Bristol Bulldog IVA in Finnish Service

Finnish Bristol Bulldog Mk. IVA circa 1941 in Pori.
Image kindly via Tuomo Lukkari.

The Finnish Air Force signed an agreement on 24 March 1934 for the purchase of seventeen Bristol Bulldog Mk.IVA fighters. The aircraft were to be used as front-line fighters and were delivered to the country in February 1935. The serial numbers were 7810 to 7826 and they were coded from BU-59 to BU-75.

After the outbreak of the Winter War, the Swedish State donated two Bulldog Mk.IIAs, which were received on 15 December 1939, and coded BU-214 and BU-216. The Swedish Air Force called the Bulldog for J7 (J=jaktflygplan which means fighter) and used twelve between 1931 and 1940.

On 7 November 1938 the Finnish Bulldogs were transferred to LLv 26 of Lentorykmentti 2 (2nd Flying Regiment) and this were they were in service at the time of the outbreak of the Winter War on 30 November 1939. The Squadron was at the time under the command of kapteeni (Captain) Erkki Heinilä and based at Heinjoki (Heinilä was to leave command to majuri Raoul Harju-Jeanty during December). The 2nd and 3rd Flights (these Flights were flying Fokker D.XXIs) of the squadron were subordinate to LLv 24. The remaining of the squadron was called Osasto (Detachment) Heinilä and tasked with interception and protection duties in the rear lines of the Karelian Isthmus with ten remaining Bulldogs.

The first contact between Soviet aircraft and Finnish fighters happened at 11:45-11:55 on 1 December 1939 when six Polikarpov I-16s from 7 IAP jumped a Bulldog pair of LLv 26. While the other Bulldog was separated, BU-64 piloted by ylikersantti Toivo Uuttu was left alone to fight the Russians. After scoring hits on one I-16, he himself was also shot down and he crashed at Muolaanjärvi getting injured in the process. Uuttu’s victim reportedly also crashed and became the first aerial victory ever over Finland. Since the claim wasn’t witnessed it was only credited to him as a probable.
Uuttu reported:

I flew southeast of Muolaanjärvi but I did not see any movements so I descended lower. Suddenly I saw tracers flying all around me. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw three I-16s attacking me. I pulled up and left and as they overtook me, I was able to fire a short burst on passing I-16. I hit his engine and saw black smoke coming out of the engine. It started sliding downward smoking. Tracers were flying all around my plane. Suddenly my plane shuddered and when I pulled on stick, it did not move. I considered jumping, but in fear that they might shoot me on parachute I decided to fight it out to the last. I continued evading my attackers using only rudder and aerlions. We had descended to altitude of 200m and when I looked behind, I saw one still shooting. I shut off my engine and tried to make a forced landing to forest. When landing, I pulled with all of my strength on the stick and it moved back a little bit, but then the Bulldog hit the woods and I passed away.
The fighters of 4./7 IAP claimed one reconnaissance aircraft shot down between 12:30-13:15 at Muolaa. The aircraft was claimed as a shared between starshiy leitenant Fedor Shinkarenko (eskadrilya leader), starshiy politruk Gavriil Didenko and B. A. Grigoryev. Starshiy leitenant Petr Pokryshev from the same eskadrilia force-landed his I-16 at Kerrola, Muolaa, after reportedly engine-malfunction and it is thus possible that he also had been involved in the combat with ylikersantti Uuttu.

On 6 December, the detachment moved to Mensuvaara and three days later on to Käkisalmi.

On 23 December, SBs from 24 and 44 SBAP attacked targets in the Vipurri - Laatokka area around 11:00.
44 SBAP suffered heavily during these attacks and SB c/n 14/97 of the regiment HQ was shot by fighters at Äyräpää, and crashed at Heinjoki. The pilot kapitan Ivan Yegorovich Borodin escaped by parachute and became a POW (kapitan Ivan Leontyevich Pratsuk and Nikolay Nikolayevich Dementyev KIA). The task had been to attack an AA battery presumed located at Suursaari (Hogland) in Muolaanjärvi.
The target of 4./44 SBAP was Heinjoki railway station. SBs c/n 18/94 and c/n 4/92 were lost after air combat. The pilot of 18/94, leitenant Ivan Kuzmich Sorokin was taken POW (leitenant Fedor Ignatyevich Bannikov and Valentin Mikhailovich Bessonov KIA) and on the next day the MG-gunner of 4/92, Nikolay Ivanovich Lyakhov was captured (starshiy leitenant Boris Fedorovich Glazov and starshiy leitenant Vasiliy Nikolayevich both KIA).
5./44 SBAP was to bomb a Finnish strongpoint at Oinala (south-west of Muolaanjärvi) with six SBs. Two SBs (c/n 3/136 and c/n 14/72) were shot down at Antrea. The crew in c/n 14/72 (leitenant Mikhail Grigoryevich Zaitsev, starshiy leitenant Nikolay Ivanovich Kapustin and Sergey Pavlovich Kuznetsov) was killed. SB c/n 3/136 was hit by ground fire and by fighters and crashed in no-man's land at Noisniemi. The pilot, starshiy leitenant M. G. Golovanov, was able to reach own lines but shturman starshiy leitenant Aleksandr Gerasimovich Makovenko was killed during arrest while the MG-gunner Konstantin Ivanovich Drozdetskiy was taken POW in the sector of the Finnish 8th Infantry Division.
It is also possible that a sixth SB from 44 SBAP was shot down with the pilot leitenant Petr Smorodin becoming POW (starshiy leitenant Beloglazov and unknown MG-gunner KIA).
24 SBAP lost two SBs. SB c/n 14/220 "4" of 2./24 SBAP was shot down by ground fire at Ilmatorjunta with the crew KIA (leitenant Aleksey Ivanovich Moskalev, leitenant Mikhail Vasilyevich Korneyev and Fedor Timofeyevich Muravyev). SB c/n 6/220 "8" of 4./24 SBAP force-landed at Bazarevo (Nikulas) after air combat with Nikolay F. Kolosov WIA, leitenant Viktor Nikolayevich Sazonov KIA and Pavel Ivanovich Baskakov KIA.
Between 11:17-12:26 on 23 December, 13 I-16s from 7 IAP led by starshiy leitenant Fedor Shinkarenko (4./7 IAP) flew to cover the SB operations in the Vipurri area. In the region of Kaislahti at an altitude of 2,000m, they saw three SBs that flew to the east-southeast and that twelve enemy aircraft (nine Fokker D.XXIs and three Bulldogs) flew from Noraa east-wards. One enemy flight got behind the tails of the SB flight. Two SBs caught fire, while the third begun to fall down disorderly. Meanwhile Shinkarenko’s eskadrilya tried to overtake the enemy and finally caught them over Pienpero station at 11:40. Seven Fokker D.XXIs were claimed shot down and these were claimed by Shinkarenko, starshiy politruk Gavriil Didenko, leitenant A. D. Bulayev, starshiy leitenant Porfiriy Mikhaylyuk, starshiy leitenant Petr Pokryshev, starshiy leitenant Georgiy Larionov and leitenant Boris Aleksandrovich Grigoryev (all of 4./7 IAP). According to some sources, an unknown pilot also claimed a Bulldog. At Honkaniemi-Pilppula, two of the I-16s were shot down in combat and leitenant Vladimir Vasilyevich Zoltarev (I-16 tip 10 c/n 1021779) and leitenant Grigoryev (unsuccessful parachute jump from I-16 tip 5 c/n 5210836) were both killed.
At 11:50, 13 I-16s from 68 IAP led by batalyonnyy komissar Yakovenko reportedly clashed with four Fokker D.XXIs at Karhusuo. Two Finnish aircraft were claimed shot down, and one pilot escaped by parachute. Finnish troops observed a mid-air collision of two I-16s, but only one parachute. This was starshiy leitenant Iosif Iosifovich Kaval'kov of 3./68 IAP, who parachuted from I-16 "228" at Ylä-Säiniö and was captured by Finnish ground forces at Kangaspelto, Muolaa (Koval'kov had arrived to 68 IAP from 25 IAP). Karchenko reportedly landed his I-16 with 30 hits in the aircraft.
LLv 24 and 26 was heavily involved in the attacks on midday engaging both I-16s from 7 and 68 IAP and SB bombers from 24 and 44 SBAP.
Shortly before 11:00, they clashed with the enemy aircraft beginning with I-16s of which three were claimed shot down in the Muolaanjärvi area. These were claimed by kersantti Lauri Nissinen (LLv 24) in FR-98 (1 and 1 damaged I-16 at 10:40 over Muolaanjärvi), luutnantti Aapo Nieminen (LLv 26) in FR-96 (1 and 1 damaged I-16 over Muolaanjärvi between 10:40-10:55), vänrikki Heikki Ilveskorpi (LLv 24) in FR-117 (1 I-16 over Muolaa at 10:45) and ylikersantti Kelpo Virta (LLv 24) in FR-84 (1 damaged I-16 over Kämärä/Kannas at10:48).
At 10:48, a SB (probably from 44 SBAP) was claimed shot down over Heinjoki by three pilots from LLv 24; luutnantti Jorma Karhunen (FR-112), lentomestari Y. Turkka (FR-83) and lentomestari Viktor Pyötsiä (FR-110). Lentomestari Turkka claimed another SB at 10:50 over Pölläkkälä.
The I-16s from 7 IAP intervened and vänrikki Pekka Kokko (LLv 24) in FR-78 claimed a damaged I-16 over Muolaanjärvi at 10:50. Kersantti Pentti Tilli (LLv 26) in FR-103 claimed an I-16 at 10:55 over Kämärä and a second at 11:10 over Noskuanselkä (both probably from 7 IAP).
Luutnantti Jorma Sarvanto (LLv 24) in FR-97 claimed and SB at 11:08 over Ristseppälä and a second as a probable at 11:15 over Noisniemi (both probably from 44 SBAP).
A Bulldog patrol from LLv 26 led by luutnantti Pentti Tevä took off on an interception mission towards Lake Laatokka (Ladoga). Over Käkisalmi at 11:55, they encountered a formation of 6 to 7 SBs from 24 SBAP, which were bombing from the altitude of 1700 m and 100 meters above clouds. Tevä shot one down and it crashed into the Lake Ladoga confirmed by the coastal units. Lentomestari Lennart Mildh dove after the formation but could not gain enough speed until surprisingly one SB passed beneath him. He had an opportunity to fire at the SB for several minutes. The SB received hits and dove steep into a low-lying cloud and Mildh was credited with a damaged aircraft.
Finally, at 12:00, majuri Gustaf Magnusson (LLv 24) in FR-99 claimed a SB (probably from 44 SBAP) over Lempaalanjärvi. He described the combat with the SBs:

Kersantti Kinnunen flying on the left flank observed nine SB planes above Vuoksenranta. I dived after kersantti Kinnunen, who pulled away thinking I was an I-16.
I continued after the formation and caught it at Kiviniemi. I chose as my target the rear-most bomber on the left flank. First I fired in the starboard engine, which started to smoke, thereafter I shot the port engine into fire, when the plane began to descend.
Tactically the enemy unit worked well, e. g. lowering the landing gears simultaneously for speed reduction and the next to the one under attack lowered speed in order to obtain a better position for it's rear gunner.
At 12 o'clock the aircraft hit the ground at Lempaalanjärvi."
During these combats, one Fokker D.XXI was shot down when FR-111 of LLv 24 crashed in the forest at Lyykylä and kersantti Tauno Kaarma was wounded after combat with I-16s.
Totally during these somewhat confusing combats, the pilots from LLv 24 and 26 claimed 11 (6 SBs and 5 I-16s) victories, 1 probable SB and 5 damaged (4 SBs and 1 I-16) while losing 1 fighter.
Totally the Russians lost 8 SBs and 3 I-16s (another I-16 damaged) while claiming 9 fighters (at least 7 Fokker D.XXIs).

On 25 December, a formation of forty SBs escorted by twenty I-16s approached to bombard Käkisalmi. A swarm of Heinilä’s Bulldogs took off in defence. The 5th eskadrilya of 2 SBAP reported that they were repeatedly attacked by a Bulldog, which scored a few hits before fended off by the Soviet MG-gunners.

At 12:00 on 27 December 1939, kersantti Valio Porvari claimed a damaged I-16 over Käkisalmi.

On 28 December the detachment moved with five Bulldogs to Immola and on to Parola. On the last day of 1939, the unit moved to the ice-covered Lake Littoinen for protection of the city of Turku (Åbo) in Western Finland.

22 bombers were reported over Turku on 31 December, dropping 105 bombs without human losses. The port tug Vetäjä III was sunk by a direct bomb hit, and the mud-lifter Karhu was damaged and sank later. Several buildings were damaged. The Bulldogs of Osasto Heinilä attempted to intercept the bombers and reported some hits.
This was fifteen SBs of 10 AB flying in waves at 3,500 – 4,000 meters altitude, which returned reporting that they had bombed seven transports in the port.

On 14 January 1940 Turku was bombed again and several buildings were destroyed. Six Bulldogs of the Osasto Heinilä/LLv 26 took off from Littoinen. One SB was shot down jointly by lentomestari Lauri Lautamäki (BU-72) and AA artillery. The bomber crashed at Perniö.
The bomber was from 10 AB, which reported that ten SB2 bombed fuel stores in the port of Turku.

During January there were numerous combat engagements but the detachment didn’t manage to claim any further victories.

On 2 February the detachment’s remaining Bulldogs were submitted to Täydennyslentorykmentti 2 (2nd Conversion Regiment) and the personnel returned to LLv 26.

After the end of the Winter War in April, the Bulldogs were transferred to T-LLv 35 and LLv 34. At the outbreak of the Continuation War on 22 June 1941, these units still had eight Bulldogs in working order. Some of them were later in service in T-LLv 17, before all the remaining seven Bulldogs were submitted to LeSK (Air Fighting School) in the summer of 1942. Three Bulldogs broke down during the rest of that year, two during the following year. The very last mission with a Finnish Bulldog ended when BU-59 overturned during landing on 22 February 1944.

During the Winter War Finnish Air Force claimed 2 victories with Bulldogs (all with pilots from LLv 26). During the same period, LLv 26 lost one Bulldog in combat (on 01/12/39).

Finnish Bristol Bulldog Mk. IIA BU-216. One of two ex-Swedish Bulldogs, which served as advanced trainers at Täydennyslentolaivue 35 based at Vesivehmaa. The picture is taken in May 1942.
Image kindly via Johan Löfling.

Finnish claims with Bulldogs:
Kill no. Date Type Result Pilot Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  01/12/39 I-16 Probable Ylikersantti Toivo Uuttu Bulldog BU-64 SE Muolaanjärvi LLv 26
  23/12/39 SB Damaged Lentomestari Lennart Mildh Bulldog BU-74 Käkisalmi LLv 26
1 23/12/39 SB Destroyed Luutnantti Pentti Tevä Bulldog BU-68 Ladoga LLv 26
  27/12/39 I-16 Damaged Kersantti Valio Porvari Bulldog BU-68 Käkisalmi LLv 26
2 14/01/40 SB Shared destroyed Lentomestari Lauri Lautamäki Bulldog BU-72 Perniö 1/LLv 26

Following Finnish pilots claimed victories while flying Bulldogs:
Ylik. Valio Valfrid Porvari - 1 damaged
Ltm. Lauri Lautamäki - 1 shared victory
Ltn. Pentti Tevä - 1 victory
Ylik. Toivo Uuttu - 1 probable victory
Ltm. Lennart Mildh - 1 damaged
Lautamäki's single shared claim is not included in official lists of his claims and was probably claimed as a regimental kill. Therefore is it not included in his total.

Bristol Bulldog IVA in Finnish Service
Serial number Squadron use Notes Struck off charge Total flying time
BU-59 20/03/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
30/11/39 Os.Heinilä/LLv 26
02/02/40 LLv 28
12/04/40 T-LLv 35
18/12/40 LLv 34
27/07/41 T-LLv 35
22/10/42 LeSK
Last operational Finnish Bulldog.
22/02/44 Overturned during landing at Kauhavalla. Pilot korprali R. Valakivi safe.
11/05/44 774,30 hours
BU-60 20/03/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
15/06/38 Crashed at start due to engine problems at Utti. Pilot vänrikki E. Kukkonen killed. 22/08/38 Not reported
BU-61 20/03/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
12/01/40 Os.Heinilä/LLv 26
02/02/40 LLv 29
07/02/40 Crashed at Lehijärven. Pilot alikersantti H. Ketola safe. 13/04/40 375,10 hours
BU-62 20/03/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
06/09/38 LLv 24
05/11/38 LLv 26
14/04/40 LLv 34
25/06/41 Crashed at Hattulassa. Pilot vänrikki P. Hyvärinen killed. 01/08/41 757,05 hours
BU-63 15/04/35 LAs 5
01/12/39 Os. Heinila/LLv 26
02/02/40 LLv 29
02/10/40 LLv 34
27/07/41 T-LLv 35
  16/08/42 452,25 hours
BU-64 15/04/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
01/12/39 1 probable I-16 claimed by ylikersantti Toivo Uuttu at Muolaanjärvellä. Shot down by Soviet I-16s during the same mission. Pilot safe. 20/08/40 218,00 hours
BU-65 15/04/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
30/11/39 Os. Heinilä/LLv 26
14/09/40 LLv 34
27/07/41 T-LLv 35
31/07/42 LeSK
26/01/44 Crashed due to engine problems at Kauhava. Pilot alikersantti O. Voipio safe. 16/02/44 786,00 hours
BU-66 15/04/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
27/10/38 LLv 24
16/11/38 LLv 26
07/02/40 LLv 29
25/0340 Crashed at Parola. Pilot I. Kallio safe. 02/11/40 565,25 hours
BU-67 17/05/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
31/01/40 LLv 29
14/04/40 LLv 34
27/07/41 T-LLv 35
13/06/42 LeSK
28/10/42 Crashed at Kauhava. Pilot vänrikki H. Nieminen safe. 20/12/42 940,20 hours
BU-68 31/05/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
30/11/39 Os.Heinilä/LLv 26
02/02/40 LLv 29
27/05/41 LLv 34
27/07/41 T-LLv 35
01/07/42 LeSK
23/12/39 1 SB claimed by luutnantti Pentti Tevä of LLv26 at Käkisalmi.
27/12/39 1 I-16 damaged by kersantti Valio Porvari of LLv26 at Käkisalmi.
29/06/43 Crashed at Kauhava? Pilot lentomestari A.Henttonen.
16/08/43 831,30 hours
BU-69 31/05/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
03/06/39 Crashed at Valkealassa. Pilot vänrikki P. Salava safe. 08/07/39 Not reported
BU-70 17/05/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
30/11/39 OS.Heinilä/LLv 26
16/03/40 LLv 29
17/04/40 Crashed at Tyrvännössa. Pilot J. Noranka killed. 27/09/41 449,05 hours
BU-71 17/05/35 LAs 5
01/01/40 Os. Heinilä/LLv 26
25/05/40 LLv 34
25/07/41 T-LLv 35
13/06/42 LeSK
13/10/42 Crashed at Kauhava. Pilot vänrikki M. Palojärvi killed. 20/12/42 580,50 hours
BU-72 31/05/35 LAs 5
15/0238 LLv 26
20/08/38 LLv 24
05/09/38 LLv 26
30/11/39 Os. Heinilä/LLv 26
02/02/40 LLv 29
14/01/40 1 shared SB claimed by lentomestari Lauri Lautamäki of LLv 26 at Perniö.
23/03/40 Crashed at Tyrvännöllä. Pilot O. Lehti killed.
10/05/40 532,00 hours
BU-73 31/05/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
30/11/39 Os. Heinilä/LLv 26
02/02/40 LLv 29
23/09/40 LLv 34
02/09/41 T-LLv 17
03/10/41 T-LLv 35
18/12/41 Crashed at Asikkalassa. Pilot vänrikki L. Lindgren safe. 30/01/42 644,10 hours
BU-74 31/05/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
12/01/39 Er.LLv
31/05/39 LLv 26
30/11/39 Os. Heinilä/LLv 26
02/02/40 LLv 29
11/11/40 LLv 34
02/09/41 T-LLv 17
03/10/41 T-LLv 35
13/06/42 LeSK
23/12/39 1 damaged SB claimed by lentomestari Lennart Mildh of LLv 26 at Käkisalmi.
17/07/42 Crashed at Kokkola after collision with Tuisku TU-167. Pilot vänrikki E. Linola killed.
19/09/42 738,00 hours
BU-75 31/05/35 LAs 5
07/02/38 LLv 26
12/01/39 Er.LLv
31/05/39 LLv 26
30/11/39 Os.Heinilä/LLv 26
11/05/40 LLv 34
27/07/41 T-LLv 35
08/08/41 T-LLv 17
20/10/41 T-LLv 35
19/05/43 Crashed at Kuorevedelle. Pilot lentomestari E. Juurikas safe. 13/07/43 782,20 hours
BUj-214 15/12/39 LLv 29 Ex-Swedish Air Force (-5214) Bristol Bulldog Mk.IIA.
02/03/40 Crashed at Parola. Pilot alikersantti J. Liikola killed.
09/04/40 71,20 hours
BUj-216/BU-216 15/12/39 LLv 29
18/11/41 T-LLv 35
13/06/42 LeSK
Ex-Swedish Air Force (-5216) Bristol Bulldog Mk.IIA.
421109 Crashed at Kauhava. Pilot vänrikki L. Pöntinen wounded.
20/12/42 154,15 hours
Total numbers: 19

Englantilaiset Hävittäjät - Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman and Klaus Niska - kindly via Lars Larsson
Finnish Aces of World War 2 - Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen, 1998
Finnish Air Force 1939-1945 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 1998
Hävittäjä-Ässät (Finnish Fighter Aces) - Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman and Klaus Niska, 1994 (second printing)
Ilmavoimat talvisodassa- Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman kindly via Tuomo Lukkari
Ilmavoitot, osa 1 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
Ilmavoitot, osa 2 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
LeR 2 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2001, ISBN 951-98751-0-7
Red Stars 5 - Baltic Fleet Air Force in Winter War – Carl-Fredrik Geust, Samuil Tirkeltaub and Gennadiy Petrov, 2004 Apali, Tampere, ISBN 952-5026-31-0
Red Stars 7 - Talvisota Ilmassa - The Winter War In the Air - Carl-Fredrik Geust, 2011 Apali Oy, Tampere, ISBN 978-952-5877-04-5
Suomen Ilmavoimat part II – 1928-40 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2006, ISBN 952-99743-0-2
Additional information kindly provided by Lars Larsson and Pentti Perttula.

Last modified 13 November 2020