Before the war

The Frontier Company

In 1919 the Kuhmoniemi [1] Frontier Company was formed in Kuhmo. At first the company headquarters were in the village centre, in the house of Koivula. In 1934 the first buildings were erected in Jämäs, a few kilometres from Kuhmo towards Kajaani. Most of the buildings were ready by 1937 and the Frontier Guard moved to the new, modern quarters. In 1939 there were 69 frontier guards living in the Jämäs barracks, and there were additional soldiers in the field guard stations near the eastern border.

Before the Winter War there were field guard stations in Vartius, Korkana, Hukkajärvi, Viiksimo, Kiekinkoski, Lammasperä, Jonkeri, Saunajärvi, Kuusijärvi, Kusianvaara and Löytövaara.

The Civil Guard

The Kuhmoniemi Civil Guard was founded in Kuhmo in November 1917. There were civil guard groups also in the neighbouring small villages. The House of the Civil Guard, Korpilinna was opened 13.9.1927. In 1937 there were 336 members in the Civil Guard. The leaders of Kuhmo Civil Guard were Waldemar Ylönen and the Civil Guard District Chief Oskari Peltola.

A member of the Civil Guard was prepared for military duty both by his training and his equipment. Men had personal equipment at home (weapons, suitable clothing etc.). The training included shooting practice, weapons training, combat skills, drills, leadership training and different competitions.

Lotta-Svärd organization

Lotta-Svärd was an organisation for women’s voluntary defence services. The Kuhmoniemi Lotta-Svärd organisation was formed 17.2.1921, and in 1938 the organisation had 234 members. The activities started in the local organisation in Kuhmo, and eventually smaller organisations were founded in close-by villages. Such organisations were founded for example in the villages Nieminen, Ylä-Vieksi and Ala-Vieksi, Jonkeri, Kuusijärvi, Rasti, Timoniemi, Ala-Katerma, Katerma, Hietaperä, Kämärä, Lammasperä and Lentiira. There were also similar organisations for little girls. The organisation had different sections for medical services, food services, equipment services, money-raising and general management. Members of the organisation were called Lottas.

Extra military exercises

There was a big military refresher training operation in Kuhmo in summer 1937, mainly in the heath area near Jämäs. The participants were frontier guards, members of the Civil Guard and members of the Lotta-Svärd organisation from different parts of Kainuu.

The commander of the refresher training battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Frans Ilomäki, came to Kuhmo 8.10.1939. The officers and the men came 9.10.1939. The men were then equipped and divided into units.   In the command post of Kuhmo Frontier Guard Company, in the Jämäs barracks, a Separate 14th Battalion was formed, along with Separate Company Kaasila and the supply troops. The officers and non-commissioned officers of Kainuu Frontier Guard and district chiefs of the civil guard acted as trainers. The command of these troops was later transferred to Captain Matti Murole, commander of the Machine Gun Company.

The battalion consisted of three rifle companies, one machine-gun company, a grenade thrower detachment, signal troops, air defence warning troops and a reserve company, which was founded later.

The commanders were:

  • Lieutenant Oskari Peltola for the 1st Company
  • Lieutenant Jussi Kekkonen for the 2nd company,
  • Lieutenant Ville Halonen for the 3rd Company
  • Reserve Lieutenant Kyösti Kaasila for the Reserve Company
  • Captain Matti Murole for the Machine Gun Company
  • Reserve Lieutenant Eino Tuomainen for the Light Grenade Thrower Platoon
  • Reserve Second Lieutenant Niilo Tammenmaa for the Engineering Group
  • Jäger Captain Tauno Karanko for the Signal Troops
  • Reserve Second Lieutenant Vilho Salmi for the Supply Company
  • Reserve Second Lieutenant Niilo Koskinen for the Air Defence Warning Troops
  • Medical Captain Ilmari Nurminen for the military hospital.
  • Platoon leaders were:
  • 1st Company: Reserve Second Lieutenants Kauko Hankio, Kai Hortling, Kusti Korhonen and Eino Pussinen.
  • 2nd Company: Reserve Lieutenant Pauli Ipatti and Reserve Second Lieutenants Jorma Suomalainen, Viljo Haataja and Jorma Kauko
  • 3rd  Company :Reserve Second Lieutenants Frans Heikkinen, A. Korhonen and Kalle Immonen.
  • Reserve Company: Reserve Lieutenant Yrjö Rainio and Reserve Second Lieutenants Kauko Leskinen and Veikko Karhu
  • Machine Gun Company Reserve Second Lieutenants Jaakko Kuusisto, Eetu Kemppainen and Niilo Koskinen

The 1st Company had local men from Kuhmo and Sotkamo, the 2nd Company had men from Kuhmo and members of the Frontier Guard Company, the 3rd   Company had reserve soldiers from Sotkamo and the Machine Gun Company had men from Kuhmo and Sotkamo.

The battalion camped in tents in Kuhmo and to the west of the village. The training included marching, orienteering, cross-country travel, night-time operations and anti-aircraft and anti-tank defence. In November of 1939 the training included common exercises and marches.

After the refresher training was over, there were 1738 armed men in the Kuhmo area. There was lack of materials, specially heavy and light weaponry. More men were needed, but the training itself was adequate.

Frontier patrols, fortifications and preparing for the war

In summer 1939 the eastern border was unfortified. In autumn 1939 the border was guarded more closely: the guard towers were manned, there were more patrols and more men were assigned for the guard stations from the reserves. The Reserve Company was sent to patrol the border and build fortifications along the most dangerous roads.

Fortification work was led by Lieutenant Jussi Kekkonen and Captain Matti Murole. At the end of October the construction of machine-gun posts and trenches began on Saunajärvi Kannas (the Kuusijoki area near the border). Other fortifications were constructed on Kalliojoki, Kiekinkoski and Vääräjoki in Lammasperä, Rasti, Jyrkänkoski, Jämäs and the Sumsanjoki line.

The frontier guards were placed under the command of Separate Company Kaasila and Jussi Kekkonen. Reserves from Kuhmo (including young boys from the civil guard and other volunteers) helped to guard the border. Two platoons were detached from the Reserve Company: Veikko Karhu’s platoon was assigned to guard the Saunajärventie road near the eastern border and Yrjö Rainio’s platoon patrolled near the Hukkajärventie road. Jorma Kauko’s platoon from the 2nd Company was stationed in Lentiira. 2nd Company also patrolled the border at the end of 1939.

The air defence warning stations were manned and the District Air Control Centre (IVAK) was formed at the Jämäs barracks. Telephonecentres were commandeered and the telephone network was expanded to suit the needs of military defence.

Leader of the Lotta-Svärd organisation in Kuhmo was pharmacist Anja Korteniemi, wife of Kuhmos district police chief. Lottas made undergarments, pillows and mattresses. They also made socks and mended and washed used ones. Lottas also prepared food and made coffee for the troops.

The military hospital was stationed in the local hospital of Kuhmo. The commander of the military hospital was Kuhmo’s district medical officer Ilmari Nurminen.

[1] Kuhmo used to be called Kuhmoniemi. The name Kuhmo was officially approved 1.1.1937. Local people used the name Kuhmo already earlier.