The Civil Guard was an independent voluntary organization of armed men. It was created in 1844 in response to the need for a protective force for travelers and border guards. They patrolled the coast, and aided authorities in foreign peacekeeping missions.
The Civil Guard had a hierarchical structure, with the Commander-in-Chief of the Civil Guard being directly responsible for the State’s defense. Officers’ status was not based on their rank, but on their duty to the state. The officers of the Civil Guard were task-oriented and were primarily focused on protecting the state and its property. A wealthier farmer or businessman could become the Chief of the local Civil Guard district, or be assigned a similar rank.
The early Civil Guards operated in a country where there was a large presence of the Russian Army. In 1917, Finland declared its independence from Russia. However, the Russian Revolution soon spread to Finland, and the Civil War raged just behind the newly established eastern border. Military incursions across the Finnish – Russian border prompted the formation of the Civil Guard.
Civil Guards were initially grouped into districts, with each district having a headquarters. Each district was able to identify itself by the order in which its colours were displayed. Initially, the uniforms for the Civil Guard were modeled after those of the White Army during the Civil War. These uniforms included a greatcoat, a tunic, and a raincoat. Several hat models were available for summer use. One type of hat, the Mannerheim, was a fur hat.
While the Finnish White Army had been using an armband during the Civil War, the Civil Guards used a white armband as an identification marker. The armband was about 20 mm wide. As with the Armed Forces, the markings were typically printed in black ink. Some of the markings were embroidered onto the armband, while other markings were sewn onto it.
During the Finnish Civil War, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers became demoralized and unruly in Finland. The Bolshevik government agitated against the Civil Guards, and provided weapons to the Red Guards. After the Civil War, a statute was adopted to determine the status of the Civil Guard as a voluntary organization. This statute gave the Civil Guard an official national status.
The Finnish Civil Guard became militarily organized in 1918. There were two types of helmets, a Russian m/17 and a French m/15. The Finnish military acquired German and Austrian helmets in 1919. The m/17 helmet was worn during frontline service, while the m/15 was for home front use.
In the 1920s, the uniforms of the Civil Guard were changed. The greatcoat became a m/22. This coat was shorter than the Finnish Army’s overcoat and featured two rows of buttons in the chest. The coat was usually made of a coarse cloth, though it was also made of diagonal wool. It had waist pockets with horizontal openings, and folded cuffs that were 18 cm wide.