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HEADQUARTERS March 14, 1940

THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF'S

ORDER OF THE DAY

Nr. 34




Soldiers of the glorious Finnish army!

Peace has been concluded between our country and the Soviet Union, an exacting peace which has ceded to Soviet Russia nearly every battlefield on which you have shed your blood on behalf of everything we hold dear and sacred.

You did not want war; you loved peace, work and progress; but you were forced into a struggle in which you have done great deeds, deeds that will shine for centuries in the pages of history. More than fifteen thousand of you who took the field will never again see your homes, and how many those are who have lost for ever their ability to work. But you have also dealt hard blows, and if two hundred thousand of our enemies now lie on the snowdrifts, gazing with broken eyes at our starry sky, the fault is not yours. You did not hate them or wish them evil; you merely followed the stern law of war: kill or be killed.

Soldiers: I have fought on many battlefields, but never have I seen your like as warriors. I am as proud of you as though you were my own children; l am as proud of the man from the Northern fells as of the son of Ostrobothnia's plains, of the Carelian forests, the hills of Savo, the fertile fields of Häme and Satakunta, the leafy copses of Uusimaa and Varsinais-Suomi. I am as proud of the sacrifice tendered by the child of a lowly cottage as of those of the wealthy.

I thank all of you, officers, non-commissioned officers and men, but I wish specially to stress the self-sacrificing valour of our officers of the reserve, their sense of duty and the cleverness with which they have fulfilled a task that was not originally theirs. Thus theirs has been the greatest sacrifice in this war in proportion to their numbers, but it was made joyfully and with an unflinching devotion to duty.

I thank the Staff Officers for their skill and untiring labours, and finally I thank my own closest assistants, my Chief Commanders, the Army Corps Commanders and the Divisional Commanders who have often transformed the impossible into the possible.

I thank the Finnish Army in all its branches, which in noble competition have done heroic deeds since the first day of the war. I thank the Army for the courage with which it has faced an overwhelming superior enemy equipped in part with hitherto unknown weapons, and for the stubbornness with which it held on to every inch of our soil. The destruction of over 1,500 Russian tanks and over 700 enemy aircraft speaks of deeds of heroism that were often carried out by single individuals.

With joy and pride my thoughts dwell on the Lottas of Finland - their spirit of self-sacrifice and untiring work in many fields, work which has liberated thousands of men for the fighting line. Their noble spirit has spurred on and supported the Army, whose undivided gratitude and respect they have achieved. Posts of honour have also been those of the thousands of workers who, often as volunteers and during air-raids, have worked beside their machine for the Army's needs, or laboured unflinchingly under fire, strengthening our positions. On behalf of the Fatherland, I thank them.

In spite of all bravery and spirit of sacrifice, the Government has been compelled to conclude peace on severe terms, which however are explicable. Our Army was small and its reserves and cadres inadequate. We were not prepared for war with a Great Power. While our brave soldiers were defending our frontiers we had by insuperable efforts to procure what we lacked. We had to construct lines of defence where there were none. We had to try to obtain help, which failed to come. We had to find arms and equipment at a time when all the nations were feverishly arming against the storm which sweeps over the world. Your heroic deeds have aroused the admiration of the world, but after three and a half months of war we are still almost alone. We have not obtained more foreign help than two reinforced battalions equipped with artillery and aircraft for our fronts, where our own men, fighting day and night without the possibility of being relieved, have had to meet the attacks of ever fresh enemy forces, straining their physical and moral powers beyond all limits.

When some day the history of this war is written, the world will learn of your efforts.

Without the ready help in arms and equipment which Sweden and the Western Powers have given us, our struggle up to this date would have been inconceivable against the countless guns, tanks and aircraft of the enemy.

Unfortunately, the valuable promise of assistance which the Western Powers have given us, could not be realised when our neighbours, concerned for their own security, refused the right of transit for troops.

After sixteen weeks of bloody battle with no rest by day or by night, our Army still stands unconquered before an enemy which in spite of terrible losses has grown in numbers; nor has our home front, where countless air-raids have spread death and terror among women and children, ever wavered. Burned cities and ruined villages far behind the front, as far even as our western border, are the visible proofs of the nation's sufferings during the past months. Our fate is hard, now that we are compelled to give up to an alien race, a race with a life philosophy and moral values different from ours, land which for centuries we have cultivated in sweat and labour. Yet, we must put our shoulders to the wheel, in order that we may prepare on the soil left to us a home for those rendered homeless and an improved livelihood for all, and as before we must be ready to defend our diminished Fatherland with the same resolution and the same fire with which we defended our undivided Fatherland.

We are proudly conscious of the historic duty which we shall continue to fulfil; the defence of that Western civilisation which has been our heritage for centuries, but we know also that we have paid to the very last penny any debt we may have owed the West.

Source: Invasion in the Snow. A Study of Mechanized War by John Langdon-Davies. Boston, 1941.

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