Mannerheim: Marshal of Finland, 1867-1951
The Field Marshal who had led his country to independence in 1918, writes Oliver Warner, was called upon twice to defend his own creation during the Second World War.
In the volume of her autobiography which she calls The Light of Common Day, Lady Norwich, better remembered as Diana Duff-Cooper, includes an account of a Baltic trip made in 1938 in the official yacht Enchantress, when her husband was First Lord of the Admiralty. The itinerary included Helsinki. There the party dined with the British diplomatic representative, and among the guests was Field Marshal Mannerheim.
“He made Finland,” wrote the author to a correspondent, “and is treated as half-royal, half-Godhead. He looks fifty and is said to dye his hair... and he is only seventy two! He’s old Russian Imperialist (that I find irresistible) and says in French pardon. I had never heard of him, had you? Field Marshal Mannerheim...”
That was on August 13th. Next day, Mannerheim was host, at the modest house, close to the Helsinki water-front, which the visitor may see today. An English-speaking custodian sometimes relates the sequel, and with natural relish: