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NARVIK 1940


Narvik 1940 When 10 warships early in the morning of the 9th of April sailed into Ofotfjorden there was an uncertainty as to whether they were German or English vessels. On the one hand German warships were on the 8th of April observed sailing north along the Norwegian coastline, whilst on the other hand early in the morning the same day the British had laid out a mine field in Vestfjorden, off the coastline of Bodø. At 04:30 in the morning the case was solved when the German destroyer and command ship in the German flotilla, “Wilhelm Heidkamp”, came slowly gliding out of the snow shower with a course heading directly for the armoured ship “Eidsvold” which was lying right outside Narvik harbour. After a short discussion the Norwegian captain refused to surrender, and “Eidsvold” was torpedoed and sank in a matter of a few seconds. Shortly after the armoured ship “Norge” suffered the same fate in the harbour. A total of 282 very young sailors had offered their lives in a thrashing, oil covered, freezing winter sea. The Austrian alpine troops together with their leader, General Eduard Dietl, were put ashore unhindered, and after one hour the town was surrended and handed over to the Germans by the representative Norwegian commander.   During the night of the 9th of April the leader for 6th Division, General Carl Gustav Fleischer, set in motion a string of actions to mobilize the Norwegian forces enabling them to quickly take up the fight against the Germans. To his disposition he had 2nd battalion of the Nord-Hålogaland infantry regiment (II/IR 15) which was mobilized to secure the neutrality of Norway and garrisoned at Setermoen. The battalion was sent south in the morning of the 9th of April. A company constituted by cadets and instructors from the officer candidate school in Harstad was the first to come in contact with the advancing enemy. The 12th of April the Germans were temporarily stopped at the tourist station in Gratangen after a hard battle.    This was the first sign of the resistance and fighting spirit that North Norwegian soldiers would continue to show over the next two months. The Germans became more careful, and this in turn gave the Norwegian side time to mobilize the two battalions of Troms infantry regiment 16 (IR 16), and  move Alta battalion and 1st battalion of the Sør-Trøndelag infantry regiment (I/IR 12) south from Finnmark. The Norwegian forces were pushed together at Fossbakken and held off the German forces whose front line since the 13th of April had been at Lapphaugen. The German war machine was never again to go on the offensive from this point. This was the first defeat the Germans suffered during World War II.      The Norwegian forces went on the counter offensive the 24th of April. The plan was for I/IR 12, with support from Alta battalion, to make their way over Fjordbotneidet heading in the direction of Gratangen to cut off the German forces at Lapphaugen. At the same time II/IR 15, with support from artillery and one of the Troms battalions of IR 16, should attack Lapphaugen head on. This first offensive was not successful. Tactical misjudgement and increasing stormy weather with strong winds and heavy snow showers from the west allowed the Germans to escape from Lapphaugen. Early in the morning of the 25th of April these troops and other German forces bivouacking at

Elvenes launched a surprise attack on the Norwegian forces from the I/IR 12, who had turned in for the night with little perimeter security in Gratangsdalen. The result was a partially destroyed battalion with 34 killed and 60 wounded soldiers. Despite this, the moral of the Norwegian troops was not broken. The next offensive, which started on the 1st of May, was more successful. The enemy was now retreating in Gressdalen and in the mountain area around Leigastinden. In the area of Gratangseidet and in Labergdalen allied help was at hand in the form of French alpine troops. On the western and southern front areas the allied reinforcements began to arrive in strength.     The allied landing on the 13th of May in Bjerkvik by two battalions from the French Foreign Legion became decisive for the recapturing of Narvik. The landing was covered by a violent fire support from British warships, but the civilian population was made to suffer. Almost all the houses burnt down to the ground and 16 people lost their lives. At the same time south of Narvik 4 battalions from the Polish Podhale Brigade arrived to relieve British and French forces. During the next two weeks they drove the Germans away from Ankeneshalvøya and Beisfjord north east over the mountains towards Rombaksbotn.       The battles on the eastern front played out in the high mountainous area east of Leigastinden. There were tough battles on the so called Kubergplatået and in the border mountains towards Sweden north of Bjørnfjell. Without the possibility of relief and under extremely difficult supply, medical and bivouac conditions the two Troms battalions supported by horse and manhandled mountain artillery cannons pushed the Germans back from rock to rock and from mountain top to mountain top in the time period between 1st of May until the 8th of June. Then came the incomprehensible and knock down news of the truce. “All Norwegian forces shall pull back”. The German forces were at this point pushed back against the area of Bjørnfjell, and railway carriages stood on the Swedish side of the border, ready for evacuating German soldiers. The decision was reached on the grounds of politics caused by the quick advance of the Germans across the European continent. It was a depressed feeling amongst the bearded and filthy soldiers who now had to pull back through the baron high mountainous region meter for meter over land they had fought for during the previous few weeks.      In between times, Narvik was retaken after a spectacular battle in the early morning of the 28th of May in Taraldsvikfjellet directly north of Narvik. Norwegian forces from II/IR15 and French Foreign Legion stormed the mountain under the cover of British warship fire support and French and Norwegian cannons on Øyjordhalvøya. In the space of the few hours of intense fighting II/IR 15 lost a quarter of its force. Among them 17 were killed. The North Norwegian soldiers went from being inexperienced, relatively poorly trained men, to skilled warriors during two months of intense battle. At the end they were on even terms with the professional and experienced counterpart.. The battle of Narvik was for many weeks in the spring of 1940 front-page news in the international press and broadcasting companies. Narvik is still a known name internationally, but in Norway there is a feeling that the battle of Narvik has become “the forgotten war”.           Oddmund Joakimsen


Monuments of War Narvik 1940 «War history sites» is a project initiated by «norwegian army force Command» in order to commemorate the war actions that took place in the areas around narvik and the soldiers who participated in the war during two months in the spring of 1940. the six monuments and information boards are erected on sites being viewpoints for arenas where particularly hard fightings between the norwegian and allied forces and nazi-Germany took place: skjomnes, Bjørnfjell, Bjerkvik (Herjangen), Øse, Lapphaugen and Bardufoss. this project will hopefully contribute to a generally increased knowledge of this region’s part in the norwegian war history, and also to the important role 6th Division played during and after the WW II). the memorials also symbolize allied unity during the battle of narvik, and in the spirit of reconciliation, being an honour to all those soldiers who participated.

Narvik 1940

av oddmund Joakimsen the battle of narvik was for many weeks in the spring of 1940 front-page news in the international press and broadcasting companies. Heavy fighting played out in the mountainous area around narvik between norwegian soldiers, most of them inexperienced fishermen and farmers, and professional austrian alpine troops. after some weeks of fighting against nazi-Germany significant allied reinforcements arrived from Great Britain, france and Poland. In this book a short and richly illustrated presentation of the dramatic war actions is given. It started when German warships early in the morning of the 9th of april in a risky landing operation occupied narvik and Bjerkvik meeting no resistance. Before the landing they torpedoed and sank the two norwegian armoured ships “eidsvold” and “norge” on the narvik harbour. a total of 282 very young sailors lost their lives. after this shocking start it took about 2 weeks before norwegian troops were able to initiate a counter offensive. then German forces slowly had to retreat from their northernmost front line at Lapphaugen. In the beginning of June, the Germans were surrounded by allied forces in the mountains close to the swedish border. railway carriages stood on the swedish side of the border, ready to evacuate German soldiers. then came the incomprehensible and knock down news taken on international political grounds : “all norwegian forces shall pull back”. Given out by Sør-Troms Museum, Midt-Troms Museum and Nordland Red Cross Krigsminnemuseum will be on sale in bookshops and in the museums from November 2009. The book will be available in English. To order: Sør-Troms Museum, Trondanesveien 122, 9407 HARSTAD - + 47 77 01 83 80 e-mail: narvik1940@stmu.no - Pris: 325,- eks. porto - ISBN 978-82-91451-14-5


The assault Very early on April 9, 1940, ten German destroyers with 2000 troops from Gebirgsjägerregiment 139 came in Ofotfjorden and occupied Narvik and Bjerkvik meeting no resistance. While sailing in to Narvik the Norwegian ironclads Eidsvold and Norge were sunk. In all 282 Norwegian officers and naval soldiers lost their lives. Naval battle British naval forces sank and immobilized the German warships in two large naval battles on April 10 and 13. About 2600 naval soldiers managed to get on shore unharmed and joined the German land forces, which were commanded by General Eduard Dietl - commander of 3 Gebirgsdivision. Recapturing Narvik 28. May Norwegian forces from the 2 Battalion of Nord-Hålogaland Infantry Regiment 15 together with two battalions from the French Foreign Legion were brought from Øyjord and Seines in landing crafts and Norwegian fishing boats. After heavy fighting in Taraldsvikfjellet, the Germans had to pull back and out of the city. Later in the day Norwegian soldiers from the 2 Battalion of Nord-Hålogaland Infantry Regiment 15 and French Foreign Legion soldiers marched into the city. Narvik was recaptured. Fighting on Ankenes peninsula The southern front on Ankenes peninsula was strategically important in order to recapture Narvik using a pincer move-ment. On April 29 British troops from the South Wales Borderers and a French ski scout platoon from the 12 Chasseur Alpin Battalion landed near Skjomnes. The whole French battalion followed soon, and British soldiers and French alpine troops fought the Germans until May 17 when they were relieved by the Polish Podhale Brigade. As part of the recapture of Narvik the Poles attacked and drove the Germans back from Ankenesfjellet and Beisfjord. No Norwegian forces took part in the fighting on the southern front where many allied and German lives were lost. The Polish fighting on the southern front was led by General Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko. The conclusion Because of the critical development on the Continent, the Allied forces were withdrawn from Norway. French and Polish forces were the last to leave Norway. They were shipped out from Ankenes on June 8. The King, the Crown Prince and the Norwegian government had left Tromsø for England on June 7. The Norwegian forces that still fought in the mountains received the message that fighting was over, and the demobilization of the Norwegian forces started on June 10. Hitler celebrated the withdrawal of Allied forces as a great victory, and awarded General Eduard Dietl the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak leaves and Sword.

Skjomnes

This monument at Skjomnes is one of six memorials erected by the Norwegian Army commemorating the first defeat for Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The allied forces of France, Poland, Great Britain and Norway fought valiantly during the battle of Narvik, which became a symbol of unity and strength for the resistance in Europe.


Fight for Swedish iron ore The fight for Swedish iron ore was one of the main reasons that Norway was drawn into the Second World War in 1940. The German attack on April 9 was among other factors supposed to secure the transport of iron ore from the Swedish mines in Gällivare and Kiruna via Narvik harbour. Bjørnfjell railway station In the chaos that arose after the German occupation of Narvik on April 9, approximately 200 Norwegian soldiers from 1 battalion of Nord-Trøndelag Infantry Regiment 13 managed to flee the town along the railway line. They tried to blow up the Norddal bridge on April 14 and later on grouped at Bjørnfjell railway station, which they held until April 16 when it was assaulted by Austrian mountain rangers from Gebirgsjägerregiment 139. Six Norwegians were killed, and several were seriously injured and sent to hospital in Kiruna. The German commander-in-chief, General Eduard Dietl, established headquarter at Bjørnfjell and from the beginning of May he commanded the German warfare from there. The fighting for the Kuberg plateau During the fighting on the Narvik front the Germans built their defence lines by establishing positions on many of the highest mountains. This applied especially to the Kuberg plateau. Here soldiers from the two battalions of Troms Infantry Regiment 16 and soldiers from the gun platoons of Mountain Artillery Battalion 3 fought off the German forces. There was fierce fighting at Neverfjell, Storebalak, Kuberget, Kopperfjell and Hundbergan. Alta Battalion conquered Lillebalak and the German positions southwest of nedre Jernvatn. After having been fought off, the German forces entrenched themselves at new positions at Haugfjellet south of the watercourse of Nygård. When the fighting came to an end on June 8, the Norwegian troops were advancing towards Bjørnfjell, after having taken hill 620, and were fighting for hill 698. The allied withdrawal from Norway and the resolution to negotiate with the Germans therefore came as a surprise to the Norwegian forces that wanted to dislodge the enemy from these areas. An unacknowledged victory The war went on for two months in this mountainous area under very difficult conditions. The shortage of tents and shelters was critical because of deep snow, low temperatures and strong winds. The long supply lines led to shortage of food and to huge challenges for the medical service and the transport of injured personnel. More than 1500 Norwegian soldiers spent up to 50 days in harsh winter weather at the edge of the forest. Winter warfare in mountainous terrain at an altitude of up to 1000 metres makes these acts of war some of the toughest efforts and challenges that Norwegian soldiers were exposed to during the campaign in 1940. Allied forces and the Norwegian 6 Division, commanded by General Carl Gustav Fleischer, inflicted the first defeat on Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Bjørnfjell

This monument at Bjørnfjell is one of six memorials erected by the Norwegian Army commemorating the first defeat for Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The allied forces of France, Poland, Great Britain and Norway fought valiantly during the battle of Narvik, which became a symbol of unity and strength for the resistance in Europe.


The Assault When several naval vessels - at great speed and under shelter of darkness and bad weather - entered Ofotfjorden late at night on April 9, 1940, one did not know whether they were German or British warships. They turned out to be ten German destroyers, which shortly thereafter sank two Norwegian iron clads, Eidsvold and Norway, in Narvik harbour. In all 282 Norwegians died. The 2000 mountain troops then disembarked in Narvik and Bjerkvik. After brief talks with the German commander-in-chief, General Eduard Dietl, the local military commander surrendered Narvik without fight. British counter-attacks In two vigorous naval battles on April 10 and 13 British naval forces came to the rescue and all German warships were put out of action. About 2600 German naval soldiers got on shore unharmed and joined the German land forces, whitch were commaded by General Eduard Dietl - commander of 3 Gebiergsdivisjon. Bjerkvik On the night of May 12 to13 the first allied, combined landing operation of the war was carried out in Bjerkvik. British warships opened with a massive bombardment of the German positions, as well as of homes in Bjerkvik which were incorrectly assumed to be occupied by the Germans. All of Bjerkvik was on fire - most houses were destroyed and 16 civilians died. Two battalions from the French Foreign Legion disembarked, and Bjerkvik along with Elvegårdsmoen were recaptured. Troops from the French Chasseur Alpin Brigade attacked from the North and one batallion from the Polish Podhale Brigade came from the West. The German units which defended the Bjerkvik area belonged mostly to the naval batallion Kothe. Bjerkvik was the center of command for the German forces in the Northern Sector during the first part of the war. Located here was Elvegårdsmoen, where large weapon and equipment depots fell to the Germans on April 9. East of Bjerkvik is Hartvikvatnet where eleven German transport aircrafts carrying mountain artillery landed on the ice on April 13 and were never airborne again. The recapture of Narvik Norwegian troops from the 2 Battalion of Nord-Hålogaland Infantry Regiment 15, along with two battalions from the French Foreign Legion, left Øyjord and Seines on board landing crafts and Norwegian fishing smacks. Following heavy fighting by Taraldsvikfjellet, supported by British naval artillery and Norwegian and French artillery at Øyjord, the Germans were forced to retreat and abandon the city on the morning of May 28. Later the same day Norwegian soldiers from 2 Battalion of Nord-Hålogaland Infantry Regiment 15 marched into the city. Narvik was recaptured. The conclusion Because of the critical development on the Continent, allied troops withdrew from Norway. Norwegian troops still fighting in the mountains received the message that the war was over. The demobilization of the Norwegian forces began on June 10. The King, the Crown Prince and the Norwegian government left Tromsø for Britain on June 7. Hitler celebrated the withdrawal of the Allied forces as a great victory, and General Eduard Dietl was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak leaves and Sword.

Herjangsfjellet

Bjerkvik

This monument at Bjerkvik is one of six memorials erected by the Norwegian Army commemorating the first defeat for Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The allied forces of France, Poland, Great Britain and Norway fought valiantly during the battle of Narvik, which became a symbol of unity and strength for the resistance in Europe.


In the mountains around Øse there was heavy fighting in 1940. German forces had taken control of the important railway from Kiruna in Sweden and built defence positions in the high mountains on the way north in order to secure Bardufoss airfield. Gressdalen May 1-7 The two battalions from Troms Infantry Regiment 16 started their advancement through Gressdalen heading for Bjerkvik. The German resistance was strong, and when the Norwegian troops took machine gun fire from Britatinden the advance stopped on the western side of the lake Gressvatnet. German forces from Gebirgsjägerregiment 139 were forced out of Gressdalen by Norwegian mortar and artillery fire. Leigasskaret May 3-13 The German forces had by large control over the Norwegian advance routes, particularly through Gressdalen valley. The skirmishes in this strategically important mountain area therefore were hard and were fought under extreme winter conditions with heavy winds and temperatures down to-10 centigrades C. The Norwegian forces that took part in this fighting were the 1 Battalion of Troms Infantry Regiment 16, the Alta Battalion, and the 1 Battalion of Sør-Trøndelag Infantry Regiment 12. The feared snipers of the Troms Infantry Regiment 16 earned their reputation during these battles. Labergdalen May 1-7 In Labergdalen Norwegian forces fought for the first time together with the allied French soldiers from the 6 Chasseur Alpin Battalion. The aim was to clear the valley and the mountain Snaufjellet of German forces and attack the German positions at Gratangseidet from the flank. The German troops put up a strong defence and the area was not recaptured until May 7. During the battles on May 1 the soldiers witnessed German air raids on the red-cross-labelled hospital ship Dronning Maud in Foldvik, where 19 people were killed. Roasme/Gratangseidet May 2-14 In the night of May 2 French alpine troops, the Alta Battalion and the 2 Battalion of Nord-Hålogaland Infantry Regiment 15 attacked south along Gratangseidet and across the mountain of Roasme. In this area the German forces, which consisted of Austrian mountain troops, had built strong positions, and there was a prolonged fight before they withdrew from Vassdalfjellet, Ørnfjellet and Snaufjellene. The final retreat was also a result of the allied landing of French Foreign Legion soldiers in Bjerkvik on May 13, who threatened to fall the German soldiers in their back. The French General Antoine Béthouart was commander-in-chief for the French troops during the campaign, and for the Polish Podhale Brigade that joined the French forces on the southern front.

Øse

This monument at Øse is one of six memorials erected by the Norwegian Army commemorating the first defeat for Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The allied forces of France, Poland, Great Britain and Norway fought valiantly during the battle of Narvik, which became a symbol of unity and strength for the resistance in Europe.


After the German attack on Narvik on April 9, 1940 the German troops advanced north and were stopped by Norwegian forces here at Lapphaugen on April 13. The Germans never again resumed the offensive in the Narvik sector. Gratangen tourist station April 12 Advancing German forces - Austrian mountain troops from 1 Battalion Gebirgsjägerregiment 139 - encountered no resistance until April 12. At Gratangen tourist station they were stopped by a company from 6 Division’s Officer Candidate School. Having forced the German vanguards to retreat and set fire to the tourist station, the company pulled back to Fossbakken, the 6 Division’s assembly area. Lapphaugen April 24-25 The German advance continued to Lapphaugen. Against the winds of a blizzard, 2 Battalion of Nord-Hålogaland Infantry Regiment 15, supported by Mountain Artillery Battalion 3, launched a counter-attack on April 24. The attack came to a halt because of the weather conditions which made for zero visibility and rendered effective use of mortars and machine guns impossible. The Germans pulled their company back from Lapphaugen. For one Norwegian unit at Gratangen, this had fatal consequences. Gratangen April 24-25 Early in the morning of April 25, the German force that retreated from Lapphaugen together with other German units attacked 1 Battalion of Sør-Trøndelag Infantry Regiment 12, who were bivouacking for the night in Gratangsdalen. On the stormy night of April 24 the troops from SørTrøndelag had crossed Fjordbotneidet from Lavangen in order to intercept the German retreat. After fierce fighting, the surprising German assault had caused 34 dead and around 70 wounded - the heaviest loss for Norwegian land forces during the campaign in Norway in 1940. During the fighting, Norwegian civilians and soldiers who were taken prisoner were forced to march in front of the advancing German unit. Over the next few days the Germans pulled out of Gratangsdalen. General Carl Gustav Fleischer General Fleischer, who mobilized and organized the Norwegian military resistance in the North, was the first general to defeat units from Nazi Germany in World War II. He is one of the highest esteemed officers in the history of Norwegian Defence.

Lapphaugen

This monument at Lapphaugen is one of six memorials erected by the Norwegian Army commemorating the first defeat for Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The allied forces of France, Poland, Great Britain and Norway fought valiantly during the battle of Narvik, which became a symbol of unity and strength for the resistance in Europe.


Det tyske angrepet på Norge 9. april 1940 gjorde Indre Troms til et svært sentralt område for den norske motstanden i nord. Bardufoss hadde strategisk betydning som flyplass nær Narvik. Setermoen var mobiliseringssted for Troms infanteriregiment 16, som kjempet mot tyskerne på Narvikfronten. Setermoen og Bardufoss var viktige mål for den tyske framrykningen nordover fra Bjerkvik langs riksvei 50. Konge og regjering hadde under siste del av krigshandlingene i 1940 tilhold og beskyttelse i denne delen av Norge som enda var fritt. Bardufoss flyplass Som operativ flyplass ble Bardufoss viktig for de norske og allierte styrkene under felttoget i 1940. Norske og britiske krigsfly fløy sine tokter fra Bardufoss over kampområdene rundt Narvik. I de fem årene den tyske okkupasjonen varte, ble Bardufoss også sentral for tyskerne, særlig som base for bombetokter mot de allierte konvoiene i Nordishavet. Tyskerne bygde ut flyplassen med fast dekke og gjorde den til en av sine viktigste flybaser i nord så lenge krigen varte. Bardufoss flyplass ble bombet av tyskerne i 1940 og av britene høsten 1944. Mange av de britiske flygerne som kjempet fra Bardufoss i mai- og junidagene 1940, mistet livet etter at de hadde landet på hangarskipet Glorious for tilbaketransport til England 8. juni. De tyske slagskipene Scharnhorst og Gneisenau dukket uventet opp og skjøt Glorious i senk. Av de om lag 1500 om bord overlevde bare 45. Målselv og Bardu Allerede 8. april 1940 beordret øverstkommanderende for styrkene i Nord-Norge, general Carl Gustav Fleischer, distriktskommandoen flyttet til Moen i Målselv. Få dager etter ble også kommandoen for 6. divisjon lagt hit. Tidlig om morgenen 9. april beordret han mobilisering av to bataljoner av Troms infanteriregiment 16 og Alta bataljon. Setermoen i Bardu var viktig som mobiliseringssted og utgangspunkt for flere av de norske avdelingene som rykket fram mot tyskerne. Natt til 2. mai kom kong Haakon og kronprins Olav til Målselv og hadde et kort opphold på Trollhaugen ved Olsborg før de dro videre til Dybwad Holmboes hytte ved Langvatnet i Balsfjord. Her ble de fram til 7. juni, da de sammen med den norske regjeringen ble evakuert til England med krysseren Devonshire. Også statsminister Nygaardsvold med følge kom til Målselv samtidig med Kongen og Kronprinsen. Etter møter med kongen og divisjonskommandoen på Moen, tok statsministeren opphold i Øverbygd i Målselv fram til 14. mai. Hærens overkommando etablerte seg på Nordmo i Målselv 5. mai og ble der helt til felttogets slutt.

Bardufoss

Dette monumentet ved Bardufoss flyplass er ett av seks minnesmerker reist av den norske hæren til minne om kampene i Narvikområdet 1940. Allierte styrker fra Frankrike, Polen, Storbritannia og Norge påførte her NaziTyskland de første nederlagene i den andre verdenskrigen. For motstandskampen i Europa ble Narvik et symbol på alliert samhold og styrke.


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