FORMATIONS (TO&E), PART 6

 

World War II: Jaegers & other light infantry

 

When first created in 18th century jaeger formations were typically light infantry that used rifled muskets. The term jaeger is German and translates directly translated as a hunter. During late Swedish era Finnish troops had some jaeger units, but this is not really where the term originates to later Finnish use. The term jaeger - jääkäri (Finnish) / jäger (Swedish) has always carried a special significance in Finnish Armed Forces. When Finnish White Army was created during Civil War in 1918, jaegers were the ones who became its officers and NCO. They were Finnish volunteers, who has secretly travelled to Germany during World War 1 to receive military training for gaining the knowledge needed for expulsion of Russian military from Finland. They were called jaegers simply because unit that German Imperial Army created from them - Royal Prussian Jaeger Battalion 27. When they returned in middle of Civil War in 1918, they provided White Army the trained leaders, which it needed to win the war. After Civil War they formed officer corps of Finnish Armed Forces and during World War 2 most commanders of Finnish Army were still former jaegers. First jaeger-formations created already during Civil War were jaeger regiments, which were simply infantry regiments created from males of suitable age called to military service. However, later the term would be used for troops of quite a different kind. By late 1930's jaeger units of Finnish Army were jaeger battalions (Jääkäripataljoona), which were bicycle infantry that fought as ski-infantry in wintertime. These were to be type of jaeger troops used in World War 2. As was suitable to status of the term by any standard most of these battalions became elite units of Finnish Army during the war. Especially Continuation War (1941 - 1944) era Jaeger Battalions 2 - 5 forming Jaeger Brigade of Armour Division rank among the best units of Finnish Army at that time, while Jaeger Battalions 1 and 6 serving with Cavalry Brigade didn't gain exactly shaggy reputation either. To keep up the pace, the supply formations of jaeger battalions tended to be motorised.

It must also be noted, that jaeger battalions were not the only place where this type of troops existed. Each battalion of infantry regiment and HQ of each infantry regiment had their own jaeger platoon. These platoons created from younger and more selected soldiers served mainly as recon and counter-attack unit. Sometimes jaeger platoons (1 from regimental HQ and 3 from each battalion) were gathered together and used to form the regiment a jaeger company, which had four platoons.

While jaeger battalions were maybe the best known of light troops of Finnish Army, they were not the only ones. Light detachment (kevyt osasto) was a unit type created from company of cavalry, company of bicycle troops and machinegun platoon. That was the theory, in practice apparently often their both companies were issued with bicycles instead of cavalry squadron getting horses. This unit type was intended for giving each division of Finnish Army a smaller mobile formation, which could be used for purposes of vanguard, rearguard, recon, screening and as a mobile reserve. But due to acute and constant shortage of infantry during Winter War, Light Detachments often ended up being used merely as more of "additional infantry". Kevyt osasto type units existed also during early Continuation War and apparently they now got more often used for their original intended purposes. Early Continuation War light detachment contained two companies of bicycle troops (jaegers) and machinegun company - and were usually motorised, but depending area where they operated sometimes got their motor vehicles replaced with horses. Grand majority of light detachments was disestablished in year 1942 and this unit type basically disappeared at that time.

Yet another type of specialised light infantry was sissi battalion (sissipataljoona). These battalions were light infantry units intended for fighting in vast wilderness of forests and swamps, which formed large part of the Finnish - Soviet front. Fighting in such an environment made transporting all heavy weapons that the soldiers could not carry with them practically impossible and reflected to selection of small arms used to equip these units. Shortly said, that while during Winter War these battalions also had to do with what weapons was available, during Continuation War light machineguns and submachineguns became the preferred weapons used for equipping their troops. While the literal translation of sissi is guerilla, ranger is the better translation of the term in this case, since these were not irregular troops, but part of Finnish Army. The title likely refers to the guerilla-warfare like tactics that these units were often using - like ambushes and hit & run.

 

PICTURE: Finnish jaegers and their bicycles. During World War 2 Finnish Army jaeger troops were by definition light infantry which operated as bicycle infantry in summer time and as ski infantry in winter. (SA-kuva photo archive).

 

 

Jaeger Battalion, 1939:

Battalion Commander

Battalion HQ

3 Jaeger Infantry Companies, in each Company:

Heavy Company

 

Jaeger Battalion, 1939 - 1940:

Battalion Commander

Battalion HQ

3 Jaeger Infantry Companies, in each Company:

Machinegun Company (12 x Maxim machinegun)

Gun Company

(*) Likely some of the Winter War era Gun Companies of Jaeger Battalions didn't have this type of platoon.

 

Jaeger Infantry Company of Jaeger Battalion, 1939 - 1940:

Company Commander (pistol)

Command Squad

3 Rifle Platoons, in each platoon:

Supplies Platoon

 

Jaeger Battalion (1941 - 1942):

Battalion Commander (pistol)

Battalion HQ

3 Jaeger Companies

Supplies Platoon

Light Mortar Platoon (3 x 81-mm or 82-mm mortars)

Machinegun Company (12 x heavy machinegun, similar as with infantry regiments)

 

Vehicles and other transport equipment issued for Jaeger Battalion in 1941:

(**) Early on typically four 8 mm - 14 mm at-rifles, around 1942 - 1943 they were typically replaced with two 20 mm Lahti L-39 at-rifles.

 

Jaeger Battalion (1943 - 1945):

Battalion Commander (pistol)

Battalion HQ

Light Mortar Platoon (1 - 3 x 81-mm or 50-mm mortars)

Machinegun Company (12 x heavy machinegun, similar as with infantry regiments)

(***) Typically two 20-mm L-39 at-rifles, starting from June 1944 often also panzerfaust/panzerschreck, captured 50-mm mortar added in 1943.

 

Machinegun Company of Jaeger Battalion, 1941 - 1942:

Company Commander (pistol)

messengers (runners)

3 Machinegun Platoons

Antitank Platoon

Supplies Platoon

(***) 3 men of messengers also have anti-chemical weapons training.

(*****) Notice: Typically 20-mm antitank rifles

 

Machinegun Company of Jaeger Battalion, 1943 - 1944:

Company Commander (pistol)

Messengers (runners)

Company commanders driver (passenger car + rifle)

3 Machinegun Platoons

Antitank Platoon

Supplies Platoon

(***) 3 men of messengers also have anti-chemical weapons training.

(******) Notice: At-rifles of mostly removed from use of these Antitank Platoons in 1943. After that they used typically satchel charges. Starting from June of 1944 they started getting panzerfaust and panzerschreck.

 

PICTURE: Lieutenant Nykänen's Jaeger Platoon from Infantry Regiment 11. When this photo was taken in February of 1943 typical rifle platoon of infantry regiment had less than ten submachine guns - this platoon has over 20. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 122331).

 

Light Mortar Platoon of Jaeger Battalion, (1941 - 1942):

Platoon leader (pistol)

2 messengers (runners) (rifles)

Platoon leaders driver (passenger car + rifle)

3 Light Mortar Squads

 

Light Mortar Platoon of Jaeger Battalion, (1943 - 1944):

Platoon leader (pistol)

2 messengers (runners) (rifles)

Fire orders NCO (submachinegun) (added 1943)

Platoon leaders driver (passenger car + rifle)

3 Light Mortar Squads

 

 

Frontier Jaeger Battalion, (1943 - 1944):

Battalion Commander (pistol, horse)

Battalion HQ

3 Border Jaeger Companies

Light Mortar Platoon (1 - 3 x 81-mm or 50-mm mortars)

Machinegun Company (12 x heavy machinegun, similar as with infantry regiments)

 

PARTS OF DIVISIONAL LIGHT DETACHMENT, (1939 - 1940):

(Notice: Each Division had Light Detachment during Winter War. Basically Light Detachment was kind of lighter and more mobile battalion created from company of bicycle troops, company (aka squadron) of cavalry and machinegun platoon. As far as known the Machinegun Platoon part was similar as Machinegun Platoons of Machinegun Companies belonging to Infantry Regiments).

Bicycle Company / Jaeger Company of Light Detachment:

Company Commander (pistol)

Company HQ Squad

 

Strenght: 5 officers + 30 NCO + 160 men

10 horses + 10 vehicles + 180 bicycles

 

Cavalry Company / Cavalry Squadron of Light Detachment:

Squadron Commander (pistol)

Squadron HQ Squad

Supplies Platoon

 

Strength: 4 officers + 25 NCO + 120 men

145 horses + 15 vehicles + 7 bicycles

Notice: Apparently it wasn't uncommon for Cavalry Squadrons of Light Detachments of Winter War era being also equipped with bicycles instead of horses.

 

 

LIGHT DETACHMENT (1941 - 1942):

 

Light Detachment (1941 - 1942):

Detachment HQ and HQ Company

2 Jaeger Companies

Machinegun company

 

Light Detachment HQ and HQ Company (1941 - 1942):

Detachment Commander (pistol)

Adjutant (NCO) (pistol)

Supplies officer (pistol)

Doctor (pistol)

Priest (pistol)

HQ Team

Signal Platoon

Supplies Platoon

Supplies Team

Detachment Supply Column

NCO commanding supply column (rifle)

3 Truck Drivers and 3 Mechanics (6 trucks, rifles)

 

Jaeger Company of Light Detachment (1941 - 1942):

Company Commander (pistol + submachinegun/rifle)

HQ Team

Supplies Platoon

 

Machinegun Company of Light Detachment (1941 - 1942):

Company Commander (submachinegun + pistol)

HQ Team

3 Machinegun Platoons, in each platoon:

Antitank Platoon

Supplies Platoon

 

SISSI BATTALION, 1939 - 1940:

Battalion HQ

3 Sissi Companies

 

HQ of Sissi Battalion:

Battalion Commander (pistol)

Battalion HQ

 

Sissi Company:

Company Commander (submachinegun + pistol)

Messengers (runners)

3 rifle Platoons, in each Platoon:

Light Machinegun Platoon

Signal Platoon

Supplies Platoon

Notice: The horse-vehicles are in this case horse-towed sleighs. This type of arrangement had one horse towing a rather small sleigh.

 


Last updated 6th of November 2016
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