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Finnish Artillery Arm

in the Winter War



The contents of this page are mostly based on
- emails from Colonel Jyri Paulaharju to the author
- the "Suomen kenttätykistön historia Vol. I", written by Col. Jyri Paulaharju
- "Suomen kenttätykistön historia Vol. II", written by Col. Jyri Paulaharju, Col. Martti Sinerma and Col. Matti Koskimaa
- "Itsenäisen Suomen kenttätykit 1918 - 1995", written by Col. Jyri Paulaharju.



The roots of the Artillery Arm


When the fight for Finland's independence began in January 1918, the White army (the army of the new independent Finland) had no field artillery. During the war, the Whites captured hundreds of guns from the reds (communists) and the Russian army, which supplied the reds with guns and shells. These guns formed the backbone of the Finnish artillery of the 20s and the 30s. Generally, February 2nd 1918, when an invitation was published in the newspapers, where secondary school graduates and men with a technical training were asked to join the artillery, is considered to be the founding day of the artillery school.

In the early years of independence, the peace time field artillery was consisted of 5 artillery regiments, a survey battalion and a horse artillery battery. After the Defense Forces made the changes for the new mobilization system, which came into effect on January 1st 1934, the peace time artillery branch consisted of 4 artillery regiments and the riding battery of the cavalry brigade.


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The tactical and organizational development before the war


After the War of Independence, work began to study what artillery organization would suit Finnish Army. The basis of this was the German triangular artillery regiment (with three artillery battalions, with three batteries each) and independent artillery battalions. In the early 1930s, before the new mobilization system came into effect (in which the "Cadre mobilization" was changed to a "Regional mobilization") , the temporary wartime artillery organization and strength was accepted on June 19th 1931.
The Finnish Artillery Regiment, according the temporary organization The new organization directives ordered the Artillery Regiment to have 3 artillery battalions, each having 2 cannon batteries and 1 howitzer battery. The new directive allowed, due to the wide scale of equipment, to form also artillery battalions having 3 cannon batteries.

Before the Winter War started, these type of "mixed" artillery battalions were thought essential to Finnish use, the cannons giving adequate range and the howitzers offered more punch while having less range than the cannons.

In 1936, the Operative section of the Finnish General Headquarters (hereafter GHQ in the text) compiled a memo, where the deployment of the artillery forces, into different directions (fronts) was handled in detail. The memo also deliberated about the munitions supply problems caused by the "mixed" artillery battalions, and possible changes in deployment plans. But in practice, the memo didn't cause any decisive changes.


Among the key elements of the tactical use of field artillery, were the composition of force and the ordered fire missions. The objective was to concentrate the fire. In the 1920s, an original firing method was developed, which required that as the artillery battalion was the basic firing unit (in most other countries the basic firing unit was still a battery) . The available artillery, in combat situations, was divided into support units (giving quick and direct support) , support battalions and general support battalions (able to give support to several infantry units) .

The chief developer of the artillery tactics was Lt.Col. Torvald Ekman, who was the artillery instructor in the War College in Finland, and who drew up the necessary instructions.

It has to be noted, that even while the artillery battalion was the basic firing unit, individual batteries could still be assigned to a infantry unit. The tactical command of the battery was with the battery commander who worked in close cooperation with the commander of the group that was to be supported. The technical "command of the fire" was assigned to the fire observation unit, by the battery commander, which in a light battery consisted of two fire observation teams (hereafter FO-team in the text) . A heavy battery had only one FO-team.

The firing battery (meaning the actual firing unit) was led by the battery executive officer (executive officer is hereafter XO in the text) , who followed orders from the artillery battalion XO. The battalion XO was usually subordinated to the Artillery Commander of the combined arms (usually division) . But if required by the situation, the artillery battalion XO could be subordinated directly to the commander of the infantry unit, which was to be supported. The munitions supply of a battery was also under the command of the battery XO, as it was also counted as "fire position" operations. When an artillery regiment deployed into firing positions, the commander and the HQ staff of the artillery regiment was attached to the divisional HQ, as the Artillery Commander and his HQ staff.

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Vilho Petter Nenonen

6 March 1883    -     17 February 1960

General of Artillery, V. P. Nenonen
(Photo courtesy of Jyri Paulaharju)

The most important man in the history of the Finnish artillery is Vilho Petter Nenonen
(hereafter "V.P. Nenonen" or just "Nenonen" in the text) .
(So far I haven't included to my website any sections dedicated to individual persons, but in this case I think an exception is in order)

The military career of V.P. Nenonen began in 1894, when he began his studies in the Finnish Cadet Corps in Hamina. In 1901, he graduated, becoming an officer, and he continued his studies in the Mikhail Artillery College, in St. Petersburg. Nenonen eventually served in many different units and offices gaining valuable experience and skills.

As a curiosity I decided to add this. Vladimir Davydovits Grendal, who was born on April 3rd 1884 in Helsinki with a Finnish name of Wladimir D. Gröndahl, and died on November 16th 1940 in Moscow, was a very important man in the history of the Soviet artillery. He too was an artillery officer, and a contemporary of Nenonen, and in fact the two men knew each other very well. In their youth, when they both were young cadets, they worked occasionally together, and were neighbors, sharing the same villa. After WW 1 broke out, Grendal was appointed to command an artillery division in 1916, and as his division left to the front, the two men never saw each other again. Grendal, having the rank of Army Commander 2nd Class, commanded the Soviet 13th Army in the Karelian Isthmus from Dec 25th 1939 to the end of the war.


When WW 1 broke out, Nenonen had the rank of Captain, and during the war he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. When the Finnish War of Independence began, Nenonen was on an assigned arms purchasing mission in Norway. After hearing of the incidents back home, he immediately resigned from the service of the Russian Army, and traveled to Finland.

Mannerheim had already heard much of this young talented officer, who appointed him with the task of creating the field artillery arm to the young Finnish army. Only days after Nenonen was founding the artillery school in Pietarsaari (he arrived to Pietarsaari on Feb 7th) , Mannerheim appointed him (on Feb 10th) to the duty of inspector of artillery", and received an office in the Finnish GHQ, where his duties included also ordnance and munitions issues. On that same day he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. He eventually left Pietarsaari on Feb 13th, to start his new assignment. After the war, Nenonen was granted an one month vacation, in May 1918, and after he returned, he noted that the office of artillery inspector was closed, and that he had been transferred to the coastal artillery branch. On December 31st 1918, a new office was opened, the office of "Senior inspector of the field artillery". The office title was changed on February 12th 1919, to "Senior inspector of artillery", as the office was responsible for both field and coastal artillery. The title was again changed on May 9th 1919, back to the original "inspector of artillery". The office was held first by Col. Ludwig August Schwindt (Jan 5th 1919 - Feb 4th 1919) , who was followed by Major General Karl Edward Kivekäs (Feb 9th 1919 - May 25th 1920) . Then, finally, Nenonen was again appointed to the office of "inspector of artillery" on May 25th 1920.

Nenonen held the office almost continuously, raising in the rank first to Major General and then to Lieutenant General in 1930, until April 16th 1937 when he was appointed as the head of the "weapon designing board".

After the Winter War had started, Mannerheim appointed Lt. General Nenonen again to the office of "inspector of artillery" on December 16th 1940. He held the office until February 15th 1947, receiving the promotion to "General of Artillery" on October 3rd, 1941, and he was awarded the "Mannerheim Cross" (the highest Finnish military decoration) on January 8th 1945.


General Nenonen is widely regarded as the father of the Finnish artillery, being in addition of a talented officer, also a brilliant scientist and inventor.

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Firing Technique


As the new firing method (using a whole artillery battalion as the firing unit) was adopted in the 1920s, all necessary personnel, essential in using this new method, had been trained in the years preceding the Winter War. In numerous gunnery maneuvers, the effect of different firing techniques were studied, and the results were combined into the 1936 artillery regulations.

The fire control chart, a fire observation instrument introduced in the 1920s, enabled the quick transfer of fire (i.e. fast switching of targets) . Before the fire control chart was developed by V.P. Nenonen, the Finnish artillery used the old "Sine"-technique, which was adopted by the Russian artillery in 1911. The drawback of this systems was it's complexity, requiring a mathematically talented man to calculate the firing data, which was a rather demanding task in action. The new benefits of the new firing chart was numerous. It made the calculation of firing data quicker being at the same time simple enough to be used efficiently in the battlefield. It also removed the usual "bunch of small errors", that plagued the sine-technique. And if the exact position of the battery was unknown, the chart made it possible to determine it's exact position with a few ranging shots.

The fire control chart was quickly classified, as the fast fire control system was, at the time, ahead of any other system anywhere in the world.


The target priorities were, according to the tactical regulations:
1) counter-battery activity
2) counter-preparation (preventive barrage)
3) blocking fire (bombarding attacking enemy formations) .
  Note that in the Winter War, the shortage of shells forced the Finnish artillery to save most of it's available shells to blocking fire, only rarely bombarding Soviet artillery positions.


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Firing methods
("Ammuntalaji" in Finnish)

The different tactical firing methods were:

  • Annihilation fire ("tuhoamisammunta" in Finnish)
    Objective was to fully incapacitate the fighting ability of the enemy infantry
  • Devastation fire ("hävittämisammunta" in Finnish)
    Objective was to demolish enemy material and entrenchment's
  • Suppression fire ("lamauttamisammunta" in Finnish)
    Objective was to prevent the enemy infantry from operating in certain areas or points
  • Harassment fire ("häiritsemisammunta" in Finnish)
    Objective was to destroy or harass enemy movement, supply routes etc.
  • Barrier fire ("sulkuammunta" in Finnish)
    Objective was to prevent the enemy infantry of crossing barrier areas

After the target or target area has been chosen (the different tactical firing options could include multiple target points and/or target areas) , those are then fired upon with the chosen form of fire, that is chosen according to the situation.

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Forms of fire
("Tulimuoto" in Finnish)

The different forms of fire were the fire strike, barrage fire, fire suppression, destruction fire and harassing fire.

As has been said before, the main objective was fire concentration, i.e. concentrate the fire of many firing units (artillery battalions) into the same target, thus maximizing the fire density in the chosen unit of time. The differences of forms of fire was as follows:

"fire strike"
("tuli-isku" in Finnish)

means rapid fire on a 100m x 100m (hectare) area. Duration 60 seconds and the number of shells fired was 1/10 unit of fire. ( i.e. With a battalion armed with 76 mm guns, the "fire strike" demanded that the battalion fired 120 shells on a 100m x 100m area in one minute). An artillery battalion could also fire a "half-fire strike", in where the fire lasted only 30 seconds, and the amount of shells was 1/20 unit of fire (50 % from the "fire strike") .


Schematic display of an artillery battalion "fire strike"

"barrage fire"
("sulku" in Finnish)

if barrage fire was ordered, the fire was commenced immediately as fast as the individual batteries were ready (so the other batteries didn't wait for the slowest to be ready) one battery at the time (each battery having a 100 m wide target area) , to an area that was usually some 300 m wide and 150 m deep, and usually positioned close to the friendly lines, to a safe distance. Duration usually 120 seconds, and the amount of shells fire 1/10 unit of fire. Also a "half-barrage fire" could be fired, where the amount of shells fired was 1/20 unit of fire.


Schematic display of an artillery battalion "barrage fire"

"fire suppression"
("peite" in Finnish)

was used to neutralize enemy infantry in a the target area, and the area size was 100 wide and 300 m deep. The amount of shells fired was usually 1/10 unit of fire. It could also be fired as a "broad-fire suppression" ("leveä peite" in Finnish) , where the target area was 300m wide and 300 m deep. Fire suppression could also be fired as a "half-fire suppression", where the amount of shells fired was 1/20 unit of fire.


Schematic display of an artillery battalion "fire suppression"

"destruction fire"
("hävitystuli" in Finnish)

was observed and concentrated bombardment

Schematic display of "destruction fire"

"harassing fire"
("häirintä" in Finnish)

was firing at irregular intervals, either by firing one or more"groups" (a "group" meaning a single shell being fired by each gun) , or even single shots.


Schematic display of "harassing fire"


Unit of fire
("Tuliannos" in Finnish)

The "unit of fire" is a unit of measurement, which is used both to simplify munitions logistics, restrict munitions consumption and to keep the rate of fire in such limits that it won't wear down the barrel too much. So the Finnish "Tuliannos" could also be translated as "required supply rate".

(All weapons, artillery pieces, small arms etc., have a set "unit of fire")

In Finnish artillery, the "unit of fire" was set according to the caliber. These were as follows:

75 mm - 76 mm 100 shells/gun
105 mm - 122 mm 60 shells/gun
152 mm - 155 mm 40 shells/gun

Thus, as an example, an artillery battalion firing a "fire strike" (12 guns firing into a 100 m x 100 m area) expends 1/10 unit of fire. If it fires a "half fire strike", the expenditure is 1/20 unit of fire.


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The amount of shells used with different forms of fire by an artillery battalion, according to the 1936 regulations

Form of fire


76 mm cannon 107 mm cannon 122 mm howitzer 152 mm howitzer
fire strike* 120 80 60 40
barrage fire 40 25 20 15
fire suppression** 120 80 60 40

*= if the form was "half-fire strike", the shell amounts were 60, 40, 30, 20
** The number is for a 300 m x 300 m area, if the target area was 100 m x 100 m, the amounts were 40, 25, 20, 15. Also, if the chosen form of fire was "half-barrage fire, the shell amounts were 50 % of the full amount.

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The artillery meteorological message

In order to achieve the main purpose; land the first grenades into the target at the same time thus maximizing the destruction effect in the target area, the batteries had to fire exactly at the right time. This wasn't simply possible without very precise and reliable preparations. These pre-fire preparations were topographic -, ballistic - and meteorological preparations.

Topographic preparations meant calculating correct and accurate coordinates for the positions of the batteries, fire observation positions and, of course, different preset targets and target areas. The instruments for this were accurate maps, aerial photographs, surveys and exact determination of direction (using e.g. sun- and star based measurement, and magnetic instruments like the compass and azimuth-disc) . The topographic preparations also included in measuring the battery sheaf.

Ballistic preparations included that different factors effecting the muzzle velocity, should be taken into account. These included temperature of the propellant charge (powder) and the difference in quality between different batches of powder. Also the performance differences between different shell types and possible differences between separate shell production batches and different sized propellant charges were to be known in detail. The actual differences in muzzle velocities between individual guns was also determined (barrel wear etc.) .

Meteorological preparations demanded several different measurements to identify the possible weather factor. These included the measurement of wind velocity and direction in different altitudes, the temperature, air pressure and air humidity.
   This meteorological preparation method was accepted in 1925 and was developed by V.P. Nenonen and the artillery meteorologist Lt.Col Hugo Karsten, who was also known as an able scientist.

All the accumulated data was then combined, with a graphical and mathematical method of calculation, into an artillery meteorological message. This message was then used by the firing units to calculate the needed adjustments, caused by the weather factor, into the firing data.

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Battery sheaf
("viuhka" in Finnish)

A schematic display of a battery sheafA schematic display of a converged sheaf The battery sheaf means that when the battery is emplaced, the distance between separate guns is exactly 25 m, and they are pointing exactly in the same direction. Thus, as the distance between guns was 25 m in the battery position, the space between exploding shells in the target area was 25 m.

If the battery was firing e.g. a fire strike, the guns were aligned to fire into the same spot (the natural dispersion taking care of the dispersing the shells in the target area). This was called a converged sheaf.


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The mobilization


On the eve of Winter War, in autumn 1939, virtually all the guns of the Finnish field artillery were war-booty guns from the war of independence. Only a few dozen guns had been bought between 1919 - 1938. Most of the guns were somewhat useless and ammunition supplies were low. Another drawback was that 89 % of the artillery was light (Germany, in 1939, had roughly  60 % light - 40 % heavy) .
    When Finland started to mobilize, the low number of guns was painfully realized, and the reserve of usable guns was almost nonexistent.

The serious drawbacks of the artillery lead, when the threat was realized, to hectic efforts to buy more guns from anyone willing to sell, but when Germany attacked Poland, it became harder as every country started to arm themselves.


As the Field Army was mobilized, so was the artillery units. In general, the artillery was organized into divisional artillery regiments, separate artillery battalions under the command of the General HQ (hereafter GHQ in the text) , and a number of separate batteries.

As was said before, the objective was to equip each battalion of an artillery regiment with 2 cannon batteries and 1 howitzer battery. Due to the insufficient amount of howitzers, some battalions had to be equipped with cannons only.

Click here to see the page "Finnish artillery units at the start and end of the Winter War"


The bulk of the Finnish artillery was concentrated to the Karelian Isthmus. The situation was the worst in Northern Finland, where there wasn't any division deployed, who would've had their organic artillery. Instead, to the whole length of border between the area that was defended by the IV Corps, north of Lake Ladoga, and the Arctic Ocean, only a few separate batteries could be spared.


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Artillery unit organizations

In general, the artillery regiment was more of an administrative unit, as the artillery units were grouped together in artillery groups, which could have artillery battalions from different artillery regiments and individual batteries or battalions.


The organization of the Finnish artillery regiment

The organization of a light artillery regiment

Official strength

personnel: 1 813
horses: 636/1 164 (summer/winter)
motor vehicles: 40
bicycles: 615
guns: 36



The organization of a light artillery battalion
(which has 2 light cannon batteries and one light howitzer battery)

The total official strength of this type of artillery battalion was 580 men (look at the artillery regiment organization above) .

FO-team = Fire observer team
("tulenjohtoryhmä" in Finnish)

The organization of a Finnish artillery battalion


"command platoon" = "komentojaos"
"firing position platoon" = "asemajaos"
"fir.pos. team" = "asemaryhmä"
"survey team" = "mittausryhmä"
"delivery platoon" = "toimitusjaos"


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The organization of a motorized heavy artillery battalion

(The only motorized heavy artillery battalion at the start of the Winter War was the Rask.Psto 3, armed with 2 batteries of 152 mm H/17 and one battery of 107 mm K/77, and even that battalion was only partly motorized as the 107 K/77 battery was still horse drawn.)

motorheavyartbn.gif (5009 bytes)

Official strength

personnel: 512 - 521
motor vehicles: 79
bicycles: 17
guns: 12


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Finnish artillery shell situation during the Winter War

Before the Winter War, the GHQ had made calculations of war time shell supply requirements. At the same time as the basic monthly requirement figures were calculated, the domestic production capacity was estimated. The results were alarming, as can be seen from the table below.

Shell type C-in-C's reported need Domestic production estimate
75 mm - 76 mm 466 000 shells/month 123 000 shells/month
105 mm howitzer* 195 000 shells/month 48 000 shells/month
105 mm cannon 23 300 shells/month 7 800 shells/month
107 mm cannon 11 700 shells/month 3 800 shells/month
122 mm howitzer 87 500 shells/month 18 800 shells/month
150 mm howitzer 30 300 shells/month 6 000 shells/month
152 mm howitzer 21 700 shells/month 4 000 shells/month
Total 835 500 shells/month 211 400 shells/month
* = as the production of the domestic 105 mm howitzer was delayed, this requirement wasn't to be considered

(Source: "Suomen kenttätykistön historia Vol. II", p. 550)

While these figures alone are worrying, in realty, the domestic production didn't even meet the estimated capacity. The needed machines for the production of shell cases, ordered before the war from abroad, didn't arrive in time. Shells were bought from abroad, and arrived to Finnish ports during the war  in a quite sizable amounts. But the figures don't tell the whole truth, as the sorting of powder, fuses, shells, casings etc. took time, and before they actually could be delivered to the troops via arms depots took time.

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Artillery shell situation of the main calibers at the start of the war
(Source: "Suomen kenttätykistön historia Vol. II", p. 551)

Gun type Shells available Shells per gun
Light cannons (75 mm & 76 mm) 205 800 720
Light howitzer (122 mm) 43 500 640
Heavy cannon (107 mm) 5 100 510
Heavy howitzer (150 mm & 152 mm) 16 900 528
Total 271 300 app. 600

To put it short, the shell situation was catastrophic. If the artillery would've fired the different forms of fire, as required by the artillery regulations, the Finnish artillery would've expended all it's shells in 7 - 8 days! This was, by far, the most severe Finnish handicap in the Winter War.

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The shell expenditure and domestic production of the most important calibers
(Source: "Suomen kenttätykistön historia Vol. II", p. 551)


76 K and 76 LK

122 H

expenditure production expenditure production
December 1939 108 300 shells 41 000 shells 11 000 shells 6 100 shells
January 1940 76 999 shells 55 124 shells 8 000 shells 5 058 shells
February 1940 128 863 shells 123 774 shells 21 000 shells 30 126 shells
March 1940 85 841 shells 136 287 shells 21 000 shells 5 471 shells
Total 400 003 shells 356 185 shells 61 000 shells 46 755 shells
Note: The war ended on March 13th, but the shell production of March 1940 is for the whole month. The expenditure figures are a bit different depending on the source, and the method of calculation, but in general the amounts are in the same category (compare this table with the following table).


The changes in the quantity of shells available during the war
(Chart courtesy of Col. J.Paulaharju)

The number of shells, available for the Finnish artillery during the Winter War
  • Light cannon shell situation is shown with a blue graph

  • Light howitzer shell situation is shown with a light purple graph

  • Heavy howitzer shell situation is shown with a red graph

  • Heavy cannon shell situation is shown with a green graph

(As a comparison, the Finnish artillery had on 1 June 1941, over 2 760 000 shells in stock)

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Artillery shell expenditure in the Winter War
(Source: "Suomen kenttätykistön historia Vol. II", p. 552)

Guns with recoil system

Light cannons (75 mm - 76 mm) : 397 462 shells
Light howitzers (105 mm - 122 mm) : 62 434 shells
Heavy cannons (105 mm - 107 mm ) : 7 058 shells
Heavy howitzers (150 mm - 152 mm) : 16 113 shells
Guns without recoil system
87 K 95 : 14 187 shells
90 K 77 : 5 379 shells
107 K 77 : 4 074 shells
152 K 77 : 552 shells
152 K 04 : 1 707 shells

Expenditure total

508 966 shells

(As a comparison, the average daily shell consumption of the Red Army was around 230 000 shells)


The armored trains

The armored train nr. 2 at the Säiniö train station during the mobilization
Picture source: "Talvisodan Historia, osa 1", p.169

Characteristics of the 76 VK 04, main guns

Barrel length
Shell weight
Muzzle velocity
Max range
Weight in action

When the Winter War started, Finland had two WW 1 -era armored trains, that were captured from the Russians during the War of Independence. Both trains, Ps.Juna 1 and Ps.Juna 2 ("Ps.Juna" is an abbreviation of "Panssarijuna", which means armored train) had as it's main armament two 76 mm short barreled guns. The guns were 76 VK 04 -guns, and so the trains had a relatively strong armament (by Finnish standards) , including also at least 11 machine guns ( I'm not sure of that figure, I got it by counting the mg's visible in the picture, so if someone has knowledge of this, I'd be happy to know about it) .

During the mobilization, the trains were both ordered to the Karelian Isthmus, where they were attached to the II Corps, and the trains arrived to Säiniö on October 9th, 1939. Before the war started, changes had been made, and Ps.Juna 1 was on Nov 30th, listed as a part of the Lake Ladoga coastal artillery. In the first days of the war, Ps.Juna 1 was attached to the JR 36 for support, as the regiment was defending the Suvilahti - Loimola road in Ladoga Karelia. The train provided support for the retreating Finns, more often boosting morale than giving efficient support, but however due to the shortage of artillery in the area, it was a valuable asset. The Ps.Juna 1 was involved, almost throughout the war, in assisting the defense of the Kollaa-river. Later in the war, the Ps.Juna 2, on Jan 23rd 1940, was attached also to the IV Corps, and it was sent into action immediately. After engaging the enemy, the train had to sent a part of it's crew to fight as foot soldiers in the Kollaa-front. On Feb 25th, the Ps.Juna 2 received an order to move to the Karelian Isthmus, to be attached to the Isthmus Army, and when the war ended, it was stationed in the sector of the 1.D (1st division) in Kalalampi, near Jääski.



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The Railway guns

( Although it was considered to be a part of the coastal artillery, I included it in here, as suggested by Mr.Paulaharju, as it was used against ground targets)

The Finnish railway gun 152/45 CRaut
(Picture:"Itsenäisen Suomen rannikkotykit 1918-1998", p.184)

Gun characteristics

Caliber. 152.4 mm
Barrel length 45.1 cal
Total weight w/shield 17 745 kg
Elevation -2° - 39 °
Max range 20 000 m
Rate of fire, theoretical 8 shots/min
Rate of fire, practical 6 shots/min
Shell weight 41.5 - 51.0 kg
Source:"Itsenäisen Suomen rannikkotykit 1918-1998"

The idea of railway guns was brought to Finland with two Finnish officers, E.Järvinen and J.Rikama, who had studied in the Italian Artillery Institute in Turin. The first test firings were made in March 17th 1924 using the Obuhov manufactured 152/45C (152 mm, C for "Canet") coastal gun. The idea was, before the war, to have one 2-gun battery, but when the war started Finland had only one 1-gun battery of railway guns.  The railway gun battery had as the Finnish designation "1.Rautatiepatteri" ("1st railway gun battery") . The gun was designated "152/45CRaut".

The battery was mobilized on October 9th, and on Nov 30th, it was ordered to Pitkäranta, on the eastern coast of Lake Ladoga, the battery was led by Lt. Lauri Paaso.

The battery took part in bombarding the Soviet ground forces, but as there were orders to save shells, the times the battery fired (only once or twice from the same position) , the gun fired only a few shells.

The battery had the code name"Akseli" (a Finnish first name) , and it operated in Pitkäranta, Impilahti and Kollaanjoki (River Kollaa) . The battery was unlucky, as the barrel was damaged on Jan 7th, 1940. The gun was sent to Helsinki, where a new barrel was installed, and the battery was back in action on Jan 12th. On March 11th, just two days before the war ended, the battery received reinforcements as two new (identical) guns were brought to Impilahti.

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Lessons learned and things noticed during the war


Fire observation
("FO" in the text)

While the general level of skill was quite high, thanks to the prewar training, the war still revealed some serious weaknesses in the artillery FO.

The first problem was the low number of trained FO's, and few artillery regiments had the full compliment of FO's. This led to a situation in where there wasn't enough FO's to cover all needed sectors of the front, and many of the FO-teams had to be constantly deployed near the front without the chance of proper rest.

The second problem was the lack of combined arms training before the war. Some of the infantry commanders, who had the luxury of artillery support, didn't quite understand how to use artillery efficiently. The bad communications, low number of guns and shortage of shells all contributed in decreasing the efficiency of the artillery, thus also lowering the respect for the artillery in the eyes of the infantry. In course of the war, the cooperation got better, but still some problems remained especially at the divisional level.

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Transmission of fire

While the prewar training had it's shortcomings, in some areas it had been very good. The transmission of fire (i.e. FO giving a battery/battalion a new target, the calculating of the new firing data, train the guns into the new target etc.) was very fast if compared to the Soviet counterpart.

If the connection between the FO and the battery was in order, the average delay between the FO giving a new target to the battery/battalion gambit was 5 - 8 minutes.

If the firing unit was already engaging a target, and was given a new target that was close to the previous one, the average delay was 2 - 4 minutes. The variation in delay time depended mostly on two things; 1) the size of the caliber. (the weight of the gun) and 2) if the gun had to be swung into the new direction (i.e. the whole gun with it's carriage had to be turned in order to point the barrel into the right direction) .

As a comparison, the average delay of the Soviet artillery was 10 - 20 minutes.

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The prewar plans were, that every Corps would've received one motorized survey battery (company) . In the summer of 1939, the plans changed due to shortage of equipment, and the original number of 6 survey batteries fell down to 4. During mobilization, only 2 survey batteries ("Mittauspatteri" or "Mitt.Ptri" in Finnish) were actually raised to serve on the front, while 2 batteries were left to the Home Front to form a replacement battery ("Mittaus-T-Patteri") . All this because of the shortage of survey equipment. The two survey batteries, 1.Mitt.Ptri and 2.Mitt.Ptri, were both assigned to the Karelian Isthmus. The 1.Mitt.Ptri, equipped with the domestic Zerograf-instruments was deployed to eastern side of the Isthmus, while 2.Mitt.Ptri, equipped with Siemens-instruments was deployed to the western side of the Isthmus.

After a slow start, the survey batteries started to show results. Many batteries were located, but the shortage of shells and heavy (long range) guns restricted the possibilities of counterbattery fire. It was noticed that it was nearly impossible to pinpoint individual batteries, if the enemy artillery was firing 'en masse'. But as soon as the bombardment settled down, leaving only one or two batteries still keeping up the bombardment, it was possible to measure the direction and distance to the firing batteries. The survey batteries used both sonic and flash-ranging as the means of locating the enemy.

In all, the batteries both proved successful in pinpointing enemy batteries. E.g. the 1.Mitt.Ptri located 301 enemy firing positions or batteries during the Winter War (some 50% by flash-ranging) , and after the results were compared to aerial photographs, taken in February, some 80 % of the coordinates proved to be correct.

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The pre-fire preparations

The ballistic preparations was mostly performed according to the regulations, although the lack of and aging instruments created problems. E.g. many batteries lacked the thermometers needed to measure the gun powder temperature, which forced the cannoneers to estimate the temperature, increasing dispersion.

The meteorological preparations wasn't as good as the ballistic preparations were. Despite the efforts put into this before the war in terms of equipment, it took a long time before the artillery weather service got started at all. The situation was worst in northern Finland, but this wasn't critical as the guns were used often in direct fire missions. In the Karelian Isthmus, the whole service proved to be adequate.

The topographical preparations depended on the front. There were quite good "1:20 000" maps available from the Isthmus, and from some parts of the Ladoga Karelia, but in the northern parts of Finland, the only maps were "1:400 000" maps. Still, the stockpiled storage of maps, proved out to be way to small, thanks to the shoestring defense budget before the war. There were efforts to compensate this shortage with different types of maps, like making maps of aerial photographs taken in the summer of 1939. The resulting "ik-maps" (the "ik" is an abbreviation of "ilmakuva" which is "aerial photograph" in Finnish) wasn't liked by the artillery.

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While the lack of radios had been noted even before the war, no funds had been given to remedy this. This proved costly during the war, as sometimes the call for fire had to be "transmitted" by a messenger. The Soviet artillery bombardment severed the cables, which at the early phases weren't dug below the ground. And when some radios became available during the war, many stupid mistakes were made, like shipping the radios in a different batch than the batteries, or giving the troops radios without the valves.

And to make matters worse, the troops in many places ran out of cables, forcing to use iron wire, which wasn't nearly as good as cable had been.

In some cases the communication between the fire observer and the battery/battalion had to be kept up with messengers and blinker messages. Flares were sometimes used to call in barrages.

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The mobility of the horse drawn artillery units proved to be adequate in short distances, but weak in longer marches. The Soviet air superiority restricted movement, as the cover of darkness was the only good protection against strafing fighters. When an artillery unit was forced to move during daylight (either ordered to, or forced by the circumstances) , and the weather permitted flying, losses were almost certainty, especially in the Karelian Isthmus. Some units lacked skids for the guns and gun sleighs, which made moving in the snow easier.

Only one artillery battalion had purpose built tractors (Rask.Psto 3) , others used civilian trucks. Only some 60 % of the civilian vehicles were suitable for the purpose, as the rest were too weak or had too small loading capacity. Many artillery tractors were captured from the enemy, but it took time to repair them and to get them to the troops. The hard weather conditions, common accidents and breakdowns etc. reduced on many occasions the already small number of vehicles, lowering the mobility of the artillery battalions.

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Use of artillery

The low number of artillery pieces and units led to a point, where the artillery couldn't be used as should have been used according to the artillery regulations. Only in the Isthmus was it possible to combine whole artillery battalions to fire concentrated fire missions. In the Ladoga Karelia, middle- and north Finland, the few available artillery units were more or less spread around, making concentrated fire impossible.

Strict orders were given about the shell consumption, and the priority was given to barrages, or blocking fire, over counterbattery fire and counter-preparation fire, which had higher priorities in the 1936 artillery regulations. The appalling shell situation forced the artillery to conserve, and the shell amounts of different forms of fire, set by the regulations, remained throughout the war only a fraction from the "official" demands. E.g. while an artillery battalion, armed with 76 mm guns, shooting a "barrage fire"was supposed, according to the regulations, to fire some 120 shells into a 150 m x 300 m area, in realty the defending infantry was quite lucky if the battalion fired a few "groups" ("ryhmä" in Finnish, which in "Finnish artillery language" means single shots with all guns) to block an enemy attack.

At times, the strictness with the shell expenditure went to nearly ridiculous proportions, as the permission to fire additional shells had to be asked for each case separately. E.g. on Dec 16th, Capt. Sven Gyllenbögel, commander of the 3rd heavy artillery battalion, wrote in his report to the II Corps artillery commander: "... at 1100 hrs, I got a report of an active enemy battery... I asked the permission and fired 4 shells..."
   To make the shell situation worse, there were big problems in the munitions supply. Some batteries received shells of wrong type or caliber., and bureaucracy in the shell supply was too large and complex slowing logistics.

The short range of the Finnish artillery pieces made the counter battery firing very difficult. Whenever possible, this task was given to the Coastal batteries along the coast of the Gulf of Finland or the "Kaarnajoki"-coastal fort in the Taipale sector.

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Comments from the enemy

In early April, 1940, an analysis was made by the Soviets, which shows that the Soviet side was familiar with the Finnish artillery and it's aspects. The analysis gave a good grade to the Finnish artillery for fire discipline and the economical use of shells. The Finnish artillery had too few artillery pieces and the bulk of the equipment was old or obsolete. Shells were used in small numbers and many of the fired projectiles were duds. The Soviet opinion was that the Finnish artillery didn't fire enough at targets in front of their (Finnish) front-line, e.g. at roads leading to concentration areas and mined & booby-trapped areas. The Finnish skill of improvisation was praised.

(Source: "Suomen kenttätykistön historia Vol. II", p. 115)



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The Finnish Army
Part I
Part II

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