Finnish national shield Finnish Armour

By Alun Gallie
During the Continuation War (June 1941 – September 1944) Finnish armoured units were predominantly equipped with captured Soviet equipment.  During this period over 160 captured vehicles were pressed into service with the Finnish forces. Further captured vehicles were used for parts. For example those Vickers 6-ton tanks that had survived the Winter War were rearmed with guns removed from captured Soviet equipment. This led to them being redesignated as T26E with the E indicating English.

During the initial period of the Continuation War the majority of captured armour was organised as a Tank Battalion that had been formed during the period of unsteady peace following the Winter War. By early 1942 approximately 80 T26 of various models were in service and the armoured battalion was upgraded to Brigade status.

During the summer of 1942 this brigade was combined with an elite Jaeger light infantry brigade to form Finland’s first Armoured Division. In addition to the many T26 variants fielded by the Finn’s, they also possessed a number of obsolete T28s and a small number of captured T34s armed with 76mm cannon and 2 of the hulking KV1 series of tanks.

T-26 tank
T-34 tank

The Finn’s were impressed by the T34 and sort to obtain more, eventually receiving a further 3 vehicles from their German allies, despite promises of far more significant numbers.

In the search for greater firepower the Finns converted a number of captured vehicles to create the BT42 assault gun and formed these into an Assault Gun Battalion. These mounted a british made 114mm howitzer on a soviet chassis. The gun had never been intended to be a tank or assault armament and they performed poorly against the superior modern Soviet armour. There is one report late in the war of a number of BT42s hitting a single soviet T34 at least 15 times with no noticeable effect. 

To replace these the Finn’s in 1943 arranged of 30 Stug IIIG assault guns. These however did not arrive in operational units until the late war period.

In May of 1942 the Finn’s purchased six Landsverk Anti II armoured AA vehicles from Sweden and formed them into an armoured AA battery attached to the armoured Division.

During the mid war period the Finnish Tank company consisted of an HQ of 2 T26 variants, an armoured car, staff car and three motorcycles accompanied by three platoons of 5 T26 variants.

This structure applied to the 1st and 2nd companies of the 1st Battalion and the 4th and 5th companies of the 2nd Battalion. The 3rd Company of the 1st Battalion and the 6th Company of the 2nd Battalion were designated as heavy companies and organised as follows.

3rd Company
HQ as normal, 1st platoon 3 x T34, 2nd platoon 4 x T28 and 3rd platoon 5 x T26.

BT-42 asssault gun
T-28 tank

6th Company
HQ as normal (although some evidence suggest command tank was a T50). 1st Platoon is 2 x KV1, 2nd platoon 4 x T28 and 3rd platoon 5 x T26.

The next part of this article will discuss painting and markings of the Finnish armoured division.

Painting and markings.. .

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Last Updated On Thursday, February 26, 2015 by Wayne at Battlefront