Pirkko Kanervo, The Johannes Civil Guard in the Winter War
Johannes was situated on the Karelian Isthmus twenty-five kilometers south of Wiborg. The Mannerheim-line ran via Johannes, although most of it remained behind the front. Johannes became an army depot area with a field hospital and veterinary hospital for sick horses. The headquarters for the 4th division was also located in Johannes.
After a call to Moscow, Finland began to mobilize her army. Most of the members of the Civil Guard left for the front line; only those who were too old and those who were too young for military service stayed behind. This presentation describes their duties and experiences in the war zone. Once the war broke out, the main concern was to evacuate the population. Within a week 6,800 people – children, mothers and the elderly – were transported to the western part of the country. Farm animals were also transported: cows, horses, pigs and sheep. Smaller animals, such as chickens, dogs and cats were killed.
By the end January 1940, the war was getting closer and closer to Johannes. The Russians launched grenades, and the field hospital was completely destroyed in a bombing, killing all patients and nurses. They were buried in military graves on a dark, frosty early morning. By mid-February, the Red Army succeeded in breaking the right side of the Finnish front, which meant that the troops had to be withdrawn from that part of the Mannerheim-line. It also meant that the duties of the Civil Guard were now coming to an end.
One duty still had to be carried out, however. Before leaving the Civil Guard and army troops destroyed as much of Johannes as they could. They bombed the church tower and the pulp mill’s chimney. On the 18th of February, under the command of the army, the Civil Guard began to burn the villages. Many young man set fire to their own home. The last target was a large stock of props in the port. Johannes was burning; huge pillars of smoke and fire rose towards the sky. By the time the Civil Guard left, most of Johannes was mere dust and ashes.