View Full Version : Estonians in The Finnish Army during the Second World War

The Ripper
03-13-2010, 12:49 PM

Soomepoisid / Suomen-pojat / Finnish Boys

Finnish Infantry Regiment 200 (Fin.: Jalkaväkirykmentti 200, JR 200), (Est: Jalaväerügement 200, JR 200) was a unit of the Finnish army during World War II made up mostly of Estonian volunteers, who preferred to serve in the Finnish armed forces instead of the armed forces of Germany or the Soviet Union. When the Russians retreated before the German advance from Estonia in 1941, many Estonians were forcefully conscripted into the Red Army, and later Estonians were pressed into service in German uniform. Although initially the Germans were perceived as liberators by most Estonians, it was soon realized that they were but another occupying power. Against this background, the armed forces of Finland, a kindred nation, appeared as a third way, which allowed Estonians to fight for their freedom without having to do so in the ranks of the Germans or the Soviets. Some of the volunteers saw themselves as heirs to the Finnish Jäger troops of World War I, which consisted of young Finnish men making their way secretly to Germany, where they received training and battle experience that enabled them later to play a major role in the liberation of their nation. The Estonian volunteers saw themselves to be on a similar mission. Their motto was "For the freedom of Finland and the honour of Estonia".

Service in the Finnish armed forces

While there had been some Estonian volunteers in the Finnish Army already during the Winter War, the first men of JR 200 crossed the Gulf of Finland in early spring of 1943. It was a dangerous journey to make, as the gulf was ablaze with war and ravaged by storms, and the German authorities did not allow Estonians to cross over to Finland, which also put the Finnish authorities in an awkward position. The first batch of volunteers formed the third battalion of Infantry Regiment 47. In the autumn of the same year, when the German authorities called into service those born in 1925, more volunteers arrived from Estonia. The volunteers made their way over the Gulf independently, or with the help of the "hawks" (Finnish: haukat). The Hawks were Estonian volunteers working for the S-office which was part of the secret service of the Finnish headquarters. The hawks were equipped with speed boats and many of them had served in the reconnaissance unit Erna, also made up of Estonian volunteers, in the early days of Operation Barbarossa.

On February 8, 1944, Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim ordered the formation of the Estonian volunteer regiment, Infantry Regiment 200. The regiment consisted of two four-company infantry battalions (Companies 1–8 ), the 13th Mortar Company and the 14th Anti-Tank Company. On May 4, 1944, there were 1,973 Estonians and 361 Finns in Infantry Regiment 200, including 67 officers and 165 non-commissioned officers. The regiment took part in the defensive battles of summer 1944 on the Finnish front. They were sent to the front, on June 10 1944, as part of the Finnish 10th Division, and they took up positions around the Bay of Viipuri. The regiment became known as "The Finnish boys" (Finnish: Suomen-pojat, Estonian: soomepoisid).

JR 200 in Estonia

In August 1944, the Germans began their withdrawal from Estonia. The war in Finland was nearly over, and the men of Infantry Regiment 200 wished to return to Estonia and continue their fight. The regiment had been withdrawn from the front and had been following the developments south of the water anxiously. On August 1 1944, it was broadcasted over the Yleisradio that the Finnish government and President Ryti were to resign. On the next day, Aleksander Warma announced that the National Committee of the Republic of Estonia had sent a telegram, which stated: "Estonians return home!" On the following day, the Finnish government received a letter from the Estonians. It had been signed in the name of "all national organisations of Estonia" by Captain Karl Talpak, minister Aleksander Warma and several others. In the letter, the Finnish government was asked to send the Estonian volunteer regiment back to Estonia fully equipped.

It was then announced that JR 200 would be disbanded and that the volunteers were free to return home. An agreement had been reached with the Germans, and the Estonians were promised amnesty if they were to return. The men wanted to return armed and as a unit, but if their wishes would be followed was another question. The uncertainty of situation made the decision difficult, but 9 out of 10 decided to return. As soon as they landed, the regiment was sent to perform a counter-attack against the Soviet 3rd Baltic Front, which had managed a break-through at the Tartu front and was threatening the capital Tallinn.


Jowett, Philip; Brent Snodgrass, Raffaele Ruggeri (2006). Finland at War 1939-45. Osprey Publishing. pp. 29–30. ISBN 9781841769691.
Miljan, Toivo (2004). Historical Dictionary of Estonia. Scarecrow Press. p. 275. ISBN 9780810849044.
Uustalu, Evald (1977). For Freedom Only: The Story of Estonian Volunteers in the Finnish Wars of 1940-1944. Northern Publications. ISBN 9780920458006.

Mannerheim's farewell to the Estonian regiment:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/Mannerheim_suomen_pojat_estonian_volunteers_in_fon nish_army_JR200.jpg

"Now that the brave Estonian volunteers leave the ranks of the Finnish Army after a manly battle, they will be followed by the well-wishes of the Commander in Chief and their Finnish brothers in arms - with love and devotion towards the their and their Fatherland's destiny.