Tervetuloa, my friends! After putting it off to do tankettes, and losing all my progress because the temporary picture system on here makes me want to give a hug to a moving train, I intend to finally finish this!
Ruskie B Gone: Finnish Armour of WW2
A pair of Finnish Renault FTs pass each other during a military exercise. One, armed with a 37mm gun, is in plain view, while the other, armed with a machine gun, is obscured by smoke.
Finland has been through wars and fighting all the way back into the Bronze age, and the Finns have endured throughout all of them. The story we need to look at here starts back in 1918, when, just after the Russian Civil War, Finland gained independence, and strived for it's own army.
White Russian Austin III Armoured Car
The first armour Finland received came in the form of captured Red Russian armoured cars, including British Austin Model 1917s and Italian Armstrong-Whitworth Fiats. These were, of course, woefully inadequate for a world of A7Vs and Mark Vs, so Finland did what most poor countries did:They asked France for Renault FTs, the latest tank sensation.
Finnish tank crew showing off their brand-spankin' new Male Renault FT to the infantry
34 FTs were purchased, with 15 being Males (armed with 37mm Guns) and 19 being Females (Armed with MGs). The variants were named Koiras and Naaras respectively for identification. They worked well for training, and were the best Finland could afford for most of the interwar years. From 1919 to 1933, it was all Finland had.
Finnish Vickers 6-ton Mk F, Modified to fit the Bofors 37mm gun
In the 1930s, Finnish military brass got to work modernizing it's military, with the construction of 2 warships, a strengthened air force, and the purchase of stronger tanks. In 1933, Finland's Defence Ministry purchased a few British tanks, including 2 Carden-Loyds, a Vickers 6-ton, and an amphibious Carden-Loyd, thrown in to sweeten the deal (that was hot garbage).
Finnish 6-ton equipped with the same old 37mm guns as the FT for training.
The Carden-Loyds were put to training use, and the 6-tons were deemed as suitable replacements for the obsolete FTs. 32 were ordered from the British, but in order to cut down on costs, they were sent without guns, optics, or radios. Deliveries were also horribly delayed, with the first vehicles only appearing in 1938, and the last not being sent until the end of the Winter War.
Soviet T-26 light tanks and GAZ-A trucks of the Soviet 7th Army during its advance on the Karelian Isthmus, December 2nd, 1939.
The Winter War, AKA Mazel Tov ********
November 30, 1939. Russian forces crossed the Finnish borders and kickstarted the Winter War, known as Talvisota in Finland. The Red Army began their crusade with 2.5K tanks, compared to the 32 piss-poor Renaults, 26 unarmed Vickers 6-tons, and 2 Carden-Loyds. Backing up the Soviet armour was half of the entire Red Air Force and almost double the infantry of Finlands measly 250k-man army.
Trees strung out over top of a Finnish road in order to disguise it from Soviet guard-towers and aerial recon.
Finland managed to receive a multitude of tactical victories over the Soviets, utilizing improvised weaponry, expert marksmanship, independent thinking and SISU (Finnish for GUTS). By using a tactic known as Motti (A Finnish word for a cut size of wood), the Finns could chop the Soviet mob into manageable, bite-size pieces, taking them out one by one.
A Finnish Vickers 6-ton wreck at Honkaniemi
Despite the logistical problems with Finland's armour, there was a singular operation involving the Vickers 6-tons:
Battle of Honkaniemi
Using the only 13 operational 6-tons, the Finns had hurriedly thrown Swedish 37mm Bofors guns to rearm the empty turrets. Of the 13 tanks sent to Honkaniemi:
- 8 actually made it to the jump-off point
- Friendly Finnish artillery shelled their ownd forces
- The attack was rescheduled
- All crews were inexperienced, and had poor communication and coordination.
All 8 tanks were lost, with 1 crewman killed, 10 wounded, and 8 missing.
Remembering the fallen, two months after the Winter War ended. Joensuu, 1940
The war ended March 13, 1940, with the Finns managing to hold out against all odds for over 105 days. Finland ended up losing over 11% of it's landmass, and of the 3 million population prewar, 26,000 were killed or wounded, with most of it coming from air attacks. While the war was rough, Finland did come away from it with a bundle of war spoils.
A Finnish BT-5 being used in training, early 1941/42
Interwar Peace, AKA LET'S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS. TO DEFEAT. THE REDS.
Finland learned a lot from the disaster that was Honkaniemi, and worked towards better tactics, combined-arms cooperation, and a reformed Armoured Battalion.
They also had acquired almost 200 new tanks as war spoils, all were repaired and put into service.
The peace was nice, but very short-lived, with Mr. Hitler talking Finland into another war. The promise of a stop to hard times and food shortages, combined with the chance of regaining their lost land, meant that another war was imminent.
Intermission PSA: The Finnish Swastika
There is quite a bit of confusion surrounding the appearance of swastikas on Finnish armour and warplanes, which I intend to clear up. Finland adopted the Swastika in 1918 (Known as Hakaristi in Finland), which was discovered on a donated aircraft from Swedish Count Eric von Rosen (A blue swastika was his personal symbol), and was then used as a national symbol. The Hakaristi was put on everything from the Mannerheim Cross (Pictured here is the Mannerheim Cross 2nd Class, tanks, planes, and the Medal of the War of Liberation. The difference between the Nazi Swastika and the Finnish Hakaristi was shown in both the shortened length of the fringes, and the thinning of the symbol.
A T-26 showing a long-armed version of the Hakaristi.
The Continuation War, AKA Lets try this again.
June 26, 1941, Finland declared war on the Soviet Union, after Soviet aircraft bombed various Finnish airfields. Finnish launched their offensive into Russian soil, with the Armoured Battalion pushing it's way into East Karelia, with captured T-26s and BT-7s forging a path. The initial campaign was halted in December, with Finnish Armour playing a crucial role in the capture of Petrozavodsk (Petroskoi in Finnish, later renamed to Äänislinna).
Frontlines at the end of December 1941, little would change until 1944, with the USSR counteroffensive.
By September, Finland had regain all lost territory and then some, with the old capital of the region, Viipuri, was taken withing a month. Along with the success, the Finnish ground forces had captured even more modern Soviet tanks, including KV-1s, T-34s. Between 1942 and mid-1944, the war consisted of small poking from a deep, trench-like war, allowing the Finns to relax it's army and regroup.
A parade in June 1944 for Field Marshal Mannerheim and President Ryti. You can see several tanks, including a T-26E, a T-50, a Landsverk Anti II and a T-34.
This quiet period allowed the Finns to experiment and expand with their armour, obtaining StuG IIIs and Panzer IVs, while building the T-26E and the BT-42.
Finland received 15 Panzer IV Js in 1944. While able to penetrate T-34s and with the best armour in the Pz IV series, but the J was the economy variant of the Pz IV, with the most notable shortcoming being the lack of an electric turret drive. They were a great help, but came too late to make a big enough difference.
Named Sturmi by the Finns, the 59 StuG III Gs received by the start of 1944 were used expertly by Finland. Using the L/48 gun of the G, the StuGs achieved 87 Soviet tank kills in the first few weeks of their procurement, only losing 8 StuGs in the process. Logs placed on the side of the tank were common and made for extra protection and spaced armour, as well as means of keeping the tank out of deep mud.
While the Vickers 6-Tons were hopelessly obsolete at this point, the Finns remedied this by supplying the 45mm 20-K gun, the same used by the BT-7 and T-26. This was quite the jump from the previous 37mm Bofors. (From 37mm L/45 to 45mm L/46). Despite the small gun calibre, these tanks still managed to soldier on into 1944.
With a combination of captured BT-7s and a stockpile of antique WW1 British 4.5in howitzers (Renamed 114 Psv.H/18 in Finnish service), the Finns needed to get as many high-calibre guns out into the field as possible, as the majority of tank guns currently being fielded by Finland were 45mm Russian guns, below the 75mm threshold needed for adequate HE filling. The solution was the BT-42: The chassis of a BT-7 outfitted with a custom, lightly armoured turret and the 114mm gun.
BT-42 Assault Gun (Finnish Army No. Ps. 511-19) with three colour camouflage.
The BT-42s faired relatively well against Soviet pillboxes and emplacements, but later were confronted with T-34s. The sloped armour of the T-34 was practically impenetrable from the 114mm gun. The Germans provided HEAT rounds to improve the penetration of the gun, but due to the odd size and shoddy Finnish production, it did little to help, with one report showing that a T-34 was shot 18 times by a BT-42, with not a single shot penetrating the armour. This, combined with a multitude of issues (many shared with the KV-2, ironically) caused all BT-42s to be switched out for StuG IIIs. Only one survives today.
Finnish Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Mannerheim standing beside Charlie Chaplin
Alongside the improved armour, the alliance between the Germans and the Finnish became strained. The Siege of Leningrad was especially pesky, as the Finns flat-out refused to assist in the attack. Many historians state that Finnish reluctance was one of the main reasons that the city stayed uncaptured. The quiet stopped in Summer 1944, when the Russians began a massive surprise attack, sending just as many men as the Winter War and 800 modern Soviet tanks to storm the country, catching the Finns completely off-guard, and causing them to lose several hundred kilometres. A ceasefire was called on September 5, 1944.
One of the 15 Finnish Pz IV Js in Oulo, November, 1944.
The Lapland War, AKA rocketleaguechangeteam.png
Part of the terms for the ceasefire was that Finland remove the German forces for their country by the 15th of September. After the deadline, any left over were to be turned over to Soviet forcces for capture and disarmament. While the Finns were chill about it, making the withdrawal peaceful, but under the scrutiny of the Allies, blows were eventually exchanged. Luckily, the Germans made the first move, in an attempt to capture the island of Suursaari. The Finns, with the help of the USSR, worked together for the first time since 1918 to push back the invasion force of 2700, killing 153 and taking 1,231 prisoners, along with a multitude a captured equipment.
A T-26E arriving in the devastated city of Rovaniemi in October 1944.
The Lapland War consisted of various skirmishes between the Germans and the Finns. With the Germans dealing with both the Soviets and the Anglo-American forces to the West, the majority of German armour stationed in Finland were older captured French models. The last tank kill achieved by Finland, even to this day, was taken by a T-26E, with the destruction of a captured French tank during the Liberation of Tornio.
Part of Rovaniemi as it greeted Finnish troops on the morning of the 16th October 1944.
The last big fight of the Lapland War was the liberation of the region's capital, Rovaniemi. As the Germans hurriedly attempted to evacuate the city, an ammunition train that had been sitting in the yards exploded, devastating the city. Each side blamed each other for the explosion, with the Finns accusing the Germans of doing it to throw the blame at them, while the Germans countered by saying it was Finnish commandos. Whatever it was, by the time the Finns reached the city centre, on October 16, 1944, 90% of the city lay in ruins. In the end, Finland's Armoured Division lost 4,308 men between all 3 wars.
One of the 2 Captured Finnish ISU-152s
The only T-50 captured by the Finns, with Hakaristi markings.
Rear view of the surviving BT-42 at the Parola Tank Museum. Note the unarmoured rear doors as opposed to proper armoured hatches.
The official emblem of the Armored Division ‘Laguksen Nuolet’ (Lagus’s arrows). The symbolism represents the conventional tank squadron formation. It is still worn today by members of the Armored Brigade.
Finland interests me personally. While the hopelessness of the situation in the Winter War gets all the focus in media, it's important to also look into Finland's extensive records of WW2 combat. They are also one of the few "variety pack" armoured forces, having used German, Russian, French, and British armour.
Edit: User Noobanon has discovered a few inconsistencies with Finnish names and locales. These have been fixed.
Thank you all for coming, be sure to vote in the poll for our next comp, and leave suggestions and thoughts in the comments!
What should the next comp be?
American TDs (M10/M18/M36)
Semovente (Italian StuG)
Iosif Stalin tank (IS-1,2,3,4,5,6,7)
Something Cold War
Anti-Tank Field Guns
Infantry Anti-Tank Weaponry
Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
Armoured Recovery Vehicles
O-I (AKA Mi-To)