Half Time History: England v Sweden

After a nail-biting Round of 16 match, here we are at half-time with England playing Sweden.

Sweden is a difficult country to try and write a military history blog post on, as the vast majority of the most recent conflicts, they have declared their neutrality fairly early on. This policy of neutrality stems largely from the Napoleonic wars, after Sweden suffered large-scale loss of life against Napoleonic forces.

When war was brewing in Europe, Sweden went about bolstering their military forces before declaring their neutrality as soon as war was declared. Despite being able to maintain their military neutrality, Sweden were pressured by the Central powers to assist them during the 1914-1918 conflict.

Sweden managed to avoid any sort of physical military action until 1918, during the Aland Invasion in February. The Aland islands were originally under Finnish control, but after the Finnish gained independence from Russia in 1917, the islands looked to other countries to join to, in order to gain an element of security in the region.

In late January 1918, a delegation from the Aland Islands and from Sweden met to discuss the idea of joining together in an alliance. A referendum was apparently held, where around 95% of residents of Aland voted to join with Sweden. Sweden were reluctant to intervene as the Russian troops stationed there had built up heavy fortifications and there were concerns that heavy casualties may have been inflicted.

On February 13th, 1918, Sweden finally decided to send troops into Aland, to relieve some of the humanitarian crises in the region and to restore order. The White Russian troops who were on the islands, believed that Sweden had come to join them and so assisted in taking a number of artillery batteries, but soon after Sweden began negotiations with the Russians.

Negotiations were cut short on 17th February when a battle broke out in Godby which led to a number being killed on both sides, with eight captured Red soldiers later executed.

After conditions on Aland had descended into open violence, Sweden issued a fake order to the White Russian and Finn soldiers in the region to withdraw, which they followed.

Sweden were duly investigated for their conduct and had to justify their reasonings for occupying the Aland, whereupon they stated it was not to join the islands to Swedish territory, but to protect the Swedish speaking citizens that resided there.

By the end of February, most Soviet soldiers had left Aland, and around a thousand were still there, but disarmed. Thus, Sweden had taken full control of Aland with little bloodshed.

The Aland Islands would later be invaded again before the end of February, this time by German forces.

As Sweden has a relatively short military history, it is probably only right that a relatively short blog post follows so I’ll draw it to a close there I think!

Maybe we’ll get another one in before the end of the world cup, but it depends on how England play! Let’s hope we do get at least one more.

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