Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Finnish Army Engineer - Sapper Shovel, circa 1930's -1940's, Imperial Russian Conversion, Winter War and Continuation War, Pioneerilapio, SA, Finland

Today we'll be looking at another recent addition to the Pioneer Tool Collection.  This time it's a Finnish Army shovel.

I picked this shovel up from a US company called International Military Antiques.  They purchased the last of these old shovels from the Finland government when they were surplussed a few years back.  As is often the case with unique, and old surplus items like this, if you don't buy when you see them available, you will find they are all gone before you know it!  I didn't wait.

Sapper shovel with Finish re-issue ammo pouch and Finish re-issue trench spade.
I requested, and received a shovel in "as found", and in "uncleaned" condition.  That is exactly what I received.  The metal portions of the shovel were covered in a thick and hardened, black, "tar paint" coating.  After several coats of paint stripper, and vigorous scrubbing with a 3M green pad, I finally made it through all of the storage preservative and down the the original blued steel.  What I discovered, far exceeded my expectations and hopes.  I was in possession of a very unique and historical shovel, with quite a story.

This particular shovel shows signs of having had the shank rivets ground off and replaced.  This would have been done to replace the handle at some point.

The front of the blade is marked with a stamped letter "P".  The letter "P" stamp indicates that the shovel was assigned to an engineering unit, also called a sapper unit.  Next to the "P", there appears to be another faint stamped letter, or the edge portion of the traditional "SA in  rectangle" stamp of the Finnish Army.  The SA stamp may not have been hit solid, and only the corner was imprinted or the shovel has some unknown other letter designator in addition to the "P".

On the back of the blade, I discovered the distinct, circular manufacturer's mark from the Russian manufacturer.  This was an amazing and unexpected discovery!  

The blade had a hole punched in it so it could be carried from a belt hook or rucksack hook.  This is found on all Finish Army shovels.

The letter "P" and the hole in the blade confirmed that it was a Finish Army issue shovel.  This, combined with the Russian makers stamping, indicated that the shovel was originally issued to Imperial Russian troops during the mid "teens", before or during WW1.  The grind marks and replaced rivets, along with the WW2 era, metal yoked, "D-handle" grip, was sure proof that that this was a "rebuilt and re-issued" Imperial Russian shovel!

Before the Winter War with Russia, in 1939, the Finish Army reconditioned the old Imperial Russian shovels that they had captured during the Finish Revolution.  Most of these Russian shovels had the all-wood handles removed and replaced with "modern" metal yoked, "D-handles".  This is one of those shovels.  To supplement the supply of Russian re-builds, the Billinas Company of Finland made additional shovels to the same design.

This larger style of shovel is a "mid-sized" shovel, half way between the smaller entrenching spade and a full sized shovel.  These were known as "Pioneerilapio", or pioneer shovels.  These mid-sized shovels were issued to Engineering Sapper units and also to heavy machine gun and mortar units.  Since mine is stamped "P", it is safe to say it was carried by a Sapper unit.

Finish Heavy Machine Gun Crew.  Winter War.

This shovel saw service in the Imperial Russian Army during the occupation of Finland and during the Finnish Civil War. After the civil war, it was then was rebuilt.  It then continued its military career in the Finish Army for the Winter war and Continuation War during WW2.  At some point after those wars, the shovel was coated in its "black, storage tar paint" and placed in a warehouse.  There it sat until it was released as surplus in the 21st century!  It is not often that a piece of military equipment can serve in so many historic conflicts, and survive to pass it's story on to the next generations.  Not bad for a shovel that is over 100 years old!

Finish Army troops on the march during the WW2 era.
You can see my smaller Finnish Army re-issue spade at this page on the blog:

Here is another one of my Finnish Engineer - Sapper Shovels: 

Let's take a closer look at this historic shovel.

1 comment:

Kalas Puff said...

I have one too :) The black tar paint is still there