The general organization of supply
of the Finnish Army in the Winter
On this page, you'll find general
information of the following branches:
The sources I used are in Finnish. It was therefore very difficult
to find, from the Finnish-English general dictionary, a matching term
in English for some rather unique Finnish terms. I hope that the reader
is able to conclude the role of the unit, from the "close enough"
I have added (in parentheses) the original
Finnish designation (and abbreviations in some cases) , and if a
reader comes up with a more fitting or an official term, I would
really appreciate any corrections / suggestions.
Transportation and traffic
(Kuljetukset ja Liikenne)
The supply department of the Finnish General HQ was responsible
for traffic and transportation in both the home front and Field Army.
The railroad network formed the backbone of transportation. The
small number of motor vehicles was sufficient only for transportation
within the units. The trains were the most important transport method
for supplying the troops and evacuation.
The railroad transportation worked generally well
(considering the situation) , till mid-February. The major attack
by the Red Army in February affected also the railroad network. The
railroad junctions were attacked by the Red Air Force constantly,
delaying all transports and causing heavy traffic jams.
| Every important train station had an
railroad officer responsible for the smooth flow of traffic. For repairing
damages, 10 rail-repairing companies were formed (1. - 10. RKK =Radankorjaus-
komppania) and 3 repair-trains (Korj.Junat 1 - 3) . They were effective
in repairing even heavy damages in a matter of days.
The total losses inflicted by the bombing during the war, was 189
locomotives, from which 18 were destroyed, and 1 480 damaged carriages.
For transportation by roads, 39 transportation companies (1. - 39.
AutoK = Autokomppania) , 2 separate transportation platoons (1. and
2. Er.AutoJ) , and 16 transportation HQ (1. - 16. Kulj.E) were formed
during the Mobilization (YH) . During the war, 6 transportation companies
and 2 HQ's were formed.
| - The strength of a transportation
company was: 48 trucks, 1 car and 5 motorcycles. The company had 3
transport platoons, 13 trucks each, from which one was kept in reserve.
The transport capacity of the 36 trucks was 90 tons.
- The transportation HQ, which were used to direct
the transport formations, had a commander, an adjutant, a supply
officer, a clerk and a car driver.
The Finnish army had in it's use 6 400 different types of motor
vehicles, from which 4 400 (from the total of ~10 000 trucks in the
whole country) were trucks, when the war started. During the war,
nearly 6 000 trucks were bought from abroad, from which 1 300 arrived
to Finland, and only ~200 reached the front-line before the war ended.
Only some small field army units had motor vehicles.
Therefore the infantry and artillery regiments had no motor vehicles
in their organic transport or supply units (in early January, the
Isthmus Army attached to every regiment and artillery battalion, 1
truck or a pickup truck for internal transportation).
During January, the motorized heavy artillery battalions
received trucks to replace the horses in their supply and transportation
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The most common transportation method in Winter War was the horse
and sleigh. During the mobilization, 60 384 horses were confiscated
to the army, to strengthen army's original number of 4 000. (There
were about 300 000, over 3-year old horses, in Finland. From these,
152 000 were rated as fit for service) .
The majority of the transportation in the theater
of operations were made by the "baggage train"-companies
(kuormastokomppania) , 77 of which were formed during the mobilization.
| - The "baggage train"-company
was formed by two baggage train platoons, 51 horses each, and a delivery
platoon with 26 horses, totaling 128 horses and 143 men.
The 102 horses in the "baggage train"-companies
had a normal cargo capacity (300 kg / horse) of 30 tons.
A division had, depending of the supply route lengths, 1 - 4 "baggage
train"-companies, because a division had a daily need of 70 tons
of food and horse feed, so it required 2 "baggage train"
-companies to supply a division at a distance of a day's journey.
Also, every division had an ammunition column of
The supply of infantry sub units was handled
by horses. Each infantry regiment had an organic "light column"of
134 horses. The "light column" was divided into a "light
ammunition column", and two "light food columns"
Each of the artillery battalions, in a field
artillery regiment, had a "light ammunition column"
of 67 horses, and two "light food columns", 25 horses
(Picture source: "Talvisodan
Historia 4", p.338)
| As an example; the total number
of horses in a field artillery regiment was 1 300 horses in the summer
and 1 164 horses in the winter. Each artillery regiment had 2 363
men, from which over one half were either "horsemen" or
somehow involved in taking care of the horses.
The weight of the daily food, was 4 700 kg, and
the weight of the daily horse feed, 15 600 kg.
The number of horses in a division depended on the number of "baggage
train"-companies and other supply units attached to it. While
the organic strength was 3 200 horses, one division had for a while
a total of 7 000 horses in it's use.
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For controlling and directing traffic, the Finnish divisions and
Corps had traffic-companies (liikennekomppania) . During the war,
some new traffic platoons were formed.
| - The traffic-company had a traffic
platoon, a road-repairing platoon (tiekorjausjoukkue) , a chemical
/ gas defense platoon (kaasusuojelujoukkue) and a delivery platoon
- The traffic platoon consisted of 6 patrols for
- The Corps road-repairing platoon had 6 ploughing
vehicles and 6 heavy trucks, while the divisional road-repairing
platoon had 20 horses with ploughing and repair equipment.
In addition to the war time transports, the evacuation of the conceded
areas proved out to be a demanding task. Within two weeks, the Finns
had to evacuate prosperous agricultural provinces and industrial installations,
property worth billions. The conceded territory housed 500 000 people
and 100 000 domestic animals.
To supervise the evacuation, a evacuation office
was formed in the Finnish General HQ under the command of Lt.Col.
The task was made a bit easier by the preliminary
evacuation plans drawn by the HQ's of the Isthmus Army and the IV
855 passenger and 6 870 freight carriages were assigned to the task
of evacuation by rail. Almost all serviceable motor vehicles in the
country, totaling 6 000 - 7 000 vehicles, were also used. Sweden
assisted the evacuation by sending an additional 750 trucks.
Despite the problems, the Finnish Army withdraw from the ceded territory
in time, accompanied with civilians and surprisingly much property.
The most difficult task in the evacuation was the organization and
direction of traffic.
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The commander of ordnance maintenance was Major General V.Svanström,
assisted by the artillery office of the General HQ.
At Corps level, the ordnance maintenance was directed
by the artillery commander, assisted by the ordnance office, in (sometimes
supposed) cooperation with the logistics commander and the logistics
At divisional level, the ordnance maintenance was
directed by the logistics commander and the logistics section in close
cooperation with the artillery commander.
At regimental level, the ordnance maintenance was
directed the logistics commander, helped by the regiment's weapons
The peacetime arms depots (Asevarikko, AV) , AV 1 in Helsinki, AV
2 in Viipuri, AV 3 in Kuopio and AV 4 in Ilmajoki were under the jurisdiction
of the ordnance department of the Ministery of Defense, commanded
by Col. T.Raatikainen.
During the mobilization, the arms depots established
ammunition depots (ampumatarvikevarikko, ATV) to Tampere (ATV 1) ,
Jyväskylä (ATV 2) , Kuopio (ATV 3) , Ilmajoki (ATV 4) , Jepua (ATV
5) , Oulu (ATV 6) and Vammala (ATV 8) . Artillery depots (tykistövarikko,
Tyk.V.) were established to Jyväskylä (Tyk.V. 1) and Seinäjoki (Tyk.V.
The most important ordnance maintenance unit was the "munitions
stock company" (ampumatarvikevarastokomppania) , 14 of which
were formed during the mobilization and 6 during the war. The company
had separate munitions platoons (ampumatarvikevarastojoukkue) for
infantry weapons and artillery, a chemical / gas protection platoon
(kaasusuojelutarvikekomppania) and a delivery platoon.
A corps had usually one "munitions stock company" (the
Group Talvela had also one, and the II Corps had two) , which established
one or two ammunition stores.
A division incorporated an organic "munitions
stock company", which established one or two ammunition dumps.
For brigades and separate groups, 5 munitions platoons were formed
during the mobilization and 2 during the war. A munitions platoon
could form one ammunition dump.
The ordnance maintenance elements of a battalion or a regiment established
a munitions distribution center. To transport ammunition, the Finnish
division had a "munitions column" (ampumatarvikekolonna,
A-kolonna) of 153 horses.
| To simplify and unify the calculations
of ammunition transport, expenditure, storage etc. the unit of measurement
was the "fire ration" (tuliannos) .
Examples of fire rations for different weapons
was as follows; rifle 60 rounds, smg 350 rounds, lmg 1 200 rounds,
mg 2 000 rounds, 37 mm AT-gun 120 rounds, 81 mm mortar 60 shells,
75 - 76 mm artillery piece 100 shells.
The "munitions column" could transport the fire rations
of an infantry battalion (infantry weapons) , hand grenades worth
of a regiments fire ration and the fire ration of an artillery battalion.
5 armory detachments (Asevarasto-osasto, 1. - 5. AseVar.Os.) were
formed during the mobilization, and 3 more (6 - 8. AseVar.Os.) during
the war. The detachment had a depot platoon for small arms, a depot
platoon for artillery and a depot platoon for transportation equipment.
The detachments repaired damaged weapons and equipment
and acted also as stores for replacement equipment and weapons.
The armory detachments were distributed as follows; The Isthmus
Army 1, each Corps 1, North-Finland Group 2, Lapland Group 1 and to
AV 3 (arms depot 3) 1.
One separate arms depot platoon (6. Er. AseVar.J)
, formed during the war, was attached to group Talvela.
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source: "Talvisodan Historia 4", p.272)
The ammunition situation of the Finnish army was indeed grim in
almost all categories, with the exception of rifle ammunition. The
delaying groups had with them and in their stores 14 fire rations
for small arms.
To the whole field army, an average of 5 - 6 fire
rations (to small arms) had been reserved. To the relatively good
ammunition situation, of the rifle caliber weapons, the number of
hand grenades was very low (only 175 000) , as was the number of 37
mm AT-gun shells (under 300 per gun) , and the number of mortar shells
(only 30 % of the required, ~280 per tube) .
The field artillery had in magazines and with the
troops an average of 5 - 7 fire rations (depending on type) .
The bad ammunition situation led to strict orders to spare the artillery
and AT-gun shells to serious attacks only, thereby conserving ammo
to be concentrated on the Isthmus front, where they still tended to
| For instance, on February 22nd, during the battles
of the Intermediate Line, the HQ of II Corps noticed that the
whole Corps had practically run out of shells for the 37 mm
AT-gun. On the following night, 4 000 shells were transported
by trucks from Hämeenlinna, 1 000 shells from the IV Corps and
400 shells from Group Talvela.
The only projectile type, that Finnish industry could produce
in sufficient numbers was the 76 mm shell, but it took until
March, for the production to be high enough in order to compensate
consumption. The Finnish artillery had to preserve it's fire
throughout the war, and still many batteries, like the Heavy
Artillery Battalion 1 (Raskas Patteristo 1) , with 107 K/13
guns, ran out of shells in February and was useless for the
rest of the war.
The 100 000 mortar shells (at the start of the war) could
only cover December's consumption when regulated, and only
the shipment of 100 000 shells from abroad, in January, saved
the situation. Domestic production was slowly rising, and
could at the ending stages of the war produce just enough
grenades, but the lack of fuses was chronic, and only by acquisitions
from abroad could mortar shells be produced.
-food and money- (Taloushuolto)
The inspector of economics supply, Col. K.Kuokkanen, acted
as the chief of economics supply in the Finnish General HQ, assisted
by the inspectors office.
In divisional level, the economics supply was directed by the intendant
( subordinate to the logistics commander of the unit) , and the intendant's
In regimental - battalion level, the logistics
commander, and in sub-units a supply officer (a subordinate to the
sub-units commander) , were responsible for the flow of food and money.
The units of economics supply, were the "economics"-companies
(talouskomppania) , 15 of which were formed during the mobilization,
and 4 during the war.
The companies had a forage platoon (paikallishankintajoukkue)
, a provisioning platoon (muonitusjoukkue) , an equipment platoon
(varusjoukkue) a slaughter platoon (teurastusjoukkue) and a delivery
The difference in Corps and divisional level "economics"-companies
were, that at Corps level, the equipment platoon was thrice as big
as the divisional platoon, and the division level provisioning platoon
was almost twice as big as the Corps level platoon.
The Groups / Corps "economics"-company established a food
and feed magazine (elintarvikekenttämakasiini) , and a clothing magazine
(vaatetuskenttämakasiini) , or -replacement depots.
The organic "economics"-company of a
division, established a food and feed replacement depot (elintarviketäydennyspaikka)
and a clothing replacement depot (vaatetustäydennyspaikka) .
source: "Talvisodan Historia 1", p.111)
The flow of provisions was quite satisfactory throughout the war.
At the beginning of the war, the troops had an average of 10 day rations
of food and feed with them or in their stocks (day ration = the daily
amount of food consumed by a full strength division was 72 tons, from
which horse feed was 42 tons) .
The Ministry of Defense had in its stores 25 divisional
day rations of food and 30 day rations of feed. In addition to these,
the central provision depots (6 around the country) had each 5 divisional
day rations in stock.
Of course, the flow of provisions to the front-line troops was time
to time lacking, some units had to manage days without warm food,
due to combat or transportation difficulties.
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The clothing situation was bad, when the war started. Only the delaying
troops had adequate clothing and equipment. The supply elements, home
front troops and replacement units were mostly in civilian clothes,
and had to manage without tents and field kitchens.
The table below shows examples of the equipment situation
in early December.
|| Army had
at least 1 390 (as many as tents)
(A cloth tent on the left and a bulky cardboard
tent on the right)
(Picture source: "Talvisodan Historia 1", p.181)
The cardboard tents, made from ensolite, were a substitute for the
lack of tents, and they were produced by Enso-Gutzeit. Their weight
(180 kg) and clumsiness made them usable only to HQ's and troops far
behind the front-line
The payment of daily allowances was also the task of the economics
supply. The allowance (in Finnish Marks, FIM ) was 5 FIM for the men,
10 - 15 FIM for the NCO's and 20 - 50 FIM for the officers.
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Medical Major General V.Linden was the acting chief of
medical service until December 22nd when he was replaced by Medical
In divisions, the chief doctor was responsible
for the medical service, assisted by the medical office.
At regimental level, the doctors of medical office
(2 doctors) , and in battalion level, the doctors subordinate directly
to the commander (2 doctors) , were handling the medical service.
The primary tools of medical treatment and transportation were;
the military hospitals, field hospitals, field hospital sections,
hospital trains, ambulance trains, ambulance companies and platoons,
medical companies and platoons, and foreign ambulances.
Military hospitals (Sotasairaala) were established around the country.
They often made use of provincial, city or local hospitals, and sanitariums.
The necessary equipment were either bought or confiscated. 43 military
hospitals (SotaS 1. - 43.) were established during the mobilization,
and 8 during the war. 2 of the hospitals established during the mobilization
were closed and the hospitals in Salla and Suomussalmi were destroyed
by bombings. The number of beds in the military hospitals was 28 000
at the start of the war, and 35 000 in early March.
18 field hospitals (kenttäsairaala) were established during the
mobilization and 10 during the war, from these, the Finnish Red Cross
and the Lotta Svärd-organization established 8 hospitals each. Each
division had a field hospital, and they were also attached to Corps,
the Isthmus Army, P-SR (North Finland Group) and Group Talvela.
During the mobilization, 9 field hospital sections
(kenttäsairaalosasto) were established, and 7 later on. These were
attached to brigades and groups, and to the divisions established
during the war (the 9th, 21st and 23rd divisions) , 2 sections for
Back to Top !
There were a number of foreign volunteer ambulances in Finland. The
first was a Swedish ambulance, which established a hospital in Savonlinna,
with 100 beds, and in Matkaselkä a field hospital section with 50
A Danish ambulance established, in early January,
a surgical hospital with 100 beds in Joensuu, which later moved to
A Norwegian ambulance established a surgical hospital
with 120 beds in Muhos.
Another Swedish ambulance established field hospital sections in Muurola
To evacuate the wounded to hospitals in the home front, 3 hospital
trains (Sairaalajuna, SJuna), subordinate to the General HQ, and 4
ambulance trains, were established during the mobilization. 3 more
ambulance trains were established during the war. Three ambulance
trains were attached to the Isthmus Army, and one to IV Corps.
There were an average of 300 beds in both types,
with a staff of 2 medical officers, 12 nurses, 7 medical Lotta's,
2 NCO's and 10 men.
The hospital train was far better equipped, than
the ambulance train, which was for transport purposes only.
The primary transport unit of the front line groups, was the ambulance
companies (sairasautokomppania, SAutoK) , 10 of which were established
during the mobilization and 2 during the war. 5 companies were attached
to the Isthmus Army, 3 to II Corps, 2 to III Corps and 2 to IV Corps.
Also 3 independent ambulance platoons were established,
which were attached to P-SR and LR (North Finland Group and Lapland
The ambulance companies and platoons were used
to evacuate men from field hospitals and field hospital sections to
The organic medical unit of the divisions, was the medical company,
10 of which were established. 9 medical platoons were formed to be
attached to brigades, groups and even independent battalions.
| - The medical company consisted of 8 doctors, 3 medical
platoons, a gas defense platoon, a depot platoon and a delivery platoon.
The company had 9 evacuation "vehicles" (drawn by a
horse) and 8 ambulances, with 4 stretchers each. This gave the company
a total evacuation capacity of 68 patients. The company had also
40 stretchers if needed.
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The medical company, platoon or section established main bandaging
stations (pääsidontapaikka, PSP.) , from where the patients were evacuated
to field hospitals and to where the patients were evacuated from first-aid
source: "Talvisodan Historia 1", p.179)
The biggest pressure fell on the men in the first-aid stations (joukkojensidontapaikka,
JSP) , which were established mainly by the battalion's medical
squad, and especially on the doctors, which had to work for days without
Quite often the evacuation from the first-aid stations to the field
hospitals bypassed the main bandaging stations, reducing their importance
in many areas.
The Finns suffered the biggest casualties in late February - March,
when also the Soviet bombing of the Finnish railroads hampered the
evacuations to home front military hospitals.
As the winter '39-'40 was very severe, the cases of frostbite began
to climb. During the first half of January, the number of frostbite's
exceeded 3 000, from which 1 150 were first-degree frostbite's. The
majority of the cases, nearly 1 000, came from the P-SR (North Finland
Group) . During the second half of January, 2 000 more cases came,
from which 600 were first-degree frostbite's. This time, most of the
cases came from the IV Corps, and only 60 came from P-SR. The biggest
reason for frostbite were the boots. Thousands of men had to use too
tight boots, but as warmer and bigger boots arrived from the home
front or was captured, the number of frostbite cases fell decisively.
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The chief of veterinary service in the General HQ, was Veterinary
Colonel J.Talvitie, assisted by the veterinary office (was changed
on February 13th into a bigger veterinary department) .
11 horse depots (hevosvarikko) , subordinate to the General HQ,
were established between November and December around the country.
4 "horse"-hospitals (hevossairaala, KotiHev.S)
were established in Hämeenlinna, Kintaus, Ruukki and Lempäälä. A temporary
"horse"-hospital was established in Lappeenranta.
For veterinary services, each division, dragoon regiment and Group
had a veterinary company or squad.
| - A veterinary company consisted of 4 veterinary surgeons,
a stable for 50 injured horses (sairastalli) , a transport platoon,
a delivery platoon and a depot platoon with 70 replacement horses.
Each Finnish Corps had a field hospital for horses, with a capacity
of 200 - 400 horses. The depot platoon at Corps level, had 120 replacement
All infantry regiments and horse-drawn artillery battalions had
The horse strength changed constantly during the war, from the 48
000 in November to over 64 000 in December and coming down to 53 800
at the end of the war.
The reason for changes were; the demobilizing of
several "baggage train"-companies, the re-mobilizing of
those companies, disbandment (late in the war) , and casualties.
During the war a total of 34 945 horses, either
wounded or sick, received medical care by the Field Army veterinary
service. 4 822 horses were transported to the horse -hospitals
and other veterinary facilities for care and recovery, in where 88
% recovered. A total of 90 627 horses served in the Finnish Army,
from which 7 204 were lost (killed, put down or missing). From
these 7 204 horses, 3 968 horses were lost due to enemy fire (mostly
the constant artillery and aerial bombardment by the Soviets).
The Finnish Army