Operation Polar Bear

'Polar Bear' was a British and Norwegian series of operations by the Special Operations Executive to safeguard the most important Norwegian harbours from German demolition of the type which had been employed in many French ports and slowed the Allied advance across North-West Europe during the autumn of 1944 (January/May 1945).

'Polar Bear' involved the Norwegian defence high command, the SOE, and on this occasion the Free Norwegian navy, which supplied the manpower, and the Royal Navy, which organised a trip to Dieppe so that Norwegian personnel could study the German destruction at first hand.

Between mid-January and May 1945 some 10 'Polar Bear' teams were sent to Norway to offer protection to 14 Norwegian harbours from Narvik in the north to Fredrikstad in the east.

'Polar Bear I' involved L. Larsen and Boy Rist, and was designed to protect the port of Narvik. After delivery by air to Stockholm in neural Sweden during February 1945, the two men made their way overland to reach the 'Sepals II' base on 22 February, and with the aid of Swedish troops brought a significant quantity of supplies. Contacts were made with the Milorg in the D.40 district and with Kyllingmark, head of the 'Sepals' operation. The stores were moved closer to Narvik and training was undertaken, but the activity of German troops in the areas meant that progress was slow.

'Polar Bear II' involved Leif Hauge and T. Renaas to protect the harbour of Trondheim. The two men reached Trondheim from Stockholm on 7 February, and were met by Gjems-Onstad who was co-ordinating the 'Lark' and 'Durham' operations. The Germans had made some preparations to demolish the quays, but it was initially difficult to obtain recruits from among the harbour work force. Eventually 15 and 50 men from 'Lark' and 'Durham' respectively were transferred to 'Polar Bear II'. Training then began, but was seriously hampered be lack of weapons. In April 1945 'Polar Bear II' was placed under the Milorg leader for the D.22 district, and on 9 May the team, now totalling 130 men, assumed control of Trondheim harbour. Hauge also took over the ports of Steinkjer and Namsos.

'Polar Bear III' involved O. Drønen and J. Jensen, who departed the UK by sea on 16 January and eventually arrived at Bergen, where they met the Milorg military resistance organisation�s leader for the D.20.2 district. It was discovered that the Germans had made preliminary preparations to demolish some of the quays at Bergen, and 200 Milorg men were readied and preparations made to protect the port. At the time of Norway�s liberation in May 1945 all the German demolition charges were disabled.

'Polar Bear IV' involved F. Åsmund Færøy, who departed the UK by sea on 16 January and landed on Bømlo, to the north of Haugesund. Færøy was arrested as he tried to get to Stavanger, whose port he was charged to protect.

A second 'Polar Bear IV' involved D. Ånestad and B. Nilsen, and was again intended to protect the harbour of Stavanger. After the failure of this operation’s first iteration, the two-man team was parachuted into the Årdal area of southern Norway on 25 April and, with the help of the 'Osprey' party, eventually reached Stavanger and completed its task.

'Polar Bear V' involved G. Gundersen to protect the port of Kristiansand. Gundersen was sent to Stockholm by air on 4 April 1945, and from here travelled by boat to Høvåg outside Kristiansand, arriving just before the German surrender. The Germans had made preparations to blow up the harbour, but the local German commandant agreed that the demolitions would not be carried out. Gundersen with a group of 80 men then took command of the port.

'Polar Bear VI-E' involved I. Steensland, who was to cover the harbours of Fredrikstad and Moss on the eastern side of Oslo harbour, and arrived from Sweden on 23 January. The Germans had made preparations to destroy the harbour at Fredrikstad, and to counter this Steensland was given a group of 120 Milorg men. Contacts were established with men working in the harbour, intelligence was gathered and training was begun. In Moss 100 Milorg men were also trained in harbour protection. Early in February Steensland assisted by Milorg men organised the capture of 11 tugs from Moss and Fredrikstad, and these were sailed to Sweden. Steensland returned to Norway early in March and continued preparations, although his men lacked weapons. He then captured a cargo boat and small tanker and organised their disappearance to Sweden. He returned to Fredrikstad on 2 May and after the liberation and, claiming to be from the Allied Commission in Oslo, persuaded the Germans to remove all their guards from the harbour.

'Polar Bear VI-Oslo' involved S. Egede-Nissen and J. Helen, who were to cover the port of Oslo and arrived overland from Stockholm on 19 January. At the end of the month the two men made contact with the Milorg and harbour employees. Groups were trained but there were few signs that the Germans were preparing to destroy the quays. Nevertheless, training continued and on 8 May Milorg groups entered the harbour area and took up their positions. On 9 May, Milorg together with surrendered German guards began to patrol the harbour.

'Polar Bear VI-W' involved S. Skelfjord, who was to help protect Larvik, Sandefjord and Tønsberg on the western side of Oslofjord and arrived in the area overland from Stockholm in neutral Sweden during January 1945 and worked closely with the Milorg local organisation. Early in March Skelfjord reported that he had completed his preparations.

'Polar Bear VII' involved H. Kristensen and I. Sklelbred to protect the ports of Tønsberg and Veblungnes at the time of the German surrender, but the undertaking was cancelled.

'Polar Bear VII' involved F. A. Søreida, who departed the UK by sea on 12 January 1945 and, with the help of the 'Arquebus' party, eventually arrived at Haugesund. He eventually undertook protective preparations at the ports of Haugesund and Odda.