British "volunteers" in Russo-Finnish war ? and suggestions of "plausible deniability"

Discussion in 'The Eastern Front' started by China Hand, May 6, 2009.

  1. China Hand

    China Hand No Longer A Forum Member

    I have been rummaging in some of the National Archives recently opened pdfs of the Cabinet documents (see The National Archives - The Cabinet Papers 1915 - 1977 ) on China-related stuff (of which more anon, I am sure...), but came across an intriguing reference...

    In a August 1941 paper on the Burma Road, and potential British action to disrupt Japanese interdiction of the route before they and the British were in open war, the Chiefs of Staff suggest to the War Cabinet one option is that "personnel trained in demolition work might be infiltrated into Yunnan [the south west province of China next to Burma] to assist the Chinese in delaying a Japanese advance". They add, somewhat coyly, that "it is undesirable that these officers and personnel should be sponsored by HM Government, and we suggest that they should be enlisted into a volunteer corps in the same manner as volunteers were introduced into Finland during the Russo-Finnish war" [emphasis added].

    (The document reference is CAB66/17/4, WP (41) 131 of 20 August 1941, for anyone who wishes to read it in full).

    Does anyone know anything about this Finnish reference ? It is not explicitly stated that said volunteers were British, but it is maybe implied. There is an interesting question, of course, namely what side did they fight for ???!!! I see from Wikipedia (Winter War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) there were some plans for a Franco-British expedition to support the Finns...but that came to nought in the end. All rather ironic, given that the Finns ended up fighting the Russians alongside the Germans...
  2. Capt.Sensible

    Capt.Sensible Well-Known Member

    Hello China Hand,

    The only source I have that notes the Anglo-Finnish connection is that good old standby, the Osprey book: Jowett, P and Snodgrass, B 2006 Finland at War 1939-45 (Elite 141, isbn 13 978 1 84176 969).

    Pages 21-2 discuss foreign voluteers for the Finnish forces in he Winter War against the Soviet Union Novembe 1939 to March 1940. Numbers: Swedes (8,760), Norwegians (727), Hungarians (346) and about 350 Americans of Finnish descent. Thirteen Britons appeared initially and were followed by 214 who arrived with immaculate timing 2 weeks afer the end of the Winter War. Another 750 Brits were said to be waiting in England to be formed into a sort of 'International Brigade', allegdedly under the leadership of Col Kermit Roosevelt, son of Teddy Roosevelt. 150 Italians voluteered for the brigade also.

    The timing appears quite crucial in this matter: Britain declared war on Finland on the 6th of December 1941, after Finland had aligned itself with Germany, in desperate bid to access weapons and material. I 've always found this 'sideshow' of WW2 fascinating and intend to read more but, as ever, time and the book fairies are against me!

  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. China Hand

    China Hand No Longer A Forum Member

    Thanks to you both, that's all very interesting ! The Justin Brooke one will surely shed some light on this. I will try to locate a copy.

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