Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The First Dogfight

The first encounter between Soviet and Finnish aircraft took place on the 1st December 1939 (the day after hostilities began). At around 1145 six Polikarpov I-16s of the 7.IAP (Fighter Aviation Regiment) got the jump on two Bristol Bulldog Mk.IVAs from LLv26 (Squadron). Both bulldogs were separated and Ylikersantti (Staff Sergeant) Toivo Uuttu soon found himself alone against the Soviet planes. He engaged one I-16 ( nicknamed 'Siipiorava' Flying Squirrel by the Finns) and scored several hits before he himself was shot down. He crashed near Muolaanj√§rvi (A lake now known as Glubokoje since the area was ceded to Russia) and suffered injuries as a result. The I-16 Uuttu had engaged was also reported to have crashed and so became the first aerial victory for the Finns over Finnish Soil, and indeed it was the first aerial engagement over Finland in history. The kill was recorded as probably as it wasn't witnessed. 

A Bristol Bulldog of the type used by Ylikersantti Uuttu 

Uuttu reported:-

"I flew southeast of Muolaanjärvi but I did not see any movements so I descended lower. Suddenly I saw tracers flying all around me. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw three I-16s attacking me. I pulled up and left and as they overtook me, I was able to fire a short burst on passing I-16. I hit his engine and saw black smoke coming out of the engine. It started sliding downward smoking. Tracers were flying all around my plane. Suddenly my plane shuddered and when I pulled on stick, it did not move. I considered jumping, but in fear that they might shoot me on parachute I decided to fight it out to the last. I continued evading my attackers using only rudder and aerlions. We had descended to altitude of 200m and when I looked behind, I saw one still shooting. I shut off my engine and tried to make a forced landing to forest. When landing, I pulled with all of my strength on the stick and it moved back a little bit, but then the Bulldog hit the woods and I passed away."

The 7.IAP reported that day one Reconnaissance Aircraft was shot down between 1230 and 1315 at Muolaa. It was claimed by three pilots, Starshiy Leytenant (Senior Lieutenant) Fedor Shinkarenko (Eskadrilya/Flight leader), Starshiy Politruk (Senior Political Commissar) Gabriel Didenko and B. A. Grigoryev. The I-16 that was reported to have crashed appears to belong to Leytenant Petr Pokryshev who was forced to land at Kerrola, Muolaa after suffering engine failure, possibly due to the engagement with Ylikersantti Uuttu.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Introduction to Finnish Military History

The military history of Finland can be divided into four distinct periods. The first period being 'Pre-Swedish Era', the Second 'The Swedish Empire Era', Third 'Grand Duchy of Finland/Russian Empire Era' and the fourth being the 'Independent Republic of Finland/Modern Era'.

The Pre-Swedish Era consists of poorly documented battles, most coming from Nordic Sagas, Germanic/Russian Chronicles and Swedish Legends. Archaeological evidence shows Bronze Age (1500-500BC) Finns specialising in weapons such as the battle axe and swords, there are also indications of hill forts. Viking attacks from Sweden and Norway have been found with runic inscriptions as well as unhistorical sources.

The Swedish Empire Era which began officially ran from 1352 till 1808 in which Finnish soldiers fought in at least 38 wars of note for Sweden. Whether they be during the power struggles of the Swedish Royals or in wars between Sweden and other nations.

During the period in which Finland was known as the Grand Duchy of Finland; we see Finland changing hands from Swedish to Russian rule as a result of the 1808-1809 Finnish War. Fighting on its on soil against the British and French during the Crimean conflict and on the Eastern Front during the First World War.

From when Finland declared its independence in 1917 to present day it has been involved in a civil war, which saw the country torn apart by two opposing factors, the Reds (Communists) and the Whites (Right wing groups, Liberals and centralists, all allied and against Communist beliefs). The Kinship Wars in which Finland helped other Baltic states, the most notable being the Estonian War of Independence. There was also the Soviet Invasion of 1939-'40 which is known as the Winter War, this was soon followed by the joint Finnish and Nazi Germany attack on Soviet Russia (The Continuation War). When the Finns signed a peace treaty in 1944 with the Soviet Union they fought against their former German Allies in the Lapland war. Since the foundation of the United Nations in 1945, Finnish Troops have served in various peacekeeping operations.