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  #1  
Old 05 Oct 17, 12:52
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More obscure part of the WWII: The Magical Night of Tornio

The unforgettable night of between October 1-2 in 1944. But first a little background since i doubt people are that well aware of the related events...



Background....

This event is part of the Lapland War. Which is the third war Finland fought during the WW II. It was required by the allies (i.e. the Soviets) that Finns had to expel Germans from Finland. German attempt to take Suursaari (Gogland) island from Finns was the first notable event. However that alone didn't change much since up in the north neither Finns or Germans were particularly keen on fighting.

Germans basically just wanted to ferry all their material away and then go back fighting the Soviets and Finns, well, just wanted the Germans to go. So the two parties came to an understanding - which is called the 'autumn maneuvers'. Where parties mutually agreed on a timetable: Germans blew up roads and bridges and withdraw - Finns fired some arty at now empty German positions and advanced. Which worked great until Soviets learned of that and required more aggressive chase - while interestingly also simultaneously requiring Finland to demobilize.

Now Finns had a dilemma. Germans didn't want to (or couldn't really) withdraw any faster and Finns had to be aggressive. So something had to be done. Finns had managed to insert a single battalion (Battalion Pennanen, after its commander) to outer port of Kemi, the island of Ajos (see attached map). So the idea was to load some men (a regiment or so) to some ships (civilian tramps) and sail them without any escorts or air cover past the Germans and make a diversion by capturing Kemi. Which was - to put it kindly - a rather bold plan. To make it worse Germans were perfectly aware of the plan so General HQ order it to be shelved. However General commanding Finnish forces on the region decided to tweak it a bit and run it without telling General HQ anything. So the plan was changed to land to Röyttä, the outer port of Tornio. End result shocked every one. Finnish local commanders that it worked, Finnish high command as well as Germans and Soviets that it actually happened.



So back to magic night...

Town of Tornio is somewhat peculiar in a sense since the main part of the town is located on an island in the Swedish side of the Tornio river but it is connected to the Finnish side by a bridge (OTOH, you could just walk to Sweden there - it is an 'island' in a sense that once upon a time a stream separated it from Sweden - not so much any more). In the time period in question the Germans had constructed a supply base on the Finnish side of the river. This 'little Berlin' as they were known as filled materials (generally of non-military sort) that German troops needed, supplies, food. And fair share of alcohol.




As was said the Finnish landing was a shock to Germans. Add to this the distraction caused by the small Finnish uprising in the own of Tornio and you ought to see that Germans we not in any way prepared to handle the Finnish landing. Finns had additionally managed to requisition (a polite term) a train to ferry troops straight from the outer port to the Finnish side of the river facing the town. So while Germans had practically no troops in the region Finns had a while regiment (with another one in tow) and functional train to swiftly move them preventing the roads to the port from being congested.

Just as it seemed that everything was going exactly along the Finnish plan something happened. Finnish troops found the German liquor stock. What followed is - as they say - history. Or what exactly did any one expect when you mix troops fresh from fighting the Soviets, who had not been relieved and demobilized, sent to fight a war they have no interest of fighting, together with trainloads (literally) of alcohol?

First battalion to enter the scene was swiftly out of the count. As was its sister battalion, all along with its CO. Who by the way in his drunken stupor forgot that he had sent some bicycle mounted infantry to flank the enemy (that part didn't end so well). Message swiftly reached the town on the other side of the river too and soon all sort of things were happening. People were ferrying booze on everything that had wheels on them (light anti-tank guns were apparently especially good for this). According to some information a small amount of Germans actually joined the Finns in the drinking fest (despite of just previously shooting each other) during the magical night of Tornio when the war (which had barely begun) halted. Sort of like the WWI football match. But with booze .

Finnish efforts to untangle the mess were not particularly successful since the second regiment sent to contain the drunken escapades of the first regiment had to be contained too . It actually took few days for the military operations on the Finnish side to resume - untangling the mess took some time but then again so took recovering from the hangover as well. So instead of nice quick victory Finns had to actually fight the Germans who used the operational pause on the Finnish side quite effectively to muster forces to oppose the Finns. Finnish efforts were further hampered by the badly organized support of the landing - leaders wanted more men to Tornio which meant that as it happened the Finns had indeed plenty of men in Tornio, just no armor or artillery which put kind of a cramp to operations. Add to this the German attacks against the tramp freighters with Ju87s and even Hs 293 glide bomb carrying Condors.
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  #2  
Old 05 Oct 17, 13:49
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Cool Tell us another then...

I'm sure that this is just one of many similar instances of obscure, strange and one-of-a-kind occurrences that may (or may not) have happened during such a near-universal worldwide conflict as WW2.
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Old 05 Oct 17, 14:03
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Great story.
Alcohol can solve many problems.
Let's have another Pastis to the santé of the Finnish army.
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Old 05 Oct 17, 14:41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jose50 View Post
I'm sure that this is just one of many similar instances of obscure, strange and one-of-a-kind occurrences that may (or may not) have happened during such a near-universal worldwide conflict as WW2.
And indeed in previous wars - for example in Persia in 1812 when a small British army supporting Persia against Russia found themselves opposing their new life long allies and an elaborate diplomatic dance had to be conducted for its withdrawal or in the same wars in some of the Greek islands when British and French commanders shared drinks whilst composing bloodcurdling despatches to London/Paris about the desperate fighting. In the first part of the 19th century during an obscure Anglo American dispute when both sides occupied either end of a relatively small island all the effort appears to have gone into planning joint Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
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Old 06 Oct 17, 04:43
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A most interesting post -as always- but I'm surprised that the incident is considered an integral part of WW2.
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Old 06 Oct 17, 05:51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BELGRAVE View Post
A most interesting post -as always- but I'm surprised that the incident is considered an integral part of WW2.
Many Finns I met in Tampere and Helsinki would swear blind that Finland wasn't in WW2 ! The Continuation War and its aftermath they will tell you was an entirely separate affair that just happened to be going on at the same time. Oh what a coincidence!
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Old 06 Oct 17, 09:04
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A most interesting post -as always- but I'm surprised that the incident is considered an integral part of WW2.
Technically speaking it was part of the Eastern Front
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Old 06 Oct 17, 09:25
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Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Many Finns I met in Tampere and Helsinki would swear blind that Finland wasn't in WW2 ! The Continuation War and its aftermath they will tell you was an entirely separate affair that just happened to be going on at the same time. Oh what a coincidence!
I was there 2 times and i have to say i rarely saw a nation so obsessed with that era. Its Talvisota, jatkosota, lapin sota all day. Also i was told its their national unifying moment after the civil war. Also most likely the the most notable historical event of Finland, given their history can be broke down into; Ruled by Swedes, ruled by Russians, Civil war, the other 3 wars.
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Old 06 Oct 17, 10:05
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Originally Posted by bierbaron View Post
I was there 2 times and i have to say i rarely saw a nation so obsessed with that era. Its Talvisota, jatkosota, lapin sota all day. Also i was told its their national unifying moment after the civil war. Also most likely the the most notable historical event of Finland, given their history can be broke down into; Ruled by Swedes, ruled by Russians, Civil war, the other 3 wars.
Well.. There are the usual Soviet/Russian nonsense stories about those events which have been heard and tend to place people on defensive quite swiftly. The unification part is however quite truthful - the Finnish Civil War was a vicious affair and healing from it took a while but the Soviet invasion brought people to together (see: Spirit of the Winter War and Tammikuun Kihlaus). As to the rest - Finns were not any more ruled by the Swedes than what Swedes themselves were. Sweden considered Finland being part of its central areas and made no difference between Finns and Swedes. Russian rule was a bit different thing.

Easiest explanation: "Swedes we are no more, Russians we do not (ever) want to become, therefore Finns we must be."
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Old 06 Oct 17, 17:13
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Originally Posted by Vaeltaja View Post
Well.. There are the usual Soviet/Russian nonsense stories about those events which have been heard and tend to place people on defensive quite swiftly. The unification part is however quite truthful - the Finnish Civil War was a vicious affair and healing from it took a while but the Soviet invasion brought people to together (see: Spirit of the Winter War and Tammikuun Kihlaus). As to the rest - Finns were not any more ruled by the Swedes than what Swedes themselves were. Sweden considered Finland being part of its central areas and made no difference between Finns and Swedes. Russian rule was a bit different thing.

Easiest explanation: "Swedes we are no more, Russians we do not (ever) want to become, therefore Finns we must be."
Interesting. The composer Sibelius was firstly a Swedish speaker, was he not ?
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Old 06 Oct 17, 18:49
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Many Finns I met in Tampere and Helsinki would swear blind that Finland wasn't in WW2 ! The Continuation War and its aftermath they will tell you was an entirely separate affair that just happened to be going on at the same time. Oh what a coincidence!
I actually agree with the Finns on this one. Stuck between a rock and a hard place.
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Old 07 Oct 17, 05:28
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I actually agree with the Finns on this one. Stuck between a rock and a hard place.
That it was - and relations were not particularly rosy towards either direction by the end of 1930s - contrary to often repeated Soviet era fairy tales. The Finnish approach towards the war that was perceived to happen sooner or later was pretty much: let's sit this one out. Stalin didn't agree.
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Old 07 Oct 17, 06:32
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Old 10 Oct 17, 11:45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BELGRAVE View Post
Interesting. The composer Sibelius was firstly a Swedish speaker, was he not ?
It has transpired that it turns out he was, mostly, yes.

Otoh that quote of Vaeltaja's – "Swedes we are no more, Russians we do not (ever) want to become, therefore Finns we must be" – is from the first head of a national Finnish government, as an Archduchy in the Russian empire, Mauritz Gustaf Armfelt, former court favorite iof king Gustaf III of Sweden, condemned to death in absentia in Sweden at the time for treason, or as the Swedes at the time put it for "becoming Russian".

Just to add to the complexity of the situation, of course Armfeldt actually said it in Swedish.
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