Hurricane Group Composition |
Off to England |
Arrival, Spending Time in London |
HC Training |
Maneuver Contest with British Squadron Commander, Training Flights |
Hail to the King |
Feb 10 Report, Life in England |
Own Hurricanes |
Second Team Coming Home |
In Swedish Airspace |
More Pilots to England, Adventures in Europe, Germany Attacks the Soviet Union |
This article was originally written by the fighter pilot Carl-Erik Bruun. Published with permission from Göran Bruun.
English translation: Lt(jg) Markku Herd, Finnish Navy.
HC-meeting in Turku on July 8th, 1992, 2 pm, at Rainer Leino's.
Present: Aarne "Isi" (= "Daddy") Alitalo, Eino "Eppu"/"Emppu" Mertio (former Mesinen), Rainer Leino and Carl-Erik "Calle" Bruun.
Recorder operation by Rainer. Tape HC I A.
Recording: Rainer Leino
Transcription to Digital Form: Göran Bruun
A: Aarne Alitalo
C: Carl-Erik Bruun
M: Eino Mertio
R: Rainer Leino
More info: "Hurricanes To Finland" article at Fighter Tactics Academy.
Hurricane Group Composition
We're sitting in the meeting room in Leino's basement. Present are Aarne "Isi" Alitalo, Eino Mertio (former Mesinen), Rainer Leino and Calle Bruun. Now that we have two of the HC men (of the original twelve) among us, let's try to get on tape everything that happened on that extraordinary expedition. First, let's name the participants.
The group was led by Lieutenant Antti Jussi Räty, from Squadron 26.
Then there were the 2nd Lieutenants Aarne Alitalo, Heikki Kaukovaara, Eino Mesinen, Erkki Mustonen, Paavo Myllylä, Aarne Nissinen and Tapio Taskinen. Sergeants Paavo Aikala and Uuno Karhumäki, and Corporals Martti Laitinen and Pekka Vassinen.
Birth dates, from oldest to youngest: Aikala 1905, Alitalo 1910, Taskinen 1910, Räty 1910, Karhumäki 1914, Laitinen 1915, Nissinen 1915, Vassinen 1916, Mesinen 1917, Kaukovaara 1918, Myllylä 1918 and Mustonen 1919. Flight badge numbers: 328/34 Räty, 341/34 Karhumäki, 402/37 Laitinen, 567/40 Nissinen, 569/Mesinen, 571/40 Alitalo, 576/40 Taskinen, 580/40 Myllylä, 582/40 Vassinen, 661/41 Kaukovaara, 754/41 Aikala. Mustonen never received the badge due to illness. The numbers are by no means accurate indicators of the skills and flight hours of the pilots. Alitalo had about 90 hours and Mesinen 155.
Everyone except Räty were from Combat Flight Regiment 2, from Parola. 12 pilots and of course mechanics to make a full squadron.
Alitalo: We didn't have mechanics of our own, but 12 English mechanics came to Säkylä, led by Mr Galkin. That's where Aaro Villa and the others became HC mechanics.
Calle: Let's review the general situation at first. Finland was a poor country, so we couldn't buy proper flight equipment before the World War II. Only when the war began, people got busy. All embassies around the world were instructed to acquire planes, cheaply of course.
Nobody was really willing to sell planes at that time, when they weren't sure if they'd themselves have use for them. But we had good enough trade relationships with England, we sold them wood, butter and things like that. They gave us ten Gloster Gladiator II planes as present, and we bought twenty more. We needed better equipment too, so on Feb 2th, '40, they agreed that we could buy 12 of their Hawker Hurricane Mk I fighters. The Trade Agreement #1555/40 was dated retroactively to February 17th, though the planes were handed over to the Air Force on Feb 21 and Feb 26. The planes were numbered HU-451 to 462.
(The known serial numbers were N2322-24, 27, 47, 58, 92-95. The series belonged to Hawker's second construction series, that included 300 planes with serial numbers N2318-N2729.)
The cost of the planes was £9785 apiece.
Off to England
Now we get to the business.
Where were you when this mission was given to you, and how were you briefed?
A: Mesinen and I began at Jämijärvi. On December 12, '39, we transferred to Parola under Combat Flight Regiment 2, commanded by Epe Nuotio. That's where we were flying.
(Excerpt from Mesinen's flight log, pages 40-43.)
One Sunday, probably January 28, '40, I was about to take off on a mission with a GA. Ervi came and told me to go to see Epe instead. Mesinen was already there. Nuotio gave us orders to go to Hämeenlinna right away. "Alitalo, you will get civilian gear from your home since you'll pass by Turku. But Mesinen has no time to visit Tampere, so you'll go and buy clothes for you."
Mertio: "I'll do that", I said.
A: Nuotio's car was waiting outside the HQ, we drove to the town and had our photos taken. I looked like a buyer of black market meat, my leather coat was buttoned tightly up to my neck. It didn't take long to develop the photos. Next we drove to the police station. I showed my criminal police card and requested cooperation, we needed a gentlemen's clothing store opened. The watch officer arranged one in the same block. The lady owner of the store came, and we began selecting clothes for Eppu, from underwear up. When we were ready, the owner counted the bill. She said to Eppu, "I can see that gentlemen are in forced situation and in service of Fatherland, so I charge only 10-12 %." Mesinen himself had to pay.
We returned to our lodging at Parola and told our hosts that we were leaving now!
C: Where did you lodge?
A: In the house of a farmer called Klaasio. We had two rooms to share with the three of us, Lumme, Emppu and I. A woman in care of the community kept the place clean. She got really scared and thought we'd get killed right away.
We took the afternoon train to Helsinki and stayed the night at Hotel Kämp. We had a big two-person suite and Emppu turned all lights on. "What are you doing now?"
M: "Just look how goddamn much at the cost of this hotel. Let's at least spend electricity. It was much darker at Parola!"
A: In the morning we were to report at the Air Force HQ. We went to return our keys to the reception. There was a gentleman waiting there, asking us if we were pilots. He spoke Finnish, but had obvious foreign accent. He was K.A.C.C.C.F von Clauson-Kaas, a Dane, who had been in the Civil War as a pilot. "I have the Flight Badge," he said, patting his chest. "Can I get a ride in your car to the Air Force HQ?" Of course! In the car, he announced that all he wants is proper treatment and the rank of Captain. (Born June 3, 1894. Flight Badge HC 1. Navigator training in the USA. First names Knut Aleksander Carl Christian Colus Fredrik.)
Lieutenant Vitali (a member of the leading council of Yhdyspankki, the United Bank of Finland) received us at the HQ. We gave our photos, and soon we had passports and money. Vitali told us we'd be going to England.
We went by train to Turku, where I got civilian clothes from home. Next morning the group gathered at the railway station, and we went by bus to the airfield at Artukainen. The Aero JU-52 "Sampo", piloted by Ville Leppänen, took us to Stockholm. We spent the night in Hotel Strand.
Räty: It was a weird experience to fly from darkened Finland to Stockholm, that was bathing in light!
A: Räty tried to get ticketsfor our flight, but there was no room in the plane for all of us. Some had to travel to Copenhagen by train, some flew directly to Amsterdam. We had to get more money from the embassy, because we had to pay the tickets ourselves. We had been given 300 Kr, when just the tickets cost 450 Kr. They "lent" 2.000 Kr to each of us. We got no maps or fuel coupons.
We couldn't continue from Copenhagen to Amsterdam on Jan 30, but the next day.
C: What currency did you get?
A: Some crowns and pounds as checks.
C: When did you learn your destination?
A: Vitali told us.
M: We didn't know until Helsinki.
A: Eppu and I joined the team later than the others. Two Hungarians were supposed to go, but England wouldn't accept foreigners, so we went instead of them.
C: Bekassy and Pirithy, perhaps?
A: Them exactly. In Amsterdam we had to wait a while, there were lots of Jewish refugees from Poland and other countries.
Arrival, Spending Time in London
R: The weather had been bad for flying for three days in England, so the traffic was jammed. We could continue on Feb 2nd, with 2-3 planes (DC). The windows had been painted white, you couldn't see out. It was like flying in clouds. We landed at the Shoreham airfield near Brighton, and continued to London by train.
A: A customs officer asked of our luggage, Jussi showed him. "Gather them in one place!" All were stamped. The Polish jews were checked, there was one lady whose bras and undies were spread too on the desk. She got angry and asked why only her things were checked, and not ours. The officer told her to be quiet, "they are diplomats, we don't dare to do anything."
So we moved to the Strand Palace.
M: We lived in two hotels there!
A: Next morning Jussi took us all to the Finnish embassy, where we had the girls upstairs exchange our checks into pounds Sterling.
While there, I saw Raffu Seppälä, a lawyer I knew from Turku. He was as a secretary there. Vuolasvirta and Kuusinen were to be taken for a tour, but I stayed behind to see Seppälä. Since it had been years we hadn't met, we had a lot to talk about. So when I was going to leave, the others had left already. "Don't worry," Raffu said when I asked him to call me a taxi, "let's go for lunch. Just wait a moment!"
As I was waiting, the grand ambassador Gripenberg came. I greeted him, and we talked some. He said that he gets plenty of official information, but rarely anything from ground level. He asked if he could offer me a lunch. Thank you, but we have already agreed on a lunch with attache Seppälä. "Yes, Seppälä can certainly come with us, and secretary Salminen (Olavi Munkki, later grand ambassador). We got in a car, and Gripenberg asked whether I'd like to go to Savoy or Hungaria. I didn't know of either, so I suggested that the host would choose. Inwardly I prayed for Savoy, for I had read it was a fine hotel. That's where we drove.
It was a scene of its own there too, Gripenberg was well known in London.. Two Maitréd's escorted us to our table. There was a sofa behind the table, and Gripenberg wanted me to sit there with him. The Maitréd's lifted the table aside to make way for us. The two secretaries were seated in the ends of the table.
The lunch was magnificent. Afterwards Gripenberg suggested we'd take a walk, since there were many interesting buildings nearby. He gave me quite a lesson of London's sights. When was it we moved on from London?
C: Feb 5, '40.
A: P/O Kellock was assigned as our guide. He spoke Swedish, because he had been in the Embassy of Norway.
M: He tried to learn our names in the train. Alitalo became Oluttalo (=Beerhouse).
C: How did you fare, when Isi was with Seppälä?
M: I ended up with Major Engineer Kuusinen and Vuolasvirta. Vuolasvirta was a patrol man and dog handler. Someone has claimed that Kuusinen was Hertta's brother. I don't know. (Kuusinen died in a flight accident at Malmi.) They said they'd like to hear news from Finland and spend the evening. In don't remember to which hotel we went. They were poor officials and couldn't buy for me, so we all paid our own bills. We did a long sightseeing tour of our own, "London by Night." Piccadilly and other famous places.
C: Did it feel like war?
M: Not really. There were big aerial photos on the walls, of german airfields with planes in rows. Later in St. Athan we asked if they did bombing. "No, we only take photos, and so do the Germans."
C: On hotel walls?
M: No, department stores. Shown only where English people went. Now that Alitalo mentioned the ambassador, I myself had the honor of meeting Eljas Erkko in London. I took courier mail to him personally. I still have the receipt.
C: So, on Feb 5th you headed to the airport?
A: No, railway station. Kellock was our guide. He bought us a lunch at some midway stop.
C: St.Athan is 20 km west of Cardiff, on the western side of Bristol Bay. Quite a trip by train.
A: Pinkham's officers were waiting for us at the station near St.Athan. They took us by lorries straight to the air base commander. He was Air Commodore Rt.Hon.J.D.Boyle. He gave a magnificently beautiful speech to the "heroic Finns." Even Paavo "Jesus" Myllylä nudged my sleeve and said, "Isi, we're tough guys."
From there we moved to the club, where we'd live. The NCO's were assigned to another club. "What for?" Jussi asked right away. "Because this is an Officers' Club, and NCO's have their own place." Jussi then stated that in that case we all move to the NCO's club. The team won't separate here! Pinkham conceded that it won't, you'll all live here.
So, when we had settled in and came to join the training, Squadron Leader Tom Pinkham (S/Ldr) first asked how many flight hours each of us had, and with what planes. Räty, Karhumäki, Aikala and Laitinen had several hundred hours, the rest of us 90-120 hours. Pinkham shook his head and said, "no way! You'll only give work to the coffin makers. We take only men with at least 250 hours."
Jussi said, "here's the order!" Pinkham had to follow it, but he stated that he'd take no responsibility of accidents.
First we all flew with Harvard, my inspection flight was with F/L Paine and it took 35 or 45 minutes. Next we'd fly Hurricane.
(Excerpt from Mesinen's flight log, pages 44-47.)
Every time we came to the field, we went to the briefing room. There was a big book where we marked the plane number, who's flying and what. When you received your mission, you marked it there. You flew, and then marked the time when the mission was completed. That's how we flew the course. Pinkham said that his orders were to have the course finished as quickly as possible. But you tell now of the Link trainer we had.
M: Yes, that's where we saw the Link trainer for the first time. We had lots of free time at first, for the rains had made the field soft. We couldn't fly at all, so we practised instrument flight. Plenty of time to get to know the plane.
A: There was a Hurricane mounted on supports, so we could practise raising the gear and flaps. That was good.
M: My teacher was F/L Cox.
A: The leader of A flight was Canadian F/L Adye.
R: The Leader of our training squadron, No.11 Group Air Fighting School, was S/L Tom Pinkham. He flew the weather surveillance flight every morning, no matter what the weather was. The squadron was split in three flights.
The leader of A Flight was Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Adye, of B Flight F/L Robinson and of C Flight F/L Peter A.N.Cox. Adye was unusually big man, weighing over a hundred kilos. Others were slim. I was in B Flight, a student of Robinson's. He was excellent pianist.
C: How much did you need to study HC theory?
A: Jussi had made an abridged translation of the training book, and we went through it. Jussi was especially sharp, good commander.
Maneuver Contest with British Squadron Commander, Training Flights
A: Pinkham was a skilled trick pilot, right? He came to me one day and asked if we'd have the contest that afternoon, and if I want to fly in front or behind. All the same to me, I said. We agreed on the matter, and I went out to tell the guys that Pinkham had challenged me to a contest. Paavo Aikala went nuts, goddamn you're not going there, it was agreed with him and Pinkham has confused our names, Aikala and Alitalo. So Paavo was the one who flew.
M: Pity they didn't have the drag lines for Aikala to pull, inverted with the tailfin.
A: It was fun time, when we flew. There were no flying of flag, giving signs or shouts of any kind. When we left from the hangars, we started from two sides of the field, gathered downwind and took off in order. Same thing with landings, so it went fine.
There were British students too. Once Jussi was on the field with Pinkham, when a HC came with the propellor set on steep angle, gear and flaps up, and landed on the field. The plane ended up near the hangar wall. "Let's go and see first," said Jussi. It was a Canadian who emerged from the plane.
Jussi patted Pinkham on the shoulder and said, "your boy!"
R: The English students damaged their planes all the time. Gotta admire our guys, we had no accidents at all during the course. To make them more careful, the English were fined 2 shillings to 10 pounds depending on the damage. The money was given to the squadron's entertainment fund.
M: You weren't allowed to spend too much time taking off. It was a big training facility, with over 30 hangars and about 11.000 men in service. They built even more hangars. They weren't heated, though the side rooms were. It was -40 C at home when we left, and this was like our late autumn. Sometimes there was little snow. Once I flew when it was snowing. I should have come back, they said, but I was assigned an hour and that's what I spent. They warned of the Barry Dock city nearby, where there was blockade balloons. In the morning the temperature could be a couple of degrees, but not below freezing.
Hail to the King
A: One day, Feb 9th, we all were brought dark blue overalls and were told to put them on, His Majesty King George VI and Queen Elisabeth (the parents of the current Queen) were coming to a visit. We looked like shipyard workmen behind the planes. George came and all went fine.
M: We were put a bit to the background, for we had no military garb. Jussi was told that the King wants him to join the lunch. So Jussi went to shave, while James polished his shoes.
R: The King was aware of the Finns and wanted to meet a representative. I was given a written pass to the Officer Mess #2, where lunch was served to the royals and their entourage. There was no choice, even though we were ill prepared for such a meeting. I had to quickly brush up the shoes and the only suit I had with me. Before noon a car arrived, sent by the Commander, and took me to the hot spot. It was only a couple of kilometers, but my papers were checked 3-4 times, so it wasn't only a formality even if the car had the Commander's markings.
After an hour's wait the royal group (30-40 people) came to the barrack-like mess and went in. Initially I was supposed to sit in the King's table, but I asked for mercy due to my unofficial clothing. I got to an other room with officers, reporters and security men. The lunch proceeded and I thought I had escaped, when the air base commander appeared at the door and gestured me to come with him.
After a short walk on a corridor the Commander knocked on a door, and we went in. The King stood there with the Queen, and the rest of his escorts were around the room.
The King and the Queen shook my hand and asked how we had been treated by the RAF, had we flown etc. In the end, the King said he was happy to give at least some kind of assistance to Finland in her battle for independence, that the English sympathy was for the Finns. He wished me good luck on the journey back, and told me to bring his regards to the rest of the team.
A: I had asked Jussi to not wash his hand before greeting us. So when Jussi returned, I went to shake hands with him. Only the Finns knew what it was all about, I guess we were having the 5 o'clock tea then. Only after that we told the rest that Jussi had just shaken the King's hand.
Feb-10 Report, Life in England
10.2-40 to AF HQ
M: I got a kind of touch of the King too. When we came for tea from the field, we could see through a big window in the dining hall. The King was sitting at the end of a long table. The occasion ended soon, and it was our turn to have tea. There was a rush to the King's chair, and I won. The seat was still warm.
By Lt Räty's request, I'm sending this report of his and his team's conduct until February 10th, '40.
Arrival at London on Feb 2nd, '40 (Friday). Departure to the RAF air base at St.Athan in the morning of Feb 5th, arrival in the evening (Wales).
Flights at first on the American 2-seated Harvard I trainer, then on Hurricane except for two, who didn't get the opportunity to fly HC by Feb 10th. Flights gone well.
By Lt Räty's statement, the plane is more comfortable than the FR, can maneuver without fear of "fault". Sensitive controls, especially flaps. Good stability. Firing program on the second week. 10-15 flight hours in all. If good weather, the course is finished in two weeks. A third week is reserved for departure, so there is time to receive own planes. Flights on RAF planes so far. Reception at Gloster factories. Planned departure is therefore Feb 24th, '40. Maps received, airfield information requested by telegraph.
A: We all had our own servants, like the English.
M: They were clever guys. Veterans from the 1st World War. Maybe our James, Taskinen's and mine, served someone else too.
A: He brought two cups of tea every morning, saying "Good morning sir, very nice today!" even if it was raining cats and dogs.
M: Yes, he pulled the curtain open and said "Very nice weather today!" Must be an old tradition.
A: He took our shoes and left. Soon we got shiny shoes back.
M: Our James was quite resourceful. One day we had forgotten a Finnish-English dictionary on the table, and when we came back, we found a note on the wall next to a switch. It said in Finnish, "Jos sinä omistaa likainen pesu, piiri kello". ("If you owns dirty wash, circle bell.") He had guessed wrong on the word 'ring', it has so many meanings.
A: When Masa Laitinen had his test flight on the Harvard, the commands came in Finnish. "You start Masa!" He did and looked behind, who was there. "Turn left!" Masa began to bank, and there came "Look out first, look out first!"
M: Jussi had made them a list of brief commands. "Landing gear out!" They said that with the Harvard, 95% of power transforms to sound. Terrible noise. Brewster was a mosquito compared to it.
( Feb 10th, '40; Kuusinen's letter to Air Force HQ.)
C: Then, when everyone had flown RAF Hurricanes, it was time to think of our own planes.
A: When the training had advanced enough, everyone was assigned a plane and went in
turn to receive it from the Brockworth factory at the end of Bristol Bay. Robertson,
my Flight Leader, took me to the factory.
R: Pinkham had been incontact with the Gloster Aviation Company, and he was instructed
to send some of the Finns on Feb 21st to pick up their planes. Major Engineer Kuusinen from the Finnish Embassy came there, the Defence ministry had ordered him to take the planes.
The first three HC's, HU-451, 452 and 455, were turned over to us on the same day, and the next three two days later. HU-454, 458 and 459. The planes were flown to St.Athan for inspection. The MG's were calibrated and loaded. All planes were tested and guns fired over the Bristol Bay. The protective grille was removed from the air intake to proevent freezing.
A: Paavo Myllylä had to stay at the factory overnight. Maybe Jussi too. When they were in the guest quarters, the chief test pilot came to pick them up with a car. The guys had civilian clothes and shoes. He took them to the club, where there were gentlemen in tuxedos and ladies in evening dresses. The factory had an annual celebration of some sort, and our guys were taken there in ordinary shoes. Paavo told me that one gentleman came in tux and asked what he'd like. A whisky, said Paavo. He got one, and when the gentleman soon came again, Paavo gave him his empty glass and asked for refill. Only when it was time to take photos, said man was sitting in the middle. He was the executive manager. Good service, said Paavo.
I never saw that photo. They were sitting in the front row. But when we received the planes, they were propped up and the guns were calibrated. I was there to watch, and noticed that the target and the calibration strings weren't aligned straight. I went to Jussi and asked him to see, and at least my plane shouldn't shoot cross-eyed. I want it straight. Jussi grabbed a technician and showed that these must be lined at the target. So at least my plane shot properly.
This was at St.Athan, where we flew the planes first.
M: I never went to Gloster. Dunno who brought mine.
A: Why didn't you?
M: I don't know. Not everybody went there.
A: At least I was told to get the 457.
M: Maybe it was the same thing as later with the Moranes. When the first group had been there, they volunteered to get the next ones too, as they knew the place already.
A: When this stage was done, Jussi said that since these are the first fighters to fly over the North Sea and the sea is hazardous, we won't fly all together. He split the team in two, assigned one half to his command and the other to Tapio Taskinen's.
(Upon graduating, the participants were given a certificate. Here's Mesinen's.)
A: You tell, Emppu, you were in the first group.
C: Who were in it?
M: Räty, Mesinen, Nissinen, Kaukovaara, Vassinen and Aikala.
A: Taskinen, Alitalo, Karhumäki, Myllylä, Laitinen and Mustonen were in our group.
C: We took off from St.Athan on Feb 25th. (Mesinen's log, pages 48-49)
According to this, there was a 45 minutes group flight in the morning, 11:35-12:20.
The first froup took off 2:20 PM, and landed at the Grangemouth field near Edinburgh 4:25 pm, after 2:05 hours flight. Takeoff after refueling at 5:20 pm and landing at Wick 6:40 pm.
M: The clouds over Scotland had funny shape. They were like pillars, and we flew between them like in a labyrinth. The mountains musu have caused them. The field was soft at Wick, it was strengthened by a wire net. Terribly narrow, too, not much over 10 meters. The hotel was cold, even if they gave us hot water bottles. We were given other warming liquids too, and we thought the Scots aren't such misers after all. But we had to pay the bills. The weather was good enough the next day, February 26th, and we could take off.
M: I'll tell of our journey, there were no complications. We saw a German recon plane from far, but it flew away in a hurry. On the last leg between Grangemouth and Wick, we had to fly over a bay. There were English warships, that did quick maneuvers when seeing us, but we flew past them. A Blenheim led us.
R: So in the first half was led by Lt Räty (HU-451), and with him 2ndLt's Nissinen (HU-452, Kaukovaara (HU-455), Mesinen (HU-458), Sgt Aikala (HU-459) and Cpl Vassinen (HU-454).
Air Ministry had assigned an escort plane to take us first to North Scotland, from where another plane would guide us to Norway, to the Sola base near the city of Stavanger. The escort, a longnose-Blenheim arrived at St.Athan on Feb 23rd, piloted by S/Ldr Bushell.
In the afternoon of Feb 25th we took off, our target being the city of Wick in Scotland. We flew over Wales, passed Liverpool from the west and after about 2,5 hours of flying arrived at Grangemouth field, about 10 km northwest of Edinburgh. After refilling our fuel tanks, we continued in the dusk to Wick. After an hour we were there, landing on the field built in marshy ground, with the airstrip made of strong criscrossing metal wires 10-15 cm apart. After spending the night under the thick covers of the hotel beds in the company of hot water bottles, we began preparing the crossing of the North Sea. The Group Captain commanding the airbase set the takeoff time to 11:15 am, because the weather forecast was favorable.
M: The weather was good, there was a small shower of rain at one point and in another we flew at 200 meters, because of low pressure.
R: In Stavanger the sky was 7/10 overcast, clouds at 1000 meters, visibility 15-30 km, clear over the sea but poor in some regions, cloud altitude still 400-500 meters. Two Lockheed Hudson bombers were escorting us, as well as a Sunderland amphibian. Should a plane ditch, the amphibian would have rescued the pilots if the pilot deemed it possible. I don't think it could have been done in that weather.
But the weather got better as the Norway coast approached. We kept strict radio silence. Because of the amphibian, our airspeed was 150 mph (about 240 km/h). We crossed the coastline after 2.5 hours of flight. The crossing took about 2 hours, but the escort failed to give the agreed signal, in the end we separated and landed at Sola.
M: 11:20-13:45, flight time 2:25, altitude 1,200, plane HU-458.
There was the most excellent host waiting for us, Mauno Hartman. The weather grew too bad for us to continue until Feb 29th. 11:25-12:40, flight time 1:15, altitude 4,500, plane HU-458, Stavanger-Oslo. Aikala's fuel gauge was low, by his suggestion we landed and refueled at the Fornebo field at Oslo. 13:40-14:50, flight time 1:10, altitude 4,500, plane HU-458 Oslo-Västerås (Hässlö). When taxiing to the hangars, Kaukovaara's HU-455 hit a soft spot and tipped on its nose, twisting the propellor blades. Three mechanics came from England to straighten it, but it took time.
R: We stayed a week at Västerås, for the HQ had ordered the installation of a throttle heater, among other modifications. The second group had reached Västerås too before we could continue.
M: March 7th '40, 12:25-14:05, ft 1:40, alt 200, HU-458 Hässlö-Säkylä. 16:00-17:00, ft 0:50, alt 600, HU-458 Säkylä-Hollola.
Second team coming home
C: Taskinen's group took off Feb 28th.
A: In St.Athan we were given maps and three envelopes. Those were in case of forced landing. The first was to be given to the first person you met. Next, a police officer would arrive and you'd give the second one to him. He'd call for an Air Force man, and the third one was for him. He'd take care of the rest.
M: We got those envelopes too.
C: Why the three days between starts?
A: Jussi's order.
R: We took off right after receiving the first six planes. The rest still had to wait for their planes.
A: Yes, all planes weren't there yet. Pinkham asked us to come in his office and meet the airbase Commander. It was the same Air Commodore who had wished us welcome. Now it was time for farewells, and he gave again a very touching speech. The old fellow was almost in tears. He said that if we still had any wishes, he'd take care of it. Taskinen answered that we already had gotten plenty of everything, we could ask for nothing more. Thank you for everything.
Then we climbed into our planes and got ready.
Karhumäki: "When we arrived at Bockworth on Feb 26th to pick up our planes, their paint jobs were being given the final touch-ups. The blue von Rosen cross was being painted on the HU-460 assigned to me. Before departure, they'd be covered with white chalk paint.
At dusk we flew to St.Athan, and spent the next two days inspecting the planes thoroughly. The weapons were calibrated, radios tested, and all preparations for the way home were done."
A: All men from the air base, pilots and mechanics alike, were around us. There were plaques and shouts of "Good Luck!" and "Happy Landings!" etc. Suddenly my stick jerked, someone was wagging the winglets, waved and gave me thumbs-up. Very friendly.
C: How about the weather?
A: Good weather at St.Athan. The day before a Blenheim had come from Wick and the pilot, can't remember his name, had met some old friends and spent the night at the club with them. We didn't go to party any more, but to bed. The BL then flew ahead of us. The pilot warned us to follow all instructions. He'd give all the signals down, for if they weren't correct, the AA wouldn't hesitate to shoot. We landed somewhere halfway.
K: We refueled at Prestwick, in poor weather.
A: The BL landed first and the propellors had hardly stopped, when the pilot hopped out and gestured us to follow. We brought the planes to halt and followed him to the club. He already had a beer mug in his hand, "That's very nice!" We dined there before going on.
K: "Landing at Grangemouth before Wick."
A: Probably had to instruct the warships. We flew over the bay and arrived at Wick. Eppu already told of those chicken wires at the field. Tapio Taskinen was going to land, when his right gear was pulled in. He didn't hear the buzzer warning that the wheel wasn't locked. The result was a ground looping and a broken wing tip.
M: Went out of track.
K: This minor damage in Taskinen's HU-461 stranded him in Wick. He came home through Italy and Germany during the Temporary Peace, without his plane.
A: All the letters we had received were collected and burned. When the ties to RAF were cut, it was like a witch hunt.
Every morning we waited for the weather forecast.
C: Only one morning.
A: The Lt.Col. said "Thats very nice today!" There was an area of rain 2-9 miles thick in the middle of the North Sea, and clear after it. Cloud level at 26.000 feet at the coast of Norway. A Sunderland amphibian circled above us and two Lockheed Hudson bombers waited.
We warmed the engines up and then filled the tanks to the limit.
K: We were aware of the most effective power and economic speed for this overlong crossing of sea. I became the team leader, now that Taskinen was out.
A: One Hudson led the way, for it was fitted with better navigation and radio equipment. The other was at left, and the 4-engine Sunderland at right. It was supposed to rescue the pilot in case of ditching. The Sunderland's commander was F/L David Bevan Jones, with two experienced pilot NCO's and a full crew of nine men. He would decide if the weather permitted him to land in the water, or just drop supplies and wait for surface ships.
The skies over Wick were clear when we started on March 1st, '40. The rain began after half an hour of flying. We all thought we'd be through it in a couple of minutes, but the clouds kept coming lower. Eventually we were flying in the wave crests. We reached the point of no return to Wick, but kept on even if there was no sign of the weather getting better.
K: The Sunderland disappeared in the rain, and so did the other Hudson. The Hudson turned south. I tried to estimate our position, and when the Hudson turned north again, I thought we were 60 km south of Stavanger. The Hudson weaved back and forth, giving no signal. We'd run out of fuel that way. I called the others by radio that we'd passed by Stavanger. The Hudson turned north once more, finally gave the signal to break off and vanished in the fog to the left. We flew between islands, and I knew we were near the Sola field. We had to go through a pass between two mountains, with the cloud ceiling at 30 meters. After a couple of minutes we saw the field. We landed straight on the closest runway, some of us even on crossing runways. Only four of us got there.
A: When the Hudson weaved, I would soon have called the guys that I'd make a belly landing in the sand.
The Hudson made a turn to the mainland. Nalle followed it, I was on his right wing and Masa on mine. Tough place for Masa. My one wing was almost touching the sea, the other in the clouds. But Masa flew in a cloud.
I couldn't see Masa, but I imagine it was like this: when he flew in the cloud, he didn't dare to come out because he could have hit me. He leveled towards the mainland, there was a small field with telephone post and wires. Masa hit the post and cut the lines. The gear was in and the propellor on small angle, Nalle and I could verify that later. It shows that he realised there wasn't enough room for landing, and tried to pull up. But there were high cliffs and his flight ended in a crash. I remember that the propellor axle was severed, even though it was of good steel, and the propellor flew far. A Norwegian submarine happened to be on coastal patrol, and it saw the incident. We met its Captain later, he told of how he had followed our way and heard Masa crash. He sent a detachment by boat to see. There were some fishermen already, but they didn't dare to go near, because the glycol was smoking in the hot engine.
They feared it'd blow. The Captain had his men retrieve Masa and take him by boat to the Eigersund hospital. The island was called Eigerö. The Captain salvaged Masa's papers, maps and parachute, and set a guard at the plane. Masa's plane number was HU-462.
When the Hudson broke off, Nalle broke the radio silence and told us to not worry, he knew almost certainly where the Stavanger airfield was! The cloud vere really low, they touched the roofs of the nearby single-floor houses. Mauno Hartman was there to meet us, and we noticed Masa was missing. Hartman took us to the field commander's office, where we waited for information on Masa.
When the chief had interviewed us, Mauno asked him to leave (his own office!). Why? Mauno took a big bottle of cognac from his briefcase and said, this should taste good now. Never have I seen a cognac bottle get drained so quickly by four people. Whenever someone took a sip, Mauno was already refilling his glass.
C: The Commander wasn't allowed to see it!
A: No. Messages began coming in. Hit a stone fence when landing on a field. Landing gear broken. Both men uninjured. We wondered what it meant, Masa had been alone. Then another message, plane in one piece and men in good health. And a third. These were three English Lysanders coming from Aberdeen, that's some 100 km south of Wick. Finally there was a message of a crashed plane, whose unconscious pilot had been taken to the hospital at Eigersund.
That night the liaison Rangvald Bjelland, a manager of a conserved food factory, had invited the English officers to his home for dinner (the navigators were NCO's, and the English officers didn't allow them to come along). Bjelland didn't separate us HC men. He and his young (second) wife were the most gracious hosts. We spent the night there, Hartman was there too.
The planes were serviced. I had agreed with the base commander, he was an Air Force officer, that he'd arrange a car to take us to the crash site at Eigersund. But Bjelland called and offered his own car for our use, "on the one condition that I and my wife can come along!" It was fine for us. Nalle and I hopped in the very long car and drove a beautiful mountain road from Stavanger to Eigersund. Bjelland had arranged a trawler to meet us there, the chauffeur carried some boxes aboard, and we set sail. In the boxes were sandwiches, shotglasses and some beer. We ate and got good drinks. At the site we checked the plane and wrote down our notes of its condition.
Next we went to Eigersund and the hospital there. A young Danish doctor told us that Masa was still unaware of his surroundings, he just kept yelling. It'd take a miracle to cure him. We were taken to Masa's room. He was in a bed with high railings and shouted like hell. He was still flying his plane. Nalle and I stood at the end of the bed and said, "Nalle and Isi are here to see you." He grew quiet, stood up and looked. I don't think he saw us, he looked through us, subconsciously somehow. Then he shouted again, "To the devil with you, I'm gonna fly!"
And he began to fly again.
A nurse took my hand and asked if she can escort me out. I was all white and sweaty. I felt like hell, seeing Masa like that, and the nurse got worried that I'd faint right there. I went with her, she wiped sweat from my brow and asked if I need medicine. No thanks, whisky please!
She asked for help, because none of them knew any Finnish. She had written down some questions and phrases that she asked me to translate, so they'd know when Masa would be asking for food or drink, when he needed to pee and so on.
I wrote the translations as I thought Masa would say them. And despite the serious situation, I couldn't help smiling when the young, beautiful girl read "I need to piss, I need to crap" etc. Everything was all right, the whole staff was there to serve Masa.
That's where we left Masa and drove back to Stavanger. It was night, and when we reached the summit of a mountain, Mrs Bjelland asked the driver to halt at a rest stop, and to take out the "package of hers." Yes ma'am! The driver took out a box with champagne glasses and another with a bottle. The liaison popped the cork and filled our glasses. Only the chauffeur had to stand aside.
Bjelland, a friend of Finland, gave a speech. We raised our glasses in the sunset for Finland's fortune and success. From there we continued to Bjelland's stately house at Stavanger. Everything was prepared there and Bjelland, a very funny chap, said "It got so cold outside. A cognac might help." Nalle and I readily agreed. Mrs Bjelland came to inform us that dinner would soon be served. "I never dine without taking a shot of whisky first," said Bjelland. Nalle and I agreed again. We had a full dinner with wine and all. A night I couldn't forget. Bjelland's wife was his second, but his son was fighting in Finland as volunteer.
M: Don't forget the looks of Mrs Bjelland!
A: She was gorgeous as hell!
Then we had to leave the hotel. I told Mauno to get money from the embassy. What for, Mauno wondered. For the hotel bill! Nah, just wave to the porter, Bjelland will pay. That's what we did, and the porter just saluted. Bjelland paid it all.
M: We didn't pay either. Alcohol was forbidden in Stavanger, but never have I tasted as strong beer as they had.
A: Norway was still a free country at the time, and it was fun to see in the hotel how the Allies and the Germans had separate tables. Telegrams came and went all the time. It was a central spot and people were kept up to date.
C: Tehän Eppu jatkoitte Västeråsiin, vai odotettiko näitä muita?
C: Eppu, did you go on to Västerås, or did you wait for these others?
M: We took off as soon as weather permitted. We refuelled at Oslo's Fornebo, when Aikala's fuel gauge was showing low. Kaukovaara's HU-455 tipped at the landing at Västerås, and his propellor got bent. Three English mechanics came the same day to fix it.
C: So Nalle's group went on with four planes?
In Swedish airspace
A: No, those surviving Lysanders landed at Stavanger and wanted to fly with us. They'd have preferred to fly along the coast and not over the mountains, but Nalle said we'd go straight. They complied.
We landed at Oslo too. A young Air Force officer came to ask for a passage to Finland. I have his address somewhere.
The weather was good all the way to the Swedish border, but after that there was a blizzard. Nalle flew low at front. He was terribly good, we came on straight line to Västerås. We spent a long time there.
M: An intake heater was installed, among others.
A: One day, three Fiats came. Two of them landed, while the leader began doing maneuvers. The pilot was Carlo Cugnasca, the head test pilot of the factory. The Italian knew languages too, he always answered in the same language he was asked, be it German, Italian, French, English etc.
Back to the crossing of the North Sea. The pilot of the Sunderland, Bevan Jones, wrote a letter to Karhumäki in proper Finnish, back in the 70's. I have the letter, where he tells of what happened. Both of the older NCO pilots said they should turn back, it was hopeless. Bevan Jones said no and took the controls himself. The flight took 7 hours. Later, he was assigned to the Mediterranean, where three Fiats shot him down. He spent three years as a POW in about a dozen different camps. After release, he went back to active duty and took part also in the Berlin airlift. Eppu and I met him in St.Athan in 1980. After the war, he was a timber agent of Rauma-Repola at Cardiff.
M: Guess he was.
A: We were all together at Västerås. The weather kept us there for long time.
K: "Norwegian military officials had the wreck of HU-462 taken to Stavanger, where Engineer Hartman took care of the disassembly of the plane and had all useful parts sent to Finland. For example, the four right side machine guns were intact.
Continued on March 7th. Reached Stockholm in the morning, but a blizzard forced us to return."
M: Räty, Nissinen, Mesinen, Myllylä, Aikala and Vassinen were in the first group. Karhumäki, Alitalo and Mustonen in the second.
The way was blocked at Stockholm, so Nalle turned back. Veijo Taina was going with three Fiats too, but when he saw Nalle coming back, he followed lead. He came to thank and said that if Nalle couldn't go, neither could he. FA would have been in trouble with fuel.
C: It's said here that six HC's arrived at Säkylä on March 7th, '40, three on March 8th, and Kaukovaara's HU-455 on March 10th. The dates don't sound right, as you arrived at Västerås on March 6th. Did you go on the next day? Mesinen's book sets the date of arrival on Feb 29th.
A: We spent a night in a hotel, guess it was only one night.
M: Feels very late! We were even on alert at Säkylä.
A: At least on March 13th Eppu and I were standing by at the end of the runway.
M: We refueled at Säkylä and continued to Hollola for one day. Then back to Säkylä. Russians were interested in SW Finland. Turku was badly bombed the same day when we were on our way there.
A: When we were standing by on 13th, we were allowed to come out of the plane but no further. After we had been standing and smoking there for a long while, we were told to go to hear news at the sauna.
M: We stood in row there, and Erho (in the radio)spoke in many languages.
C: Were you moved to Turku when the ground began to thaw?
A: No, Hollola had the airfield on ice. We lived at the farm of Hillo, of the Ski Association. The first day we got there, there was a royal country-style feast served.
H: It was almost embarrassing, when they brought us morning coffee to bed.
A: Such a feast every day. Mrs Hillo, the wife of (fighter ace) Jaakko Hillo's uncle took care of us.
M: We waited for spring and a frozen morning, so we could take off to Malmi.
A: Jussi sent me on some business to Lahti. Because I didn't know how long it'd take, I told the driver to pick me up from the hotel some hours later.
I was in the restaurant in the second floor. And guess who I saw there, Masa Laitinen. He had come to Finland and heard the squadron was in Hollola. He had come for a drink.
A: I came with him to Hollola.
C: And next to Malmi.
A: It was a difficult start. The plane kept pitching so that you had to be careful all the time to not hit the snow with the propellor.
C: Then from there to Turku.
A: Jussi led the way.
M: We were on standby at Turku, fearing the Germans.
C: When were the reservists released?
A: Räty of the first team was assigned as the Commander of the Test Flight Squadron. His flight stayed with us. I recalled I had been in the force long enough to be released already. But I was assigned to give training to the cadet officers. Tommi Hyrkki was the first, but he got assigned elsewhere and 2ndLt Pinomaa was his replacement. Vassinen primed him, and I gave the test. Then I gave his flight orders and assigned him an available plane. You didn't easily give your own plane to someone else, but there were no others free. I had to give my HC-457, which I had just flown and it was in shape. But Pinomaa's flight and life ended in the landing, he hit a railway. He had stalled and gone to spin. After interrogations, I got my release from the force.
More Pilots to England, Adventures in Europe, Germany Attacks the Soviet Union
40 pilots were assigned for HC's, among others Ehanti (Ehanti denies this), Leino, etc. They all were told to arrange civilian clothes and passports for themselves. They were supposed to go to training in England. We were meant to leave the planes we brought here and go to get more, 12 planes at a time, three trips. But it never happened, when peace was settled and Norway got occupied. But the guys were ready.
M: Taskinen had to find his way home through Europe, by France, Italy, Germany and Sweden. He wanted to take his plane with him, but they didn't allow it. He said to them that one day he'd buy it from a German auction.
A: Taskinen told of meeting Janarmo in Italy, he was a military liaison there. He said that the Janarmo at Kauhava and now in Italy were like two different people. There, he was a fine, friendly host.
M: At Kauhava Janarmo had been very strict. He would deny leaves if there was a speck of dust anywhere.
C: Just imagine if we had received 40 HC's more, or even these had gotten to fly at Vyborg Bay.
M: They'd have been useful in the ground battles there.
C: When were you transferred to Moranes?
A: I was called to refresher training to Joroinen on spring 1941. I was put straight to the MS. Timo Tanskanen was the leader.
M: That's before the call to arms?
A: Yes, before. The call came when we were in the training.
M: I came to Naarajärvi (Log, pages 56-57).
A: You came after the call.
C: I had left Joroinen on May 31st, and returned at Midsummer.
A: I remember being with Oippa Tuominen when we heard something special was on radio. We gathered outside the HQ, and heard that Germany had invaded Russia. It was June 22nd, '41. Each of us was ordered to go to the wartime gathering point, so I went to Squadron 28 to Naarajärvi. Oippa slapped his fist on his hand and said, "dammit now I'm going to earn chains to my gold watch." In the Winter War he had gotten a gold watch without chain.
One more thing happened in 1977, related to the Hurricanes. The Jaeger Major Otto Joki was at a formal dinner at Tampere and told of a celebration they had had at Turku for the return of the Jaegers. (Reserve officers in the 50's). Couldn't one be arranged again. Why not, I went to the United Bank the next Monday and met Urpo Levo. He had been on an official visit in Hungary. I said I had agreed to arrange a feast to the Jaegers, and asked if he would come with us. He did, and so we had a splendid party at Marina Palace. Free lodging and service to all Jaegers. Lunch at Sirkkala garrison and dinner in the Turku Castle.
A man in civilian garb came to speak to me at Sirkkala. He had been a military liaison at London and now back in Finland, his father was a Jaeger. How was London, I asked. He asked if I had been there. Yes, I replied, receiving fighters in wartime. "So do you know Air Chief Marshall Dennis Smallwood?" "No, but I know P/O Smallwood!" He had been in Tom Pinkham's squadron, the same where the Finns had been in.
Now he was at the top levels of the Royal Air Force. This Commodore I met had heard from Dennis that he had been training Finnish HC men. He gave me Dennis' address. We had gotten small leather-covered notebooks, and before leaving England I had taken the guys' names in it. Here is Feb 25th, '40, P/O Dennis Smallwood. I took a copy of the page and wrote to him, if he recognises his signature. He did, in a letter that soon came. He told that all of Pinkham's officers had been shot down, except for him. Next I wrote to Meriö (Lt.Gen. Rauno Meriö, ex-Air Force CinC) and told that I was one of the twelve and would like to go there. Pertti Jokinen, now a General, was a military attache in England. Meriö told him to arrange it.
Eppu and I went to Farnborough. Before going on to St.Athan we visited the BAe factories, where our first Hawk was assembled. The military attache Danswold came to Cardwick as our guide. A pretty female chauffeur took us right to the officers' mess hall we had been living in. The Sq/Ldr welcomed us, and we had coffee. Next, we met some officers in the Commander's office. Dennis Smallwood was the first to shake hands, we had damn good time. We got royal treatment that day in St.Athan. We got to sit in the Hurricane, when I climbed in I customarily pulled the stepping board out from under the hull. Others wondered at that. It was wonderful to sit in a real plane again. We got RAF plaques, and left our old flight badge on a board there.
M: A local TV cameraman was there too.
A: And some mechanics.
M: One was already a Major General.
A: We were coming back by train, when a very classy silver-haired lady came aboard on a station and sat next to me. Assistant liaison Major Kalevi Palosaari said he was thirsty and would go get some beer. Would you like some too? He brought some cans and cardboard cups. The lady had been watching us all the time and wondering what we were talking about. I took my cup and said, "Yacki dow!" Eppu saw the lady's eyes get round. It was so funny, that Palosaari had to explain the situation and that we were Finnish pilots, who had been here during the war. The lady smiled. On her way out, she wished me "Bock huile!" It was my turn to gape, so she explained it was Welsh for best wishes. All three of us bowed, and we parted our ways as friends.
C: Some adventures you had. Good thing we got these written down.
K: "Afterwards I've been often thinking, whose bright idea it was to completely separate a trained squadron and begin training new Hurricane pilots from scratch? Pilots with HU training were transferred to Squadron 28 and "double trained" to the Morane Saulnier, with which they began the Continuation War. But that's another story." Memoirs of Uuno Karhumäki.
C: Who of the original HU men began the Continuation War with the Hurricane?
C: Ketkä alkuperäisistä HU-miehistä aloitti Jatkosodan HC:lla?
Lieutenant Tapio Taskinen.
Sergeant Paavo Aikala. Two victories.
Sq 30, June 22, '41
Sq 10, 1.flight Cpt H. Kalaja (5 HC) Sq 10, Aug 19, '41
Sq 32, 1. flight Cpt H. Kalaja (3 HC) Sq 32 Sept 23, '41
Sq 26, 2. flight (2 HC) June 23, '42. Later 3 HC's more. May 1943 planes were put to storage.
Sq 34 April 27, '44
Captured Russian HC-465, last flown May 31, '44. Retired in the autumn.
HC-451, last flown June 15, '42 Total flight time 188 h 05 min. Retired Oct 8, '44.
HC-452, last flown ? Total flight time 208 h 15 min. Retired Aug 9, '44. 2,5 victories.
HC-453, last flown June 25, '41. Retired Aug 23, '41. Total flight time 107 h 20 min. Veikko Teuri killed in flight accident.
HC-454, retired Jan 2, '50. Total flight time 165h 55 min. One victory.
HC-455, last flown July 30, '42. Staff Sergeant Paavo Aikala killed in flight accident. Retired 10.10.42. Total flight time 38 h 20 min.
HC-456, retired Sept 26, '44. Total flight time 164h 00 min. One victory.
HC-457, last flown June 3, '40 2ndLt Viljo Pinomaa killed in flight accident. Retired Aug 22, '40. Total flight time 24 h 45 min.
HC-458, last flown Sept 16, '41, shot down by AA, Cpt Heikki Kalaja killed in action. Retired April 29, '42. Total flight time 106 h 35 min.
HC-459, last flown July 2, '41. Hit by AA, caught fire when landing. Sgt Lauri Suominen injured. Retired Aug 23, '41. Total flight time 35 h 10 min.
HC-460, last flown March 22, '43. Retired Sept 26, '43. Total flight time 57 h 50 min.
HC-461, stranded at Wick Feb 28, '40.
HC-462, destroyed at Eigerö March 2, '40. Cpl Martti Laitinen injured.
HC-465, captured Nov 28, '42. Last flown May 31, '44. Retired Oct 8, '44. Total flight time 18 h 40 min.
The HC's that arrived in Finland 1940 were of the second Hawker series of 300 planes.
Contract 751458/38, Spec. 15/36 N2318-N2367. Numbers known to be ours N2322-24, 47, 58. Of series N2380-N2409 numbers N2392-N2395.
Numbers of three planes unknown.
I've retrieved the story above from the remains of my father and converted to a Word file.
Original recording: Rainer Leino
Transcription: Göran Bruun
English translation: Lt(jg) Markku Herd, Finnish Navy.
Proofreading: Jukka O. Kauppinen
Pictures: "Hurricanes to Finland" article at the Fighter Tactics Academy, by Jussi Räty.
Copyright Göran Bruun 2003.
Last modified: 2003-10-28 22:33