When the Second World War broke out, Norway, which declared itself neutral, soon found itself in serious diplomatic difficulties. The first signs of war were given, on February 14, 1940, by the British destroyer Cossak, who boarded, in the Jøsing fjord, the German steamship Altmark, used to transport 275 prisoners fallen into German hands following the cruises of the battleship Admiral Graf von Spee in the southern waters of the Atlantic, and freed the prisoners. The episode ended with diplomatic notes of protest and explanations, but it was clear that Norway could hardly have remained outside the Second World War. The transport of Swedish iron aroused serious and greater concern in the British ruling spheres. In fact, the German ships loaded the mineral in Narvik and to escape the offenses of the English navy did not depart from the Norwegian territorial waters on their route. It was therefore impossible for the British to hinder this traffic and cut off these precious supplies to Germany. On April 8, 1940, the England warned Norway that it would proceed to place some mine fields in Norwegian territorial waters (which turned out to be effectively located near Stadtlandet, Kristiansand and the Vestfjord) to force German ships to abandon the neutralized safety zone and make it possible to capture by the British Navy. Meanwhile, Hitler, ever since the Altmark, had decided to occupy Norway: in fact on March 1 he had issued an agenda to the supreme command to implement this decision, mainly in order to “guarantee our iron supplies from Sweden and give our fleet and our aviation a broader base for operations against England “.
For the real purpose set by Hitler in invading Norway, for the strategic significance of the campaign and for the reasons for the failure of the British counter-maneuver, see. world war, in this second App., I, pp. 1134-1135. For Norway 2003, please check computerannals.com.
On the afternoon of April 8, while the Norwegian Foreign Minister Koht was drafting the protest note against the placing of English mine fields within the territorial waters of his country, the first information on the Germanic attack was received. On the morning of the 9th, a German ultimatum was presented to Koht, calling for the immediate cessation of all resistance by the Norwegian armed forces, the German occupation of the strategic points, the severance of diplomatic relations with the Western powers. The Norwegian government refused, called for general mobilization and, together with the royal family, withdrew to Hamar, north of Oslo.
The Norwegian armed forces counted, in peacetime, an army of about 20,000 men, grouped into 6 sparse divisions, with scarce mechanical means; a modest fleet of 4 cruisers and about thirty torpedo boats; about fifty military airplanes. The general mobilization was supposed to bring the army to 150,000 men, but could not be fully implemented due to the rapid development of the German attack.
The German expeditionary force, under the orders of gen. Norway v. Falkenhorst, was initially made up of about 40,000 men, and gradually increased its consistency, reaching the strength of over 100,000 men. It conveniently included motorized and alpine troops, depending on the territories in which the units were destined to operate. Rear Admiral R. Carls and Admiral A. Saalwächter were, respectively, the organizer of the landing operations and the commander of the naval team that protected the action. The Luftwaffe intervened with over 2000 aircraft.
Given the relative smallness of the first contingents, ships of modest tonnage, but fast, were used and, at times, the landing troops were even transported on warships. From the port of Bremen, presumably on 6 and 7 April, the convoys bound for the Atlantic ports set sail and from Kiel, in the early hours of the 8, the one bound for Oslo, in whose fjord it arrived just before midnight of the same day. The Norwegian reaction was prompt and effective; the cruisers Blücher and Karlsruhe and one submarine was sunk, largely by cannon fire from Fort Oscarsborg; but the German troops, on the morning of the 9th, managed to disembark and began the march towards the capital. At the same time landings were made in Arendal and Kristiansand, in the Skagerrak, in Ekersund, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim and Narvik, on the north-west coast of Norway. The inland penetration began immediately, aided by air-landings and parachute launches, who seized – among others – the airports of Fornebo and Kjeller (Oslo) and Sola (Stavanger); the main radio stations were occupied, telegraphic and telephone communications were cut and the relative offices were manned. The legal Norwegian government, under the pressure of the invasion, had to retreat,
The German troops landed in Oslo soon reached the strength of a division and radiated in four main directions: on Kristiansand, on Bergen, towards the north and, to the east, towards the Swedish border, clashing with disorganized, but often tenacious resistance from departments. Norwegians.
The governments of Great Britain and France immediately promised their help, against the opinion of the military circles, especially the French ones, who with a realistic vision considered the difficulties of the enterprise, which for lack of preparation seemed doomed to almost certain failure. However, a Franco-English expeditionary force was quickly set up, which did not exceed the overall strength of 50,000 men, placed under the orders of gen. English A. Carton de Wiart. He left the Shetland Islands and, usually at night, to escape the vigilance and attacks of the preponderant German aviation, he began, as early as April 14, to disembark in secondary locations on the Norwegian Atlantic coast (the main ports were already in German hands) and precisely on the island of Harstad (Narvik), in Namsos, in Molde and Andalsnes (Romsdal fjord) and, a little further south, near Aalesund. In summary, these were two distinct actions: one in the center of Norway, with the dual purpose of conquering Trondheim and marching against the German troops landed in Oslo, to prevent them from reuniting with those of Trondheim and, eventually, to send them back to the capital, and the other, to the north, to seize Narvik and forbid Germany from the “iron road” of Kiruna. For the first action, they counted on the Norwegian forces, which under the command of their commander in chief, gen. Ruge, had been rejected by Hamar on Lillehammer. The gen. Carton de Wiart disembarked between 14 and 16 April in Namsos, where he himself disembarked, about 4000 English and 4500 French (Gen. Auget); led them south, but prevented by the Germans at Stenkjär’s grasp, at the extreme north-eastern edge of the Trondheim fjord, he was forced to make them fold up and, on 5 May, he re-embarked in Namsos with his troops. The gen. English Andels-Paget, with three British battalions and other French units, landed on the 17th, at Andalsnes and Aalesund. He directed a detachment to the north, which, however, was rejected by the Germans at Støren: thus the pincer maneuver on Trondheim failed. The rest of the Paget expeditionary force rejoined the Norwegians at Lillehammer, but on the 22nd was repulsed by the German troops from Oslo, on Tretten and, subsequently, along the Gudbrand valley, on Otta and D0mbaas, where the troops of v. Falkenhorst entered on 30 April. On that same day, in Støren, a column from Oslo was joined with the forces of Trondheim and the next day, in Ulrik, between those of Bergen and another of the columns from Oslo. On May 1, the Franco-British re-embarked in the Romsdal Fjord and 25,000 Norwegians were forced to capitulate on May 7, ending the campaign in south-central Norway.