Sunday, June 5, 2016

Air-Observation Lotta Eillen Kiuru at Lahdenpohja Observation Tower

Air-observation Lotta Eillen Kiuru posed for a propaganda picture in front of Finnish and German war correspondents at Lahdenpohja observation tower on 11 July 1942. The women of Finland fulfilled numerous important roles, even near the front line. 'Lotta Svärd' was a Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organisation for women. Formed originally in 1918, it had a large membership undertaking volunteer social work in the 1920s and 1930s. During the Winter War some 100,000 men whose jobs were taken over by "Lottas" were freed for military service. The Lottas worked in hospitals, at air-raid warning posts and other auxiliary tasks in conjunction with the armed forces. The Lottas, however, were officially unarmed. The only exception was a voluntary anti-aircraft battery in Helsinki in the summer of 1944, composed of Lotta Svärd members. The battery operated the AA search-lights. The unit was issued rifles for self-protection, thus being the only armed female military unit of the Finnish Defence Forces history! The dire need for labor led to fast recruitment and there was often no time to properly train the new Lottas according to the principles of the organization. In addition, most new recruits were young and inexperienced. This caused some friction between the veterans and the new recruits. Lotta Svärd suffered relatively light losses, considering the number of women posted to a war zone and the length of the war. During the wars, 291 Lottas died, most of which (140) from diseases caught on duty. 66 were killed near the front, 47 in air raids and 34 in accidents. The fallen Lottas were buried in war heroes' graves in their home parishes. Finnish author Aila Virtanen argues that, their "accountability to the nation took a masculine and military form in public, but had a private, feminine side to it including features like caring, helping and loving." The organisation was suppressed by the government after the war.

Source :
Book "Finland at War: The Continuation and Lapland Wars 1941-45" by Vesa Nenye, Peter Munter, Toni Wirtanen and Chris Birks

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