Soldier’s Home Association of Finland
The soldier’s homes that were established at garrisons aimed to provide a home-like place where the conscripts performing their military service, regardless of rank, and the permanent personnel could spend their free time. The soldier’s homes followed the garrisons’ brigade-level units when they transferred to localities at the front during the additional refresher training. New soldier’s homes were also established. Their total number increased to almost 300.
Jaegers brought the idea of soldier’s homes to Finland from Germany
The idea of soldier’s homes was brought to Finland from Germany by Jaegers. Jaeger Captains Olli Paloheimo and Selim Isakson wrote an article titled ‘Sotilaskoteja perustamaan’ (Let’s Found Soldier’s Homes) in November 1918 that was published in several newspapers. The article described soldier’s homes as places where soldiers could go to spend their free time in the evening. Soldier’s homes would offer soldiers food, coffee and refreshments for a small fee. According to the article, the soul of the soldier’s homes were the garrison town’s women, ‘who wished to perform their military service in this capacity’. Soldier’s homes were established in many garrison towns before the end of the year.
The Soldier’s Home Association of Finland was founded in 1921
Local soldier’s home associations began their nationwide organisation in 1921. The matter was prepared under the supervision of Katri Bergholm, the chair of the Helsinki Soldier’s Home Association. She became the first chair of the Soldier’s Home Association of Finland, which was founded in November of that year. According to the association’s confirmed rules, membership in the association could be granted to ‘organisations that maintain soldier’s homes and which agree to present their account books as proof that any earnings they retain are used for the benefit of the soldier’s home and soldiers’.
According to the amended rules of 1934, the association’s purpose was to ‘assist the Defence Forces and Border Guard with soldier’s homes both in peacetime and wartime’. The military clergy took active part in the activities of the soldier’s homes. Mrs. Bergholm resigned from her position as chair in 1937 for health reasons. Toini Jännes (MA) was chosen to succeed her.
In autumn 1939, the Defence Forces requested that the Soldier’s Home Association of Finland expand its activities
Thirty-three local soldier’s home associations were represented at the annual meeting of the Soldier’s Home Association of Finland in April 1939. A conference was held for the chairs, secretaries and treasurers on 2 October. The representative of the Defence Forces, Colonel Voldemar Oinonen, urged the participants to send mobile soldier’s homes from the garrisons to accompany any brigade-level units deployed to the border region. In his speech, Oinonen also stated that the associations should establish soldier’s homes in new locations during a possible mobilisation. The General Staff was prepared to name them if necessary.
Numerous new soldier’s homes were established during the additional refresher training, which commenced a few days later. Many of the soldier’s home associations set up temporary soldier’s homes and new places of operations at locations the troops transferred to. During the additional refresher training, the associations operated almost 300 soldier’s homes. The soldier’s homes subscribed to local newspapers from the troops’ home regions. In addition to normal canteen activities, the soldier’s homes also held evening gatherings for the soldiers who were in service. Evening devotionals were held in the evening and church services on Sundays.
Soldier’s homes continued operating in wartime
During the war, soldier’s home activities also spread to war hospitals. Representatives of the Soldier’s Home Association of Finland and local associations visited hospitals and procured books for the patients to read.
In July 1940, Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim thanked the people involved in soldier’s homes for their wartime efforts in his order of the day (No. 92/12 July 1940). The order of the day stated the following:
‘People of the Finnish soldier’s homes.
With pride and joy have I witnessed the successful work that the personnel of the Soldier’s Home Association of Finland has performed for our Defence Forces during the now concluded war.
Your self-sacrificing efforts have extended all the way to the front lines and given life to our troops, encouraging them to engage in new efforts.
There are also fallen among you. We honour their memory.
I would like to thank the people of the Finnish soldier’s homes on my own behalf and on behalf of the army for their well-executed and valuable work.