Invasion of Norway
German Naval Forces Committed to Operations Against Norway (April 1940)
The Initial German Invasion of Norway took part in a series of echelons.The invasion echelons consisted of the Tanker Echelon, Export Echelon,Warship Echelon, and the Transport Echelon. Each echelon is detailed below,giving its exact composition and its respective mission in the invasion.
The Tanker Echelon consisted of disguised merchant ships carrying fuel for thewarships of the invasion fleet which individually would not have enoughonboard to make it to their respective destinations along the Norwegian Coastand back to Germany. This presented a need for tanker ships to be strategicallyplaced along the invasion route, positioned prior to the start of the invasionas it was felt any ship movement after the invasion began would be interceptedby the British and sunk. The Tanker Echelon consisted of 8 ships as follows:
Tanker Kattegat, destination Narvik
The next echelon of the invasion fleet was the Export Echelon which was to travelahead of the warships carrying vital equipment and supplies for the troops soonto be disembarked in Norway. As with the ships of the Tanker Echelon, those ofthe Export Echelon were also disguised as merchant ships and attempted to put intoport prior to the actual invasion. The Export Echelon consisted of 7 ships asfollows:
Transporter Bärenfels, destination Narvik
The next facet of the invasion fleet consisted of 9 groups of U-boats and11 groups of warships. The warships carried a portion of the ground forcesdestined for the Norwegian Coast, and they were also the surface protectionfor the entire invasion fleet. Of the 11 groups of warships in the WarshipEchelon, 5 groups were actually destined for Denmark, but because these groupswere technically a part of the Wesserübung fleet, they are detailed hereas well. This listing details the compostion of all the groups of theWarship Echelon, giving the name of the ship or sub, its abbreviation ifaccurate, its Feldpostnummer (field post number, an accurate way of IDing aunit, ship or sub in documents and records, much like a zip code in the US),and its destination.
Gruppe 1 – Destination: Narvik, Norway
Schlachtschiff Gneisenau -00105
Gruppe 2 – Destination: Trondheim, Norway
Schwere Kreuzer Admiral Hipper 17209
Gruppe 3 – Destination: Bergen, Norway
Leicht Kreuzer Koln –06412
Gruppe 4 – Destination: Kristiansand, Norway
Leicht Kreuzer Karlsruhe –25523
Gruppe 5 – Destination: Oslo, Norway
Schwerer Kreuzer Blücher –29369
Gruppe 6 – Destination: Egersund, Norway
Minensuchboot 1 (M1)20212
Gruppe 7 – Destination: Korsor and Nyborg, Denmark
Gruppe 8 – Destination: Copenhagen, Denmark
Hansestadt Danzig –??
Gruppe 9 – Destination: Middelfart, Denmark
Otto Braun –??
Gruppe 10 – Destination: Esbjerg, Denmark
Minensuchboot 4 (M4)??
Gruppe 11 – Destination: ??, Denmark
Minensuchboot 61 (??) (M61)??
Uboot Gruppe 1:
Unterseeboot 25 (U25)10950
Uboot Gruppe 2:
Unterseeboot 30 (U30)05559
Uboot Gruppe 3:
Unterseeboot 9 (U9)13068
Uboot Gruppe 4:
Unterseeboot 1 (U1)27893
Uboot Gruppe 5:
Unterseeboot 37 (U37)21204
Uboot Gruppe 6:
Unterseeboot 13 (U13)15421
Uboot Gruppe 7:
Uboot Gruppe 8:
Unterseeboot 2 (U2)27610
Uboot Gruppe 9:
Unterseeboot 7 (U7)16723
Uboots not attached to any group:
Unterseeboot 17 (U17)25322
Uboots used as transporters:
Unterseeboot 26 (U26)07314
Seetransport-Staffeln/Sea Transport Echelons
The final component of the invasion were the Sea Transport Echelons(Seetransportstaffeln), which consisted of 8 waves of transports carryingthe bulk of the invasion troops. The first 3 Sea Transport Echelons wereunique, while the remaining 5 consisted of returning ships of the initial 3waves. The 1st Echelon consisted of 15 ships, while the 2nd consisted of 11ships and the 3rd 13. The composition of the 1st and 2nd Sea Transport Echelons are knownfor sure, while the 3rd is currently unknown. The remaining 5 Sea TransportEchelons consisted of ships of the first 3, but as of yet, their exact compositinis also unknown. All ships of the Sea Transport Echelons after the 1st saileddirectly to Oslo.
Antares, Destination Oslo
Friedenau, Destination Oslo
After the initial invasion and follow-up waves, all troops, equipment andsupplies were sent to Norway via Denmark-Oslo. After theexperiances of the first 8 Seetransportstaffeln, a move was made tocomplete the transport of men and material to Norway using smallerand faster ships to relieve the pressure on the larger transports. Around270 ships and 100 smaller trawlers took part in this facet ofthe invasion, transporting up to 3,000 men a day at one point. Betweenthe begining of the invasion and June 15th, 1940, a total of 107,581 menwere transported to Norway, along with 16,102 horses, 20,339 vehicles, and109,400 tons of supplies.
Major British Ships Employed in Operations Off Norway (April-June 1940):
Battleship RODNEY, Battleship WARSPITE, Battleship VALIANT, BattleshipRESOLUTION, Battlecruiser RENOWN, Battlecruiser REPULSE, Aircraft CarrierGLORIOUS, Aircraft Carrier FURIOUS, Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL, Heavy CruiserSUFFOLK, Heavy Cruiser BERWICK, Heavy Cruiser DEVONSHIRE, Heavy Cruiser YORK,Cruiser SOUTHAMPTON, Cruiser SHEFFIELD, Cruiser MANCHESTER, CruiserBIRMINGHAM, Cruiser GLASGOW, Cruiser EFFINGHAM, Light Cruiser AURORA, LightCruiser PENELOPE, Light Cruiser ARETHUSA, Anti-Aircraft Cruiser COVENTRY,Anti-Aircraft Cruiser CURLEW, and 21 Destroyers
In addition, the French Navy committed the following:
Light Cruiser EMILE BERTIN, Light Cruiser MONTCALM, 6 “Super” Destroyers,5 “Conventional” Destroyers, and Submarine RUBIS.
Composition of the Norwegian Navy (April 1940)
Coast Defense Cruiser EIDSWOLD, Coast Defense Cruiser NORGE, Coast DefenseCruiser TORDENSKJOLD (used as trainig ship), Coast Defense Cruiser HARALDHARFAGRE (used as training ship), Destroyer Escort SLEIPNER, Destroyer EscortAEGIR, Destroyer Escort GYLLER, Destroyer Escort ODIN, GARM (WWI-era), DRAUG(WWI-era), TROLL (WWI-era), 10 Minelayers (including modern Minelayer/GunboatOLAV TRYGVASON), FROYA (WWI-era), GLOMMEN, LAUGEN, TYR (launched in 1886!), 9Submarines (6 B-class, 3 A-class), 8 Minesweepers (including new,purpose-built OTRA and RAUMA), 17 Torpedo Boats (including TRYGG, STEGG, andSNOGG), 58 patrol craft, and 3 ships under construction but not yet availablefor combat (2 Destroyers, 1 Destroyer-Escort).
Of the Norwegian Navy’s 5,200 men in uniform on the eve of the Germaninvasion (4.09.40), over 2,400 were serving ashore as garrisons of navalfortifications. (There were five major fortified areas under Norwegian naval jurisdiction as follows: Outer Oslo Fjord, Oskarsborg Narrows also in the Oslo Fjord but closer to the city of Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen, and Agdenes near the entrance to the Trondheim Fjord – for more information, see below).
The Royal Norwegian Navy (Konglisk Norges Marine) also had a smallair arm with about 35 operational aircraft in April 1940, mostly floatplanes.The most modern type in service with the Norwegian Navy was the German-builtHeinkel He-115, a two-engined floatplane with a top speed of just over 200 mph,a bomb load of up to 2,200 lbs, and a defensive armament of two machineguns.The Norwegian Navy also used 110lb and 220lb bombs bought in Germany beforethe war for all its plane types. During the invasion, the Norwegian Navyair units actually managed to capture two more German He-115’s and one(single-engined) Arado Ar-196 floatplane.
German Aircraft Committed to Operations In Norway, April 1940
290 two-engined bombers
During the attack on Norway on the 9th of april 1940, these A/C were used:
The North Sea was heavily patroled by mostly bombers from KG 30 and KG 26
German Divisions Employed In Norway (April-June 1940)
69.Infanterie-Division (General Tittel)
Overall German commander was Colonel-General Falkenhorst
Note: A full-strength German division in 1940 had about 15,000 men,with combat elements of three infantry regiments (three battalionseach), one artillery regiment (three or four battalions), engineer,recconnaisance, and anti-tank battalions.
The First Operations
To take the city of Oslo, Gruppe 5 of the invasion fleet commanded by KA Oskar Kummetz was sent north to attempt to land a combat group of 2,000 men from the 163.Infanterie-Division (built around two infantry abteilungen). After daybreak, following air attacks to suppress any defenses, it was planned to also drop a Fallschrim-Kompanie to help secure Fornebu airfield just outside city, to be followed later by airlanding an additional 3,000 men of 163.Infanterie-Division. Gruppe 5 consisted of the following ships:
Schwerer Kreuzer Blücher –29369
Two of the five main Norwegian naval fortification were located on the approaches to Oslo, one in Oslo Fjord (outer), and the other in Oskarsborg Narrows closer to Oslo. At the Oslo Fjord (outer) location, on the west side of Rauoey Island, there were 4 x150mm guns. At Bolaerne on the east side, 3 x 150mm guns were located. On Makeroy Island, north of Rauoey Island, 2 x 305mm howitzers were located. In Oskarsborg Narrows closer up on the approach to Oslo, located on the west bank, there was a searchlightposition and 4 x 57mm guns covering a boom barrier blocking the channel west of South Kalholmen Island. On the east bank of the Narrows there were two searchlight positions and 2 x 57mm, 3 x 150mm, and 2 x 40mm AA guns. On South Kalholmen Island (in mid-channel) there was a searchlight position and 3 x 280mm guns. On North Kalholmen Island there were four land-based torpedo tubes. On Haoya Island (slightly northwest of the Kalholmen Islands) were four old 280mm howitzers (installed 1892) and 2 x 120mm guns. The latter position was however not manned on April 9, 1940. In addition to these fortifications, the Norwegian Navy also had at its base at Horten in the Oslo Fjord the training ship TORDENSKJOLD, minelayer-gunboat OLAV TRYGVASON, two minesweepers, and numerous patrol boats (as well as the three naval vessels under construction).
First contact with the approaching German force towards Oslo was made by thepatrol boat POL III, a converted whaler armed with a single 75mm gun and twomgs, commanded by Lt. Welding-Olsen of the naval reserve. At about 11:15pm on the night of April 8, 1940 the POL III encountered three of the smaller Germanvessels which were leading the formation, with Torpedoboot ALBATROS in thevan, and signalled them to stop and identify themselves. ALBATROS immediatelyclosed and instructed the Norwegian vessel not to use its radio (butWelding-Olsen disregarded this and sent a warning to his base at Horten).In the confusion of the next few minutes it appears that the POL III openedfire with its lone gun, scoring a hit, and also that POL III and ALBATROScollided (the Germans reported that the Norwegian craft rammed them).ALBATROS and its two companions then opened up on POL III, raking the vesselwith anti-aircraft fire and in the process hit and killed Welding-Olsen,who became the first Norwegian to die in the campaign. According to someaccounts, he rolled himself overboard after a salvo blew off both his legs.
It was still about half an hour before midnight at this time, and within thenext hour (by about 12:30am on the 9th) the entire German force ranpast the Norwegian batteries in the outer Fjord, helped by a sea fog whichmoved in, clinging to the water’s surface and making it difficult for theNorwegian searchlights to pinpoint targets, although silhouettes of theadvancing vessels were intermittantly seen. The batteries at Rauoey openedfire on the Germans, but only for a short time and with no apparent effect.Bolaerne didn’t fire at all. After clearing the outer batteries theGerman force splits up with Torpedoboot ALBATROS and Torpedoboot KONDOR,plus two Raumboot, peeling off to attack the naval base at Horten, and twomore pairs of Raumboot sent against Rauoey and Bolaerne respectively (mostof these Raumboot had landing parties aboard), while the big ships with therest of the force proceed direct to Oslo.
At about 3:30am the main German force reached the Oskarsborg Narrows and theforts there, with scwhere Kreuzer BLUCHER in the lead. The Norwegian 280mmbattery on South Kalholmen Island opened fire first, with two armor-piercingrounds both scoring hits, one on the BLUCHER’s fire-control tower, and theother just behind the bridge. In fact, the range was so close that literallyevery shot the Norwegians fired at the BLUCHER was a hit. The Norwegian150mm battery then began to plaster the ships bridge with shells, while the280mm guns switched their fire to the waterline. BLUCHER was down to fiveknots and burning fiercely within a matter of minutes, without being able tomake an effective reply. As the crippled ship came abreast of theKalholmen islands, the land-based torpedo tubes on North Kalholmen administerthe coup de grace, in the form of two torpedoes, one of which struck theengine room, stopping the engines, and the other hitting the BLUCHER’s owntorpedo magazine resulting in a huge explosion. As a result, the Germanship rapidly rolled over on its side and sunk, taking nearly 1,000 Germantroops with it, including some Gestapo officials and other administrativepersonnel intended for the military government of Norway (the HQ of163.Infanterie-Division was also aboard, and was also mostly lost).
In the continuing action, the Norwegian batteries scored seven more hits onthe LUTZOW and the BRUMMER (which were next in line), and seriously damagedthe latter (later sunk). The Germans were forced to put their main groundforce ashore south of Oskarsborg, some 20 miles from Oslo city, and maketheir approach by land (they arrived in the capital late that night).
During the day (on April 9) the Oskarsborg positions were hit with hundreds ofshells (sources indicate nearly 500 plus 100 more from the LUTZOW) without asingle gun being disabled. The island forts only surrendered the next day,after Oslo fell. The land installations on the east side of the Fjord weretaken on the evening of the 9th, after an air attack. The batteries atRauoey in the outer fjord were taken by means of a landing in their rear onApril 10th, while those at Bolaerne only capitulated on the evening of the10th, after they had run out of ammunition and the Germans, following abombing attack, had made a landing nearby.
Meanwhile, the forces directed against Horten were engaged by theminelayer-gunboat OLAV TRYGVASON (Capt. Briseid), which was moored at thetime, and minesweeper RAUMA (the skipper of the TORDENSKJOLD, having mostlycadets on board, sent them ashore to join the land defenses of the base).The guns of the OLAV TRYGVASON sank Torepdoboot ALBATROS and Raumboot R17(which had been trying to land troops), and also damaged leicht KreuzerEMDEN, which arrived to support the German effort. In return, RAUMA wasbadly damaged and captured. OLAV TRYGVASON sustained much lighter damage(it was later put into service by the Germans, renamed ALBATROS II incommemoration of its victim). The Horten naval base finally surrendered inresponse to German threats to bomb the area, which also contained a fairlydensely-packed civilian population in the immediate vicinity.
The final aspect of German operations against Oslo was the airborne assaulton Fornebu airfield, located on a small peninsula just west of the city.The airfield was the base of Norway’s only active fighter squadron, and wasfurther defended by a platoon of soldiers with seven mgs on AA mounts (threewell dug in near the south end of field, two on a hill overlooking the field,two mounted in the open for training exercizes at north end of field).
The German attack was supposed to start around 8am with the dropping of acompany of paratroopers to secure the field. However, the drop was aborteddue to poor visibility, the paratroops then being landed at a field alreadyin German hands in Denmark. Seven Norwegian Gladiator fighters had alreadytaken off from Fornebu at around 7am, and these encountered a large Germanformation south of Oslo, attacking it at once and claiming three He-111’sand two Me-110’s for the loss of one Gladiator. If true, they probablybenefitted considerably from the element of surprise! However, some of theNorwegian fighters returned to Fornebu for more ammunition, and were caughton the ground by a force of six Me-110 two-engined fighters which arrived tosupport the airborne assault. At least two (and by some accounts four) ofthe Norwegian Gladiators were destroyed on the ground by strafing attacks,and repeated passes by the Me-110’s forced the crews to abandon the machinegunpositions in the open and on the hill. However, the Norwegians dug in bythe south end of the field stayed by their guns. When the first air-landedcontingent (under Capt. Wagner) showed up, (they assumed the airfield hadalready been taken by the planned parachute drop) they opened up on the firstJu-52 transport as it began its landing approach, killing Wagner and causingthe pilot to hastily pull off. But the leader of the Me-110’s, Lt. Hansen,with his planes nearly out of fuel after spending more than a half an hourover Fornebu, decided to put his own plane down, figuring the rear mgs ofhis fighter might still be of some use in assisting the ground attack, andalso because he no longer had enough fuel to reach friendly territory.Hansen managed to land safely, and, finding that the north end of theairfield was effectively out of range of the machinegunners at the southend, was soon joined by the rest of his fighters. They were followed bythe transports with the infantrymen aboard coming in with their machinegunsstuck out of windows to help shoot their way down if necessary!
It was now a little after 9:15am and the remnants of the Norwegianplatoon kept up a spirited although ineffective fire from the far endof the field until they ran out of ammo, and then withdrew. During thecourse of the morning and afternoon two full battalions of infantry, twoparachute companies, and an engineer company were landed at Fornebu.
In Oslo itself, the Norwegian troops under arms consisted of only threecompanies from one battalion of the Guard Regiment (a total of 426 men) plusthe staff of four training establishments (the war school and specialistfacilities for cavalry, artillery, and engineers) amounting to another430-odd personnel. The weakest company of the Guard (only 68 men) wasdispatched to guard prisoners washed ashore after the sinking of the BLUCHER.Another company was supposed to make a counter-attack against Fornebu,supported by one AA gun and another company from a unit stationed outsideOslo which was heading into the city in trucks. But the Guard companydestined for Fornebu spendt so much time first in finding transportation(they eventually rounded up some busses for the task), then in making around-about approach to the airfield so as to avoid German observation, thatin the end the attack was cancelled.
At 8am, the Norwegian Army HQ, located in the capital, had already decidedto evacuate the city, relocating to a farm near Eidsvold. Oslo was thendeclared an “open city” to spare it from bombing. At 2:30pm on the 9th, theranking Army commander in the city surrendered the capital (and with itthose troops still within it, mainly the aforementioned Guard companies) tothe Germans, and airlanded forces from Fornebu boldly march in to takepossession. The area’s second military airfield, Kjeller, also fell to theGermans. The effective defense at Oskarsborg had however bought enough timeto enable a special train carrying King Haakon, the government, and thecountry’s gold reserves to escape from the capital to Hamar, on the eastshore of Lake Mjosa about 100 miles north. The German military attache inOslo, a certain Herr Spiller, on learning this, commandeered a company ofparatroopers and ordered them to make a recconnaisance north of the city.He made it his personal mission to find and capture the King. Spiller andhis men created much havoc, alarm, and confusion in their dash afterthe King, but Spiller was later killed in a clash at Midtskog (a small townlocated between Hamar and Elverum, about 20 miles to the east).
Against Kristiansand a German naval force consisting of Gruppe 4 of theinvasion fleet commanded by Kpt.z.S Friedrich Rieve sailed to land1,100 men of Infanterie-Regiment 310/214.Infanterie-Division. Gruppe4 consisted of the following ships:
Leicht Kreuzer Karlsruhe — 25523
Kristiansand was the location of another of the five main Norwegian naval fortifications. Located on Odderoy Island, dominating Kristiansand harbor, there was located a 210mm battery, a 150mm battery, and a howitzer battery. In addition to these fortifications, the Norwegian navy also had the destroyer escorts GYLLER and ODIN and submarines B2 and B5 based at Kristiansand.
Initially, the Norwegian batteries on Odderoy Island, aided by thedestroyer escorts in the harbor, repulsed the first two German attempts toland troops to take the city, and in so doing, damaged the KARLSRUHE (whichnearly ran aground) and set ablaze a German cargo ship that had attemptedto join the operation. A third attempt, aided by a ruse involving Norwegiancodes captured at Horten/Oslo earlier in the day, proved successful andcaptured the town. The GYLLER and ODIN were captured, and the B2 and B5were scuttled (the B5 was later raised by the Germans and used for a timeas training vessel).
Against Egersund Gruppe 6 of the invasion fleet, commanded by KK KurtThomas, sailed to land a small party of men from the 69.Infanterie-Divisionto take possession of the cable station for the telecommunications cableto Europe. Gruppe 6 consisted of the following ships:
Minensuchboot 1 (M1) 20212
Against no appreciable or significant opposition, the landing was successfuland completed as planned. However, even when there was no Norwegiangarrison, the pickings were not always easy for the Germans, if one cancredit a story by Karl Hambro, long-serving President of the NorwegianParliament. According to Hambro, a brand-new German armed trawler which putin at Honingsvaag, where there were also no Norwegian troops, was none-the-lesscaptured when the local dentist supposedly led 30 fishermen out by nightin two small motorboats to surprise and overwhelm the crew!
Against Stavanger, an airborne operation consisting of a Luftwaffe parachutecompany was to be dropped on Sola airfield. Once the field was secured, 250transport planes would land 5,000 German troops of 69-Infanterie-Division.Further supplies and heavy equipment were scheduled to arrive via unescortedmerchant vessels metioned above. Norwegian naval forces in the vicinityincluded the destroyer escort AEGIR at Stavanger and the destroyer escortDRAUG at Haugesund just to the north.
The paratroopers, after dropping against the target, quickly captured Solaairfield and the air landing operation proceeded as planned. Two concrete mgposts which constituted the airfield’s only defenses were first strafed bysix Me-110 fighters, and then 120 men were dropped. Stavanger was then securedin short order. Most of the nine Caproni Ca310 scout planes the Norwegianshad stationed at Sola managed to get airborne and escaped before the mainattack. In the approaches to Stavanger, the AEGIR intercepted and sank theGerman supply ship ROTA, which was carrying much of the heavy equipment forthe men brought in by air. AEGIR was later hit by a bomb in the engine room,beached and then abandoned, the crew having lost 10 men to German air attacks.
Against Bergen sailed Gruppe 3 of the invasion fleet comanded by KA HubertSchmundt with 900 men of the 69.Infanterie-Division. There were also fiveGerman subs screening the area between Bergen and Huagesund to the south. TheGerman ships in Gruppe 3 consisted of the following:
Leicht Kreuzer Koln — 06412
Located west of Bergen protecting the approaches to the city (and one of the five main Norwegian naval fortifications) were 3 x 210mm guns, 3 x 240mm howitzers, and a land-based torpedo battery. Located northeast of the city were also 3 x 210mm guns. In addition to these fortifications in and around Bergen,Norwegian naval units here included the destroyer escort GARM, minelayer TYR,torpedo boat STORM, and several patrol boats.
Once the attack was under way, despite strong resistance from the shore batteries, theGermans (aided by repeated air attacks) managed to force their way ashore. KONIGSBERGwas hit by two 210mm shells and left dead in the water and BREMSE also suffered a fairamount of damage. Landing parties eventually compelled the surrender of the Norwegianforts at the cost of 57 casualties and three planes shot down, for a loss of nineNorwegian sailors killed or wounded. Bergen, too, fell to the Germans on April 9th.Virtually all the larger Norwegian Navy vessels in the area escaped though, and when theGermans were first sighted (about 1am on April 9th) the TYR, according to pre-arrangeddefense plans, laid 23 mines in two narrow channels outside Bergen. The Torpedoboat STORMalso made contact with the approaching German force and fired one torpedo, whichmissed.
Against Trondheim sailed Gruppe 2 of the German invasion fleet commanded by Kpt.z.S. HellmuthHeye. Gruppe 2 was to land 1,700 men of the elite Gebirgs-Regiment 138/3.Gebirgs-Division.The ships of Gruppe 2 were as follows:
Schwere Kreuzer Admiral Hipper 17209
Two U-boats were also allocated to the attack Trondheim.
The last of the five main Norwegian naval fortification was located on the approaches toTrondheim at Agdenes on the bank opposite the Agdenes lighthouse. Here was located onebattery of 2 x 210mm guns, 3 x 150mm guns, and 2 x 65mm guns. A second battery of 2 x210mm guns, 2 x 150mm guns, and 3 x 65mm guns was also on this bank. On the other bank,just inland of the lighthouse, was located 2 x 150mm guns. During the German attack, ablocking position was established near the second battery listed above, with 35 men manningnine tripod-mounted Colt-Browning machineguns, which successfully withstood five attacksby a 500-man German landing force. In addition to these fortifications, the Norwegian Navyalso had in the Trondheim Fjord a number of small vessels including the minelayerFROYA.
Despite damage received at sea April 8th, HIPPER engaged the Norwegian gunners while thefourdestroyers boldly ran the batteries, speeding through at 25knots (equivalent to a land speed of 28 mph) on a coursecalculated to minimize the time they spent under the guns.A shell from HIPPER severed the electric cable which poweredthe two Norwegian searchlights, and the slow rate of fire ofthe old Norwegian guns– three salvos every two minutes– alsohelped the plan succeed. One destroyer was hit in the effort.Although the Norwegian Navy forts at the entrance to the Fjordheld out for eleven hours, Trondheim itself was captured withlittle difficulty. In the fighting the Norwegian fortressgarrisons lost only one man killed and two wounded. Germantroops who attacked the blocking position (35 men and 9 mgs,see above, Section C) established by Capt. Lange outside thefort he commanded suffered 22 casualties. Minelayer FROYA wascaptured.
Against Narvik sailed Gruppe 1 of the invasion fleet commanded by Kpt.z.S. FriedrichBonte. Gruppe 1 carried 2,000 men of the Gebirgs-Regiment 139/3.Gebirgsjäger-DivisionThe ships of Gruppe 1 were as follows:
Schlachtschiff Gneisenau -00105
SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU escorted the German force to Narvik (1,000 miles from thenearest German port) and then moved further seaward as a screen and diversion. FourU-boats supported the Narvik operation.
Although there were no Norwegian fortification in the Narvik region, Norwegian navalforces in Narvik consisted of the coast defense cruisers EIDSVOLD and NORGE, andsubmarine B1.
EIDSVOLD and NORGE were both sunk in torpedo attacksby the German destroyers, after a short parlay, in which Capt.Willoch of the EIDSVOLD replied to German demands for surrenderwith the curt response,”I attack.” (However, in this encounterit was the Germans who fired first, with a spread of torpedoesthat sank the EIDSVOLD almost instantly– this in contrastto events in the Oslo Fjord, where the Norwegians shot first infour different instances). The NORGE managed to reply with its210mm and 150mm guns, inflicting very slight damage on twoGerman destroyers, before it too went down. In this shortengagement 276 Norwegian sailors lost their lives (on EIDSVOLDonly eight were saved). Since the garrison of Narvik washeavily outnumbered (NOTE: it comprised one rifle company,a machinegun platoon, an engineer company, four 40mm AA guns,and two 65mm mountain guns), and, furthermore, the Norwegiancommander in the town, Col. Sundlo, was a member of Quisling’srebellious pro-German faction, the town fell withoutappreciable resistance. The personnel of the 6th Divisiontraining school did fight off two German attacks at a touriststation just outside Narvik, after which the Germans burneddown the buildings there in retaliation. Submarine B1 wasscuttled after an attempt to escape into open water failed(however, Norwegian naval personnel later refloated it and usedit to escape to the British isles!).
The three main stages of the Allied advance on Narvik from the Harstad-Tromso area, under tactical command of the French General Bethouart, were asfollows:
Bjerkvik (May 12-13): the two Foreign Legion battalions made thelanding, supported by overland advances by the Norwegian 7thBrigade (see previous, pt 7) and the French Chasseurs Alpins.British battleship RESOLUTION and cruisers EFFINGHAM andAURORA, along with five destroyers, provide fire support.This operation was particularly noteworthy as being the firstuse of specially-designed tank and infantry landing craft inaction during the war. Five vehicles from a contingent of tenFrench tanks were put ashore to support the Legionaires, andtwo of these vehicles were also used in the final assault onNarvik (see below), where both were however disabled by Germanmines. Bjerkvik was about 10 miles north of Narvik at the headof the Herjangsfjord, which joins the Rombaksfjord (in whichNarvik is located) west of the town. (NOTE: I have not beenable to identify whether the French tanks were Renault R-35’sor Hotchkiss H-35’s– can’t tell from the single photo I’veseen of one of the disabled vehicles at Narvik. Both werevery similar, being two-man vehicles armed with a short 37mmgun + mg in turret, the Hotchkiss being a little faster andthe Renault having slightly thicker armor).
Rombaksfjord (May 21): again the two French Foreign Legion battalions were landed, thistime on the northern side of the fjord in which Narvik is located.
Narvik (May 27-28): the two Foreign Legion battalions and oneNorwegian battalion (from 7th Brigade) carried out thelandings. Bad weather at Bardufos grounded British fightersand caused delays since the supporting warships, including thecruiser SOUTHAMPTON, had to suspend fire support ops for a timeto defend themselves from German air attacks. Over 300 Germanswere captured in the operation, as well as ten artillery piecesand 150 machineguns, and the town secured. Total Alliedcasualties, including Norwegian, came to 150 men (GeneralBethouart’s chief-of-staff was among those killed).
Chronology of events after the initial German Invasion:
April 8: British destroyer GLOWWORM, separated from its squadron insearch of a man overboard, encounters the German force boundfor Trondheim. GLOWWORM, crippled by the guns and torpedoesof the HIPPER, nevertheless rams the German cruiser, opening a120-foot gash in the side of the latter ship, through whichover 500 tons of water enter. GLOWWORM then sinks with heavyloss of life. HIPPER is able to carry out the Trondheimoperation in spite of the damage.
Free Polish submarine ORZEL sinks the German transport RIO DEJANEIRO, bound for Norway. Norwegian fishing boats rescue morethan 100 German soldiers, who when brought in to Kristiansandtell their hosts that they are on their way to save Norway fromthe Allies. This information is passed on by phone to Oslo,but still full mobilization is not ordered.
April 9: British naval units attempting to find and engage the Germanforces invading Norway come under heavy air attack. DestroyerGURKHA is sunk, battleship RODNEY is hit by a bomb but suffersonly minor damage due to its thick armor. Cruisers GLASGOW andSOUTHAMPTON receive slight damage due to near misses.
British battlecruiser RENOWN (escorted by nine destroyers whichare however unable to keep up in the heavy seas) finds andengages German battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU.Firing at a range of about 10 miles, RENOWN scores the firsthit, disabling GNEISENAU’s fire control and essentially takingit out of the fight. The German battlecruisers then begin torun, but in continued exchanges of fire RENOWN scores two morehits on the GNEISENAU, while receiving two hits from theSCHARNHORST, wwhich however do not cause severe damage. TheGerman ships use their superior speed to escape.
British submarine TRUANT sinks the German cruiser KARLSRUHE,homeward bound for Germany after Kristiansand operation.
April 10: The “First Battle of Narvik.” Five British destroyers underCapt. Warburton-Lee enter Narvik harbor and engage the fiveGerman destroyers they find there. The first British attack(by three ships) is a great success– their torpedoes sink twoGerman destroyers, killing the German naval commander,Commodore Bonte, in the process. Then their gunfire silencesthe other three, seriously damaging two of them. The Britishthen proceed to deal with German merchant ships in the harbor,sinking six of them. At this point the other two Britishdestroyers, which had been providing cover, enter the harboras well, and one of them sinks two more German cargo vesselswith torpedoes. Then, however, the other five Germandestroyers in the Narvik force appear, three from theHerjangsfjord to the north, the other two from Ballangerfjordto the south. The Germans are content to keep the range aroundfour miles, and their heavier guns soon begin to tell. TwoBritish destroyers are sunk, including the flagship HARDY(every officer on its bridge except for one lieutenant beingkilled or wounded, Warburton-Lee dying of his wounds), and twoothers badly damaged, while the Germans suffer damage of a lessserious nature to one of their destroyers. The British, thoughbadly battered, manage to extricate their surviving three shipsfrom the trap, on their way out to sea encountering andengaging the German ammunition ship RAUNFELS, which blows upalmost as soon as it is hit. The German destroyers weresupposed to have already left Narvik, but were delayed becausethe tanker which was supposed to have refueled them had beenintercepted by a Norwegian patrol boat and scuttled to preventits capture. Capt. Warburton-Lee was posthumously awarded theVictoria Cross for his valor in deciding to attack despite theunfavorable odds.
British divebombers sink German cruiser KONIGSBERG, still atBergen due to damage inflicted by Norwegian batteries April 9.
British submarines enjoy another success against units of theGerman fleet homeward bound from Norway, when one torpedoesand seriously damages the LUTZOW. British subs also claimnine German cargo ships during the first week of the Norwegiancampaign, although at a price, as three British submarines aresunk on the main shipping routes from Germany to Norway duringApril 1940. In contrast, the German submarine forces, despitea strong screen of U-boats well placed to intercept Britishships attempting to intervene in Norway, contribute littleexcept recconnaisance, due to multiple troubles with their torpedoes (defective magnetic AND contact exploders, problemswith the gyro depth settings). For example, at Narvik duringthe campaign German subs made 12 separate attacks on Britishtransports, and one on the WARSPITE, many under extremelyfavorable conditions (overlapping targets in at least onecase), yet managed to sink only one cargo ship. Meanwhile,within 48 hours one U-boat was sunk at Narvik and another(by the same British task force) at nearby Harstad.
April 13: “Second Battle of Narvik.” Nine British destroyers,supported by the WARSPITE and aircraft from the carrierFURIOUS, enter Narvik and wipe out the eight Germandestroyers still afloat. WARSPITE’s catapult-launchedSwordfish spotter biplane also sinks a U-boat. Althoughthe destroyer ESKIMO has its bow blown off by a Germantorpedo, no British ship is sunk in this encounter.
April 14: British destroyers escorting the WARSPITE sink Germansub U-49 in the approaches to Harstad.
April 14: First small British detachments land at Namsos (80 milesnorth of Trondheim) and Harstad.
April 15: Most of the British 24th Guards Brigade (the Scots and IrishGuards, under General Mackesy) land at Harstad.
By April 15: German 196th Division has landed at Oslo, joining the pushnorth; German 181st Division joins the German forces atTrondheim (mainly by air).
April 16: British 146th Brigade (under General Carton de Wiart) landsat Namsos. By the following day they have pushed forward toSteinkjer, on the Trondheim Fjord 50 miles north of Trondheim.(NOTE: in 1940 British brigades normally had three battalions)
April 17: British cruiser SUFFOLK shells Sola airfield at Stavangerwith its 8-inch guns. The ship is however heavily damaged byrepeated German air attacks, and barely manages to return toits base without sinking.
April 18: British 148th Brigade (under General Morgan) lands atAndalsnes, 150 miles southwest of Trondheim. By April 22 theyare in contact with the Germans in the Gudbrundsdal north ofLillehammer, and their first serious engagement takes place thenext day. Meanwhile, on the night of April 18 two battalionsof the French 1st Chasseurs Alpins Division (mountain troops)go ashore at Namsos.
April 19: French cruiser EMILE BERTIN, participating in the landing ofthe Chasseurs Alpins at Namsos, is hit by a German bomb whilereturning. EMILE BERTIN is withdrawn from operations forrepairs, replaced by the MONTCALM.
April 23: This night the British 15th Brigade (General Paget) is putashore at Andalsnes and nearby Molde.
(NOTE: onthe night of April 30, ).
April 24: WARSPITE, one heavy cruiser, and three light cruisers shellNarvik for three hours. The bombardment does not have adecisive effect on the German forces there, and therefore noAllied landings are attempted at this time.
April 28: Three battalions of the French 1st Chasseurs Alpins Divisionare landed at Harstad.
April 30: Evacuation of Allied troops from Andalsnes began and was completed by May 1. Evacuationof Namsos was carried out on the night of May 2/3. A total of4,400 Allied troops were taken off from Andalsnes and 5,400 menfrom Namsos. German air attacks were the chief factor in forcing the evacuation – Namsos was badly bombed April 20th,destroying the harbor facilities, and by the time of theevacuation was almost completely levelled, except for theruined walls of the town church. Andalsnes, a narrow anchoragebetween two steep mountains, was considered a death trapduring air raids. The Germans also heavily bombedSteinkjer. The air superiority of the Luftwaffe had a tacticaleffect on the battlefield as well – according to Churchill oneBritish unit spent a whole day hiding from German aircraft ina railroad tunnel near Donbas. A further reason for thewithdrawal and evacuation was the apparent superiority of theGerman divisions now pushing northward, 163rd Division in theGudbrundsdal and 196th Division in the Osterdal). At first theBritish only had infantry weapons to face German units using afull complement of field artillery – including 150mm howitzers,which fired a very destructive 95-lb shell– because the shipcontaining the 148th Brigade’s vehicles, artillery, and heavy(“3-inch”) mortars had been sunk. In their first engagementwith the Germans April 23rd they had to face not only 150mmhowitzers, but also three tanks. This was not the onlyequipment problem dogging the Allies – for example, the Frenchmountain troops landed at Namsos reportedly lacked bindings fortheir skis and also had no transport mules, and so were verylimited in the operational capabilities. The British 148thBrigade in the Gudbrundsdal lost 700 men before beingreinforced by 15th Brigade.
May 3: French “super-destroyer” BISON and British destroyer AFRIDI(the flagship, carrying the rear-guard) are sunk by Germanair attacks while en route home from evacuating the Alliedforces at Namsos.
May 5: The French 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade (two battalions)and the Polish Carpathian Brigade (four battalions, organizedand equipped by the French in similar fashion to their ownmountain brigades) are put ashore at Harstad.
May 10 the British began moving their 24th Guards Brigadeby sea to Bodo, about 200 miles south of Narvik, where thecontinuous Norwegian road system from Oslo north ends.Although this subtracted from the Allied forces in the Narvik/Harstad area, it also established a blocking position whichprevented the Germans from bringing up further reinforcementsto that area from the south by land.
May 14: A British transport carrying men of the 24th Guards Brigadeto Bodo, along with supplies and equipment, is sunk by Germanbombers. Most of the heavy equipment is lost, including theonly three tanks the British sent to Norway during thecampaign.
May 15: A German Luftwaffe parachute battalion drops in to reinforceNarvik. Several days later the 137th Regiment of the German3rd Mountain Division is also dropped in, after a hastytraining course in parachute jumping. These jumps result inwide dispersion and a number of injuries, but most of the meneventually join the main German force at Narvik. The onlyairfield in the Narvik area, at Bardufos, is in Allied hands,now the base for one squadron of British Hurricane fighters andone squadron of (RAF) Gladiators. German planes do operatefrom frozen lakes in the Narvik area (earlier the British hadsent a squadron of their Gladiator fighters to do the samething in the Trondheim area, flying the aircraft off thecarrier GLORIOUS– if I remember correctly one or two of thesebiplanes eventually wound up flying to Finland when the Alliesevacuated the area). The Norwegian air units near Tromso(that is, in the vicinity of Harstad)– mainly the Navy’s 3rdFlying Squadron, under Lt. Jorgenesen, flying He-115’s– caughtand destroyed or disabled several three-engined Ju-52transports on the surface of one of these lakes just beforeNarvik was recaptured. General Dietl, the German commander atNarvik, also had his under command 2,600 men rescued from Germandestroyers and cargo ships sunk at Narvikand equipped with captured Norwegian arms.
May 17: British cruiser EFFINGHAM, also transporting men and equipmentto Bodo, runs aground and is lost. These two incidents delaythe British build-up at Bodo. Earlier, the Allies had alsoattempted to halt the Germans at several places south of Bodo,most notably at Mo and Mosjoen, by deploying troopsamphibiously along the coast. These attempts generallyinvolved small detachments (for example, in one case 100 Frenchmountain troops and two light AA guns sent in by destroyer) andwere largely just delaying actions. Col. Gubbins, a Scotsmanwho later became famous as one of the founders of Britishcommando units, was involved in several of these forays. Noneof these efforts proved successful.
May 26: British antiaircraft cruiser CURLEW is sunk by German airattack off Harstad.
June 8: British carrier GLORIOUS, at sea covering the Alliedevacuations from Harstad, Tromso, and Bodo, is caught andsunk (along with its two escorting destroyers) by the Germanbattlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU. One of the Britishdestroyers manages to torpedo SCHARNHORST, killing 48 men andcausing fairly serious damage, but the British lose 1,515 menin this disaster. Earlier the same German force hadencountered and sunk three empty British merchant ships.
The Allied evacuations from Harstad and Tromso were carried outJune 4-7, 1940. The negative outcome of the battle in France (begun by theGermans on May 10th) made the Narvik campaign a luxury neither the British northe French could afford, and without them the Norwegians were overmatched.Thus the operations in that area were suspended despite their successfulrecapture of Narvik itself, and the fact that Dietl’s remaining forces were onthe verge of being completely cut off and trapped. King Haakon (who had beenwith the Allies in the Andalsnes area until those units were evacuated,departing nearby Molde in the cruiser GLASGOW April 29th, arriving at Tromso toset up a new capital May 1st) left the country for England on British cruiserDEVONSHIRE June 7th. A total of 24,500 Allied troops were taken off. Fighterplanes from the carriers GLORIOUS and ARK ROYAL covered the evacuation (thesurviving Hurricanes from Bardufos being taken off on the GLORIOUS).Hostilities between the Germans and Norwegian forces still on Norwegian soilofficially ended as of 12:01 am June 9th, 1940.
NOTE: On April 29th the German 181st Division at Trondheim made contact withthe 196th Division pushing up the Osterdal, near the town of Dragset. TheAllied forces in the Gudbrundsdal were still holding on south of Dombas whenordered to evacuate on April 27th, but the possession of the railway greatlyfacilitated their withdrawal. The Allies at Steinkjer withdrew back towardsNamsos after German amphibious landings in their vicinity on April 19th.
Casualties (April-June 1940)
Norwegian forces lost a total of 1,335 men killed in action (Army andNavy combined). Norwegian civilian casualties, in spite ofmany German bombings, were less than 300 killed.
German forces reported that 5,636 soldiers, sailors, and airmen neverreturned from the Norwegian campaign.
Allied forces (including Norwegian) lost a total of 6,100 men killed ormissing and presumed dead. British losses in the land fightingamounted to 1,869 men. French and Polish ground forces lost530 men killed.
Norwegian enlisted military personnel who surrendered to the Germanswere allowed to go home, as were reserve officers. Regular professionalofficers were also released providing they swore an oath not to take up armsagainst the Germans (General Ruge was imprisoned for the duration of the warbecause he refused the oath). The Germans, from Hitler on down, showed someconcern, at least initially, for trying to win the “hearts and minds” of theNorwegian population. Many Norwegians, however, in addition to the generalindignation at the way their neutrality had been violated and their countryinvaded, were also incensed at the German willingness to bomb towns thatharbored Allied resistance. In addition to the aforementioned Andalsnes,Namsos, and Steinkjer, in the course of events Elverum, Donbas, Bodo, and manyother towns were virtually levelled (the British for their part had repeatedlyshelled Narvik with heavy naval ordinance). The reports of German groundforces burning down farms suspected of housing or otherwise aiding Norwegiantroops in the early stages of the fighting also aroused the ire of manyNorwegians. Col. Vidkun Quisling, former Defense Minister and head of theNorwegian Nazi Party, was installed as head of the pro-German governmentestablished by the invaders in Oslo on April 10th, but he resigned on April15th. His influence in Norway was generally much less than he had advertisedto the Germans before the invasion, and, except for the actions of Col. Sundloat Narvik, his relatively small group of supporters contributed little to theGerman military effort. However, Quisling was twice reinstated as the nominalhead of the government. After the war he was tried for treason, found guilty,and executed in November 1945.