During WW1 the Finns provided a battalion of volunteers to help the Germans.
This early battalion, which was the basis of the Finnish Defense Force was designated
as the Royal Prussian Jager-Battalion No. 27 and participated between 1915 and 1918.
In March 1941, Finland agreed to a German request that a volunteer unit be formed within
the Waffen-SS to give its troops modern military training techniques. The only stipulation
by the Finnish Government was as follows: 1. No oath of loyalty to Adolph Hitler was to be
sworn, oath to the Supreme Commander "Hitler" of the German Armed Forces was substituted.
2. Finns were to be deployed against the Soviet troops. 3. No Finnish volunteers would
be required to serve more than 12 months (re-enlistment was left up to the person).
4. The Finnish Government reserved the right to withdraw the Finnish volunteers from the front
after two years of service.
The recruitment of volunteers was held a secret in Finland.
About 1200 volunteers were recruited in Helsinki under the cover up recruiting operation as
Engineer Bureau "Ratas" (wheel). Finnish volunteers were shipped to Germany in small groups
between early May and June of 1941. On 23 May 1941, a contingent of 326 men went to Heuberg,
Germany for training. After completion they were distributed among all units of the Wiking
Division. By 19 June 1941, 834 Finns became part of the newly established "SS Freiw. Btl.
Nordost" (SS Volunteer Battalion Nordost) where it underwent formation and training in Vienna.
On 15 October "Nordost" was transformed into the "Finnische Freiwilligen Bataillon der Waffen-SS"
(Finnish Volunteer Battalion). From 15 June to 2 December 1941, the Finnish Battalion was trained
at Gross-Born training grounds. This Finnish Battalion was organized into three infantry companies
and one motorized company and placed under the Command of SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Hans Collani.
These volunteers wore Finnish made national shields on their left forearm. In 1943, the Germans made an
official shield that was issued to the battalion. A sleeve cuff title with
the inscription "Finnisches Frw. Bataillon der Waffen-SS" was made but never issued.
In January 1942,
the Finnish Battalion was incorporated into the III SS Rgt. "Nordland," which joined the Wiking
Division near the Mius River in southern Russia. By late summer 1942, the Finnish Battalion along
with the Wiking Division was sent to the Caucasus Region in order to take the oilfields. On 16
September 1942 a replacement of 200 Finnish volunteers that were trained in Vienna arrived and was
distributed among the existing companies of the battalion. The Finnish Battalion fought various
battles in the Kurks-Kharkov sector and remained there until the end of May 1943. On 1 June,
the Finnish volunteers returned to their homeland on leave. The Waffen-SS wanted it returned to
the Eastern Front after the end of the furlough, but Field Marshal Mannerheim prevented this and
insisted they rejoin the Finnish Army. By 11 July all remaining Finnish personnel was released
from the Waffen-SS. Between August 1943 and September 1944, several hundred Finns left their
country to rejoin the Waffen-SS. In the course of the war some 3000 Finns (2000 in the battalion)
served in the Waffen-SS. Meanwhile Finland continued fighting the Russian forces and requested more
military aid from Germany as of June 1944. Finland promptly received Luftwaffe units, an infantry
division, an assault gun brigade and large quantities of anti-tank weapons. By the end of June the
Finns had been forced back to the post-1940 frontier. By the end of August 1944, the Finnish government
concluded a peace treaty with Russia and expelled all German forces from Finnish soil thus ending the
Finnish Volunteer Legion
Most early Finnish
volunteer mail was sent under the disguise of the recruiting operation Engineering Bureau Wheel.
Notice this feldpost cover has the Finnish handstamped inscription "OY-INSINOORITOIMISTO RATAS"
(ENGINEER BUREAU WHEEL). This cover was mailed from Vienna to Finland. Next to it as an early
Finnish local made shield.
History: In 1941, mail weighing up to 250gms was free of charge for Finnish volunteers
serving with the German Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS. For packages weighing from 250gms to
1000gms, a 20Rpf or 4 Finnmarks (Fmk) was applied. By 1943, free franking for mail
weighing up 40gms when posted in Finland. Finnish volunteers were issued Airmail
labels "Luftfeldpost." From mid-April 1942 till September 1943, airmail service was
free, which only required one label. Packages mailed in Finland paid domestic fees with
a maximum charge of 8Fmk for packages weighing from 1000gms.
SS Volunteers while interned in Finland could send mail via Finnish field post. Covers
have been mailed using the following address: INSINOORITOIMISTO RATAS OY, Helsinki, Temppelihatu 4.
Outgoing mail sent to and from Finland was censored by the German or Finnish military authorities.
A circular pink control mark with the inscription FELDPOST and the letter "F" (Finland) was applied
in Helsinki for military mail sent to Finnish volunteers. Also small red transit boxed marking 8mm
in size with the letter "F" were applied. In addition besides the SS-FELDPOST markings, mail sent
by SS-Finnish volunteers sometimes bore the following transit markings in front of the cover:
1. "OY-INSINOORITOIMISTO RATAS," 60mm x 3.5mm, blue or violet, date of issue 7/41-
2. "AB-INGENIORBYRAN RATAS," 59mm x 3mm, Swedish text, violet, date of issue 2/42.*
3. "SS-VAPAAEHTOISTEN TOIMISTO," 68mm x 3.5mm, violet, date of issue 6/42.
4. "SS-VAPAAEHTOIS TOIMISTO," 64mm x 3.5mm, violet, date of issue 6/42-2/43.
*NOTE: These markings indicate "ENGINEER BUREAU WHEEL." The other markings indicate "WAFFEN-SS."
All Waffen-SS mail was examined and inspected in Berlin and Vienna; SS Feldpostprufstelle with red
circular markings was applied as well as the circular As transit marking. In, addition SS sealing
tapes was applied. No special postage stamps were issued.
Finnish volunteers were given tactical Kenn 850 FPN 46838. In February 1942, the following Feldpost numbers
were assigned to the SS Finnish Btl:
Battalion Staff--------------- 46785A
Co. ---------------------- 46785B
Co. ---------------------- 46785C
Co. ---------------------- 46785D
Motorized Co. -------- 46785E
Finnish Volunteer Legion
Above are two SS-Feldpost
covers mailed from the Eastern Front to Finland. Both covers have the handstamped inscription
"SS-VAPAAEHTOISTOIMISTO," as well as German and Finnish censor markings.
Notice on the top cover the Konisberg postal cancel dated April 43, a month later the Finnish
Battalion return to Finland and disperse among the other Finnish units.
On top is a German made SS-shield issued to the SS Finnish Battalion.