The Angels of the Winter War
Being a member of Lotta Svärd
To become a member of the Lotta Svärd, applicants needed
two well-known and trustworthy persons to recommend them. The board of
the local unit evaluated the applications and accepted new members. Upon
acceptance, members took a pledge to the organization.
"I [first name surname] pledge
with my word of honor, that I will honestly and according my conscience
to assist Suojeluskunta
in defending creed, home and fatherland. And I promise
that I won't give up working in Lotta Svärd Association,
until one month has passed from
me verifiably informing Local Board from my desire
to resign from the Association. "
In the early years of the Lotta Svärd Organization, members
were not formally trained well. The first courses
started in the summer of 1922. Nursing training was in
high demand, though teachers
were scarce. Short medical courses, concentrated on gathering
bandage material and medicine, were organized by doctors
in the area. The two-week
medical courses started in 1924, but these courses were
not useful and replaced by 6-month nursing courses in 1928
which proved to be highly
effective. Around forty 6-month nursing courses were
organized and by 1938 about 65 percent of Lottas belonging
to nursing section had participated
in these courses. In the autumn of 1939 Lotta Svärd Association
could arrange eight well-equipped Finnish military field
hospitals with some 1,250
Members who belonged to the provisioning section
received on-the-job training by arranging food supplies
for various functions. Before the
war, local Lotta Svärd units of many Finnish towns and
cities had their own café, which also raised funds.
The equipment section arranged courses on gathering
materials or creating supplies, in some cases professional
tailors or military tailors taught
these courses. Air surveillance courses and mobilization
exercises started in 1932. Further courses were added in
the late 1930s which included anti-chemical
weapons training in 1936 and signal training in 1937.
Clothing and etiquette:
The first Lotta Svärd clothing regulations were issued
in 1921 and comprised of a grey jacket, belt and skirt
made from the same coarse fabric that the Suojeluskunta
(the Finnish Civil Guard) used for their uniforms.
This clothing, too warm and constrictive,
was replaced two years later. Materials of the new Lotta
Svärd clothing were cotton and wool, but
the color remained grey. Winter trench coats retained
the coarse cloth from the old uniforms, but the summer
version was similar to a raincoat.
Many items, such as the summer field caps were similar
to those used by Suojeluskunta.
Sports clothing (such as
ski clothing) was not as
formal and often had pants instead of skirt. The clothes
were loose fitting and the skirt hems remained 25 centimeters
from ground level for duration
of the organization.
The rules for wearing Lotta clothing were quite strict:
- The only medals and insignias allowed with it were
badges of honor plus of course the merit- and fitness-badges
of the Lotta Svärd.
- No makeup was allowed and hair had to be kept inside
- Wedding rings and a watches were the only jewelry
- Drinking alcohol, smoking and immoral behavior
were strictly forbidden while wearing Lotta clothing.
- Going to the frontline without permission was
forbidden during the war.
Probably the most important, and at times controversial,
insignia for the organization was Lotta-pin designed
by Eric Vasstrom and introduced in
1922. The main motif of the pin was blue "hakaristi" (Finnish
variation of swastika) and with a heraldic rose in every
corner. The probability of confusion increased greatly
after national-socialists got into power in Germany.
The grey uniform-like clothing with a pin that had a swastika-like
symbol caused foreigners to sometimes mistakenly think
Lottas were connected
with the German nazi-party.
Officially Lottas were also supposed to salute with
soldiers and each other with their own salute, in which
the right hand was placed over the breast
so its fingers extended all the way to point of left armpit.
However, this salute was rarely used.
Lottas were expected to act in virtuous ways and avoid
causing disapproval in any way. During wartime the clothing
and etiquette rules were slackened a bit. In warm weather, Lottas were
to open the two top buttons
of their shirt and roll up their sleeves (which then could
be attached to shoulder buttons).
During wartime, critics
within the organization claimed that many of the new
members who had joined during
the wars lacked
the high ideological standards of the pre-war members.
In a way the critics were correct, the organization received
huge number of new members in
a short time, so some less-then-perfect applicants got
The typical punishments that Lotta Svärd used for members
that broke the rules were transfer and being sent back
home. The most severe punishment
was sending the member back in front of her own Lotta Svärd local unit, which could issue an official warning,
or suggest the member resign.
During the Continuation War some 90,000 Field Lottas served,
and only 346 received suggestions to resign,
or were suspended.
Next - Lotta Svärd during the Winter War
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