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What if the UK did send troops to aid Finland?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by Falcon Jun, Mar 10, 2008.

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  1. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    In a Time Weekly article dated March 25, 1940, then Prime Minister Nevile Chamberlain said in a two-minute terse speech in the House of Commons that somehow, someway Britain would have sent men had Finland asked for them. During the debate, David Lloyd George replied to the PM, "It is old trouble--too late. Too late with Czechoslovakia, too late with Poland, certainly too late with Finland. It is always too late or too little or both, and that is the road to disaster."

    That article forced me to take a second look at this situation.

    What if Britain did send troops or at least pilots and planes to aid Finland against Russia?
    I think it's not really far fetched idea since from the tone of the news articles during this period, it looks as if the USSR was also being lumped in with Hitler as an aggressor state. (It was only after Germany invaded the USSR that the view changed.) The only problem would be where the British would find the troops.

    Would Germany still had invaded if the Russians were engaged against the English? (The enemy of my enemy is my friend is one saying that comes to my mind).

    Could Germany, with Russian help, mount Operation Sea Lion successfully?
    Personally, I doubt any German cross-channel invasion even with Russian help succeed, but the air war over Britain would've surely been altered. Russia might not send ground troops to Hitler's side but it's feasible to have Russian pilots, crews, and aircraft join Germany in a bombing campaign against "meddling Britain."

    One more thing, I would view the alliance between Germany and Russia as more of an alliance of convenience. Once there common foe is gone, Stalin and Hitler would likely look for a chance to stab the other's back.
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Personally I see the biggest problem being the route to Finland for these troops. And yes, the political and strategical reasons for creating and sending these troops

    Norway and Sweden for political reasons would not let them through. If they did, the USSR might consider them as hostile nations and might prepare itself attacking them.

    Also the iron ores in northern Sweden might be the objective to these troops, and once there would not have further instructions to move to Finnish territory, which would lead to the Germans attacking Sweden.

    Finland seemed doomed : Our old ally Germany does not help instead suggests giving up to the Soviet demands all the way. The Western Allied are too far, and probably would not even send the troops to Finland but Northern Sweden.

    If these units could be sent to Finland it would require quite fast action, they should be usable in one month or less. Otherwise they might not be needed at all.

    The interesting point would be the following political consequences, would there be a declaration of war between these nations?
     
  3. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Agreed. Sending aircraft to Norway in 1940 was a disaster for the RAF - Finland would have been worse.

    I also don't think that the Soviet Air Force in its 1940-form would have been in any way fit for combat against the RAF in the Battle of Britain - I think they would have provided good sport for the RAF pilots in much the same way as the Regia Aeronautica.....
     
  4. Owen

    Owen O

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    The British did send troops to Finland,
    see The Volunteers by Justin Brooke.
    That tells the full story.
    They didn't get there in time to go into action as the Winter war ended.
    I have a full list of the Volunteers , giving name, occupation, year & place of birth .
     
  5. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Germany and Russia allied? an interesting thought!

    Well I do agree with the others that I don't think Britain's ill equipped army would do enough for Finland and woould just end up with the destruction of any BEF sent there. So I think that the conbined forces of Germany and Russia could take over much of Europe by themselves and although wont be able to match the RN's power they could match the RAF, maybe not at first but what if Germany gave Russia plans for the 109, Ju87 or the He111, Russia industiral capacity would be more then enough to combat the RAF even if not in 1940.

    But then where does leave the rest of the axis forces such as Italy and Japan? Would Japan ally herself with German and Russia? would Italy be taken over? Now with the Pacific nation of Japan involved would America stand by and watch all this happen?

    Although Hitler hated communism I do believe he would use teh Russian war machine as long as he needed to take over Europe and then turn on the Russians.
     
  6. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Turning against the Russians would have been fun, having just given them the plans for the Bf109, Stuka, HeIII etc......
     
  7. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Yeah that is why I was thinking that perhaps the Germans would just leave them and hope for the best:)
     
  8. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    I don't think that the British Army had ready troops, fit for a campaign in Finland. The results in Norway point in that direction. The ground forces were not equipped for an arctic adventure, and any TA units sendt would have the same troubles as they did in Norway.

    Not sure how many planes they could send, but that would probably be the most effective help that Britain could give.

    The French is another story. Their chasseurs de alpin would have done well, (as they did in the Norwegain campaign) but the foreign legion would have all been shot by the Finns. (The ruddy bastards plundered and raped in Norway)

    It follows the grand strategic lines of the allies. France provide the Army, and the British the sea. Both in the air.

    The Finland adventure was just a lot of hot air, and a miracle that they did not squander men up there. However, IF they'd moved up there and experienced how awful they performed, WOULD they have begun to revise some of their operational shortcomings??
     
  9. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Thanks for sharing that info. The only data I have on Finnish volunteers are based on old news reports from 1940. According to what I have, there was one Danish company and volunteers from Sweden.There was also mention of five US aviators who flew in the Spanish Civil War. There was no mention, though, of British volunteers actually engaging in combat in Finland.
     
  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    They did not. If I recall correctly they were called the " Sisu " unit but never did take part in the battle because 1) not enough time to train as a unit for warfare 2) more value as a propaganda unit 3) not that many men ( some 100+ wasn´t it? ). It´s a long time since I read the book so I don´t recall the number of men precisely but it was not that huge to make a difference anywhere in the front.Unfortunately.
     
  11. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Thanks. I didn't know that. It's ironic that the British volunteers were called the Sisu unit because from what I've read, this word is about bravado and being able to fight even if there's nothing left.
     
  12. Owen

    Owen O

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    Numbers of British Volunteers.
    Enlisted In London & reached Finland. 227.
    Enlisted In Canada 4
    Enlisted in Lapua 13
    Anti-Aircraft Technicians 16
    RAF Ground Crew 16
    Friends' ambulance Unit 56
    First Aid Nursing Yeomanry 19
    London fir eVolunteers 8
    Volunteers Unable to leave UK 186.

    It was called sisu because Captain Nordlund , assistant to Finnish Legation in Stockhlom needed a cover name for the detachment. He choose Osasto Sisu (the Tough Detachment) as sisu was then an internationaly known word known as a symbol of Finnish toughness and strength...and because foreigners could pronounce it!

    On March 27th 1940 the Osasto Sisu had on strength,
    volunteers from 22 nations (and a further three Stateless men).
    Total strength 717
    No 1 Company 155
    Hungarian Company 341
    British Company 158
    Cadre personnel 24
    sick/on leave 39.
     
  13. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    That's very interesting trivia on the volunteers! I begin to wonder now where that Time 1940 mag article I have got its info on the presence of a company of Danish volunteers. For me a company would be around a hundred men and in the data you provided, the British and the Hungarians had the largest contingents. Could the Danish company be the No. 1 company in the data you have?
     
  14. Owen

    Owen O

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    Sorry don't know about Danes but Finnish Consitituation states that language of Defence Forces has to be Finnish BUT...
    No 1 or International Company words of command in Finnish. With Instructions in French and German.
    Hungarian Company used Magyar
    British Company used English.
    Largest group of the other Nationalities was Estonians, though I can't find actual figures.
     
  15. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Another interesting thing is that once the unit was disbanded when the Winter War was over they made a parade in front of Carl Gustaf Mannerheim ( also mentioned in the book ) who also gave them a farewell speech.

    Many of the British Sisu Unit men were caught in Norway when they were trying to get back to England and the Germans occupied the country.
     
  16. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    Kai do you have anything more on that bit? My grandfather was a Hegra and they had a few Winter War veterans there (including a Swede), I was wondering what route the Brits would have had through Norway. It would have been easier to have gotten through from Sweden.
     
  17. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Estonian volunteers in Winter War 1939 - 1940

    At the end of 1939 Estonia and Finland were under the hard political and military pressure of Soviet Union. Strong Red Army formations of about 25.000 men were already on Estonian ground. Soviet bombers flew air raids to Southern Finland from Estonian airfields when the Winter War started on 30.11.1939.

    During the Winter War most Estonian volunteers arrived in Finland skiing across the frozen Gulf of Finland. Volunteers were sent to unofficial "volunteer foreign brigade" called Detachment Sisu (Osasto Sisu, Os.S) located at Lapua. Detachment was founded on 8.1.1940 and subordinated to Home Troops Staff. First Estonian volunteers enlisted on 9.1.1940. When the Winter War ended on 13.3.1940 unit was still training at Lapua and Estonians were the most numerous group.

    In addition to Detachment Sisu about 200 Estonian volunteers fought on the front and at least one was killed in action. After the Winter War most volunteers stayed in Finland but those who travelled back to Estonia which rather soon became Soviet Estonia were imprisoned and sent to Soviet prison camps. Former Commander-in-Chief of Estonia Army General Johan Leidoner was also arrested and murdered in Soviet Union in 1940.
    .
    .
     
  18. Owen

    Owen O

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    The men wishing to return home via Norway left Lapua on 7th April.
    They were to embark on SS Bessheim at Oslo. There were 64 of them.
    Everything went well until April 9th at Charlottenburg , Sweden,when they heard rumours of a German invasion of Norway.
    When the train was 10km from Olso a German bomber flew over it but didn't attack.
    After 1/2 hour the train moved on to Oslo. The men went to the City Hotel.
    Had a meal and went for a walk. They found the Germans had taken the Post Office, opposite the Hotel.
    They consulted the Finnish Legation in oslo who bought them tickets to Stockholm.
    On 10th April , 45 of the volunteers arrived back at Charlottenburg, Sweden.

    Ten men remained in Oslo, hoping to meet up with the British Armed Forces.
    A further head count and the amount of Volunteers in Norway was 19.
    The ten in Oslo were taken prison by the Germans who acused them of being British soldiers waiting to commit sabotage and were only pretending to be volunteers for Finland.
    The other nine got away.
    Three men hitch-hiked to Andalsnes and got on a British Warship.
    Another fought his way past a german patrol and got a ship at Alesund.
    Five others were able to slip into Sweden.
    By June 1942 there were no British Volunteers left in Finland.
     
  19. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    Cheers Wessex Wyvern.

    Hitching up to Åndalsnes must have been a tale fit for the Silver screen. Stright through the frontline in horrible weather.
     
  20. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Thanx Wessex!

    Did not have the book with me now so could not have given myself the info for a while.

    What a lousy way to end the journey for those men who were caught by the Germans....
     
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