Finnish Armour Colours and Markings (Mid War)

Finnish Coat Of Arms

Finnish Armour
Colours and Markings during the mid war period

By Alun Gallie

Finnish painting Guide...

Mid War Finnish Armour...

National Markings

During the Winter War period many Finish armoured vehicles had carried a horizontal white-blue-white striped band around their turrets.

In June 1941 the Finnish armoured vehicles began to display the newly adopted national symbol, the Hakaristi, or hooked cross which was already used by the Finnish Airforce.

Regulations specified size, colour and location of the markings. Armoured vehicles were to display three 32cm high black and white Hakaristi, one on each side and one on the rear of the turret. Local variations and field application however led to a variety of sizes, locations and colours being seen (blue or black).

Despite the regulations the colour and size of the Hakaristi was ultimately decided by the crew. Blue was a common sight during the mid war, but gradually disappeared from use by 1944.
Finnish KV-1 By the middle of the continuation war period the size, colour and location of the national markings had pretty much standardised, with an additional two markings added to most vehicles, one on the front glacis plate and one on the turret top or turret hatch.

One notable exception to the regulations was the temporary armoured detachment formed by 1st Division using captured Russian equipment and commanded by Lt L Torni. His vehicles carried the blue and white Hakaristi and they also featured longer hooks on the arms of the insignia.
Evidence also exists of some of the tanks from the heavy companies having a small flag staff fitted to the turret roof on which a small Finnish flag pennant would be displayed.

Right: Long hook Hakaristi as used by Torni’s unit.
Finnish T-26 on the move Division

During the later period of the continuation war the Finn’s adopted the three headed arrow, the Arrow of Largus, as the badge of its armoured division. This was however limited to use as a cap badge and sleeve insignia of armoured division personal and no evidence of it having been applied to armoured vehicles can be found.

Battalion and Company

No evidence can be found of the use of any battalion level markings by Finnish armour during the continuation war period.

During the early period of the continuation war prior to the formation of the Armoured Brigade, the three companies of the initial battalion carried company symbols on the upper front of the vehicles. These appear to have been either white or yellow in colour.

Right: A company marking can be seen next to the Hakaristi on the hull front. This T-26 is being passed by a much faster bicycle! 

This T-26 is being passed by a much
An earlier model T-26 being towed by a later version

1st Company – Bears Head
2nd Company – Flying Dragon
3rd Company – Skull

When the new brigade size formation was created in late 1942 a new system of company markings was adopted, however many of the older vehicles retained this insignia for a period and later period photos show vehicles with these symbols in addition to the newer and often conflicting company markings.

For example due to reallocation of resources it would not be unusual to see a T-26 featuring a yellow skull with a later 2nd Company marking.

Left: A T-26 with the later company markings.

Upon the creation of the brigade the company marking system was changed. The 1st battalion companies where designated by the use of a geometrical shape in white. Individual vehicle numbers where then displayed inside the geometric shape to indicate tanks position within the company. For example 1st platoons vehicles would be numbered 1-5, second platoons 6-10 and third platoons 11-15. The company commander’s vehicle would display a zero with the geometric symbol.

1st Company – Square
2nd Company – Circle
3rd Company – Triangle

T-34 obr 1941
A T-26 and a MG armed early T-26

Note the third company was designated the heavy company and equipped differently from the other two as described above. Whilst it had fewer tanks it still used the same numbering system with the unfilled position numbers within the platoons not being used.

The second battalion used a fraction system to distinguish between vehicles within platoons. Different colours may have been used to differentiate between the company’s but this has been unable to be confirmed.

Company Commanders vehicles would have been marked as 1/4, 1/5 and 1/6 respectively, whilst within platoons markings would have been:

1st platoon – 1/I to 5/I
2nd platoon – 1/II to 5/II
3rd platoon – 1/III to 5/III

In mid 1943 the Finnish armoured division adopted the German three number system.

A different colour was intended to be used for each company and the number would designate the company (1-6), the platoon (1-3), and the vehicle number (1-5). Zero would be used to indicate HQ vehicles, with the relevant position showing level of command (battalion HQ would be 00X, whilst company HQ would be X0X)

Photographic evidence would indicate that whilst this tactical numbering system was used it did not become widespread, particularly during the midwar period.

A Finn T-26 crosses a temporary bridge
The only company colours I have been able to find information on are:

1st Company – White
2nd Company – Yellow
5th Company - Red
This T-26’s registration number is partially visible. Registration Number

By the midwar period the Finn’s had adopted a new vehicle registration system. Registration numbers would consist of the designator Ps. followed by a one to three number indicating the vehicle model type and a further one to three digit number indicating the individual vehicle number.

This normally appeared in white lettering on the front and rear of vehicles.

The following three digit numbers where used to indicate vehicle models:

T26 variants   161 – 164
T34  231
T28  241
KV1  271 – 272

For example a full registration for a T-26 may appear as Ps. 163-28.

Right: Sample registration of a T-26. 

Sample registration of a T-26
Unofficial Markings

The Finns did not make much use of unofficial markings on tanks during the midwar period. Occasionally a tank would bear a painted nickname or woman’s name on the turret or near the driver vision slot but these where normally quite small and unobtrusive. One notable exception was the T-26 of the 1st Battalion’s commander which proudly bore the nickname VIKU on the left hull side.

Later the Sturmi assault guns carried official nicknames and in the later period of the war the use of kill rings on barrels was seen. 
KV-1 Colour and Camouflage

Until mid 1943 all Finnish armoured vehicles where painted in a single very dark green scheme. Whilst the colour is often referred to as Field Grey it differs quite considerably from the German colour of the same name.  Many captured Soviet vehicles often remained in their Soviet schemes for some time before repainting.

During winter a white wash was often applied to tanks, either completely or in stripes or patterns over the base colour.

A disruptive pattern of winter white wash with blue grey striping was also employed on some vehicles and guns; however evidence of this scheme having been used on tanks is inconclusive. Whilst photos can be found of restored vehicles in this scheme, evidence of actual wartime usage is lacking so they may have been incorrectly applied during restoration.

Following removal of winter white wash in 1943 the armoured division commenced repainting its armoured vehicles in the Finnish three colour scheme that had been used since late 1941 on artillery pieces and soft skin vehicles.

This consisted of irregular patterns of moss green, sand brown and a pale grey. The first two colours where used in approximately equal proportions whilst the light grey at a ratio of approximately 50% when compared to the first two colours.

T-26 in white wash
T-34 in three tone camouflage

The Green and Brown both where of a similar shade and hue and as such the differentiation between the two is often very hard to discern in old black and white photographs.

Left: A T-34 in the three colour scheme, in this black and white photo only the grey is clearly visible.

The six Landsverk Anti II armoured anti-aircraft vehicles obtained from Sweden were maintained in their original Swedish three colour system. A well known photos of a restored Landsverk Anti II at the Finnish Tank museum shows it incorrectly restored in the Finnish scheme, a research error that has been acknowledged and will not doubt be rectified in the future. 

Right: Dion’s BT-42 painted in the Finnish three colour scheme.

The Swedish scheme was applied in a similar irregular pattern to the Finish scheme but in Grey-Green, Brown and Yellow-Brown.

Suggested Colours

Finnish Colour FWP Paint
Finnish Field Grey (very dark green) Reflective/Refractive Green (890)
Captured Soviet Vehicles (prior to repaints) Russian Green (894)
Finnish Three Colour Scheme   
- Moss Green German Camo Bright Green (833)
- Sand Brown German Camo Medium Brown (826)
- Grey Stone Grey (884)
Swedish Three Colour Scheme  
- Brown German Camo Medium Brown (826)
- Grey Green Grey Green (866)
- Yellow Brown German Camo Pale Brown (825)