Battle of Rovaniemi

Battle of Rovaniemi

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict = Battle of Rovaniemi
partof = Lapland War (World War II)

caption = The town of Rovaniemi destroyed by the Germans

caption =
date = 12 October13 October 1944
place = Rovaniemi, Finland
territory =
result = Finnish victory
status =
combatant1 = flag|Nazi Germany|name=Germany
combatant2 = flag|Finland
commander1 = Henrik Saussel
commander2 = Ruben Lagus
strength1 = 500 men
3 tanks,plus armoured cars
strength2 = 1500 men
20 tanks
casualties1 = 52 dead,
164 wounded,
9 lost,
1 tank
casualties2 = 36 dead,
101 wounded,
4 lost
notes =

The Battle of Rovaniemi was an event during the 1944 Lapland War. The actual fighting between the Finnish Armoured division and the troops of the German Twentieth Mountain Army took place to the south of the town of Rovaniemi. The notoriety of the encounter derives from the destruction of the town by the Germans.

The town of Rovaniemi was the capital of Lapland, the northernmost province of Finland. During the Second World War it was an important transport hub since it lay on the road to the Petsamo area and the only free port in the north, Liinahamari.

When the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union started in 1941, the Finnish government allowed German troops from the German 20th Mountain Army in Norway to be stationed in Lapland to help defend the long border. The objective of the Germans was to control the nickel mines in Petsamo and to conquer the Russian port of Murmansk, cutting the Soviet Union off from Allied supply convoys. Rovaniemi was the German HQ in Lapland and also the base of Luftflotte 5 of the Luftwaffe.

Relations between the German garrisons and the local populace in Lapland were generally cordial during the war. However, when the Finns signed a separate peace with the Soviet Union, relations soured. The Germans had some 200,000 troops in Finland and they were still at war with the Russians. The Soviet Union demanded that the Finns remove all German troops from their territory in two weeks, which was a logistical impossibility. However, the Finns did move against the Germans in the Kemi-Tornio region to convince the Russians of their intention to live up to the treaty. Almost simultaneously with the Tornio operation, the Finnish armoured division started to advance north in the direction of Rovaniemi.

German general Lothar Rendulic gave the order that Lapland be destroyed. The operation plan for using scorched earth tactics while retreating had been prepared already in 1942. The operation to level Rovaniemi started on October 10th 1944. The mostly wooden town burned for 6 days and nights, with only 13 buildings left standing. There were no civilian casualties, because the Finns had already evacuated the town (and most of Lapland) in September, in anticipation of the clash with the Germans.

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