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Introduction from the Author

    English text references on Finnish tunics have been quite inadequate and until recently, even Finnish language texts have been lacking on the subject matter. Much of the information on these items have been passed by collectors word of mouth or by contacting advanced collectors intrested in this particular field in their native country. This is often more than formidable task as many of the collectors of military uniforms are rather low key and not well known. Also this particular field-Finnish unifomrs -is further complicated by the simple lack of the subject matter, both in physical examples and in written text-especially in English. As each year passes, so many more surviving examples of WW2 tunics pass from circulation or are simply tossed to the rubbish heap by families no longer willing to store these “old things”. Also the subject matter is so far distant from American collectors in regard to Finnish uniforms that fine examples here in the States are few and far between. Some excellent information has been recently published that may help to aid the collector of Finnish issue tunics and shed some light on this subject. The first reference is “Itenäisen Suomen sotilasarvot ja- arvomerkit” - Military Ranks And Rank Badges Of Independent Finland- by Marko Palokangas (reviewed on this site in Tuco's First Shot Reviews) This excellent reference deals more in the area of the books title but is a must for the Finnish uniform/tunic collector. Another excellent reference that should be considered the standard on the wartime military tunics of Finland is “Asepuku M36”-Finnish uniform model of 1936- by Petteri Leino (published Wiking-Divisioona OY - also reviewed onsite). Both of these works are exceptional in detail and scope covering Finnish tunics, rank badges, military branch collar insignia, issue field caps of various models and some obscure accessories like greatcoats and winter clothing in some detail. This article will not nearly go into the exacting details these works have put forward, so the author recommends those interested in Finnish uniforms buy copies of these fine books. Both works are a good mix of Finnish and English, so even the reader not familiar with Finnish need not worry. The photos in both works are meticulously detailed and captioned often bilingually in Finnish and English. These are must have reference books if one is going to pursue this niche of collecting.


The early years

   In the years just after the close of the Finnish War Of Independence (1918-1919), the Finnish nation was faced with the task of not only arming its newly formed army, but also equipping these forces with the necessary field gear, accoutrements and uniforms that would clearly identify the troops of Finnish origin. One key difficulty that arose was that tunics and field uniforms of all sorts and nationalities were seen on the battlefield during the War of Independence and the years immediately following. Altered and even as issued Imperial Russian, German, and Swedish tunics were commonly encountered during the time frame, not to mention the widespread use of civilian clothing could be seen in the field. This made for quite a rag-tag look that was viewed as unsuitable for issue in the newly organized armed forces. This odd assortment of tunics and often the lack of proper rank identification from area to area, often made it diffacult or impossible to distinguish enemy or friendly troops, so field command was very problematic. It was also quite challenging to identify troops that were White Finns and those troops that were Red Finns during the Independence War, as only the addition of white armbands worn on the right sleeve identified friendly Finnish troops from thier Red adversaries.

    The Finns decided to work on a standard issue tunic for all of its armed forces and thus the first true fully indigenous produced Finnish tunic was devised. After a trial and observation of various nationalities tunics, a designed was selected that was very reminiscent of the German/Prussian tunics that were worn by the Jaeger battalion number 27 and by German troops that came to the aid of the "White Finns" during the civil war. These first tunics were designated the model 1918 and model 1919 tunic. The Finnish m/19 tunic was the initial tunic produced for wide scale use by the Finnish military forces. The order for adoption of the new uniform was approved in July of 1918 and 11 months later the in June of 1919 a tunic was approved. These tunics were made in such low numbers and saw such minimal issue, that it is difficult to call these standard issue-production. It is extraordinary to encounter m/19 tunic in or outside of Finland, as most versions of the m/19 tunics do not survive today outside of a few examples being seen in personal collections or found in museums.

  The material of the m/19 was of fine quality and the tailoring of exceptional craftsmanship. These tunics have more of a dress appearance to them and were not suitable for any kind of prolonged field or combat use. The uniforms were also not very comfortable with the high neckline of the collar and the tailored fit of the waist and shoulder area. There are also no exterior cargo pockets of any capacity that a proper combat tunic would need. The appearance of the earlier privately purchased and tailored m/18 tunics worn by high officers and the later approved m/19 tunic was that of a modified Germanic/Prussian dress tunic- being very stiff in appearance. The m/19 tunic was and is much more suited for the parade grounds and officers clubs of the professional officer than in the trenches. The color of the m/19 was that of a light gray with a darker gray or even black high wool collar.. A friend of the commander in chief, Field Marshal Mannerhiem designed much of the adornment of rank insignia and badges. While proposed by Mannerhiem to establish uniformity in the ranks, the job was given to Akseli Gallen-Kallela, his aid de camp. A great sense of style and national imagery was incorporated into his designs in an effort to create a unifying presence among the armed forces personal and the service branches.

Uniformfinnishm19.JPG (75907 bytes)

The very rare Finnish Model of 1919 tunic, one of the only known examples outside of Finland. The cap is of a later model but of the same service branch. Note the color of the piping on the epaulettes and on the edge of the cap.

 

The model 1922 uniform

    A revision was in order that would correct the problems mentioned earlier in the article pertaining to the comfort and function of the m/19 uniform and also would be easier to mass-produce and standardize the look of their military forces. One must remember that the budget for the armed forces of Finland at this time was very small, so any changes were to be practical not only for general use but also fiscally responsible in order to be approved. The decision to improve the earlier m/19 uniform was approved and the subsequent revision was named the model of 1922. This tunic was once again heavily inspired by the German tunics of the time as the previous designs were as the Germanic influence was quite strong in the Finnish military of the day. Many of the founding members, officers, and other such leaders in the Finnish Army and Finnish White Guards (the forerunner of the Civil Guard) had especially intimate ties to Germany or to the German military. These Finns had in many cases served or trained under German authority in World War One and after or had worked in association with German troops who took part in the Finnish Independence Wa,r fighting against the Red Finn forces. The Finnish nation as a whole had deep-seated ties to Germany with aid and purchases from Germany being essential for many years to come.

    The m/22 tunics were designed to be a general issue tunic and were produced in two color variations. The standard color was a steel gray but there was also a blue version issued to those in the naval forces. The Air Force and Coastal Artillery wore a combination of the two uniform colors-generally the gray blouse with the darker blue trousers. The classification and style of rank on these tunics was quite ornate and formal, with great differences between branch of service design as well as diversity in rank insignia. In fact the entire tunic was rather extravagant and this leads to its eventual downfall as a military issue tunic just as its predecessors. It was discovered these tunics were outstanding for formal or garrison wear but were again completely unsuited for issue in the field. While the Finns liked the overall look and style of these tunics, the m/22 would still have to be deemed a disappointment as a combat issue tunic. A lightweight version of the tunic was produced for officers wear in the summer. This was essentially a version of the tunic made with a lighter cotton material. The summer tunic m/22 was worn primarily for ceremonial functions and office work.

Uniformfinnishm22.JPG (69368 bytes)

Finnish Model 1922 tunic, this tunic saw issue with the artillery branch of service as the red piping on the rank insignia on the shoulder boards tell us.

    While the m/22 addressed some of the flaws of the earlier 1919 style with the addition of two large cargo pockets on the bottom of the blouse, the material and fit was again to delicate for prolonged field issue. It did not take long for the Finns to begin the task of finding a replacement again as it was very clear early on in the issue of the m/22 that it would not hold up to more rigorous issue. The Finnish military had to come up with a more plausible design for its combat troops that would be easy to produce, cheap in material and labor costs and of a sufficiently rugged design and construction to be an adequate combat tunic under severe conditions.

    While not as extraordinarily difficult to locate as the personal purchased m/18 or the early m/19 tunics, the m/22 tunics are very rare to encounter today and are prime collectors item to those whose tastes include Finnish militaria. These do appear from time to time but seeing a m/22 tunic for sale is almost unheard of. Most of these will be located in pricey private collections in Finland or in one of the various Finnish history museums. The reason for their rarity is three-fold, as these were manufactured over 70 years ago age is a factor for one. Another is the very low production numbers produced and finally poor storage plays a part. Most commonly the older tunics show heavy mothing and material decay, so to locate and example in the condition as the tunic in the above photo is truly an exception to the norm.

 

Here you see the ornate uniform of an officer in the coastal artillery wearing his model of 1922 uniform and cap. The belt sash was worn on ceremonial occasions as were the decorations on the breast pocket.


The Model 1927 Tunic

In 1926 the problems associated with the m/22 were to be addressed and corrected by a committee under the control of Colonel Lauri Malmberg. The committee had decided that the m/22 was not a feasible choice for the Finnish Armed Forces and a separate combat tunic would need to be designed. It was this decision that led to the development and issue of the Model of 1927 (m/27) tunic. It was decided that this latest tunic would be made of coarse heavy wool and the tunics were to be issued to all branches of service for combat use. This included the Finnish Army as well as the Finnish Civil Guard who often procured their own equipment outside of Army controls and decrees. The primary differences between the Army and Civil Guard issue tunics would be insignia, rank identifiers on the collars, and the addition of the Civil Guard district patch on the left sleeve of those m/27 tunics issued to Civil Guard units. There was also to be a standard color of the tunics regardless of service branch, the color was a brownish green but on early m/27 tunics the brown color is much more obvious than on later produced examples. Sometime in the early to mid 1930's the green color or tint became the more dominant color shade of the wool dye for the m/27. It is not known why this change in color dominance occurred, be it from new material or an official order. Some of the vital improvements over the m/19 were the addition of oversized front breast pockets, an oversized collar that offered some protection from the elements in colder conditions, and an inner watch type pocket for personal items or a field dressing. The tunic was also made with an inner belt for ease in fit for all body types. These are some departures from previous tunics that are very interesting unique features to the m/27 tunic. The m/27 was a vastly superior tunic to the early m/22 for field duty and combat issue. These tunics were strongly constructed and could hold up to almost any duty no matter how vigorous or challenging. The new issue tunics were generally met with approval by troops in the field as these were much more inline for military duty.

uniformcgm27.jpg (64984 bytes)

The M/27 tunic as issued to all branches of the Finnish Armed Forces.  This is an early tunic issued to a Civil Guard trooper showing the more brown tint commonly seen on these first versions of the m/1927 style uniforms

These tunics were meant to be issued as both summer and winter wear and this was one of the first problems to arise with the new m/27 tunic. The problem being that these tunics were quite heavy in construction-material and as such could be uncomfortable to wear in warmer months. There was some limited production of a m/27 cotton light tunic for officers but this was the only deviation from summer to winter issue. Another related problem with the tunic was the cost of the heavy wool used in the construction of the tunic was somewhat cost prohibitive for use in a wide scale manufacturing scheme. The added expense of this heavier high-grade wool began to be looked upon as an unnecessary strain on the already tight military budget. It also seems to have become popular concept in Finland to manufacture a more streamlined tunic, one that would be just as suitable for garrison duties as it would be for field duties. Those that were in charge of such matters felt that the m/27, with its large bulky appearance, was not appropriate for the more "formal" duties a tunic was required to perform outside of the combat theater. The features of the m/27 also took time and money to produce, which also began to be seen as an another task that could be simplified in a more streamlined uniform design. It does appear that the color of these tunics also fell into some disfavor as the pro German leanings of Finland were once again on the rise. It should be noted this rise of pro German sentiment should not be read as in the political and ideological sense but more as an admiration towards the German military of old which played such a key role in the early segments of Finnish history. Many Finnish officers of higher rank had ties to this earlier time of Finnish/German friendship, and it should be noted that several Finnish officers of prominent rank that held positions of authority in the committees developing the tunics had been trained in Germany during WW1.

The insignia on this Civil Guard m/27 tunic have NOTHING to do with Nazi Germany.  These insignia signify the owner was a NCO serving in the Civil Guard district HQ.  The crossed rifles are of course for infantry.  This color shows the later green/brown tint seen on the second production batch of these tunics. This particular example is a 1937 dated example.

For the collector of Finnish military tunics, the Finnish m/1927 tunic ranks as one of the more obscure uniforms one will come across. Private collectors see these sporadically for sale in Finland but for the most part these rare uniforms are locked away from the general public in private collections. It is interesting that most collector's seem to associate the m/27 only with the Civil Guard issue, but this is a misconception as the m /27 was also an essential issue to the Finnish Army. When these tunics do come on the market in many cases they are sold inside of Finnish borders, but at times these will appear infrequently on the international market. They are without a doubt one of the more highly prized uniforms by any collector fortunate to own one of these exceptionally historic tunics. For the Civil Guard collector the Souljeluskunta issued m/27 is hard to top as a central showpiece of their collection.

m27civilguardmarkings.JPG (79965 bytes)

Markings and interior of a Civil Guard M27 tunic.   Here the inner pocket and the waist belt can be seen. By tightening the inner belt this feature gave the tunic a much more cutom fit and appealing look. It also allowed for a general one size fits all type feature as the uniform had some self adjusting capabilty

The beginning of the end for the M/27 tunic was in 1932 as yet another joint committee was established to discuss not only tunics but the redesign of many of the outdated field issue items in the Finnish armed forces. A general modernization was to take place throughout the entire armed forces. It was this commission that recommended that the m/27 uniform also be modernized. These commissions set into motion the research and development of the tunic that was to replace the m/27 - the Model of 1934 (m/34) uniform. This new pronouncement was vital to the Finnish nation, as it was to change the look and design of the Finnish issue tunic for the next 30 years to come.


The beginning of change-1934

     The latest committee acquired current issue combat examples of German, English, and Swedish uniforms through its military attaches abroad. These were to be used in a comparative evaluation in respect the function, color and design of the new Finnish combat tunic. While all were examined in detail, it was the German style tunic that was seen as the model on which to base Finnish production. The style of the British tunic was seen to be inadequate in respect the weather conditions that Finnish troops are faced with along with the brown wool color scheme that was so reminiscent of the Soviet Army's colors. Also the earlier m/27 had relied on the Anglo designs of the 1920's. The Swedish tunic was deemed to be a suitable design but the necessity to obtain the cotton material that was used posed a problem for the cashed strapped nation. It was also obvious that the basis of the Swede design was rooted in the German designs.

     In February of 1934 an order was approved to develop and produce a new limited production trial tunic for field-testing. This model would become to be known as the Model of 1934 (m/34) - most references referring to this as the experimental tunic Model of 1934. These tunics were produced in very limited numbers, being issued to possibly only nine units in the Finnish Army for testing. These units were the Tampere, Pori and Viipuri Infantry Regiments, the Coastal Artillery Regiment #1 and the Field Artillery Regiments #1 and 3. The bicycle battalion #2 and the Uusimma Dragoon Regiment also received the uniform. The last unit was the 1st Airfield wing located at Utti. These first trial tunics were made in two colors-those being gray and a green-brown shade of the earlier m/27 second pattern tunic- this green shade being by far the more commonly encountered. It is believed Germany supplied the wool material used to manufacture these tunics, but this has never been confirmed as fact. As these tunics were made in such small quantities it would be safe to refer to these as more experimental than as an issue tunic. Most units were never fully equipped with the trial uniforms, still wearing a mix of the m/27 with some of the newer m/34s. Small numbers of these did see issue in the Winter War of 1939 and some were even still in service in the 1941-44 Finnish Continuation War, but these were very rare to encounter. Only the lack of proper uniforms during the duress of the times can attribute the issue of these stocks to combat troops. The only examples of these tunics seen in person by the authors was on a trip to the Sotamuseo - Helsinki, Finland in 2001 to observe the preliminary set up of the planned Continuation War exhibit during the summer of 2002. Even evidence of these uniforms in the various reference works that have photos of the m/34 is very uncommon to come across. These tunics made use of a much lighter and less coarse wool than seen in the earlier m/27 tunics and as such the m/34 tunics were quite a bit more comfortable to wear in warmer months when compared to the earlier m/27. The German influence on these tunics could be seen in the design of the open collars that now were smaller and less confining. The collar could also be worn unclasped so that it fell open. A special scarf was worn around the neck much like and ascot with the m/34 tunic giving it a very attractive look. The front breast pockets were now pleated, and the shoulder epaulets were very similar to those seen in the German Army and constructed of the same material of the tunic. The color was also a departure from the German tunic in that its collar was again made of the same material and color of the body of the jacket.

Germanm32.JPG (45383 bytes)

The Finnish prototype model of 1934 tunic as modeled off the German model of
1932 combat tunic. A copy of this tunic was obtained from German sources in
1933 so that an example was on hand to work off. Photo is taken from
"Asepuku m/36" by Petteri Leino.

      The depressing fact about these tunics is that much of the original information of the development and issue has been destroyed or vanished from archival sources. As such there are still some holes in the information that may never be filled. It can be said that the tunic was a great success and a foundation was laid for the next revision to be based strongly on the m/34. This tunic also saw the first wide spread transfer of the rank and service branch identifying patches and badges to be moved from the shoulder boards to the collar. This was a practical move based on two decisions. One was that the shoulder boards were reminiscent of the earlier Czarist designs and influenced and the second is that the ability to identify the rank and service was not practical under combat conditions or if covered by a jacket or coat. With these being moved to the collar and being a patch sewn directly to it, it allowed a quick and easy identification of who was who. The style of the new collar patches was again directly attributed to the German style of rank and service being affixed to the collar in easily recognizable collar and line designs. This tunic in its final design and issue for trial actually stayed in service alongside the m/36, which replaced it until they wore out. Because of the limited numbers produced-perhaps several thousands, and the use through the wars, very few exist today . There are only a few known examples of the tunics themselves in private collections and museums. This can not be said for the field cap, which was adopted for use with he jacket. Because of the ease of manufacture and its all-wool construction many thousands of these were produced and some survive today.

In regard to a summer uniform the reforms of the 1932 committee on equipment upgrades approved a new lightweight cotton blouse for wear in the warmer summer months.

The summer uniform model of 1932. This is a later version from 1935. This first production was made in the same grey style cloth of the earlier m/1922 summer uniform.

    Made in two colors- a light gray heavy cotton cloth and the improved green/brown color of the m/27 tunic, it took the queue from the revised m/27 filed uniform and added two pleated breast cargo pockets with a button closure. Its front closure was by six metallic flat buttons in a hidden seam arraignment. The collar was of a simple fold down construction and made of the same material as the body of the tunic. The sleeves were closed through the use of hidden buttons as well. This tunic had two versions based on the appearance of the rank and shoulder board attachments and color of the material used in construction. The early version used the older m/22 style shoulder boards to identify service branch and rank and was made in a gray color scheme to match the color of the steel gray m/22 uniforms. The slip on shoulder boards slid over the simple cloth epaulette of the tunic, which was fastened by a small lion, embossed button. The color of the shoulder boards was that of a dark gray. Rank was sewn to the collar with the use of gray cloth stripes. The later production versions of the m/32 was in the updated color scheme of the m/27 and new m/34 uniform-that being the green/brown hue. This was also of a heavy cotton construction in exactly the same style as the early model. In accord with the color the rank and service arraignment of the epaulette, the dark gray m/22 boards were omitted in favor of metal pins affixed to the shoulder straps and sewn on insignia for the color in a green color. The m/32 summer tunic was primarily reserved for officers or those of a certain unit or level. This summer blouse proved to be so popular that the equipment and uniform committee decided in May of 1933 to include its issue to general enlisted troops as well. It also decided to expand its issue from a small cadre of units to that of the Infantry and mounted troops like the Cavalry and Bicycle battalions. An order was placed with Armeijan Pukimo (the Army Clothing Store and often abbreviated inside the tunic with a black ink stamping of AP) but very few of the summer blouses were delivered to field units before another switch was ordered in 1936. The stage was now set for the development and manufacture of the improved version of the model 1934 tunic-the model of 1936.

Decisions made-The model of 1936

      The final review and decisions of the 1933 committee and the reports from the field on the testing of the new model 1934 tunic were reviewed and some small changes incorporated to ease manufacture over the 1934 trials version. The two most important changes were the color and the style of the collar. It was decided to deviate from the open lapel style of the German tunic to that of a more traditional style collar of the m/22 style but in a lower height. It was fit with some stiffeners so that it had the ability when clasped to have a more formal look. Two hook and eye clasps were used to accomplish this, although some officers models were equipped with three. The final design of the new tunic of the Finnish armed forces would serve not only as a combat tunic but also a suitable uniform that could be worn in non-combat functions such as garrison duty or as a "walking out" dress. On May 29th of 1936 the order was given for the production to begin of the new m/36 tunic. As soon as sufficient supplies were in store, its issue was to replace all existing styles of uniform in service from that day on. There is some confusion on the decision to revert back to the gray color of the earlier m/22 uniform instead of the approved colors of the m/27 and m/34 tunics of a green/brown hue that was much better suited to field conditions. The outstanding reference book on the m/36 uniform-Asepuku m/36 by author Petteri Leino, suggests that a possible reason for the adoption of the gray color scheme was based on a decision by Lieutenant-General Hugo Osterman. He lobbied that it would help unify the look of the Finnish services as most of the older trousers and some of the summer tunics were already of a gray color. It also would help to alleviate the rag tag look of a mix and match color scheme until the new uniforms could be integrated into all of the branches of service and in reserve. The decision was made that it would not be fiscally responsible to remove the older style uniforms like the m/22 and m/27 from service completely. Instead a transfer of the existing stockpiles of the older uniforms would take place. The Civil Guard and the Border Guard units were to use the older patterns until wear and tear forced their removal from service.

Uniformfinnishdragoonhame.JPG (61898 bytes)

Early pattern m/36 winter tunic on a HRR Dragoon (Hame cavalry) trooper.

 

      The first tunics often were made from existing stores of cloth for the model 1922 uniform and as a result were of a lighter gray color than what was adopted. These early tunics also were often converted from existing store of m/22 tunics and updated to the m/36 specifications. This resulted in not only the lighter color cloth but also the use of buttoned sleeve cuffs in a darker color. As soon as the existing stockpiles of the cloth and uniforms of the earlier styles were depleted by the manufactures, a more uniform darker gray color emerged as adopted.

In keeping with the approved design features of the m/34 tunic, the new m/36 retained the four pockets with scalloped closure flaps on the front of the uniform. Two smaller pockets were placed on each breast with pleated centers. They were closed with two small 15mm copper buttons embossed with the rampant Finnish lion motif. The two lower pockets did not have pleated centers and were closed with the larger 22mm buttons that were used on the main body of the tunic to close the jacket. These six closure buttons were all exposed in contrast to the hidden closure buttons of the summer tunics. The uniform retained the shoulder straps as on earlier uniforms. The were affixed permanently the to shoulder being sewn into the seam of the sleeve. The small 15mm copper finished buttons were used to retain them to the tunic. The early m/36 tunics used the same method of service branch recognition as that of the previous m/22 epaulettes with regard to colored piping along the outer edge of the strap. This feature was also used on the caps with the piping along the front edge of the peak. Some common colors used to identify service branch were green for infantry, red for artillery, magenta for pioneers (combat engineer/sapper), and purple for communications and dark blue and light blue for air force and general staff transportation troops.

      The new m/36 incorporated the same style belt hooks as used on the German tunics and the trial m/34 uniform. These stainless steel belt hooks were attached to the rear of the tunic by two heavy cotton cloth straps in the interior of the jacket. They then were slid out of one of four slits or reinforced buttonhole type openings on the rear of the tunic. They were a great aid in load bearing and holding the tunic belt up when loaded with full cartridge pouches or the bread bag and canteen. These belt hooks and fittings were only made for enlisted men or combat tunics and are not commonly found on officers tunics. Uniforms for officers were generally of higher quality wool and included a lining of varying qualities. In high officers jackets or privately tailored uniforms it is not uncommon to see a full-length silk lining for comfort. The enlisted mans tunic was fit with only a partial cotton lining. It was not an uncommon practice for an officer to have his uniform tailored and manufactured by a private tailor. These tunics are generally of a higher quality in material and manufacture as well as style. While the pattern is the same for each tunic it is common for the cloth color to deviate from tunic to tunic depending what source and what was in stock from the suppliers at the time of manufacture by the tailor. These tunics will not bear the Ink stampings of the army issued and produced uniforms but rather a sewn in private maker label and more often than not the soldiers name on the inside rear of the collar or on the interior breast pocket area.

Uniformbelthooks.JPG (28772 bytes)

Uniformbelthookswithbelt.JPG (41121 bytes)

The belt hooks that protrude through the rear of the tunic in the 3 slits provided for various heights. It allowed for the belt to be supported, especially with a heavy load of ammunition or equipment suspended from it. The top photo shows the tunic with the hooks installed and the bottom illustrates the belt supported by the aluminum belt hooks.

      After the first year or two of production when older styles were updated and material was standardized, the model 1936 tunic was essentially unchanged through the Winter War. The biggest problem to plague the new model 1936 uniform was the lack of them. When the war broke out between Russia and Finland in 1939, the Finnish defense forces were still in the midst of the reorganization and update of equipment and uniforms. The call up of the reserves and the movement of the regular standing army in 1939 saw only 70% of the regular army outfitted in proper uniforms. With the war taking place in winter the issue of proper winter jackets and great coats to the regular army was in even more dire straights, as only 100,000 of 275,000 troops were outfitted with current army issue great coats and cold weather boots. The remaining troops wore either outdated gear or simply home bought or produced clothing. This lack of supply led to the adoption of the so-called "Cajander Uniform" that was a mix and match of some army issue and homegrown clothing and equipment. With this serious problem looming, the clothing manufactures across Finland geared up to supply the troops. By December of 1939 over 45 different clothing manufactures including the state owned uniform producers as well as private makers were involved in contract production of uniforms, boots and great coats for the Finnish Army. By the close of the war in February of 1940 over 200,000 additional wool tunics were produced and an astounding 350,000 new pairs of woolen trousers were manufactured.

      The lack of rank insignia and service branch patches for the collar was addressed after the war. More often than not, rank in the form of small golden colored heraldic roses were attached directly to the collar of an officer in the absence of the newly adopted collar patches that were in short supply due to the strain of the war. In the interim time frame of 1940-1941 between the Winter War and the coming Continuation War of 1941-1944, a great push was made to make adequate supplies of all material for the army. In this time frame some subtle changes took place on the m/36 tunic. The earlier service branch piping was omitted from the shoulder straps so that a general issue tunic could be made. The adoption of the m/36 collar patch to denote service branch made the piping redundant and so it was dropped. The collar patches themselves underwent a minor alteration during the Winter War era 1939-1940. The m/36 patch was sewn to a gray colored background cloth that was then sewn to the collar. The color of the patch with piping was used to denote service branch. The same style was issued to enlisted men and officers. In 1939 an improved version was designed and put into production to replace the m/36 style. These patches often called the m/39 pattern omitted the gray border background and moved the rank emblems from the shoulder straps to the collar patch itself. They were manufactured with enlisted men and the NCOs rank already embroidered in gold colored thread upon the colored service branch background at the time of manufacture. The backing was also changed at this time to a simple light cloth or paper due to material shortages. Later wartime versions were manufactured on a heavy canvas or burlap like material. A separate version that is larger was produced for issue to officers. The officers pattern was normally 10mm longer than an enlisted men's or NCOs pattern. A series of heraldic roses affixed directly to the patch in a horizontal line denoted rank from Lieutenant to Captain used one to three roses. Field officers roses were larger than the staff officers. The patch itself has a single line of piping around the border for enlisted men. For officers the addition of a fir sprig design was incorporated into the piping on the front lower edge of the patch. High officers patches utilized a double row of piping and the fir sprig design. Generals replaced the heraldic roses with small golden lion pins. The time frame to have all patches replaced with the updated m/36-39 version was to be accomplished by January 1st of 1940. This was an optimistic time frame as the older style m/36 patch served on well into the Continuation War, as supply never met with demand and transport to forward units in the early portion of the War in 1941 was slow.

 

 


For dress occasions-the model of 1939

      In 1939 a lighter weight more formal tunic was also developed. While the m/36 was fine for field and parade use, a more formal version was needed for ceremonial purposes or for a formal dress occasion. While the style was similar, the m/39 tunic was intended for dress purposes only and it was reserved for officers use in most occasions. The tailoring of the fit was tighter and the style of the fabric of a higher quality and of lighter construction. The tunic used the hidden button style of the summer tunic on the six front closure buttons as well as the scalloped pockets. Four pockets were included on the dress tunic but the upper two were slanted slightly with dramatically scalloped edges to give a very dramatic impression. The early versions of the jacket used a clip on dark gray wool collar reminiscent of the m/22 tunic. It could be removed prior to washing. This feature was quickly discontinued though as the collar was thinner than the norm and special collar patches were needed. Later versions used the standard m/39 collar patches. These tunics were produced in limited numbers by the army clothing store but in many instances they were privately funded and tailored by the officers themselves.

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Jeager officer wearing his m/39 "walking out" tunic

Wartime changes and substitutions

      Wartime shortages of copper forced the switch in button types from the copper washed versions used on earlier tunics to simple gray painted steel versions. This switch took place in 1941. 1941 also saw some field regulations changed in regard to the use of pinned on metal rank insignia. It was ordered that officers were no longer required to wear the large golden Finnish lion on the shoulder straps in the field. This was done for obvious reasons, as they would tend to attract the unwanted attention of enemy snipers. Other field remedies were the attachment of roses directly to the collar in the absence of the proper collar patches being available. The mobilization of the garment industry in 1939 had finally allowed the production of clothing for the armed forces to meet demand, as by the summer of 1941 enough wool uniforms trousers and summer blouses had been produced or where in stock from existing supply of older versions to finally outfit the standing army. By the winter of 1941, sufficient supplies of the m/36 wool winter tunic were in place to equip very soldier. While the outward style of the m/36 tunic did not change from its inception in 1936 to the early war years of the second world war, constraints on time and the amount and quality of material did play a role in its appearance and interior fittings. As the war progressed the style of wool deteriorated to a much rougher texture. Substitute supplies were needed and different types of production were utilized. This produced a distinct style of cloth that was used on the mid war uniforms. This woolen material almost has a synthetic texture to it and an odd pattern,   collectors often refer to these tunics as a diagonal cloth or diagonal pattern m/36. This was a direct result of the diverse manufacturing sources that the army turned to during the war years.

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Finnish Infantry sargeant wearing the m/36 unifrom and a German produced m/17 steel combat helmet. He is armed with one of the thousands of Russian Tokarev m/1940 semi automatic rifles that were captured during the hostilites of 1939-1944. The SVT-40 double magazine pouch is on his belt. He carries a spare Maxim barrel in its leather carrier on the other shoulder.

 

      The interior of the m/36 tunics also saw some changes, as expediency measure the amount and style of the cloth lining was changed. Early style tunics had almost complete brown cotton linings of a high quality in manufacture and sewing installed. As the war progressed the length of the lining shortened slightly. By the close of the war the lining was often of a lesser quality cotton which was grayer in color than the early brown and the quality of manufacture had slipped some. This can not be completely blamed on shoddy workmanship but rather the sheer numbers of tunics needed. Some shortcuts were sure to be made in the production to meet quota. Other production cost saving shortcuts is evident in the tunics during the later war years. The use of Bakelite buttons came into service during 1943 and replaced the gray painted steel versions used prior. By the close of the war with Russia in 1944, over 675,000 tunics of both winter and summer variations had been produced. This was enough for domestic supply to equip Finnish forces. Imported uniforms were needed as well. More often than not these were used in training and rear echelon forces. Quantities of tunics were pledged/donated by Britain during the Winter War as war aid. While welcome additions to the thin supply lines, these uniforms did not arrive until after the close of hostilities. Another factor in these uniforms was the color-a brown wool that closely resembled the color of the Soviet uniforms of the day. Not the best choice for your front line troops to be easily confused with the enemy and suffer casualties from friendly fire. These uniforms were relegated to barracks duty in the training facilities. Another source of uniforms in a large scale was that of a supply obtained from Germany in 1941 and another batch in 1942. These tunics often were issued to troops after receiving a Finnish property stamp and sizing information in ink on the interior right side. Petteri Leino author of Asepuku m/36 indicates that some of these uniforms had the German pebble grain buttons removed and replaced with Finnish buttons.


The summer version of the m/36

 

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A summer tunic of 1941 with the infantry insignia of crossed rifles embroidered on the shoulder epaluutes of this officer. This is a fairly rare circumstance on the summer tunics with most service brance insigina missing or of the brass pin type.

     

      The m/36 summer uniform was approved at the same time of adoption for the wool winter tunic. The same approved time frame of May thru September was aging the order for use on the cotton blouse. In regard to looks the m/36 was a close copy of the earlier m/32 that it replaced, with its primary differences in the type of the cloth and the color that was a lighter gray than previously used. The new color was actually a result of the salt and pepper weave of the light almost white and darker gray thread. The other obvious difference was the alteration to the sleeves. The earlier m/32 used a fitted type sleeve design with a double button closure at the wrist whereas the improved m/36 used a hidden button closure at the sleeve with the buttons arraigned in a horizontal fashion for two sizes of fit. In keeping with the new regulations on rank and service branch recognition, the m/36 used the same colored piping on the shoulder straps as that of its heavier cousin the wool winter version. It also used the same m/36 and later m/36-39 collar patches as that of the wool uniform. These changes were in effect until the Continuation War broke out in 1941. At that time in an effort to produce a more uniform tunic in both winter and lightweight versions, the colored shoulder strap piping denoting service branch was dropped. This allowed cost savings as well as a tunic that could be made for all soldiers and the service branch later identified by the collar patches as intended.

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A Cavalry sargeant taking a rest at the ammuniton resupply depot in his summer uniform. Armed with his special "short" m/27 cavalry carbine and a Hungarian supplied m/1935 steel helmet.

      The sleeves on the m/36 summer blouse were also ordered changed in 1941 to that of a straight sleeve design, again to ease and speed production. This change however did not take effect as rapidly as the omission of the shoulder strap piping. Although ordered in 1941 it is apparent from the authors collection that many of the makers of the m/36 summer blouse did not take heed of the order. Upon examination of several tunics, it is apparent that the sleeves continued to be made with buttons up until the early portion of 1943. This can be attributed to the many makers that were contracted to the government to produce the tunics, but many of the summer blouses that are dated 1942 and 1943 are actually from the Army Clothing Store or Armeijan Pukimo (AP marking). One other unique feature of the m/36 summer uniform was the addition of a seventh button on the upper left breast area of the blouse. This extra button was authorized only for the troops that were serving on the Carelian Isthmus theater of operations. It allowed the tab that closed the tunic at the throat to be folded back and buttoned, thus allowing the collar to be held in the open position. It is a fairly rare trait to find on the tunics that survive today. This order was given from above so it was not a field decision. Perhaps it was a way of giving the troops the added recognition that they deserved from serving in the front lines of the combat zone. The m/36 retained the two-pleated breastpockets of the m/32. No lower large cargo pockets were added on the summer blouse in contrast tothe woolen winter tunic.

 

 


Great coats

      In addition to the uniform reforms of 1934 it should be noted that the winter wear of the Finnish army enlisted man and professional career soldier was of Army issue great coats. Other varieties were issued like the m/22 sheepskin and sheepskin lined oilcloth but those were of special circumstance and issue to certain units like the Cavalry and Artillery units and not the norm. The primary great coat of the Finnish Army came into use with the m/22 uniform. This great coat was calf length and made of heavy coarse wool. The interior was lined in a cotton cloth as on the uniforms but officers of higher rank had partial silk linings. Private tailored greatcoats often used higher-grade wool and lining material full length. The m/22 greatcoat was made of medium gray cloth and used a darker gray wool for the collar and sleeve cuffs. This was later dropped and the 18cm cuffs were made of the same material of the coat. These m/22 great coats served on up into the wartime period with the m/36 uniforms. The m/27 uniform had a great coat as well in the matching green/brown wool color of that particular uniform. I have never seen a m/27 greatcoat in person or in a collection so I assume that the greatcoats went on to serve in the same capacity of the uniforms, seeing service with the Civil Guard and the Border Guard until they simply wore out. The m/22 great coat was closed with six buttons down the front in a double row. The one set serving only as ornamental. The rank and service branch was again displayed on the shoulder boards. These were the stiff variety as on the uniform and had colored piping to denote service. Often times these shoulder boards, especially in high officers were quite ornamental with the golden braided covering. Officers also were afforded the addition of rank bars embroidered or sewn on the sleeve ends of the greatcoat for easy identification.

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Model 1922 greatcoat.

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Makers marking from a private purchase m/36 greatcoat. Continuation War era.

 

      As this greatcoat was made in large numbers, many of them went on the serve into the wars with minor modifications. The shoulder straps were changed in most cases and simple gray wool ones replacing the stiff m/22 style. The m/36 great coat followed the same pattern as the m/22 but was simplified in construction. The shoulder straps were now of the same material as the coat itself, the buttons were again arraigned in double rows of six and closure was done on the right side by overlapping the ends and buttoning the coat. Early greatcoats had a button closure on the rear kick pleat that allowed it to closed all the way down when on guard duty or when standing. It could be unbuttoned though for march or ease of running when extra space was needed for movement. Again the m/36 greatcoats were well made with silk and cotton linings for the ranks. But as with the uniform the amount of care and quality of the coat deteriorated as the war progressed. The author has in his personal collection an example made in 1944 for enlisted use. When examining the coat what strikes you is the poor quality of the wool and its thin construction. It appears to be no more than a woolen blanket with raw edges and arms sewn in. Quite a departure from the exquisite construction and appearance of a m/22 officer coat! There were other greatcoats made in the m/36 such as a the cotton raincoat and oil cloth version as often issued to naval units but these fell largely into voluntary issue and are not encountered in any quantity or frequency today. They are prime collectables for the uniform connoisseur. Instead of rank stripes sewn to the sleeves of these two greatcoats, two buttons as on the m/22 fur jacket fastened the rank stripes onto the sleeve ends.

 


     Boots

 

With the accords of 1934 in uniform upgrades and equipment modernization, came the introduction of new footwear for the m/36 uniform. No less than five different versions were tested for use. The standard high calf type leather boot with sewn leather sole was standard issue. An ankle height boot was also approved. Many of the early boots used wooden studs on the sole like hobnails but these quickly wore down and it does not appear that they were replaced. Another version of the calf boot was a half felt version for winter use. These boots kept the shoe portion leather but the upper half was fabricated in black felt/wool material. These boots used a rubber sole. The use of Laplander style boots was fairly common amongst the Civil Guardsmen but Army stores began to produce a generic version for issue to ski troopers during the war. If footwear was not avialable to the troops it was not uncommon for civilian gear to be worn in the field. The last version of the boot was strictly a winter version. Felt boots were fine insulators and prizes possessions. Most of these boots came into Finnish service with their owners as home versions or in most circumstances when their original Russian owners were no longer in need of them.

lapandleatherboots.JPG (58683 bytes)

 

"Lapp" boots on the left with the distinctive curled toe for engaging the cross country ski bindings and a pair of black issue boots of the Army on the right. The Lapp boots are also of Army isue but modled after the local boots. Many times the Lapp boots had a large flap to fold up the leg to prevent deep snow from entering the top of the soldiers boot.


m/36 caps

    The caps worn by the Finnish soldier really remained unchanged throughout the history. The first caps or m/22 styles remained in service throughout the war as summer and dress versions for the troops. Minor alterations were made in construction and color and the style remained virtually unchanged. It was of a minor peaked shape and used a leather chinstrap that was often worn up on the brow. The m/22 was intended to be replaced by the all-purpose m/36 cap but it never was. A m/27 cap was designed for use with the m/27 tunics. It had two large sheepskin lined flaps that were folded over the top of the cap and buttoned together. In foul weather the flaps could be drawn down and buttoned under the chin if need be. The cap was not suitable for summer use and the m/22 served on in that capacity. In 1934 an all purpose cap was designed to replace all older caps in service for all seasons. This cap looks the part of a wool ball cap and retained the ear flaps of the m/27 but now unlined and in the same wool material of the cap. The flaps fastened at the front with two small 15mm lion embossed buttons. For winter wear a separate quilted liner could be snapped into the inside of the cap for added insulation. The liner of the cap was in cotton or a silk like quilted pattern. The sweatband was leather. These caps are quite rare today. As both the m/34 experimental and the new simplified wool m/36 cap, which deleted the snap in liner but was essentially the same style of the m/34. Besides the snap in liner the other primary difference is the length of the bill in the front. It is slightly longer on the m/36 than on the m/34.The m/36 cap retained the leather sweat liner of the m/34 on early versions but by the wartime, shortages had forced the sweatband to be changed to a coarse weave cotton band. The interiors of the m/36 cap did not use the quilted lining of the m/34 but replaced that with a gray soft cotton cloth.

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      Both of these all season caps were hot in the summer months and so in breach of regulation, officers often continued to wear the m/22 style instead. This prompted a change and in 1939 an updated version of the m/22 was made to correspond with the new m/36 uniform. Made of lightweight cotton it was designed to have no chinstrap. This design was however quickly abandoned and a chinstrap was added later. In keeping with the practice of branch recognition, the m/39 also had piping in the color of the service branch along the front seams. This was dropped later in the war in favor of an all wool cap. 1939 also saw the adoption of a fur winter cap. Made of heavy gray wool and sheepskin inner, it had flaps that tied at the top to hold them up. The front brow flap was attached in the up position with a small metal snap. Markings on all of the caps were much like those of the uniforms, done in ink on the inside top of the cap. The m/39 winter cap was also commonly marked behind the front flap.

Insignia worn on the caps was that of a simple pressed steel blue and white cockade for enlisted men and a enameled heavier version with a gold edge for NCOs. Officers as well prior to 1939 used the enameled version but the order was given for a specific officers cockade to be issued. So after 1939 the enameled heavy version of the cockade would be for NCOs only and the newly adopted golden lion cockade on a red enamel background was issued. This would be worn in place of the blue and white cockade that was issued earlier. It is not uncommon in photos of the early war years to see officers wearing both he blue and white cockade and the red enameled version together.


 

Conclusion
As this article was more of a quick introduction to the major uniform styles of the Finnish Armed Forces from 1919 to 1945, there is so much more to learn if you are interested. This field of collecting is rapidly disappearing and without the preservation of these historic garments much of the information will be lost when it passes on. As collectors of Finnish combat gear and uniforms, it is the intent to preserve for histories sake these pieces of the Finnish soldiers past for generations to come. It is hoped you enjoyed the article. For more information please look into the two excellent collectors references listed in the beginning of this article.

Best regards in collecting!

Vic Thomas

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