The Mikkeli Civil Guard district comprised some 30 Guards in 13 areas. In the first few years after its founding in 1917, the district saw constant changes in the seat of local chief and little recreational activity. The district emphasized morality and good manners, using fines and suspensions to manage poor behaviour. Various courses and competitions were held at the Otava Folk High School, where members also maintained their spiritual education. The Mikkeli district Guards were particularly successful in shooting competitions.
The Civil Guard House designed by Martti Välikangas was opened on December 6th, 1938. A few years later, the Mikkeli district was annexed to the newly established Great Saimaa Civil Guard District. After its abolition, the possessions of the Mikkeli Guard were donated to the town.
THE MIKKELI PARISH
In response to concerns about Russian soldiers in the area, peacekeeping forces were formed. The first Civil Guards in Otava and Hietanen were referred to as fire brigades to hide their true purpose. Formal Guards were established at the start of the War of Independence, and some 40 men from Otava joined the Mikkeli forces in the battles of Mäntyharju. After the war, the combination of the Guards of Otava, Hietanen, and Mikkeli created the Mikkeli Parish Civil Guard, over 100 men strong.
The Guard inaugurated a flag prepared by the women of Otava on December 12th, 1918. A new one took its place when the Lotta Svärd donated a flag in 1934. The 1920s were a financially challenging time for the organization, as a political dichotomy prevented the local government from sponsoring Civil Guard activities until 1939. After another period of constant changes in leadership, conductor E. Ryynänen held the position of local chief from 1928 to 1944.
The first Civil Guard in Ristiina was founded during the general strike of 1917. Labourers were initially involved in the operations but they later moved to other activities. A renewed Guard was re-established in March 1918, featuring some 30 men and two Russian rifles. The members used their own clothing until a plea to the provost raised some money for Civil Guard uniforms.
The financial struggles of the early years led to frequent changes of chief in Ristiina as well. In the 1930s, operations became more efficient as new activities were launched. The seat of local chief was filled by highly esteemed Arvi Emil Karhu, who held the position until the Guards were abolished. The funds of the Ristiina Guard were donated to the local parish and farmer society as well as a foundation for war orphans in Lappeenranta.
The first thoughts of forming a Civil Guard in Anttola surfaced in 1917, but there was nobody to take the initiative. It was not until the war that an order to establish one arrived from Headquarters.
In the absence of rifles, exercises were initially performed using shotguns. On March 13th, 1918, a delivery of rounds and 18 rifles finally arrived. Russian prince Aleksander Demidoff promised the Guard free use of a harbour estate for its activities, but the offer was rescinded before the Guard had the chance to move in.
Members of the Anttola Guard also wore their own clothes until 1919. Money was scarce till the 1930s, and membership plunged as low as 19 men at times. The district eventually started gaining donations, and a community house was built in 1938.
The local chief of Haukivuori was Yrjö Väisänen from 1926 to 1940. Members of the Guard often visited the Chief, whose house was next to a shooting range they had built. Marksmanship was never practiced during church hours, so exercises that fell on Sundays were held during the afternoon.
Members gathered at a central house, which later served as a dance hall
before its demolition. Funds for the Guard’s operations were raised at
summertime events and competitions.
MINORS IN THE CIVIL GUARD
The youngest members of the Guard formed so-called squirrel companies guided by local troops. Their activities were meant to strengthen character, instil a patriotic spirit, and raise willingness to participate in national defence. The boys were trained in sports and military skills such as shooting. Parental approval was required for participation, and those interested could apply for Civil Guard membership after turning 17.
In 1938, there were almost 29,000 boys in the Civil Guard. They vastly outnumbered boy scouts, but the active scouting clubs in certain areas left no need for establishing boy companies. Scouts in Mikkeli offered minors diverse training in topics related to medicine and defence, taught by officers of the Guard.