My co-blogger Jussi Jalonen at History and Futility writes about Finland’s support for Ethiopia in the 1935 Italian invasion, with military volunteers and the Red Cross and all.
The international solidarity which emerged during the Abyssinian War did eventually spark a modest international volunteer movement. The Pan-African sentiments of the time are well-known, and one of the foreign military men who ended up serving in Haile Selassie’s ranks was the former Ottoman general Wehib Pasha. The potential Finnish recruits were regretfully given no opportunity to satisfy their desire to fight against Mussolini. According to Jarl Ahrenberg, the consul of Abyssinia in Helsinki, the number of these Finnish volunteers eventually reached four hundred – many of whom were willing to pay for their travel expenses – but the Abyssinian visa ban, issued after the outbreak of the crisis, made it impossible to organize any recruitment, even if Ahrenberg had been interested in such an undertaking.
Although the Finnish volunteer movement failed to materialize, the small Nordic country did support the distant Empire in East Africa on a more official basis. A fundraising campaign organized in November 1935 yielded over 150 000 Finnish Marks, and the Finnish Red Cross also equipped an ambulance unit to provide humanitarian aid for the Ethiopians, following the example of Sweden and Norway. This was a high-profile undertaking, and the initiative came directly from no less a person than marshal C. G. E. Mannerheim, who was, at the time, the chairman of the Finnish Red Cross. The ambulance was headed by the internationally-renowned surgeon Richard Faltin, Mannerheim’s very old friend, whose profile is engraved in the memorial medal portrayed below. Faltin was already 68 years old, and his former feats as a practicing physician had involved an attempt to save the life of Russian Governor-General Bobrikov thirty years before. The close friendship between Mannerheim and Faltin was demonstrated as the marshal cordially informed driver Birger Lundström that he would be “directly answerable for professor’s security on this expedition”.