Friday 29 April 2022

The excavations of Soviet General Sergei Kabanovs underground WW2 command post start on Monday

On Monday we will continue the excavations of the massive underground command post used by Soviet general Sergei Kabanov in 1941 during the early days of Operation Barbarossa. The excavation is finaced by Mr. Kari Karvinen and Hangö Sommaruni. Additional finacial support for excavations of the site with schoolchildren from Swedish speaking schools in the larger Helsinki region has been granted by Thure Galléns stiftelse.

Sergei Ivanovich Kabanov (1901-1973)

Despite (and because of) the ongoing war in Ukraine we feel it is our duty to speak objectively about the realities of war and what it means to live in an indpendent country with a long common border to  Russia. 

The remains of the Soviet underground command post are slowly surfacing during the Conflict Archaeology research of the site 2022-2023. Photo Aleksi Rikkinen.

The Hanko peninsula is and will always be a strategic corner of Finland. Preserving and researching the Second World War remains in the area such as the command post of this Soviet general will hopefully help people understand why things are as they are and to stay concerned about the future.

Hanko in the summer of 1942. Photo SA-Kuva.


Thursday 28 April 2022

The women of the Hanko front - Excavating and mapping rear areas behind the frontline

Today we continued the trial excavations and documentation of one of the many military camps behind the frontlines where women plated a major role. Todays area was used by Finnish soldiers and Swedish volunteers during the battles on Hanko peninsula in 1941. 

Female staff from RSHY photographed outside one of their canteens. Phot SA-kuva.

We focused on a dump site associated with one of the canteens in the rear area. The cantine burned to the ground during the battles and offers a glimpse into the materiality of this side of the conflict on the Hanko Front. As evidenced by the porcellain artefacts this particular canteen was run by female staff  from RSHY (Rannikkosotilaiden Huoltoyhdistys).

One of many porcellain cup fragments bearing the marking of RSHY.

Today we only excavated the top laters but found many interesting items. Cap cockades, ink bottles, bakelite cigarette holders, wartime (Arabia) porcellain plates and cups, alcohol bottles etc. etc. We will finish excavating this well preserved dump site tomorrow.

Assorted finds from todays trial excavation of the RSHY canteen area

The foundations of the burnt down cantine can be seen on an air surveillance photo from 1942. Today nothing of it is visible above ground.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Finding the Fallen and researching the battles of the Hanko Front

Today we made our first search in the Hanko archipelago where bitter fighting between Finnish and Soviet forces took place during the summer and autumn of 1941. Our mission was twofold, to search for missing and KIA soldiers and document the remains of the battles. Both of these objectives where successfull today.

80 years after the battles debris of war still litter the islands.

We were transported to the research area with a landing from the Finnish Defence Forces. A very safe, comfortable and speedy ride which greatly helped our research, allowing us to spend more time mapping and excavating the sites.

The lengthy sea journey was undertaken in a landing craft from the Finnish Defence Forces

Today we managed to find at least two final resting places of fallen Soviet soldiers. As we were not there to repatriate the remains we only dug as much as was absolutely necessary to identify the places as graves and plot them on maps for possible future recovery.

Trial excavation of an area with supposed human remains.

The battlefield sites were carefully mapped and no items removed from their original context. We will be back to map the areas in more detail in the near future. 

Gun poistions and other fortifications are plentiful on many of the surveyed islands.

A big thanks to all who participated today, you know who you are. Last but not least we would like to thank the landowner for allowing us to search the islands and speak to us about the memory history associated with these sites.

Tuesday 26 April 2022

Looking for a forgotten Second World War German camp site

The winter of 1942 was exceptionally cold in Finland and German Gebirgsjäger needed shelter from the elements when they started arriving in Hanko in January and February that same year. Finding the long lost camp site is crucial for my PhD titled "Deutsches Lager Hanko 1942-1944 - The Modern Conflict Archaeology and History of a Second World War Transition Camp in Hanko S. Finland".

Surprisingly the use of metal detector offered very little information about the location of the camp.

The survey area is wast and today densely forested. All signs of the former "Waldlager" have vanished over the 80+ years sice it was constructed. By using a combination of studies of the terrain, work with maps, GPS and eye witness accounts collecting during the work with my PhD we managed to get on track with finding the site

The search for the lost camp is on.

Work with locating the site will continue on Friday. Tomorrow we are off to the Hanko archipelago where our mission is to "Find the Fallen of the Hanko Front". Stay tuned for an update on this humaitarian forensic work tomorrow evening.

A sign pointing towards the direction of the German camp in January 1942. Photo SA-Kuva archives.

Monday 25 April 2022

Second World War Battlefield- and Conflict Archaeology of the Hanko Front April 2022

Today we kicked off the 2022 field season by taking a first look at an area were supposedly 12-20 Soviet soldiers were buried (and subsequently forgotten) in 1940-1941.

A forgotten gravesite for KIA Soviet soldiers ?

No signs whatsoever of the low mounds so typical for the Second World War Soviet burial sites in Hanko. Today just the singing of birds in the trees and a cool breeze from the sea on this very peaceful area. We will take a closer look at this area later this week.

Clues to "Finding the Fallen of the Hanko Front"

During the next couple of days we will continue our serach of the Hanko front. Each day will have a different objective and our research will take us to sites on the mainland as well as the archipelago. This time of year safe sea transports are crucial and we greatly appreciate the help from the Finnish Defence Forces "to boldly go" where no conflict archaeologist has gone before. Please follow our research here on a daily basis!

The sea transports will be with Jurmo class landing crafts. Photo Finnish Defence Forces.