Operation Battle of Midtskogen

The 'Battle of Midtskogen' was a minor nocturnal clash between German and Norwegian forces with the 'Weserübung' invasion of Norway (9/10 April 1940).

The Germans were a raiding party and clashed with an improvised Norwegian force at Midtskogen farm about 3.1 miles (5 km) to the west of the town of Elverum at the mouth of the Østerdalen valley in southern Norway. The task entrusted to the raiding party was the capture King Haakon VII and the cabinet members of his government, and thereby pressuring Norway into submission. After a short battle, the German force withdrew, having lost its commander.

Landing in several major Norwegian cities by sea, the Germans advanced inland on several axes, and hoped that the capture of the king and senior members of the Norwegian government would persuade the Norwegians into a swift capitulation. While the invasion was successful in most areas, the German naval force headed for Oslo, the Norwegian capital, was compelled to withdraw, albeit temporarily, when the heavy cruiser Blücher was sunk by fire from the Oscarborg fortress at Drøbak. This gave the Norwegian royal family and members of government time to evacuate to Hamar, and later to Elverum. A small party of German Fallschirmjäger, under the command of the military attaché, Hauptmann Eberhard Spiller, was sent in pursuit in commandeered Norwegian civilian vehicles.

The Norwegian defenders were a mixed group of hastily mustered volunteers and professional soldiers. Between 20 and 30 Royal Guardsmen of the 1st Guard Company were backed by volunteers from Terningmoen military camp and a large number of men from local rifle clubs. The Norwegians were armed primarily with Krag-Jørgensen bolt-action rifles, as well as two Colt M/29 machine guns. The German party consisted of between 100 and 120 paratroopers travelling in a convoy of four buses, a captured army truck and Spiller’s private car. Though somewhat inferior in numerical terms, the Germans were considerably superior in training and firepower, possessing numerous modern sub-machine guns, light machine guns and hand grenades.

The Norwegian battle plan was to place one block at Sagstuen, about 0.9 miles (1.5 km) to the west of Terningmoen and another at Midtskogen a short distance farther to the west. They planned to stop the German convoy at Midtskogen, forcing the Germans to continue on foot through the deep snow, before retreating to Sagstuen, where they would hold off the attack. The Norwegians' two machine guns were to concentrate their fire on the road block, while the rifle companies would engage the Germans from the flanks.

The block at Midtskogen was created from stopped civilian cars, some forced off the road and others wedged between and behind them. As a result of the unusually heavy traffic that night, the block became more than 110 yards (100 m) long.

At about 02.00 on 10 April the German vehicles crashed into the Norwegian roadblock. The length of the blockade meant that the Germans were brought to a halt farther to the west than the Norwegians had originally planned. While the Norwegian flanking units were being redeployed, they came under heavy fire from the Germans. During the ensuing firefight the nearby barn at Midtskogen farm started to burn after being hit by German illumination rounds, subsequently revealing the Norwegian defenders stationed at the farm.

Unfortunately for the Norwegians, their two machine guns were unable to engage the Germans as they had been sited too far from the area in which the firefight developed. It was not until the Germans started to move past the block that the machine guns could consider opening fire, but as a result of the cold the machine guns initially refused to work. After frantic efforts, the Norwegians managed to get one of the machine guns working, enabling them to give covering fire to the retreating Norwegian forces.

The firefight continued until 03.00, and came to an end as each side pulled back. The Norwegians regrouped at Sagstuen, where they were reinforced by units from the Norwegian military academy. With their commander Spiller badly wounded, the Germans realised that their raid had failed and retreated to Oslo.

The casualties were relatively light on each side. The Germans suffered five men killed and an unknown number wounded: one of the German fatalities was Spiller. The Norwegian losses were three men wounded, at least one of severely.

The retreat of the German force provided the royal family and the cabinet members time to finish the 'Elverum Authorisation', which allowed the cabinet to assert a temporary but absolute authority given that the Storting (the Norwegian parliament) was no longer able to convene in ordinary session. It also gave the Norwegians royal family and senior government members the opportunity to escape farther from the invading forces.

On 11 April the nearby town of Elverum was subjected to heavy bombing by German warplanes.

While the action may have been small, it proved a major boost to Norwegian morale and resolve, which had been very low in the aftermath of the Germans' early successes.