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Swedish Intervention in the Winter War
Part of Winter War and World War II
Swedish soldiers inspecting a destroyed Soviet tank
Swedish soldiers inspecting a disabled enemy tank
Date 12 January – 13 March 1940
(2 months and 1 day)
Location Eastern Finland
Result End of the Winter War with the Moscow Peace Treaty
Cession of the Gulf of Finland islands, Karelian Isthmus, Ladoga Karelia, Salla, and Rybachy Peninsula, and rental of Hanko to the Soviet Union

</tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Belligerents</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden
Flag of Finland.svg Finland
Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark
Flag of Norway.svg Norway

Minor support from:
Flag of France.svg France
Hungary Hungary
Flag of Italy (1861–1946).svg Italy
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union
Flag of the Karelo-Finnish SSR.svg Terijoki Government </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Commanders and leaders</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">Sweden Ernst Linder
Finland Carl Gustaf Mannerheim
Finland Kurt Martti Wallenius
Finland Voldemar Oinonen </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">Soviet Union Joseph Stalin
Soviet Union Kirill Meretskov
Soviet Union Kliment Voroshilov
Soviet Union Semyon Timoshenko[5] </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Strength</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">10,397 men: Sweden 8,402
Denmark 1,010
Norway 895
Finland 13 tanks
Sweden 26 aircraft
Multiple Finnish army battalions </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">20,000-30,000 men
58 tanks
29 aircraft in combat </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Casualties and losses</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">523:
245 killed
250 wounded
28 captured
6 fighters lost

</td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">891:
640 killed
203 wounded
48 missing
9 tanks
4 fighters shot down
2 fighters damaged
6 bombers shot down
2 bombers damaged
7 more aircraft shot down
8 more aircraft damaged </td> </tr></table> The Swedish Intervention in the Winter War was a short-lived but successful attempt by the Swedish Volunteer Corps, along with other Nordic volunteers, to prevent a Soviet invasion of Finland during the Winter War. The volunteers only engaged in a few skirmishes on ground and in the air, the only major battles they participated in being the battles of Salla and Honkaniemi. The term "volunteers" have often been used to describe the Nordic military support for Finland in the Winter War, although involvement by the government of Sweden has been debated over time. Nevertheless, the Swedish military sent enormous amounts of aid to Finland, including:

  • Approximately 2,000,000,000 crowns (US$ ~312,658,890) of financial aid - twice the size of the Finnish defense budget at the time
  • 50,013,300 rounds of small arms ammunition
  • 135,402 rifles
  • 450 light machine guns
  • 347 machine guns
  • 301,846 artillery shells
  • 144 field guns
  • 92 anti-armor guns
  • 100 anti-aircraft guns
  • 300 sea mines
  • 500 depth charges
  • 83 motorcycles
  • 83 cars
  • 350 trucks
  • 13 tractors
  • 17 fighter aircraft
  • 5 light bombers
  • 1 transport aircraft
  • 3 reconnaissance aircraft


The Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union began in November 1939 after the Finnish government had rejected the Soviet claims to the Karelian Isthmus and all islands in the Gulf of Finland, as well as a demand to dismantle the defences in Finnish Karelia.[6][7] Finland at the time was only officially allied with Estonia,[8] as Sweden had rejected participation in the anti-Soviet alliance.[9] The casus belli for the Soviet invasion was a claimed Finnish attack against the Russian village of Mainila, although it was later revealed that this was a false flag action conducted by the military of the Soviet Union.[10][11]

The battle of SallaEdit

The battle of Salla was fought by Finnish-Swedish forces against the Soviet Union, beginning with a massive Soviet attack against the outnumbered Finnish defenders. Major General Kurt Martti Wallenius, the Finnish commander, ordered his men to retreat up the Kemijoki river where a defensive line could be easily maintained. After numerous suicide charges by the Soviet army, the sudden arrival of Swedish, Danish and Norwegian troops forced a Soviet withdrawal with heavy casualties of up to 500 men, compared to 187 among the Finns and 23 among the reinforcements.

The battle of HonkaniemiEdit

The battle of Honkaniemi was fought between Finnish and Soviet forces on 26 February 1940 and was the only tank battle of the Winter War. The Finns were supported by Swedish, Danish and Norwegian volunteers from the Nordic volunteer corps and had an unknown amount of infantry at their disposal (although it is known that they were much fewer than their Soviet enemies), as well as 13 Vickers 6-ton tanks. The Soviet corps of 58 tanks was able to beat back the attackers, losing 3 (Soviet sources) to 9 (Finnish sources) of their armored vehicles while Finland and its allies lost six. Added to that, 87 Finns and 140 Soviets were killed in the battle, while no casualties were reported among the volunteer corps. Although the Soviet casualties were larger than that of their adversaries, the Finnish colonel Voldemar Oinonen ordered a full retreat when he begun to doubt the chances of defeating the enemy.


  1. Edwards (2006), p. 93
  2. Edwards (2006), p. 125
  3. Manninen (2008), p. 14
  4. Trotter (2002), p. 204
  5. Commander of the Leningrad Military District Kiril Meretskov initially ran the overall operation against the Finns.[1] The command was passed on 9 December 1939 to the General Staff Supreme Command (later known as Stavka), directly under Kliment Voroshilov (chairman), Nikolai Kuznetsov, Joseph Stalin and Boris Shaposhnikov.[2][3] In January 1940, the Leningrad Military District was reformed and renamed "North-Western Front." Semyon Timoshenko was chosen Army Commander to break the Mannerheim Line.[4]
  6. Jowett & Snodgrass (2006), p. 4
  7. Trotter (2002), pp. 14–16
  8. Turtola (1999a), pp. 33–34
  9. Turtola (1999a), pp. 21–24
  10. Edwards (2006), p. 105
  11. Turtola (1999a), pp. 44–45

See alsoEdit

  • MILITÄR HISTORIA issue 3 of 2013, pages 24–29 (primary source for this article)

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