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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dietl´s Russian Spy Ace?

A beautiful Russian ballerina working as a German Abwehr spy "helped to turn the course" of the battle of Narvik, several newspapers now state. The basis for this story being newly released files from MI5.

Did General Eduard Dietl "win" the battle of Narvik thanks to a Russian ballerina? Hardly. To begin with he did not defeat the Allies. But could the glamorous Marina Lie/Lee have helped him to hold out until the Allied withdrawal? This photo of Dietl was taken in 1943, on his left arm he is wearing his Narvik shield.

I.a. the British Telegraph has this story, and even papers in Australia.

Here is a Norwegian take.

I am still skeptical about the value of the secrets delivered by Marina Lie/Lee to General Dietl. However, I have looked through that Norwegian book bout her and will look deeper into this whole thing in a year or two when I can get down to completing my English-language book about WWII in the Arctic.

UPDATE: Doubt about this story is indeed very justified, read what Guy Walters has to say about it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

US Warriors From Finland

US Special Forces legend Larry Thorne, born as Lauri Törni, is the most famous warrior from Finland after Marshal Mannerheim. But soon six more highly decorated American soldiers from Finland will be presented to the general public.

Lauri Törni among some of his rangers in the Finnish Army. Originally a black &
white photo.

In the book The Green Berets by Robin Moore, the Swedish-sounding "Sven Kornie" was based on the very real Larry Thorne, born in Finland as Lauri Törni. The book was made into a movie with the same name ("The Green Berets") starring John Wayne as "Mike Kirby", a character based on Törni/Thorne. In my latest book in Swedish, Elitförband i Norden, about the elite units of the Nordic countries, I of course write about him. However, that man deserves much more space, a biography. There is more than one and the best is no doubt Born a Soldier by the Finnish-speaking US diplomat J. Michael Cleverley.

Thorne was much appreciated and decorated in the United States and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetary, being the only Waffen-SS veteran there, I believe. He did not, though, receive the Medal of Honor. This decoration, the highest US military decoration, has however been bestowed on no less than six men born in Finland. For some reason though, very little has been written about them in any language. One can guess it has to do with that they served prior to WWII and the interest in WWI and other wars is not as great as that in WWII. Still, their feats should interest a rather wide audience not least Swedes and Swedish Americans, as five of the six portrayed men were ethnic Swedes.

Well, in October the first book about these men will appear, in Swedish, under the title Ärans medalj, meaning Medal of Honor. Understandably, I have not yet read the book but I do know the author, K-G Olin and can vouch for his high standard in researching and writing. Here is the cover of the book:

The cover of Ärans medalj, meaning Medal of Honor, by K-G Olin.

If you are interested in Finnish history and especially Finnish American history, and can read Swedish, you REALLY should check out Olin´s books. Here is his website.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Franciscan Waffen-SS Soldier

I thought it was pretty amazing when German author Günter Grass in 2006 disclosed that he had been a soldier of the Waffen-SS. But perhaps one could consider Gereon Goldmann an even more unlikely Waffen-SS soldier?

Before WWII the early Waffen-SS (then basically the SS-VT) was purely a volunteer formation. After the war broke out it became increasingly based on conscription, which was how even some persons strongly opposed to the SS ended up in the Waffen-SS.

Wikipedia sums up Goldmann quite well I reckon. And here is the book in English about him. I have yet to read the book myself though. I will order it next time I order books - it recently came out in Swedish, which is how I learnt about this man.

There used to be a website devoted to his life, but it is now down, so I have removed the link to it. However, please comment here if you know of any other sources about Gereon Goldmann, both books and on the web.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From Dürer To Darth

In a previous post I displayed an image from 1916 of the first pattern of the now iconic German Stahlhelm, the classic German helmet. But perhaps its history should be traced back to medieval times? I am equally fascinated by how the design survived 1945. So, lets examine the Stahlhelm from Albrecht Dürer to Darth Vader…

Detail from Albrecht Dürer´s painting "The Knight, death and the devil".

WWI model German Stahlhelm with futuristic camouflage pattern, worn by Swedish volunteer Konrad Hallgren. Detail from a photo in Swedes at War.

"When John Mollo needed to create a rough mock-up for Darth Vader [...] he grabbed a German helmet from the military room". The photo depicts not the mock-up but the end result. PHOTO: Andres Rueda Lopez

Somewhere in the back of my head was a memory of having read about how the basic Stahlhelm shape had medieval origins. Then the other day I was reading a German officer´s memoir that has yet not been translated into English, but ought to be: Zwei Brüder im Hitlerkrieg by Karl Wand. The English title would be Two Brothers in Hitler´s War.

Karl Wand served in the German Army in Greece and then on the Eastern Front. In France he served as an officer in Sicherungs-Regiment 1, stationed in Paris. Under the Valkyrie (Walküre) orders this regiment was to arrest the members of Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Gestapo in Paris. This they did on the evening of July 20th 1944, without any great problems.

Regarding the Stahlhelm design Wand writes: "The origins of this type of helmets can be seen in Albrecht Dürer´s painting The Knight, death and the devil".

Because of its knightly origins, Karl Wand wanted to make a ceremony out of the first time he put on the helmet, as an infantry recruit in 1938. Wand: "a kind of crowning".

Thus it seems clear to me that German soldiers before WWII at least believed that their helmet had medieval origins.

But is there more direct proof that Friedrich Schwerd, the designer of the first Stahlhelm, actually was inspired by medieval sallet helmets, in German Schaller.

This article says this about Schwerd being inspired: "He knew his military history, citing the German sallet (Schallernhelm) as his model".

So, is it a fact then, that the Stahlhelm is a 20th century Schaller? I would like very much to hear from readers of this blog about this. Please use the comments function of the blog. But before you write, let me say that I do have the book World War One German Army by Stephen Bull. It does not state that the Schallernhelm was the model. It does say (p. 81) that "The resultant contour was, as Schwerd himself observed, something like the Schallernhelm of the Middle Ages [...]". In my opinion this quote does not fully match the previous one. So, more quotes and sources are very welcome.

Regarding how Stahlhelms were actually made there is this German WWII news reel I think you will want to see if you have not already seen it:

Unlike the Third Reich the Stahlhelm survived. In East Germany (GDR/DDR) by the introduction of the Wehrmacht´s last helmet prototype, the Thale B-II. This design was used, just slightly modified, by the East German Armed Forces until the demise of the Berlin Wall, and with it East Germany itself. But perhaps there are still some in service in the Third World - as several were handed out there as military aid. Has anyone seen it in recent years in Africa or Asia I wonder?

In the west the design was not used within the West German Army, but instead within the Bundesgrenzschutz, the Federal Border Force. The manufacturer of these postwar helmets had been producing M1940 helmets for the Wehrmacht. The name of the company, Quist, makes one wonder if not the founding family had Swedish roots. The Swedish word kvist/quist means small branch or twig. Here is a web page about the company, but it says nothing about the family itself. Does someone know more?

During the final years of East Germany the basic Stahlhelm design was adopted by the US Armed Forces. The result was the PASGT.

Finally there is the Stahlhelm in outer space... Surely, the helmet of Darth Vader can be considered as some sort of cosmic Stahlhelm? Well, it seems as if it was not that Teutonic to start with. This is what Mary Henderson wrote about the Vader helmet in her beautiful book Star Wars: The Magic of Myth on page 189: "Lucas told McQuarrie that he wanted [...] a large helmet like that of the Japanese samurai". Furthermore: "Vader´s mask and helmet evoke the armor of the Japanese feudal period: the kabuto, or helmet, had many different designs, but most featured a bowl-like crown that flared out at the back of the neck, often in overlapping metal plates. Vader´s one-piece helmet follows the same basic shape".

However, there is one more source one should examine about Vader´s helmet: the most comprehensive book I know about the original "Star Wars": The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler. In this book, on page 34, the helmet starts out like this, according to artist Ralph McQuarrie´s own words: "He [George Lucas] liked the idea of Vader having a big hat, like a fisherman´s hat, a big long metal thing that came down". So, there was no Germanic origin? Well, at a later stage uniform expert John Mollo was to finalize the design and this is what Rinzler writes about this stage on page 112 of his book, in Mollo´s own words "For Darth Vader, we put on a black motorcycle suit, a Nazi helmet, a gas mask, and a monk´s cloak we found in the Middle Ages department".

Mary Henderson basically states the same thing on page 164 of her book: "When John Mollo needed to create a rough mock-up for Darth Vader from the costume stock on hand at a costume warehouse in England, he grabbed a German helmet from the "military room" [...]".

So, at least in the last stages the Stahlhelm did indeed play a role in the evolution of the Vader helmet.

On a side note the "Star Wars" universe includes many more items from the Wehrmacht, less inspired and more Third Reich original than Vader´s helmet. Vader´s stormtroopers use both MG 34 and MG 42 machine guns; Han Solo has a blaster that is based on the Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistol of WWI vintage; some Jawas on the planet Tatooine (my favourite name for an alien planet) wear K98 Mauser rifle ammo packs.

So, to summarize: both Dürer and Darth are part of the Stahlhelm story - but perhaps not as much as I thought. Feedback most welcome!

Since writing this post I have written this even more cosmic sequel to it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Camouflage Experts

Without looking below the image, can you guess which year the following drawing was published, and the nationality of the two soldiers?

Had I not known better I would have said Germans on the Eastern front in 1941.

Well, are you ready for the correct answer? This drawing (based on a photo?) was published in the Swedish weekly Vecko-Journalen on July 30, 1916. The caption is just "PROTECTIVE DISGUISE" (my translation). No kind of source. My guess is that they are Germans or possibly Austrians - judging by the boots and the large hand grenade pouch. Does anyone know more or can guess more?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Universal Soldier

The military history book that has influenced me most is probably The Universal Soldier: Fourteen Studies in Campaign Life A.D. 43-1944. Can someone please explain to me why this book has not been reprinted since 1971?

I vividly remember in which second hand book shop in Stockholm I found my copy, I even seem to recall the moment when I found it. This is one of those books that you can return to, want to return to. And actually do.

British paratroopers in Oosterbeek, the Netherlands. This is a UK government photo now in the public domain. A part of this image, the para furthest to the left, was one of the images in "The Universal Soldier" that made such a strong impression on me.

It cost me 60 Swedish Crowns - one of the best investments I have ever made. Which year I bought it? Not sure, perhaps 1984? I was then 15 or 16 years old.

The book was edited by Martin Windrow and Frederick Wilkinson. Their work together with that of more than a dozen specialists together with magnificent colour plates by Gerald Embleton = timeless quality.

What immediately attracted me was the chapter about the British WWII airborne soldier, "Albert Arthur Fisher", and the chapter about the German WWII infantryman "Jurgen Stempel". Both strictly speaking fictional men but at the same time composite personalities, with characters and personal backgrounds borrowed from several real soldiers.

I was already hooked on WWII. But then, after having read the two WWII chapters several times I began to take in the Roman Caius Largennius and the others.

And what a brilliant introduction. Let me end with a quote from it: "The soldier is shaped far more by the nature of the society which bears him than by the experience of soldiering itself". So true, I have come to believe.

I do hope you too find a copy of The Universal Soldier. If not in a second hand book store then in a library. And someday someone must surely reprint it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Confederates in the Arctic

Reenacting the American Civil War is something that is done not only in the United States but also in distant places like Sweden. However, modern Swedes dressed up as Yankees and Rebels is actually not that strange. In fact, just about normal.

I came to this conclusion while writing the passage in Swedes at War about Swedish volunteers and Swedish Americans who fought for the North or South.

Reenacting at Western Farm in Boden, Sweden. Boden is just below the Arctic Circle. I took the photo some week ago.

For some reason, the Swedish contribution to the American Civil War that is best known in Sweden is probably the USS Monitor, the first US Navy ironclad, designed by the Swedish engineer John Ericsson. But in addition there were several thousand Swedish Americans (many of whom had been born in Sweden) who fought in blue or gray, plus some forty Swedish officers, sergeants, and cadets who left Sweden after the start of the war to join the military forces of the Northern States.

Yes, as far as I know, no Swedish officers joined the Confederates. One of the officers, Ernst von Vegesack, was was even awarded the Medal of Honor (for bravery in the Battle of Gaines´ Mill) and made a US brigadier general.

After having become an American military hero at Antietam and Gettysburg, Ernst von Vegesack returned to Sweden and became chief of a military district. There were, by the way, also some amazing Swedish American Rebel officers.

Three of the Swedish officers who died for the United States are forever honored in Sweden, in the Military Academy Chapel in the Karlberg Castle, where they had completed their officer training.

This summer I got a very personal and moving book about the Civil War from two of my American relatives. I just finished reading it this morning and am really grateful it came into our home. The title is Confederates in the Attic and the contents are perfectly summarized in the Wikipedia-page about the book.

In several ways the book reminded me of one of my absolute non-fiction favourites, The Men Who Stare at Goats. Like the latter, Confederates is a splendid read and great fun, sometimes even hilarious. But quite often also serious, inspiring and never boring.

There are so many things I learnt from the book. One of the least important but most amusing things was the jargon among Civil War reenactors (farbs and hardcores etc) and how the reenacting thing started, with Civil War veterans portraying themselves, i.e. their younger selves, at reunions, then called "encampments". Veterans camped on former battlegrounds, donned their old uniforms and performed mock battles.

The reenacting part of the book brought back many memories as I myself was into this in the 1980s, as a teenager, inspired by British friends. But it was British soldiers we wanted to portray, during WWII. I guess we were hardcore as we almost only had original stuff and did our reenacting mostly where the events that moved us took place, in Normandy.

Of course, nothing is perfect, not even Confederates in the Attic (or my own books!). Judging from this British and this US article and not least this review, it still seems unclear if the sensationally vital Civil War veteran William Jasper Martin was a deserter or not. Please do comment about this as I´d really, really like to know.

BTW, while researching I read the Wikipedia page about Swedish Americans and was glad to see that our most famous American relative is now at the front of Swedish America. And I must confess I had no idea that Uma Thurman and Kim Basinger are Swedish Americans. Thurman is huge in my former homeland Russia, there is even a Russian pop song about her.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Johann Grübler and Fritz Wild

Presenting another photograph of Germans at Narvik that Swedish Air Force veteran Lennart Engerby got already in 1945 while visiting the town. There are some puzzles in the photo...

On our Narvik trip this summer we brought a paper copy of this photo from Mr. Engerby´s photo album:

From the left: the graves of Johann Grübler, an unknown soldier and Fritz Wild.

Finding Fritz Wild´s grave today was easy, as all German Narvik war dead are now in one place as far as I know: the main cemetery of Narvik just outside the city centre going north. Thanks to a public grave register, stored inside the stone wall by the German section staircase, we quickly located Wild´s current grave.

Fritz Wild´s grave in 2010. Born on December 7, 1916 and killed the same day the Allies recaptured Narvik, on May 28, 1940.

Thanks to internet and some googling I now know more about Wild. He was born in Kapfenberg, Austria. In the army he became a Gefreiter, a private first class. But I do not recognize the place where he was killed: "b. Forsnat". Could someone tell me if the spelling is right?

Presumably Wild died in the same action as Gefreiter Johann Grübler, the man furthest to the left in the top photograph. While visiting Narvik we did not know this latter man´s name as it can´t be made out from the above photo. But again thanks to now googling (should have done it earlier!) I found another photo of the graves, taken from another angle. As that photo is in a forum where photos are not public there is not much use in linking to it, but it is clear from that photo that Johann Grübler belonged to the 11th company of "Geb Jäg Regt 137" i.e. the 137th Mountain Infantry Regiment.

From the forum photo it is also clear that Johann Grübler like Fritz Wild was killed on May 28, 1940. This date connects perfectly to our previous Narvik trip, which was mainly about the Allied amphibious landing on that date.

But why did someone put a Luftwaffe-marked paratrooper helmet on the cross of Johann Grübler if he was in the army mountain infantry? I reckon it was no mistake. Many "paratroopers" dropped over the Narvik area in 1940 were mountain infantry that had received some (I believe mostly almost none) parachute training and Luftwaffe helmets.

It would be good to learn some more about Grübler and Wild, especially more about the circumstances of their deaths.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New German Helmet "Not That Elegant"

While looking for Swedish volunteers in an old paper I stumbled upon probably the first report in our press about the first German steel helmet. Be prepared for an amusing caption from 1916...

This photograph was published in the Swedish weekly Hvar 8 Dag on September 10, 1916:

German troops wearing the first ever German steel helmet, the M1916. Before these were issued, the German soldier wore a spiked helmet (Pickelhaube) made of boiled leather.

Now, the original caption in my translation: "THE NEW GERMAN STEEL HELMET. Within several German regiments the steel helmet has been introduced experimentally. Such helmets have long been present in English and French trenches. The German one has, quite evidently, a different, not that elegant shape, in comparison to its predecessors."

By the way, I´d like to recommend the English language Wikipedia article about the history of the German steel helmet. If you want to know more, see "External links" at the bottom of the Wikipedia page.

Foreign Legion Vikings

The about forty Swedes in the French Foreign Legion during WWI are a rather elusive bunch, but I just found a new photograph of one of them, together with a Norwegian volunteer.

Readers of Swedes at War will recognize the name Elow Nilson, the Swede in the French Foreign Legion during WWI that was the most well-known at the time. Well, here is a photo of him I have not seen before:

Elow Nilson and the Norwegian H. von Krogh, an engineer from Trondheim, most probably also serving in the Foreign Legion. From the Swedish weekly Vecko-Journalen, April 18, 1915.

Who knows more about von Krogh and how many Norwegians served France in WWI?

UPDATE 1: A friend in Norway just asked me if I had seen this American website with Elow Nilson´s death certificate. Nope, I had not! Thanks, Roger!

OIdest German Soldier Came From Sweden?

Old newspapers can be like a gold mine. In a Swedish weekly from 1915 I found a German WWI photograph with a Swedish connection. Who knows more about this soldier?

This photograph was published in the Swedish weekly Vecko-Journalen (defunct since many years) on January 17, 1915:

Germany´s oldest and youngest soldier, according to a Swedish weekly. The oldest soldier being a resident of Sweden.

The original caption translated by yours truly: "GERMANY´S OLDEST AND YOUNGEST SOLDIER The above rather unique photograph shows Germany´s oldest and youngest soldier, like comrades side by side. The old man with the large beard is the 69-year old factory owner H.R. Huss from Helsingborg [in south Sweden]. Huss, who was born in Germany and participated in the Franco-German War of 1870, has since August 11 [1915] served in a field artillery regiment on the front line in Western Flanders. He has now been at home to celebrate Christmas in Helsingborg, but will again be on his post on January 16. The little infantryman at his side is 15 years old but has already managed to take part in 7 large battles."

Was there anyone older than Mr. H.R. Huss? Did he survive, return to Sweden and become a Swedish citizen? What about the boy´s fate???

Ju 88 Shot Down by Swedes

On June 7 1940 Swedish anti-aircraft gunners adjacent to the Narvik area shot down yet another German aircraft, a Junkers Ju 88 C-1. Thanks to a Swedish Air Force veteran I recently got an unpublished photo of this aircraft. Searching for the "then and now" angle at the site of the crash landing we may have found remains of the aircraft.

This great Norwegian database has the story and the previously known photos of this Ju 88.

This is the photo of the Ju 88 from Mr. Engerby, a Swedish Air Force veteran who already in the summer of 1945 visited the Narvik area. PHOTO: Lennart Engerby

This seems to be the spot where the photo was taken, although I am not 100 percent satisfied with some landscape features.

An indication that we were at least standing very close to the right spot was that we found two of the following in the photographed area. Not in the water but somewhat hidden, above ground.

The inside reads voll/plein which is full in German and French. I presume these things were for filling large engines with oil, or something similar. If you recognize them, please do comment.

We left the "oil things" where we found them and if any Norwegian museum representative wants to know the more exact location I will gladly pass on that information.

Lennart Engerby had provided us with more photos from his 1945 battlefield trip, some of which we were able to do the "then and now" photo thing with. In coming posts I will show some of these images.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bruno Manz Lived Here

One of the great moments during this summer´s Narvik trip was to see the house which during WWII was the first German military HQ in front of the Swedish border town (village) of Riksgränsen. During the closing months of WWII one very special German soldier lived in this house: Bruno Manz.

It is in my opinion one of the most important and moving books to emerge from WWII: A Mind in Prison by Bruno Manz.

The house in Norway (Björnfjell, Narvik region) where Bruno Manz lived during the final days of WWII. I am holding a copy of Bruno´s memoirs. PHOTO: Mikael Norman

Mr. Manz has recorded not only his wartime tour of Finland and Norway in the German air force and army (he was transferred from the air force) and what it was like travelling through Sweden as a German soldier. His book is also a strong father-son story and a thought-provoking description of how propaganda works. One of the most memorable passages of the book is about his emotions in April-May 1945. This part of the book takes place mostly in Björnfjell, where he stayed in the above house.

A Mind in Prison made such a strong impression in me that I strongly recommended it be translated. The result was a Swedish version, Fångad av hakkorset.

Swedes at War More Available

Finally the distribution of Swedes at War within the Nordic countries seems to be working as it should. In the United States it has been readily available since May, from several booksellers.

This is how to get Swedes at War within the Nordic states at the lowest prices: in Sweden go to Adlibris, in Denmark go to the Danish Adlibris, in Finland go to the Finnish Adlibris and in Norway go to Capris.

Just type "swedes at war" and... bingo!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Narvik Paratrooper´s Poster

I shall now continue blogging about my latest Narvik trip. The only veteran we visited during this trip was Aage Bergvik. During WWII he served as a sharpshooter in the least known Norwegian wartime elite unit: the Norwegian Parachute Company.

Last fall my book Elitförband i Norden, i.e. "Elite Units of the North", was published. Alas, only in Swedish. But I plan to produce an English version (modified and expanded, not just a translation). For this reason it was important for me to meet Aage Bergvik in Narvik, as his unit is covered only superficially in my Swedish book.

I was quite astonished when Mr. Bergvik produced a poster depicting the Norwegian Parachute Company. Have any blog readers ever seen this one before?

The slogan reads "NORWAY FIGHTS her way HOME". As one of utterly few, Mr. Bergvik could inform me about the names of the depicted paras: the man in the centre is Olaf Augestad and the man to the left of him is 1st Lieutenant Lund. The third man´s name Bergvik could not recall. Any suggestions? As always, you can see the photo in greater detail by clicking on it

Looking at the poster one is reminded of how very similar the uniform and helmet of British and German paratroopers were. The Germans came up with the design.

Even in Norway the Norwegian Parachute Company is rather forgotten, in contrast to the "Linge" Company of "Max Manus" fame and the Norwegian commandos of No. 10 /Inter-Allied) Commando. Thanks to Mr. Bergvik the Parachute Company will be better covered in the English version of "Elite Units of North".

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Banned in Ukraine

I recently recommended some new Russian WWII movies. One of them I have not seen yet though: "We Are From the Future 2/Paradox Soldiers". Now it turns out that number two differs a lot from one.

I found out today it was even banned in Ukraine for its negative portrayal of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Today, with the new, more Russia-oriented administration in Kiev, I suppose it would not be banned. But the ban happened earlier this year, when there was an administration that regarded the UPA differently from today´s.

The official website of the film is very good, but only in Russian.

The Russian Wikipedia-page about the film is also extensive. If you read Russian you can right now read some reviews from the general public here.

The poster slogan of the film is: "The past is closer than you think". Once I get hold of it I plan to review it rather extensively.

UPDATE: I have seen it now and can not recommend it unless you really, really liked "We Are From the Future" and yearn to see some more of the rather good cast. This sequel, in the west marketed as "Paradox Soldiers", has some good scenes, a couple are really good, but... in brief, not a must-see.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Time Travel in Finnish Lapland

In some parts of Finnish Lapland WWII history is so present and untouched that you almost feel like a time traveller. Places with sandy ground are the best.

I am taking a break from my Narvik reporting to tell about a trip to Finnish Lapland some weeks ago. This place NE of Rovaniemi was a supply base for the Wehrmacht in 1941-44. At the time there were railroad tracks leading right into the base. Remains of them are still around and in one stretch it seems as if the Germans left some mines (Tellerminen?) that were (much) later blown up by Finnish mine clearers.

This stretch of railroad is without tracks and has several craters, probably from German mines being blown up after the war. In the foreground a MG 42 ammo box.

Let me stress that the pictured area is not in a closed military zone. There are such areas around Rovaniemi but I have not entered any of them, and will not do so without a permit.

More craters and in the foreground several Wehrmacht "Esbit" individual soldier´s field stoves can be seen.

The "Esbits" up close. The instructions stamped in the metal can still be read in spite of the rust.

Magazine for a German MP 38 or 40 submachine gun. Please note this was not dug, at least not by us. It was just lying there in the sand.

The magazine for a MP 38/40 submachine gun was the discovery I noted most, as that weapon is featured on both the front and back of the cover of my latest book, Swedes at War.

For comparison, this is what a preserved MP 38/40 magazine looks like.

The same magazine on the cover of Swedes at War by yours truly and Lennart Westberg. The soldiers are from "Wiking" and the photo is copyright NARA. BTW all other photos in this blog are mine (my copyright) unless otherwise noted.

The mag on the rear cover, in a colour illustration produced by Norwegian-Swedish Waffen-SS war correspondent (SS-Kriegsberichter) Finn Wigforss. It was reproduced i.a. on the cover of the German weekly Die Woche ("The Week").

Other standard issue individual soldier items littering the ground around the craters are gas mask canisters and shovels.

I guess this gas mask canister is saying "make plants, not war".

Norwegian industry is also represented as there are several hundred Norwegian-made ski bindings lying about.

The thing to the right I reckon is part of a vehicle light, but which vehicle(s)? And what is the thing to the left?

A heap of the same thingies.

In parts of the former supply base it is hard not to step on remains of German equipment. Here part of a MG belt, a gas filter and a Mauser cleaning kit.

The soldiers of the base obviously got beer from Munich. This sign is on a beer crate. Is this brand still around?

Just before we left one of us almost stepped on this, a German 1936-dated 75 mm round. No, we did not measure it (we didn´t even touch it), we found that out through reporting the find to the Finnish Army (we GPS:ed the location). This area is supposed to be clear of UXO (unexploded ordnance). But there are evidently some exceptions to the rule - a reminder for all of us visiting 20th century battlefields to never take anything for granted.

In fact, even if one abstains from digging there still lurk some mines out there. Not many, it seems, but they possibly still could go off from pressure (WWI buffs will know that ammo from 1914-18 can still be lethal). I have not encountered any mines myself, but have friends who have (without accident, but no guarrantees for that). So, I really mean it when I say this hobby is not something I can recommend for others to take up. Well, why do I do it? It gives me insights into the conditions of the time and provides me with ingredients for future books and articles.

By the way, I have just changed the settings of this blog to make it easier to comment. I am just retaining the setting so that I get to read comments first, so that I can chuck away spam etc. Please do comment, especially about the unidentified stuff.