Tuesday, April 8, 2014

General Talvela and BT-5

Finland, Vitele 1941.08.26

Paavo Talvela

Paavo Talvela (1897, Vantaa - 1973) was a Finnish soldier and a Knight of the Mannerheim Cross. He was one of the volunteers who served in the Finnish Jaeger battalion in Germany in 1916 to 1917. He was a battalion commander in the Finnish Civil War. In 1919 he took part in the Aunus expedition as Commander in Chief.

During the Winter War (1939 - 1940), Talvela commanded "Group Talvela" which took part in the Battle of Tolvajärvi. For this success he was promoted to Major General in December 1939, the first promotion to general's rank during the war. In February 1940 Talvela took the command of the Finnish III Corps in the Karelian Isthmus. When the war ended on 13 March 1940, Talvela returned to civilian life. However, once the Finnish-German relations warmed, he was used in semi-official missions to Germany in late 1940.

During the early Continuation War Talvela commanded the Finnish VI Corps in Karelia. From January 1942, when he was promoted to Lieutenant General, until February 1944 Talvela was the Finnish representative at the German High Command. Once back in Finland, Talvela commanded first the Finnish II Corps in northern Karelia until June 1944 when he took over the command of the Aunus Group. In July 1944 Talvela was sent back to Germany, where he remained until Finland made peace with the Soviet Union in early September 1944. When he was about to depart for Finland, Himmler reportedly asked Talvela to become the head of a pro-German faction in Finland. Talvela refused out of hand.

After the war Talvela spent some years in South America as a representative of Finnish paper industry, until returning to Finland. He was promoted to General of Infantry in retirement in 1966.

Talvela was very able and aggressive commander in offense, but he was less well suited to defensive warfare. He was prone to vanity and temper tantrums and his stubbornness made Talvela a very difficult subordinate. He performed best when given independent commands. Talvela was awarded the Mannerheim Cross in 1941.


The BT tanks (Bystrokhodny tank, lit. "fast moving tank" or "high-speed tank") were a series of Soviet cavalry tanks produced in large numbers between 1932 and 1941. They were lightly armoured, but reasonably well-armed for their time, and had the best mobility of all contemporary tanks of the world. The BT tanks were known by the nickname Betka from the acronym, or its diminutive Betushka.

The direct successor of the BT tanks would be the famous T-34 medium tank, introduced in 1940, which would replace all of the Soviet fast tanks, infantry tanks, and medium tanks in service.