I have long been a fan of WW2 Colourised Photos, one can but marvel at time, dedication and skills often put in use to colourise a vintage WW2 black&white photograph. Often in addition to colourisation, there’s been a lot of effort put in describing the background of the photograph and the soldiers in them, and what their fate was.
I am responsible for 2D Graphics for Campaign Series, and as all work makes Jack a dull boy, I need my distractions. What better than to try to achieve something different with my trusty graphics editor. Here it is, my first WW2 colourisation!
Making of the colourised version
Not just the picture, but the story behind it, too!
Obviously, to begin with, one needs the original photograph of interest, and permissions to use it if the colourisation is to be published. For the benefit of us history geeks, Finnish Army has made all their wartime photographs available at SA-kuva.fi, under Creative Commons CC BY, requiring that they are credited, and that photographs are not used for inappropriate or unlawful purposes. So we are good to go!
I wanted to try colouring one of the assault guns, and having looked at the SA-kuva archive, ended up choosing picture # 151597.
Picture comes with an original description (translated to English) written at the time: New assault guns being shown to Field Marshal Mannerheim and to President of the Republic. Assault Guns on parade. Enso, 1944.06.04.
More of that in a bit. Here’s the original:
SA-kuva # 151 597
So, what we have here is an authentic Finnish Army photograph of Finnish Assault Gun Battalion, in spic&span condition, readying to parade in front of the Finnish Top Brass, on June 4, 1944.
I thought this would be not only an interesting picture to colourise, but also easier to get up to speed, as there’s no foliage, dust, wear, etc on the equipment.
How colourisation is typically done is that first the original picture is cleaned up, and contrast and brightness adjusted. That’s what I did as well. There were quite a few specks in the original negative, so I first removed those. Then, unfortunately, there was quite a lot of granulation in the original, so I had to blur it a tad, to make it look smoother.
That done, with my graphics editor (I use GIMP), I added several transparent layers on top of the original, and then dedicated each of them to a certain colour or a certain aspect of the picture. I ended with a dozen or so layers there, one for grass, one for sky, one for each of the camo colours, skin, uniforms, dust, what not.
For each of them, I then adjusted their transparency setting so that the colours appear naturally on top of the original. This opens up an almost endless amount of variations, where I ended up using not too strong colours, at least for the first version here.
All this took quite a few hours, but all worth the effort.
Want to see more?
Here’s the YouTube tutorial referred by the WW2 Colourised Photos Facebook page. Make’s it look easy, doesn’t it!
Update: Finally, what you could next, and what I ended up doing as well, is to “Photoshop” it a bit using your favourite photograph editor, in my case Affinity. Worked wonders, to make the original effort look like any of your contemporary snap shots!
Choosing the right colours and hues
Finnish three-colour camo scheme
Part of the colourisation effort in trying to make a timeless, colourful version of the orginal, is to get one’s facts right!
One of the peculiarities with colourising this picture is that there are no surviving original colour pictures of any WW2 era Finnish vehicles in their camo scheme. As odd as that sounds, those are the cards we’re dealt with, and for instance for the modelling community, it has been an endless source of frustration.
What is known of course, from the many surviving original guidelines, is that the three colours used in the scheme were
Grey N:o 1
Moss Green N:o 2
Sand Brown N:o 3
However, their exact hues have been lost in time.
The closest we can come are the surviving equipment carrying the camo, with Bofors 37mm anti-gun guns perhaps the best examples, as they had a folding gun mantle, which was closed the time they were in storage:
Bofors 37mm at Parola Armour Museum (Wikimedia Commons)
From there, and from other similar pieces of equipment, it’s been possible to determine what the original hues were. Not an exact science, but close enough anyway.
Based on research done by a Finnish historian Esa Muikku, the RAL RSD codes for these colours were:
Grey: 075 50 10
Moss Green: 110 30 10 (should yet have a bit more grey)
Sand Brown: 070 30 10 (should yet be a tinted a bit)
Now we know.
Background for SA-kuva # 151597
What is left before publishing the photograp is the background information part. So here goes:
Assault Gun Battalion of the Armoured Division
On parade were the men and equipment of the Armoured Division, and their most modern formation, Assault Gun Battalion, with their Stu-40 Ausf. G assault guns, procured from Germany in summer 1943.
Did you know: StuG III’s with the upgraded 7,5-cm-StuK 40 L/48 main gun got called “StuG III” only as the production of StuG IVs started. Before that, these particular vehicles were classified as Stu-40, short for Sturmgeschütze-40.
Shown here are the armored fighting vehicles of battalion’s 2d Company. There was just one assault gun battalion at this stage, of 30 Stu-40s, with another similar batch (29, to be exact), arriving in July 1944, forming the 2d Assault Gun Battalion at that stage.
Those familiar with Finnish history might take note of the date of the parade, as June 4th was the birthday of Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Mannerheim. Accordingly, he was the recipient of this very parade, together with the president of republic, Mr Risto Ryti.
Story of Ps. 531-10 ‘Bubi’
At front is the Ps.531-10, nicknamed ‘Bubi’, the second assault gun of the I Platoon (of three assault guns), 2d Coy. Here’s some interesting facts about her.
It was customary the driver of each vehicle got to name it, often naming their vehicle, often after their sweethearts. As for ‘Bubi’, it is understood not to be a particular sweetheart, but a misspelled version of English word ‘Baby’…
Kills were credited for the gunner. ‘Bubi’s gunner Olli Soimala was the tank ace of the battalion, with eleven confirmed kills during the summer 1944 battles, before September 1944 armistice with Soviet Union. Battalion soon adapted a practice where each kill would be painted as circles on assault gun’s main gun, so ‘Bubi’ had eleven of those around her gun tube (there’s link to a restored ‘Bubi’ at the end of this blog post).
To the right is the assault gun commander, First Sergeant Börje Brotell, and to the left, I assume, is either the gunner Olli Soimala or loader Armas Launikko, with driver Sulo Kauppi the one of the four-man crew certainly not visible here.
What about these soldiers in the picture, what became of them?
Again, this picture was taken on June 4, 1944, and in a matter of only a few days – on June 10, 1944 – the Soviet Viborg-Pedrozavodsk Summer offensive would hit the Finnish front.
These men, so much at their leisure here, would find themselves in the hottest of hot spots in the next coming weeks and months…
I am happy to report they all survived the war, as did the assault gun, which is now standing guard at Parola Garrison, home of the modern Armoured Brigade cadre formation.
The other two assault guns with their markings visible, Ps. 531-11 and Ps. 531-8, both survived the war, both the men and the assault guns.
Assault guns with visible markings in the picture are:
Ps. 531-11 ‘Airi’, lead by Sergeant Kumlin, the third tank of the I platoon.
Ps. 531-8 ‘Aili’ lead by Lieutenant Peltonen, the platoon leader of the II Platoon.
2d Company pictured here was the luckiest company in this sense, as they only lost one vehicle in the fighting that summer. All in all, this Assault Gun Battalion lost eight Stu-40s in exchange to 87 confirmed enemy kills.
SA-kuva # 151597 in colour
With all that said, here’s the colourised picture, finally:
I hope you enjoy it, together with the history of the men and their vehicles!
For more information about Finnish assault guns, I can recommend Mr Andreas Lärka’s excellent webiste, here’s a link to our ‘Bubi’ at his site.
Coloured picture updated 9 June 2019: Tanker uniforms are tan, not grey colour. Source: Suomen Panssarisota.
I have just finished putting together a second iteration of the Finnish order of battle for Campaign Series: East Front III, a platoon-scale tactical wargame covering battles in WW2 Eastern Front in 1939-1941. This blog post supplements the previous German and Romanian OOB posts by Jason Petho, and Scott Cole, respectively.
Finnish Army in Campaign Series: East Front III
As those familiar with history know, Finland participated in the Second World War battling the Soviet Union at two occasions, and then once against Nazi Germany pushing them out from the country. In this regard, Finland was placed in the unusual situation of being for, then against, then for, the overall interests of the Allied powers.
A lone guard on skis. Petsamo 1940.02.01 (SA-kuva.fi)
As East Front III 1.0 will cover the years 1939-1941, the relevant conflicts are the invasion of Finland by Soviet Union in 1939, known as Winter War, and the subsequent Finnish participation in Operation Barbarossa, dubbed Continuation War.
The war against Nazi Germany to liberate Finnish Lapland will be featured in an East Front III sequel covering the years 1944-45 and is not covered in this article.
Winter War Order of Battle
The Winter War began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. This provides a relatively short period of time in regard of Order of Battle design, and will be implemented as a holistic, independent data set.
In addition to Finnish Army, the Swedish Volunteer Corps will be added as another independent formation to game’s data set under Finland nation ID 41.
Finnish Army will be covered in detail from Army Corps to Platoons, as there were no Army level formations in Winter War. There will be generic formations available under the standard TO&E information, with each and every historical division also represented in the data:
Being an artillery reservist myself, I took an additional effort to depict each and every historical artillery formation to the game as well, from Artillery Regiments to independent Batteries. As Winter War was a short but violent battle, each artillery formation will additionally be depicted as how they started the war, and how their strength was in February 1940, with one more month of war to go:
Swedish Volunteer Corps
While most WW2 history geeks are aware that Sweden maintained their neutrality during the conflict, a less known fact perhaps is that during Winter War, Sweden simply declared themselves a “non co-belligerent” state instead. In other words, they did not maintain a strict neutrality as such.
Perhaps the concrete example of Sweden’s aid to Finland at this critical hour were the Swedish Volunteer Corps. Svenska frivillligkåren (in Swedish) were roughly a Brigade sized, well equipped formation, with some 9 650 Swedish volunteers choosing to join Winter War together with Finland. As part of the Corps, Sweden also sent approximately one third of their most moder airforce fleet (Gloster Gladiator fighters and Hawker Hart bombers) to Finland to accompany the volunteer pilots.
“Finland’s Cause is Yours – Come join the Volunteer Corps!”
Swedish Volunteer Corps played an important part occupying a wide front in Finnish Lapland, with the brave young volunteers willingly having risked their life for the sake of their Nordic neighbor. To honor their commitment, the Swedish Volunteer Corps are deservedly a part of the Winter War order of battle as an independent and full organization:
Continuation War Order of Battle
The Continuation War began some fifteen months after the end of the Winter War, with Finnish Army commencing their attack against Soviet Union in 10 July, 1941. The war would continue until September 1944, when Finland agreed to a cease-fire with USSR. For the purposes of East Front III 1.0, the initial Finnish Army formations will cover the year of 1941.
In addition to Finnish Army, no additional formations will be added to the data set, with Finnish Volunteer SS Battalion being a likely candidate for addition to a future East Front III sequel covering the years 1942-43. It is true parts of the Finnish volunteers fought already in 1941 in Waffen-SS division Wiking, but as they were integrated into the unit, instead of being an independent formation as the III/Nordland was (as of January 1942), they will not be depicted in the data sets for the first year of war.
Looking at the order of battle data, this time there will be a complete Finnish Army formation available from the Army level down to Platoons, again with generic TO&E based generic formations, and each and every division depicted in all their detail, too:
As with Winter War, all historical artillery formations are covered as well. With the hodgepodge set of various makes and models of artillery pieces, this was my favourite part of the OOB design, and I do hope you enjoy the historical details included in the game!
As a little something to look forward, all this detail in order of battle design will make it possible to add a plethora of nice little detail to the game.
Here’s the Finnish 3D unit bases with nine different designs available at the time of writing this article!
Finnish 3D unit bases (work in progress), from left to right:
Generic Finnish Army
Winter War Finnish Army
Winter War Swedish Volunteer Corps
Continuation War Finnish Army
Continuation War Armored
Finnish Volunteer SS Battalion (not included in 1.0)
Winter War Finnish Air Force
Winter War Swedish Volunteer Corps Air Force
Continuation War Finnish Air Force
As Jason pointed out in his German OOB blog, Order of Battle creation is a labour of love with many challenges part of the job.
I do concur with him that, with addition of Winter War and Continuation War Finns (and Swedes!) to the game database, we’re making every effort to ensure that you will have the most accurate organizations to build your East Front scenarios, once the game is out!
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