Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 243 April 30, 1940

German 196th Division infantry arrive at Dombås on foot (their vehicles are blocked by the blown bridges) and are held by 15th Brigade inflicting heavy casualties. At dusk, the British troops withdraw from Dombås by train, destined for Åndalsnes to be evacuated. Meanwhile at Namsos, General de Wiart’s 146th Brigade awaits evacuation by Mountbatten’s destroyer squadron which is en route.

RAF bombs German airfields in Norway at Stavanger & Fornebu (Oslo) to reduce German air attacks on the planned evacuations. This is only marginally successful. British aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal & Glorious, bringing fighter support to cover the evacuation sites, are driven off by Luftwaffe bombing. Germans will dominate the skies during the evacuations.

At 5 PM, cruisers HMS Manchester & Birmingham and destroyers HMS Inglefield, Diana & Delight, under Vice Admiral Layton, depart Scapa Flow to evacuate 15th Brigade from Åndalsnes and nearby Molde.

Allied warships suffer several defeats and disasters.

French destroyer Maille Breeze sinks at Greenock, Scotland when 2 torpedoes of her own discharge accidentally in the forward section (25 dead, 48 wounded).

Minesweeper HMS Dundoon hits a mine at Smith's Knoll near Great Yarmouth and sinks (27 lives lost).

Anti-submarine sloop HMS Bittern, on anti-aircraft duty off Namsos, is dive bombed by Ju 87s and set on fire in the stern (20 lives lost). Destroyer HMS Janus takes off survivors, then torpedoes and sinks Bittern to prevent the capture of her anti-submarine detection equipment. Anti-aircraft ships have proved vulnerable & ineffective at defending shore targets (only 9 German bombers shot down during 1050 sorties).

ASW trawler HMS Warwickshire is sunk by German aircraft off Trondheim, Norway. She will be raised by the Germans on June 1 and used until 19 July 1943 when sunk again near Narvik by Soviet submarine S-56.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 242 April 29, 1940

Having blown bridges to slow the German advance up the Gudbrandsdal valley, Paget’s 15th Brigade rests at Dombås while the remaining Norwegian troops withdraw through their lines. Oberst Fischer’s Kampfgruppe (196th Division) emerges from the Østerdal valley North of Dombås and links up with German troops from Trondheim, surrounding 15th brigade. Their evacuation now seems the correct course of action.

Destroyers HMS Kelly, Maori & Imperial plus French destroyer Bison (under Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten) leave Scapa Flow to evacuate Namsos, screened by cruisers HMS Devonshire and York & several destroyers.

At 5.30 PM, British submarine HMS Unity collides in fog with 1173-ton Norwegian freighter Atle Jarl in Blyth harbour and sinks in 5 minutes (4 lives lost, including Lieutenant John Low and Able Seaman Henry Miller who are posthumously awarded the George Cross for gallantry in assisting other crewmembers to escape from the sinking submarine).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 241 April 28, 1940

British War Cabinet orders the evacuation of Paget’s and de Wiart’s troops around Trondheim, fuelled by Brigadier Hogg’s gloomy assessment of the situation at Åndalsnes. At 5 AM, Paget informs Norwegian General Ruge who is expecting landings at Trondheim instead of evacuation. Ruge, who has not been told of Operation Hammer’s cancellation, flies into a fit of rage. Calming himself, Ruge agrees to assist with the British retreat if Norwegian troops are withdrawn too, although he too believes 15th Brigade can hold out.

Justifying the faith in their abilities voiced by Ruge and Paget, 15th Brigade again holds German 196th Division all day at Otta & destroys 3 more light tanks. They then withdraw overnight 25 miles North to Dombås, blowing road & rail bridges to delay the German advance during the evacuation.

At Namsos, General de Wiart’s 146th Brigade retreats into a defensive perimeter. They are not pursued by German ground forces who allow Luftwaffe bombing to take its toll.

Day 240 April 27, 1940

Continued bombing of Åndalsnes forces the port HQ commander Brigadier Hogg to signal London that the situation is hopeless without air cover or antiaircraft guns. He suggests evacuation. An arriving supply convoy is bombed from 1.45 to 5 PM and turns away from Åndalsnes without landing much-needed antiaircraft batteries.

Hogg fails to consult his superior General Paget, who is furious and believes 15th Brigade can win if given fighter and antiaircraft support. Indeed, 15th Brigade holds German 196th Division all day at Kjorem then makes an orderly overnight withdrawal 17 km North to prepared defenses at Otta.

However, Oberst Fischer’s Kampfgruppe (196th Division) under has met little resistance in the Østerdal valley to the East. They are 60 miles Northeast of Dombås at Alvdal, threatening 15th brigade from the rear.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 239 April 26, 1940

RAF Gladiators at Stetnesmoen engage the Luftwaffe, shooting down another He111 but using up all their fuel and ammunition. The last Gladiators are burned. The pilots board ships at Åndalsnes; Squadron Leader Donaldson will be awarded the DSO.

Hitler is furious at the landing of British 15th Brigade. Åndalsnes is bombed all day on his personal orders, destroying the wooden pier and all the British equipment & ammunition. However, 15th Brigade is 172 km away at Kvam, holding back German 196th Division which loses 50 men, 5 light tanks & 3 armored cars. In the evening 15th Brigade withdraws 3 km to new defensive lines at Kjorem.

British War Cabinet, now aware of defeats at Steinkjer & Tretten Gorge, starts to consider evacuating Namsos & Åndalsnes. Likewise, General de Wiart declines an offer of additional troops at Namsos since “in case of evacuation, this would complicate matters”. This “evacuation” mentality will gain momentum, despite 15th Brigade’s successes.

At 1.17 AM, U-13 sinks British steamer SS Lily with 2 torpedoes (the first does not detonate). All 24 hands lost.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 238 April 25, 1940

3000 British troops of General Paget’s 15th Brigade advance to the village of Kvam, 55 km South of Dombås, where they engage General Pellengahr’s 196th Division (8500 motorised infantry with tanks, artillery and dive bomber support) moving up the Gudbrandsdal from Lillehamer. 15th Brigade’s Hotchkiss 25mm anti-tank guns destroy 1 Neubaufahrzeug heavy tank, 1 light tank and an armored car in an initial skirmish. For the first time, a British line holds the German advance.

RAF Gloster Gladiators on Lake Lesjaskogsvatnet are discovered by the Luftwaffe and bombed for 8 hours. 13 Gladiators are destroyed or fall through the broken ice. Several Gladiators get off the ice and provide air cover for Paget’s 15th Brigade at Kvam. Returning, they shoot down 3 Heinkel He111s. 263rd Squadron Leader John Donaldson abandons the undefended lake airstrip and withdraws the remaining 5 Gladiators to Stetnesmoen, near Åndalsnes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 237 April 24, 1940

RAF arrives in Norway! 18 Gladiator biplanes (263 Squadron) from HMS Glorious land on Lake Lesjaskogsvatnet, midway between Åndalsnes and Dombås. Notably, they have no anti-aircraft support.

General Bernard Paget’s 15th Brigade lands at Åndalsnes, having sailed from France on April 15, and moves South down the Gudbrandsdal valley towards Lillehammer to reinforce Norwegian troops holding the German advance. They pass Morgan’s defeated 148th Brigade falling back to Åndalsnes.

In heavy Lutfwaffe attacks on Åndalsnes, anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curacoa is badly damaged when she is struck by a bomb below the bridge, which explode between decks killing 45 and wounding 36. She will returned to Chatham for repairs and resume active duty in August.

U-23 make two unsuccessful attacks on British cruiser HMS York (returning to Scapa Flow from Åndalsnes having disembarked General Paget’s 15th Brigade).

Norwegian 6th Brigade under General Carl Gustav Fleischer attacks Dietl’s perimeter North of Narvik. They are held by the Germans at Lapphaug Pass but those marching over Fjordbotneidet mountain find Gratangsbotn undefended. Germans falling back from Lapphaug surprise the resting Norwegians (killing 34, wounding 64 and 130 prisoners) and retake Gratangsbotn (for 9 dead or missing, 16 wounded).

Battleship HMS Warspite, cruisers HMS Effingham, Enterprise, Aurora and destroyer HMS Zulu (screened by British destroyers HMS Encounter, Escort, Faulknor, Foxhound, Havock, Hero, Hostile and Polish destroyers Blyskawica and Grom) sail into Ofotfjord and bombard Narvik. HMS Effingham sinks captured British steamer Riverton, docked in the harbour. Naval commander Lord Cork and Orrery goes ashore away from Narvik to assess conditions on the coastline and again concludes that deep snow will make opposed landings impossible.

Hitler appoints Josef Antonius Heinrich Terboven as Reichskommissar or Gauleiter of Norway.,_Norwegen,_Besuch_Himmler,_Terboven_und_Quisling.jpg

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 236 April 23, 1940

General de Wiart’s 146th Brigade retreats back to Namsos. Since arriving, they have lost 19 dead, 42 wounded & 96 missing.

Greater catastrophe befalls Morgan’s 148th Brigade at Tretten Gorge. Germans artillery pounds their line all morning & 3 light tanks break through defenses along the river road at 1 PM. Simultaneously, German mountain troops climb through the highlands and at 6 PM circle behind the Allied lines. At 7 PM, 148th Brigade retreats North but is bombed and strafed from the air. Only 309 men manage to escape to safety up the Gudbrandsdal. Since arriving, they have lost 705 men killed, missing or captured.

Supreme War Council meeting in Paris agrees on the importance of capturing Trondheim, unaware of the British reverses at Namsos and Tretten Gorge. British have not yet inform the French that Operation Hammer has been cancelled.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 235 April 22, 1940

General de Wiart, the old soldier, can smell defeat. German air strikes paralyse Namsos and his supply lines South. Moreover, he risks 146th Brigade becoming encircled at Vist by German landings on his flank. He orders a fighting withdrawal to Namsos.

Further South, Morgan’s 148th Brigade digs in at Faaberg, North of Lillehammer. However, they are flanked by German mountain troops scaling the 2,165ft high Balbergkamp, forcing another overnight retreat. They fall back 20 miles North and prepare to make a final stand at Tretten Gorge, one of the narrowest and most defensible point in the Gudbrandsdal.

At the Supreme War Council meeting in Paris, strategy takes a backseat to French political infighting between Reynaud and Daladier. Allies believe success is at hand and, out of touch with reality, contemplate a “march on towards Oslo”.

2 Lockheed Hudsons bomb U-43 in the North Sea. U-43 escapes with slight damage.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 234 April 21, 1940

A German destroyer and troop transport ship sail up through the melting ice of the Trondheimfjord and land mountain troops at Verdal and Kirknessvag, on the flank of General de Wiart’s 146th Brigade which retreats back to Vist. British and Norwegian base at Steinkjer is bombed into the ground, worsening 146th Brigade’s position.

Further South, Morgan’s 148th Brigade joins Norwegian positions around Lake Mjøsa which are being pummeled by German heavy artillery and 8 He111 bombers. However, 148th Brigade is swept up in retreat before they have dug in (or in some instances even arrived at the front). They set out at midnight on a 14 mile march over hilly, snow-bound lanes back to Lillehammer.

U-26 sinks British MV Cedarbank in supply convoy AP-1 (carrying motor transports, AA guns, ammunition and 75 tons of rations for 148th Brigade) 50 miles northwest of Ålesund, Norway (15 lives lost). 30 survivors are picked up by destroyer HMS Javelin and landed at Ålesund.

First American military casualty of WWII. Air attaché to American embassies in the Nordic countries, Captain Robert M. Losey, is killed observing Luftwaffe bombing attack on Dombås railway junction from the safety of a tunnel.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 233 April 20, 1940

At 2.50 AM, Morgan’s 148th Brigade arrives in Lillehammer by train from Åndalsnes and moves South towards rapidly-crumbling Norwegian defensive positions either side of Lake Mjøsa.

The Allies lack of anti-aircraft guns and absence of air cover is exposed when Luftwaffe bombing obliterates Namsos, destroying supplies & equipment piled up on the single stone wharf.

To provide some air support, RAF 263 Squadron flies 18 Gloster Gladiator biplanes (under Squadron Leader John Donaldson) to Scapa Flow, where Fleet Air Arm pilots land them on the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious.

British War Cabinet cancels direct landings at Trondheim (Operation Hammer) fearing naval losses to German air attack and coastal batteries. However, they do not inform the Norwegians or French (or the British commanders on the flanks of Trondheim). General de Wiart’s 146th Brigade maintains dangerously exposed positions on Trondheimfjord to support the landings.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 232 April 19, 1940

General de Wiart’s 146th Brigade joins Norwegian forces at Steinkjer, at the Northern end of the Trondheimfjord, and also pushes forward 10 km to Verdal. They are met by German 138th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, advancing North from Trondheim. This is the first engagement between British and German land forces.

Further South, Brigadier Morgan meets Norwegian General Ruge, at Ruge’s HQ in Øyer, near Lillehammer. German 196th Division takes the towns of Hamar and Elverum only 50 miles South. Morgan is persuaded to abandon his orders to move on Trondheim and instead instructs 148th Brigade to advance from Åndalsnes, 200 miles Southeast down the Gudbrandsdal to reinforce Ruge’s troops blocking the German advance from Oslo.

Overnight, 3 battalions of French Chasseurs Alpins (mountain infantry) arrive at Namsos, to reinforce 146th Brigade, but their skis, mules, trucks and anti-aircraft guns do not. When their skis do arrive, they lack straps and are useless.

3 prototype Neubaufahrzeug heavy tanks (35 tons, three turrets with 75 mm main and 37 mm secondary gun) arrive in Oslo and are paraded through the streets to intimidate the locals, before joining the drive to Trondheim.

The Fallschirmjägers at Dombås surrender, surrounded, outnumbered, out of ammunition and bombarded by a railway howitzer. Of 185 that parachuted in, only 45 survive. Oberleutnant Schmidt has remained in command despite serious wounds to the hip & stomach. He will survive and receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 24 May.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 231 April 18, 1940

German 181st infantry division begins reinforcing Trondheim, arriving in numerous transport planes, one conventional transport ship and 2 submarines operating as undersea troop transports.

British 148th Brigade under Brigadier Morgan arrives in Åndalsnes overnight with orders to advance 150 miles Northeast to Trondheim. However, Morgan has also received opposite instructions (directly from Chief of the Imperial General Staff General Ironside) to support the Norwegian troops currently to the Southeast defending the Gudbrandsdal and Østerdal valleys leading up from Oslo.

German troops moving North out of Oslo are held up by Norwegian forces in the village of Bagn in the district of Valdres, approximately midway between Oslo and Bergen.

Operation Hammer, the proposed landings at Trondheim, suffers a further setback. Brigadier Berney-Ficklin is put in charge but he is injured when his plane crashes en route to embark at Scapa Flow.

British submarine HMS Sterlet disappears, either sunk by German anti-submarine trawlers UJ-125, UJ-126 and UJ-128 or striking a mine.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 230 April 17, 1940

Before dawn, cruiser HMS Suffolk shells German airbase at Sola Air Station, Stavanger, attempting to disrupt German air superiority over Norway. However, Suffolk’s Walrus seaplane, used to illuminate the airfield with flares & call in fire, is shot down. The shelling is inaccurate & does little damage, destroying only 4 German aircraft. Suffolk is bombed for 7 hours by German Ju88s & hit twice, reaching Scapa Flow the next morning nearly sinking (she will be out of action until February 1941).

British War Cabinet approves direct troop landings at Trondheim after naval bombardment of the coastal batteries (Operation Hammer), to be supported by land attacks from Namsos in the North and Åndalsnes in the South. General Hotblack is put in charge of Hammer but suffers a stroke the same day.

At 5.33 PM, U-13 sinks British steamer SS Swainby with one torpedo 25 miles north of Shetland Islands. 38 crew members make land in lifeboats at Nor Wick Bay, Shetlands.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 229 April 16, 1940

General Mackesy lands 24th Brigade at Harstat, 37 miles North of Narvik. These regular Army troops are equipped for peaceful landings, not for offensive actions against German troops, & they will remain here while reserve troops see action around Trondheim. Lack of preparation characterizes all Allied landings in Norway.

British 148th Territorial (reserve) Brigade under the command of Brigadier Harold Morgan has been waiting for 2 days at Rosyth, on cruisers HMS Galatea & Arethusa and a transport ship destined for Namsos. They are ordered to Åndalsnes instead, to form a southern pincer for the advance on Trondheim. They disembark & board cruisers HMS Carlisle & Curacoa, losing anti-aircraft guns, ammunition & half a battalion (due to lack of space on the cruisers). They do manage to keep their now-useless maps of Namsos.

British 15th Brigade is en route to Norway, having been withdrawn from British Expeditionary Force (they left France on April 15).

Torpedo duel between U-3 and British submarine HMS Porpoise 10 miles southwest of Egersund, Norway. Neither sub is damaged.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 228 April 15, 1940

British 146th Territorial Brigade (a reserve formation) begins arriving at Namsos, North of Trondheim, coming under the energetic command of the much-decorated one-eyed one-handed WWI veteran General Carton de Wiart VC DSO. General de Wiart is made aware of German air superiority when his Short Sunderland flying boat is attacked by a German fighter on landing (his aide is wounded and invalided home). He immediately orders 146th to advance South towards Trondheim.

Major-General Pierse Joseph Mackesy (in charge of land forces at Narvik) is not convinced to land troops directly at Narvik, despite the enthusiasm of naval commanders Vice-Admiral Whitworth and Admiral of the Fleet William Henry Dudley Boyle, Earl of Cork and Orrery. General Mackesy’s force has been cut in half, leaving only 24th Brigade which is not armed to make opposed landings and, in any case, much of its equipment has been diverted to Namsos on ships carrying 146th Brigade. Narvik is under several feet of snow, has poor facilities for an amphibious landing and is defended by an unknown number of German troops. Mackesy is unwilling to subject the Norwegian inhabitants to the naval bombardment his colleagues advocate to remove the Germans from the town. Therefore, he elects to land his troops at safer locations North of Narvik and wait for the snow to melt.

Depth charges from British destroyers HMS Fearless and Brazen sink U-49 near Narvik (1 dead, 41 taken prisoner).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 227 April 14, 1940

Vice-Admiral Whitworth’s naïve opinion that landing will be easy, diverts troops away from Narvik. British 146th Territorial Brigade (having left the Clyde on April 11 in transport ships bound for Narvik) is sent South to Namsos for an attack on Trondheim. Sadly, their artillery, anti-aircraft guns & commanding officer continue on to Narvik. To prepare for 146th Brigade’s arrival at Namsos, cruisers HMS Sheffield & Glasgow (patrolling off Trondheim) put ashore an advance party of 350 Royal Marines– the first landing of British forces in Norway.

At dusk in foul weather, Oberleutnant Herbert Schmidt & 185 Fallschirmjägers (paratroops, 7th Flieger Division) parachute on the rail & road junction at Dombås, right into Norwegian Infantry Regiment 11’s basecamp. Most are killed or captured & Schmidt is severely wounded but about 65 survive. They blow up the rail line & occupy farmhouses overlooking Dombås, hampering Norwegian mobilization for several days.

British submarine HMS Sterlet torpedoes the German gunnery training ship and minelayer Brummer in the Skagerrak. Brummer sinks the next day.

Day 226 April 13, 1940

2nd Battle of Narvik. British battleship HMS Warspite & 9 destroyers, under Vice-Admiral William Jock Whitworth, enter Ototfjord to destroy the remaining German flotilla at Narvik. A Fairey Swordfish launched from Warspite bombs & sinks U-64 (8 dead, 38 survivors make a free ascent to the surface). Germans lose 8 destroyers; 3 are sunk (100 dead) & 5 scuttled, out of fuel or ammunition. 2600 sailors survive & join General Dietl’s forces in the defense of Narvik. German destroyers shell but do not sink HMS Punjabi (14 dead, 28 wounded) & HMS Cossack, which runs aground (9 dead, 21 wounded). HMS Eskimo’s bow is blown off by a German torpedo but she does not sink. Whitworth signals London that the Germans are beaten & Narvik can be taken with a single Brigade.

The 38 survivors from U-64 are rescued by German mountain troops. Out of respect, the crew will adopt the Edelweiss as the emblem for their new submarine U-124 when they are reassigned in June 1940.

Norwegian Cruiser-minelayer HNoMS Frøya, protecting the fortress of Agdenes at Trondheim, is damaged by German warships and beached. U-34 administers a coup de grâce to prevent salvage.

British War Cabinet dithers between landings at Trondheim, to help secure southern Norway from German advance, and the original strategic goal of Narvik to interfere with Swedish iron ore traffic. Churchill presciently warns of “the grave danger that we should find ourselves committed to a number of ineffectual operations along the Norwegian coast, none of which would succeed”.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 225 April 12, 1940

Norwegian artillery Major Hans Holtermann and 250 volunteers start reactivating the old fort at Ingstadkleiva near Trondheim, which will become known as Hegra Fortress. The fort has mothballed artillery (four 10.5 cm and two 7.5 cm in half-turrets and 4 Krupp m/1887 field guns) and plenty of ammunition. A German Major requests the fort’s surrender but Holtermann refuses.

Luftwaffe chief Generalfeldmarschall Hermann Göring forms Luftflotte 5, under his second in command Generaloberst Erhard Milch in Hamburg, to coordinate an expanding role in Norway. Luftwaffe duties include air defenses, airlifts and offensive strikes against Norwegian defenders and the Royal Navy. Milch will move his headquarters to Oslo to be closer to the action.

At 9.42 AM, U-37 sinks British steamer SS Stancliffe (carrying 7200 tons of iron ore) with 1 torpedo 45 miles northeast of Shetland Islands (21 lives were lost). 16 crew make land in the lifeboat at Haroldswick, Unst Island.

Day 224 April 11, 1940

British Vice-Admiral Horton’s submarine deployment pays off again. HMS Spearfish, patrolling in the Kattegat, encounters the already-damaged German cruiser Lützow returning from Oslo just after midnight. Spearfish fires a spread of 6 torpedoes then runs, not realizing that Lützow is unescorted. 1 torpedo hits Lützow nearly ripping off her stern. Lützow is towed back to Kiel but is out of action until repairs are complete in June 1941.,_Kiel,_Schwerer_Kreuzer_%22L%C3%BCtzow%22.jpg

German success depends on reducing Norwegian Army resistance in southern Norway. The key is to link up their forces at Oslo and Trondheim via the long parallel mountain defiles. German 196th Division under General Richard Pellengahr moves North from Oslo up the Gudbrandsdal and Østerdal valleys with air support, brushing aside improvised Norwegian roadblocks.

General Kristian Laake is removed from command of the Norwegian Army for being defeatist and failing to mobilize his troops. He is replaced with General Otto Ruge.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 223 April 10, 1940

1st Battle of Narvik. At dawn in heavy snow, 5 British destroyers under Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee enter Ototfjord & surprise the German flotilla at Narvik (10 destroyers, plus supply and cargo ships). German destroyers Wilhelm Heidkamp & Anton Schmidt are sunk, four more are damaged & 11 merchant ships in the harbor are also sunk. HMS Hardy is destroyed by shellfire & beached. HMS Hunter is torpedoed & sinks. HMS Hotspur is badly damaged by a torpedo. The British withdraw but are not chased by the Germans who are low on fuel. On the way out of the fjord, HMS Havock sinks German supply ship Rauenfels containing the artillery, anti-aircraft guns & ammunition for Generalleutnant Eduard Dietl’s 138th Gebirgsjäger Regiment at Narvik.

Both naval commanders at Narvik die in the engagement and are decorated. British Captain Bernard Armitage Warburton Warburton-Lee is killed by a direct hit to HMS Hardy's bridge. He will be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross and, in 1942, the Norwegian War Cross. Commander of the German destroyer flotilla at Narvik Commodore Friedrich Bonte is killed when his flagship, destroyer Z21 Wilhelm Heidkamp, is torpedoed and explodes. Bonte will be posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Coming out of the rising sun at 7.30 AM, 16 Skua fighter/bombers of British Fleet Air Arm 800 & 803 Squadrons divebomb German cruiser Königsberg in Bergen harbor (at the absolute limit of their range from Hatson airfield, Orkney Islands). Königsberg is hit with three 500 pound bombs (18 killed, 23 wounded) and sinks 2 hours later. German transport ship SS Barenfels is also damaged. 1 Skua malfunctions and crashes (2 aircrew lost).

U-4 sinks HMS Thistle at 2.13 AM (all 53 hands lost) at Stavanger. HMS Tarpon fires torpedoes at Q-ship Schiff 40/Schürbek but is sunk by depth charges 50 mile off the Danish coast (another 53 crew lost).

Battle of the Atlantic. U-37 fires 5 torpedoes and sinks Swedish motor tanker Sveaborg at 2.15 AM 10 miles North of Faroe Isles (5 dead, 29 survivors). At 3.23 AM, Norwegian MV Tosca stops to assist the burning Sveaborg and is sunk by 1 torpedo from U-37 (2 dead, 32 survivors). Survivors from both ships are picked up by British armed boarding vessel HMS Northern Chief and landed in Kirkwall.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day 222 April 9, 1940

At 5 AM, Germany invades Denmark & Norway. Denmark is taken by surprise & surrenders immediately after unopposed landings in Copenhagen & threats of bombing.

Germans warships land troops at 4 main points in Norway. At Narvik, German destroyers sink Norwegian coastal cruisers Eidsvold & Norge (276 lives lost, 98 survivors). Trondheim is captured easily as the Germans sail past the coastal batteries (pretending to be British warships). At Bergen, Kvarven Fort’s batteries damage cruiser Königsberg & minelayer Bremse. At Oslo, Oscarsborg Fortress’ batteries & shore torpedoes sink German cruiser Blücher in the Oslofjord (830 dead, 1370 swim ashore) and cruiser Lützow is also shelled but escapes. The delayed landing of troops allows Norway’s Royal Family, Government and gold reserves to escape Oslo at 8.30 AM. Oslo is captured later in the day by German troops airlifted into Fornebu Airport. Stavanger and Sola Airfield are also taken by German paratroops.

The shipment of Norway’s gold reserve from Oslo on the morning of 9 April 1940 consisted of 818 cases weighing 40 kilos each, 685 cases weighing 25 kilos each and 39 kegs weighing 80 kilos each. The total shipment weighed 53 tonnes whereas the gold bars weighed about 48.8 tonnes.

Naval action around Norway.
At dawn, British cruiser HMS Renown spots German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau heading West, having deposited Marine Gruppe 1 at Narvik. Renown fires first and scores 3 hits on Gneisenau. HMS Renown is hit twice before the German ships use their superior speed to escape. All ships survive the encounter. The westward course of the German battleships further convinces the Admiralty that the Kriegsmarine is attempting to breakout into the Atlantic Ocean.

Afternoon, Luftwaffe searches for Royal Navy ships, finding the Home Fleet and 1st Cruiser Squadron that are still searching for the Kriegsmarine’s “Atlantic breakout”. At 2 PM, Ju 88s and He 111s bomb battleship HMS Rodney and destroyer HMS Gurkha off Bergen. HMS Rodney is damaged by a 500 kg bomb that penetrates her deck but does not explode. HMS Gurkha is hit (15 dead) and eventually sinks at 4 PM after cruiser HMS Aurora picks up 190 survivors. 4 Ju 88s are shot down.

At 5 PM, British submarine HMS Thistle misses U-4 with a spread of four torpedoes trying to sneak into Stavanger.

Vice-Admiral Horton’s hunch pays off and his submarines are in position to attack German warships. At 7.57 PM, HMS Truant is patrolling in the Skagerrak and torpedoes German cruiser Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe does not sink and is finished off at 9.50 PM by the German torpedo boat Greif. Meanwhile, French submarine Sybille (under Horton’s command) departs Harwich to patrol the south North Sea, West of Denmark.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 221 April 8, 1940

After midnight, Marine Gruppe 3 departs Wilhelmshaven for Bergen (cruisers Königsberg & Köln, transport Karl Peters, minelayer Bremse & 5 torpedo-boats carrying 1900 troops). At dawn, Marine Gruppe 4 & 6 depart Cuxhaven carrying 1250 troops for the South coast of Norway; Marine Gruppe 5 leaves Wilhelmshaven Swinemünde for Oslo (cruisers Blücher, Lützow and Emden, 8 minesweepers & 3 torpedo-boats carrying 2000 troops) At 5 AM, British destroyers HMS Esk, Icarus, Impulsive & Ivanhoe lay mines in the Vestfjord, gateway to Narvik. At 6 AM, the Allies inform Norway of this action, to prevent passage of ships “carrying war contraband”.

At 8 AM, British destroyer HMS Glowworm encounters Marine Gruppe 1 heading to Trondheim. Glowworm is badly damaged by 8-inch shells from German cruiser Admiral Hipper, engaging the much heavier ship in close battle. Glowworm rams Admiral Hipper causing major damage & then sinks (118 lives lost, 31 taken prisoner by Admiral Hipper). Lieutenant-Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope, commanding HMS Glowworm, drowns after helping survivors put on lifejackets. He will be posthumously awarded the first Victoria Cross of WWII for his aggressive actions, in part due to the testimony of his adversary, Captain Hellmuth Heye of the Admiral Hipper, who wrote to the British authorities via the Red Cross giving a statement of Commander Roope’s courage.

Only Vice-Admiral Max Horton commanding home-based submarines (alone among Royal Navy brass) correctly perceives German intentions to invade Norway. He deploys 6 more submarines to intercept ships sailing from German naval bases. HMS Ursula, Triad and Sterlet leave port to patrol the Skagerrak between Denmark and Norway. At noon, Polish submarine Orzeł (part of Horton's 2nd Submarine Flotilla, already on patrol in the Skagerrak) sinks German troop transport Rio de Janeiro. German troops rescued by Norwegian ships confess they are en route to Bergen. However, British minelaying dominates Norwegian thinking and they are not prepared for invasion by Germany.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day 220 April 7, 1940

At 1.25 PM, RAF Hudson reconnaissance plane of 220 Squadron reports a German cruiser and 6 destroyers (part of Marine Gruppe 1) heading North. 12 Blenheims and 24 Wellingtons bombers are called in and bomb the ships unsuccessfully.

The British response is a disaster. The Admiralty assumes German surface raiders are breaking out into the Atlantic (ignoring the possibility of coastal landings in Norway) and prepares to engage the German fleet in the open sea. Royal Navy’s Home Fleet (battleships Rodney & Valiant, battlecruiser Repulse, 2 cruisers & 10 destroyers) delays leaving Scapa Flow until 9.15 PM and misses the chance to intercept the troop-laden German warships. In addition, 1st Cruiser Squadron at Rosyth disembarks troops to engage in the ‘sea battle’, losing the opportunity for rapid landings in response to the German invasion.

British submarines HMS Shark & HMS Seawolf leave Harwich naval base to patrol off Dutch coast and HMS Clyde & HMS Thistle depart Scapa Flow to patrol the coast of Norway.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day 219 April 6, 1940

At 3.16 AM, U-59 sinks Norwegian steamer SS Navarra with 1 torpedo 20 miles off the Scottish coast. Six die in the explosion and another 6 when their lifeboat capsizes. 14 survivors in one lifeboat are picked up by Finnish steamer Atlas and landed at Kirkwall, Orkney Islands.

British submarines HMS Truant & Seal depart Rosyth naval dockyard, Scotland, for the Norwegian coast. HMS Tarpon is ordered to patrol the German coast near Heligoland Bight.

After dark, Marine Gruppe 1 departs Cuxhaven for Narvik (10 destroyers carrying 2000 troops, plus battleships Scharnhorst & Gneisenau). Marine Gruppe 2 departs Wesermünde for Trondheim (cruiser Admiral Hipper & 4 destroyers carrying 1700 troops). In the North Sea between Narvik & Trondheim, British destroyer HMS Glowworm stops to rescue a crewman lost overboard in heavy seas & loses sight of HMS Renown and the minelaying squadron.

U-1 disappears in the North Sea, probably lost to a British mine (all 24 hands lost).

Day 218 April 5, 1940

The French government is informed that Britain will go ahead with Operation Wilfred (mining the coast of Norway) without Operation Royal Marine (mining the River Rhine). Even Chamberlain believes the Allies have seized the initiative, crowing that “Hitler missed the bus” – words that he will come to regret. Allies deliver diplomatic notes (“admonitions”) to Norway and Sweden warning of actions to hinder German trade with these countries. Norwegians are now convinced of an Allied invasion and forget about Germany.

At 6.30 PM, British battlecruiser HMS Renown, destroyers HMS Inglefield, Ilex, Imogen, Isis, Greyhound, Glowworm, Hyperion, Hero & minelayer HMS Teviotbank depart Scapa Flow to mine the Norwegian coast.

Norwegian ambassador in Berlin warns of German plans to invade Denmark and parts of Southern Norway. The British also receive intelligence reports that Germany will soon invade Norway, including landings at Narvik. These warnings are ignored.

British submarine HMS Spearfish leaves Blyth for the Danish coast.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 217 April 4, 1940

British submarine HMS Snapper departs Harwich naval base for the Skagerrak, between Denmark and Norway. French submarines Amazone and Antiope, also under the command of British Vice-Admiral Max Horton, leave Harwich to patrol the Frisian Islands and Heligoland.

Churchill is dismayed by the general lack of Allied action, and French political feuding in particular, leading to inactivity in Norway. He flies to Paris to assess the situation and resurrect his plan to lay mines in Norwegian coastal waters (Operation Wilfred). He concludes that “Wilfred should go forward notwithstanding the French refusal of Royal Marine (mining of the Rhine)”. British War cabinet is informed and agrees with his assessment.

British newspapers report concentrations of troops in German ports. This seems to go unnoticed by the military.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 216 April 3, 1940

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill becomes chairman of the Military Coordinating Committee, giving him some oversight of the Army and RAF as well as naval matters.

Public statements by Churchill & Chamberlain and leaks in the British & French newspapers alert Norway to the likelihood of Allied operations in her waters. However, the Allies have lost the initiative, debating strategy at the cabinet level and bickering over priorities. In contrast, Hitler has no strategic allies or democratic processes to contend with. He plans for the invasion of Denmark & Norway to be swiftly followed by an offensive against France and the Low Countries; a devastating one-two punch.

Polish submarine Orzeł (part of Royal Navy's 2nd Submarine Flotilla, under the command of Vice-Admiral Max Horton), leaves Rosyth to patrol the Norwegian coast off Kristiansand.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 215 April 2, 1940

At 00.21 hours, U-38 sinks Finnish steamer SS Signe, a straggler from convoy HN-23A (all 19 hands lost). Destroyer HMS Sikh, escorting convoy HN-23A, hears the explosion and searches for survivors.

British submarines start taking up positions to execute Vice-Admiral Horton’s plan to intercept German warships leaving naval bases at Heligoland Bight, Kiel, Wilhelmshaven, Cuxhaven & Swinemünde. He correctly guesses that they will be bound for Norway. HMS Unity departs Blyth submarine base, Northumberland, to patrol Heligoland Bight. HMS Sunfish departs Harwich naval base for the Kattegat, between Denmark and Sweden.