April marks ANZAAC centenary – and other battles

April 1918–a celebration of the ANZAAC centenary.

Now let’s pay tribute to fights for freedom elsewhere in the world. Like Finland.

My father’s uncle Edvard Back Edvard_soldier_crop_NHfought in Finland’s Civil War of 1918, including the crucial April weeks-long siege of Tampere. This battle was a turning point in the Civil War, decimating the Reds and killing many Whites. Red Guards had controlled the south, industrial towns like Helsinki and Tampere. They battled to safeguard Russian trains carrying shipments of weapons.

Germans saved the Finns by smuggling in weapons on the ship Equity to sheltered bays in Ostrobothnia and training the Jäger troops.

During those crucial wars that led to Finland’s freedom, how did his brothers at the other side of the world view the Finland-Russia-German struggle?

Opposing sides

To Australians the “Huns” were enemies.
From safe haven in Australia, Edvard’s brothers Wilhelm Anders (my Grandad) and Karl Johan (“KJ”)  Back found themselves on opposing sides.

News of the war filtered through, doubtless heavily censored. How did the family reconcile differing allegiances? Blood thirst was rife on both side…The Back brothers came to the right country. They emigrated to escape conscription into the Russian army–a possible five years. Of all nations, Australia was the only country to hold a referendum—twice—that allowed men to choose to fight rather than accept conscription.

(from Burn My Letters: Tyranny to refuge)

Australian Displays of Patriotism

My grandfather W.A.Back made conspicuous donations to the war effort, second only to the mayor’s. WA raised money by driving people in his new automobile to farewell soldiers—for a fee. For “aliens” were regarded with suspicion, likely to be sent to internment camps.

Grandad and other family sent loads of provisions to save Finns and other Europeans from famine.

His office was strewn with sacks of flour and sugar, transferred into kilo–size calico bags. He employed a woman full time and grandchildren were enlisted as a Lilliputian army to pack and stack.

What if the shipments were pilfered, he was asked. ‘Thieves have to live too,’ W.A. replied.

KJ Back and Orchid

His pacifist dissenter brother Karl Johan protested his patriotism by writing and self-publis

hing books including The Royal Toast.
Locals suspected that KJ spied for the Germans, for he tended his bananas on the ridge by lantern light.

But what is night to a Finn?

 

[Excerpt from Award-winning Burn My Letters available at our webstore.]

The centenary of Finnish freedom from Russian oppression was celebrated on 6 December 2017. But the struggle continued…

Rolf, Edvard’s son, took 30 patrols over the border into Russia, on skis in camouflage white, during the 1940s Continuation War. Read his self-deprecating but inspiring stories in Midnight Sun to Southern Cross.

He SO typified that amazing Finnish spirit of sisu!

Independence Centenary of Finnish heroism!

Finland–and Finns globally–celebrate today, 6 December! My Grandad’s brother Edvard fought in the Civil War, and his son Rolf in the 1940s to win freedom from Russian overlords. 

Edvard Back soldier 2_NH

How Finnish “sisu” won freedom

This typical Finnish tenacity has been described as digging through a cement wall with a spoon, but you keep going. Since exploring my heritage I feel awed by the Finns’ tenacity to wrest freedom from Russian overlords, in true David vs. Goliath fashion.

Hero Edvard (at right) off to the Civil War

Russians invaded again in 1939

My father’s cousin Rolf Back enlisted in 1942 to fight in the crack unit, the Jaegars—on skis! He went on thirty patrols over the Soviet lines into Russian territory, wearing a white camouflage cape. (More of his unique stories next blog.)

CELEBRATION SPECIALS

Read their heroic stories (Special Independence Centenary prices!) Visit http://www.ruthbonetti.com/burn-my-letters/

Download an eBook now at Booktopia. (Did I say Amazon last blog? Working to fix a glitch in that system.)

Opposing sides

Victory owed much to Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim’s deployment of Jaeger regiments trained in Germany and armed with German weapons. During those crucial wars that led to Finland’s freedom (Civil War, Winter War and Continuation War) how did brothers at the other side of the world view the Finland-Russia-German struggle?

Edvard’s brothers Karl Johan Back and Wilhelm Anders Back viewed “The Hun” as their foe. They emigrated to escape conscription into the Russian army. In their land of refuge, Australians rejected conscription in two referenda.

Australian Displays of Patriotism

My grandfather W.A.Back made conspicuous donations to the war effort, second only to the mayor’s. WA raised money by driving people in his new automobile to farewell soldiers—for a fee. He and other family sent loads of provisions to aid Finns and other Europeans .

The pacifist dissenter brother Karl Johan protested his patriotism by writing two books A Consolidated History of Australia and The Royal Toast.
Locals suspected that KJ spied for the Germans, for he tended his bananas on the ridge by lantern light. But what is night to a Finn?
[Excerpt from Award-winning Burn My Letters available at our webstore.]

Jaeger soldier Rolf Back 

The sequel Midnight Sun to Southern Cross shares a family view of Finland’s history, more personal memoir and heritage discoveries. 5-star reviews at Goodreads.com and Amazon.

Download now at Booktopia.

Let’s celebrate with the Finns on 6 December!