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Friday, December 19, 2014

Introducing the Finnish Infantry

World War II for Finland represented three separate phases. First came the Winter War, fought against the Soviet Union between the end of November 1940 and March 1941. During this period, Finland stood alone against the Soviet Union which had some territorial ambitions particularly north of Leningrad in the area known as Karelia. Despite being outnumbered at least 3 to 1 -or worse in some sectors-, and having substantial deficiencies in materiel such as armor, planes and supplies, the Finns fought with distinction along the entire border with the USSR. However the Finns had a couple of substantial advantages. They were used to the harsh winter weather and the heavily forested and snow-covered terrain. This meant that as opposed to the Soviet Army which traveled mainly on roads, the Finns used skis and white clothing or the cover of the long, dark winter nights to move swiftly off-road around the Soviets and harass them with guerrilla tactics or even envelope them and destroy them in smaller groups. What the Soviets expected to be a 2 week effort turned into a tough 3 month campaign. Soviet military blunders certainly contributed, as the Soviet army was still hurting from Stalin's officer purges of 1937. It was not until the Soviets adjusted their combined arms tactics that they were able to break through the static defenses on the Southern front that the Finns defenders had to negotiate for peace at the expense of considerable territorial (11%) concessions.

This peace lasted until the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. Finland, allied with Germany, began its military operations which became known as the Continuation War. During this campaign, Finland was able to recover their lost territories and to its credit, halted at its original border, rendering this sector of the front relativelty quiet, even while Germany pressed on the attack and lay siege to Leningrad for 28 months. Finnish actions were limited to repulsing the occasional Soviet attack, although the Soviets did attempt to wage an air bombing campaing against Helsinski, which had very limited impact. In the summer of '44, 3 days after the Normandy landings, The Soviet Union launched a major offensive along the Karelian Isthmus. In about a month, they pushed the Finnish back close to 100km, roughly to the border established at the end of the Winter War. It was thanks to German support in the form of men and materiel that the Finns were able to stop the Soviet advance. However, this made them determined to negotiate a separate peace, while they still had a 'stable' front and before Germany collapsed. A peace agreement was reached in September of '44, with Finland agreeing to pay 600M in reparations.

The last phase of the war became known as the Lapland War and consisted mainly of chasing the Germans out of Finland, as agreed to by the peace terms with the Soviet Union, even as the Fnnish Army was being demobilized, also per the terms of the peace agreement. This campaign was relatively peaceful, as both sides did not want to fight each other, and consisted mainly of isolated rearguard actions as the Germans moved out of Finland into Norway. The Germans did leave behind considerable destruction in their wake as they burned out buildings which the pursuing Finns might be able to use for shelter, and they also destroyed bridges and mined roads, causing further casualties for years to come. Casualties from these campaigns totaled 26k dead or missing out of 340k during the Winter War,63k dead or missing out of 530k during the Continuation War, and a little over 1k out of 75k during the Lapland War. In terms of Toy Soldiers, ths is a theater that has not really been covered by solider manufacturers and it wasn't until recently that one set became known to me. Let's take a look.

Engineer Bassevich Finnish Infantry - Part I
This is a nicely sculpted set from Engineer Bassevich, which is a Russian manufacturer and understandably has chosen to cover this theater. It contains a total of 10 Finn soldiers, although only 6 of them represent fighting poses. As usual with Bassevich's figures, they are well sculpted with a very nice level of detail. They also represent a good level of diversity on the uniforms being worn, however this might pose some challenges if you are trying to build up a sizeable unit of similarly clad men.

Engineer Bassevich Finnish Infantry - Part II
Of these, my favorite one is the man on the left, standing while firing the sub MG. He is wearing white cammo overalls and a German style helmet. Definitely a great fit for the Winter War scene once he is painted all in white. The officers in the middle are probably some known historic characters, as is the case in some of the other Bassevich sets, but I must say that I would have rather had a couple more action poses than this many officers.

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Infantry - Winter War
Not to leave the Finns without an opponent, this set also contains four Soviet soldiers, although that's hardly going to be enough to mount an offensive. Note also that the set contains two 'border' posts. One has the emblem of the USSR and the other the one from Finland. Again, a nice touch, but I would have preferred to have two more men if I had a choice. Also, if there are going to be only 4 men, why make two of them just stand around? One nice touch is the head gear on the figures. Two of them are wearing the pointed winter caps (I thought they were used by cavalry units) instead of helmets.

6 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas! Good to see your blog still going!

    I don't suppose you've seen the offerings from Airfix, for 2015? They're releasing the Crusader tank and 17-pounder anti-tank gun, in kit form. Not sure if you build kits but they're pretty good!

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    1. I heard they had some 'important' announcements coming up, but I have not read the news... I am not into kits, but I might still check out that Crusader. Merry X-Mas to you too!

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  2. I really like the kneeling sniper,just wish Bassevich would do a little less of the personalities poses and more action poses in their sets or add more figures to a set although that would probably jack up the prices to a little too rich for me.Kuvaszsleepybear

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    1. Agree with you on all points! They are already quite pricey as it is. I'd just be happy with fewer standing guys and more action poses.

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  3. Have you seen the new EB Castro Cuban Rebels and Ancient Jews??Kuvaszsleepybear.

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    1. No, I haven't but I also try to keep the scope of my collection to WWII otherwise things get quickly out of hand!

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