Chamberlain arrived at the figure of 152, and since his speech was supposed to be a defense of the government, it seems likely that someone in some department forgot to include 35 planes that were promised.7

The Prime Minister also insisted that "everything was done" to send the planes with "a minimum of delay." It appears, however, that only twenty-eight planes departed promptly enough to arrive in Finland before peace was concluded. Furthermore, it is not certain that they all landed in Finland, because some of them were disabled in Norway or Sweden and had to be repaired before they could continue.

To what extent the expression "with a minimum of delay" can be justified might best be checked against the following data:

On December 5, 1939 I was informed that the British government had agreed to let us have 20 Gladiators, and 10 more were approved a few days later. I signed the purchase agreement on December 12 and deposited eighty thousand pounds. Not all of the planes had been sent by January 21, and the spare parts were not sent until March 5.8

Thirty Gauntlets /fighter trainers/ were released to us about Christmas, 1939. By February 13 only 2 of these had left and 2 had been prepared for shipment. On March 5, 9 others were shipped along with 25 cases of spare parts.9

On January 19, 1940, we got approval for 70 Lysanders, of which 2 had been prepared for shipment by February 13. Thirty left on March 5.10

We were promised 33 Roc planes on February 4. Of these 10 were shipped on March 6.11

On December 24 we were granted 12 so-called long-nosed Blenheims, which were meanwhile exchanged for short-nosed ones on January 14. They were flown to Stavanger on February 24.12

I signed a contract for 12 Hurricanes on January 24, 1940. Of these, 6 were flown to Sweden on February 25 and 6 on February 27.13

Both French and British newspapers published figures - especially just before the end of the war -about allied military assistance that were pure imagination. It is impossible now to determine the sources of this misinformation, but its publication was regrettable because it gave the general public an altogether too optimistic, hence erroneous, picture of what the Western powers had done to us. It was also not generally known that the military help was granted only against payment.

But when one thinks of how the British people's burning desire to help us actually worked out in practice, one must not forget that the Western powers were themselves inadequately armed, something those on the outside did not know at that time. The Western powers had to assume that the smoldering embers of war in France could at any time become a raging fire. This does not mean, however, that the criticism directed against Chamberlain's government in the British Parliament, which was summed up in the expression "too little and too late," was necessarily exaggerated. "

Finnish Air Force organization, training and tactical methods were reviewed after the war, with due attention paid to combat experiences. New squadrons, equipped with aircraft delivered in spring 1940, were combat-ready in summer-autumn 1940. Production and maintenance capacity was also expanded, and the Finnish Air Force was on the peak of its relative strength in summer 1941.

Mentally the Finnish Air Force learned the hard way not to believe in promises of foreign assistance. Own technical competence and independence of foreign sources were fully appreciated.. As a rule no foreign volunteers were accepted in the Finnish Air Force in the Continuation War (with exception of two Swedes).

Despite attempts to create normal relations with its former enemy, Finnish authorities witnessed continuous political pressure from Moscow in spring 1940 (refusal to accept closer Finnish-Swedish cooperation, new border-line problems, repatriation of war prisoners, war reparations, Petsamo nickel mine concession, transit traffic to Hanko naval base etc.). Most problems were hidden from the public and known only to rather few Finnish officials.

One single event of June 14, 1940 would however have dramatic impact on Finnish official and public opinion towards USSR. This day a passenger aircraft (Junkers Ju 52 Kaleva, registration code OH-ALL) of Finnish flag-carrier Aero Oy was shot down by Soviet aircraft over the Gulf of Finland. The civil airliner, bound for Helsinki on scheduled flight 1631, was attacked by two bombers of the Air Force of the Baltic Fleet (VVS KBF) a few moments after take-off from Tallinn airport. All nine persons on board (two Finnish crew-members and seven passengers) were killed. The passengers included five diplomats (two Germans, two French and one American), one Swedish businessman and one Estonian woman.

This unprovoked event, comparable only to the shooting down of the Korean jumbo-jet in the Far East on September 1, 1983, has never been officially admitted, nor have any regrets been presented by Soviet authorities.

The Kaleva-tragedy was evidently connected to the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries in mid-June 1940. Was USSR ready to prevent the diplomatic information to get out of its "sphere of influence" by any means, or was the downing of a civil airliner a mistake of the blockade forces? What was in the first case the unwanted information? Some diplomatic mail bags were picked up by Soviet naval ships and brought to Kronstadt, but their contents have never been disclosed.

The Finnish army had received significant intelligence information (eg. radio intercepts which greatly facilitated the destruction of several Soviet divisions) from both the Estonian and the Latvian Armies during the Winter war. Were the diplomats possibly carrying sensitive intelloigence information - was this the reason to shoot down the civil airliner?

Apparently not one of the native (mutually opposing!) countries of the killed diplomats did officially protest, nor are known to have made any contacts whatsoever to Soviet authorities. Only carefully worded requests for investigations were presented to Finnish authorities. Germany paid out pensions to the relatives of her killed citizens in silence.

Soon the Kaleva incident was forgotten outside Finland - the major world event of this day, June 14, 1940 was the German entrance into Paris! Although the exact reason of the Kaleva-tragedy was hidden from the Finnish public, everyone was nervously able to read the official communiqués between the lines ("airliner Kaleva crashed due to external explosion not related to any identified technical problems, killing all on board…").

Finland was once more left alone - for the second time in less than one year.

1 Istoriya Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny Sovietskogo Soyuza (History of the Great Patriotic War). T. I. M., 1960. S. 264.

2 All sources: Sota-arkisto; Ulkoministeriön arkisto; Blue-White Book of Finland. Vol.2 Hels., 1941; Tajny podvodnoj vojny. Vyp. 7. Lvov, 2001; Arnesen O. Gröne vingar over Norge. Widerö´s Flyselskap A/S 50 år. Haugesund, 1984; Belcarz B. GC 1/145 in France 1940. Sandomierz, 2002; Berg, Å. Att flyga Fiat G.50 // Flyughistoriskt Månadsblad. 1983. N 4; Berg Å. Resa genom Europa 1940 (Robert Winstons rapport) // Svensk Flyghistorisk Tidskrift. 1998. N 4; Berg Å. Rapport från Finland // Svensk Flyghistorisk Tidskrift. 1999.N 1: Berg Å. Finska krigsflygarveteraner tackar Sverige // Svensk Flyghistorisk Tidskrift. N 3. 2000; Bjuggren, Björn: Svenska flygare i österled. Stockholm. 1942; Buffotot P. Le projet de bombardement des pétroles sovétiques du Caucase en 1940 // Revue Historique des Armées. N. 4. 1979; Buffotot P. L´aide aérienne à la Finlande (novembre 1939-mars 1940), // Revue Historique des Armées. N 4. 1980; Clauson K. K. Et liv i luften. Köbenhavn. 1940; Cynk J. B. The Polish Air Force at War. V.1 1939-1943, Atglen, 1998; Falk G. F 19 - en krönika. Uddevalla, 1989; Forslund M. J 11 - Fiat CR 42. Lund, 2001; Geust C-F., Tirkeltaub, S., Petrov, G. Red Stars. Vol.5. Baltic Fleet Air force in Winter War. Hämeenlinna, 2004; Geust C-F. Sovjet sköt ned Kaleva // Hufvudstadsbladet. 1988 6.8; Geust C-F. Lentokoulu Norjassa talvisodan aikana // Ilmailumuseoyhdistyksen tiedote. 1990. N 1; Geust C-F. A Small Nation and Air Power: Finland, Air Power. Doctrine and Technology. Linköping, 1996; Geust C-F.; Tajny "prodolzhitel´noj vojny" // Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika. 1997. N 11-12; Geust C-F. F 19 enligt ryska källor. Linköping. 1997.Gripenberg G.A. Finland and the Great Powers. Lincoln, 1965; Keskinen K., Stenman K. Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia. Vol. 1 (Brewster), Vol.3 (Fokker D.21), Vol. 4 (Morane-Saulnier MS.406), Vol. 7 (Soviet Fighters), Vol. 8 (Fiat G.50), Vol.9 (Soviet Bombers), Vol. 10 (Blenheim), Vol. 12 (British Fighters), Vol. 13 (Dive Bombers), Vol. 17 (LeR 2). Hels., 1985-2004. Khokhlov P.I. Nad tremjami moryami. Leningrad, 1988; Laaksonen L. Todellisuus ja harhat. Kannaksen taistelut ja suomalaisten joukkojen tila talvisodan lopussa 1940. Hels., 1999; Lehtonen K. R. Trollhättan 55 vuotta myöhemmin // Feeniks. 1995. N 4; Lehtonen K. R. Yhtä ja toista Carl Cugnascasta // Feeniks. 1998. N 1; Lehtonen K. R. Kuinka monta Brewsteriä // Feeniks. 1998. N 1; Lehtonen K. R. Brewstereiden muistotaulu Trollhättaniin // Feeniks. 2000.N 2; Nevakivi J. The Appeal that was Never Made - The Allies, Scandinavia and the Finnish Winter War 1939-1940. London, 1976; Nordström, C.-G. Brev från en som var med // Flyghistoriskt Månadsblad. 1982.N 7-8; Omholt-Jensen E. Ole Reistad. "The Spirit of Little Norway". Oslo, 1986; Pajari R. Talvisota ilmassa. Porvoo, 1971; Raunio J. Lentäjän näkökulma. Vol.2, 4, Forssa, 1993, 1998; Ritaranta E. Vapaaehtoisia vaivaksi asti // Suomen Ilmailuhistoriallinen Lehti. 1996. N 1; Skarphol, P.Ö. Finner i transitt // NFF-Kontakt. 1981. N 2; Söderberg N. Flygplansleveranser till finska Vinterkriget // Flyghistoriskt Månadsblad. 1981. N 7-8; Temmes, K.J. Ruotsin ryhmä/SotaOhjaajaKurssi 2 Eskilstunassa 11.2.-9.4.1940 // Feeniks. 1994. N 4; Ueberschär G. R. Hitler und Finland 1939-1941. Wiesbaden, 1978. Ulrich J. Döden har vinger. Köbenhavn, 1941; Winston R. A. Aces Wild. 1941.

3 Although Gripenberg was a skilled and experienced diplomat - to become Finland´s first permanent representative to the United Nations in 1955 - he had absolutely no competence to buy aircraft…

4 The British avoided to sign Finnish contracts by Government Agencies "in order not to provoke the Soviet Union"

5 Additional comments by this author in brackets

6 A Blenheim flown by a Finnish pilot disappeared between Scotland and Norway, while one Lysander and one Hurricane crashed in Norway. 98 British aircraft arrived in Finland.

7 199 planes were in fact promised, Gripenberg has forgotten the second batch of 12 Blenheims, and in addition a promise of another 30 Gladiators is mentioned elsewhere in his book.

8 All 30 Gladiators arrived in Finland.

9 24 Gauntlets arrived in Finland.

10 Only 11 Lysanders arrived in Finland.

11 No Rocs arrived in Finland.

12 Gripenberg is mistaken, his notes are apparently mixed up: both 12 long-nose and 12 short-nose Blenheims were ferried to Finland, of which 23 arrived. One Blenheim disappeared between Scotland and Norway.

13 10 Hurricanes arrived in Finland. This research has been supported by the Swedish Cultural Foundation (Svenska Kulturfonden) in Finland


 
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