Finland 1939

Finland 1939

The Winter War

Battlefield ToursHistory

1st - 8th August 2021
(8 Days)

Expert Historian : Col Bob Kershaw

Tour price: £3,150

click here to book

Finland 1939

The Winter War

Battlefield ToursHistory

Your Holiday Essentials

1st - 8th August 2021
(8 Days)

Return flights from London, 3 and 4 star hotels, buffet breakfast, 6 lunches, 3-course dinner with drinks on 6 evenings, all entrance fees and expert guide throughout.

Activity Level: 2

Expert Historian: Col Bob Kershaw

Tour price: £3,150

Single supplement: £275
Deposit: £300
Price without flights: £2,950

Booking open

click here to book

Interested in this tour but not ready to book? Register your interest using the link below and we will keep you updated on the progress of the tour.

click here to register your interest

Tour Introduction

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.

Background

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 ‘motto’ segments by Finnish 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 a physical uplift for the Finns.

Highlights

  • 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
  • Explore the magnificent UNESCO world heritage site, the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
  • The battle of Suomussalmi
  • The battle of Raate Road
  • Examine the Russian 54th Division’s twin thrust towards Kuhmo
  • A full day exploring Helsinki including the old city centre, the Mannerheim Museum, cathedral & more
  • Explore the Kuhmo Winter War Museum
  • Follow the Finnish fighting withdrawal along the Palovaara
  • Walk the Finnish defensive Kuusijoki Line

What's Included

  • Return flights from London
  • 3 & 4 Star Hotels
  • Buffet breakfast each morning
  • 6 Lunches
  • A three-course dinner party on 6 evenings hosted by your expert historian and tour manager
  • Two drinks i,e wine or beer with dinner each evening and a welcome drink on first evening
  • Dedicated Tour Manager
  • Entrance fees for all site visits
  • Local travel in modern, comfortable, air-conditioned coach
  • Pre tour information booklet
  • Access to the Cultural Experience app
  • Helpful and friendly travel advice
  • The company of like-minded travelers

Itinerary

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 - Battle of Suomussalmi

After an introduction to the battles in the region we head for the border at Arola where the Russians crossed in November 1939 and discuss the subsequent fights around Ruhtinansalmi. We then follow the Finnish fighting withdrawal along the Palovaara to Suomussalmi and then see how the Finns surrounded and defeated the Russian 163 Division forcing it to retreat over frozen Lake Kiantajrvi.

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

We examine the Russian 54th Division’s twin thrust towards Kuhmo. We see sites of the Russian ‘mottis’ (encircled defensive positions), walk the Finnish defensive Kuusijoki Line, discuss the annihilation of the Russian Dolin Ski Brigade at Kesseli-Kalkanen. This evening we enjoy an evening wild-life expedition where we may be lucky enough to see brown bears, wolves and wolverines.

Day 5 - Kuhmo and Helsinki

This morning we visit the Kuhmo Winter War Museum and then head 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. Here we find the military museum (with its Winter War exhibits) and other museums of interest that trace the history of the islands, their fortification and contain a wealth of military equipment. Dinner is not included this evening and you are free to find your own restaurant. There is also the option to dine with your tour manager and historian at your own expense.

Day 7 - Helsinki

We spend the full day exploring Helsinki including the old city centre, the Mannerheim Museum, cathedral, the National History Museum, the old market and the waterfront.

Day 8 - Home

Return flight to London.

Recommended Reading List

Col Bob Kershaw

Col Bob Kershaw

Colonel Robert Kershaw joined the Parachute Regiment in 1973 and commanded 10 PARA. He attended the German Staff College, the Fuhrungsakedemie, and served alongside the Bundeswehr. An established historian, he has published twelve books, written many articles in the national press and featured in numerous TV documentaries. He is an internationally acknowledged expert on the Eastern Front, his books: War without Garlands, the story of Operation Barbarossa and Tank Men, about World War II tank crews, being published in both English and Russian. Click here to view his website.

Photo Gallery

  • The group visiting WWII submarine “Vesikko” on Suomenlinna
  • The Finnish War Cemetery at Suomussalmi
  • The border post where the Soviets first invaded in Dec 39
  • Site near a critical battle after which the Red Army were forced to flee
  • Russian tank in the Winter War Museum along the Raate Road
  • Russian Memorial on the Raate Road
  • Memorial at the site of the first skirmish
  • Bob briefing the troops on the Soviet invasion
  • A Russian tank in the Winter War Museum along the Raate Road
  • 105 Bells Top - the War Memorial at Raate Road

Your Holiday Essentials

1st - 8th August 2021
(8 Days)

Return flights from London, 3 and 4 star hotels, buffet breakfast, 6 lunches, 3-course dinner with drinks on 6 evenings, all entrance fees and expert guide throughout.

Activity Level: 2

Expert Historian: Col Bob Kershaw

Tour price: £3,150

Single supplement: £275
Deposit: £300
Price without flights: £2,950

Booking open

click here to book

Interested in this tour but not ready to book? Register your interest using the link below and we will keep you updated on the progress of the tour.

click here to register your interest

Tour Review

Take a look at some of the images taken on our most recent tour

Photo Gallery

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