The Civil Guard organisation and the Home Troops

The Civil Guard organisation was a militarily organised organisation that carried out national defence work on a voluntary basis. The core of the organisation was formed by Civil Guard units that operated in different localities. During the mobilisation, the Civil Guard organisation was tasked with the operations of the Home Troops. The duties of the Defence Forces’ regional mobilisation system, i.e. military districts, were transferred to the Civil Guard districts. The Civil Guard units were responsible for the military operations in their home region. They received their orders from their own Civil Guard districts.

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Purpose of the Civil Guard organisation’s operations

The Civil Guard organisation continued its operations after the Finnish Civil War, which ended in May 1918. The Senate of Finland confirmed a decree on the Civil Guard organisation on 2 August 1918. According to the decree:

‘The purpose of the Civil Guard organisation is to promote the nation’s defence capability and protect the legitimate social order in accordance with instructions provided by the country’s government. To achieve this, the Civil Guard units:

– provide military education to the members of the Civil Guard;

– promote gymnastics, sports and increasing the fitness of the citizens;

– provide support for the regular army; and

– assist the law enforcement authorities upon request.’

Civil Guard organisation

The Civil Guard organisation was headed by its commander-in-chief, who was directly subordinate to the president from 1919 onwards. The Civil Guard organisation’s own highest decision-making body was an assembly of its members, which would decide upon the organisation’s finances and operational guidelines in its annual meetings. The members of the Civil Guard belonged to their local Civil Guard units, which would send their representatives to the assemblies. All members of the Civil Guard organisation had to be over the age of 17.

Administrative division of the Civil Guard organisation

The commander-in-chief of the Civil Guard organisation was assisted by the Civil Guard Supreme Headquarters. On a regional level, the organisation was managed by Civil Guard districts. Their activities were led by the district chief with the help of the district headquarters. The Civil Guard organisation employed area chiefs, who worked under the districts, as well as a local chief at each local Civil Guard unit.

The Civil Guard had over 110,000 members

At the start of the additional refresher training, the Civil Guard organisation comprised the Civil Guard Supreme Headquarters, approximately 22 Civil Guard districts, approximately 200 Civil Guard areas and almost 600 local Civil Guard units. The actual number of members in the organisation was almost 111,500 at the beginning of 1939.

Civil Guards and the additional refresher training of autumn 1939

During the mobilisation that was carried out as additional refresher training, the Civil Guards were called to service together with the other reservists. The only people left in the local Civil Guard units were the age groups that were not called to service. Roughly speaking, this meant members between the ages of 17 and 20 and over the age of 45, although reserve officers between the ages of 45 and 60 were for the most part also called to service.

The Civil Guard organisation formed the Home Troops

The order issued by the Minister of Defence on 26 September 1939 defined the position of the Civil Guard organisation during wartime. The commander-in-chief of the Civil Guard organisation, Lieutenant General Lauri Malmberg, would serve as the chief of the Home Troops (commander of the Home Troops from 22 February 1940 onwards), while the Civil Guard Supreme Headquarters would serve as the Home Troops Headquarters. The Civil Guard districts took over the duties of the Defence Forces’ regional mobilisation system, i.e. military districts.

Duties of the Home Troops

According to the order issued on 26 September 1939, the Home Troops were tasked with protecting the home front, maintaining order and security together with the police forces and taking care of matters related to the conscription as well as maintenance and training tasks. Protecting the home front involved fighting against paratroopers dropped by the enemy at the home front, guarding important military locations, participating in air defence and guarding prisoners of war.

The Home Troops Headquarters started its operations on 12 October 1939

The Civil Guard Supreme Headquarters started its operations as the Home Troops Headquarters on 12 October 1939. However, the name was not adopted publicly until after the start of the Winter War. The Civil Guard organisation and the home reinforcement troops were subordinate to the Home Troops. The Civil Guard district division was changed to correspond to the regional division of the abolished military districts. The local Civil Guard units were responsible for military operations in their own localities, under the Civil Guard districts.

Personnel of a Civil Guard district headquarters

The chiefs of the military districts handed over the command of their areas to the chiefs of the Civil Guard districts. The number of personnel at each Civil Guard district headquarters was increased. The authorised personnel strength of a headquarters was 39 people: seven officers, five military civil servants, five non-commissioned officers, ten members of the Lotta Svärd organisation, four Civil Guards, a priest, a doctor, a judge and five junior members of the Civil Guard (boys aged 12 to 17) as messengers.

The Home Troops operated at the home front

The Finnish Government defined the theatres of operations on 2 December. The Civil Guard

districts within these theatres were subordinated to the military formation in charge of the front in each district. The operating area of the Home Troops was therefore the home front, i.e. the areas left outside of the theatres of operations.

The Civil Guards at war

The Civil Guards who were fit for service had been called to service together with other reservists during the additional refresher training in October 1939. Only the young and the old were left in their home regions. The military duties of the Civil Guards in their home municipalities primarily involved guarding and searching for paratroopers. The local civil defence leadership made the effort to also employ Civil Guards. In smaller localities, the Civil Guard and civil defence could be led by the same individual, which made the coordination of operations free of friction.

Ari Raunio