Norway April 1940: Battle of Midtskogen and the King's escape

Discussion in 'Scandinavia' started by Stormbird, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    Background


    Norway was attacked by German forces early in the morning of 9 April 1940. The German heavy cruiser Blücher was sunk in the Oslo fiord. This time-delay made it possible for the Norwegian Parliament, the Government and the Royal family to escape north to Hamar and later to Elverum. German forces led by captain Spiller set out to capture the Norwegian leaders, who however continued their meetings at Elverum. The Elverum Declaration was passed, putting the Government in charge of the country until the next possible Parliament meeting.

    Barricades


    When Norwegian military leaders at Elverum were told that German soldiers were under way, they ordered barricades set up at Midtskogen. A group of soldiers from a rifle company of the Royal Guards as well as civilians, in total 96 men, were organised to man the positions. Some had never used a gun before. The situation was grave. Colonel Otto Ruge (who later was CIC of the Norwegian forces) encouraged his men: ”Your mission is to stop the Germans on their way to capture the King and the Government… The fate of Norway is in your hands.”

    Situation


    Different groups were organised around the Midtskogen farm. The barricade was set up at the bridge across the river. Two machine guns were directed towards the bridge. The rest of the gunmen were spread from the farm to the railway station. They had very little ammunition. The night was very cold. The machine guns froze and were non-op for a while.


    Civilian traffic


    A lot of civilians came east heading towards Elverum. They were stopped by the barricade and had to walk on foot the rest of the way. Their cars and wagons had to be left there and soon became part of the road block. This was later to influence the Norwegian strategy.


    map.jpg
    Norwegian forces are in green, with their commanders’ names. German forces are in red.
    A transversed arrow represents a machine gun.


    Battle


    At 0130 AM 10th April the German soldiers arrived. They were around 100 troops, most of them highly trained paratroopers with modern weapons. Because all the Norwegian evacuees’ cars blocked the road up to the barricade, the German forces had to leave their vehicles and walk up to the bridge while under fire. The ensuing fire-fight continued until 0300 AM, ending with both forces retreating. The Norwegians were reinforced and regrouped. Norwegian losses were three wounded, while the Germans suffered two dead, including their commander, and an unknown number wounded.


    Pic 1.jpg


    Pic 2.jpg

    Both illustrations are by Andreas Hauge


    The Germans, their commander killed and realising their raid had failed, returned to Oslo in their cars.


    Importance


    The sinking of the Blücher, the Elverum Declaration and the battle at Midtskogen, fought and won by an accidentally organised group of soldiers facing professional Germans, are crucial events in Norwegian WWII history.
    In spite of being a very small battle, it prevented the capture of the King and the cabinet. It probably also saved Norway for the allied cause and it served as a major boost to Norwegian morale.


    memorial.jpg

    Inscription on memorial: Here Norwegian forces stopped enemy attempts to capture the King, the Crown Prince, the Government and the Parliament.

    Sources:
    Andreas Hauge: Kampene på Midtskogen 1940 (1995)
    On-site material at the memorial
     
  2. Pete Keane

    Pete Keane Senior Member

    Stormbird

    Am developing an interest in the Norwegian campaign, if you can suggest any reading material I would be appreciative.

    Pete
     
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. RAM

    RAM Junior Member

    For the British and other english speaking foreign readers I can recommend the following titles:

    Amazon.com: The Battle for Norway, April-June 1940 (9781591140511): Geirr H. Haarr: Books

    Amazon.com: The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940 (9781591143109): Geirr H. Haarr: Books

    Amazon.com: Hitler's Preemptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940 - History's First Special Operations Campaign (9781932033922): Henrik Lunde: Books

    These books are largely a summary of texts previously published in Norwegian. However, some of the history regarding the events before and during the German invasion have been rewritten during the last 10 years or so. Many so-called heroic and brave actions claimed by the members of the government and military personell are demoted and disregarded after recent finds and re-evaluation of the events.
     
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  5. Amisuk

    Amisuk Member

    The book "The Polar Bears - Monty's Left Flank" by Patrick Delaforce starts with a little bit about the Norwegian campaign, and covers the German invasion.


    Sorry it's taken a while for me to post this, unfortunately my Great Uncle who was in the 4th Batt: Royal Lincolns from 1939 passed away last year.
     
  6. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    SB,

    For some unknown reason, the Norwegian campaign fails to get the publicity that many other campaigns receive.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  7. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Potentially interesting film on BBC 4 tonight (5 Oct) - however two and a half hours of subtitles over Danish is a bit long for me -I'd nod off so I'll record it and watch it in bits.
    BBC Four - The King's Choice
     
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  8. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Well, I enjoyed it!
     
  9. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Thanks for the link. I've bookmarked it and will watch when I've got more time.
    Norway's war has always been close for me.
     
  10. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    I enjoyed it as well - I have read a couple of books about Norwegian campaign but mainly from UK perspective so to see events from a completely new perspective was great. Also amazing that those old cars could move so well in the snow.

    Tom
     
  11. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Long but well-acted, informative and had an authentic feel to it. The engagement of German ships in Oslo fjord was particularly well done. My only observation was that the ‘Hitler salute’ given by an army officer was probably unlikely in 1940.
     
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  12. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Can't find the link, but I've just watched the brilliant film about the. decisions the King of Norway had to make in the early years of WW2.
    Thanks to the poster who rerminded me.
    And any Mod who can put this in the right place.
     
  13. Wobbler

    Wobbler Patron Patron

    I’ve not seen it myself so happy to see that BBC4 are showing it again this Saturday, 25th September, at 9pm, so I have set it to record.
     
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  14. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    BBC iPlayer - The Kings Choice

    "On 9 April 1940, the German war machine arrives in the city of Oslo. The Norwegian king faces a choice that will change his country forever - whether to submit to the German invasion and install a puppet government answering to Hitler or to enter into a hopeless war of resistance that will cost many lives, as well as Norway's staunchly defended neutrality.

    In Norwegian with English subtitles. Duration126 mins"

    The King's Choice - Wikipedia
     
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  15. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Watched the film and enjoyed, I did know some of the history, not the detail. There is a thread on the incident at Midtskogen, where German paratroopers - in vehicles - tried to capture the King and his cabinet, but were beaten off just. See: Norway April 1940: Battle of Midtskogen and the King's escape

    That episode features a young Private in the King's Guard, Fredrik Seeberg, who was badly wounded by a grenade and misinformed the Germans who found him there were many more Norwegians soldiers coming, so the Germans left.

    Curiously Seeberg is shown in the closing section as:
    A curious choice to make IMHO, he did return to Norway. That war being the Finnish name for their part in Operation Barbarossa. See: Continuation War - Wikipedia

    From the film and: The King's Choice - Wikipedia
     
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