Your Holiday Essentials
This tour follows the fortunes of the Ninth Soviet Army attempting to cut Finland in two at its narrowest point in time for Stalin’s 60th birthday. Ex Parachute Regiment colonel and historian Robert Kershaw uses his Arctic training background and broad military experience to explain the nature of this amazing victory against seemingly insurmountable odds. Both he and local guides help to explore numerous off-road conflict areas, where Finnish ski troops cut and blocked these roads, and show evidence of old and renovated bunkers and trench networks where both sides dug in, and explain what it is like to fight and live in sub-zero conditions. All this is conducted amid the stunning scenery of the land of the ‘midnight sun’, where little has changed in over 75 years. You will appreciate the myriad of lakes and fast running rivers, which aided the Finnish defence. This is wild Taiga land with much evidence of reindeer, elk and wildlife.
When Stalin signed the Soviet non-Aggression Pact with Hitler’s Nazi Germany in August 1939, Eastern Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were annexed within the Soviet sphere of influence. Finland realized she would be next and prepared. At the end of November five Soviet armies invaded Finland from north to south. Temperatures dropped to as low as -40° as road-bound Soviet mechanized troops were sliced up into isolated segments by Finnish ‘motti’ ski-borne detachments. These attacked like a ‘white death’ from the fir forests on either side of the roads and, aided by the cold, hunger and fear, the Finns harried the Russian columns to extinction. David won this particular Goliath contest and the Russian 44th , 163rd and 54th Divisions virtually ceased to exist. Although they would lose the subsequent war of attrition, the Suomussalmi and Kuhmo victories were an iconic morale, as well as physical, uplift for the Finns.
- With soldier-historian Col Bob Kershaw
- The stunning scenery of the land of the midnight sun
- Unspoilt battlefields with extant debris
- Helsinki’s military past
Day 1 - Outward travel
Fly London to Helsinki from where we catch a domestic flight to Kajaani and transfer to our hotel in Suomussalmi for two nights.
Day 2 - Suomussalmi
After an introduction to the battles in the region we visit Juntusranta battlefield where the Soviet 163 Division was defeated on the Palovaara road. Lunch at Arola, the place where the Russians first attacked in November of 1939. Returning to our hotel you may wish to avail yourself of a Finnish Spa before dinner at nearby Wanha Kurimo, an old, unique, Finnish farmhouse.
Day 3 - Battle of Raate Road
Drive to Raate where the Soviet 44th Division suffered entrapment and annihilation along the Raate road. We visit the Russo- Finnish frontier post on the border with its Winter War Museum, original and restored trench and bunker systems and monuments dedicated to both sides. Continue to Kuhmo and check in to our hotel for two nights.
Day 4 - Battle of Kuhmo
Today we are joined by a local Finnish military historian with whom we tour the Kuhmo battlefield including restored and original battle positions and museum. We enjoy a forest picnic lunch.
Day 5 - Kajaani and Helsinki
We visit the impressive ruins of the northernmost stone castle built in the world, at Kajaani, en-route to the airport for our flight to Helsinki. Check in to our central Helsinki hotel for three nights.
Day 6 - Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
We catch the 20 minute ferry to explore this magnificent UNESCO world heritage site, one of the largest maritime fortresses in the world. There a number of museums of interest which trace the history of the islands, their fortification and contain a wealth of military equipment including Vesikko submarine from WW2.
Day 7 - Helsinki
We take a guided tour around Helsinki old city centre and visit the Mannerheim Museum dedicated to Baron Gustaf Mannerheim, the one-time president of Finland and leader of their successful defence against Russia. This afternoon we visit Helsinki’s Military Museum with its Winter War exhibits.
Day 8 - Home
Return flight to London.
Recommended Reading List
- A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940
- Finland at War: The Winter War 1939-40
- The Winter War
- The Winter War - DVD
- War of the White Death: Finland Against the Soviet Union 1939 - 40
Your Holiday Essentials
Take a look at some of the images taken on our most recent tour