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Norwegian Campaign
Part of the Second World War
Operation Weserübung.jpg
Date 9 April – 10 June 1940
Location Norway
Result German victory
Belligerents
Nazi Germany Germany  Norway
 United Kingdom
France France
Poland Free Polish
Strength
9 divisions
1 artillery battalion
1 motorized rifle brigade
Norway: 6 divisions
Norway and World War II
Key events

Weserübung
Norwegian Campaign
Elverum Authorization
Midtskogen · Vinjesvingen
Occupation · Resistance
Camps · Holocaust · Telavåg
Martial law in Trondheim (1942)
Festung Norwegen
Heavy water sabotage
Post-war purge

People

Haakon VII of Norway
Johan Nygaardsvold
Carl Joachim Hambro
Carl Gustav Fleischer
Otto Ruge
Jens Christian Hauge

Vidkun Quisling · Jonas Lie
Sverre Riisnæs · Josef Terboven
Wilhelm Rediess · Nikolaus von Falkenhorst

Organizations

Milorg · XU · Linge
Osvald Group · Nortraship

Nasjonal Samling

     Supported legitimate exiled
 government.
     Supported German occupants
 and Nasjonal Samling party.

The Norwegian Campaign was a campaign that was fought in Norway during the Second World War between the Allies and Germany, after the latter's invasion of the country. The United Kingdom and France responded to Norway's aid with an expeditionary force. Despite moderate success, however, Germany's invasion of France in June compelled the allies to withdraw and the Norwegian government to seek exile in London. The campaign subsequently ended with the occupation of Norway by Germany. The conflict occurred in between 9 April and 10 June 1940, making Norway the nation (aside from the Soviet Union) that withstood a German invasion for the longest period of time.[1]

The primary reason for the Germans embarking on the invasion of Norway was their dependence on Swedish iron ore, which was shipped primarily from the Norwegian port of Narvik.[2] By securing access to Norwegian ports, the Germans could obtain the supply of iron ore they needed for their war effort without being concerned with a British naval blockade of Germany. Additionally, it allowed both the German and Allied forces to confront each other without the large-scale trench warfare notable of the previous conflict. One particular importance of Norway to the Germans came during the Battle of the Atlantic. Norwegian air and naval bases allowed German reconnaissance aircraft to operate far over the North Atlantic and German U-boats and Surface ships were able to break the British blockade line across the North Sea and attack convoys heading to Great Britain.[3]

Contents

Background

Value of Norway

Both Britain and France had signed military assistance treaties with Poland, and two days after Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, both western nations declared war against Germany. However, neither country opened up a western front, and no major engagements occurred between the sides for several months in what became known as the Phoney War.

During this time, both sides were looking for secondary fronts. For the Allies, in particular the French, it was based on a desire to avoid repeating the trench warfare of the First World War, which had occurred along the Franco-German border. For the Germans, most of the military high command did not believe that it had the resources to launch an assault on France so soon. Norway was an area that each side viewed as a prime location to strike the other.

Norway, though neutral, was considered strategically important for both sides of the war for two main reasons.[4] First was the importance of the port of Narvik, from which large quantities of Swedish iron ore, on which Germany depended, were exported; this route was especially important during the winter months when the Baltic Sea was frozen over. Narvik became of greater significance to the British when it became apparent that Project Catherine,[5] a plan to gain control of the Baltic Sea, would not be practical. Second, the ports in Norway could serve as a hole in the blockade of Germany, allowing access to the Atlantic Ocean.

Norway was also of symbolic significance to the völkisch aspirations of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party, for the country was considered by many dedicated Nazis to be the birthplace of the so-called Nordic-Aryan race.

Sea power

Control of Norway was crucially important to Germany's ability to use its sea power effectively against the Allies, particularly Britain. While Norway was neutral, unoccupied by either of the fighting powers, there was no threat. But the weakness of the Norwegian coastal defences, and the inability of her field army to resist effectively a determined invasion by a stronger power were clear. Admiral Erich Raeder had pointed out several times in 1939 the potential danger to Germany of Britain seizing the initiative and launching its own invasion in Scandinavia - if the powerful Royal Navy had bases at Bergen, Narvik and Trondheim, the North Sea would be virtually closed to Germany, and the Kriegsmarine would be at risk even in the Baltic.

Winter War

When the Soviet Union started its attack against Finland on 30 November 1939, the Allies found themselves aligned with Norway and Sweden in support of Finland against the much larger aggressor.

This presented an opportunity to the Allies who, while genuinely sympathetic to Finland, also saw an opportunity to use the pretence of sending troop support to additionally occupy ore fields in Sweden and ports in Norway. The initially planned two divisions had the potential to grow to approximately 150,000 Allied troops fighting a large campaign in central Sweden.

This movement caused the Germans concern. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had placed Finland within the Soviet sphere of interest, and the Germans therefore claimed neutrality in the conflict. This policy caused a rise in anti-German sentiment throughout Scandinavia, since it was commonly believed that the Germans were allied with the Soviets. Fears began to crop up in German high command that Norway and Sweden would then allow Allied troop movement to aid Finland.

Such deployments never occurred though, because Norway and Sweden, wary after witnessing the "Western betrayal" of Poland when it was invaded in September, did not want to risk their neutrality and be seen as involved in the war by allowing foreign troop movement through their borders. With the Moscow Peace Treaty on 12 March 1940, any such plan by the Allies was dropped.

Vidkun Quisling and initial German investigation

It was originally thought by German high command that having Norway remain neutral was in its interest. As long as the Allies did not enter Norwegian waters, there would be safe passage for merchant vessels travelling along the Norwegian coast to ship the ore that Germany was importing.

Großadmiral Erich Raeder, however, argued for an invasion. He believed that the Norwegian ports offered the best facilities for German U-boats for use in a siege of the United Kingdom, and that there was a possibility of the Allies landing in Scandinavia.

Vidkun Quisling in 1942. His name became synonymous with "traitor"

On 11 December 1939, Hitler and Raeder met with Vidkun Quisling, a pro-Nazi former defence minister from Norway. Quisling reportedly told them that the threat of a British invasion of Norway was large, and that the Norwegian government would secretly support German occupation (the latter was untrue). He also informed them that he was in a position to ensure maximum cooperation with German forces, including a relaxation of the country's coastal guard and making military bases available. Three days later, Hitler ordered Oberkommando der Wehrmacht to begin investigating possible invasion plans of Norway.

During a second meeting with Quisling on 18 December, Hitler reiterated his desire to keep Norway neutral but indicated that should Allied forces extend the war to Scandinavia, he would counter appropriately. Suspicions arose that Quisling had overstated his strength for self-gain, and further plans for collaboration with him were dropped.

Altmark Incident

On 14 February 1940, the German tanker Altmark, carrying 303 British prisoners of war, was permitted to travel through Norwegian waters. According to international rules any non-combatant vessel from a warring nation could seek shelter for some time in neutral waters if permitted. When a group of British destroyers appeared on 16 February, Altmark sought refuge in a Norwegian fjord. Ignoring international rules and Norwegian neutrality, HMS Cossack entered the fjord and attacked the Altmark, boarding it, killing seven German soldiers and liberating the prisoners. While this violation of their neutrality angered the Norwegians, it also led to debate on both sides.

The Allies saw this as a sign of Norway's inability to prevent misuse of its territory and nearly undertook a plan, proposed shortly after the fall of Poland by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, to mine the area. It was only postponed in the hope that Norway might still agree to permit Allied troop movement to aid Finland.

For the Germans, the Altmark Incident showed that Norway was incapable of maintaining its neutrality and that the British were not in any compliance with Norwegian neutrality. Hitler ordered that the development of invasion plans be sped up. He did so to obtain assurance against Churchill's already existing plans to draw the Norwegians into the war and take control over the important harbour of Narvik. By 21 February, General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst was placed in charge of planning the invasion and command of the land-based forces.

Initial plans

Allied plans

With the end of the Winter War, the Allies determined that any occupation of Norway or Sweden would likely do more harm than good, possibly driving the neutral countries into alliance with Germany. However, the new French prime minister, Paul Reynaud, took a more aggressive stance than his predecessor and wanted some form of action taken against Germany. Churchill was a strong agitator for attacking and occupying Norway, because he wanted the battles and fighting moved away from Britain and France to avoid devastation of their territory, as in the last war. He saw the way into Germany from the north.

It was agreed to utilise Churchill's naval mining plan, Operation Wilfred, designed to remove the sanctuary of the Leads and force transport ships into international waters where the Royal Navy could engage and destroy them. Accompanying this would be Plan R 4, an operation where, upon almost certain German counteraction to Operation Wilfred, the Allies would then proceed to occupy Trondheim and Bergen, and destroy the Sola airfield.

The Allies disagreed over the additional Operation Royal Marine, where mines would also be placed in the Rhine River. While the British supported this operation, the French were against it, since they also depended on the Rhine and feared German reprisals on French soil. Because of this delay, Operation Wilfred, originally scheduled for 5 April, was delayed until 8 April when the British agreed to perform the Norwegian operations separately from those on the continent.

German plans

Already in low-priority planning for considerable time, Operation Weserübung[6] found a new sense of urgency after the Altmark Incident. The main goals of the invasion were to secure the ports and ore fields, with Narvik as a priority, and to establish firm control over the country to prevent collaboration with the Allies. It was to be presented as an armed protection of Norway's neutrality.

One of the subjects of some internal debate by the German military planners was the need to occupy Denmark as part of the greater plan. Denmark was considered vital because its location facilitated greater air and naval control of the area. While some wanted to simply pressure Denmark to acquiesce, it was eventually determined that it would be safer for the operation if Denmark were captured by force.

Another matter that caused additional rework of the plan was Fall Gelb, the proposed invasion of northern France and the Low Countries, which would require the bulk of German forces. Because some forces were needed for both invasions, Weserübung could not occur at the same time as Gelb, and because the nights were shortening as spring approached, which were vital cover for the naval forces, it therefore had to be sooner. Eventually, 9 April was decided to be the day of the invasion (Wesertag), and 04:15 (Norwegian time) would be the hour of the landings (Weserzeit).

In Norway, the plan called for the capture of six primary targets by amphibious landings: Oslo, Kristiansand, Egersund, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik. Additionally, supporting paratroops (Fallschirmjäger) were to capture other key locations such as airfields at Fornebu outside of Oslo and Sola outside of Stavanger. The plan was designed to quickly overwhelm the Norwegian defenders and occupy these vital areas before any form of organized resistance could be mounted. The following forces were thus organized:

Additionally, the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would escort Gruppe 1 and Gruppe 2 as they travelled together, and there would also be several echelons of tankers carrying additional troops, fuel and military equipment.

Against Denmark, two motorized brigades would be used to capture bridges and troops; the Luftwaffe would be sent to capture Copenhagen; and paratroops would be used to capture the airfields in the north. While there were also several groups organized for this invasion, none of them contained any large ships.

It was hoped that Germany could avoid armed confrontation with the native populations in both regions, and German troops were instructed only to fire if fired upon.

German invasion

Fleet movements

Naval movements from 7-9 April

The German invasion first started on 3 April 1940, when supply vessels began to head out in advance of the main force. The Allies initiated their plans on the following day, with sixteen Allied submarines ordered to the Skagerrak and Kattegat to serve as a screen and advance warning for a German response to Operation Wilfred, which was launched the following day when Admiral William Whitworth in HMS Renown set out from Scapa Flow for the Vestfjords with twelve destroyers.

On 7 April, bad weather began to develop in the region, blanketing the area with a thick fog and causing rough seas making travel difficult. Renown's force soon got caught in a heavy snowstorm, and HMS Glowworm, one of the destroyer escorts, had to drop out of formation to search for a man swept overboard. However, the weather aided the Germans, providing a screen for their forces, and in the early morning they sent out Gruppe 1 and Gruppe 2, who had the largest distance to travel.

Though the weather did make reconnaissance difficult, the two German groups were discovered 170 kilometres (105 mi) south of the Naze (the southernmost part of Norway) slightly after 08:00 by RAF patrols and reported as one cruiser and six destroyers. A trailing squad of bombers sent out to attack the German ships found them 125 kilometres (78 mi) farther north than they had been before. No damage was done during the attack, but the German groups strength was reassessed as being one battlecruiser, two cruisers and ten destroyers. Because of a strict enforcement of radio silence, the bombers were not able to report this until 17:30.

On learning of the German movement, the Admiralty came to the conclusion that the Germans were attempting to break the blockade that the Allies had placed on Germany and use their fleet to disrupt Atlantic trade routes. Admiral Sir Charles Forbes, Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Fleet, was notified of this and set out to intercept them at 20:15.

With both sides unaware of the magnitude of the situation, they proceeded as planned. The Renown arrived at the Vestfjords late that night and maintained position near the entrance while the minelaying destroyers proceeded to their task. Meanwhile, the Germans launched the remainder of their invasion force. The first direct contact between the two sides occurred the next morning without either side's intention.

The Glowworm, on its way to rejoin the Renown, happened to come up behind the Z 11 Bernd von Arnim and then the Z 18 Hans Lüdemann in the heavy fog around 08:00 on 8 April. Immediately a skirmish broke out and the German destroyers fled, signalling for help. The request was soon answered by the Admiral Hipper, which quickly crippled the Glowworm. Being too damaged to outrun the larger German ship, the Glowworm proceeded to ram it instead. Significant damage was done to Hipper's starboard, and Glowworm was destroyed by a close range salvo immediately afterwards. During its fight Glowworm had broken radio silence and informed the Admiralty of her situation. She was not able to complete her transmission though, and all the Admiralty knew was that the Glowworm had been confronted by a large German ship, shots were fired, and contact with the destroyer could not be re-established. In response, the Admiralty ordered the Renown and its single destroyer escort (the other two had gone to friendly ports for fuel) to abandon its post at the Vestfjords and head to the Glowworm's last known location. At 10:45, the remaining eight destroyers of the minelaying force were ordered to join as well.

At noon, the Polish submarine Orzeł confronted and sank the German troop transport ship Rio de Janeiro in the Skagerrak. In the wreckage it discovered uniformed German soldiers and various military supplies. Though the Orzeł reported the incident to the Admiralty, they were too concerned by the situation with the Glowworm and the presumed German breakout to give it much thought and did not pass the information along. Many of the German soldiers from the wreck were rescued by Norwegian fishing boats and on interrogation disclosed that they were assigned to protect Bergen from the Allies. This information was passed on to Oslo where the Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget, dismissed it as ignorance on the part of the German soldiers and did not set about any defensive measures other than to alert the coastal guard.

At 14:00, Admiralty received word that aerial reconnaissance had located a group of German ships a considerable distance west-northwest of Trondheim, bearing west. This reinforced the notion that the Germans were indeed intending a break out, and the Home Fleet changed direction from northeast to northwest to again try to intercept. Additionally, Churchill cancelled Plan R 4 and ordered the four cruisers carrying the soldiers and their supplies to disembark their cargo and join the Home Fleet. In actuality, the German ships, Gruppe 2, were only performing delaying circling manoeuvres in order to approach their destination of Trondheim at the designated time.

That night, after learning of numerous sightings of German ships south of Norway, Charles Forbes began to doubt the validity of the break out idea, and he ordered the Home Fleet to head south to the Skagerrak. He also ordered HMS Repulse, along with another cruiser and a few destroyers, to head north and join the Renown.

At 23:00, as Forbes was just learning of the incident with the Orzeł, Gruppe 5 was approached by the Norwegian patrol vessel Pol III at the entrance to the Oslofjord. The Pol III quickly sent an alarm to the costal batteries on Rauøy (Rauøy island) and opened fire on the torpedo boat Albatros with its single gun shortly before colliding with it. The Albatros and two of its companions responded with anti-aircraft fire, killing its captain and setting the ship on fire. Gruppe 5 continued into the Oslofjord and cleared the outer batteries without incident. Several of the smaller German ships then broke off in order to capture the bypassed fortifications along with Horten. This activity did not go unnoticed, and soon reports had reached Oslo, leading to a midnight session of the Storting. At this meeting, the assembly issued orders for a partial mobilization (to be delivered by post) and a statement that British and French ships were not to be fired upon.

At about this time, further north, the Renown was heading back to Vestfjord after reaching the Glowworm's last known location and not finding anything. Heavy seas had caused Whitworth to sail more north than normal and had separated him from his destroyers when he encountered the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The Renown engaged the two battlecruisers and during the short battle Gneisenau had its fire-control system damaged, causing it and Scharnhorst to flee north. Renown attempted to pursue, but by 04:00 it lost sight of them in the poor weather.

Weserzeit

In the Ofotfjord leading to Narvik, the ten German destroyers of Gruppe 1 made their approach. With the Renown and her escorts earlier diverted to investigate the Glowworm incident, no British ships stood in their way, and they entered the area unopposed. By the time they had reached the inner area near Narvik, most of the destroyers had peeled off from the main formation to capture the outer batteries of the Ofotfjord, leaving only three to contend with the two old Norwegian coastal battleships standing guard, Eidsvold and Norge. Though antiquated, the two coastal defence ships were quite capable of taking on the much more lightly armed and armoured destroyers. After a quick parliance with the captain of the Eidsvold, the German ships opened fire pre-emptively on the coastal defence ship, sinking it after hitting it with three torpedoes. Norge entered into the fray shortly after and began to fire on the destroyers, but her marksmen were inexperienced and she did not hit the Germans ships before being sunk by a salvo of torpedoes from the German destroyers.

At Trondheim, Gruppe 2 also faced only minor resistance to their landings. In the Trondheimsfjord, the Admiral Hipper engaged the defensive batteries while its destroyers sped past them at 25 knots (46 km/h). A well placed shot by the Hipper severed the power cables for the searchlights and rendered the guns ineffective. Only one destroyer received a hit during the landing.

At Bergen, the defensive fortifications put up stiffer resistance to Gruppe 3's approach and the light cruiser Königsberg and the artillery training ship Bremse were damaged, the former seriously. The lack of working lights reduced the effectiveness of the guns though, and the landing ships were able to dock without much opposition. The fortifications were surrendered soon after, when Luftwaffe units arrived.

The fortifications at Kristiansand put up an even more resolute fight, twice repulsing the landing and damaging the Karlsruhe, nearly running the cruiser aground. Confusion soon sprung up though when the Norwegians received the order not to fire on British and French ships and the Germans began to use Norwegian codes they had captured at Horten. The Germans used this opportunity to quickly reach the harbour and unload their troops, capturing the town by 11:00.

Birger Eriksen, commander of the Oscarborg fortress. His decision to open fire on the invading German warships saved the Norwegian government from capture.

Gruppe 5 encountered the most serious resistance at the inner defensive fortifications of the Oslofjord, in the vicinity of Drøbak. Blücher, leading the group, approached the forts assuming that they would be taken by surprise and not respond in time like many others in the outer fjord. It was not until the cruiser was at point blank range that Oscarborg fortress opened fire, connecting with every shot. Within a matter of minutes, Blücher was crippled and burning heavily. The damaged cruiser was sunk by a salvo of antiquated, 40-year-old torpedoes launched from land-based torpedo tubes. She carried much of the administrative personnel intended both for the occupation of Norway and also for the headquarters of the army division assigned to seize Oslo. The cruiser Lützow, also damaged in the attack and believing the Blücher had entered a minefield, withdrew with Gruppe 5, twelve miles (19 km) south to Sonsbukten where it unloaded its troops. This distance delayed the arrival of the main German invasion force for Oslo by over 24 hours, though Oslo would still be captured less than twelve hours later by troops flown into the Fornebu airfield.

The delay induced by the Norwegian forces gave time for the King, Parliament, and with them the national treasury, to flee to the north and eventually escape to Great Britain. As a result, Norway never officially surrendered to the Germans.

Fornebu was originally supposed to be secured by paratroops an hour before the first troops were flown in, but the initial force became lost in the fog and did not arrive. Regardless, the airfield was not heavily defended and the German soldiers who did arrive captured it promptly. The Norwegian Fighter Wing based on Fornebu resisted with their Gloster Gladiator bi-plane fighters until ammunition ran out and then flew off to whatever secondary airfields available. The ground personnel of the Fighter Wing soon ran out of ammunition for their anti aircraft machine guns as well, in the general confusion and stress to make the fighters ready for action no one had the presence of mind or the time to issue small-arms ammunition for the personal weapons of the ground personnel. Resistance at Fornebu came to an end. Norwegian attempts to mount a counter-attack were half-hearted and effectively came to nothing. On learning of this, Oslo itself was declared an open city and soon fully surrendered.

For Gruppe 6 at Egersund and the paratroops at Stavanger, there was no significant opposition and they quickly captured their targets.

Capture of Denmark

The Wehrmacht crossed the Danish border around 04:15 on 9 April. In a coordinated operation, German troops disembarked at the docks of Langelinie in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and began occupying the city. German Paratroops also captured the Aalborg airport. Simultaneously, an ultimatum was presented by the German ambassador to King Christian X. Reports describing the German plans had been submitted to the government a few days earlier but were ignored. The Danish army was small, ill-prepared and used obsolete equipment but resisted in several parts of the country; most importantly, the Royal Guards located at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, and forces in the vicinity of Haderslev in South Jutland. By 06:00, the small Danish Air Force had been taken out and more than 30 German bombers were threatening to drop their bombs over Copenhagen. King Christian X, having consulted with Prime Minister Thorvald Stauning, Foreign Minister P. Munch and the commanders of the army and the navy, decided to capitulate, believing that further resistance would only result in a useless loss of Danish lives. The Danish public was taken completely by surprise by the occupation, and was instructed by the government to cooperate with the German authorities. Germany's occupation of Denmark was completed on 10 April and lasted until 5 May 1945.

An important part of the Danish commercial navy escaped the occupation, as Arnold Peter Møller, President of the Mærsk shipping company, on 8 April instructed his 36 ships on the high seas to move to Allied or neutral ports if at all possible.

In a pre-emptive move to prevent a German invasion, on 12 April 1940 British forces occupied the Faroe Islands, then a Danish amt (county).

Allied response

Naval movements from April 9–13

Soon after this, the German landings at Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger, as well as the skirmishes in the Oslofjords became known. Not willing to disperse too thinly due to the unknown location of the two German battlecruisers, the Home Fleet chose to focus on nearby Bergen and dispatched an attack force. RAF reconnaissance soon reported stronger opposition than anticipated, and this, along with the possibility that the Germans might be controlling the shore defences, caused them to recall the force and instead use the aircraft carrier HMS Furious to launch torpedo bombers at the enemy ships. The attack never commenced though, as Luftwaffe bombers launched an assault of their own against the Home Fleet first. This attack sank the destroyer HMS Gurkha and then forced the Home Fleet to withdraw north when their anti-aircraft measures proved ineffective. This German air superiority in the area led the British to decide that all southern regions had to be left to submarines and the RAF, while surface vessels would concentrate on the north.

In addition to the German landings in south and central Norway, the Admiralty was also informed via press reports that a single German destroyer was in Narvik. In response to this they ordered the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, mostly consisting of ships previously serving as escort destroyers for Operation Wilfred, to engage. This flotilla, under the command of Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee, had already detached from the Renown during its pursuit of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, being ordered to guard the entrance to the Vestfjord. At 16:00 on 9 April, the flotilla sent an officer ashore at Tranøy fifty miles west of Narvik and learned from the locals that the German force was 4–6 destroyers and a submarine. Warburton-Lee sent these findings back to the Admiralty, concluding with his intention to attack the next day at "dawn, high water", which would give him the element of surprise and protection against any mines. This decision was approved by the Admiralty in a telegram that night.

Early the following morning, Warburton-Lee led his flagship, HMS Hardy, and four other destroyers into the Ofotfjord. At 04:30, he arrived at Narvik harbour and entered along with HMS Hunter and HMS Havock, leaving HMS Hotspur and HMS Hostile to guard the entrance and watch the shore batteries. The fog and snow were extremely heavy, allowing Warburton-Lee's force to approach undetected. When they arrived at the harbour itself they found five German destroyers and opened fire, starting the First Battle of Narvik. Warburton-Lee's ships made three passes on the enemy ships, being joined after the first by Hotspur and Hostile, and sank two of the destroyers, disabled one more, and sank six tankers and supply ships. The German commander, Commodore Friedrich Bonte, lost his life when his flagship Wilhelm Heidkamp was sunk. Warburton-Lee's flotilla then left the harbour, almost untouched.

At 06:00, the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla was making their way back to the entrance of the Vestfjord when from the Herjangsfjord behind them three German destroyers emerged, commanded by Commander Erich Bey, and a few minutes later two more arrived in front of them, surrounding Warburton-Lee's force. The Hardy was the first ship to be hit and was quickly taken out of action, beached by one of her officers after she was crippled. Hunter was the next ship put out of commission, coming to a dead halt in the water after several hits. Hotspur was then hit and received damage to her steering system, causing her to crash into the Hunter. Several more hits were registered on the pair until Hotspur was able to reverse out of the wreck. The Hostile and Havock meanwhile had raced ahead, but turned about and came back to aid the retreat of the Hotspur. The German ships having received a few hits and, more importantly, being critically short of fuel, were not able to pursue. As they exited the Ofotfjord, the three British destroyers managed to sink the German supply ship Rauenfels.

Lutzow in Kiel after being torpedoed on her way back from Norway.

Shortly after the First Battle of Narvik, two more German ships were sunk by British forces. A long range attack by Fleet Air Arm from their base at Hatston in the Orkney Islands was made against Bergen and destroyed the disabled German light cruiser Königsberg; recorded as the first major warship sunk by aircraft. Additionally, the submarine HMS Truant sank the light cruiser Karlsruhe on the night of 9 April shortly after it had left Kristiansand. The next day, 10 April, the Furious and the battleship HMS Warspite joined the Home Fleet and another air attack was made against Trondheim in hopes of sinking the Admiral Hipper. Admiral Hipper, however, had already managed to escape through the watch set up outside of the port and was on her way back to Germany when the attack was launched; none of the remaining German destroyers or support ships were hit in the assault. Better luck was had in the south when HMS Spearfish severely damaged the heavy cruiser Lützow at midnight on 11 April, putting the German ship out of commission for a year.

With it becoming more evident the German fleet had slipped out of Norwegian waters, Home Fleet continued north to Narvik in the hopes of catching the remaining destroyers. En route the ships suffered further harassment from German bombers, forcing them to divert course west away from the shoreline. By 12 April, they were in range of Narvik and an aerial attack on Narvik from Furious was attempted, but the results were disappointing. It was instead decided to send in the battleship Warspite and a powerful escort force, to be commanded by Whitworth.

Battles of Narvik

On the morning of 13 April, Whitworth's force entered the Vestfjord using the Warspite's scouting aircraft to guide the way. Aside from locating two of the German destroyers, the scouting aircraft also sank an enemy submarine, the first such occurrence. Warspite's destroyers travelled three miles (5 km) in advance of the battleship and were the first to engage their German counterparts which had come to meet them, thus starting the Second Battle of Narvik. Though neither side inflicted notable damage, the German ships were running low on ammunition and were gradually pushed back to the harbour. By that afternoon, most attempted to flee up the Rombaksfjord, the only exception being the Künne which beached itself as it made for the Herjangsfjord and was destroyed by HMS Eskimo. Four British destroyers continued to chase the German ships up through the Rombaksfjord, the Eskimo soon damaged by the waiting opposition. However, the German situation was hopeless, having run out of fuel and ammunition, and by the time the remaining British ships arrived their crews had abandoned and scuttled their ships. By 18:30 the British ships were making their way out of the now cleared fjord.

Norwegian situation

The German invasions for the most part achieved their goal of simultaneous assault and caught the Norwegian forces off guard, a situation not aided by the Norwegian Governments' order for only a partial mobilization. Not all was lost for the Allies though, as the repulsion of German Gruppe 5 in the Oslofjord gave a few additional hours of time which the Norwegians used to evacuate the Royal family and the Norwegian Government to Hamar. With the government now fugitive, Vidkun Quisling used the opportunity to take control of a radio broadcasting station and announce a coup, with himself as the new Prime Minister of Norway. His first official act, at 19:30 that day, was to cancel the mobilization order.

The German forces attempted to kill or capture King Haakon VII. He personally refused to accept the German surrender terms and stated he would abdicate the throne if the Norwegian government should choose to do so.

That evening, the Norwegian Government settled at Elverum, believing Hamar to be insecure. All German demands were rejected and the Elverum Authorization was passed should the need for a government-in-exile arise. However, the bleakness of the situation prompted them to agree to continued negotiations with the Germans, set for the following day. As a precaution Colonel Otto Ruge, Inspector General of the Norwegian Infantry, set up a roadblock about 110 kilometres (70 mi) north of Oslo, at Midtskogen, and soon encountered a small detachment of troops, led by the Air Attaché for the German Embassy, who were racing north in an attempt to settle the matter instantly by capturing King Haakon VII. A skirmish broke out and the Germans turned back after their air attaché was killed by Norwegian Royal Guards. On 10 April, the final negotiations between the Norwegians and Germans failed after the Norwegian delegates, led by Haakon VII, refused to accept the German demand for recognition of Quisling's new government.

One of the final acts of the Norwegian authorities before dispersement was the promotion of Otto Ruge to the rank of Major General and appointment to Commander-in-Chief of the Norwegian Army, responsible for overseeing the resistance to the German invasion. With the Germans in control of the largest cities, ports and airfields, as well as most of the arms depots and communication networks, repulsing them outright would be impossible. Ruge instead decided that his only chance lay in playing for time, stalling the Germans until reinforcements from the United Kingdom and France could arrive.

German infantry attacking through a burning Norwegian village.

On 11 April, after receiving reinforcements in Oslo, General Falkenhorst's offensive began; its goal was to link up Germany's scattered forces before the Norwegians could effectively mobilize or any major Allied intervention could take place. His first task was to secure the general Oslofjord area, then to use the 196th and 163rd Infantry Divisions to establish contact with the forces at Trondheim.

By 14 April, the Norwegian 1st Division, located east of the Oslofjord in the Østfold, had evacuated into Sweden and the Norwegian 3rd Division, based at Kristiansand, had surrendered. The Norwegian 4th Division, stationed around Bergen, evaded the initial German landings and were soon engaged in slowing the German troops moving eastward from the city; their effort was soon hampered by the fact that the main force of the division had to be transferred to Valdres to shore up for the critical situation on Østlandet. The Norwegian 5th Division at Trondheim had lost almost all of its stores when the invasion began and its commander had decided to remain at Steinkjer instead of attacking the Germans. The Norwegian 6th Division was located far to the north, close to the Finnish border and for the most part not in contact with any of the German occupied areas.

For General Ruge, only the Norwegian 2nd Division was available and he thus built his army around the unit. While a surge of volunteers grew the division from 3,000 to roughly 12,000 troops, and Ruge was further aided with 11.1 million kroner (4.5 million USD) smuggled to him, it would never be a force capable of direct offensive action against the Germans. Instead, he chose to focus the division at the head of the Gudbrandsdal and Østerdalen valleys which led from Oslo to Trondheim. From here he engaged the Germans where the terrain was favourable and used hit-and-run tactics, along with ambushes and selective demolitions to hinder the two German divisions northward movement. These could never hope to completely halt the Germans, who were soon using air support and small tank units to break Norwegian positions. By 20 April, the German forces had managed to advance to Elverum, 305 kilometres (190 mi) south of Trondheim. The constant combat had rendered the Norwegian forces exhausted and critically low on supplies.

Ground campaign

When the nature of the German invasion became apparent to the British military, it began to make preparations for a counter-attack. Dissension amongst the various branches was strong though, as the British Army, after conferring with Otto Ruge, wanted to assault Trondheim in Central Norway while Churchill insisted on reclaiming Narvik. It was decided to send troops to both locations as a compromise.

Campaign in Central Norway

Operations in Norway in April and May 1940.

The original plans for the campaign in Central Norway called for a three pronged attack against Trondheim by Allied forces while the Norwegians contained the German forces to the south. It was called Operation Hammer, and would land Allied troops at Namsos to the north (Mauriceforce), Åndalsnes to the south (Sickleforce), and around Trondheim itself (Hammerforce). This plan was quickly changed though, as it was felt that a direct assault on Trondheim would be far too risky and therefore only the northern and southern forces would be used.

To block the expected allied landings the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ordered a company of Fallschirmjägers to make a combat drop on the railway junction of Dombås in the upper part of the Gudbrandsdal valley. The force landed on 14 April and managed to block the rail and road network in Central Norway for five days before being forced to surrender to the Norwegian Army on 19 April.[7]

On 17 April, Mauriceforce, comprised primarily of the British 146th Infantry Brigade and commanded by Major General Adrian Carton de Wiart made their initial landings at Namsos. During the trip the force had been transferred to destroyers instead of bulky transport ships due to the narrow waters of the fjord leading to Namsos; in the confusion of the transfer a great deal of their supplies and even the brigade commander were misplaced. Another great problem for Mauriceforce was the lack of air support, something of which the Luftwaffe took full advantage. Shortly after General de Wiart moved his forces out of Namsos, German bombers arrived and destroyed it, leaving the Norwegian without a base. Regardless, de Wiart moved 80 miles (130 km) inland to Steinkjer where he was able to link up with the Norwegian 5th Division. Constant aerial harassment prevented any kind of offensive from taking place though, and on 21 April Mauriceforce was attacked by the German 181st Division from Trondheim. The Norwegian was forced to fall back from these assaults, leaving Steinkjer for the Germans.

Sickleforce, consisting primarily of the British 148th Infantry Brigade and commanded by Major General Bernard Paget, landed at Åndalsnes on 18 April. From Åndalsnes, the British force traveled via train to the village of Dombås with the intention of then traveling north to Trondheim; they were instead met there by General Ruge who informed them that the Norwegian forces could not contain the Germans travelling up the valleys for much longer. Knowing that a German breakthrough would both cut off supplies and leave Sickleforce surrounded, Paget diverted his force south to Lillehammer. They did not stay long though, as the 148th Brigade was soon attacked by Pellengahr's forces and forced to withdraw. As they retreated through the Tretten Valley, the 148th again came under attack and were effectively eliminated as a fighting unit. By this time, the British 15th Infantry Brigade had landed in Åndalsnes and had started to move south to relieve the 148th. The British encountered the pursuing German forces at Kvam, a village between Tretten and Dombås, and were pushed back to Kjorem, where they weathered further heavy assault.

By 28 April, with both groups checked by the Germans, it was decided to withdraw all Allied forces from Central Norway. Sickleforce, with the help of General Ruge, managed to return to Åndalsnes and escape by 2 May at 02:00, only a few hours before the German 196th Division captured the port. Mauriceforce, their convoys delayed by thick fog, were evacuated on 3 May, though two of their rescue ships, the French destroyer Bison and the British destroyer Afridi were sunk by Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers.

The failure of the central campaign is considered one of the direct causes of the Norway Debate, which resulted in the resignation of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the appointment of Winston Churchill to the office.

Campaign in northern Norway

Initial German operations in central and northern Norway in April of 1940

Along with the action against Trondheim, a second campaign was launched in the north with the objective of recapturing Narvik. Like the Central campaign, the Narvik expedition also faced numerous obstacles.

One of the first problems faced by the Allies was the fact that the command was not unified, or even truly organized. Naval forces in the area were led by Admiral of the Fleet William Boyle, 12th Earl of Cork who had been ordered to rid the area of the Germans as soon as possible. In contrast, the commander of the ground forces, Major General Pierse Mackesy, was ordered not to land his forces in any area strongly held by the Germans and to avoid damaging populated areas. The two met on 15 April to determine the best course of action. Boyle argued for an immediate assault on Narvik and Mackesy countered that such a move would lead to the decimation of his attacking troops. Boyle eventually conceded to Mackesy's viewpoint.

Mackesy's force, codenamed Rupertforce, consisted of the 24th Guards Brigade as well as French and Polish units. The main force began landing at Harstad, a small town on the island of Hinnøya, on 15 April, but because of confusion, bad weather, inadequate facilities, untactically packed transports and constant attacks by German bombers, unloading took well over a week to complete. In the meantime, the Royal Navy had started off on a considerably better note. On 15 April, it captured a German U-boat (U-49) which contained documents detailing the dispositions of all U-boats in the Norwegian Sea, effectively removing them as a threat.

After the Allied failure in Central Norway, more preparation was given to the northern forces, including two squadrons of carrier-transported fighters operating from Bardufoss Air Station, one of them consisting of Hurricanes, the other of Gloster Gladiators.

By 28 May, the Allies had succeeded in recapturing Narvik from German forces, but the German invasion of France and the Low Countries had immensely altered the overall situation of the war and the importance of Norway was considerably lessened. Operation Alphabet, the general Allied retreat from Norway, had been approved on 24 May and by 8 June, after destroying rail lines and port facilities, all Allied troops had been evacuated. The Germans had launched Operation Juno to relieve pressure on the Narvik garrison and, after discovering the evacuation, shifted the mission to a hunt and sunk two British destroyers and the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious.

Occupation

German Neubaufahrzeug tanks in Oslo.

With the Allies having left the country, Norway's mainland army soon capitulated to the German forces and an occupation began. There was a fairly prominent resistance movement though, in the actions of the Norwegian merchant fleet, civil disobedience, and Norwegian volunteers in British forces, such as the Royal Air Force and British Commandos. The Norwegian king and cabinet established themselves in exile in London and directed a Norwegian resistance movement which proved increasingly efficient during the later years of occupation.

The Royal Norwegian Navy and Royal Norwegian Air Force were re-established in Britain - based on the remnants of forces saved from the Norwegian Campaign - and soon saw extensive combat in the convoy-battles of the North Atlantic and in the air-war over Europe. The ranks of the Navy and Air Force was swollen by a steady trickle of refugees making their way out of occupied Norway, and their equipment brought up to standard by British and American planes and ships. Norwegian squadrons flew with the RAF Fighter and Coastal Commands operating Spitfire and Mosquito fighter planes and Sunderland and Catalina flying boats. Individual Norwegians flew with RAF Bomber Command.

A Norwegian Army was also re-established in Scotland. However, with the exception of a small number of special forces, it saw little action for the rest of the war. Parts of the Scotland-based Norwegian Army participated in the liberation of Finnmark (the northernmost province of Norway) during the winter of 1944–45 after the area had been evacuated by the Germans in a scorched earth operation before the anticipated onslaught of the Red Army. In the course of this operation, there were some minor skirmishes with German rear guards and patrols.

In neutral Sweden there was also a Norwegian build-up of forces in the last two years of the war through the so called "police troops" established with the support of Swedish authorities. The term "police" served as a cover up for what in reality was pure military training of a force mustering around 10,000 well trained and equipped troops by VE-day.

Analysis

The operation as planned was a decisive success for Germany. Both Denmark and Norway were occupied with relatively light casualties: 3,800 Germans killed and 1,600 wounded. Surprise was almost complete, particularly in Denmark, and only in the Narvik area did the invasion prove problematic. The Luftwaffe lost about 100 aircraft, or roughly 10% of the force committed.

At sea, however, the invasion proved a significant setback. For the Kriegsmarine the campaign led to crippling losses, with the sinking of one of its two heavy cruisers, two of its six light cruisers, 10 of its 20 destroyers and six U-boats. With additional ships damaged during the campaign the Kriegsmarine was left with a surface force of a single heavy cruiser, two light cruisers and four destroyers operational. This left the navy weakened during the summer months when Hitler was pursuing plans for an invasion of Britain.[8]

On land, the cost of the campaign came mostly in the need to keep most of the invasion troops in Norway for occupation duties away from the fronts. On the whole the campaign was a costly enterprise that benefited the victor little.[9]

The British also took some damage to their fleet, losing one aircraft carrier, two cruisers, seven destroyers, and a submarine, but with their much larger fleet, they could absorb the naval losses to a much greater degree than Germany. Britain also gained use of the Norwegian merchant navy, one of the largest in the world.

The French navy lost one large destroyer during the campaign,[10] and the Royal Norwegian Navy lost 1 destroyer, 2 coastal defense ships and 3 submarines were scuttled.[11]

The British did achieve a partial success at Narvik. Shipping from the port was stopped for a period of six months, although the Allies had believed it would be out of operation for a year.

The German occupation of Norway was to prove a thorn in the side of the Allies during the next few years. Long-range aircraft based there meant that several squadrons of British fighters had to be kept in the north during the Battle of Britain, and German commerce raiders used Norway as a staging base to reach the North Atlantic with impunity. After Germany invaded Russia in 1941, air bases in Norway were also used to interdict the Allied arctic convoys there, inflicting painful losses to shipping.

In fiction

  • The 1942 film The Day Will Dawn is largely set in Norway just before and just after the invasion.
  • Paul Milner, a major character in the wartime crime drama Foyle's War, served in the Norwegian Campaign and lost a leg there.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Alta bataljon: 2 Alta bataljons deltagelse i felttoget på Narvikfronten 1940" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services. 1998. http://www.regjeringen.no/nb/dep/hod/dok/NOUer/1998/NOU-1998-12/17.html?id=375504. Retrieved 31 December 2009.  
  2. ^ Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, Simon and Schuster, 1990 ISBN 0671728687, page 674
  3. ^ Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, Simon and Schuster, 1990 ISBN 0671728687, page 673
  4. ^ Lunde, H.O. (Colonel) (2009) Prologue, Hitler's Pre-Emptive War, The Battle for Norway, 1940, Philadelphia & Newbury : Casemate, pp. 1-10, ISBN 978-1-932033-92-2
  5. ^ Lunde, H.O. (Colonel) (2009), Plan Catherine, Hitler's Pre-Emptive War, The Battle for Norway, 1940, Philadelphia & Newbury : Casemate, pp. 11-12, ISBN 978-1-932033-92-2
  6. ^ Operation Weserübung, as part of common military disinformation procedure, was codenamed after the German river Weser, while Übung means "exercise" in German.
  7. ^ Bjørn Jervaas: The Fallschirmjäger Battle at Dombaas
  8. ^ Dildy 2007:90
  9. ^ Dildy 2007:91
  10. ^ uboat.net Allied warships - Bison
  11. ^ uboat.net Norwegian Fleet Losses
  • Derry, T.K. (1952) The campaign in Norway, History of the Second World War: Campaigns Series, London: H.M.S.O., reprinted by Battery Press, ISBN 0-898392-20-9
  • Dickens, P. (Capt.) (1974) Narvik : battles in the fjords, Sea battles in close-up, 9, London: Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-0484-6
  • Dildy, Douglas C. Denmark and Norway, 1940: Hitler's Boldest Operation; Osprey Campaign Series #183; ISBN 9781846031175. Osprey Publishing, 2007
  • Elting, J.R. (1981) Battles for Scandinavia, World War II Series, Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, ISBN 0-80943-395-8

Further reading

  • Hubatsch, W. (1960) Weserübung: die deutsche Besetzung von Dänemark und Norwegen 1940, Studien und Dokumente zur Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges, 7, 2nd Ed., Göttingen : Musterschmidt-Verlag, 586 p.
  • Lunde, H.O. (Colonel) (2009) Hitler's Pre-Emptive War, The Battle for Norway, 1940, Philadelphia & Newbury : Casemate, 590 p., ISBN 978-1-932033-92-2: see a comprehensive review of this book at: http://stonebooks.com/archives/090607.shtml
  • Moulton, J.L. (Maj. Gen.) (1966) The Norwegian campaign of 1940 : a study of warfare in three dimensions, London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 328 p.
  • Ottmer, H.-M. (1994) Weserübung: der deutsche Angriff auf Dänemark und Norwegen im April 1940, Operationen des Zweiten Weltkrieges, 1, München : Oldenbourg, ISBN 3-486-56092-1
  • Ziemke, E.F. (1960) The German northern theater of operations 1940-1945, Department of the Army pamphlet, 20-271, Washington, D.C. : U.S. Govt Printing Office, 342 p., LCCN 60-060912

External links








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