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Scandinavians, Hungarians, British and French volunteers. German and Russian volunteers were not permitted.


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Since the Finnish army lacked arms and equipment, the volunteers were to accepted only if they came with their own arms and basic military gear. Also, the volunteers were to be come as organized, trained units with own officers. In January after heavy losses among Finnish troops this decision was modified so that basically all able-bodied men were to be accepted at the discretion of Finnish embassies.

Russian emigrants and Jewish refugees were, however, still excluded.

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The French and the British were planning to send an official expeditionary force, but the war ended before these plans could be realized. In fact, the expeditionary force probably would have had as its main task ensuring the supplies of Swedish iron ore and helping Finland would have been merely an excuse to send a military force to Scandinavia.

The French policy was to discourage any potential volunteers since it was thought that all able-bodied men were needed in the French army. The Polish refugees who had joined the French army would have been anxious to fight against the Soviet Union in Finland but here, too, the French thought it more prudent not to let them go.

Italy, another dictatorship, felt it had to toe a cautious line and forbade enlistment although Mussolini felt great sympathy for Finland.

There were about Italian volunteers willing to come to Finland but the government denied them passports for leaving the country. Detachment Sisu When it was decided that also men without previous military training were to be accepted, a training system was created. According to this plan, a special unit for foreign volunteers was set up in Lapua.

Sisu is a Finnish word for a national characteristic deemed unique for us Finns; it refers to something that might be called stubbornness in a negative context but we Finns prefer to think this characteristic as something positive: determination and pervasiveness. The unit's commander was a Finnish officer, Captain Bertil Nordlund. Detachment Sisu grew very slowly and when the peace treaty was signed and the war ended in March 13th there were only volunteers from different countries.

This figure excludes the Hungarians, who joined the detachment as a unit of their own. Even after March 13th the trickle of men continued so that at its peak in February 20th the unit consisted of men.

Swedish volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War, / Martina Sprague - Details - Trove

Pilots About 60 foreign volunteer pilots volunteered and were sent to Lentorykmentti 19 Flight Regiment 19 in Parola. Many of these pilots needed further training.


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Some pilots also flew with Finnish units. Foreign pilot casualties were three Swedes, four Danes, one Italian and one Hungarian. Swedish volunteers Swedes were the largest single nationality group. Around men served in different formations. The Volunteer Corps was formed in Finland, since the Swedish government felt they could not send volunteers over as a unit. In spite of this, it was made easy for active officers to get leave for volunteering in Finland.

This policy suited well for the Swedish government since it would remain officially neutral but the general opinion willing to help Finland would also be taken to account.

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The Volunteer Corps took over the front-line in the northern part of the front in Salla area on February 28th and thus saw two weeks of action. Since this part of the front was quiet the Swedes were given purely defensive orders. Losses for the Corps were 28 KIA, ca. Altogether there were 25 planes. The unit was stationed in the north of Finland with the task of protecting the largest towns and communications network in the area. There were also Swedish anti-aircraft units in the area. Apart from the Volunteer Corps and LeR 19 there were Swedes in an anti-aircraft unit defending the city of Turku, coastal artillery units, navy, field artillery and in a construction unit with the task of building fortifications.

After the war the Corps and other Swedes returned back home. In , when the Finns were again in war against Soviet Union some of these men volunteered again to Finland. Norwegian volunteers About hundred Norwegians volunteered, but since their government would not release any senior officers, they were enrolled within the Swedish Volunteer Corps.

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When the Corps was disbanded, the Norwegians returned home and probably most of these men saw action against the invading Germans. Hungarians volunteers Only Hungarians sent volunteers as an organized unit according to the initial Finnish requirements. The unit consisted of officers and men with one month of training in Hungary. Various foreign organizations sent material aid, such as medical supplies. Finnish immigrants in the United States and Canada returned home, and many volunteers one of them future actor Christopher Lee traveled to Finland to join Finland's forces: 8, Swedes , 1, Danes including Christian Frederik von Schalburg , a captain in the Danish Royal Life Guards and later commander of the Free Corps Denmark , a volunteer unit created by Nazi Germany in Denmark during World War II , about 1, Estonians , Ukrainians [1] , Norwegians , Ingrians , Hungarians , [2] Finnish expatriates , more than 20 Latvians and volunteers of other nationalities made it to Finland before the war was over.

Pope Pius XII condemned the Soviet attack on 26 December in a speech at the Vatican and later donated a signed and sealed prayer on behalf of Finland. The Hungarian government officially did not support Finland, but secretly started to search for ways to help.

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In addition, non-governmental organisations began to organize support for Finland. Hungary helped Finland by giving monetary donations , armaments and military volunteers. The recruiting of volunteers started on 16 December. During the Winter War, around 25, Hungarian men applied to fight in Finland; finally, applications were accepted. Their military training started at 10 January and it took almost a month. The Hungarian Volunteer Detached Battalion had 24 officers , 52 non-commissioned officers , 2 physicians and 2 military chaplains for a total of officers and men.

Travel to Finland was very difficult as the German Reich forbade transit of armaments and war equipment across its territory including the occupied Polish territories.

Swedish Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War, 1939–1940

They travelled without any weapons by a special train, officially classified as "tourists going to ski-camp". Finally the battalion arrived in Finland at 2 March after 3 weeks travelling.


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  4. In Finland the battalion was quartered in Lapua , in the training center of the international volunteers. In Lapua they took a part in further military training , learning skiing and winter warfare. Before the Hungarian battalion could see military action, the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed, on 12 March in Moscow, leaving many volunteers frustrated. From 17 April to 19 May, the Hungarian battalion served in Karelia , at the new state border in Lappeenranta.

    They traveled across the German Reich by a special train with a German guard. The volunteers arrived at Budapest on 28 May. The story of the Hungarian volunteers was published by Antal Ruprecht in a bilingual Hungarian and Finnish book in Italy therefore promptly responded to requests by the Republic of Finland for military assistance and equipment for use against the communist government of the Soviet Union. However, Germany intercepted most of Italy's aid and only released it once peace had been made. The Norwegian government did not allow officers or under-officers to volunteer for the war in Finland out of fear that this would aggravate the Germans they wanted to remain neutral at all costs.

    Of the Norwegians that volunteered to fight for Finland, only made it to the relatively tranquil Salla front and then just three weeks before the war ended. None of the volunteers were killed or wounded. Many of the volunteers were unfit for combat and many ended up in rest homes and institutions for alcoholics during their stay in Finland.

    Several of the future leaders of the Norwegian resistance movement such as Max Manus and Leif "Shetland" Larsen were among the volunteers. In addition to the military volunteers, 30 physicians and 40 nurses went to help the Finnish medical system, under the auspices of the Norwegian People's Aid. There were numerous nationwide collection campaigns of supplies and money in Norway to help the Finns.

    In all, the Finland collection Norwegian : Finlandsinnsamlingen brought in some 2,, kr, the largest popular collection in Norwegian history. Initial flying training was given, close to Oslo, with these aircraft to students sent from Finland.