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vs.

Comparison of Finnish and Soviet units
in the Winter War

 

 

 

Both Finland and Soviet Union had the basic "triangular" division organization. It's called "triangular", because each standard infantry division had three infantry regiments of three battalions each.

 

Unit legends

 

Unit legends
1) Infantry regiment
2) Artillery regiment
3) Tank battalion
4) Recon battalion
( Finnish Light detachment )
5) Engineer( / Sapper ) battalion
6) Antitank company
7) Signals company
8) Field medic company
9) antiaircraft platoon
10) Transport ( truck ) platoon
11) Wire laying platoon
(a signals unit)

 

Divisional organization

Finnish division
Soviet division
- HQ
- 3 infantry regiments
- Field artillery regiment
- Light detachment
(bicycle company, cavalry company, mg-platoon)
- 2 Engineer companies
- Signals company
- Wire laying company
- supply formations

The organization of a Finnish Infantry Division
The organization of a Soviet Rifle Division
- HQ
- 3 infantry regiments
- Field artillery regiment
- Field howitzer regiment
- Tank battalion
- Recon battalion
- Sapper battalion
- Antitank battalion
- AA-company
- Signals battalion
- Field medic battalion
- Transport battalion
- Other:
supply formations and gas protection company

Finnish division
Personnel, weapons, transport equipment
Soviet division*
Fin
Off.'39
14 200
Total manpower
17 500 - 18 000
18 881
~ 11 000
Rifles
~ 14 000
?
250
Submachine guns (smg)
-
-
250
Light machine guns (lmg)
419
578
116
Machine guns (mg)
238
162
-
12.7 mm Antiaircraft(AA)-mg
-
18
-
Quadruple 7.62 mm AA-mg
30?
15
-
Rifle grenade launchers
-
108
-
Flame throwers
-
38
-
Mortars light (50 mm)**
-
81
18
Mortars light (81 - 82 mm)
18
36
-
Mortars heavy (120 mm)***
12
12
18
Antitank guns (AT-guns)
48
54
24
Field guns (< 105 mm)
38 (76 mm)
38 (76 mm)
12
Field guns (> 105 mm)
28 (122 mm)
28 (122 mm)
Field guns (> 150 mm)
12 (152 mm)
12 (152 mm)
-
Tanks
55
18****
-
37 mm AA-guns
-
8
-
76 mm AA-guns
-
4
-
Armored cars
10
12
46
Motor vehicles
427
962
3 200
Horses
5 393
6 208

 

* = It's very hard to determine the strength of the Soviet division during the war, as the TOE was changed in September 1939, and many of the changes didn't take place before or even during the war. There was also considerable differences between individual divisions. So in general the figures from different sources have different strengths. I have also included the new "official strengths" to accompany the figures most commonly seen in Finnish books ("Fin" in the table), which however were "on paper only" during the war. As the source for the "official" strength ("Off.'39" in the table) I have used "Soviet Order of Battle of World War II", by Charles C. Sharp, Vol. VIII. Data was kindly provided by M. D. Fox
** = were relatively rare during the Winter War (probably arrived to the forces only after the war had started), some were however captured by the Finnish forces
*** = During the Winter War, there was only one battery of 120mm mortars in use- it was top secret and was in action at Summa.
Source: Winter War 1939 - 1940. J. Stalin and the Finnish campaign (record of the meeting at the Central Committee of Communist Party) Moscow, Nauka 1999 ISBN 5-02-009633-4 (2nd volume). Information was provided by Bair Irincheev (www.mannerheim-line.ru)
**** = "T-38" tankettes

Note that these are official strengths which rarely, if ever, represented reality in the front-line divisions. Especially the number of Finnish AT-guns never got even near the establishment strength of 18 guns.

 

As can be seen from the table above, the soviet division had approximately twice as many automatic weapons than the Finnish division (the soviet division had no smg's, but that was somewhat offset with the relatively large number of semi- and full-automatic rifles).
The strength ratio in artillery was a little over 2:1, and the ratio in AT-guns, on paper, was almost 3:1, but in reality bigger as the Finnish divisions had practically never a full complement of AT-guns. Besides, the Finnish division had no tanks or armored cars, so the soviet division was a far more powerful unit than the Finnish counterpart. The fact that the artillery of the Red Army enjoyed a seemingly unlimited supply of shells, despite occasional supply problems, increased the unevenness between a Finnish and soviet division.
The weakness of the soviet division was, that it was a division of a powerful army, meant to fight in the more open terrain in mid-Europe. The high degree of motorization and the large number of heavy equipment tied the division near the roads, while the Finnish division was more maneuverable in difficult terrain.

There were also other differences between Finnish and soviet units, besides organizational.
The main soviet communications equipment was the radio, which was a definite advantage in difficult terrain, such as the area north of Ladoga.
The problem with Finnish communications equipment was that it generally relied on cable connections, which was somewhat outdated by '39 standards. The low number of radios meant that cable lines had to be drawn, which usually were severed by soviet everyday artillery bombardment. In many cases, the situation led to the point, that messengers was the only way to communicate between front-line units and HQ's, not to mention with adjacent units.

 

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Regimental organization

Finnish regiment
Soviet regiment
- HQ company
(including pioneer platoon, signals platoon, wire laying platoon)
- 3 infantry battalions
- Mortar company
- supply formations

The organization of a Finnish Infantry Regiment
The organization of a Soviet Rifle Regiment
- HQ
- 3 infantry battalions
- Artillery company
- Recon company
- Antitank company
- Pioneer platoon
- Signals company
- AA-platoon
- supply formations

Finnish regiment
Personnel, weapons, transport equipment
Soviet regiment*
Fin
Off.'39
2 954
Total manpower
3 379
4 035
2 325
Rifles
2 475
?
72
Submachine guns (smg)
-
-
72
Light machine guns (lmg)
108
142
36
Machine guns (mg)
54
54
-
12.7 mm Antiaircraft(AA)-mg
-
6
-
Quadruple 7.62 mm AA-mg
3
3
-
Mortars light (50 mm)**
-
27
6
Mortars light (81 - 82 mm)
6
12
-
Mortars heavy (120 mm)***
-
4
-
Antitank guns (AT-guns)
6
12
-
Field guns (76 mm infantry guns)
6
6
494
Horses
849
1 050

 

* = It's very hard to determine the strength of the Soviet infantry regiment during the war, as the TOE was changed in September 1939, and many of the changes didn't take place before or even during the war. There was also considerable differences between individual divisions. So in general the figures from different sources have different strengths. The new "official strengths" accompany the figures most commonly seen in Finnish books ("Fin" in the table), but they were "on paper only" during the war. As the source for the "official" strength ("Off.'39" in the table) I have used "Soviet Order of Battle of World War II", by Charles C. Sharp, Vol. VIII. Data was kindly provided by M. D. Fox
** = were relatively rare during the Winter War (probably arrived to the forces only after the war had started), some were however captured by the Finnish forces
*** = During the Winter War, there was only one battery of 120mm mortars in use- it was top secret and was in action at Summa.
Source: Winter War 1939 - 1940. J. Stalin and the Finnish campaign (record of the meeting at the Central Committee of Communist Party) Moscow, Nauka 1999 ISBN 5-02-009633-4 (2nd volume). Information was provided by Bair Irincheev (www.mannerheim-line.ru)

Note that these are official establishment strengths which rarely represented the reality in the front-line divisions.

 

 

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The Finnish battalion organization

The organization of a Finnish infantry battalion and its companies

The Finnish battalion consisted of:

- The battalion HQ (6 men)
- HQ company with the strength of 118 men (including a HQ platoon of 21 men, a signals platoon of 31 men and supply formations)
- 3 infantry companies (each having 191 men)
- MG-company (154 men)

* = includes a "main bandaging station"(strength 10 men) and a "first aid station" (strength 10 men)
** = includes an "economics supply" platoon (strength 27 men) and an ammunition park (strength 12 men)

Infantry company
(total 191 men)

- HQ platoon
- supply platoon
- 4 infantry platoons (each 38 men)

The inf.platoons had each 4 squads, of which two squads had 1 lmg (squad strength 1 NCO + 6 men), and two squads had 1 smg as the "squad automatic weapon" (squad strength 1 NCO + 9 men).

Machine gun company
(total 154 men)

- HQ unit
- supply unit
- 3 MG-platoons

The mg-platoons had each 4 mg-squads, and each squad had one mg.

 

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The official strengths of a Finnish and Soviet battalion

Finnish battalion
Personnel, weapons, transport equipment
Soviet battalion*
Fin
Off.'39
845
Total manpower
777
?
654
Rifles
580
?
24
Submachine guns (smg)
-
-
24
Light machine guns (lmg)
36
36
12
Machine guns (mg)
18
18
-
Mortars light (50 mm)**
-
9
-
Mortars light (81 - 82 mm)
2
4
-
Antitank guns (AT-guns)
-
2
96
Horses
71
?

* = It's very hard to determine the strength of the Soviet infantry battalion during the war, as the TOE was changed in September 1939, and many of the changes didn't take place before or even during the war. There was also considerable differences between individual divisions. So in general the figures from different sources have different strengths. The new "official strengths" accompany the figures most commonly seen in Finnish books ("Fin" in the table), but they were "on paper only" during the war. As the source for the "official" strength ("Off.'39" in the table) I have used "Soviet Order of Battle of World War II", by Charles C. Sharp, Vol. VIII. Data was kindly provided by M. D. Fox
** = were relatively rare during the Winter War (probably arrived to the forces only after the war had started), some were however captured by the Finnish forces.


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The Finnish "Sissi"-battalions

 

The Finnish Sissi-battalions had quite a lot differences when compared to an ordinary infantry battalion. The Sissi-battalions were intended to fight in a large area, possibly in the enemy rear area, as an more or less independent unit, making small attacks against the enemy supply columns, securing open flanks in the wilderness, mining roads in the enemy rear and severing cable lines. These attacks/actions were usually made with small detachments (1 platoon), but larger units were also used. (But even while this type of warfare proved successful, the shortage of troops forced the Finns to use some Sissi-battalions also in regular front-line duty).

Of course, the "Sissi" ("guerilla" or "special unit" is perhaps the most matching English word) warfare made the command and logistics (supply) very difficult. That's why the Sissi battalion's HQ was similar to a Finnish regimental HQ, including a command office ("komentotoimisto" in Finnish) and a logistics office ("huoltotoimisto" in Finnish). being larger in number of personnel than a HQ of an regular battalion.

A Sissi-battalion had 3 rifle companies (so it didn't have the mg-company, that the regular battalion had).

Each rifle company had 3 rifle platoons (each platoon having 3 rifle squads and 1 special sledge squad), a lmg-platoon, a signals platoon and a delivery platoon ("toimitusjoukkue" in Finnish), making the companies well capable of independent action. Each rifle platoon had 4 smg's instead of the 2 smg's in regular platoons, otherwise the armament of a Sissi company was quite similar to a regular company. Also, each Sissi-company had 10 sledges.

(Source: "Talvisodan Pikkujättiläinen")

 

 

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The TOE of a Soviet light Tank Brigade in the Winter War

 


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