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The general organization of supply

of the Finnish Army in the Winter War



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" translation.

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.


Road transportation

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 units.

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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 153 horses.

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 each.

A finnish supply column on the move
(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 (toimitusjoukkue) .

- The traffic platoon consisted of 6 patrols for traffic control.

- 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. J.Turtola.
    The task was made a bit easier by the preliminary evacuation plans drawn by the HQ's of the Isthmus Army and the IV Corps.

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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Ordnance maintenance


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 section.
    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 officer.

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. 2) .

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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...A few shots have been fired...!(Picture 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 run out.

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.

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Economics supply
-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 office.
    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 platoon.
    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) .

A field kitchen(Picture 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.

Item Army had shortage (from required)
wool shirts
winter camo-suits
20-man tents
cardboard tents

230 000
330 000
340 000
185 000
142 000
220 000
56 000
21 000
113 000
175 000
7 200
8 500
4 500

58 000
17 000
13 300
50 000
15 800
37 000
1 390
at least 1 390 (as many as tents)



Two different tent-types side by side
(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 service


Medical Major General V.Linden was the acting chief of medical service until December 22nd when he was replaced by Medical Colonel E.Suolahti.
    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 each division.


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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 beds.
    A Danish ambulance established, in early January, a surgical hospital with 100 beds in Joensuu, which later moved to Ilmee.
    A Norwegian ambulance established a surgical hospital with 120 beds in Muhos.
Another Swedish ambulance established field hospital sections in Muurola and Kemijärvi.

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 Group) .
    The ambulance companies and platoons were used to evacuate men from field hospitals and field hospital sections to military hospitals.

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 stations.

A First Aid Station, a "JSP "(Picture 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 rest.

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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Veterinary service


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 horses.

All infantry regiments and horse-drawn artillery battalions had a veterinarian.


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).


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