The Russian Army
Hamina Cadet School
In 1887 Mannerheim was admitted to the Nicholas Cavalry School in St. Petersburg. He was successful at school and after two years graduated as a cornet. The young officer's first mission was in a dragoon regiment in Poland.
After a little more than a year's service in Poland, Mannerheim was offered a longed-for transfer to the Chevalier Guards Regiment in St. Petersburg. He had already in Cavalry School been intent on this troop division. The mission of the Chevalier Guards was to take part in guard duty and garrison duties in the capital. The officers of the Chevalier Guards were admitted to the Imperial Court and to its various festivities. They were also very popular in society. Mannerheim, handsome, upright and with elegant manners, was a great success in the Guards. His problem was a long-standing lack of money, which was certainly not alleviated by his life in society.
In 1904-1905 Mannerheim participated as a lieutenant-colonel in the Russo-Japanese War in Manchuria. He gained valuable experience in leading troops in battle and got acquainted with conditions in eastern Asia, which was useful on the intelligence and exploration expedition to Asia made in the following years.
Riding in Asia
On his return from the Russo-Japanese War, Mannerheim was commissioned by the Russian General Staff to investigate the military and political situation in eastern Asia, particularly in China. In practice this was equal to a two-year ride through Asia to Peking in 1906-1908. Externally the expedition was presented as an exploration expedition. It had very significant results. Russia gained important information about Chinese conditions. Scientific results were also remarkable. An extensive journal from the expedition was later published in three languages. Mannerheim also proved to be a skilled photographer. Objects collected on the expedition can be seen in the Finnish National Museum and in the Mannerheim Museum. The 14,000-kilometer ride was very strenuous and a proof of Mannerheim's excellent physical condition.
Mannerheim in Poland
After his return from the expedition to Asia, Mannerheim was given the command of a Uhlan regiment in Poland. He held this post for five years during peacetime in Poland, very well pleased with his mission and station. In Poland he was promoted to Major General and afforded the command of a cavalry brigade.
In World War I, Mannerheim first commanded the Cavalry Brigade and the Cavalry Division at the Polish front, fighting against Austrian-Hungarian troops. In 1916 he was transferred to the Rumanian front, where he was appointed Commander of the Cavalry Corps. Mannerheim was highly esteemed by the Russian supreme command, a brave and decisive front commander capable of independent thinking. The war gave him extremely valuable experience of the leading of large troops and co-operation with multi-national troops. He was shortly given the opportunity to apply this experience in Finland.
The Finnish nation honours the memory of its great man. Wreaths are put down on the grave of Mannerheim, Marshal of Finland, in the Hietaniemi cemetery in connection with state visits and the festive occasions of many associations. The equestrian statue of Mannerheim has a central place in Helsinki. There are Mannerheim statues and monuments elsewhere in Finland and in Switzerland too. The Mannerheim Museum in Kaivopuisto in Helsinki has a unique material presenting Mannerheim's life at various stages. The museum opened to the public in 1951 in the building that had been Mannerheim's home during the years 1924-1951. The Headquarters Museum is located in Mikkeli, where the Commander-in-Chief had his headquarters during the wars. The Louhisaari mansion is also open to the public. Mannerheim's birthday, the 4th of June, is the flag day of the armed forces and increasingly also a national festival day. It is a matter of honour for the Finnish people to cherish the memory of Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Marshal of Finland.