Formation Badge - 5 "Lynx" DivisionFormation Badge - 5 "Lynx" Division

Kev.Os.4 / 5.Div / Karjalan Armeija - 1941-44

 

The fighting men of Häme County

 

The 5.Div, or the more commonly used name - Ilves Divisioona - i.e. the Lynx-Division, was formed in June 1941 and was in action throughout the Continuation War (1941-44). The troops were almost exclusively raised in the Province of Häme (Tavastia), as it was common practice in the Finnish Army to raise units of men from the same area.

In 1941 the Finnish Army had somehow rebuilt and refurbished it's units. Supplies of war-material (of which much was of Soviet war booty) and also foodstuff were delivered from Germany.

The Finnish Armed Forces were now ready to regain the territories that were stolen from them during the Winter War - this was the main goal for the Finnish High Command, and also the people of Finland, especially those who lost their homes in Karelia.

As part of the Operation Barbarossa and in cooperation with the Germans, the Finnish Army went on the offensive in July 1941.

5.Division was at the vanguard of the quick and succesful advance north of Lake Ladoga and deep into Eastern Karelia, reaching the vital Soviet artery of River Svir (Syväri in Finnish).

The Karelian fronts consisted of three separate Isthmuses, the Karelian Isthmus, the Aunus Isthmus and Maaselkä Isthmus, the 5.Div was placed at the Aunus Isthmus, along with the 15.Brigade, the 17.Div and the 8.Div.

 

Offensive ordered to halt
After the unit reached the Svir the advance was halted (by order of Mannerheim) as Finland was not out to occupy foreign territory, but mainly regain territories the Soviets stole after the Winter War, much of which was never gained by military force. Another purpose was also to gain advanced defensive positions ahead of the inevitable Russian counterattack in order that as little fighting as possible would be done on Finnish soil.

The Finnish halt was also replicated at the Siege of Leningrad, Sept 1941-Jan 44, where they were to take no active part in the siege apart from maintaining their position in the line.

Even at this stage when the Soviets were crumbling under the German advance, Mannerheim knew what was to come later.


Crossing the old border from 1939Crossing the old border from 1939Trench warfare on the Svir
The Finnish and Russians dug trenches and faced each other across the river and the fighting became more or less a stalemate, with frequent attacks against each other's strongpoints and deep patrols into enemy territory being the only active warfare along the trench-lines.

The raids deep inside the enemy lines were performed by the bold jaegers, blowing up stores, cutting railway-lines, snatching prisoners etc.

Among these excelled a certain legendary soldier - Lauri Törni. He was so effective that the Soviets even set a bounty of 3 Million Finnish Marks (equiv. of 650,000 USD) on the killing or capture of Törni - but this was to no avail. He was to have a glorious military career, spanning the Waffen SS Finnish Battalion, French Foreign Legion and the US Army. One of the men detached to Törni's unit, simply called Detachment Törni, later became more known as President of Finland - Mauno Koivisto.

The river banks and marshy grounds were often waterlogged in the spring thaw and made the ground inaccessible and almost impossible to occupy. In summer the pestilent mosquities and ticks made things even more unbearable to the soldiers.

 

The tide turns
Tank destroyers at Tali-Ihantala 1944Tank destroyers at Tali-Ihantala 1944By 1944, the Soviets had regained the entire Motherland from the Germans and in conjunction with Allied landings at Normandie, the Soviets laucnhed the Vyborg-Petrozavodsk offensive on the Eastern Front - an offensive that was larger in scale than the initial Normandie landings. Now was the time to eliminate the Finnish Nation.

On 10 June, massive bombardments opened up at the Karelian Isthmus, a bombardment which in scale surpassed anything witnessed before. Under the enormous masses of artillery shells, division after division of Soviet Troops and massive Tank Formations, the Finnish defenders crumbled and were forced to retreat.

At the same time, similar attacks, though smaller in scale, were launched all along the other sectors of the Karelian Fronts. 5.Div along with it's neighbouring units were forced to hold the line in Eastern Karelia so as not to expose the defenders on the Karelian Isthmus to the threat of encirclement. The Aunus Front retreated mainly in good order, without letting the Soviets punch any major breaks in the line. The assured defending to the east of Lake Ladoga allowed the Supreme High Command to allocate all the reserves to stave off the attack at the Karelian Isthmus instead - a crucial effort that was fully performed by the Aunus-Front.

The Soviet thrust was decidedly halted at the Battle of Tali-Ihantala. This small rural area witnessed the largest ever battle on Nordic Soil and also the final advance of the Red Army in this direction. In fact this battle was larger in context to that of the first Normandy-wave.

Having been able to concentrate the majority of Finnish Artillery on pre-prepared positions, opening an air-corridor for the bombers and Kuhlmey's Detachment - the spearhead of the advancing Soviet Forces were all but annihilated at Tali-Ihantala. The sheer determination of the defenders, the able use of artillery and combined air-bombing resulted in a text-book defensive victory over the Red Army. The Soviet thrust ground to a halt all along the line, suffering too many casualties to push on.

 

Freedom, paid in blood
The Finnish casualties were unusually large too ... but their sacrifice was to save the Nation of Finland from the horrible prospect of Soviet occupation.

As the few remnants of the Soviet units at the head of their assault started retreating, the Soviets came to realise that the price for occupying Finland would be too heavy - EVEN for them! The doors were opened for negotiated peace, the Moscow Armistice, allthough the terms were overly harsh again - Finland was saved as a free nation!

 

5. Division Units:
Detachment Lauri TörniDetachment Lauri Törni• Jalkaväkirykmentti 2 (JR 2) – Infantry Regiment 2

• Jalkaväkirykmentti 22 (JR 22) – Infantry Regiment 22

• Jalkaväkirykmentti 23 (JR 23) – Infantry Regiment 23

• Jalkaväkirykmentti 44 (JR 44) - Infantry Regiment 44

• Kenttätykistörykmentti 3 (KTR 3) – Field Artillery Regiment 3

• Raskas patteristo 24 (RaskPsto 24) – Heavy Battery 24

• Kevyt osasto 4 (KevOs 4) – Light Detachment 4

• Pioneeripataljoona 21 (PionP 21) – Pioneer Battallion 21

• Viestipataljoona 23 (VP 23) – Signals Battallion 23

• Sissiosasto (SissiOs./5.D) – Long Range Detachment

Commanders:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaeger Colonel                 Jaeger Colonel                     Colonel                                      Major General
Eino Kosmimies              Ruben Lagus                        Ilmari Karhu                             Kustaa Tapola

(18 June - 11 july 1941)    (11 July - 25 July 1941)      (25 July 1941 - 16 June 1942)   (16 June 1942 - to the armistice)

 

Losses:

Casualties and missing in action - 10,608

 

Regimental March: "Parolan Marssi" & Jaeger March: "Jääkärimarssi" (click on the flags below to listen to the marches)

Häme Regimental Colours (click here to listen to march)Häme Regimental Colours (click here to listen to march)

 Flag of Prussian Jaeger Battalion 27, raised from Finnish Volunteers. (Click on flag to listen to the March)Flag of Prussian Jaeger Battalion 27, raised from Finnish Volunteers. (Click on flag to listen to the March)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Häme Regimental March         Jaeger March
  Composer: unknown                Composer: Jean Sibelius


The Häme Regiment today

Häme Regiment traces it's origins back to the time of King Gustaf II Adolf who founded the regiment in 1626. The regiment served in numerous Swedish wars when Finland was a part of the Swedish Empire/Kingdom.

The Häme Regiment is today garrisoned at Hennala, Lahti. It incorporates the Häme Horse Jaegers, The Army Sports School, The Army Maintenance School and the very professional and competent Army Conscript Band.

 

5.Div re-enactment group today

The 5.Div historical society was started in June 2010. The main purpose of the 5.Ilves Div-group is to share the history of the fighting men and women of Finland. We are still a small group but with commited members that hope to share in WWII-events, wherever in Europe these may be. Naturally, all this must be done with the utmost respect to the veterans.

We wish to enlighten people about the history, often neglected in historical litterature, of this small, distant but heroic nation, whose history appear to many merely as a historical pinprick! Remember that tiny Finland with a population of less than 4 million, withstood the countless masses and endless material resources of the Soviet Union in two separate conflicts (Winter War and Continuation War), by doing so preserving the liberty of our small nation. This is an achievement, unsurpassed in the annals of military history! This is a heritage I am immensely proud of and also one that my grandfathers took part in!

 

Own production - items for sale!

Due to the difficulties in obtaining original or even reproduced material we have set up our own production of Finnish Army uniforms (1917-1945) and miscellaneous insignia. We have the main articles necessary for setting up a standard m/36 uniform:

Finnish Army m/36 main battle uniform (winter version)Finnish Army m/36 main battle uniform (winter version)

- m/36 Winter Tunic

- m/36 Summer Tunic

- m/36 Breeches (image to be added)

- m/36 Great Coat

- m/36 Field Cap

- m/39 Side Cap

- m/19 Uniform

- m/22 Infantry badges (image to be added)

- m/22 Jaeger badges

- 5.Div unit badge

- 5.Div unit cloth badge

- Kev.Os 4 unit badge (image to be added)

- m/22 Buttons (also m/36 - image to be added)

- m/36 Cockades

- m/36 Collar Patches (various)

These items have been meticulously reproduced with utmost attention having been paid to details. We have used originals, historical archives, museum exhibitions and books - especially the excellent Asepuku M/36 (by Petteri Leino) as reference when gathering our material and uniforms. Other items can also be made at request.

If You are interested please contact me for quotes.

 

Events, so far ...
Tank ride at Parola Tank MuseumTank ride at Parola Tank MuseumThe first event with the group was the Parola Tank Museum - Family and Vehicle day, which turned out to be a memorable event indeed. In unusual tropical heat, the museum had a WWII exhibition where we took part in. We had the opportunity to ride an original T26 (War booty tank). Gunner training with the PAK40 among others.

But this trip incorporated so much more, with visits to Säkylä Winter War and Continuation War Muesum, the Hämeenlinna Artillery Museum, The Lotta Svärd Museum, The Anti-Aircraft Museum and also meating a veteran in Heikki Talvela (nephew of the famous General Paavo Talvela) and seeing his private collection. Simply a fantastic trip to the home-country with so many experiences and activities.  

In 2012 this was followed with a Winter Training Camp in February where we got first-hand experience on the difficulties involved in winter warfare. A trip to the War & Peace show at Beltring, followed in July. An overwhelming experience despite the rain and mud in County Kent.

In october we returned to Finland to take part in another Tank and PAK training event, with participators coming from all over Europe. We got a close look on the "Finnish Tank Reserve" of StuG III's still stored in Finland and also a "live" T34.

We look forward to more events on this theme.

You can find us also on FaceBook, 5 Ilves Divisioona

 

Pilgrimage to Winter War trails ...

Between 20-24 August 2014, I journeyed with my father to one of the MOST famous battle fields of Finland during the Winter War - Raate Road - Raatteentie in Finnish. It was more than an ordinary visit - My grandfather Niilo Järvinen (along with fellow Tavastians) fought here, far from their home provinces - and helped create the glorious victory over an enemy outnumbering them several times over in men and material.

In December 1939, attempting to break Finland in half, 2 Soviet divisions crossed the border near Suomussalmi. Another division attempted to take Kuhmo, further south. Outnumbering the few border guards 100 to 1, the initial progress was quite easy.

Alarmed by the vast numbers attacking in the north, the Finnish scrambled some jaegers and reservists to stem the advance. Being so heavily outnumbered the Finnish had to use "motti"-tactics to try and decimate the enemy - something they did to perfection. In the end the battle turned into a rout where the two Soviet Divisions were all but annihilated. Those that managed to flee to the Soviet side, including commander Col.Vinogradov, and the prisoners that were returned after the truce were duly executed by the NKVD-butchers and all records concerning the 44 and 163 divisions were simply erased from Soviet Army records. This never happened - typical of the mentality inside the Soviet Union under Stalin.

This, first major, victory for the Finnish electrified the entire army and similar successes were recorded elsewhere too and eventually precipitated a negotiated peace instead of the horrible prospect of Soviet occupation. 

Each rock at the Winter War Memorial at Raate Road symbolise the 25.000 Soviet casualties and the 800 fallen Finnish defenders. Several memorials and some hastily constructed defensive lines (trenches) can be found along the Saunajärven Tie (Kuhmo front) and also along the historic Raate Road (Suomussalmi front). Needless to mention, the terrain is still riddled with unexploded ordnance.

At Suomussalmi You will find the stunningly beautiful Lake Kiantajärvi. These wilderness surrounding were often visited by painters and poets alike for the sheer beauty of the nature - undoubtedly finding inspiration for their creations.

Pictures from Pilgrimage (Kuhmo) - Part I here

Pictures from Pilgrimage (Suomussalmi) - Part II here

 

Some useful links:

SA-Kuva - directory to period, original photos.

Finnish Army - Wikipedia

Jaeger Platoon - Excellent info on armaments and formations.

Battle of the Winter War - specific details about the Winter War