Pohjan Pojat

Northern Boys - Finnish volunteers in Estonia 1919


The armoured car "Pohjan Paika" was conquered from the red troops in Vatseliina on the Petseri-front, March 3 1919.
The white polar bear head was the sign of the Pohjan Pojat Regiment.




 Finnish Volunteer Auxiliary Corps
Field Post

Pohjan Pojat
1 Battalion

Pohjan Pojat

Kenttäposti (Field post) from member of finnish Pojhan Pojat Regiment on the southern front in Estonia (Feb. 1919).
Cachet: * Pohjan Pojat * I Pataljona / Esikunta (Northern Boys /
I Bataillon / Staff) and Viron Vapaaehtoinen Apuretkikunta * Kenttäposti (Finnish Volunteer Auxiliry Corps / Field Post).

Sender: Otto Niemi "Pohjan Pojat" I Battalion I Company.
Arrival mark: Tammerfors/Tampere 25. 2. 1919.


Finnish field post in Estonia
from Hurt/Ojaste

The mail of Finnish volunteer units was handled first between the Estonian Relief Committee in Helsinki and the Finnish Consulate in Tallinn. All mail in both directions was fully prepaid by using the adhesive stamps of the respective country. From February 21, 1919 onward the Finnish volunteers' mail in both directions was recognized as Field Post and free of charge. The only condition for forwarding was that mail arriving from Finland had to have a green cachet of the Estonian Relief Committee in Helsinki. The volunteers' mail to Finland was made postage free earlier by order of the Estonian Ministry of Communication (State Gazette No 3 on January 18, 1919)

The Finns in the Estonian war of Independence
by Veli-Matti Syrjö (extract)

Late in November 1918, as the Russian Bolsheviks launched an offensive to conquer Estonia, the country had no Army of its own. In this situation, the Estonian Government had to turn to foreign powers and make a request for help. Finland also received such request, and the Finnish Government decided to accept the request on 25 November 1918. The assistance promised by the Finnish Government was material: weapons, ammunition and money.

The arms aid of Finland was indeed fast, the first arms load arrived in the port of Tallinn four days later. Because of the tense foreign policy situation, the Finnish Government did not think it possible to send its own regular forces to Estonia. In mid-December, Senator Louhivuori proposed that the Government of Finland take measures to help Estonia. To recruit volunteers and to co-ordinate other assistance as well, the Finnish Aid Committee, later named the Main Committee for the Aid of Estonia, was founded.

An agreement was signet between the Committee and the Estonian Government on 23 December 1918. The Finns bound themselves to form a 2.000-man volunteer unit, divided into two seperate detachments led by Major Eketröm and Lieutenant Colonel Kalm. Due to the very critical situation in Estonia at the end of the year, help had to be send quickly. The Finnish volunteers were summoned to Uusimaa Barracks in Helsinki on 28 December, and two days later the first contingent of 140 men departed on the icebreaker Tarmo for Tallinn. The next groups of volunteers started a few days later, and on 7 January the first whole Finnish volunteer unit had been shipped to Estonia. The troops were immediately engaged in battle action, the first two companies as early as on 5 January. This unit was named the First Finnish Volunteer Unit, and it was commanded by Ekström. The unit was sent to the eastern front of Estonia, where it got involved in battle to seize Valgejõgi. War operations continued with success and ended in the occupation of Haljala and Rakvere on 14 January. Next stage was Narva, where the Finnish troops were the first to arrive on 18 January with the 1st Company commanded by Lieutenant Eskola as the advance party.

After the conquest of Narva the First Finnish Volunteer Unit did not participate in battle action proper and operated as garrison unit in Rakvere. On 22 March, the volunteer unit embarked the icebreaker Väinämöinen in Tallinn, and the men were brought back to Finland.

The other Finnish volunteer unit was Pohjan Poikain rykimentti (Regiment of the Northern Boys). It was assembled immediately after the formation of the First Finnish Volunteer Unit. Its Regimental Commander was Lieutenant Colonel Hans Kalm, an Estonian officer, who with success had participated in the Finnish War of Independence. The regiment included two infantry battalions, a three-battery artillery detachment, a signal detachment, a cavalry detachment, a medical detachment and a military band. The first elements of the regiment arrived in Tallinn on 12 January. At this time a decisive change had happened in the Estonian war of Independence, the troops advancing towards the east were already at a distance of 100 km from Tallinn and a ranger battalion led by Senior Lieutenant Kuperjanov marched towards Tartu, which was taken on 14 January. The Finnish regiment was transferred to the southern front. At the end of January it stood ready in Tartu and impatiently waited for access to the front. General Martin Wetzer, who had been appointed commander of the southern front, ordered his troops to seize the town of Valga on the Estonian and Latvian border. The major part of the combat group consisted of the Finnish regiment and Kuperjanov's ranger battalion operated as its vanguard. The battle of Paju Estate, north of Valga, was decisive. It was defended by a Latvian rifle regiment, a Bolshevik elite force. On 31 January, Paju Estate was taken after hard and fierce fighting. On the next day, the regiment marched without resistance to Valga, but having advanced south of it, became engaged in fighting with delaying Bolshevik troops. The boys of the north won these battles as well.

The Commander-in Chief, General Laidoner had plans to turn the attack eastwards, but the Bolshevik troops that had withdrawn to Latvia seriously threatened the flank of the Estonian Army. The Finnish regiment was assigned to repel the threat, but Colonel Kalm interpreted the order arbitrarily. Against the will of General Laidoner, he led his troops deep into Latvia, where they advanced by train to the vital Bolshevik base, Marienburg. The town was taken after fierce fighting, during which the Finnish regiment displayed great valour. The rationality of the operation can be criticized, the Estonians had to give up Marienburg pretty soon, but it cannot be denied that the pressure on the Estonian southern front was relived, at least temporarily. After seizure of Marienburg, the Finnish regiment was deployed, as reserves, behind the front.

The Northern Boys were equally unhappy about this as the first Finnish volunteer unit had been. Lack of decipline and numerous attempts to return home could be seen. However, the Finns were still engaged in combat action before repatriation. On 11 March, General Laidoner's troops lost Petser, which they had already taken, and the Bolshevik troops advanced to the west. At this stage, the Finnish regiment was ordered to action, at a time when the conditions inside the regiment were anything but good. Colonel Kalm negotiated over the fate of his unit in Tallinn and Helsinki, and Lieutenant Colonel Aarne Snellman acted as the operational leader. Due to the casualties in action and a number of men who had returned home, the regiment was undermanned. On 14 March fighting broke out at Schloss Neuhausen. The estate was seized on the same day, and the fierce fighting continued against the attacking Bolshevik troops, superior in number. The Finns were relieved from frontline responsibility on 28 March. This was followed by repatriation, and the regiment was transferred back home in April 1919, though several of its men remained in Estonia and participated in war operations in Estonian forces.