'Weserübung' was the German invasion and conquest of Denmark and Norway (9 April/10 June 1940).
During the early morning of 9 April, German forces occupied Denmark and invaded Norway, ostensibly as a preventive manoeuvre against a planned, and indeed openly discussed, British and French occupation of Norway known as 'R4', which had been developed as a response to any German aggression against Norway. After the occupation of Denmark, the Danish military having been ordered to stand down as Denmark did not declare war with Germany, German envoys informed the Danish and Norwegian governments that the German forces had arrived in their countries to protect their neutrality against British and French aggression. Significant differences in geography, location and climate between the two nations made the actual military operations very dissimilar.
From the spring of 1939, in the UK the Admiralty had started to view Scandinavia as a potential theatre in any future war with Germany, one of its reasons being the British government’s reluctance to engage in another land conflict on the European continent which, it believed, would become a repetition of the sanguinary and largely immobile Western Front campaigns of World War I. British strategic thinking therefore started to consider blockade as the means to weaken Germany indirectly, as it had in World War I. German industry was heavily dependent on the import of iron ore from the mining area of northern Swedish, and much of this ore was shipped through the northern Norwegian port of Narvik during the winter months when the shorter route from Swedish ports became impossible after the Baltic Sea had frozen. The British also concluded that control of the Norwegian coast would serve to tighten a blockade against Germany.
In October 1939, the commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine, Grossadmiral Erich Raeder, discussed with Adolf Hitler the danger posed by potential British bases in Norway and the possibility of Germany seizing these bases before the UK could sop so. Raeder argued that possession of Norway would allow control of the nearby seas and serve as a platform for the launch of operations against the UK by U-boats and heavy warships. The other branches of the Wehrmacht were not at that time interested in the Kriegsmarine’s concept, and Hitler had just issued a directive stating that the main effort would be a land offensive through the Low Countries to knock France put of there war.
Toward the end of November, Winston Churchill, as the First Lord of the Admiralty and a new member of the British war cabinet, proposed the mining of Norwegian coastal waters in an operation dubbed 'Wilfred'. This would force the ore transport vessels to travel through the open waters of the North Sea, where the Royal Navy could intercept them.
Churchill assumed that 'Wilfred' would provoke a German response in Norway, and the Allies would then implement 'R4' and occupy Norway. Though later implemented, 'Wilfred' was initially rejected by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax for fear that it would trigger an adverse reaction among neutral nations such as the USA. After the start of the 'Talvisota' winter war as the USSR invaded Finland in November had changed the strategic situation, Churchill proposed his mining scheme once again, but this was still refused.
In December, the UK and France began serious planning for the despatch of aid to Finland. The plan called for a force to land in in northern Norway at Narvik, which was the main port for Swedish iron ore exports and then to take control of the Malmbanan railway linking Narvik and Luleå, the latter theist important port in northern Sweden on the western coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. Conveniently, that would also allow the Allied forces to occupy the Swedish iron ore mining region. The plan received the support of both Chamberlain and Halifax, who counted on the co-operation of Norway and thus mitigate some of the legal issues, but stern warnings issued to both Norway and Sweden by Germany resulted in strongly negative reactions in both of these countries. Planning for the Anglo-French expedition nonetheless continued, but the justification for it was removed when Finland sued for peace with the USSR in March 1940.
Following a meeting with Vidkun Quisling, Norway’s most prominent pro-Fascist politician, on 14 December, Adolf Hitler turned his attention to Scandinavia. Convinced of the threat posed by the Allies to the iron ore supply, Hitler ordered the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht to begin preliminary planning for an invasion of Norway. The preliminary plan was named 'Studie Nord' and was based on the commitment of only one army division.
Between 14 and 19 January, the Kriegsmarine developed an expanded version of this plan. This was based on two key factors: that surprise was essential to reduce the threat of Norwegian resistance and British intervention; that the invasion was to be based on the use of faster German warships, rather than comparatively slow merchant ships, for the delivery of the assault troops and their equipment. This would make it possible for all of the initial target areas to be occupied simultaneously, which would be impossible if transport ships were to be used. The new plan called for the commitment of a complete army corps, including one mountain division, one airborne division, one motorised infantry brigade and two infantry divisions. The targets of these forces were Oslo, the Norwegian capital, and the country’s main population and economic centres at Bergen, Narvik, Tromsø, Trondheim, Kristiansand and Stavanger. The plan also called for the swift capture of the kings of Denmark and Norway in the hope that this would trigger a rapid surrender.
On 21 February, command of the operation was allocated to General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, who had fought in Finland during World War I and was familiar with Arctic warfare: however, von Falkenhorst was to have command only of the ground forces, despite Hitler’s desire to have a unified command.
The final plan was codenamed 'Weserübung' on 27 January. The ground forces were to be the Gruppe XXI, which comprised Generalmajor Eduard Dietl’s 3rd Gebirgsdivision and five infantry divisions, none of the latter having yet been tested in battle. The first phase of the German undertaking would use three divisions for the assault, with the other three to follow in the next wave. Three companies of paratroopers would be used to seize airfields. The decision also to send Generalleutnant Valentin Feurstein’s 2nd Gebirgsdivision was made later.
Almost all U-boat operations in the Atlantic were to be stopped for the submarines to aid in the operation, and every available submarine, including some training boats, were used as part of 'Hartmut' in support of 'Weserübung'.
'Weserübung' did not include a military assault on neutral Sweden as there was no strategic reason for such a movement: by holding Norway, the Danish straits and most of the of the Baltic Sea coast, Germany encircled Sweden from the north, west and south. In the east, there was the USSR, the successor of Sweden’s and Finland’s arch-enemy Russia, which was on 'friendly' terms with Hitler under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. A small number of Finnish volunteers helped the Norwegian army against Germans in an ambulance unit.
Swedish and Finnish trade was dependent on the Kriegsmarine, and Germany put pressure on neutral Sweden to permit transit of military goods and soldiers on leave, and on 18 June 1940 an agreement was reached whereby soldiers were to travel unarmed and not be part of unit movements. A total of 2.14 million German soldiers, as well as more than 100,000 German military railway carriages, crossed Sweden until that traffic was suspended on 20 August 1943.
On 19 August 1940, Finland agreed to grant the German forces access to its territory, the relevant agreement being signed on 22 September. Initially for transit of troops and military equipment to and from northern Norway, the agreement soon came to include transit for minor bases along the transit road that would eventually grow as the Germans readied their 'Barbarossa' invasion of the USSR.
Initially, the German plan was thus to invade Norway militarily but to gain control of Denmark’s airfields by diplomatic means. On 1 March, however, Hitler issued a new directive as the so-called Führerweisung Nr 10a that called for the invasion of both Norway and Denmark. This was the result of Luftwaffe insistence that fighter bases and air warning stations must be taken. The Höheres Kommando zbV XXXI was established under the command of General Curt Gallenkamp for the invasion of Denmark, this scaled-down corps comprising two infantry divisions and Oberst Günther Angern’s 11th Schützenbrigade. The entire operation was to be supported by General Hans Geisler’s X Fliegerkorps of Generaloberst Erhard Mich’s Luftflotte V with some 1,000 aircraft of various types.
On 16 February, the British destroyer Cossack boarded the German transport ship Altmark, one of the support vessels for the 'pocket battleship' Admiral Graf Spee and now returning to Germany with British merchant seaman prisoners after the warship’s loss, while in Norwegian waters and thus possibly in violation of Norwegian neutrality. Hitler regarded this response to German violation of Norwegian neutrality as a clear sign that the Allies were also willing to violate Norwegian neutrality, and so became even more strongly committed to the invasion.
On 12 March, the UK decided to send an expeditionary force to Norway just as the 'Talvisota' winter war was drawing to an end. The expeditionary force began boarding on 13 March, but was then stood down and the operation cancelled with the end of the 'Talvisota'. Instead, the British cabinet voted to proceed with the 'Wilfred' mining operation in Norwegian waters, followed by troop landings.
The first German ships set sail for the invasion on 3 April. Two days later, the long-planned 'Wilfred' was set in motion, and the British naval force, led by the battle-cruiser Renown, departed Scapa Flow in the Orkney islands group with 12 destroyers to mine Norwegian waters. The minefields were laid in the Vestfjorden in the early morning of 8 April. 'Wilfred' was over, but later in that same day the destroyer Glowworm, detached on 7 April to search for a man lost overboard, was sunk by the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and two destroyers of the German invasion fleet.
On 9 April, the German invasion was under way, and the execution of 'R4' was promptly started.
The UK and France had signed military assistance treaties with Poland, and two days after the German 'Weiss' (i) invasion of that nation on 1 September 1939 both had declared war on Germany. However, neither country could undertake significant offensive operations and for several months no major engagements occurred in what became known as the 'Phoney War'. During this period, Churchill in particular wished to move the war into a more active state, whereas Chamberlain did not. During this time each side wished to open a secondary front. For the Allies, in particular the French, this was based on a desire to avoid repeating the trench warfare of World War I, which had occurred along the Franco/German border.
Following the outbreak of World War II, the Norwegian government had mobilised parts of the Norwegian army and all but two of the Norwegian navy’s warships. The Norwegian army and navy air services were also called up to protect Norwegian neutrality from violations by the warring countries. The first such violations were the sinkings, within Norwegian territorial waters, of several British ships by U-boats, and in the course of the following months aircraft of all the belligerents violated Norwegian neutrality.
Almost immediately after the outbreak of war, the British started to exert pressure on the Norwegian government to provide the UK with the services of the Norwegian merchant navy as a means of supplementing the capabilities of the British merchant marine. After protracted negotiations between 25 September and 20 November, the Norwegians agreed to charter to the British 150 tankers, as well as other ships with a tonnage of 450,000 tons. The Norwegian government’s concern for the country’s supply lines was an important factor in persuading it to accept the agreement.
Although neutral, Norway was considered strategically important by each side for several reasons. First was the importance of the iron ore from Sweden, on which Germany was highly dependent, that was exported through the Norwegian port of Narvik. This route was especially important during the winter months when much of the Baltic Sea was frozen. Narvik came to become still more significant to the British when it became apparent that the 'Catherine' plan to gain control of the Baltic Sea, could not and would not be realised. Raeder had pointed out several times in 1939 the potential danger to Germany of the UK’s seizure of the initiative and launch of its own invasion in Scandinavia, for if the powerful Royal Navy had bases at Bergen, Narvik and Trondheim, the North Sea would be virtually closed to Germany, and the Kriegsmarine would be at risk even in the Baltic Sea.
For Germany, control of Norway would also be a strategic asset in the Battle of the Atlantic. The capture of ports would provide holes in any Allied blockade of Germany, and provide convenient access to the Atlantic Ocean. This would allow Germany to use its sea power effectively against the Allies. Access to Norwegian air bases would allow German reconnaissance aircraft to operate far over the North Atlantic, while U-boats and surface ships operating out of Norwegian naval bases would be well positioned to break the British blockade line across the North Sea and to launch attacks on convoys heading toward the UK.
When the USSR started its invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, the Allies found themselves aligned with Norway and Sweden in support of Finland against its hugely larger aggressor. After the outbreak of this winter war, Norway mobilised land forces somewhat larger than those which had initially been considered necessary. By a time early in 1940 the Norwegian 6th Division in Finnmark and Troms, positioned mostly in the eastern regions of Finnmark, fielded 9,500 troops to defend against any Soviet attack. Parts of the 6th Division’s forces remained in Finnmark even after the German invasion, guarding against a possible Soviet attack. During the winter war the Norwegian authorities secretly broke the country’s own neutrality by sending the Finns a shipment of 12 75-mm (2.95-in) Ehrhardt Model 1901 artillery pieces and 12,000 rounds of ammunition, and also allowed the British to use Norwegian territory for the transfer of aircraft and other weapons to Finland.
This presented the Allies with an opportunity, for it offered them the possibility of exploiting the Soviet aggression to send troop support for the occupation of the ore fields in Sweden and ports in Norway. The plan, promoted by General Sir Edmund Ironside, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, included the landing of two divisions at Narvik, five battalions somewhere in the centre of Norway’s long western coast and another two divisions at Trondheim. The French government also pushed for any type of action that would confront the Germans in an area away from France.
This movement caused the Germans concern. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 had placed Finland within the Soviet sphere of interest, and the Germans therefore claimed neutrality in the conflict. This policy led to an overall rise in anti-German sentiment throughout Scandinavia, since it was commonly believed that the Germans were allied with the Soviets. Fears began to emerge within German high command that Norway and Sweden would then allow the Allies to move troops and equipment for the support of Finland. The proposed Allied deployments never occurred, after protests from both Norway and Sweden, when the issue of transfers of troops through their territory was suggested. With the Moscow peace treaty between the USSR and Finland on 12 March 1940, the Allies plans relative to Finland were dropped, but the abandonment of the planned landings put immense French pressure on the British government, and eventually led to the approval and execution of 'Wilfred' off the Norwegian coast on 8 April.
It was originally thought by the German high command that continued Norwegian neutrality was in Germany’s interest: so long as the Allies did not enter Norwegian waters, there would be safe passage for merchant vessels travelling along the Norwegian coast to deliver there high-grade iron ore that Germany was importing. However, Raeder continued to argue for an invasion as he was strongly of the opinion that the Norwegian ports would be of crucial importance for Germany in a war with the UK. On 14 December 1939, Raeder introduced Hitler to Quisling, a pro-Nazi former defence minister of Norway. Quisling proposed a pan-Germanic co-operation between Germany and Norway and, in the course of a second meeting four days later, Quisling and Hitler discussed the threat of an Allied invasion of Norway.
After his first meeting with Quisling, Hitler ordered the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht to begin an investigation of possible plans for an invasion of Norway. The meeting with Quisling was thus central in triggering Hitler’s interest in bringing Norway effectively into his dominion. The first comprehensive German plan for the occupation of Norway, 'Studie Nord' ordered by Hitler on 14 December 1939, had been completed by 10 January 1940, and on 27 January Hitler ordered the development of a new plan, named 'Weserübung' on which work began on 5 February.
The 'Altmark incident' occurred in the late hours of 16 February, when the British destroyer Cossack entered Norwegian territorial waters to intercept and board the German auxiliary ship Altmark in the Jøssingfjord. Since the start of the war, Altmark had been utilised as a fleet oiler turned prison ship for the 'pocket battleship' Admiral Graf Spee while the latter was raiding Allied merchant ships in the South Atlantic. When she began her return journey to Germany, Altmark was carrying 299 prisoners taken from Allied ships sunk by Admiral Graf Spee. She rounded the north of Scotland and then entered Norwegian territorial waters near the Trondheimsfjord. A Norwegian naval vessel escorted Altmark as she proceeded to the south, hugging the Norwegian coast. As Altmark neared Bergen on 14 February, the Norwegian naval authorities demanded to inspect her cargo. International law did not ban the transfer of prisoners of war through neutral waters and the German captain refused the inspection. This led the commander in Bergen, Kontreadmiral Carsten Tank-Nielsen, to deny Altmark access to the restricted-access harbour zone. Tank-Nielsen was overruled by his superior, Kontreadmiral Henry Diesen, commander-in-chief of the Norwegian navy, and the German ship was escorted through the area. In accordance with Norwegian neutrality regulations, government ships operated by the warring countries were forbidden from such strategically important Norwegian ports. This violation of the regulations was the result of Diesen’s fear that the British would intercept Altmark if she was forced to steam farther to sea.
On 16 February, Altmark was spotted by three British aircraft, whose report persuaded the Royal Navy to investigate using the one light cruiser and five destroyers that were patrolling nearby. Attacked by the British destroyers Ivanhoe and Intrepid, Altmark fled into the Jøssingfjord under escort of the Norwegian torpedo boat Skarv, which was later joined in the fjord by a second torpedo boat, Kjell, and the patrol boat Firern. As Cossack entered the fjord at 22.20, the Norwegian vessels did not intervene as members of the British destroyer’s crew boarded Altmark in the late hours of 16 February. The boarding action led to the liberation of 299 Allied prisoners held on the German ship. The boarding party killed seven men of the German crew in the process.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the Germans sent strong protests to Norway, and the Norwegians sent protests to the UK. While Norwegian, Swedish and USA experts in international law described the British action as a violation of Norwegian neutrality, the UK declared that the incident was at the most a technical violation that had been morally justified. The whole incident led the Germans to accelerate their planning for invasion of Norway. On 21 February, von Falkenhorst was placed in command of the operation’s planning and of the Gruppe XXI land forces. The official approval for the invasion and occupation of Denmark and Norway was signed by Hitler on 1 March.
With the end of the 'Talvisota', the Allies determined that an occupation of Norway or Sweden would probably cause more harm than good, and possibly drive the neutral countries into an alliance with Germany. However, the new French prime minister, Paul Reynaud, took a more aggressive stance than his predecessor and wanted some form of action against Germany. Churchill was a strong agitator for action in Scandinavia as he wished to sever all links between Sweden and Germany, and to push the Scandinavian countries to side with the UK against Germany. This desire had initially involved the 'Catherine' plan of 1939 to penetrate the Baltic Sea with a naval force. The basic concept had quickly been revised to the 'Wilfred' plan for the mining of Norwegian coastal waters to stop iron ore shipments from Narvik and provoke Germany into attacking Norway in an amphibious assault which could be attacked and defeated by the Royal Navy. It was agreed to utilise Churchill’s 'Wilfred' naval mining plan to deny use of the Leads coastal waters between Norway’s mainland coast and offshore islands, and thus deny the sanctuary of the Leads and force German shipping into the international waters in which British naval power could be employed to engage and destroy it. Accompanying this would be 'R4', an operation in which, upon the almost certain German counteraction to 'Wilfred', the Allies would then proceed to occupy Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger. The planners hoped that the operation would not provoke the Norwegians to resist the Allies with armed force.
The Allies disagreed over an additional operation, named 'Royal Marine', in which fluvial mines were placed in the upper reaches of the Rhine river. While the British supported this operation, the French vetoed it for three months since they also depended on the Rhine river and feared German air raids on their aircraft and munitions factories. Because of this delay 'Wilfred', originally scheduled for 5 April, was delayed until 8 April when the British agreed to perform the Norwegian operations separately from those on the continent.
Already in low-priority planning for some months, 'Weserübung' gained a new sense of urgency after the 'Altmark incident'. The goals of the invasion were to secure the port of Narvik and the Leads for ore transport, and to take control the country to prevent its collaboration with the Allies. It was to be presented as an armed protection of Norway’s neutrality. One subject debated by German strategists was the concomitant occupation of Denmark, which was seen as vital because its location facilitated greater air and naval control of the area. While some German strategists wished merely to pressure Denmark into acquiesce, it was eventually determined that it would be safer for the operation if Denmark were captured by force.
Another matter that caused additional reworking of the plan was 'Gelb', the planned invasion of the Low Countries and north-eastern France, a task which would require the bulk of the available German forces. Because some of these forces were required for both invasions, 'Weserübung' and 'Gelb' could not be launched simultaneously, and because the approach of spring meant a shortening of the nights which were needed to cover the German maritime movements toward Norway, 'Weserübung' had therefore had to be launched before 'Gelb'. Eventually, on 2 April, the Germans fixed on 9 April as the day of the invasion and 04.15 on that day as the time of the landings.
Denmark’s strategic importance for Germany was limited, and its invasion was in strategic terms was to secure the country’s availability as a stepping stone to Norway and to secure supply lines to the forces about to be deployed there. However, an extensive network of German radar systems was later built in Denmark to detect British bombers bound for Germany.
The attack on Denmark was a breach of the non-aggression pact Denmark had signed with Germany less than one year earlier. The initial German intention was to push Denmark into acceptance of the German use of Danish land, naval and air bases, but Hitler subsequently demanded that Denmark as well as Norway be invaded.
Denmark’s military forces were wholly inferior in numbers and equipment to those which Germany could deploy against the country, and after a short battle Denmark was forced to surrender. After fewer than two hours of struggle, the Danish prime minister, Thorvald Stauning, ordered an end to the opposition to the German attack, largely for fear that the Germans would bomb Copenhagen, as they had done with Warsaw during the 'Weiss' (i) invasion of Poland in September 1939. As a result of communication difficulties, some Danish forces continued to fight, but after a further two hours, all opposition had came to an end. Lasting about six hours, the German campaign against Denmark was one of the shortest military operations of World War II.
The main object of the attack on Denmark was to secure still more effectively the continued shipment of iron ore from Narvik to Germany and the logistic support of the bases which were to be taken in Norway. This demanded the availability to the German forces of the port outside Aalborg in northern Jutland. The Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine approved the occupation of Denmark to extend farther to the north the German sea defence capability, so making it harder for British ships to outflank it from the north when attacks on Allied shipping in the North Atlantic began.
The German high command therefore planned a combined assault on Denmark to overrun the country as swiftly as possible. It included an airborne assault on the Aalborg airfield, a surprise landing of infantry from naval auxiliary vessels at Copenhagen, and a simultaneous ground assault across the Jutland peninsula. On 4 April, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the Abwehr intelligence service and a major figure in the German resistance to Nazism, warned the Danes of an imminent invasion.
Although warned of the attack, the Danish army was denied permission either to deploy or to prepare defensive positions as the Danish government wished not to 'provoke' the Germans and thereby offer them any 'excuse' for their actions. Only small and scattered units of the frontier guard and elements of Generalmajor Frederik C. Essemann’s 2nd (Jutland) Division were available to meet the land invasion, while the main strength of the eastern defence lay with Generalmajor Hans Agge Rolsted’s 1st (Zealand) Division on the eastern islands. Denmark had some 14,500 soldiers in the 1st and 2nd Divisions as well as the garrison of Bornholm, four squadrons of aircraft, two coast-defence ships, six torpedo boats, seven submarines, three minelayers, nine minesweepers and four inspection ships.
The German forces were General Leonhard Kaupisch’s (from 10 April General Curt Gallenkamp’s) Höheres Kommando XXXI with Generalleutnant Walter Wittke’s 170th Division, Generalleutnant Otto Röttig’s 198th Division and the 11th Schützenbrigade supported by the 527 aircraft of General Hans Geisler’s X Fliegerkorps.
Finally believing that a German invasion was imminent, the Danish forces were placed on full alert at 13.30 on 8 April.
At 04.00 on 9 April, the German ambassador to Denmark, Cécil von Renthe-Fink, called the Danish foreign minister, Peter Munch, and requested a meeting with him. When the two men met 20 minutes later, Renthe-Fink declared that German troops were then moving in to occupy Denmark to protect the country from Franco-British attack. The German ambassador demanded that Danish resistance cease immediately and that contact be made between Danish authorities and the German armed forces. If the demands were not met, the Luftwaffe would bomb the capital, Copenhagen.
As the German demands were communicated, the first German advances had already been made, with forces landing by ferry in Gedser at 03.55 and moving north. German Fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) units had made unopposed landings and taken two airfields at Aalborg, the Storstrøm bridge and the fortress of Masnedø, the last being the first recorded attack in the world made by paratroopers.
The German land forces crossed the border into Denmark at Sæd, Rens, Padborg and Krusaa at 04.15 on 9 April. With the Kriegsmarine simultaneously landing troops at Lillebælt, the Danish troops along the border were cut off at the beginning of the fighting. The alarm was sounded at 04.17, and the first Danish troops were dispatched at 04.35.
On the eastern flank of the land assault, the first clash between the Danes and Germans occurred at Lundtoftbjerg, where a Danish anti-tank platoon armed with two 20-mm guns and a light machine gun had taken up positions covering the road. A German column appeared at 04.50, and the 20-mm cannon opened fire on the armoured cars while the machine gun took aim at the motorcyclists. A fire started in a nearby barn, filling the air with smoke and hindering the German advance. Eventually the anti-tank platoon was forced to withdraw to Aabenraa. About 0.9 mile (1.5 km) to the north, a Danish bicycle platoon prepared the defence of a railway bridge, but fire from the armoured cars and strafing fighter aircraft forced them to retreat, and a third of the men were captured. The Germans lost two armoured cars and three motorcycles, while the Danes suffered one dead and one wounded.
Another German column reached Hokkerup just to the east of Lundtoftbjerg at 05.30, and here ran into a roadblock constructed of farm equipment, set up only 20 minutes earlier by 34 Danish soldiers. The Danes knocked out the three leading armoured cars, forcing the Germans to pull back. The Germans set up a 37-mm gun some 330 yards (300 m) away, but it managed to fire only one round before being knocked out by two rounds from a 20-mm gun. There followed hand-to-hand combat in which one Dane was killed and three wounded, one of them fatally. With air support, the 100 or so Germans managed to surround and capture the Danish unit at 06.15.
A short distance to the north of Lundtoftbjerg, one motorcycle and two bicycle platoons of Danish troops arrived at Bjergskov at around 05.00. Under the command of Oberstløjtnant S. E. Clausen, the motorcycle troops set up a roadblock with two 20-mm guns as the other platoons spread out in the woods. A German column arrived at 06.30, and its tanks pushed aide the roadblock and opened fire. One gun returned fire until a tank drove over it. The gunner attempted to run for cover in the woods but was killed when a German aeroplane strafed the road. The second gun malfunctioned. The Danes tried to escape on their motorcycles, but the Germans surrounded them with armoured vehicles and took them prisoner. Another four Danish soldiers were wounded, while one German armoured car was damaged.
In an encounter between Danish and German forces at Bredevad, 6 miles (10 km) to the north of the border in the central part of the 'front', a German vanguard of four armoured cars approached the village. The Danes arrived at 06.30 and, without time to build a roadblock, took cover in a garden. A machine gun and a 20-mm cannon, manned by one and a half platoons, fired warning shots. When the Germans ignored this, the Danes opened fire at a range of 330 yards (300 m), knocking out the leading armoured car and killing its driver. There followed a short skirmish in which the Danes knocked out three more German armoured cars and suffered four casualties. At 07.15 a reinforcing German motorised column arrived from Tinglev, cutting off the Danes and forcing them to surrender. Two Danes were killed and five were wounded.
A cyclist platoon from Korskro arrived at Rabsted at 06.45. While lying in wait, they managed to capture two German despatch riders. Learning from them that Bredevad had been taken, theDanes retreated to the north-east via secondary roads.
As the Danish forces at Søgaard army camp prepared to pull back northward to Vejle, where the main force of the 2nd (Jutland) Division was preparing, a short skirmish occurred at Aabenraa as the anti-tank platoon from Lundtoftbjerg attacked 15 or so pursuing German vehicles. After disabling a German tank, the rearguard pulled back to Knivsberg, where it rendezvoused with a bicycle platoon from Stubbæk Skov, which had suffered one killed and three wounded by German aircraft. The Danish commanding officer ordered these troops to northern Haderslev. This latter had a garrison of 225 men of the 2nd (Jutland) Division under the command of Oberst A. Hartz, which defended both the barracks in the town and the road leading to it. Troops in the town mobilised at 07.00 on hearing instructions broadcast from police loudspeaker vans and, bolstered by retreating units, some 400 Danes defended the town. Three roadblocks were set up: one with dumping wagons and the other two with spare lumber.
At about 07.50, on the southern outskirts of Haderslev, a Danish 37-mm anti-tank gun with a crew of five fired on the approaching armour. Two German tanks lined up side-by-side and opened fire. The Danes landed all three of their shots. one of them on a tank’s tracks, but two of the gun crew were killed and the rest wounded as the Germans responded. One tank then drove over the gun. Around the curve on Sønderbro Street, two 20-mm cannon and a machine gun put up resistance at the wagon roadblock. The Germans laid down heavy fire, killing one Danish soldier and wounding two others, but the Germans were effectively pinned. The fighting continued for 10 minutes until the Danish order to surrender was received from Copenhagen by telephone. The Germans were then allowed to proceed into Haderslev, but the Danish garrison stationed there had not received the order to surrender and fired on them. Two unsuspecting German tanks and a motorcycle moved toward the barracks, which was defended by the anti-tank unit from Lundtoftbjerg. This opened fire, killing the motorcyclist and blowing the tracks off one tank, which then crashed into a house. The Danish garrison capitulated at 08.15 when the order to surrender finally came through. One Danish soldier had been killed while defending the barracks, and three civilians had been killed in the crossfire.
On the western end of the front in Jutland, the first fighting took place against the Tønder garrison, whose men were despatched to Abild and Sølsted. At Abild, a Danish 20-mm gun crew knocked out two German armoured cars of Oberst Hans Öller’s 11th Infanterieregiment (mot.) before pulling back. At Sølsted, a Danish anti-tank unit of fewer than 50 men set up a defensive position with a 20-mm gun on a road. When a force of the 11th Infanterierregiment (mot.) approached, the Danes opened fire as soon as the first German armoured car came within range: the vehicle was knocked out and ended in a ditch, while the next continued forward, but pulled back after being hit. This machine was hit several more times, but was able to fire back. German infantry attempted twice to outflank the Danish positions, but both attempts were met with heavy fire and they became bogged down. Seeing that his attack was failing, Öller radioed for support and three Henschel Hs 126 aircraft soon appeared, and bombed and strafed the Danish force until the Danish commander ordered his troops to fall back to Bredebo. In spite of this, no Danish casualties were reported. When the men of the Tønder garrison reached Bredebro, the order to capitulate had been issued and the fighting was over.
At about 05.00, history’s first paratrooper attack took place when 96 Fallschirmjäger jumped from nine Junkers Ju 52/3m transport aircraft to secure the Storstrøm bridge connecting the islands of Falster with Sjælland (Zealand) and the coastal fortress on Masnedø island. The German troops expected heavy fighting around the fortress, but much to their surprise, inside it were found only two privates and one officer. The landing opened the way for a battalion of Röttig’s 198th Division to advance on Copenhagen by land.
Two hours later, a platoon of paratroopers from the 4/1st Fallschirmjägerregiment landed at Aalborg, the main city of northern Jutland: the airfield at Aalborg was to be used as a stepping stone for the invasion of Norway. The Fallschirmjägers encountered no resistance, and in less than an hour German aircraft were landing there in huge numbers. More than 200 landings and takeoffs were recorded on the first day, most of them transporting troops and fuel to Fornebu airport in Norway.
In Esbjerg, a 75mm anti-aircraft gun damaged a German aeroplane.
In order to seize the connections between Jutland and Zealand, the Kriegsmarine landed more men of the 198th Division at Funen.
At the same time, troops supported by the pre-dreadnought battleship Schleswig-Holstein were landed in Korsør and Nyborg, cutting connections between Funen and Zealand. Meeting no resistance, the troops in Korsør reached Copenhagen at about 12.00.
At 03.55, the Germans made a surprise attack on Gedser, Denmark’s southernmost city. They made use of the local ferry from Warnemünde, and as the ferry docked the embarked troops swarmed ashore and moved inland, cutting telephone wires as they did so. Armour and motorcycles followed, and rapidly advanced to the and captured the Storstrøm bridge together with the paratroopers.
To secure Denmark’s quick surrender, the capture of the capital city was considered essential. At 04.20 the minelayer Hansestadt Danzig, escorted by the icebreaker Stettin and two patrol boats, entered Copenhagen harbour with battle flags flying. The harbour was covered by the coastal guns of Fort Middelgrund. The newly appointed Danish commander ordered a warning shot to be fired but, only recently arrived, the relevant recruits could not operate the gun. After landing a battalion of the 198th Division at 05.18, German forces captured the 70-strong garrison of the citadel, the headquarters of the Danish army, without a shot fired. Their next target was Amalienborg Palace, the residence of the Danish royal family.
When the German infantrymen arrived at Amalienborg, they were met with determined opposition from the training company of the King’s Royal Guard, which repulsed the initial attack and suffered three wounded. This gave King Christian X and his ministers time to confer with Generalløjtnant William W. Prior, the Danish commander-in-chief. During the discussion, several formations of Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17 bombers from Oberst Martin Fiebig’s Kampfgeschwader 4 roared over the city dropping propaganda leaflets. Faced with the explicit threat of the bombing of Copenhagen’s civilian population, all but Prior favoured surrender. The argument for surrender was that Denmark’s military position was impossible. Its small land area and low population made it unfeasible to hold out against Germany for any sustained period, and Denmark’s flat terrain would be easily overrun by German armour, this being especially true of Jutland, which was exposed to an armoured advance from Schleswig-Holstein to the south. Unlike Norway, Denmark possesses no mountain ranges where an extended resistance could be mounted. On the other hand, Denmark had significant water obstacles between the German armour and Copenhagen, a long coast, and a significant navy that could expect help from the UK and France. A third option, namely the government going into exile as the Czechoslovak government had done, was not chosen. The Danish government capitulated at 08.34 in exchange for retaining political independence in domestic matters.
The whole of the four-squadron Danish army air service was based at Værløse near Copenhagen. In anticipation of the German invasion, the service had prepared a dispersal to airfields around the country, but this had not been accomplished by 05.25 when Luftwaffe aircraft appeared over the air base. As the German aircraft reached Værløse, one Fokker C.V-E reconnaissance aeroplane was taking off, but was shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engined heavy fighter, both members of it crew being killed. The Bf 110 warplanes then strafed the base under heavy anti-aircraft fire: they destroyed 11 aircraft and badly damaged another 14 as these taxied to take-off, wiping out most of the Danish army air service in one action. The Danish navy air service remained at its bases and escaped damage.
While most of the Danish Army followed the order to surrender, one unit refused. Oberst Helge Bennike, commander of the 4th Regiment at Roskilde, believed that the order to surrender had been forced on the government by the Germans and that Sweden had also been attacked. Bennike and his unit boarded the ferry in Elsinore, reached Sweden and went into exile. When the misunderstanding was later explained, most of the Danish soldiers stayed in Sweden and became the core of the Danish brigade in Sweden during 1943.
For propaganda purposes, the German high command attempted to present the invasion of Denmark as peaceful so that it would be believed that Denmark had offered no resistance.
In a post-war monograph it was stated that in the archives of the Danish weapons manufacturer DISA, it is claimed that 203 German soldiers had been killed in Jutland. The report was made in co-operation with the German Waffenamt, and this gives the account a measure of weight. This number is also backed by testimonies from veterans and eyewitnesses, including a veteran who, after the battle was over, was told by the Germans that they had lost 18 men while his unit had only suffered two casualties. The number is considered by the majority of historians to be an exaggeration.
In 2015, the Journal of Military History (Krigshistorisk Tidsskrift) published an article in which a military correspondent summarised key points in the German invasion. He argued that actual German losses were just two or three men killed and between 25 and 30 wounded, and that the Danish military suffered a confirmed 16 dead and 20 wounded. Casualties among the civil resistance is not certain, but are given as 10 dead and three wounded. Denmark suffered 49 casualties (26 killed and 23 wounded). Other than the casualties at the front, a few aircraft were shot down or crashed, a tug sank after a collision with a German vessel in the Great Belt and the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein was temporarily grounded to the west of Agersø.
The probable casualties of this short campaign are therefore uncertain, but a likely estimate is German losses of two men taken prisoner, four tanks damaged, 12 armoured cars destroyed or damaged, one aeroplane damaged, one tug sunk and one battleship grounded, and Danish losses of 16 men killed, 20 men wounded, 12 aircraft destroyed and 14 aircraft damaged.
The Danish capitulation within six hours paved the war for a uniquely lenient occupation, as the Germans were content to leave the fellow 'Aryan' Danes to manage their own affairs. Danish soldiers were disarmed during the afternoon of 9 April, and those taken prisoner were allowed to return to their units. On the following day, the island of Bornholm was occupied without incident. The Danish army was severely reduced after the invasion, with only a 3,300-man Life Guard unit allowed to remain. Many Danish merchant ships were not in Danish waters at the time of the sudden and rapid German invasion, and about 240 of these ships were incorporated into the Allied merchant navy while ships still in Danish ports served the Germans in transporting iron ore. A handful of Danish soldiers and pilots escaped to the UK either directly by aeroplane or via neutral Sweden, most of those who escaped serving in the RAF or Special Operations Executive.
In a pre-emptive move designed to forestall any German seizure, on 12 April British forces occupied the Færoe islands group, which was then a Danish county. The Danish governor and the Løgting (Færoese parliament) continued to govern the islands for the duration of the war.
As noted above, the invasion of Norway was entrusted to Gruppe XXI, whose main formations were Generalmajor Hermann Tittel’s 69th Division, Generalmajor Erwin Engelbrecht’s 163rd Division, Generalmajor Kurt Woytasch’s 181st Division, Generalmajor Richard Pellengahr’s 196th Division and Generalmajor Max Horn’s 214th Division, as well as two regiments of the 3rd Gebirgsdivision.
It had been clear from the start that the best way to undertake the northern part of 'Weserübung' was to take key points round Norway’s long coast with sea-landed forces, supported in key areas by airborne troops who would land to secure airfields (Fornebu and Sola outside Oslo and Stavanger respectively) and the like, and then rush in reinforcements to deal with Norwegian opposition before it could be rallied under effective leadership. The primary threat was the Royal Navy, whose overwhelming matériel superiority over the German navy threatened the destruction of the assault forces even before they reached Norway.
The invasion of Norway was therefore based on five primary groups and one secondary group, each tasked with the capture of a specific port through which reinforcements could be poured, and within this overall concept 'Weserübung' was divided into the three-part 'Weserübung Süd' to take Oslo, Kristiansand and Bergen in the 'Oldenburg', 'Karlshafen' and 'Bremen' sub-operations, and the two-part 'Weserübung Nord' to take Trondheim and Narvik in the 'Wildente' and 'Naumburg' sub-operations.
In 'Weserübung Nord', the battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, under the command of Vizeadmiral Günther Lütjens, provided distant cover for Gruppe I (destroyers Georg Thiele, Wilhelm Heidkamp, Hans Lüdemann, Hermann Künne, Diether von Roeder, Anton Schmitt, Wolfgang Zenker, Bernd von Arnim, Erich Giese and Erich Koellner) under the command of Kapitän Friedrich Bonte and delivering 2,000 men of the 139th Gebirgsjägerregiment under Dietl to Narvik; and Gruppe II (heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and destroyers Paul Jacobi, Bruno Heinemann, Theodor Riedel and Friedrich Eckoldt) under the command of Kapitän Hellmuth Heye and conveying 1,700 men of the 138th Gebirgsjägerregiment to Trondheim.
In 'Weserübung Süd', Gruppe III (light cruisers Köln and Königsberg, gunnery training ship Bremse, transport Karl Peters, three torpedo boats and five S-boote) under the command of Konteradmiral Hubert Schmundt carried 1,900 men of the 69th Division to Bergen; Gruppe IV (light cruiser Karlsruhe, three torpedo boats and seven S-boote) under the command of Kapitän Friedrich Rieve ferried 1,100 men of the 163rd Division's 310th Regiment to Kristiansand; Gruppe V (heavy cruiser Blücher, 'pocket battleship' Lützow, light cruiser Emden, three torpedo boats and eight minesweepers) under the command of Konteradmiral Oskar Kummetz transported 2,000 men of the 163rd Division to Oslo; additionally, in a smaller sub-operation four minesweepers under the command of Korvettenkapitän Kurt Thoma were Gruppe VI for the delivery of 150 troops to Egersund.
Additionally, the battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, under the command of Vizeadmiral Günther Lütjens, provided distant cover and in the process were to escort Gruppe I and Gruppe II as these latter travelled together toward the most northern targets. The navy thus contributed virtually all of its surface fleet, and these warships were supplemented by some 41 transport vessels for the delivery of additional troops, weapons, equipment and fuel. Naval command was to be exercised by Generaladmiral Alfred Saalwächter, heading the Marinegruppenkommando West.
Against Denmark, two motorised brigades would capture bridges and troops; paratroopers would capture Aalborg airfield in the north; and heavy fighters of the Luftwaffe would destroy the Danish aircraft on the ground. While there were also several naval task groups organised for this invasion, none of them contained any large ships. Unescorted troopships would transport in soldiers to capture the Danish royal family and high command in Copenhagen.
The Germans hoped they could avoid armed confrontation with the native populations in both countries, and German troops were instructed to fire only if fired upon.
In overall terms, the German forces used in the campaign were some 100,000 men in seven divisions and one Fallschirmjäger battalion, as well as Panzer and artillery units, and most of the Kriegsmarine’s major warships were also deployed to the campaign. The Luftwaffe’s X Fliegerkorps of Generaloberst Erhard Milch’s Luftflotte V provided air support with 290 level bombers, 40 dive-bombers, 100 twin- and single-engined fighters, 70 reconnaissance aircraft and, perhaps most important of all, some 500 Junkers Ju 52/3m transport aircraft for supply and the delivery of the small airborne forces involved in the operation.
The Norwegian armed forces fielded around 55,000 combatants including 19,000 soldiers, mainly in six infantry divisions. The Allied expeditionary force that later arrived numbered around 38,000 men. The Norwegian army had some 60,000 trained troops, with 3,750 troops per regiment. However, as a result of the Germans' exploitation of surprise and speed, only about 52,000 Norwegian soldiers saw combat.
The Norwegian order of battle comprised the Royal Guards Battalion based in Oslo and Elverum and the only unit in southern Norway to have received proper training during the inter-war years; Generalmajor Carl Johan Erichsen’s 1st Division headquartered in Halden and controlling three infantry regiments; Generalmajor Jacob Hvinden Haug’s 2nd Division headquartered in Oslo and controlling three infantry regiments; Generalmajor Einar Liljedahl’s 3rd Division headquarters in Kristiansand and controlling three infantry regiments; Generalmajor William Steffens’s 4th Division headquartered in Bergen and controlling three infantry regiments; Generalmajor Jacob Ager Laurantzon’s 5th Division headquartered in Trondheim and controlling three infantry regiments; and Generalmajor Carl Gustav Fleischer’s 6th Division headquartered in Harstad and controlling three infantry regiments. This last formation was better prepared for war than any other Norwegian formation as it had been mobilised and kept on duty during the 'winter war'. During the campaign that was now to unfold, the 6th Division formed two light infantry brigades: the 6th Brigade was initially commanded by Oberst Kristian Løken and, from 9 May, Oberstløitnant Ole Berg, and the 7th Brigade commanded by Oberst Wilhelm Faye.
There were a number of other Norwegian army units which were organised into divisions. These included three dragoon regiments, three artillery regiments, three mountain artillery battalions, the Alta Battalion based at Altagård in Alta, and the Varanger Battalion based in Kirkenes with training grounds at Nyborgmoen near Varangerbotn.
At the start of the German invasion, the Norwegian army air service comprised 11 Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters, of which seven were operational; three Armstrong Whitworth Scimitar biplane fighters, of which none was operational; four Caproni Ca.310 monoplane reconnaissance bombers, of which three were operational; 25 Fokker C.V-D biplane reconnaissance bombers, of which 24 were operational; 16 Fokker C.V-E biplane reconnaissance bombers, of which 16 were operational; and six Curtiss Hawk monoplane fighters, all of which were still being assembled.
Of these aircraft, all but two were shot down, destroyed or captured by the Germans: the exceptions were two C.V machines that were flown to Finland on 8 June as the planned basis of a Finland-based Norwegian training unit but in fact taken on strength by Finland.
The Norwegian navy during the campaign comprised two 'Eidsvold' class coast-defence ships, three 'Draug' and four 'Sleipner' class destroyers as well as two incomplete units of this latter class; two five 'Vale', two 'Gor', two 'Glommen' class and two one-off minelayers; two 'Otra' class and six converted '2nd Class' torpedo boat minesweepers; three 'A class' and six 'B class' submarines; three 'Trygg', six '1st Class' and eight '2nd 'Class' torpedo boats; and 58 miscellaneous patrol boats.
The Norwegian navy air service comprised six Heinkel He 115 seaplane reconnaissance torpedo bombers, of which all were operational; one Junkers Ju 52 seaplane bomber, which was not operational; 20 Marinens Flyvebaatfabrikk M.F.11 biplane reconnaissance seaplanes, of which 17 were operational; and six Douglas DT-2B/C biplane torpedo bombers, of which two were operational. Of these aircraft, four Heinkel He 115 machines were evacuated to the UK, and one other He 115 and three M.F.11 machines were flown to Finland and used by the Finnish air force.
The initial movements for the German invasion began on 3 April, when covert supply vessels began to depart German ports in advance of the main forces. The Allies initiated their plans on the following day, when 16 Allied submarines were ordered to the Skagerrak and Kattegat to serve as a screen and provide advance warning for any German response to 'Wilfred', which was launched the following day when Vice Admiral W. J. Whitworth in Renown set out from Scapa Flow for the Vestfjorden with 12 destroyers.
On 7 April, bad weather began to develop in the region, blanketing the area with thick fog and causing rough seas, making progress difficult. Renown's force was soon caught in a heavy snowstorm, and Glowworm, one of the escorting destroyers, had to drop out of formation to search for a man swept overboard. The weather aided the Germans, however, for it provided a screen for their naval groupings, and in the early morning they despatched Gruppe I and Gruppe II, which had to make the longest passages.
Although the weather made reconnaissance difficult, the two German groups were discovered 110 miles (170 km) to the south of the Naze (the southernmost part of Norway) soon after 08.00 by patrolling RAF aircraft and reported as one cruiser and six destroyers. A bomber forces sent to attack the German ships found them 78 miles (125 km) farther to the north than their initially reported position. No damage was done during the attack, but the German group’s strength was reassessed as being one battle-cruiser, two cruisers and 10 destroyers. Because of a strict enforcement of radio silence, the bombers were not able to report this until 17.30.
Learning of the German movement, the Admiralty came to the conclusion that the Germans were attempting to break the blockade that the Allies had placed on Germany and use their fleet to disrupt Atlantic trade routes. Admiral Sir Charles Forbes, commander-in-chief of the Home Fleet, was notified of this and set out to intercept the German warships at 20.15.
With both sides unaware of the magnitude of the situation, operations proceeded as planned. Renown arrived at the Vestfjord late that night and maintained position near the entrance while the minelaying destroyers proceeded to their task. Meanwhile, the Germans launched the remainder of their invasion force. The first direct contact between the two sides occurred the next morning without either side’s intention.
Glowworm, on her way to rejoin Renown, chanced on Bernd von Arnim and then Hans Lüdemann in the heavy fog at about 08.00 on 8 April. The German destroyers fell back and signalled for help. The request was soon answered by Admiral Hipper, whose guns quickly crippled Glowworm, which nonetheless managed to rammed Admiral Hipper, causing major damage was done to the German heavy cruiser’s starboard side, and Glowworm was destroyed by a close-range salvo immediately after this. During the fight Glowworm had broken radio silence and informed the Admiralty of her situation. She was not able to complete her transmission, however, and all that the Admiralty knew was that Glowworm had been confronted by a large German ship, that fire had been exchanged, and that contact with the destroyer could not be re-established. In response, the Admiralty ordered Renown and her single remaining destroyer escort (the other two had gone to friendly ports for fuel), to abandon her post at the Vestfjord and make for Glowworm's last known location. At 10.45, the remaining eight destroyers of the minelaying force were ordered to join them as well.
On the morning of 8 April, the Free Polish submarine Orzeł confronted and sank the clandestine German troop transport Rio de Janeiro off the southern Norwegian port of Lillesand. Discovered among the wreckage were uniformed German soldiers and various military supplies. Although Orzeł reported the incident to the Admiralty, the latter was too concerned by the situation with Glowworm and the assumed German break-out to give it much thought and did not forward the information. Many of the German soldiers from the wreck were rescued by Norwegian fishing boats and the destroyer Odin. On interrogation, the survivors disclosed that they were assigned to protect Bergen from the Allies. This information was passed to Oslo, where the Norwegian parliament ignored the implications of the sinking as it was more concerned by the 'Wilfred' mining operation off the Norwegian coast.
At 14.00, the Admiralty received word that aerial reconnaissance had located a group of German ships a considerable distance to the west-north-west of Trondheim, bearing west. This reinforced the notion that the Germans were indeed attempting a break-out, and the Home Fleet accordingly changed course from north-east to north-west in an effort to effect an interception. Moreover, Churchill cancelled 'R4' and ordered the four cruisers carrying the troops and their supplies to disembark their cargoes and join the Home Fleet. In fact, the German ships were those of Gruppe II circling as they delayed in order to approach their destination of Trondheim at the designated time.
After learning of numerous sightings of German ships south of Norway, Forbes began during that night to doubt the validity of the break-out idea, and ordered the Home Fleet to head south toward the Skagerrak. He also ordered the battle-cruiser Repulse, together with another cruiser and a few destroyers, to head north and join Renown.
At 23.00, as Forbes was just learning of the incident with Orzeł, Gruppe V was confronted by the Norwegian patrol vessel Pol III at the entrance to the Oslofjord. The Norwegian vessel quickly sent an alarm to the coastal batteries on Rauøy island and opened fire on the torpedo boat Albatros with her single 76-mm (3-in) gun shortly before colliding with the German vessel. Albatros and two of her companions responded with anti-aircraft fire, killing the Norwegian captain and setting Pol III on fire. The ships of Gruppe V then continued into the Oslofjord and cleared the outer batteries without incident. Several of the smaller German ships then broke off in order to capture bypassed fortifications, as well as Horten.
Reports of this activity soon reached Oslo, leading to a midnight session of the Norwegian cabinet. At this meeting, the cabinet issued orders for the mobilisation of four of the Norwegian army’s six field brigades. The members of the cabinet had thus failed to understand that the partial mobilisation they had ordered would, according to current regulations, be carried out in secret and without public declaration: the troops would receive their mobilisation orders by post. The only member of the cabinet with in-depth knowledge of the mobilisation system was the defence minister, Birger Ljungberg, who did not explain the procedure to his colleagues and was later castigated for this oversight, which led to unnecessary delays in the Norwegian mobilisation. Before the cabinet meeting, Ljungberg had dismissed repeated demands by Oberst Rasmus Hatledal, the chief of the general staff, for a total and immediate mobilisation. Hatledal had approached Ljungberg on 5, 6 and 8 April with requests for the defence minister to recommend that the cabinet issue orders for mobilisation. The issue had been discussed during the evening of 8 April, after Generalmajor Kristian Laake, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, had joined the calls for a mobilisation. At that time the mobilisation had been limited to two field battalions in Østfold, further delaying the larger-scale call-up of troops. When Laake’s call for mobilisation was finally accepted at some time between 03.30 to 04.00 on 9 April, Laake and Ljungberg both assumed that the cabinet knew that it was in fact issuing a partial and silent mobilisation. The poor communication between the Norwegian civilian government and the armed forces caused very considerable confusion in the early days of the German invasion.
At much the same time, farther to the north, Renown was heading back to the Vestfjord after reaching Glowworm's last known location and finding nothing. Heavy seas had caused Whitworth to steam farther to the north than normal and had separated him from his destroyers when he encountered Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Renown engaged the two battle-cruisers off the islands of the Lofoten archipelago, and in the course of a short engagement Renown scored several hits on the German warships, which turned away to the north. Renown attempted to pursue, but the German warships used their superior speed to escape.
In the Ofotfjord leading to Narvik, the 10 destroyers of the German Gruppe I made their approach. With Renown and her destroyers already diverted to investigate the Glowworm incident, there were no British warships to check the German destroyers, which therefore entered the area unopposed. By the time they had reached the inner area near Narvik, most of the destroyers had detached from the main formation to capture the outer batteries of the Ofotfjord, leaving only three to contend with Eidsvold and Norge, the two old Norwegian coast-defence ships standing guard in Narvik harbour. Although antiquated, the two Norwegian ships were quite capable of taking on the much more lightly armed and armoured destroyers. After a quick parley with the captain of Eidsvold, Kommandørkaptein Odd Isaachsen Willoch, the German ships opened fire on the ship, sinking her after hitting her with three torpedoes. Norge entered into battle shortly after this and began to fire on the destroyers, but her gunners were inexperienced and scored no hits on the Germans ships before being sunk by a salvo of torpedoes.
Following the sinking of Eidsvold and Norge, the commander of Narvik, Oberst Konrad Sundlo, surrendered the land forces in the town without a fight.
At Trondheim, Gruppe II also faced only minor resistance to the landings. In the Trondheimsfjord, Admiral Hipper engaged the Norwegian defensive batteries while her destroyers sped past them at 25 kt. A well-placed shot by Admiral Hipper severed the power cables for the searchlights and rendered the guns ineffective, and only one destroyer received a hit during the landing.
At Bergen, the Norwegian defences offered stiffer resistance to the approach of Gruppe III's ships, and the light cruiser Königsberg and the artillery training ship Bremse sustained damage, the former more seriously. The lack of working lights reduced the effectiveness of the guns, however, and the landing ships were able to dock without significant opposition. The fortifications were surrendered soon after this as Luftwaffe units arrived.
The fortifications at Kristiansand put up a more resolute fight, twice repulsing the landing and damaging the light cruiser Karlsruhe, nearly causing her to run aground. Confusion soon emerged, however, when the Norwegians received the order not to fire on British and French ships and the Germans began to use Norwegian codes that they had captured at Horten. The Germans also used this opportunity thus offered to reach the harbour quickly and unload their troops, capturing the town by 11.00.
While most of Gruppe IV was engaged at Kristiansand, the torpedo boat Greif captured Arendal without opposition. The main objective at Arendal was the Norwegian end of the underwater telegraph cable to the UK.
Gruppe V met the most serious resistance offered by the Norwegians at the inner defensive fortifications of the Oslofjord, in the vicinity of Drøbak. The heavy cruiser Blücher, leading the group, approached the forts assuming that they would be taken by surprise and not respond in time, as had been the case with those in the outer fjord. It was not until the cruiser was at point blank range that the Oscarsborg fortress opened fire, hitting with every shell, and within minutes Blücher had been crippled and was burning heavily before being sunk by a salvo of antiquated, 40-year-old torpedoes launched from land-based tubes. Blücher had been carrying many of the administrative personnel intended both for the occupation of Norway and also for the headquarters of the army division assigned to seize Oslo. The heavy cruiser Lützow, also damaged in the attack and believing that Blücher had entered a minefield, withdrew with Gruppe V some 12 miles (19 km) to the south to Sonsbukten, where she unloaded her troops. This distance delayed the arrival of the main German invasion force for Oslo by more than 24 hours, although the Norwegian capital was then still taken less than 12 hours after the loss of Blücher by troops flown into Fornebu airport near the city.
The delay provided time for the Norwegian royal family and the parliament, together with the national treasury, to flee the capital and continue the fighting against the invasion force.
Fornebu airport was initially to have been secured by paratroopers one hour before the first troops were flown in, but the initial force became lost in the fog and did not arrive. Even so, the airfield was not strongly defended and the German soldiers who did arrive captured it promptly. The Norwegian army air service’s Jagevingen fighter wing based at Fornebu airport resisted with its Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters until its ammunition was exhausted, and then flew to whatever secondary airfields were available. The wing’s ground personnel also ran out of ammunition for their anti-aircraft machine guns as well: in the general confusion and the concentration on readying the fighters for action, no one had remembered or had he opportunity to issue small arms ammunition for the personal weapons of the ground personnel. Resistance at Fornebu airport thus came to a swift end, and the only German casualty was a single Junkers Ju 52/3m. A Norwegian counterattack effort was half-hearted and failed, and when this became apparent Oslo was declared an open city and soon fully surrendered.
There was no significant opposition to the Gruppe VI forces at Egersund and the paratroopers at Stavanger, and these were quickly captured.
The so-called Battle of Midtskogen was very small, but saved the Norwegian royal family. As the German invasion began, the Norwegian government fled to nearby Hamar. A group of Norwegian royal guardsmen and a small number of other soldiers, possibly from the 5th Regiment in nearby Elverum, took position in Midtskogen and attempted to stop or slow the Germans so that the evacuation of the royal family could be completed. The battle was fought at Midtskogen farm some 3.1 miles (5 km) to the west of the town of Elverum at the mouth of the Østerdalen valley in southern Norway. The German troops were attempting to capture the king and his cabinet, thereby forcing Norway into submission. After a short battle, the German force withdrew, having lost its commander in the fighting.
The delay in the German seizure of Oslo had provided the royal family and members of government time to flee to Hamar, and later to Elverum. A small party of German paratroopers, under the command of the military attaché, Hauptmann Eberhard Spiller, was sent after them in commandeered Norwegian civilian vehicles. The Norwegian defenders were a mixed group of hastily mustered volunteers and professional soldiers. About 20 to 30 royal guards, from the 1st Guard Company, were backed by volunteers from Terningmoen military camp and a large group of members from local rifle clubs, and armed largely with bolt-action rifles as well as two machine guns. The German party comprised 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 vastly superior in terms of training and firepower, the latter mostly modern sub-machine guns, light machine guns and grenades.
The Norwegians planned was to create a 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. At the latter they planned to stop the German convoy, forcing the Germans to continue on foot through the deep snow, before retreating to Sagstuen where they would hold off the attackers. The two machine guns were to focus their fire on the block, while the riflemen were to engage the Germans from the flanks.
The block at Midtskogen was created with stopped civilian cars, some forced off the road and others wedged between and behind them. As a result of the unusually heavy traffic on that night, the blockade became more than 110 yards (100 m) long.
At about 02.00 on 10 April, the German vehicles crashed into the Norwegian roadblock. Because of the length of the block, the Germans were stopped farther to the west than the Norwegians had originally planned. While the Norwegian flanking units were being redeployed, they came under heavy German fire. During the fire-fight that followed, 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 asa result of the distance between their deployment and the fire-fight. It was not until the Germans started moving ahead of the block that the machine guns could open fire. The, however, the Norwegians found that as a result of the cold their machine guns initially failed to fire. 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 fire-fight continued until 03.00, ending as each force pulled back.
The Norwegians regrouped at Sagstuen, where they were reinforced by units from the Norwegian military academy, while the Germans, with their commander badly wounded, retreated to Oslo. The casualties on both sides were relatively light. The Germans suffered five men killed in action and an unknown number wounded, and those of the Norwegians were three men wounded. one of them severely. The retreat of the German forces gave the Norwegian royal family and cabinet time to finish the Elverum Authorisation, which allowed the cabinet to assert, albeit on a temporary basis, absolute authority given that the Norwegian parliament was no longer able to convene in ordinary session. It also gave the royal family and the cabinet members the opportunity to escape farther from the invading forces.
On 11 April the nearby town of Elverum was subjected to heavy German bombing. While the action may have been small, it proved to be a major boost to Norwegian morale and resolve, which had been had hit by the early German successes.
As soon as information became available about the German landings at Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger, as well as the skirmishes in the Oslofjord, the British decided not to disperse their naval strength too thinly as the location of the two German battle-cruisers remained unknown, the Home Fleet chose to focus on nearby Bergen and despatched an attack force. RAF reconnaissance soon reported opposition stronger than had been anticipated, and this, along with the possibility that the Germans might now be in possession of the shore defences, caused the British to recall the force and instead use the fleet carrier Furious to launch torpedo bombers at the German ships. The attack was not delivered, however, as Luftwaffe bombers got in he first punch when they launched an assault of their own against the Home Fleet. This attack sank the destroyer Gurkha and then, when its anti-aircraft defences had been proved to be wholly inadequate, persuaded the Home Fleet to withdraw to the north. The German air superiority in the area led the British to decide that all southern regions must perforce be left to submarines and the RAF, while their surface vessels concentrated their efforts in the areas to the north.
In addition to the German landings in south and central Norway, the Admiralty was also informed via press reports that a single German destroyer was in Narvik. Despite this, it ordered the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, comprising mostly of ships previously employed as escorts for 'Wilfred', to engage. Under the command of Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee, this flotilla had already detached from Renown during her pursuit of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and been ordered to guard the entrance to the Vestfjord. At 16.00 on 9 April, the flotilla sent an officer ashore at Tranøy, some 50 miles (80 km) to the west of Narvik, and learned from members of the local population that the German force was four to six destroyers and a U-boat. Warburton-Lee reported the current situation to the Admiralty, concluding with his intention to attack the next day at 'dawn, high water', which would give him the element of surprise and protection against any mines. This decision was approved by the Admiralty in a message that night.
Although 10 German destroyers had originally taken Narvik, only five remained in the harbour, with three of the others moving north and the remaining two going west. Early in the following morning, Warburton-Lee led his flagship, Hardy, and four other destroyers into the Ofotfjord and at 04.30 arrived at Narvik harbour, which he entered along with Hunter and Havock but leaving Hotspur and Hostile to guard the entrance and watch the shore batteries. The fog and snow were extremely heavy, allowing Warburton-Lee’s force to approach undetected. When the British force arrived at the harbour itself, it found five German destroyers and opened fire, starting the 1st Battle of Narvik. Warburton-Lee’s ships made three passes on the German ships, being joined after the first by Hotspur and Hostile, and sank two of the German destroyers, disabled one more, and sank six tankers and supply ships. Bonte, the German local commander, was killed when his flagship Wilhelm Heidkamp was sunk.
Warburton-Lee had made an egregious error, however, when he decided to attack the German destroyers one last time. The German destroyers from the north and west converged on the British force at 06.00 as as the British were preparing for the final attack. Hardy was severely damaged and beached, and Warburton-Lee was killed. Hunter and [e[Hotspur were both severely damaged, and Hotspur ran into the sinking Hunter. Hostile and Havock had meanwhile surged ahead, but turned about and came back to aid the retreating Hotspur. The German destroyers were low on fuel and ammunition, allowing Hostile and Havock to return and aid the retreating Hotspur.
Soon after this 1st Battle of Narvik, two more German ships were sunk by the British forces. During the night of 9/10 April, the submarine Truant intercepted and sank the light cruiser Karlsruhe shortly after the latter had departed Kristiansand. On 10 April, aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm made a long-range attack from their base at RNAS Hatston in the Orkney islands group against German warships in Bergen harbour. The attack sank the disabled German light cruiser Königsberg.
On 10 April, Furious and the battleship Warspite joined the Home Fleet at sea, and another air attack was made against Trondheim with the object of sinking Admiral Hipper. The heavy cruiser had already escaped, however past the watch the British had established outside the port and was on her way back to Germany when the attack was launched. None of the remaining German destroyers or support ships was hit in the assault. The British had better luck in the south, where the submarine Spearfish torpedoed the heavy cruiser Lützow at midnight on 11 April, the severe damage she sustained putting the German ship out of commission for a year.
As it started to become clear that the warships of the German invasion fleet had slipped out of Norwegian waters, the Home Fleet continued northward toward Narvik in the hope of catching the destroyers remaining there. En route the British warships suffered further harassment from German bombers, forcing them to divert to the west away from the coast. By 12 April, they were in range of Narvik and an attack on Narvik by aircraft from Furious was attempted, but the results were disappointing and it was therefore decided to send in the battleship Warspite and a powerful escort force under Whitworth’s command.
On the morning of 13 April, Whitworth’s force entered the Vestfjord using Warspite's scouting seaplanes to guide the way. Aside from locating two of the German destroyers, the scouting aircraft also sank a U-boat. Warspite's supporting destroyers steamed 3 miles (4.8 km) ahead of the battleship, and were the first to engage the German Destrpyers that came out to meet them, thus starting the 2nd Battle of Narvik. Though neither side inflicted notable damage, the German ships were running short of ammunition and were gradually pushed back to the harbour. By that afternoon, most attempted to flee up the Rombaksfjord, the only exception being Hermann Künne, which beached herself as she made for the Herjangsfjord and was destroyed by Eskimo. Four British destroyers continued to chase the German ships up the Rombaksfjord, and Eskimo was soon damaged by the waiting opposition. However, the German situation was hopeless, as their destroyers had expended their ammunition and burned all their fuel oil, and by the time the remaining British ships arrived, the German crews had abandoned and scuttled their ships. By 18.30 the British ships were making their way out of the fjord, which was now cleared of German ships.
On land, the German invasion had for the most part achieved its goal of simultaneous assaults and caught the Norwegian forces off guard, a situation not aided by the Norwegian government’s order for only a partial mobilisation. Not all was lost for the Allies, though, as the repulse of Gruppe V in the Oslofjord gave a few additional hours of time which the Norwegians exploited to evacuate the royal family and the government to Hamar. With the government now fugitive, Quisling used the opportunity to take control of a radio broadcasting station and announce a coup with himself as the new prime minister. Quisling’s coup and his list of new ministers was announced at 19.32. The government created by the Quisling coup remained in place until 15 April, when an administrative council was appointed by the Norwegian supreme court to deal with the civilian administration of the occupied areas of Norway, and Quisling resigned.
The German forces attempted to kill or capture the 67-year-old king, who personally refused to accept the German surrender terms and stated he would abdicate the throne if the Norwegian government chose to surrender.
In the evening of 9 April, the Norwegian government moved to Elverum, believing Hamar to be insecure. All German demands were rejected and the 'Elverum authorisation' was passed by the members of the parliament, giving the cabinet wide-ranging powers to make decisions until the next time the parliament could be assembled under ordinary circumstances. However, the bleakness of the situation prompted them to agree to continued negotiations with the Germans, set for the following day. As a precaution Oberst Otto Ruge, the inspector general of the Norwegian infantry, established a roadblock about 70 miles (110 km) to the north of Oslo, and this occasioned the so-called Battle of Midtskogen, as noted above. On 10 April, the final negotiations between the Norwegians and Germans failed after the Norwegian delegates, led by Haakon VII, refused to accept the German demand for recognition of Quisling’s new government. The same day, panic broke out in German-occupied Oslo, following rumours of incoming British bombers. On this 'panic day', the city’s population fled to the surrounding country, not returning until late in the evening of the same day or later. Similar rumours led to mass panic in Egersund and other German-occupied coastal cities. The origins of the rumours have never been uncovered.
On 11 April, 19 German bombers attacked Elverum in a two-hour raid which left the town centre in ruins and 41 people dead. On the same day 11 Luftwaffe bombers also attacked the town of Nybergsund in an attempt to kill the king, the crown prince and the cabinet.
One of the final acts of the Norwegian authorities before they were dispersed was the promotion on 10 April of Ruge to the rank of generalmajor and his appointment as commander=in-chief of the Norwegian army with responsibility for overseeing the resistance to the German invasion. Ruge replaced the 65-year-old Generalmajor Kristian Laake, who had been strongly criticised for what was considered to be his passivity during the initial hours of the invasion, and elements in the Norwegian cabinet considered Laake to be a defeatist. Following the appointment of Ruge, the Norwegian attitude of determined resistance became clear, with orders issued to stop the German advance. With the Germans in control of the largest cities, ports and airfields, as well as most of the arms depots and communication networks, repulsing them outright would be impossible, so Ruge decided instead that his only chance lay in playing for time, stalling the Germans until British and French reinforcements could arrive.
On 11 April, after receiving reinforcements in Oslo, Falkenhorst’s land offensive got under way with the object of linking Germany’s scattered forces before the Norwegians could mobilise effectively or any major Allied intervention could take place. His first task was to secure the Oslofjord area, then to use the 196th Division and 163rd Division to establish contact with the forces at Trondheim.
As the nature of the German invasion became apparent to the British, they began to make preparations for their response. Dissension among the various branches of the military and government was strong, however, as the army, after conferring with Ruge, wished to assault Trondheim in central Norway while Churchill insisted on reclaiming Narvik. In a compromise solution all too typical of British undertakings at this time, it was decided to send troops to both locations, and Admiral the Lord Cork and Orrery was appointed to overall command of the Allied operations.
After Ruge’s appointment as commander-in-chief on 10 April, the strategy adopted by the Norwegians was to fight delaying actions against the Germans advancing northward from Oslo to link up with the force landed in Trondheim. The main aim of the Norwegian effort in eastern Norway was to give the Allies enough time to recapture Trondheim, and start a counter-offensive against the German main force in the Oslo area. The region surrounding the Oslofjord was defended by Erichsen’s 1st Division, while the rest of the region was covered by Haug’s 2nd Division. Prevented from mobilisation in any orderly fashion, improvised Norwegian units were now created and sent into action against the Germans. Several of the units facing the German advance were led by officers especially selected by Ruge to replace commanders who had failed to show sufficient initiative and aggression in the early days of the campaign. The German offensive aimed at linking their forces in Oslo and Trondheim began on 14 April, with an advance to the north from Oslo toward the Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen valleys. Hønefoss was the first town to fall to the German advance. To the north of Hønefoss the Germans began meeting Norwegian resistance, which took the form first of delaying actions and later of units fighting organised defensive actions. During intense fighting with heavy casualties on each side, men of the 6th Infantry Regiment blunted the German advance at the village of Haugsbygd on 15 April, and it was only on the following day that the Germans broke through the Norwegian line at Haugsbygd after employing tanks for the first time in Norway. Lacking anti-tank weapons, the Norwegian troops could not hold back the German attack.
The basis for the Norwegian strategy started to fail on 13 and 14 April, when the 3,000 troops of the 1st Division in Østfold fell back across the border into neutral Sweden without orders, and were interned. On the same day, the two battalions of the 3rd Infantry Regiment at Heistadmoen army camp at Kongsberg capitulated. Liljedahl’s 3rd Division, and tasked with the defence of southern Norway, surrendered to the Germans in Setesdal on 15 April before seeing any action: some 2,000 men marched into captivity in the Setesdal capitulation. With the abandonment on 20 April of the Franco-British plans for the recapture of the central Norwegian city of Trondheim, Ruge’s strategy became, for all practical considerations, wholly unfeasible.
With the cancellation of Allied plans for the recapture of Trondheim, British forces which had been landed at Åndalsnes in 'Primrose' and 'Sickle' (i) moved into eastern Norway. By 20 April three British half-battalions had moved as far to the south as Fåberg, near Lillehammer. The main British units deployed to eastern Norway in April 1940 were the territorial army units of the 148th Brigade and the regular army units of the15th Brigade. In a series of battles with Norwegian and British forces over the next weeks, the Germans continued to drive northward from Oslo, their main effort being made along the Gudbrandsdal valley. There was particularly heavy fighting in places such as Tretten, Fåvang, Vinstra, Kvam, Sjoa and Otta. In the Battle for Kvam on 25/26 April, the British managed to delay the German advance for two days of heavy fighting. Other German units broke through the Valdres and Østerdalen valleys, in the former after heavy fighting and an initially successful Norwegian counterattack.
During their advance northward from Oslo, the Germans regularly broke down Norwegian resistance through the effective use of tactical air attacks, in which Junkers Ju 87 dive-bombers proved particularly effective in demoralising the Norwegian troops opposing the advance. The Norwegian forces' almost complete lack of anti-aircraft weapons allowed the German aircraft to operate with near impunity. Likewise, when German tanks were employed, the Norwegians had no effective meanest halt them. The fighters of the RAF’s No. 263 Squadron were based on the frozen Lesjaskogsvatnet lake on 24 April to challenge German air supremacy, but many of the squadron’s aircraft were destroyed by German bombing on 25 April. The four Gladiator fighters which survived to be evacuated to Setnesmoen army base near Åndalsnes were out of operation by the end of 26 April. Setnesmoen was bombed and knocked out by the Luftwaffe on 29 April.
After its capture of Kristiansand on 9 April, the battalion-strong German invasion force in southern Norway permitted the evacuation of the civilian population from the city. At the same time the Germans moved to secure the areas surrounding Kristiansand. After several days of confusion and episodes of panic among the Norwegian troops, despite the complete absence of fighting, the 2,000 men of the defending 3rd Division in Setesdal surrendered unconditionally on 15 April. This effectively ended the phase of the German undertaking in southern Norway.
In western Norway, the important port cities of Bergen and Stavanger had been captured by the Germans on 9 April. Some 2,000 German troops occupied Bergen and seized the Norwegian arms depots there. The small Norwegian infantry forces in Bergen retreated to the east, blowing two railway bridges and sections of road behind them. Despite the loss of the cities, Generalmajor Willian Steffens, the commander of the 4th Division and also the regional commander, ordered a total mobilisation. During the middle of April, the 6,000-man 4th Division, which was responsible for the defence of western Norway, thus mobilised around the town of Voss in Hordaland. The 4th Division was thus the only military district outside northern Norway to be mobilised completely and in an orderly fashion. The 4th Division managed to repulse the initial German push along the Bergensbanen railway line connecting western and eastern Norway.
After troops of the the 5th Division farther to the north had covered the British landings at Åndalsnes, Steffens planned an offensive aimed at recapturing Bergen. To achieve this aim the 4th Division had a total mobilised strength of 6,361 men and 554 horses. Steffens’s plan was rendered redundant when on 16 April Ruge ordered the redeployment of most of the division’s strength to Valdres and Hallingdal in order to reinforce the main front in eastern Norway. The focus of the remaining forces in western Norway thus became the attempted prevention of a German advance from the area around Bergen. Norwegian naval forces, organised into three regional commands by Tank-Nielsen, prevented German intrusions into the Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord. In total the Norwegian navy fielded some 17 or 18 warships and five to six aircraft in western Norway following the German capture of Bergen. After the Luftwaffe had bombed and severely damaged Voss and the country round it on 23/25 April, in the process inflicting a number of civilian casualties, the Germans took the town on 26 April.
Following the fall of Voss, Steffens ordered the retreat of what was left of his forces to the north, evacuating the southern side of the Sognefjord on 28 May except for a small contingent at Lærdal. Steffens established his headquarters at Førde and prepared for the further defence of Sogn og Fjordane. On 30 April a message from Ruge reported the evacuation of All allied troops and also of the king and the army’s high command from southern Norway. In the absence of aid from either Allied or Norwegian forces, on 1 May Steffens ordered his troops to disband. The advancing German forces were informed of the whereabouts of the Norwegian troops, and agreed to let them disband without hindrance. On the night of 1/2 May, Steffens left for Tromsø with three naval aircraft, effectively ending the campaign in the region. No Allied land troops had been involved in the fighting in Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane. Another two aircraft flew to the UK. Although the Norwegian navy’s ships in western Norway were ordered to evacuate either to the UK or to northern Norway, only the auxiliary Bjerk sailed to the UK and Steinar to northern Norway. The remaining ships were prevented from leaving as a result of large-scale desertion, or the choice of commanders to disband their crews rather than risk the voyages to Allied-controlled territory. The last Norwegian forces in western Norway disbanded in Florø on 18 May.
The original plans for the campaign in central Norway called for a three-pronged Allied attack to retake Trondheim while the Norwegians contained the German forces to the south. This was 'Hammer', which was to be based on the maritime delivery of Allied forces: 'Maurice' Force at Namsos to the north, 'Sickle' Force at Åndalsnes to the south and 'Hammer' Force around Trondheim itself. This plan was quickly changed as it was felt that a direct assault on Trondheim would be far too risky and therefore only the northern and southern forces would be used.
To block the Allied landings that were expected, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ordered a Fallschirmjäger company to make a combat drop on the railway junction of Dombås in the north of the Gudbrandsdal valley. The force landed on 14 April and managed to block the rail and road network in central Norway for five days before being forced to surrender to the Norwegian Army on 19 April.
A British vanguard force arrived at Åndalsnes on 12 April and the main landing of 'Sickle' Force, based on the British 148th Brigade and commanded by Major General B. C. T. Paget, followed on 17 April. It was the success of the Norwegian mobilisation in the area which had opened the opportunity for the British landings.
Late on 14 April, 'Maurice' Force, based on the British 146th Brigade and commanded by Major General A. Carton de Wiart, made its initial landings at Namsos. During its passage the force had been transferred to destroyers from transport ships in recognition of the problems posed to the latter by the narrow waters of the fjord leading to Namsos, but in the confusion attendant on the transfer a great deal of the brigade’s supplies and even its commander were misplaced.
Another major problem faced by 'Maurice' Force was its lack of air support and effective anti-aircraft defences, which were matters of which the Luftwaffe took full advantage. On 17 April the force moved forward from Namsos to positions around the village of Follafoss and the town of Steinkjer. French troops arrived at Namsos late on 19 April. On 20 April German aircraft bombed Namsos, destroying most of the buildings in the town centre as well as much of the supply storage for the Allied troops, leaving de Wiart without a base. Even so, he moved some 80 miles (130 km) inland to Steinkjer and linked with the Norwegian 5th Division. Constant aerial harassment prevented the implementation of any real offensive, however, and on 21 April 'Maurice' Force was attacked by the 181st Division from Trondheim. de Wiart’s troops were compelled to fall back, leaving Steinkjer to the Germans. On 21 and 22 April Steinkjer was bombed by the Luftwaffe, leaving four-fifths of the town in ruins and more than 2,000 people homeless. By 24 April Steinkjer and the surrounding areas had been occupied by the Germans.
By 28 April, with both 'Sickle' Force and 'Maurice' Force checked by the Germans, the Allied leadership decided to withdraw all British and French forces from the southern and central regions of Norway. The Allied retreat was covered by Norwegian forces, which were then demobilised so that their men would not be taken prisoner by the Germans. On 30 April the Germans advancing from Oslo and Trondheim joined forces.
On 28 and 29 April the undefended port town of Kristiansund had been heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, as was the nearby port of Molde, which functioned as the headquarters of the Norwegian king and government. The town of Ålesund had also suffered heavily from German bombing during the last days of April.
'Sickle' Force managed to return to Åndalsnes for evacuation by 02.00 on 2 May, only a few hours before the 196th Division captured the port. The western Norwegian port had been subjected to heavy German bombing between 23 and 26 April, and continued to burn until 27 April. The village of Veblungsnes and the area around Åndalsnes railway station suffered particularly heavy damage. By the time the Germans arrived, some four-fifths of Åndalsnes lay in ruins. It convoys delayed by thick fog, 'Maurice' Force was evacuated from Namsos on 2 May, though two of its ships, the French destroyer Bison and the British destroyer Afridi, were sunk by Ju 87 dive-bombers.
Organised Norwegian military resistance in the central and southern parts of Norway came to an end on 5 May with the capitulation of the forces fighting at Hegra in Sør-Trøndelag and at Vinjesvingen in Telemark.
The failure of the central campaign is considered one of the direct causes of the 'Norway Debate' in the UK, and thus led to the resignation of Neville Chamberlain and his succession as prime minister by Churchill.
Having been evacuated from Molde during German air attacks on 29 April, the king and his government had reached Tromsø in northern Norway by 1 May, and for the remaining weeks of the Norwegian campaign Tromsø was the de facto capital of Norway and the headquarters of the king and government.
In northern Norway, it was Fleischer’s 6th Division which faced the German invasion forces at Narvik. Following the German invasion, Fleischer became the commander-in-chief of all the Norwegian forces in northern Norway. The Norwegian counter-offensive against the Germans at Narvik was hampered by Fleischer’s decision to retain significant forces in Eastern Finnmark to guard against a possible Soviet attack in the far north.
Along with the Allied landings at Åndalsnes and Namsos, aimed at the recapture of Trondheim, further forces were deployed to the north of Norway and assigned the task of recapturing Narvik. Like the campaign in the south, the Narvik operations faced numerous obstacles.
One of the first problems faced by the Allies was the fact that their command was not unified, or even truly organised. The naval forces in the area were led by Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Cork and Orrery, who had been ordered to rid the area of the Germans as soon as possible. In contrast, the commander of the ground forces, Major General P. J. Mackesy, was ordered not to land his forces in any area strongly held by the Germans and to avoid damaging populated areas. The two senior commanders met on 15 April to determine the best course of action, for which Cork argued that the optimum solution was an immediate assault on Narvik and Mackesy countered that such a move would lead to heavy casualties for his attacking troops. Cork eventually conceded to Mackesy’s point of view.
Mackesy’s force was originally designated as 'Avon' Force bit later as 'Rupert' Force, and was based on Brigadier W. Fraser’s British 24th Guards Brigade and Général de Brigade Antoine Béthouart’s mixed force of French and Free Polish units. The main force began landing at Harstad, a port town on the island of Hinnøya, during 14 April. The first German air attacks on Harstad began two days later, but anti-aircraft defences prevented serious damage until a raid on 20 May, which destroyed oil tanks and civilian housing, and another on 23 May, which hit Allied shipping in the harbour.
On 15 April, the Allies scored a significant victory when the British destroyers Brazen and Fearless, which were escorting the NP.1 troop-carrying convoy, forced the U-boat U-49 to surface and scuttle in the Vågsfjorden. Found floating around the sinking U-boat were documents detailing the dispositions, codes and operational orders of all U-boats in the Norwegian operational area, providing the Allies with an efficient and valuable tool when planning troop and supply convoys to the campaign in northern Norway.
After the failure of their operations in central Norway, the Allies prepared more carefully for the northern campaign. Air cover was provided by two squadrons of carrier-transported fighters operating from Bardufoss air base: these were No. 263 Squadron with Gladiator biplanes and No. 46 Squadron with Hawker Hurricane monoplanes.
As part of the Allied counter-offensive in northern Norway, French forces made an amphibious landing at Bjerkvik on 13 May. The naval gunfire from supporting Allied warships destroyed most of the village and killed 14 civilians before the Germans were dislodged.
While the Norwegian and Allied forces were advancing at Narvik, German land forces were moving swiftly to the north through Nordland to relieve Dietl’s troops besieged in the Narvik area. The air base at Værnes was rapidly brought back into service after its capture, rapidly expanded and improved to provide the Luftwaffe with a base from which to support the Narvik sector. As the German forces moved northward, they also gained control of the basic facilities at Hattfjelldal airfield from which to support their bomber operations.
By a time late in April, 10 so-called 'independent companies' had been formed in the UK under the command of Lieutenant Colonel C. McV. Gubbins. On 2 May, four of these companies were formed into 'Scissors' Force, under Gubbins’s direct control, and despatched to forestall the Germans at Bodø, Mo-i-Rana and Mosjøen. Although they ambushed the leading German units south of Mosjøen, these independent companies were outmatched by the German main body and were withdrawn to Bodø, which was to be defended by the 24th Guards Brigade.
As the 24th Guards Brigade moved to Bodø, the British destroyer Somali, which was carrying Fraser, was bombed and forced to return to the UK. Gubbins, with the acting rank of colonel, assumed command of the brigade. On 15 May the Polish troop ship Chrobry carrying the 1/Irish Guards was bombed, with heavy casualties to the troops, and two days later the British light cruiser Effingham ran aground while carrying much of the equipment of the 2/South Wales Borderers. Both battalions returned to Harstad to re-form and to be re-equipped before setting out again for Bodø.
As the Germans advanced to the north from the railhead at Mosjøen, the garrison of Mo-i-Rana,which was a mixed force based on the 1/Scots Guards, withdrew on 18 May, too precipitately in Gubbins’s opinion. The Scots Guards' commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel T. B. Trappes-Lomax, continued to retreat despite orders to hold successive positions which, with the delayed arrival of the rest of the brigade, left Gubbins no time to prepare a defensive position at Storjord. The brigade withdrew under heavy pressure across the Skjerstadfjord on 25 May, covered by a rearguard from the 1/Irish Guards and several of the independent companies under the command of Lieutenant Colonel H. Stockwell.
During the evening of 27 May Bodø was bombed and strafed by the Luftwaffe. The bombing raid destroyed the recently improvised airstrip, the radio station and 420 of the town’s 760 buildings, killing 15 people and leaving a further 5,000 homeless.
Gubbins’s force was evacuated from Bodø between 30 May and 2 June, low cloud in this three-day period preventing Luftwaffe interference. The improvised air strip which had been hit during the 27 May air raid fell into German hands, providing the Germans with an air base much closer to the Narvik fighting, and was of great significance for their continued advance northwards.
On 28 May, one Norwegian and two French battalions attacked and recaptured Narvik from the Germans. To the south of the town, Free Polish troops advanced to the east along the Beisfjord, while other Norwegian troops were pushing the Germans back toward the Swedish border near Bjørnfjell. However, the German 'Gelb' invasion of the Low Countries and France had wholly changed the overall situation of the war, and considerably lessened the importance of Norway in Allied thinking. On 25 May, three days before the recapture of Narvik, the Allied commanders had received orders to evacuate their forces from Norway, and the attack on Narvik was in part carried out to mask from the Germans the Allies' intention of leaving Norway. Shortly after the Allies' 28 May recapture of Narvik, the town was bombed and heavily damaged by the Luftwaffe.
'Alphabet', the general Allied retreat from Norway, had been approved on 24 May. Among those who argued against it was Churchill, who later expressed his opinion that the decision had been a great mistake. The Norwegian authorities were informed of the decision only on 1 June, and after a meeting on 7 June at which the decision to carry on the fight abroad was made, Haakon VII, Crown Prince Olav and the Norwegian cabinet left Norway on the British heavy cruiser Devonshire to form a Norwegian government-in-exile in the UK. Without supplies from the Allies, the Norwegian army would soon have been unable to continue the fight. Both the king and the crown prince had considered the possibility of remaining in Norway, but had been persuaded by a British diplomat, Sir Cecil Dormer, instead to follow the government into exile. The crown prince suggested that he should remain and assist the administrative council in easing the effects of the occupation, but in light of the king’s age of 69, it was decided that both men should to go into exile in order to avoid complications should the king die while abroad. By 8 June, after destroying railway lines and port facilities, all Allied troops had been evacuated. The Germans had launched 'Juno' to relieve pressure on the Narvik garrison and, after discovering the evacuation, shifted the mission to hunt and subsequently sunk two British destroyers and the fleet aircraft carrier Glorious. Before the British warships were sunk, however, the destroyer Acasta torpedoed and damaged Scharnhorst. Shortly after the encounter the British submarine Clyde intercepted the German ships and torpedoed Gneisenau, causing severe damage.
The Norwegian forces on the mainland capitulated to the Germans on 10 June, although units fighting on the front had been ordered to disengage in the early hours of 8 June and fighting ceased at 24.00 on 9 June. The formal capitulation agreement for forces fighting in mainland Norway was signed at the Britannia Hotel in Trondheim at 17.00 on 10 June, Oberstløitnant Ragnvald Roscher Nielsen signing for the Norwegians and Oberst Erich Buschenhagen for the Germans. A capitulation agreement for the Norwegian forces fighting at Narvik was also signed on the same day at Bjørnfjell. The signatories of this latter agreement, the last local capitulation of Norwegian troops during the campaign, were Dietl for the Germans and Oberstløitnant Harald Wrede Holm for the Norwegians. The 62-day campaign made Norway the country, other than the USSR, that withstand a German invasion for the longest time.
With the capitulation of Norway’s mainland forces the German occupation of the country began. Although the Norwegian regular forces in mainland Norway laid down their arms in June 1940, there swiftly started to develop a steadily more prominent resistance movement, which proved increasingly efficient during the later years of occupation. The resistance to the German occupation began in the autumn of 1940, steadily gaining strength and becoming better organised. Despite Gestapo infiltration and destruction of many of the early organisations, the resistance movement survived and grew, and the last year of the war saw an increase in sabotage actions by the Milorg military resistance movement aligned with the government-in-exile, although the organisation’s main goal was to retain, enlarge and train guerrilla forces with which to aid an Allied invasion of Norway. In addition to the Milorg, many independent, mostly communist, resistance groups operated in occupied Norway, attacking German targets without co-ordinating with the exiled Norwegian authorities.
The civilian side of the German occupation of Norway was organised through the establishment of the Reichskommissariat Norwegen headed from 24 April by Josef Terboven. The Germans attempted to make the exiled Norwegian authorities irrelevant, especially targeting the king. Weeks after the end of the Norwegian campaign, the Germans pressured the presidency of the Norwegian parliament to issue a request that Haakon VII abdicate, but on 3 July the king refused the request and five days later made a speed on radio proclaiming his answer. 'The King’s No', as it became known, encouraged resistance to the occupation and any Norwegian collaborators. The administrative council, appointed by the Norwegian supreme court on 15 April assumed the responsibilities of the Norwegian government in the occupied territories, functioned until 25 September. After that date the Norwegian partner of the occupying Germans was the Quisling régime.
The Royal Norwegian Navy and Royal Norwegian Air Force were re-established in the UK on the basis of the remnants of the forces saved from the Norwegian campaign. These forces soon saw extensive combat in the convoy battles of the North Atlantic and in the air war over Europe, and their ranks were swelled by a steady trickle of refugees making their way out of occupied Norway, and their equipment brought up to standard by British and US aircraft and ships. From a force of 15 ships in June 1940, the Royal Norwegian Navy had expanded to 58 warships by the May 1945 end of World War II in Europe. These ships were manned by some 7,000 men and, in all, 118 warships had been under Norwegian command during the war years.
Norwegian air squadrons flew with the RAF’s Fighter Command and Coastal Command. The Norwegian-manned Nos 331 and 332 Squadrons operated Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters. The naval Nos 330 and 333 Squadrons flew Northrop N-3PB floatplane patrol bombers, Consolidated PBY Catalina and Short Sunderland flying boats, and de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers. Individual Norwegians also flew with British air units. In November 1944 the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Service and the Norwegian Army Air Service, having been under a unified command since March 1941, were amalgamated to form the Royal Norwegian Air Force. By the end of the war some 2,700 men had served in the RNoAF.
A Norwegian army of some 4,000 men was also re-established in Scotland. However, with the exception of a small number of special forces, it saw little action for the rest of the war, although a single reinforced company of the Norwegian army participated in the liberation of Finnmark during the winter of 1944/45. Finnmark and the northern parts of Troms county had been forcibly evacuated by the Germans in a scorched earth operation following the Soviet 'Petsamo-Kirkenes Offensive Operation' against occupied Finnmark in October 1944. The offensive had captured the north-eastern town of Kirkenes from the occupying German forces. After the arrival of the 300 troops from Scotland, further troops were moved from Sweden and mobilised locally. At the end of the war, the Norwegian forces in Finnmark totalled 3,000 men. In the course of this operation, there were some minor skirmishes with German rear guards and patrols.
In neutral Sweden there was also a build-up of Norwegian forces in the last two years of the war as in gar of so-called 'police troops' established with the support of Swedish authorities: 'police' was a cover for what in reality was pure military training of a force mustering around 13,000 well trained and equipped troops by VE-Day, and in 1945 about 1,300 'police troops' were involved in the liberation of Finnmark.
Aside from the regular Norwegian forces, the main armed resistance movement in Norway was, as noted above, the Milorg, which fielded some 40,000 combatants at the end of the war. In November 1941 the Milorg had been declared by the exiled Norwegian government to be the fourth branch of the Norwegian armed forces.
The official German casualties for the Norwegian campaign totalled 5,296: of these 1,317 had been killed on land and 2,375 at sea, while 1,604 were listed as wounded. The German matériel losses at sea were heavy, with the sinking of one of the Kriegsmarine’s two heavy cruisers, two of its six light cruisers, 10 of its 20 destroyers and six U-boats. As several more ships had been severely damaged and were under repair, the German surface fleet had only three cruisers and four destroyers operational in the aftermath of the Norwegian campaign. Two torpedo boats and 15 light naval units had also been lost during the campaign, and two battle-cruisers and two cruisers had been damaged. In transport ships and merchant vessels, the Germans lost 21 ships totalling 111,700 tons, representing about 10% of their total at the time. Official German sources give the number of German aircraft lost during the Norwegian campaign as 90, but other estimates place the figure as high as 240.
The Norwegian and Allied casualties of the Norwegian campaign totalled around 6,602. The British lost 1,869 men killed, wounded and missing on land and approximately 2,500 at sea, while the French and Free Poles lost 533 killed, wounded and missing. On the Norwegian side there were around 1,700 casualties, of whom 860 were killed. Some 400 Norwegian civilians were also killed, mostly in German bombing raids. Around 60 Norwegian civilians were killed, most of them shot by German soldiers during the fighting in eastern Norway primarily in summary executions.
On the naval side of the Norwegian casualty list, the navy operated 121 mostly outdated ships at the outset of 'Weserübung', of which virtually all were lost during the campaign. Only 15 warships, including one captured German fishing trawler, and some 600 men had managed to escape to the UK by the end of the fighting. The remaining Norwegian naval vessels were sunk in action, scuttled by their own crews, or captured by the Germans. Among the warships sunk in action during the campaign were two coast-defence ships and two destroyers. Seven torpedo boats were also sunk or scuttled, while the remaining 10 were captured by the Germans. Only one of the nine Norwegian submarines managed to escape to the UK, the other eight being scuttled or captured. Some 50 captured Norwegian naval vessels were over time pressed into service by the Kriegsmarine.
The British lost one fleet aircraft carrier, two cruisers, seven destroyers and one submarine but with their much larger fleet could absorb the losses to a much greater degree than Germany.
The French Navy lost one destroyer and one submarine during the campaign, and sustained severe damage to one cruiser. The Free Polish navy lost the destroyer Grom and the submarine Orzeł.
While the British lost 112 aircraft during the campaign, the Norwegians lost all their aircraft except a small number that were successfully evacuated to the UK flown to neutral Finland.
The combined loss of merchant ships and transports for the Allies and Norwegians was around 70 ships.
'Weserübung' was, as planned, a decisive German victory resulting in the occupation of both Denmark and Norway. Surprise was almost complete, particularly in Denmark.
At sea the invasion proved a temporary German setback. For the Kriegsmarine the campaign led to heavy losses, leaving it with an operational surface force of one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers and four destroyers. This left the navy weakened during the summer months when Hitler was pursuing plans for the 'Seelöwe' invasion of the UK.
The greatest cost of the land campaign, however, was the need of the Germans to maintain, and indeed to increase, most of their invasion forces in Norway for occupation duties and thus unavailable for redeployment to the fighting fronts.
Through the Norwegian government’s Nortraship system, the Allies also gained the services of the Norwegian merchant navy, the fourth largest in the world. The 1,028-ship strong Nortraship was established on 22 April at a government meeting at Stuguflåten in Romsdal. The Nortraship fleet consisted of some 85% of the pre-war Norwegian merchant fleet, the remaining 15% having been in Norway when the Germans invaded and been unable to escape. The Nortraship vessels were crewed by 27,000 sailors. In total 43 Norwegian ships were sunk during the Norwegian campaign, while another 29 were interned by the neutral Swedes. Nortraship gave the Norwegian government-in-exile economic independence and a basis for continued resistance from abroad.
The Allies had achieved a partial success at Narvik. The Germans had destroyed much of the town’s port facilities before their loss of the city on 28 May. Shipping from the port was stopped for a period of six months, although the Allies had believed it would be out of operation for a year.
The German occupation of Norway was to prove a thorn in the side of the Allies during the next few years. Bombers based at Sola had a round trip of about 570 miles (920 km) to Rattray Head in north-eastern Scotland instead of a round trip of about 870 miles (1400 km) from the nearest airfield on German soil (the island of Sylt), while the east of Scotland and coastal shipping suffered from bombing raids, most from Norway, until 1943. After the fall of Norway, the entirety of Scotland, and especially the fleet bases at Scapa Flow and Rosyth, were seen as much more vulnerable to a diversionary assault by air- and sea-borne troops. German commerce raiders used Norway as a staging base to reach the North Atlantic. After the German 'Barbarossa' invasion of the USSR in June 1941, air bases in Norway were also used in the German attempt to interdict the Allied Arctic convoys to the northern USSR, often inflicting heavy losses.