The Finnish Army

The Finnish army - during the Winter War and now - is a conscription army. Not only that, but before Winter War, practically 100 per cent of the male population did military service for some period of time. NCOs and officers went into various officer training schools, and had armed service for a longer period of time. After doing military service (generally at the age of 17-20 years), men were placed in the national reserve, and periodically were called into service for a few weeks to brush up on their skills - NCOs and officers were generally called more often than ordinary soldiers. If war started, a large part of the population could thus be armed and mobilized. There was only a very small core of career soldiers, almost all of them officers, whose main duty was to be in charge of training conscripts. During the war, these career soldiers practically without exception served as at least battalion commanders, and more generally either commanders of larger units, or in various headquarters. This doesn't mean that reservists didn't occupy command positions, though: Even some of the regiment commanders in the Winter War were reserve officers. What this does mean /and this is the important bit/ is that all player characters are going to be reservists: Playing the brigade commander is likely not a viable role for squad-level RP. Some of the Jaegers who fought for the Whites in the Civil War were still around: These German-trained officers formed the hard, effective core of the Finnish officers corps, and many of these, despite being reservists, occupied high positions in General Staff.

The Finnish ground forces had, among others, these branches of military training: Basic infantry (riflemen, antitank troops, scouts), combat pioneers, sissit (the closest equivalent is the US rangers), border guards (who were also conscripts, at this point), quartermasters/support personnel, a miniscule armor core, and communications personnel, who's job it was to make sure that communications worked, and to intercept and decrypt enemy signals. The Finnish army also had artillerists and anti-aircraft troops, but unfortunately especially the field artillery was too small, had seriously obsolete weapons, and a chronic shortage of ammo.

Even rifle ammunition and small arms were scarce, and at the beginning of the war, the Finnish army was seriously underequipped. The army couldn't even issue uniforms to most of its personnel, so what the average infantryman ended up with was something called Model Cajander, after the foreign minister: Basically, whatever warm civilian clothes you could scrounge up for yourself, resulting in a very hodgepodge looking army. The only thing that the army could give most soldiers was the Finnish roundel: A white circle badge, with a smaller blue ring inside - this roundel was attached to the front of the fur hats that Finnish soldiers tended to use. Everyone also either got, or probably more often made themselves a snowsuit or a snowcape A white, thin suit that gave you winter camouflage. This means that practically no one in the Suomussalmi setting is going to have a regular uniform.

The general skills taught to Finnish soldiers were the use of rifles, hand-grenades, entrenching, skiing, and doing various maneuvers. Note: As with many other armies, every military trained person was also a rifleman, as basic training was the same for everyone. So basically one would expect to see every soldier have at least a little rifles and athletics. Finnish officers and strategicians tried to counter the serious material shortages and relatively outdated equipment by innovative tactics, trying to replace modern artillery and weapons with sheer resourcefulness. The small military budgets throughout the 1930s produced a lean, mean army that was used to making do with what they had, and proved to be very good at the versatile, fluid maneuvering that was used in the Suomussalmi campaign. Finnish troops were also used to fighting in small squads, and performing long range patrols, in using ambushes and other unorthodox tactics. Most Finns, likely more due to their rural background than military training, also had the proper skillset to survive, and fight efficiently in the winter woods with minimal supply.

A last word about a few nominally civilian organizations. The Civic Guard was a successor of the White Guards of the Civil War, a politically rightist/nationalist organization that organized its members by regions into local military units. The members had, naturally, all undergone armed service before joining the organization. Basically, they saw themselves as an armed reserve more or less like the National Guard of the US. However, the two organizations do not really resemble each other: The Civic Guard was more or less a political paramilitary, and they had some effective leadership, a better level of armament than the generic Finnish soldier, and very high morale and level of training. They were kind of a mixture of a rural lodge (where all the good old boys go out shooting and having fun together), hunting party, and political association. Reds/socialists were barred from membership, even if you probably didn't need to be on the extreme right to be a member. During the early, chaotic days of the war much of the local resistance in invaded areas coalesced around Civic Guard units Later on, they were subsumed into the ordinary military. The Lotta Svard was the female equivalent thereof, a nationalist/rightist organization that was more or less complementary with the ordinary military: Lottas were trained to be nurses, radio operators, quartermasters, and to fulfil other support roles, freeing up Finnish soldiers for frontline duty. Despite what's written here, both of these organizations were relatively mainstream: They were not, in the main, extremist, and were very popular in terms of membership and support in almost every area.

(more thanks to Matti, who'se raking in the XP about now)

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