About Me

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

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Winter War Volunteer Book Delivers

This new study is modern, relevant and well illustrated. A must for anyone interested in Arctic operations, volunteer forces and/or the Nordic countries in WWII.

At last I can write the promised review of Swedish Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War by Martina Sprague. Let me say straight away that it delivers more than promised.

The chapter about Swedish citizens fighting as volunteers for Finland in WWII by yours truly in Swedes at War serves as an introduction to the theme. If you want to know more and are not able to read Swedish, Martina Sprague´s new book is definately the book to get. In fact, I recommend her book also to Swedes as Ms. Sprague presents some fresh insights and several unpublished photographs and documents.

Martina Sprague has previously written books like Norse Warfare: The Unconventional Battle Strategies of the Ancient Vikings.

In her new book, Martina Sprague provides much information about Swedish Winter War volunteers never before published in the English language. In addition she gives us both the Finnish and Soviet military perspectives of the Winter War.

The many pages about the political background of the Winter War and the peace negotiations strictly speaking did not have to be in a book with a title like this one. But what Sprague writes about the background etc is bound to interest also most volunteer-focused readers. I fully agree with Ms. Sprague that the Winter War had strategic and psychological implications (e.g. in the way Hitler came to rate the Red Army because of its performance in Finland) far beyond the scale of the short war itself.

Indeed, sending British and French troops to Finland via Sweden, that was in the cards on several occasions, would have altered a great deal in the course of WWII. How the big picture would have changed by such a deployment is hard to say, but surely the implications would have been grave.

I have one rather negative thing to say: unfortunately Martina Sprague is wrong in stating that "the Swedish Volunteer Corps comprised the largest volunteer combat force in any modern war". She does this both inside the book and on the back cover. Now, I understand why she says so, because several Swedish authors have stated this before. However, even if one excludes the about 40,000 Irish volunteers in British formations (for being in various different units), you still have to compare the Swedish Volunteer Corps with the Spanish Blue Division. Then there are the many Polish and Latvian volunteer formations in foreign uniforms. For more on this subject see the chapter "Final Reflections" in Swedes at War.

Ms. Sprague has also not included the new and quite startling Soviet side of the "Grafström Raid" story. But I reckon I published it too late for her to find it.

But I wish to stress that aside from these two points Swedish Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War is a good read and an important contribution towards better understanding both Swedish and Finnish WWII history and Arctic operations in general.

No comments:

Post a Comment