Military Uniforms "M/18" and "M/19"



Note: In this website military uniform "M/18" is being used to refer Finnish White Army / Finnish Army uniforms of year 1918 in general. Some Finnish sources, such as works of Pekka Aarniaho and Stig Roudasmaa use the term uniform m/18 only about military uniform specified in regulations of July 1918.

For all practical purposes uniforms "m/18" and "m/19" were a mixed selection of uniform-models varying from one another in degree – being product of uniforms originally acquired without proper regulations and then often repeatedly modified to fit into new regulations too numerous to properly keep track of. The first orders concerning uniforms, that Finnish White Army issued to its troops in 18th of February 1918 basically stated that the soldier’s own civilian winter clothes were now their military uniform, what other suitable clothing they could use and what the army was attempting to acquire for them. White Army had to start its supply organization from the scratch, hence it had to rely improvisation and acquire equipment for its soldiers from where ever possible.

Finnish Army was born out of a Finnish Civil War (January – May 1918) and as can be expected under such conditions at the time it had no real standard uniform. Grand majority of its soldiers fought the war in their own civilian clothes and often had just a white armband made from cloth tied around their left arm to indicate them being soldiers of Finnish Army. Year 1918 Finnish manufacturing of ready-to-wear clothing was still in its infancy and their industrial manufacturing had not yet even begun, hence no real capability for mass production of military uniforms existed at that time. White Army officers often had the uniforms of the army where they had served – Russian, German or Swedish one – although the Russian uniforms did not see much use for obvious reasons. Jaegers, Finnish volunteers of Prussian Jaeger Battalion 27, wore their own German or German-based uniforms. White Army acquired military clothing for its soldiers, but not in such extent that it would have allowed most of its soldiers to be properly equipped with military uniforms. This combined with basically non-existent uniform regulations, huge number of small scale manufacturers, shortage of materials and acquisitions made by units and individual soldiers caused Finnish Army having very mixed clothing. And since there was standardized way of marking ranks into uniforms in beginning of the war, White Army ended up using simultaneously two completely separate systems and numerous other smaller variations in marking military ranks.

PICTURE: Period photo showing three White Army soldiers of unknown White Guard unit. Only thing indicating that they are soldiers are rifles and white armbands, otherwise all three men are wearing their own civilian clothes. This was the starting point for equipping Finnish White Army. March of 1918 White Army issued orders for troops to start using also white headbands in addition of armbands to reduce friendly fire incidents. Their opponent Red Guards used red armbands and headbands in similar manner. All three rifles are infantry rifle m/91. (Photo Jaeger Platoon photo collection.) CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (109 KB).

In case anybody wonders, Finnish Red Guards, the main opponent of Finnish White Army in Civil War was even more poorly equipped. The Red Guards de facto ended up relying almost entirely on civilian clothes, with typically only red headband and/or armband indicating their status of being in the guard. In other words unlike with White Army, there does not seem to have been any real effort of trying to equip them with uniforms of any kind. At best Finnish (company-sized at most) Red Guards units apparently succeeded equipping men among them in somewhat uniform manner, but this was rare and there was no standard of any sort in between Red Guard units. Every now then member of Red Guards might sport part of Russian military uniform, such as hat, coat or boots – but unless they happened to be former Russian soldiers, that would usually be the extent of it. The Red Guards did not even have cockades to issue for their combatants and often used pre-war fund-raising badges and other similar badges as improvised cockades. Keeping in mind that the war was fought from winter to spring and the fact that much of their manpower came from industrial workers, whose winter clothing was often far less suited for warfare in snow-covered landscape and subzero temperatures than those of rural population. This was a factor which also partly explain the poor combat success of Finnish Red Guards - not just poor leadership and having no military training. Period photos not only suggest that not having warm winter clothing was not that rare, but instead of boots period photos often show Red Guard members having normal shoes and not even using puttees with them. Finnish Reds confiscated what they could find and tried to get industry to manufacture them more boots and winter clothing, but failed in their attemp.

PICTURE: Typical military uniform "m/18". The tunic version shown in the photo has canted breast pockets and cap is so-called jaeger-cap, which was the most common hat design issued by Finnish White Army. White armband was the standard identification for white Army and usually had unit markings - either unit name or its abbreviation of its name. In this case the unit is 1st Mikkeli (Infantry) Battalion, which fought in Savo Front. Laplander boots would have probably been acquired privately at that point. Leather belt seems similar to those found in period photos. The pistol is Mauser m/96 supplied by Germany to Finnish White Army. Cockade is probably not a period-correct design. Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo (Infantry Museum, Mikkeli). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (133 KB).


Military uniform "m/18"

General Mannerheim’s Headquarters, in other words General Headquarters of Finnish White Army, decided about the basic uniform model already in early February of 1918. But materializing that decision to actual manufactured uniforms proved so complicated that early on basically the civilian clothes that the men already had were made their military uniform. Army needed uniforms but there were none available yet, so this can be seen as a temporary highly pragmatic solution for the problem. Probably the most serious obstacle for acquiring military uniforms was that after several years of World War 1 Finland was suffering from shortage of suitable manufacturing materials. Hence the first military jackets White Army issued to its soldiers were in fact shortened captured Russian Army greatcoats (shinel m1912). Manufacturing of military uniforms for White Army started in late February and early on they were only manufactured in tailor’s shops around city of Vaasa / Wasa. But since production of those tailor’s shops capacity soon proved to be far too small for the job, production work was spread into all possible tailor’s shops in area controlled by White Army and new tailor’s shops were even established for this specific purpose. By end of the war there were dozens of manufacturers making uniforms for White Army. The set of instructions and drawing of uniform tunic delivered to the manufacturers in late February was obviously made by laymen with no understanding about designing or manufacturing of clothing and extremely vague in general – basically the only useful details indicated in that set of instructions were that the tunic was to be made of coarse cloth (thick wool), it was supposed to have four pockets sewed on it and a downwards folding collar. Jacket was to be closed with six buttons and each pocket flap was to be closed with a button. Buttons used in the tunic were supposed to be made from bone, which was the common button material at that time. If compared to military uniforms of the era, the instructions were somewhat unusual in that sense that in its drawings the tunic had no epaulets and apparently due to this were not included to grand majority of uniform jackets manufactured during Civil War. The first orders to mention epaulets were temporary regulations issued in 18th of April 1918, which ordered not only them to be used but that they were to indicate service branch of enlisted men and non-commissioned officers.

PICTURE: Another typical military uniform "m/18". Notice vertical breast pockets in tunic and jaeger-cap with diamond-shaped white-yellow cockade made from felt, which indicates that the soldier belongs to 2nd (infantry) regiment of Carelian Front. The medal ribbon is for Medal of Freedom 2nd class (Vapaudenmitali 2. luokka) - over 13,000 of these medals were awarded during Civil War. The rifle is Japanese 6.5 mm rifle m/05 (Type 38). The leather belt matches to belt design found in period photos, but has been manufactured in year 1921. German ammunition pouches were not common for White Army. Photo taken in Maneesi of Sotamuseo (Military Museum, Helsinki). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (114 KB).

Coarse cloth (heavy wool) was the obvious material of choice for military uniforms for Finnish winter and the official color of choice for White Army was brown-grey, but in reality simple grey seems to have been most common colour for fabric used in manufacruing of uniforms – likely simply because it was the most common color available. Wool being grey there was no need for dye, which made it cheap and favorite of rural population for every day clothes, explaining availability. This decision of uniform color would have long-lasting effects. To get materials for making uniforms White Army confiscated fabric stockpiles of traders and factories, but even this proved insufficient, hence textile industry was ordered to manufacture coarse cloth for military use. As mentioned availability of materials needed for manufacturing uniforms proved very poor. Varying suitable fabrics acquired form variety of sources, manufacturing spread into dozens of tailor’s shops and vague instructions produced predicable outcome – soldiers of White Army got issued with countless variations of military uniform, whose easily noticeable distinctive differences include:

By end of Civil War Finnish White Army had succeeded equipping only fraction of its troops with military uniforms. The total uniform production by early April of 1918 had reached only about 15,000 – while about 55,000 uniforms would have been needed by that point. There also seems to have been notable variation in deliveries of uniforms and uniform items depending unit type. Namely jaeger regiments that White Army created from conscripts and recruited regiments apparently had priority status for receiving uniforms, while Civil Guard units created from volunteers do not seem to have received uniforms - at least not in any real numbers.

PICTURE: Some White Army units had their own uniform versions. The uniform seen here is Uudenmaa Dragoon Regiment machinegunner uniform from Finnish Civil War. It is worth noting that the uniform used by Uudenmaa Dragoon Regiment was based on uniform used by Saksanniemi School for Mounted Police, which had been established in September of 1917 as intended starting point for re-creating national police force in Finland. The school was attacked by Red Guards in starting of Civil War, later its students and staff became the core around with Uudenmaa Dragoon Regiment was created. Uudenmaa Dragoon Regiment tunic had dark blue collar and cuffs just like the police school uniform. The hat is blue version of White Army official winter hat intended for cavalry. Patch with Maxim emblem in right arm of tunic indicates that the soldier is a machinegunner - there was variety of such markings used in White Army. The weapon is Chauchat light machinegun m/15, small number of which saw use with White Army in Civil War. German ammunition pouches were not common for Finnish White Army. The Photo taken in Sotamuseo (Military Museum, Helsinki). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (126 KB).

However grey coarse cloth uniform was not the only military uniform acquired for White Army. Finnish Civil War was fought from January to May of 1918 - in other words from midwinter to late spring. While coarse cloth was good material for winter uniform it was also too warm for the approaching summer. Hence General Mannerheim's Headquarters started making plans for summer uniform manufactured from lighter fabric already in March. The fabric chosen for the purpose was simply referred as "rucksack fabric" and manufacturing of light uniforms made from it seems to have started already in March, although official uniform design containing tunic, trousers and hat was not officially approved in early April of 1918. Also manufacturing of jaeger-cap like hats made from moleskin (thick cotton) started in late March or early April. But at that point White Army had no immediate hurry for introducing new summer uniform, so this time the uniform design was tested and feedback about it gathered before deciding the final uniform design. In April of 1918 there were plans of acquiring as many as 30,000 summer uniforms, but it is likely that the total production number was smaller. As with coarse cloth uniforms acquired earlier, availability of materials proved to be a major problem. The fabric originally chosen for these summer uniforms "M/18" was impregnated "rucksack fabric", but apparently due to it not being sufficiently available, in 19th of April orders were changed for khaki-colored twill to be used instead of it. But this proved soon proved to be a poor choice, since twill proved to be too weak for the purpose, so in May of 1918 orders were again revised - this time in such manner that summer uniform's trousers were to be made from moleskin instead of twill. According period photos the tunic used in summer uniform "M/18" was rather similar to basic design earlier manufactured from coarse cloth. Namely it had both side pockets and breast pockets, which all had button closed pocket flaps, downwards folded collar and the tunic was closed with single row of five buttons, which sometimes was hidden under fabric flap. The tunic design had no epaulets and both collar and epaulets of enlisted men and non-commissioned officers seem to have been similar fabric as rest of the tunic, while officer's version may have had higher collar made from dark fabric.

Finnish White Army had certain groups of soldiers, which had their distinct uniform types. The most notable of these groups was jaegers. During World War 1 Finnish volunteers had been sent to German to receive military for purpose of getting military leaders, who could lead armed uprising or other military struggle against Russia. While in Germany they served in Prussian Jaeger Battalion 27, due to which they are commonly referred as the jaegers (jääkärit). With their main force returning to Finland in February of 1918 about 1,260 jaegers fought in Finnish White Army and played key role in providing it core of trained officers and non-commissioned officers. Jaegers had their own type of uniform, commonly referred as jaeger-uniform (jääkäriunivormu), which were normally modified versions of the uniforms they had used in German Army and uniforms based on it. Jaeger uniforms were made from green-grey wool, their tunic had relatively high downwards folded collar and often folded cuffs. Otherwise there was very little standard among these tunics with details on them apparently being based on personal preference of each jaeger. Apparently jaegers typically acquired modifications to their existing uniforms or even new uniforms before heading to Finland. The uniform tunic that jaegers commonly used while serving in White Army during Civil War was usually German feltbluse m/15 modified by adding relatively high collar and breast pockets. Jaeger tunic collar and cuffs could be the same material as rest of the tunic or made from black or dark green fabric, in some rare cases also tunic pocket flaps were dark green or black. Normally also original buttons got replaced and some of the jaegers even acquired German officer’s uniform, while jaegers that had served in cavalry apparently retained their original German cavalry tunic design. While jaeger-uniforms helped those wearing them to establish authority among (typically notably more poorly equipped) soldiers that they were to lead in battle, during Finnish War they also proved to be liability, since they allowed easy identification of jaegers and could made them priority targets.

PICTURE: Two Finnish Civil War era Jaeger-officer uniform versions. Both uniforms are for Jaeger-Lieutenant (or Senior Lieutenant before April of 1918), although the one in the left is unusual in having combination of German staff officer's shoulder boards (usually used by Jaeger-Majors) with two "sterns". Notice differences in tunic breast pocket design and collar. Both wear original German jaeger-caps. Left one has pistol holster for Mauser m/96 pistol, while right one has holster for P-08 Parabellum pistol. The one on the right also has ribbon of German Iron Cross 2nd Class. The photos taken in Maneesi of Sotamuseo (Military Museum, Helsinki) and Museum Militaria (Museo Militaria, Hämeenlinna). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (143 KB).

Another much smaller but still notable group, which had their own uniforms were 84 Swedish volunteers, who served as officers in Finnish White Army and apparently in large extent wore uniforms of Swedish Army. However they were not the only ones or even the largest group of White Army to use Swedish uniforms. Swedish Brigade (Svenska Brigaden / Ruotsalainen Prikaati) was a volunteer unit of Finnish White Army created from Swedish volunteers for Finnish Civil War. When it went to battle during Tampere operation it had about 340 soldiers, who were using Swedish Army m/1910 military uniforms mixed with Finnish White Army uniform items (apparently mostly hats) and civilian clothing. In addition Pietarsaari / Björneborg Artillery School (Pietarsaaren Tykistökoulu) lead by Swedish Captain Adolf Hamilton apparently issued Swedish Army style uniforms acquired from Sweden to White Army artillery crews that the artillery school trained during the Civil War – it is possible that Pietarsaari Artillery School equipped up to 500 soldiers in that manner.

PICTURE: Period photograph showing some of the soldiers of Swedish Brigade in Tampere during Finnish Civil War. They are wearing what seems to be Swedish Army uniforms m/1906-1910 or m/1910, but Swedish "three crowns" uniform buttons have been replaced. White fur hats are Swedish Army m/1909 fur hats, commonly referred as Mannerheim hat in Finland and still feature Swedish rank markings, but Swedish cockades have been removed. Second soldier from the right has jaeger cap with Swedish rank markings and soldier on the right had what is probably Finnish White Army uniform with civilian hat that has Swedish rank markings. Swedish Brigade used white armband with yellow and blue stripes as seen in this photo. Both pistol holsters are Swedish holsters used for FN m/03 and Husqvarna m/07 pistols. Photo source Museokeskus Vapriikki, CC BY 2.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (225 KB).

Mannerheim’s Headquarters did not issue their first detailed orders about army uniforms until 15th of July 1918 – about two months after Finnish Civil War had ended to victory of White Army. In addition in practice the orders issued at that time were never applied in large extent, before they got cancelled by new orders issued by Ministry of Defense in 20th of November 1918. After that it took until 30th of June 1919 before new detailed orders concerning military uniforms were issued, this was also the first time that the orders also included proper drawings of uniforms.

It seems that the most important contribution of soon cancelled detailed uniform orders from 15th of July 1918 was introduction of epaulets also to uniforms of non-commissioned officers and enlisted men plus giving detailed orders concerning them. As expected the fabric used for all uniforms was to be coarse cloth (heavy wool). According these orders uniform color would have depended service arm with in this manner.

These uniform color choices would have been problematic from simple practical viewpoint since grand majority of already existing uniforms were steel-grey. Republic of Finland that had just surfaced from World War 1 and Civil War had very limited financial resources and military funding was not necessarily the highest priority, hence it is quite possible that the cancellation was simply based to decision of not wanting to replace practically all already existing uniforms.

PICTURE: Two Finnish officer's uniforms from circa 1918 - 1919. The brown-grey 2nd Lieutenant's on the left is a rare example of uniform made to fit for July 1918 uniform regulations, which proved short-lived. The Jaeger-captain's uniform on the right have m/19 epaulets with (coastal) artillery red brims, heraldic roses instead of "sterns" as pips indicating military rank and left breast pocket has "27" badge, which only jaegers were allowed to wear in their uniforms. This jaeger officer's pistol is Mauser m/96. Photo taken in of Sotamuseo (Military Museum, Helsinki). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (111 KB).

Hence it should be no surprise that orders issued 30th of June 1919 made steel-grey coarse cloth the official material for military uniforms of the whole army. Steel-grey had been the most common shade of color in uniforms acquired during Civil War and this allowed much of the earlier uniforms to be modified to fit into new uniform regulations and further reduced need for acquiring new military uniforms. As a side-effect these orders also de facto cemented the status of grey wool as the standard uniform cloth for Finnish military.

PICTURE: The modern version from coat of arms of Finland. The exact origins for this coat of arms are unknown, but the first remaining sample is from tomb memorial of Swedish King Gustav Vasa circa year 1580. Although the coat of arms features lion wielding straight (western) sword while stomping (eastern) sabre, this coat of arms remained in use through Finland's Russian period (1809 - 1917). Both the lion and heraldic roses featured in the coat of arms are extremely common elements in Finnish Army emblems of various type.Source of drawing Wikipedia, public domain. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (94 KB).


Hats and boots used by Finnish White Army:

Besides jackets and pants the only clothing item that Finnish White Army actually had a better supply situation with was headgear. White Army succeeded acquiring headgear in such quantity that they were issued in larger numbers than tunics or pants – being the most common uniform item issued by White Army during Civil War. While there were several hat designs being issued, the most common was so-called jaeger-cap (jääkärilakki), which was issued en mass to Jaeger Regiments conscripted and trained during the war starting March of 1918 and particular hat design gained official status as standard issue Finnish White Army summertime headgear in April of 1918. As the name suggests jaeger-cap was depending manufacturer a more or less accurate copy of peaked hat design issued to German mountain troops (gebirgsjäger) during World War 1. The hat design had been first used by Austro-Hungarian mountain troops, from which the Germans had copied it to their own mountain troops. Finnish jaegers received the hats when 500 man strong unit of ski troops was created from soldiers of Prussian Royal Jaeger Battalion 27 for battle of Aa-river in January of 1917. The cap design proved so popular among Finnish jaegers, that they kept the hats and later brought some to Finland with them.

PICTURE: Two versions of jaeger-cap. On the left version that jaegers brought from Germany and on the right one of caps based to it manufactured in Finland. Notice German "sterns" (stars) used as pips to indicate military rank, Austrian version had also six points but its points were longer. There were variety of stars used for the purpose during Civil War. Also notice buttons - Jaeger-Lieutenant's tunic already has buttons with Finnish coat of arms lion emblem. On the right Finnish-manufactured version of jaeger cap with diamond shape felt cockade only used by troops of Carelian Front. The cockade design was inspired by cockade designs used by Army units belonging to autonomic Grand Dutchy of Finland in 19th century. Colors used in these cockades varied from one (infantry) regiment of Carelia Front to another, this cockade version with yellow center and white background was in used by 2nd Infantry Regiment of Carelian Front. Photos taken in of Sotamuseo (Military Museum, Helsinki). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (101 KB).

In addition of jaeger-caps soldiers of White Army used large variety of civilian hats of all possible kind, but also following hat models which all gained at least semi-official status:

PICTURE: Traditional Finnish fur hat design known as Koivistolainen. Ends for the layer of fur seem to be usually attached another, unlike here. Source of photograph - photo copyrights Suomen Metsästysmuseo (The Hunting Museum of Finland), used with CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (114 KB).

PICTURE: This tricorne hat (kolmikulmahattu) was based on hat design used by Swedish cavalry in late 17th - early 18th century and was one of the rarest hat designs used by Finnish White Army. It had originally been used by Saksanniemi School for Mounted Police. The school was attacked by Red Guards in 17th November 1917. Many of its instructors and students succeeded escaping to Pohjanmaa Region and evantually joined Finnish White Army, becoming the core around which Uudenmaa Dragoon Regiment (Uudenmaan Rakuunarykmentti) was formed. This hat was produced by E.R. Wahlman Oy in 1917 - 1918, is made from black felt and equipped with red-and-yellow cockade. Source of photograph - provided by Lappeenrannan museot (Museums of Lappeenranta), used with CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (26 KB).

The supply situation with boots was not as good. Obviously the soldiers boots got worn out during the war and needed to be replaced, but the supply capability lagged behind. The largest single boot manufacturer was Finnish White Army was Åhlström leather factory in city of Oulu / Uleåborg, which succeeded manufacturing about 30,000 pairs of boots by end of the Civil War. Another major source for military boots (sapogi m1908) was Finnish Military Boot Centre (Suomen sotilassaapaskeskus), which was organization created during World War 1 for various Finnish shoe manufacturers to organize manufacturing of military boots for Russian military – now this organization was used to supply them for Finnish White Army. Another notable supply source was shipment of 90,000 pairs of boots manufactured in United States and Great Britain intended for Russian military, but intercepted by Finnish White Army. Although use of boots belonging to this intercepted delivery probably proved short-lived, since they soon gained very poor reputation among Finnish soldiers and got nicknamed as "Bolshevik" ("Bolsevikki"). White Army also tried acquiring military boots from other Nordic countries, but succeeded only acquiring small batches of boots from Sweden and Denmark.

PICTURE: While Finnish Army did not have official standard greatcoat model until introduction of greatcoat m/22, there still were greatcoats in its use before that. This studio photo taken about Finnish soldier in October of 1919 shows what may be former German Army greatcoat M15 or Finnish made greatcoat based on it. Hat is the obiquitous jaeger-cap, rifle infantry rifle m/05 and pistol holster for Nagant m/95 revolver. (Photo Jaeger Platoon photo collection.) CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (66 KB).


Marks of rank, cockades and other uniform markings:

As mentioned uniform markings indicating rank and function used by Finnish White Army were non-standard and varied in between fronts and even from one unit to another. For example Savo Front (Savon rintama) typically used yellow ribbons about 10 millimeter or 30 millimeter wide on cuff of uniform jacket, while for example "Free-corps of Archipelago" (Saariston vapaajoukot) used about 10 millimeter wide blue ribbons going all the way around uniform jacket cuff. For most of the war Carelian Front was quite weakly connected for rest of the White Army and this might explain why its uniform markings were completely different from those used in other fronts – Carelian Front marked both military ranks and function separately with short yellow 12 millimeter ribbons in left sleeve to indicate rank and golden/yellow ribbons in cuffs to indicate function in which the soldier served. Besides isolation another factor which might explain why Carelian Front was such an exception was that apparently the markings that it used were based to those once used by Army of Grand Dutchy of Finland. In addition jaegers had their own versions of rank marking system. Jaeger officers also seem to have routinely used Austrian or German stern (stars) for rank markings in their tunic collars. Non-commissioned officers who had served in jaegers used similar rank markings worn in tunic epaulets in similar manner as in German Army. Mannerheim’s Headquarters did not issue their first orders about military ranks and how to mark them in soldier’s uniforms until 11th of April 1918 – other words in 11th week of about 15-week long Civil War – stating that military ranks were to be marked to tunic with both silver stars (junior officer ranks) or golden stars (senior officer ranks) in collars and looped chevron ribbons in cuffs. Decorative shoulder boards attached to tunic epaulets were introduced to senior office ranks. Finnish coat of arms lion badges in two sizes got introduced for two specific purposes – officers wore the large version in tunic epaulets as additional indicator of officer’s rank, while Generals used smaller version in tunic collars as indicator of their military rank. Non-commissioned officers had three ranks: Corporal (one narrow stripe), sergeant (two narrow stripes) and sergeant major (one wide stripe) and wore horizontal stripes as rank indicators in both collar and chevrons in cuffs. This first Finnish system for military ranks and marking them was directly based on earlier proposal of Hauptzugführer (Prussian Jaeger Battalion 27 rank equal to battalion commander’s assistant) Erik Jernström.

PICTURE: Colonel Erik Jernström (1886 - 1971). In this photo taken circa 1918 - 1919 his tunic collar has four-pointed stars of German or Austrian origin. Using stars in this pattern - side by side instead of one on top of another was uncommon. Photo source - original photo owned by Museovirasto Musketti, CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (38 KB).

When it came to cockades used by Finnish White Army, large variety of cockade designs saw use. Carelian Front was again a notable exception from rest of the army with its own diamond-shape fabric cockade design manufactured from felt, although notable variance existed with other troops as well. Some of the White Army units, such as field artillery batteries trained in Pietarsaari / Björneborg Artillery School (Pietarsaaren Tykistökoulu) even used their unit markings as cockades. In addition White Army soldiers used also old police cockades and coat of arms cockade design manufactured for Finland's Guard of the Republic (Suomen Tasavallan Vartiosto, which had been established as the military unit of indepedent Finland in 6th of January 1918 - three weeks before starting of Civil War. Few hundered red-yellow cockade designs (based on Finnish coat of arms) with Finnish coat of arms lion got acquired from Sweden during the war and some military units also issued red - yellow fabric cockades during the war. For all practical purposes Finnish White Army failed to achieve anything resembling a standardized military uniform marking system during the Civil War. The first detailed orders on the matter were not issued until 15th of July 1918 and even after that numerous conflicting orders were published and they contained clothing items which never got issued, which created further confusion on the matter.

PICTURE: Period photo showing korpraali (corporal) of White Army or Finnish Army in "uniform m/18" with marks of rank introduced in April of 1918. Stripe in collar and chevron in left sleeve fit to particular regulations, although both stripe and chevron seem wider than typical. Cockade is one of the countless designs used by White Army - in this case it seems to be coat of arms lion of unknown origin. (Photo Jaeger Platoon photo collection.) CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (66 KB).

During Civil War Finnish White Army introduced numerous military symbols and emblems used in uniforms. The key figure in developing them was renowned artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who served as Lieutenant in Mannerheim’s Headquarters during the war. Romantic nationalism was Gallen-Kallela’s art style and likely due to this he seem to have possessed a deep understanding about traditional symbols used in Finnish folklore. Numerous emblem, badge and medal designs, that he introduced to Finnish military proved so long-lasting that they have remained in use to this day. Gallen-Kallela also served in Uniform Committee (Univormukomitea), whose work was to try developing new uniforms for Finnish Army, but his uniform designs were never introduced to use of Finnish military in any real scale. With a hindsight one can note, that this likely a blessing in disguise, since while he was very good with symbolism, Gallen-Kallela’s uniforms appear designs apparently draw so much inspiration from historical uniforms, that they would have been impractical and old-fashioned even by standards of that day. The uniform committee started as unofficial or semi-official committee in Mannerheim's Headquarters and originally had only two officers and two artists - Major General Nikolai Mexmontan, Colonel Johannes "Hannes" Ignatius (1871 - 1941, later: Lieutenant General), Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Eero Snellman. Both Gallen-Kallela and Snellman were well-established artists already at that time. The committee was re-organized in April - May of 1918 with Lieutenant-Colonel M. Spåre as its chairman and three other officers and two additional artists in it - Colonel T. Costiander, Captain W. Spåre, Jaeger Captain Per Zilliacus, artist Bruno Tuukkanen and architect Johan "Jussi" Paatela. Gallen-Kallela left Uniform Committee in June of 1918. Among many related designs Snellman and Tuukkanen designed Finnish flag, which was officially approved in May of 1918.

PICTURE: Photograph of Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865 - 1931) taken in year 1918. Notice combination of German reserve officer's epaulets and two stars in collar indicating rank of lieutenant . Photo source - original photo owned by Museovirasto Musketti, CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (58 KB).


PICTURE: Group of Finnish soldiers photographed with M/08-18 (MG 08/18) machineguns probably sometime around 1919 - 1920. Fourth soldier from the right already has collar and cuffs that fit to uniform regulations introduced in year 1919, but still also have Civil War era patch of Eastern Army (Carelian Front) in his left sleeve. Consiring that all men in the photo are wearing peaked officer's cap m/19, they were likely in Non-comissioned officer's School, Reserve Officer School or Cadet School. All men have laced boots with puttees, which were the standard service issued boots for most service arms of that era. Also notice epaulets with wide piping and how location of cockades varies in hats. The two soldiers standing are either cadets of 1st and 2nd year or lance-corporal and corporal. (Photo: Jaeger Platoon photo collection.) CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (198 KB).


Military uniform "m/19"

For all practical purposes what I call here as military uniform "m/19" was simply a name for transitional uniforms made to fit into new into new uniform regulations introduced after year 1918 and used before being replaced by standardized military uniform m/22. While these uniforms contained also new uniforms, they were in large extent old Civil War era uniforms "m/18" modified for this purpose and often already had features, which would later become standard with uniform m/22. Uniforms "m/18" introduced during Civil War and their later modifications were gradually removed from use around 1919 - 1921.

When Finland gained independence it had Parliament (Eduskunta) and Senate which become government, but no proper constitution or head of state. The first head of state selected for that job until constitution and presidential election could be arranged was the man who had just led Finnish White Army into victory – Mannerheim. In that status he signed the first official decree about uniforms of Finnish military in 30th of June 1919 and started the tradition according which all major decisions for Finnish military uniforms get approved by head of state who is also Commander in Chief of Armed Forces. That first decree finally contained first illustrated instructions about army, air force, navy and cadet uniforms. It must be noted that for practical (apparently mostly financial) reasons the decree contained little new besides verifying officially the requirements needed to modify uniforms already acquired during Civil War to best fit into new standing orders concerning uniforms, but also included some major uniform design guidelines, which would get repeated in many later Finnish military uniforms, such as:

PICTURE: Group of Finnish soldiers wearing unusual transitional era uniforms. The soldier on the left is already wearing what may be a normal military uniform m/22, but many of the soldiers posing with 76mm mine thrower are wearing unusual uniforms made from lighter fabric, most of which have no breast pockets and very low collar. It is likely that many of the uniforms shown here might be variations of summer uniform "M/18" updated to fit into uniform regulationt of year 1919. All men in the photo are wearing officer's cap m/19, which suggests that they could have been in Non-Commissioned Officer's School, Reserve Officer School or Cadet School, but their tunic epaulets do not have wide piping. Again the first two soldiers from the right are either cadets of 2nd and 1st year or corporal and lance-corporal. (Photo: Jaeger Platoon photo collection.) CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (198 KB).

At the same time the degree also made official the oldest Finnish uniform to have remained in use in essence unchanged to this day – cadet dress uniform m/19 (kadetin juhlapuku m/19). Unlike in many countries in Finnish case Cadet School (Kadettikoulu, nowadays called Maanpuolustuskorkeakoulu aka National Defense University) is an officer school for adult men who have already completed their conscript service as reserve officers and have decided to have military career as officers in Finnish military. Cadet uniform m/19 is also quite unusual in that sense that instead of being designed by a committee, it was designed by Paavo Gustaf Warén (later: Paavo Gustaf Waris) and Carl-Gustav Wahren, who at the time of designing the uniform were studying in the first course of Cadet School.

PICTURE: Finnish Cadet dress uniform as it is nowadays - virtually unchanged since year 1919. The only real visible change is belt design, in which the original officer's dress uniform belt with sassel's have been replaced with slightly more modern cadet's dress uniform belt M/51, that basically combines silver-colored version of buckle first introduced with officer's belt m/22 with decorative woven white-blue fabric belt resembling the pattern used in original belt design. Also notice officer's (dress) sword used with the uniform. Photo taken in Sotamuseo (Military Museum, Helsinki). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (57 KB).

Some of the hats issued in year 1919 also made a long career with Finnish military or made major impact to later military hat designs. They include:


Suggested link:

Vapaussodan pukuja Finnish language website of Jukka I. Mattila with truly impressive number of photographs about uniforms of Finnish White Army.


Jukka I. Mattila: Mannerheimin valkoisen armeijan asepuvut (Uniforms of Mannerheim's White Army).

Pekka Aarniaho: Kaluunat ja rähinäremmit. Itsenäisen Suomen virkapuvut ja arvomerkit 1918 – 1945 (Uniforms and Rank Markings of Independent Finland 1918 - 1945).

Petteri Leino: Asepuku M/36 vuosina 1936 – 1945 (Uniform m/36 in years 1936 - 1945).

Stig Roudasmaa: Suojeluskuntapuvut. Suojeluskuntajärjestön puvut 1918 – 1944 (Civil Guard Uniforms. Uniforms of Civil Guard in 1918 - 1944).

Juhani U.E. Lehtonen: Sotilaselämän perinnekirja (The Tradition Book of Military Life).

Puolustusvoimien huolto 1918 – 1986 (Supply of Defense Forces 1918 - 1986) by Huoltoupseeriyhdistys.

Suomalaisen sotilaan historia ristiretkistä rauhanturvaamiseen (History of Finnish Soldier from Crusades to Peacekeeping).

Marko Palokangas: Itsenäisen Suomen sotilasarvot ja –arvomerkit / Military Ranks and Rank Badges of Independent Finland.

Simon Olsson: Svenska Armens Uniformer 1875 - 2000 (Swedish Army Uniforms 1875 - 2000).

Article: Stig Roudasmaa: Sotilasvirkapuvut vuonna 1918 (Military Uniforms of Year 1918) in Sotahistoriallinen Aikakauskirja 5 (1986) (Journal of Military History 5, published year 1986).

Article: Jukka I. Mattila: Sotilaspuku M/22, Osa I: Sarkanutusta univormuksi (Military Uniform M/22, From Coarse Cloth Jacket to Military Uniform), (Ase-lehti magazine vol. 6/1999).

Article: Marko Palokangas: Sotilasarvomerkkiemme taustaa ja taivalta (Background and Development of Our Military Rank Markings), (Ase-lehti magazine vol 5/1995).

Article: Tapio Saarni: Panssarijoukkojen univormuja I osa (Uniforms of Tank Corps, part I), in Panssari-lehti magazine vol. 4/1990.

Article: Tapio Saarni: Panssarijoukkojen univormuja II osa (Uniforms of Tank Corps, part II), in Panssari-lehti magazine vol. 1/1991.

Theses: Kristian Värri: Itsenäisen Suomen ratsuväen varusteiden kehitys talvisotaan mennessä (Development of Equipment in Cavalry of Independent Finland before Winter War).

Military manual: Valtakunnan sotavoimien virkapukuja (Uniforms for State's Armed Forces). Document of uniform regulations enacted in June of 1919.

Military manual: Uniformsbeklädnad för Rikets krigsmakt (Uniforms for State's Armed Forces). Document of uniform regulations enacted in year 1922.

Special thanks to Finnish Military Museum (Sotamuseo), Helsinki.

Special thanks to Museum Militaria (Museo Militaria), Hämeenlinna.

Special thanks to Infantry Museum (Jalkaväkimuseo), Mikkeli.

Special thanks to Armémuseum (Sweden)

Special thanks to Museum Centre Vapriikki (Museokeskus Vapriikki), Tampere.

Special thanks to Museovirasto Musketti

Last updated 31st of October 2023
Webmaster: JTV
Copyrights (text and graphics): Jaeger Platoon Website. Copyrights of photographs vary on case to case basis and are marked along each picture.