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The Finnish Navy

In the Winter War


Submarine Vesihiisi and the armored coastal vessels on a fleet parade
Picture source: "Talvisodan Historia 1", p.72







The Finnish navy was purely a coastal navy without "big ships". The pride of the Finnish fleet were the 2 coastal armored vessels, constructed in the early 30's.

When the war started, the navy had in its use (including all auxiliary crafts) 190 ships and 363 motorboats (about 65 % of the required strength) . The navy had 3 544 men, not including a new batch of recruits, 295 strong, in training.
    The total manpower committed to sea and coastal defense was 33 200,  including 20 700 men in coastal batteries and coast defense-units, and 8 650 regular infantry.
The C-in-C was Major General V.Valve.


Although the navy had been under a determined upgrading and modernizing program (for a small country's navy) , where the navy was strengthened by submarines and armored coastal vessels. The biggest problem was the old age of the equipment.

For instance:

-The 254 mm and 105 mm guns on the armored ships (Väinämöinen & Ilmarinen) were the only modern guns in the navy (not including Antiaircraft guns) .The rest of the guns date back to WW1 and the days when Finland was ruled by the Tzar.

- From the mines, that the navy had (3 500 anchorable sea mines) , over 50 % were from WW1 with a warhead of only 75 - 100 kg.

- The majority of the torpedoes were 450 mm"Whitehead"-model and they were war booty from 1918. There were enough torpedoes to three reloads for all launchers.

- The navy had only 520 depth charges, from which some 50 % were found to be unreliable.


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The tasks of the Finnish Navy

The main task of the Finnish Navy was to prevent an amphibious invasion and to secure Finland's vital sea routes to the west.



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Actions at sea


Only small scale actions took place before the Gulf of Finland froze completely up. From these the most notable were:
- 1 December 1939 the soviet capture of Suursaari, defended only by a small 30 men guard detachment.

- 1 December 1939 a short firefight between the Russarö fort (6 * 254 mm/50-BS , 6 * 75 mm/50-CM) and a soviet Task Force of cruiser Kirov accompanied by two class G destroyers. One of the destroyers was damaged and the soviet forces withdrew.

- 14 December 1939 a short firefight between the Uto fort (4 * 152 mm/45-C) and two soviet class G destroyers, which ended when a hit was spotted and the destroyers withdrew behind a smokescreen. Through the smoke explosions were seen and heard , and after the smoke dissipated only one destroyer was seen afloat.

- on 18 and 19 December 1939, a strong Soviet Task Forces led by battleships Marat and Oktjabrskaja Revolutsija bombarded the Saarenpää fort (6 * 254 mm/45-D , 2 * 152 mm/45-C) with the help of dozens of fighters and bombers. The Oktjabrskaja Revolutsija attacked on 18 December and Marat on the next day. The bombardment on the second day ended at 12.55 A.M., when a hit was seen on Marat's stern and it stopped firing and withdrew.
The Finnish fort suffered heavy material damage and some personnel casualties, but it was not knocked out.

After the threat of ambhibious invasion diminished, the armored coastal vessels were sent to Turku in late January, where their relatively strong antiaircraft weaponry were warmly welcomed.

- 7 December 1939 the Soviet Union declared a blockade, and threatened to sink every ship within 20 nautical miles off the coast of Finland. The effects of the blockade, enforced mainly by soviet subs, where relatively small. After the initial surprise, the merchant ships were assembled into convoys and only one attack on a convoy (on 13 January 1940 by sts-324, north of Market) has been reported. It didn't manage to hit any of the merchants, but a faulty depth charge exploded prematurely and sunk the escort-vessel Aura II and 26 men were lost.

The exceptionally cold winter froze the Gulf of Finland, and this brought a new threat: an attack over the ice.
-  4 - 9 March 1940 a Soviet brigade or division tried repeatedly on three points (south and southeast of coastal town of Kotka) to gain a foothold either on the southern coast of Finland or on the islands. They were repulsed each time with heavy casualties by the fire of the Finnish coastal forts.


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Most important vessels of the Finnish navy

DP -means Dual Purpose -gun, can be used against both sea and air targets.
AA -means Antiaircraft)

The names Class Year of completion Displacement Speed (knots) Weaponry Crew
Armored coastal vessel 1932
3900 15 4 * 254 mm cannon
8 * 105 mm DP
4 * 40 mm AA
Gunboat 1917 400 15 2 * 102 mm gun
40 * mines
Gunboat 1918 340 14 2 * 75 mm gun
30 * mines
Louhi Minelayer 1916 640 11 2 * 75 mm gun
2 * 20 mm AA
140 * mines
Nuoli, Syöksy
Raju, Vinha
MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) 1928 - 1929 12 40 2 * 45 cm torpedo 7
Sisu, Hurja MTB 1917 13 26,5 2 * 45 cm torpedo 7
Isku MTB 1926 11 40 2 * 45 cm torpedo 7
Ahven - class
( 6 ships )
Mine sweeper 1936 - 1937 17 10 6 * mines
light minesweeping equipment
Submarine 1930 - 1931 490 / 715
surface / submerged
13 / 9 1 * 76 mm gun
1 * 20 mm AA
6 * 53 cm torpedo
Vesikko Submarine 1934 250 / 300 13 / 9 1 * 20 mm AA
5 * 53 cm torpedo
Saukko Submarine 1933 99 / 135 7 / 6 1 * 13 mm AA
2 * 45 cm torpedo
(Table source: "Talvisodan Historia 1", WSOY 1991, p.191)


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Finnish submarine "Vesikko"

The "Vesikko", nowdays a museum boat in the "Suomenlinna"-fort in Helsinki
Picture and background information courtesy of Jouni Rönkkö 
"Finnish Air Force  -almost in service-  1935-1945"

Displacement diving 303 tons


surface 254 tons - The boat was fully seaworthy

* = dived to a max of 150 m in the tests

- 2* MWM RS 127S 6 cylinder diesel (350 hp)
- 2* Siemens PGVV 322/36 electrical motors 132 KW

- The gun was a 20 mm Madsen cannon (20 itk 40 M)
- The boat could carry 5 torpedoes (53,5 cm), and it had 3 torpedo tubes operating with compressed air

Other equipment:
-German radios
- Sonar and listening devices

Dimension length 40,90 m
width 4,08 m
height 8,60 m
draught 3,83 m
diving depth 100 m *
time needed
in diving to 10 m
45 s
max speed (surface) 13 knots
max speed (diving) 8 knots
Range (/w diesels) 1 600 nautical miles
Range (w/ batteries) 15,5 nautical miles
Crew 2 officers 2 specialists 8 NCO 6 seamen




Germany wanted to build itself a new coastal submarine. As the building of subs was prohibited by the Versailles Treaty, the boat was designed by Germans in Holland and the boat was built in Turku, at the Chrichton-Vulcan drydock.

The boat was babtized on 10 May 1933 as the CV-707. The Germans tested the boat thoroughly, and it proved to be a good design. The CV-707 was the prototype for the German coastal submarines. The German II-A sub, was an almost identical copy of the CV-707. The Germans used the boat for training purposes until the boat was handed over to the Finnish Navy in October 1934. The Finnish Navy used the boat in maneuvres already during the summer of 1935, but officially the boat was bought in January 1935 for FIM 19,4 million, and the boat was babtized "Vesikko".


Vesikko in the Winter War


At the start of the Winter War, Vesikko and Vesihiisi were ordered to patrol the seas near Hanko on December 1st. As Vesikko was nearing Russarö, the coastal fort was engaging the Soviet cruiser "Kirov", but Vesikko couldn't reach a firing position as the Soviet vessel disengaged. The other engine malfunctioned, and the boat returned to Turku on 4 December.

On 18 December, Vesikko was sent to Koivisto, as the Soviet Battleships Oktjabrskaja Revolutsija and Marat were bombarding the "Saarenpää"-fort in Koivisto. Vesikko didin't reach the area in time, and it didn't meet any enemy.

On 29 December 1939, the boat was docked for the winter.


For further and more detailed information about the Finnish Navy, I suggest you to visit the
"The Finnish Navy in World War 2"-website, by Jari Aromaa

For questions about picture copyrights, see 'Sources' page

Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Sami H. E. Korhonen

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