Operation Battle of Vinjesvingen

The 'Battle of Vinjesvingen' was fought between German and Norwegian troops in Telemark county in the course of the 'Weserübung' German invasion of Norway (3/5 May 1940).

Vinjesvingen was one of the last two strongholds of Norwegian resistance in southern Norway during World War II, the other being Hegra Fortress.

Under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Thor O. Hannevig, the Norwegians held their position against superior German forces until 5 May 1940. Hannevig managed to obtain substantial quantities of weapons, equipment and fuel from depots from under the noses of the German forces and move them to Vinje and Vågsli in Telemark, where Hannevig established a unit which came to be known as Telemark Infantry Regiment. This ad hoc unit’s equipment included Krag-Jørgensen bolt-action rifles, Madsen light machine guns, Colt M/29 heavy machine guns and 81-mm (3.19-in) mortars as well as mines and explosives to destroy bridges and roads. Hannevig’s plan was to prevent the German advance to the west through Telemark and Setesdal, and to support Allied reinforcements from the west.

A full Norwegian mobilisation was carried out in the area, and at it peak the unit totalled some 300 men, but its strength varied constantly. Several small actions were fought, most of them based on Norwegian ambushes of advancing German units, using small arms and improvised explosive devices. The Norwegian defenders often destroyed and/or damaged bridges and roads in the area to delay the German advance.

The main battle took place on 3/5 May. Substantial German strength was eventually deployed to the area, and the German losses were considerable. When it was realised that the entire south of Norway was lost, and that the Allied forces at Åndalsnes would not break through from the west, Hannevig began to negotiate a surrender. The 'Battle of Vinjesvingen' had a great symbolic effect during the subsequent German occupation of Norway, and provided a boost of morale. However, the battle was not known to the rest of the country while it was being fought.