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Second battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940

Second battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940

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Second battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940

The second battle of Narvik (13 April 1940) was a British naval victory during the German invasion of Norway of 1940. The Germans had launched their invasion of Norway on 9 April, attacking six Norwegian ports, amongst them Narvik. The forces for the attack on Narvik, in the far north of Norway, had been transported on a force of ten destroyers. On the following day the German destroyers had been attacked by a force of five British destroyers (first battle of Narvik, 10 April 1940). Both sides lost two destroyers in this battle, while three more of the German ships were badly damaged.

The leader of the German destroyer squadron had been killed on 10 April. His successor, the command of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, only had two seaworthy destroyers on the night of 10-11 April, partly because of the battle damage and partly because the squadron had run into a gale on the way to Narvik. He was under orders to return to Germany, but an attempt to break out that night was abandoned after strong British forces were discovered guarding the exit to the open sea. Two mores of his destroyers were seaworthy by the end of 11 April, but no more breakouts were attempted.

In the aftermath of the attack on 10 April, the British Admiralty believed that there were two cruisers and six destroyers at Narvik. A series of plans were made to deal with this threat. First the cruiser Penelope was allocated to lead an attack, but she ran aground on 11 April. On the next day aircraft from HMS Furious launched an unsuccessful attack on Narvik. Finally, it was decided to send in the battleship HMS Warspite, supported by nine destroyers.

This attack began on the morning of 13 April. The Warspite’s spotting aircraft performed valuable services, attacking the submarine U.64, and spotting a German destroyer in an ideal position to launch a torpedo attack from one of the side fjords. Both vessels were sunk, the destroyer where it was found while U.64 was able to reach the far end of Harjangs Fjord, north east of Narvik before sinking. Most of her crew escaped.

The British fleet reached Narvik at 1.00pm. The German destroyers fought back, inflicting serious damage on two British destroyers, Eskimo and Cossack, but after an hour the surviving German ships fled into the far reaches of Herjangs Fjord and Rombaksfjord. Two of the German destroyers were lost close to Narvik, one in Herjangs fjord and the last four in Rombaksfjord. German casualties were not as high as one might expect from such a total defeat, as several of the German ships were destroyed by their own crews. 2,500 of their crews survived to take part in the land battle for Narvik.

Fact File : Narvik Naval Battle

Location: Port of Narvik, Norway
Players: Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee, Admiral William Whitworth
Outcome: Ten German destroyers and six merchant ships sunk. Of the German forces in Narvik, only U-51 survives by escaping out to sea. Warburton-Lee is killed and his flagship sunk.

Two naval battles were fought at Narvik in 1940. This Norwegian port was important to the Germans because it was used to ship out iron ore to supply Nazi Germany.

On 9 April the Germans arrived in ten destroyers and landed 2,000 troops there. The British had laid mines off the entrance to the port only the day before, but had not anticipated a German occupation.

The first battle of Narvik was initiated by the British Navy, who had orders to prevent the Germans landing. Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee commanded a British destroyer flotilla of five ships which arrived too late. Luckily, U-boats in the port failed to spot the flotilla.

The British depended now on stealth for a successful attack. Early on the morning of 10 April, with added advantage of heavy snow, the British entered the harbour and sunk two German destroyers and six merchant ships, damaging another destroyer.

Unbeknown to the British navy, a further five destroyers were at anchor in other fjords and these emerged to attack the British flotilla, killing Warburton-Lee, destroying his flagship, sinking another and damaging two more ships. But the Germans had to retreat and make repairs. They were stranded without fuel and a second battle began on 13 April.

The new British force consisted of the battleship HMS Warspite and eight destroyers under the command of Vice Admiral William Whitworth. The Germans had eight destroyers still in the fjord along with two U-boats.

The Koellner was torpedoed and sunk. Then Whitworth's force met the German destroyers Kuinne, Ludemann, Zenker and Armin - destroying all of them. The remaining German destroyers were pursued from fjord to fjord by HMS Eskimo, HMS Bedouin, HMS Forester, HMS Hero and HMS Icarus. The Eskimo was badly damaged by the Theile, which was run aground before capsizing. Of the German forces in Narvik, only U-51 survived by escaping out to sea.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

Second battle of Narvik, 13 April 1940 - History



Invasion of Norway

. 1940

APRIL 1940


German Raiders - “Orion” sailed for the Pacific and Indian Oceans around South America's Cape Horn. She was out for 16 months before returning to France.

10th - “U-50” on patrol off the Shetlands in support of the Norwegian invasion, was sunk by destroyer “Hero”.

Faeroe Islands - On the 13th April, following the German invasion of Norway, an advance guard of Royal Marines landed on the Faeroe Islands, northwest of the Shetland Islands with the eventual agreement of the Danish Governor.

Monthly Loss Summary: 4 British, Allied and neutral ships of 25,000 tons from all causes 1 German U-boat.


Atomic Bomb - Just as the “phoney war” ended in Europe (it never existed at sea) the end of the war was foreshadowed when the British government established the Maud Committee to oversee nuclear research. Similar steps had already been taken in the United States, all of which eventually led to an operational atomic bomb.

German Codes - The Bletchley Park Ultra programme was now decoding some Luftwaffe low-level Enigma codes, partly because of poor German security procedures. There is little evidence the hard-won information influenced the war over the next two violent months.

Norwegian Invasion & Campaign
(see map above)

3rd - The first German troop transports sailed for Norway. 7th - German covering and troop-carrying warships headed for Norway. 8th - Operation 'Wilfred': Royal Navy destroyers laid minefields, simulated and real at three points off the Norwegian coast, including near Bodo. Battlecruiser Renown and other destroyers provided cover. One of the screen, GLOWWORM (Lt-Cdr Roope) was detached to search for a man overboard just as 8in-gunned cruiser “Admiral Hipper” headed into Trondheim. They met to the northwest of the port and the destroyer was soon sunk, but not before she rammed and damaged “Hipper”. + Lt-Cdr Gerard Roope RN was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

7th-8th - In response to reported German movements, units of the Home Fleet including Rodney, Valiant, Repulse, four cruisers and 14 destroyers sailed from Scapa Flow and Rosyth. Accompanying them was a French cruiser and two destroyers. Two more British cruisers and nine destroyers left other duties and headed for Norwegian waters. Next day, on the 8th, they were joined by the four troop-carrying cruisers of Operation 'R4', but after the soldiers had been disembarked back in Britain. More than 20 submarines, including three French and one Polish took up positions.

9th, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway (Operation 'Weserubung'): Copenhagen was soon occupied and DENMARK surrendered. In Norway, seaborne troops landed at Oslo, Kristiansand, Egersund and Bergen in the south, Trondheim in the centre and Narvik in the north. The southern forces and those from Trondheim pushed inland and joined up by the end of the month. They then moved north to relieve Narvik, which was isolated by the Allies soon after the first German landings. German Navy forces included a pocket battleship, six cruisers, 14 destroyers, torpedo boats and minesweepers for the landings at the six Norwegian ports, with battlecruisers “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau” covering the two most northerly landings. Thirty U-boats patrolled off Norway and British bases, but throughout the campaign suffered from major torpedo defects. Early in the morning of the 9th, battlecruiser Renown was in action with the two German battlecruisers to the west of Vestfiord. “Gneisenau” was damaged and “Renown” slightly. The Germans withdrew. As “Renown” was in action, German occupation forces heading for Oslo came under heavy fire from Norwegian coastal defences. Shore-sited guns and torpedoes in Oslo Fiord sank heavy cruiser “BLUCHER”. A Home Fleet cruiser force was detached to attack the German warships in Bergen, but ordered to withdraw. They came under continuous air attack and destroyer GURKHA was bombed and sunk southwest of Bergen. That evening, German cruiser “KARLSRUHE” left Kristiansand and was torpedoed by submarine “Truant”. She was scuttled next day.

10th, First Battle of Narvik - The 2nd Destroyer Flotilla (Capt. Warburton-Lee) with “Hardy”, “Havock”, “Hostile”, “Hotspur” and “Hunter”, entered Ofotfiord to attack the German ships assigned to the occupation of Narvik. These included 10 large destroyers. Several transports were sunk together with destroyers “ANTON SCHMITT” (AS) and “WILHELM HEIDKAMP” (WH) in Narvik Bay . Other German destroyers were damaged, but as the British 2nd Flotilla retired, HARDY was beached, HUNTER sunk by the remaining German ships and “Hotspur” badly damaged. + Capt Bernard Warburton-Lee RN was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

By the 10th, the British Home Fleet was reinforced by battleship Warspite and carrier Furious. On the same day submarine THISTLE on patrol off Utsira failed in an attack on “U-4”. Shortly after she was sunk by the same U-boat. Fleet Air Arm Skua dive-bomber’s of 800 and 803 Squadrons flying from the Orkney Islands sank German cruiser "KOENIGSBERG" at her moorings in Bergen, the first major warship sunk by air attack. She was damaged earlier by shore batteries in the landings. .

11th - Returning from the Oslo landings, German pocket battleship “Lutzow” was torpedoed and badly damaged by submarine “Spearfish” in the Skagerrak. Cruiser “Penelope” on her way into Narvik was damaged running aground in Vestfiord.

13th, Second Battle of Narvik - Battleship Warspite and nine destroyers were sent into the Narvik fiords to finish off the remaining German ships. Submarine “U-64” was surprised and sunk by “Warspite's” Swordfish catapult aircraft as it scouted ahead. The eight surviving German destroyers – “BERND VON ARNIM” (BA), “DIETHER VON ROEDER” (DR), “ERICH GIESE” (EG), “ERICH KOELNNER” (EK), “GEORG THIELE” (GT), “HANS LUDEMANN” (HL), “HERMANN KUNNE” (HK) and “WOLFGANG ZENKER” (WZ) were all destroyed or scuttled. The British “Eskimo” and “Cossack” were damaged. By the 13th, the first British troop convoys had left the Scottish Clyde for Narvik, but some ships were diverted to Namsos. German forces were well-established in the south and centre of Norway and had control of the air.

14th - Submarine TARPON on patrol off southern Norway was sunk by German minesweeper “M-6”. German gunnery training ship “BRUMMER” was torpedoed and sunk by submarine “Sterlet” .

14th-16th - The first Allied landings took place between the 14th and 16th. In the north, British troops occupied Harstad in preparation for an attack on Narvik. They were reinforced by French and Polish units through into May. Royal Marines led British and French troops into Namsos ready for an attack south towards Trondheim. The British went ashore in the Andalsnes area to try to hold central Norway with the Norwegian Army. Neither of these operations proved possible and on the 27th April the decision was taken to pull out of central Norway.

15th - As the Harstad-bound troopships approached their destination, escorting destroyers “Brazen” and “Fearless” located and sank “U-49”. Southwest of Stavanger, “U-1” went to the bottom after striking a mine.

17th - Heavy cruiser Suffolk (right - NavyPhotos) bombarded installations at Stavanger, but on her return was badly damaged by Ju-88 bombers and barely made Scapa Flow with her stern awash.

18th - Four days after sinking the “Brummer”, submarine STERLET was presumed sunk in the Skagerrak by German anti-submarine trawlers.

24th - After four days continuous AA duty off Andalsnes, cruiser Curacoa was badly damaged by bombs. Carrier Glorious flew off obsolescent Gladiator biplanes for shore operations.

27th - Allied plans to attack towards Trondheim and hold central Norway proved impossible. The decision was taken to pull out of central Norway, and the evacuation of Andalsnes and Namsos got under way.

30th - Sloop “BITTERN” was sunk by Ju-87 dive-bombers off Namsos.

29th - Submarine UNITY was lost in collision with a Norwegian merchantman off the northeast coast of England.

Air War - The first mines were laid by RAF Bomber Command off the German and Danish coasts.

Monthly Loss Summary: 54 British, Allied and neutral ships of 134,000 tons from all causes.

MAY 1940


German Raiders - “Widder” headed for central Atlantic operations before returning to France six months later. On her way into the Indian Ocean, “Atlantis” laid mines off South Africa.

Iceland & Dutch West Indies - On the 10th as Germany attacked France and the Low Countries, British Royal Marines landed from two cruisers at Reykjavik, Iceland then part of the Danish Crown. More troops followed to set up air and sea bases that became vital to Britain's defence of the Atlantic supply routes. To avoid any possibility of confusion, Winston Churchill always insisted on differentiating between Iceland (C) and Ireland (R). Shortly after Germany invaded Holland, Allied troops landed on the Dutch West lndies islands of Aruba and Curacoa to protect oil installations.

Battle of the Atlantic - U-boats started returning to the Western Approaches and as they did, one of the first ‘Flower’ class corvettes “Arabis” made a depth-charge attack in defence of a Gibraltar/UK convoy. With the closure of the Mediterranean to Allied shipping, the trade routes around Africa and the ports en route took on a new importance. Particularly vital was the West African base at Freetown, Sierra Leone

Monthly Loss Summary: 10 British, Allied and neutral ships of 55,000 tons from all causes.


Norwegian Campaign - continued

2nd/3rd - In three days and nights the last 10,000 British and French troops had been evacuated from Namsos and around Andalsnes following the failure to attack towards Trondheim and hold central Norway. Other troops were later landed further north, including at Bodo in an attempt to block the German advance from Trondheim towards Narvik. The Allies continued to build up forces for the attack on Narvik. + Lt-Cdr Richard Stannard RNR, commanding officer of HM trawler Arab of the 15th Anti-Submarine Striking Force, was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry under air attack during operations off Namsos.

3rd - Retiring northwest from Namsos, destroyers AFRIDI and the French “BISON” were sunk by Ju-87 Stuka dive-bombers.

4th - As preparations continued in northern Norway for the attack on Narvik, Polish destroyer “GROM” was bombed and sunk.

5th - Submarine SEAL successfully laid mines in the southern Kattegat on the 4th before being damaged by a German mine. Trying to make for neutral Sweden on the surface, she was attacked and captured off The Skaw by German air and sea patrols.

17th - Cruiser EFFINGHAM ran aground on an uncharted rock in Vestfiord carrying troops to Bodo to help block the German advance on Narvik. She was later torpedoed and abandoned.

23rd - By now carriers Furious and Glorious had flown ashore the first modern RAF fighters.

24th - The Allies decided to pull out of Norway altogether, but not before Narvik had been captured and the port installations destroyed.

26th - During the attack on Narvik, AA cruiser CURLEW was bombed and sunk in nearby Lavang Fjord.

28th - Two days after the loss of sister ship “Curlew”, Cairo was badly damaged off the town of Narvik just as French and Polish troops completed its capture. The Norwegian Campaign shortly drew to a close

Britain - Following a 10th May House of Commons debate on the Norwegian campaign, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill assumed leadership. Albert V Alexander succeeded him as First Lord of the Admiralty. The planned attack on Narvik was still to go ahead, but that same day the German Blitzkrieg was launched on Holland, Belgium and France .

Western Front

10th, Germany invades Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg (Operation 'Gelb') - British and French troops crossed the border into Belgium and took up forward positions, but the main German thrust was a planned encircling movement further south through the forests and mountains of the Belgium Ardennes.

13th - The Germans entered France at Sedan. After breaking through, German armour headed west for the Channel to trap the Allied armies now in Belgium and northern France. British Admiralty plans had already been made to withdraw shipping from the Low Countries, block main ports, demolish installations and remove gold and diamonds. Most of these duties were carried out with the aid of Royal Navy destroyers which suffered heavy losses over the next few weeks. Still on the 13th, Holland’s Queen Wilhelmina and her Government were now on their way to Britain aboard a Royal Navy destroyer to continue Holland's fight.

14th - The centre of Rotterdam was blitzed by the Luftwaffe.

15th - Destroyers continued to support Allied land forces off the Dutch and Belgian coasts. Under heavy air attack, two were bombed and beached over the next few days, starting with VALENTINE in the Scheldt Estuary. The DUTCH Army surrendered to the Germans. On the same day, Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet, anticipating the Battle for Britain decided not to send any more RAF fighters to France. The strategic bombing of Germany was also ordered and raids made on the Ruhr.

17th - As the Allies retreated from Belgium, German forces entered Brussels.

19th - The second destroyer supporting Allied land forces, WHITLEY was beached near Nieuport on the Belgian coast with bomb damage.

20th - German tanks reached the English Channel near Abbeville, shortly turning right and advancing north on the ports of Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. Destroyers carried Allied troops to Boulogne and Calais and remained in support. Over the next four days, five Allied destroyers were lost and others damaged in the area. 21st - French destroyer “L’ADROIT” bombed and sunk off Dunkirk. 23rd - French destroyer “ORAGE” bombed off Boulogne and “JAGUAR” torpedoed and sunk by German E-boats “S-21” and “S-23” off Dunkirk. 24th - A fourth French destroyer, “CHACAL” was bombed off Boulogne. The British WESSEX was also bombed and sunk supporting the defenders of Calais.

26th - Both Boulogne and Calais fell to the Germans. The British Expeditionary Force and French Army fell back on Dunkirk.

26th May-4th June, Dunkirk Evacuation (Operation 'Dynamo') - Initial plans were to lift off 45,000 men of the British Expeditionary Force over a two-day period under the direction of Vice-Adm B. H. Ramsey. In the next five days, 8,000 men on the 27th May, 18,000 on the 28th, 47,000 on the 29th, 54,000 on the 30th and 68,000 on the 31st were carried to Britain - a total of 195,000, both British and French. Every phase of the operation was subject to heavy air, sea and land attack. Forty British, six French and a Polish destroyer took part, together with 800 other vessels, large and small. Losses were considerable. The Dunkirk evacuation continued into June.

28th - The BELGIUMArmy surrendered on the northern flank, seriously endangering the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk.

29th - Apart from those damaged, three Royal Navy destroyers were sunk in the English Channel off the Dunkirk beaches on this day - GRAFTON torpedoed by submarine “U-62”, GRENADE by bombing, and WAKEFUL by a torpedo from E-boat “S-30”.

30th - French destroyers also continued to suffer losses. “BOURRASQUE” was mined off the Belgium port of Nieuport and sunk by shore batteries. 31st - “Bourrasque’s” sister ship “SIROCCO” was torpedoed and sunk by German E-boats “S-23” and “S-26”.

31st - German “U-13” was believed sunk by sloop “Weston” off the English East Coast fishing port of Lowestoft.

Air War - Minelaying continued along the south and east coasts of Britain as well as the waters of Holland, Belgium and northern France during the German Blitzkrieg.

Monthly Loss Summary: 90 British, Allied and neutral ships of 231,000 tons from all causes.

Second Battle of Narvik

The Second Battle of Narvik occurred three days after the First Battle of Narvik on 13 April 1940.

Vice Admiral William Whitworth and his forces arrived at the fjord to finish off the eight remaining German destroyers and two U-boats that were virtually stranded due to lack of fuel, a consequence of the First Battle of Narvik. The British forces consisted of the HMS Warspite (probably the best known 20th century Royal Navy battleship), nine destroyers and aircraft from the aircraft carrier Furious.

During the battle, a Fairey Swordfish launched from the HMS Warspite sank the submarine "U-64", making it the first U-boat to be sunk by an aircraft in the Second World War.

All eight remaining German destroyers were either destroyed by the Warspite and her escorts or were scuttled by their own crews when they ran out of fuel and ammunition.

Narvik: The Struggle of Battle Group Dietl in the Spring of 1940

Translator Janice W. Ancker has made Alex Buchner’s 1958 treatise on the 1940 conflict over the Norwegian city of Narvik available in English for the first time as part of the “Die Wehrmacht Im Kampf” book series from the Center for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research (CHACR), the British Army’s own think tank. Ancker has previously translated Hitler’s Wehrmacht, 1935—1945 and The Forgotten Front: The Eastern Theater of World War I, 1914 – 1915. She is thus no stranger to the subject matter.

In the Second World War, Alex Buchner rose through the ranks of the Wehrmacht’s mountain troops to become a First Lieutenant in command of a company of men, and in the post-war era he attained the rank of Major in the Bundeswehr’s reserves. This operational expertise made him ideally suited to integrating preexisting personal narratives in order to present the first truly comprehensive overview of this conflict.

Nevertheless, a foreword written by the Head of Historical Analysis at the CHACR, Professor Matthias Strohn, rightly notes that this detached assessment of the German military’s operational effectiveness at Narvik turns a blind eye to the detestable Nazi ideology driving not just the invasion of Norway but also Eduard Dietl himself, whose strategic savvy Buchner celebrates.

Narvik is a relatively short read but it is written in a parsimonious style that offers little hand-holding. As such, a familiarity with the minutiae of military movements, the organization of the Third Reich’s military, and/or the geography of Norway will make the narrative easier to follow. A layman will not require any outside source to make sense of the text, but the many units and locations at play may prove challenging at times for a casual reader.

Included at the beginning of the book are a number of German maps featuring naval and infantry movements alike, though perhaps inclusion of illustrations and English maps embedded within the main text would have ameliorated the barriers to those not already acquainted with the books subject matter as they attempt to visualize Buchner’s blow by blow account of the conflict over Narvik.

The appendices also include orders of battle for the German forces under Dietl as of April 9, May 13, May 27, and 9 June, as well as Allied forces in the vicinity as of April 17, May 10, and June 3. The changing troop levels over the duration of the conflict are also incorporated into the main narrative itself.

The Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine forces engaged at Narvik were confronted by a desperate shortage of supplies even as they were struggling to preserve access to Swedish iron ore to feed the war machine back in Germany. Norwegian and Allied forces were not so troubled with supply shortages. Their apparent inability to mass and leverage superior firepower in order to break the entrenched German presence in Narvik is attributed primarily to a combination of excessive caution in the face of unpredictable and deadly environmental conditions as well as poor coordination between the many international stakeholders. Communication and coordination likewise represented a constant struggle for the German forces. The movement of materiel across fjords presented a frequent logistical challenge, as did maintaining radio contact between extremely dispersed forces.

Above all the narrative of Narvik conveys the grueling nature of Arctic combat. The German forces in and around the city of Narvik suffered severe losses to cold and starvation. When the summer thaw came, it only served to worsen conditions, as keeping dry became immeasurably more difficult, and troops even drowned in the slush. Furthermore, the troops were often forced to bivouac in rocky mountain climes, rather than the warmer lowlands with wood and soft earth for shelter, given the strategic importance of high ground for keeping the enemy in their sights at range.

Heavy snowfall and fog meant that it was at times impossible to see the enemy at more than a few paces, making close quarter combat and stealth operations a major part of the conflict, but such conditions could disappear as quickly as they appeared. The arctic sunlight also enabled visibility—and consequently, combat—to continue at all hours of the day and night.

Buchner, by way of Ancker, has presented an intensely detailed historical account and counterfactual analysis of the strategic dilemmas faced by German and Allied forces at Narvik. As such this book may be of particular interest to those engaged in wargaming and military simulations as a well as historical enthusiasts more generally.

Tyler Robinson graduated with an MLitt in International Security Studies from the University of St Andrews in 2018. He has also contributed reports on emerging technologies and geopolitical threats for OODA LLC.

Narvik: The Struggle of Battle Group Dietl in the Spring of 1940 (Alex Buchner, Translated by Janice W. Ancker, Casemate Publishers, Havertown, PA and Oxford, UK, 2020)

Scandinavian Twist: Churchill’s 1940 Fiasco in Norway

Although Churchill was roundly criticized for his role in the failed Norwegian campaign, the debacle, ironically, opened the door for him to become prime minister&mdashand lead England to victory.

This post, which is from the Winter 2011 issue of MHQ , is only a snippet. Please purchase the Winter 2011 issue of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History to read the entire article.

On April 15, 1940, utterly alone and deeply worried, the commander in chief of Germany&rsquos armed forces, Adolf Hitler, sat in the far corner of a room full of busy staff officers, telephones, maps, and messengers at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. A witness described the führer as &ldquostaring vacuously as if immersed in some apathetic meditation he appeared to be expecting his sole salvation from some phone call.&rdquo Hitler&rsquos apprehension was warranted. The Norwegian operation was only eight days old but it had already cost Germany the cruisers Blücher, Karlsrühe, and Königsberg. The heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, pocket battleship Lützow, and battlecruiser Gneisenau had been damaged, and eleven modern, combatworthy destroyers sunk or scuttled. German vessels had just been driven from the port of Narvik, a vital rail terminal, by a superior British naval force (though it would take French and Norwegian troops until May 28 to recapture the town). The most stunning blow to Hitler was the painful recognition that he had initiated this embarrassing debacle over the strong objections of the German army&rsquos leadership, which had warned him it was the wrong action at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

On April 9, 68,000 German soldiers and paratroopers began to land in Norway by air and sea. Nearly 1,000 Luftwaffe planes were called to action (Map by Baker Vail).

The wrong place was Scandinavia, which was destined to be a World War II backwater. The wrong time was when Nazi Germany&rsquos military staffs and logistical organizations were only three weeks from launching a 136-division surprise assault on Holland, Belgium, and France. Since the Wehrmacht invasion would face 149 divisions of the Western Allies, many of which were behind formidable defenses, there was every reason for Berlin not to have eight army divisions, much of its air arm&mdashthe Luftwaffe&mdashand most of its navy fully engaged in Scandinavia.

Meanwhile in London, Britain&rsquos First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, was raising the ire of his commanders. General Sir William Ironside, chief of the Imperial General Staff, described him as a desperate man who seemed to be more of a liability than an asset, a view that other British commanders would occasionally embrace well after the Norway campaign.

&ldquoOne of the fallacies that Winston seems to have got into his head,&rdquo said Ironside at the time, &ldquois that we can make improvised decisions to carry on the war by meeting at 5 p.m. each day&hellip.War cannot be run by the staffs sitting round a table arguing. We cannot have a man trying to supervise all military arrangements as if he were a company commander running a small operation to cross a bridge.&rdquo

In Norway, both Hitler and Churchill would gamble not only their careers but also the futures of their respective countries. One would be elevated despite a disastrous performance. The other would gain a flashy, short-term victory&mdashthat four years later would help bring about a devastating failure.

Montague Dawson

The most decorated ship in Royal Naval history, H.M.S. WARSPITE battles German Naval ships in the Second Battle of Narvik, Norway. Giving and taking heavy fire from the German Kriegsmarine, WARSPITE would lead Britain to one of the most important British victories in the early war. Sinking or grounding half of the German Navy’s fleet of destroyers, the Battle of Narvik would go down as the most successful operation by British destroyers during WWII.

HMS WARSPITE was a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship built for the Royal Navy during the early 1910s. Her thirty-year career covered both world wars and took her across the Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Pacific Oceans. She participated in the Battle of Jutland during the First World War as part of the Grand Fleet.

During the WWII, she was involved in several major engagements, including battles in the North Sea and Mediterranean, earning her the most battle honors ever awarded to an individual ship in the Royal Navy. For her long and distinguished service the ship was nicknamed "Grand Old Lady" and often went into battle as the flagship of an admiral.

Despite this great victory, Britain would give up on liberating Norway a month after this action. The loss of Norway would lead to the resignation of then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who was succeeded by Winston Churchill. Still, history records that the Battles of Narvik gave the British people hope in an otherwise bleak period of war, reminding the world that Britannia still ruled the waves.

In 1940 Dawson's representing gallery Frost and Reed of London created prints of this painting. The fact that this was not a limited edition, unlike so many others created by the gallery for Dawson's works shows that there was a desire to make this image available to the public in memory of the great showing by the Royal Navy.

The First and Second Battles of Narvik
When WWII broke out in September of 1939, Norway declared itself neutral. Less than a year later, it was action around the port of Narvik which pulled the country into the conflict.

Narvik’s harbor is ice-free, offering year round ship access to Ofotfjord, through which both Germany and Great Britain transported iron ore from mines in Sweden. Each wanted the vital resources or to at least to keep the other side from obtaining them. Sweden provided half of Germany’s iron, so the loss of port access would have done major economic damage to the country and to the war effort.

Norway was a rich prize for both sides- Germany wanted Atlantic ports to head off a repeat of the British blockade which so hampered their efforts in WWI. France and Britain were openly discussing their own potential occupation of Norway to position troops and block German access to rail and supply lines. Fearing this occupation, Hitler ordered the invasion of Norway and Denmark on March 1st, 1940. The plan was that German forces would occupy the six main Norwegian ports with Narvik as the most important goal.

On April 9, a group of German destroyers sailed into Ofotfjord heading for Narvik. Their orders were to occupy Norway peacefully if possible, as Germany felt that Norwegians were a fellow Germanic race. Though the Norwegians on land and at sea fought valiantly, sinking the German flagship and damaging a few other ships, overall Norway was unprepared for a large scale invasion and German troops occupied the ports including Narvik.

After the invasions Germans informed the governments of Denmark and Norway that the Wehrmacht had come to protect the countries' neutrality against Franco-British aggression. When the news broke the same day in London, that Germany had invaded Norway, military observers said it hit London like “live shells exploding at a picnic.” A day earlier, the British Government had gloated about the successful mining of the approach waters to Narvik, missing the German forces by a few hours. Now it seemed they had dithered in indecision, spending months internally arguing for and against breaching Norway’s neutrality.

The subsequent campaign to dislodge the German invaders from Norway presented the British Armed Forces with their first real test of the war. In emergency council Britain quickly decided to focus their efforts in Northern Norway and Narvik seemed like the perfect focal point. Relatively isolated from the main fighting forces, the port was also out of reach of the German Luftwaffe. Also, British intelligence had reported that only one German ship had taken Narvik, rather than the actual ten German destroyers who landed that day.

In the best position to engage Germany, Britain’s 2nd Destroyer Flotilla was sent to Narvik with orders to destroy the enemy. Under the command of Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee, the flotilla included flagship HMS HARDY, along with destroyers HMS HOTSPUR, HAVOCK, HUNTER, and HOSTILE. The decision whether to land troops and engage forces in the city was the commander's to make.

As he neared Narvik, a stop at a pilot station near Tranöy, locals informed Warburton-Lee of six remaining German destroyers seen at Narvik and that he’d need twice as many ships to have any chance of success against the larger and better armed German vessels. Despite the odds the commander decided to press on and engage the enemy.

Warburton-Lee timed his arrival at Narvik perfectly. He arrived outside the port at just before 4am on April 10th, hidden by snowstorms. At 4.30am he led his ships into the harbor and with a combination of torpedoes and gunfire sank two of the German destroyers, damaging the other four. The British pressed a second attack which sank a number of nearby German merchant ships and supply vessels, including one carrying fuel for the German Naval ships. Incredibly, the British ships were unharmed. Thinking he’d just quickly taken out most of the ships at Narvik, Warburton-Lee then withdrew outside the harbor. The remaining German vessels however, radioed others nearby and they were on their way within the hour.

Warburton-Lee decided to remain at Narvik long enough to make one more attack, but before he could reenter the harbor, three German destroyers attacked from the northwest, followed soon after by two more from the west and the British forces were under attack from both sides in open waters where the larger German ships had tactical advantage. HMS HARDY was badly damaged and had to be beached while HMS HUNTER was sunk outright. Captain Warburton-Lee was among those killed in the fight. All five of the German ships were damaged and retreated. Of the remaining three British ships, HMS HOTSPUR was badly damaged but was aided by the relatively sound HAVOCK and HOSTILE who escorted her out of the fjord.

The Second Battle of Narvik – April 13th, 1940
The Royal Navy considered it imperative, for morale and strategic purposes, to defeat the Germans in Narvik, so Vice Admiral William Whitworth was sent with the battleship HMS WARSPITE and nine destroyers four Tribal-class (HMS BEDOUIN, COSSACK, PUNJABI, and ESKIMO) and five others (HMS KIMBERLEY, HERO, ICARUS, FORESTER and FOXHOUND), accompanied by aircraft from the aircraft carrier HMS FURIOUS. These forces arrived in the Ofotfjord on April 13th to find that the eight remaining German destroyers were virtually stranded due to lack of fuel, but still ready to fight for control of the port. However the Germans were able to call in several support vessels including several U-boats and the victory was still hard fought.

In the ensuing battle, three of the German destroyers were sunk by WARSPITE and her escorts and the other five were scuttled by their crews when they ran out of fuel and ammunition. A catapult plane lunched from WARSPITE sank a German U-boat in the battle, the first U-boat to be sunk by an aircraft during the Second World War.

WARSPITE was lucky to escape unscathed given the number of submarines and other torpedo-armed enemy warships present in the narrow confines of the Norwegian fjords. Though she remained in Norwegian waters for a few weeks, there was no way to retake Narvik, as no Allied ground forces were available to occupy the city. For the surviving German sailors, it was just the beginning. The crews of the ships that sank formed a marine detachment comprising 2,600 men that successfully fought side by side with Germany’s 3rd Mountain Division against the Allied forces in the surrounding region. The marine engineers also had their part to play—together with sappers they restored Narvik’s port, and repaired transport links, rolling stock, and armament.

The Battles of Narvik and the Occupation of Norway would play a major role the direction of Britain’s war effort. The invasion and eventual loss of Norway provided the shock that shook the British nation out of any illusions that the war could be won with half measures. An all-out effort and great sacrifice would be required to compete on equal terms with a totalitarian enemy.

The 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (13e DBLE) was first constituted in February 1940 as the DBLMLE, a mountain light demi-brigade. The reason of this designation was to participate in the Winter War, taking place in cold Finland, to oppose the Soviet Union troops there. However, the war ended before the unit was ready to fight. In April 1940, as the 13e DBMLE at that time, it moved to Scandinavia to enter the WWII and fight the German forces occupying Norway. The 13e DBMLE participated in the Battle of Bjervik and Battle of Narvik there.

After the Norwegian Campaign ended, the unit devided into two parts. The first one was disbanded a few weeks later in Morocco, the second one became the 13e DBLE and participated in several battles and campaigns during the WWII as part of the Free French Forces – Battle of Keren, Syria-Lebanon Campaign, Battle of Bir Hakeim, Italian Campaign… The 13e DBLE participated also in the liberation of France in 1944-45. After the WWII, it participated in the First Indochina War and Algerian War.

In 1962, the 13e DBLE moved to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa for next 49 years. There, as a motorized regiment, it served a dual security and public works role and was involved in several overseas humanitarian interventions. In 2011, it left Djibouti and was placed in the United Arab Emirates. The 13e DBLE returned to France in June 2016.

For current information about the regiment, see 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion

NOTICE: Please, take into account that this article was published already in 2015 and thus it waits in a line to be vastly improved. Thank you for your understanding.

13e DBMLE: Norwegian Campaign 1940

September 1939:
Second World War (WWII) started

February 20, 1940:
– a battalion was formed in Sidi Bel Abbes (HQ of the Foreign Legion at that time), Algeria
– it consisted of legionnaires from the Foreign Regiments Joint Depot and 1er REI

February 24, 1940:
– another battalion was established in Fez, Morocco
– the battalion was composed of legionnaires provided by 2e REI, 3e REI and 4e REI

March 1, 1940:
– the two battalions formed a new provisional unit
Foreign Legion Mountain Light Demi-Brigade (Demi-brigade Légère de Montagne de Légion Étrangère, DBLMLE) was established
– DBLMLE was constituted as a mountain warfare unit
– it was the only unit of the Legion to receive intense specialized mountain warfare training
– the unit would participate in the Winter War
– the war was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland in 1939–1940
– DBLMLE had a strength of about 2,100 men
– lieutenant-colonel Raoul-Charles Magrin-Vernerey (later nom de guerre/pseudonyme Ralph Monclar) took the leadership

– the battalion of Fez became the 1st Battalion of DBLMLE
– the battalion of Sidi Bel Abbes became the 2nd Battalion of DBLMLE

– a few days later, DBLMLE moved to Larzac, France to receive training

March 12, 1940:
– the Winter War ended
– cancellation of DBLMLE’s mission

March 27, 1940:
– DBLMLE was redesignated
– it became the 13th Foreign Legion Provisional Demi-Brigade (13e Demi-brigade de Marche de Légion Etrangère, 13e DBMLE)
– 13e DBMLE continued its training in France without specification of future deployment

April 1940:
– 13e DBMLE moved to the Belley region, France to be trained in mountain warfare

April-June 1940:
Norwegian Campaign
– on April 22, the 13e DBMLE was sent to Norway to fight against German forces
– 13e DBMLE was part of the French Expeditionary Force in Scandinavia (Corps Expéditionnaire Français en Scandinavie, CEFS)

May 13, 1940:
Battle of Bjervik

May 28, 1940:
Battle of Narvik
– 13e DBMLE was the main force to attack and recapture Narvik from the Germans
– the battle has been called as “the only victory of France 1939-1940”

June 7, 1940:
– Norwegian Campaign ended
– CEFS, including 13e DBMLE legionnaires, left Norway for France

June 22, 1940:
Armistice was signed between France and Germany
– it ended the Battle of France (May-June 1940)
– for France, WWII temporarily ended
– CEFS moved to Britain to be based in Trentham, a village near the city of Stoke-on-Trent

June 23-30, 1940:
– French military officer Charles de Gaulle made an appeal to resist the occupation

– general Charles de Gaulle escaped to Britain and called on the French to continue to resist the occupation of France
– he asked the French troops to join him and form the new French forces
– from 14,000 French troops (officers, NCOs and soldiers) stationed at Trentham, the vast majority rejected his appeal
– they decided to serve under the new pro-German French government headed by Marshal Pétain

– only some 1,300 French soldiers went with de Gaulle
– nearly 900 of them were legionnaires from the 13e DBMLE
– these legionnaires ran away from Germans to the Legion in the late 1930s due to political or racial reasons
– they did not want to return to France, now partially occupied by German forces and fully cooperating with Germany
– among these legionnaires, there were mostly former Spanish republicans, Poles, Czechs, Jews…

– the remaining legionnaires of 13e DBMLE left Britain for Morocco on June 30
– 13e DBMLE was disbanded on July 16, after it landed in Morocco and moved to Fez

The insignia of 13e DBMLE, created in 1940 by lieutenant Des Roberts. The insignia includes the unit motto More majorum (After the manner of our ancestors) and a Viking ship, as a symbol of the Scandinavian campaign (the ship has a Finland-flag-like sail, a remark on the original deployment plan). The legionnaires of DBLMLE at Foreign Legion HQ in Sidi-Bel-Abes, Algeria, ready to move to France to receive mountain training (March 3, 1940) Brest, France. The legionnaires of 13e DBMLE being reviewed by admiral Laborde, before heading to Norway (April 22, 1940). On the left, Lt Col Magrin-Vernerey (which became later colonel Monclar), the 13e DBMLE commander. Battle of Bjervik in Norway. German positions are bombarded by French Navy
(May 13, 1940)

13e DBLE: Second World War 1940-1945

July 1, 1940:
14e DBMLE was established in England
– 14e DBMLE was composed of legionnaires joining de Gaulle in late June 1940
– 14e DBMLE was based at Morval Camp near Farnborough, England
– Lieutenant Colonel Magrin-Vernerey (as Ralph Monclar, its false identity) took the leadership
– he was the ex-commander of 13e DBMLE

– 14e DBMLE became the first unit of the new French forces formed by de Gaulle
– the new forces became the Free French Forces (Forces Françaises Libres, FFL)

– later that year, the 14e DBMLE became the 14th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade (14e DBLE)

August-December 1940:
– on August 30, FFL, including 14e DBMLE, left Britain for Africa

Battle of Dakar (also known as Operation Menace)
– the battle occurred between September 23-25
– an unsuccessful attempt to seize the capital of Senegal in the then French West Africa

– in October, FFL moved to Cameroon and later to Gabon

– in November, 14e DBLE was retitled
– on November 2, the unit became 13e DBLE

Battle of Gabon
– the battle occurred between November 8-12
– Free French Forces fought against the regular French Army forces
– they wanted to seize French Equatorial Africa

– in December, FFL moved to Eritrea
– the FFL forces were based in this country located in the Horn of Africa

February-April 1941:
Battle of Keren
– the battle took place in the Italian colony of Eritrea
– FFL troops defeated the Italian forces and captured around 10,000 Italian troops
– during the battle, the 13e DBLE seized the city of Massaouah (also known as Massawa)
– the city was seized on April 8

May 1941:
– 13e DBLE moved to Palestine and Syria to be based there

June-July 1941:
Syria-Lebanon Campaign
– the FFL fought alongside the Allies against the regular French forces of Vichy France
– the French forces included the Foreign Legion’s 6e REI
– legionnaires did not fight each other in reality, contrary to several statements

August 1941:
– 13e DBLE was based in Beirut, the capital of today’s Lebanon

September 16, 1941:
– Lieutenant Colonel Dimitri Amilakvari took command of 13e DBLE

  • Lt Col Amilakvari was an officer of Georgian origin, having left the Soviet union in 1922
  • he had served in the Legion since 1926
  • his brother Constantin Amilakvari also served in the Legion for a long period
  • Constantin left the Legion with the rank of Adjudant-chef (Sergeant Major)
  • during the WWII, he decided to serve the Vichy France, contrary to his brother Dimitri
  • in 1941, Constantin joined the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism (LVF)
  • LVF consisted of French volunteers being ready to fight alongside the German forces on the Eastern front against Soviet troops
  • seriously wounded in action in Russia, Constantin Amilakvari died in July 1943

October 1941:
– Free French Forces’ reorganization
– within the 13e DBLE, two other battalions (2nd + 3rd) were established
– since that time, the battalions were known simultaneously as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Foreign Legion Battalion (Bataillon de la Légion Étrangère, BLE), until the end of WWII

December 1941:
– 2nd + 3rd BLE moved to Egypt and Libya

May 26 – June 11, 1942:
Battle of Bir Hakeim in Libya
– Free French Forces, including the 13e DBLE, were defending the Bir Hakeim fortress against much larger German and Italian forces
– the German forces were commanded by the field marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox

June 16, 1942:
3rd BLE was deactivated

October 23 – November 11, 1942:
Second Battle of El Alamein in Egypt
– the first major offensive of the Allies against the German and Italian forces since 1939
– the Allies, including the FFL + 13e DBLE (1st BLE), won the battle

October 24, 1942:
Lt Col Amilakvari was killed during the Second Battle of El Alamein

November 1942:
British-American invasion of French North Africa (Operation Torch)
– in November, landings in Morocco and Algeria
– all French forces in North Africa received an order to cease resistance
– on November 10, the French in North Africa joined the Allies

February 1943:
– 13e DBLE was administratively deactivated
– 1st + 2nd BLE became part of the 1st Free French Division (Division Française Libre, 1re DFL)

April – May 1943:
Tunisia Campaign

August 1943:
– FFL merged together with the French Army of Africa

April – June 1944:
Italian Campaign
– 1st + 2nd BLE participated in

August 1944:
Operation Dragoon
– the Allied invasion of Provence, southern France
– 1er BLE, 2e BLE were involved in
Foreign Legion Regimental Combat Team (RMLE) and 1er REC also participated in

October 1944:
– 3rd BLE was reactivated

October 1944 – February 1945:
Battle of the Vosges in France (October-November)
Colmar Pocket in Alsace, France (January-February)

March 1945:
– on March 1, 13e DBLE was reactivated

April 1945:
– operations in the Authion mountains of France and in Italy

May 8, 1945:
– in Europe, World War II ended
– in the Pacific, WWII ended on September 2

August 1945:
– 13e DBLE left France for Africa

1945 – 1946:
– 13e DBLE was based in Tunisia

14e DBMLE parading in London on Bastille Day (July 14, 1940) The Bren Gun Carrier (also known as the Universal Carrier) of 13e DBLE moving in Libya (1942) Lt Col Dimitri Amilakvari, the commander of 13e DBLE (1942). He was killed in Egypt during the Second Battle of El Alamein, in October 1942. A battalion of 13e DBLE being reviewed by general de Gaulle in Rome, Italy (June 28, 1944). Note the French 1935-pattern fortress troop khaki berets distributed to the 13e DBMLE legionnaires before deploying to Norway, as part of their “mountain” equipment. The khaki berets became the symbol of 13e DBLE during the WWII. 13e DBLE parading in Dijon, France (September 13, 1944) Nice, France. General de Gaulle decorating the flag of 13e DBLE with the Croix de Compagnon de la Libération award (April 9, 1945)

13e DBLE: First Indochina War 1946-1954

1945 – 1946:
First Indochina War started
– French Indochina reffers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– in Indochina, a conflict started between the French and Ho Chi Minh
– Ho Chi Minh led the Viet-Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was a nationalist and (later) pro-Soviet Union movement
– in September 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared independence from France for Vietnam
– clashes between French forces and the Viet Minh started
– in 1946, first Foreign Legion units landed in Indochina

February 1946:
– 13e DBLE left Africa for Indochina

March 10, 1946:
– 13e DBLE landed in Indochina
– it consisted of 3 battalions
– the unit was based in Cochinchina (the southern region of today’s Vietnam)
– its HQ was in Saigon

June 19, 1946:
– the first battle in Indochina for 13e DBLE
– the battle took place near Mat Cat

July 8, 1946:
– hard fighting near Cay Sop
– a platoon from 9th Company, 3rd Battalion participated in
– the company commander visiting the platoon was killed
– 28 legionnaires were also killed or wounded
– only two legionnaires were able to call for help

December 1946:
– 2nd Battalion moved to Annam (the central region of today’s Vietnam)

February-March 1947:
– operations in Annam
– the operations took place near Hue, Quang Tri and Tourane
– 2nd Battalion of 13e DBLE participated in

September-October 1947:
– pacification of Cambodia
– 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE eliminated Khmer rebels in Cambodia

February 1948:
Operation Vega in the Plaine des Joncs
– 1st + 3rd Battalion, together with 1er REC were involved in

March 1, 1948:
– Lt Colonel Brunet de Sairigne, the commanding officer of 13e DBLE, was killed
– Lt Col Brunet de Sairigne served in the Legion since 1939
– he served within the 13e DBLE all the time during the WWII
– he was the youngest regiment commander of the French Army (aged 33 when he took the leadership of 13e DBLE in 1946)

April 1948:
– hard fighting near Xuan An
– 2nd Battalion participated in

May-November 1948:
Arnaultville was built
– a new, large and modern HQ of 13e DBLE was built by its legionnaires in Saigon
– it was named after Lt Col Arnault, the new commanding officer of 13e DBLE, who decided to build the HQ

September 1949:
Operation Cobra
– 1st + 3rd Battalion were involved in

December 1949:
– 2nd Battalion returned to Cochinchina to join the rest of 13e DBLE

February 1950:
4th Battalion was established
– it was composed of Legion’s NCOs and anti-Viet-Minh volunteers from local population

September 1950:
– 4th Battalion conducted several operations near Tranh Loc, Tra On, Phuoc Loc

January-February 1951:
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion moved to Tonkin (the northern region of today’s Vietnam)
– 1st Battalion was involved in operations near Rach Tra, An Hoa, Tan Phu Trung

March 1951:
Operation Pamplemousse
– 4th Battalion participated in the operation which took place at Rach Nha Man

July-August 1951:
Operation Chenille
Operation Pentagone
Operation Tourbillon II

November 1951 – February 1952:
Battle of Hoa Binh

January 7, 1952:
– a new Camerone for 2nd Battalion
– the fights took place at Xom Pheo, near Hoa Binh
– two companies from the 2nd Battalion (some 250 men) were attacked by six battalions of Viet-Minh (around 5,000 men)
– the legionnaires succesfully defended their outposts

March 1952:
Operation Mercure
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE participated in, together with 1er BEP

June 1952:
Operation Claudine in the Tien Thuan region
Operation Sandwich in the Co Trach region

August-September 1952:
Operation Sauterelle + Operation Caiman in central Annam
– 3rd Battalion moved to Annam to participate in the operations
5e REI and 1er REC also participated in the operations

October 1952:
– 3rd Battalion returned back to Tonkin
– hard fighting for 2nd Battalion near Ninh Binh

December 1952:
Operation Bretagne
– 2nd Battalion was involved in, together with two battalions from 2e REI

January 1953:
Operation Artois
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE and two battalions from 2e REI participated in

February 1, 1953:
– 4th Battalion was disbanded

April-June 1953:
Operation Bearn
– 1st Battalion of 13e DBLE participated in
– the operation took place near Dau Tieng

September-October 1953:
Operation Brochet
Operation Mouette
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion were involved in the operations, together with 1er BEP and 2e BEP

– 1st Battalion moved to Tonkin

December 1953:
– 1st + 3rd Battalion were stationed at Dien Bien Phu
– Dien Bien Phu was a heavily fortified base with an airstrip deep in the hills of northwestern Vietnam

February 1954:
– hard fighting near Phu Lao and Dong Lieu for 2nd Battalion

March 13 – May 7, 1954:
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– 1st + 3rd Battalion participated in the battle
– during the first hours of the battle, Lt Colonel Jules Gaucher, the commanding officer of 13e DBLE, died of wounds
– during the battle, both battalions of 13e DBLE were decimated and deactivated

May-July 1954 :
13e DBLE consisted of only one combat-ready battalion (the 2nd)

June 1, 1954:
– 3rd Battalion was officially disbanded

June 1954:
– 1st Battalion was reactivated

July 1954:
Operation Auvergne in the Delta
– hard fighting in the Luc Nam region
– 2nd Battalion was involved in

August 1954:
First Indochina War ended
– the war in Indochina ended on August 1
– France had to leave northern Vietnam
– in 1956, French troops had to leave the entire Indochina pensisula

October 1, 1954:
– 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE was reactivated
– the battalion was created by retitling the 3rd Battalion of 3e REI

May 1955:
– 13e DBLE, as the last French military unit, left Tonkin
– it moved to Cochinchina

June 1955:
– 13e DBLE left Asia for Africa, after 9 years spent in Indochina

– during the First Indochina War, 13e DBLE lost 80 officers (including 2 of its commanders), 307 NCOs and 2,334 legionnaires

Left, the smaller one of the two insignias of 13e DBLE created in Indochina in 1946. The bigger one had more 1940-insignia-like shape and included the motto Honneur Fidélite. These two 1946 insignias had a brief lifetime period. In 1947, the new insignia (center) was approved by Lt Col de Sairigné. The insignia includes the blue Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of Free France during WWII, and a dragon, the legendary symbol in Asian culture. The original insignia had its dragon winged. In later years, the insignia was simplified (right). Gabriel Brunet de Sairigné. The famous commander of 13e DBLE. He was attached as an officer to the 13e DBMLE before the regiment moved to Norway in 1940. Later in Britain, he joined the Free French Forces of de Gaulle and became an officer within the 14e DBMLE, later the 13e DBLE. In 1946, aged 33, he took the leadership of 13e DBLE and became the youngest French regiment commander. On 1 March 1948, he was killed during a Viet-Minh attack. 13e DBLE during an operation in the Plaine des Joncs (Plain of Reeds) on the Cambodian border (1947) The outpost of the 12th Company, 13e DBLE near Bao Trai of Cochinchina (1948) Legionnaires of 13e DBLE during a river patrol near Ca Mau, Cochinchina (1950) An officer of 13e DBLE with his khaki beret during the Battle of Hoa Binh (January 1952) An outpost of 13e DBLE at Song Moi during the Battle of Hoa Binh (January 1952) Beatrice at Dien Bien Phu. The strong point held by legionnaires from the 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE. It was the first strong point attacked by the Viet-Minh during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The majority of legionnaires based at Beatrice, including their commanders, were killed or imprisoned during the attack (March 1954) Lieutenant Colonel Jules Gaucher, the commanding officer of 13e DBLE, is awarded by a French Minister of Defence René Pleven at Dien Bien Phu (February 19, 1954). In three weeks, the colonel Gaucher, aged 48, will be killed at Beatrice strong point during a Viet-Minh attack. Lt Colonel Gaucher had served in the Legion as an officer since 1931. With the Legion, he spent more than 10 years in French Indochina (1938-46, 1949-50, 1951-54).

13e DBLE: Algerian War 1955-1962

1954 – 1955:
Algerian War started
– in North Africa, local rebels intensified military actions
– these actions took part in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria
– they were aimed at French forces presented in these regions
– the main rebel force fighting the French was the FLN
– FLN stands for National Liberation Front
– later in 1955, that operations escalated to the Algerian War

June-July 1955:
– 13e DBLE landed in Africa
– during June and July, the battalions of 13e DBLE returned to Africa from Indochina
– they were placed in Zeralda, Algeria

– 13e DBLE was the only unit of the Legion having to wait for determination of its future deployment

August-November 1955:
– 13e DBLE moved across Algeria and changed several provisional placements

November 1955:
– 13e DBLE was finally based in Khenchela, a town in the Aures Mountains of northeastern Algeria

    – HQ was based in Khenchela
    – Forward Operating Base (FOB) + 1st Battalion HQ were based in Taberdga
    – 2nd Battalion HQ was based in Babar
    – 3rd Battalion HQ was based in Kheirane

1956 – 1959:
– 13e DBLE was involved in military operations in the Aures and Nementchas mountains

January 1956:
Operation Extra Bravo in the El Ouldja region
– 13e DBLE participated in, together with 22e CPLE and 3e REI

– a month later, 22e CPLE became part of the Foreign Legion Algerian Motorized Group (GPLEA)
– Lt Col Jean Ange Rossi, the then 13e DBLE commander took the leadership of GPLEA a few months later, in May 1956
– Lt Col Rossi commanded the 13e DBLE since the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (after Lt Col Gaucher was killed) until April 1956
– he served in the Legion since 1946, within the 13e DBLE (7,5 years) and 6e REI (as a commander, 2 years)
– in June 1956, after its interim leadership of GPLEA, he left the Legion

September 1957:
– 13e DBLE was reduced to two battalions

    – HQ was based in Khenchela
    – 1st Battalion HQ was based in Bou Hamama
    – 2nd Battalion HQ was based in Edgar Quinet

December 1957:
Harka of 13e DBLE was established and based in Edgar Quinet
Harki (or Harka) was a loyal pro-French muslim Arab, attached as a volunteer to French Army units based in Algeria
– within the French units, Harkis made a group titled Harka, which was headed by the French or Legion cadres
– Harka of 13e DBLE was headed by lieutenant Robin Wrenacre, an England-born officer of Russian origin
– Harka was composed of around 200 men (officers, NCOs, Harkis) and some 45 horses

May 7, 1958:
– the local rebels leader Amrani Abderrahmane was killed
– after fierce fighting, a large group of FLN rebels was eliminated and its leader, wanted by 13e DBLE for two years, was killed
– 2nd Battalion conducted this operation, which took place near the Akkar mountain in the Aures Mountains

July 1958:
– rescue of Bambi
– a lonely starving small donkey was rescued by Harka of 13e DBLE
– a photo of a 13e DBLE member carrying the small donkey on his back became world-wide known
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals based in London sent a lettre to the Legion
– it thanked the Legion for that “demonstration of humanity
– the small donkey was given a name, Bambi, and became the mascot of 13e DBLE

October 1958:
– 13e DBLE moved to Batna
– 13e DBLE became an intervention force

February 1959:
– 13e DBLE was stationed in Bougie, Kabylie region, northern Algeria
– HQ of 13e DBLE was officially based in Bougie
– Bougie was planned to become a large, modern and comfortable headquarters
– in reality, the legionnaires of 13e DBLE spent only a few weeks in Bougie during next three years
– they participated in military operations and just some 80 legionnaires served in Bougie to build the base
– the base wasn’t yet completed, when 13e DBLE legionnaires had to leave it in 1962

July 1959:
Operation Etincelle

July-October 1959:
Operation Jumelles in the Hodna Range
– 13e DBLE and 1er REP (ex-1er BEP) participated in

November 1959 – January 1960:
Operation Emeraude
– the operation took place in the Collo, Philippeville and Guelma regions in the Aures Mountains
– 13e DBLE + 3e REI + 5e REI were involved in

– Forward HQ (FOB) of 13e DBLE was based in Bou Hamama

January-March 1960:
– restoring order in Algiers
– 13e DBLE was involved in an operation to restore order in Algiers, the capital of Algeria
– 1er REP and 2e REP (ex-2e BEP) also participated in
– the operation followed the Barricades week (Semaine des barricades)
– Barricades week were the anti-Gaulle demonstrations conducted by the French people living in Algiers

March-June 1960:
– 13e DBLE returned to Bou Hamama in the Aures mountains

June 1960 – July 1962:
Ligne Challe
– 13e DBLE, as many other Legion units, was placed on the Ligne Challe (Line Challe), on the Algerian border with Tunisia
– its mission was to guard this mined, electrified, floodlit defensive border line equipped with a barbed wire fance
– the border line prevented Tunisian and Algerian rebels from crossing the border to support FLN rebel forces
– the Ligne Challe constructed in 1958-59 sometimes doubled the Ligne Morice, finished in September 1957

– 13e DBLE was placed three times on the Line, in the Bec de Canard and Lamy regions
– whenever returning from the Line, 13e DBLE always moved back to Bou Hamama, after a short rest in Bougie

June-November 1960:
– 13e DBLE was placed for the first time on the Ligne Challe
– 13e DBLE Forward HQ (FOB) was based at Souk Ahras

February 1961:
Operation Dordogne in the Beni Melloul forest

April 1961 – July 1961:
– second placement on the Ligne Challe
– during the placement, a short operation back in the Kabylie region

January-June 1962:
– third placement on the Ligne Challe
– 13e DBLE was based at outposts in the Lamy region and in the Bec de Canard near the Tunisian border
– Forward HQ (FOB) was based at Hammam des Beni Salah

March 1962:
Algerian War officially ended
– Évian Accords treaty, signed on 18 March 1962, ended the Algerian War
– on July 5, Independence of Algeria was declared
– however, military operations were conducted until September 1962
– on September 25, the Algerian republic was established

– during the Algerian War, 13e DBLE lost 214 men

The insignia of Harka, attached to the 13e DBLE. Harka was composed of Harkis, pro-French Algerian muslims. The insignia was created in 1958 by lieutenant Wrenacre, an England-born officer of Russian origin and the first Harka commander. The insignia bears an inscription Algérie française (French Algeria) and its sign 8 (Harka no. 8). Algerian War. 13e DBLE during Operation Extra Bravo in the El Ouldja region, together with 3e REI and 22e CPLE (January 1956) A caporal of 13e DBLE with his friend (1956) Forward HQ (FOB) of 13e DBLE in Taberdga (May 1957) 13e DBLE during Camerone Day at airport of Khenchela (April 30, 1958) A rebel is surrendering to legionnaires in front of the Outpost Lieutenant Septavaux, based near Yabous and occupied by 3rd Company, 1st Battalion of 13e DBLE (June 1958). Lt Guy Joseph Gilbert Septevaux, an officer of the 1st Battalion, was killed during a rebel attack in Yabous in October 1957. Rescue of Bambi. The well-known image of a muslim harki (very often confused with a legionnaire), a member of 13e DBLE‘s Harka, carrying a small donkey. It was found, lonely and hungry, during an operation in the Edgar Quinet region. Taken to the base, the small donkey became a mascot of 13e DBLE, called Bambi. (July 1958) When Bambi became a world-wide sensation… The Legion was surprised by such a huge positive response all over the world. The Legion was also officially thanked by London-based RSPCA, the oldest and largest animal welfare organisation in the world. (August 1958) Legionnaires of 13e DBLE, wearing light-khaki berets, during an operation in the Djurdjura range (December 1958). The light-khaki berets were part of a combat uniform until 1959, worn in 13e DBLE and 1er REC. 13e DBLE patrolling in the Souk Ahras region, near the Algerian border with Tunisia (September 1960) Legionnaires of 13e DBLE during a rare leave at their HQ in Bougie. Bougie. The entrance of main headquarters of 13e DBLE and the 13e DBLE memorial placed within (1961). Bougie was planned to become a large and modern headquarters for 13e DBLE. However, due to lot of operations and works, it was never finished. Legionnaires used only barracks of HQ Company (CB) for their accomodation during a leave or holidays. In total, they spent only several weeks in Bougie between 1958-1962. Bou Hamama. A French joint base in the Aures mountains. Several French units were placed within, including Forward HQ (FOB) of 13e DBLE (1961) A very rare image of a hard-working legionnaire with the light-khaki beret at FOB of Bou Hamama in 1961, two years after these berets became irregular. An ancien, long-serving legionnaire of 13e DBLE during his duty in Bou Hamama (1961) One of the outposts of 13e DBLE placed in the Bec de Canard (Duck beak), a region in northeastern Algeria, on the border with Tunisia (March 1962) Algiers. The 3rd Company of 13e DBLE ready to leave Algeria for French Somaliland (April 29, 1962)

13e DBLE: Djibouti 1962-2011

April-May 1962:
– 13e DBLE started to move itself to Djibouti

– Djibouti is a country located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia

– 3rd + 6th Company of 13e DBLE left Algeria for French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis), today’s Djibouti
– the companies became the 3rd + 2nd (ex-6th) Provisional Company (Compagnie de Marche) of the 13e DBLE’s Provisional Battalion
– in Djibouti, the 2nd Company of Foreign Legion Madagascar Battalion (BLEM) became the 1st Company of 13e DBLE
– the company of BLEM had been stationed in Djibouti, at Oueah, since March 1961
– BLEM’s 2nd Company was the very first unit of the Legion stationed in this country

April 9, 1962:
– Harka of 13e DBLE was disbanded

July 1962.
– 13e DBLE was reorganized and reduced
– the regiment withdrawn from the Ligne Challe outposts based on the Tunisia border
– 13e DBLE was reduced to only four combat companies
– two companies were already stationed in French Somaliland (Djibouti)
– two combat companies were placed at 13e DBLE HQ in Bougie
– the companies placed in Bougie consisted of elements being medically fit to deploy to Djibouti
– the rest of 13e DBLE men were transferred to other regiments of the Legion

October 1962 – 13e DBLE was fully stationed in French Somaliland

    HQ & Support Company (CCAS) – stationed in Gabode, near Djibouti City, the capital
    – 1st Company (ex-BLEM company) – stationed in Oueah
    – 2nd Company (ex-6th Company) – stationed in Obock
    – 3rd Company – stationed in Ali Sabieh
    – 4th Company (ex-Motorized Company) – stationed in Holhol (or Holl-Holl)

– in Djibouti, the 13e DBLE served a dual security and public works role

August 25, 1966:
– riots in Djibouti City
– riots occurred in the capital during the visit of the French president de Gaulle in Djibouti
– 11 legionnaires were injured while being sent to restore order
– the riots lasted several days
– on August 30, the French government offers independence to French Somaliland to calm the situation

June 1967:
– French Somaliland became the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (TFAI)

January 1968:
– 2nd Company left Obock and moved to Arta

February 1968:
Reconnaissance Squadron (Escadron de Reconnaissance, ER) was established
ER was composed of vehicles and elements transferred from 1er REC and 2e REI (the unit disbanded in January 1968)
– the squadron was based in Oueah, instead of the 1st Company
– 1st Company moved to Dikhil

– 2nd Company was disbanded in Arta

February 1970:
2nd Construction Company (2e Compagnie de Travaux, 2e CT) was established
2e CT was based in Gabode, within the 13e DBLE HQ

October 1974:
Rotational Company (Compagnie Tournante) was established
– 13e DBLE were reinforced by a rotational company, consisted of legionnaires from 2e REP
– 2e REP sent periodically one of its companies to Djibouti for the Short Period Mission (Mission de Courte Durée, MCD)
– the mission lasts usually 4-6 months and during the mission, 2e REP helped to fulfil the tasks of 13e DBLE
– 2e REP legionnaires guarded the Djiboutian border with Ethiopia and were trained in desert warfare
– the Rotational Company was based in Gabode, together with 13e DBLE HQ and 2e CT

February 4, 1976:
1976 Loyada Hostage Rescue Mission
– a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission
– 2e REP + 13e DBLE participated in a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission in Loyada, a Djibouti-Somalia border town
– a Somali FLCS guerrilla group hijacked a bus carrying 31 French children in Djibouti City and drove it to Loyada
– 2nd Company of 2e REP (13e DBLE’s Rotational Company) + ER of 13e DBLE were sent to rescue the children
– 2e REP legionnaires conducted a frontal attack
– all 7 hijackers were killed
– 2 of 30 children died, a 2e REP platoon commander was injured during the attack

May 24, 1976:
GOLE helicopter crash
– a military helicopter crash occurred in Djibouti during a training mission
– six men from the Foreign Legion Task Force (GOLE) were killed

June 27, 1977:
Independence of Djibouti
– the TFAI territory became independent as Djibouti (or Republic of Djibouti)

July 1977:
– reorganization of 13e DBLE
– 1st Company moved to Obock and in August, it launched the Amphibious Center there
– 3rd Company moved to Gabode
– Rotational Company was deactivated

August 1978:
– 1st Company of Obock was disbanded
– a new Amphibious Center of 13e DBLE was established at Arta-Plage (Centre Amphibie d’Arta, CAA), moved there from Obock

October 1978:
– Rotational Company of 13e DBLE was activated
– it was based in Arta and in the Amphibious Center at Arta Plage

October 1979:
– 4th Comapny was disbanded
– 3rd Company became specialized in different combat techniques

Grand Bara race was born
– the run sponsored by the 13e DBLE took place in the vast Grand Bara Desert near Dikhil, Djibouti
– in later years, the race became international
– U.S. soldiers, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Djiboutian soldiers and nationals or runners from around East Africa participated in, till its last session in 2011

– CAA became the Arta Beach Commando Training Center (Centre d’Entraînement Commando d’Arta Plage, CECAP)
– the center was used by the Legion, French Army forces and later also by US soldiers

February 1982:
Mont Garbi accident
– an aviation accident in Djibouti
– 27 men from 2e REP + 3 members of 13e DBLE were killed

December 1985:
Operation Bioforce

Operation Godoria

1992 – 1993:
Operation Oryx + Operation Onusom II in Somalia

1992 – 1995:
Operation Iskoutir

Operation Turquoise in Rwanda + Operation Diapason in Yemen

– 2e CT (2e CAT at this date) was disbanded
Engineer Company (Compagnie de Génie, CG) was activated
CG was a rotational company, comprising a company either from 6e REG (which became the 1er REG in 1999) or 2e REG (since 1999)

– 3rd Company of 13e DBLE was disbanded
Infantry Company (Compagnie d’Infanterie, CI) was established
CI was a rotational company, comprising a company either from 2e REP or 2e REI

Maintenance Company (Compagnie de Maintenance, CM) was attached to 13e DBLE
– it was a mixed company consisted of regular French Army unit elements and legionnaires

Operation Licorne in Ivory Coast

Operation Beryx in Indonesia

– mission in the Central African Republic

– CECAP became the Arta Beach Combat Training Center

June 13, 2011:
– 13e DBLE officially left Djibouti

– 13e DBLE left Djibouti after more than 49 years of its presence there

– ER squadron was disbanded
– CG engineer company was also disbanded

Holhol. The outpost of the 4th Company of 13e DBLE in Djibouti (1960s) Obock. The outpost of the 2nd Company of 13e DBLE in Djibouti (October 1962) Ali Sabieh. The outpost of the 3rd Company of 13e DBLE in Djibouti (October 1962) Legionnaires from the 3rd Comapny are building a road near Ali Sabieh (November 1962) 2nd Comapny during a ceremony in Obock (February 1963) 13e DBLE during its first Bastille Day Parade realized in Djibouti (July 14, 1963) 3rd Comapny of 13e DBLE during a reconnaissance mission in Djibouti (July 1965) VLRA 4ࡪ vehicles passing the new entrance of the Ali Sabieh outpost of the 3rd Comapny (1966) The new outpost of the 2nd Comapny in Arta (1968) Oueah. The outpost of the Reconnaissance Squadron of 13e DBLE (1970) 13e DBLE legionnaires during a MILAN exercise (1976) Future caporals during their Corporals course in Djibouti (1977) 13e DBLE formed the Legion seven-flame grenade with its vehicles in the Grand Bara Desert, during a commemoration of the 38th anniversary of its creation (March 15, 1978) 3rd Company of 13e DBLE became specialized (e.g. snipers, frogmen, explosive specialists were part of the company) (1979) Heavy Mortar Platoon (SML) of 13e DBLE during its first exercise (September 1981) A legionnaire of 13e DBLE improving the headquarters of his unit during Operation Oryx in Somalia (December 1992) Grand Bara 15km race. The race was managed by 13e DBLE at Grand Bara desert, Djibouti, between 1982-2011 (December 2009) The CECAP (Combat Training Center, formerly Commando Training Center) at Arta Plage, Djibouti (2010). The 13e DBLE had run the center for 33 years, since August 1978. In June 2011, the last participants (from 2e REI) went through the stage commando. Compagnie Genie of 13e DBLE during a parade at Gabode HQ, Djibouti (2010) An ERC-90 Sagaie armored vehicle from ER squadron of 13e DBLE during an exercise in Djibouti (2010) 13e DBLE during the leaving ceremony, before its departure to France (June 13, 2011)

13e DBLE: United Arab Emirates 2011-present

August 2, 2011:
– 13e DBLE was officially based in the United Arab Emirates
– 13e DBLE was reduced to some 55-60 permanent officers, NCOs and legionnaires (rotated every 2-3 years) + 10-15 French military personnel
– around 210 men (legionnaires + regular French military elements) are serving within rotational units (rotated every 4-6 months)
– 13e DBLE was based at the Zayed Military City near Adu Dhabi, the capital

2011 – 2015:
– 13e DBLE became a support + training + task force unit
– 13e DBLE operates the Middle East Familiarization & Combat Training Center (CECAM)
– the center provides desert + urban warfare training
– simultaneously, the 13e DBLE also fulfils its mission as the Joint Task Force 13 (Groupement Tactique Interarmes 13, GTIA 13)
GTIA 13 participates in military drills alongside UAE Armed forces

Operation Chammal in Iraq

13e DBLE during a ceremony in their new HQ at the Zayed Military City, United Arab Emirates (June 2012) The CAESAR self-propelled howitzer detachment of 13e DBLE during an exercise in the United Arab Emirates (2014) Legionnaires from the rotational company of 13e DBLE during an exercise in the combat training center (CECAM) near their HQ, United Arab Emirates (2014)

Siegfried Freytag. A German Luftwaffe officer, who became a fighter ace during the World War II and was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Crosses. In 1952 (aged 32), he joined the Foreign Legion. He was attached briefly to the 5e REI, than to the 13e DBLE. Siegfried Freytag served with his unit in the First Indochina War and in the Algerian War. In 1962, he moved with the Demi-brigade to Djibouti, where he served until 1965. In 1965, after 12 years spent within the 13e DBLE, the Caporal-chef Freytag was transferred to the 1e RE for next five years. He left the Legion in 1970 and moved to the Legion’s Veterans Institution at Puyloubier. He had never spoken of his past. But he was recognised in Puyloubier by retired German legionnaires who served also in the WWII and they helped him to get his German veteran pension and all his awards. He died in June 2003 and was buried with his Knight’s Cross at Legion’s cemetery of Puyloubier, with the attendance of German WWII veterans and German officials.

For current information about the regiment see 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion

World War II Database

ww2dbase The WW2-era German economy relied on over 11 million tons of iron ore imported from Sweden every year. During the warm months, there was little concern regarding the transportation of the ore into Germany, as the north-south railways were clear of snow, the Swedish Baltic ports free of ice, and the narrow entrance to the Baltic Sea sealed off to British warships. In the winter, however, the Swedish ore destined for Germany was forced to take a westward overland route into Norway, where it would board sea-going freighters for a southward coast-hugging voyage. This arrangement worked for as long as Norway stayed out of the war, which the Norwegian government desperately attempted to do. The Altmark incident on 16 Feb 1940, in which Norwegian gunboats stood by and allowed a British destroyer to board a German transport, however, changed the German viewpoint. The Norwegian lack of response in this particular incident meant, in Adolf Hitler's mind, that a meek Norway could easily fall prey to an Allied invasion, which in turn would close of this important iron ore supply route. Furthermore, should the Allies embark on an invasion of Norway, it was difficult to predict whether Sweden would be included in the invasion plans as well. Hitler, therefore, decided that Germany must act first.

ww2dbase The Western Allies had indeed been eyeing Norway for a long time, aiming to cut this very supply route. In addition, they also wished to open a land route so that Allied troops could possibly march in to aid Finland in its war against the Soviets. Winston Churchill, the British Lord of the Admiralty, proposed a preemptive strike at Norway before Germany could do the same, but he failed to fully convince his colleagues. Instead, all Churchill achieved by 8 Apr 1940 was the mining of Norwegian coastal waters to deter German transports. Such a mining operation was a gross violation of Norwegian sovereignty, but Churchill justified it to the British people by noting it would hurt Germany far greater than it would Norway.

ww2dbase The 8 Apr 1940 announcement of the naval mining gave Hitler the perfect excuse to launch an invasion, responding to Britain's first strike. The German plan would include both Denmark and Norway, and the invasion would begin on the very following day, 9 Apr 1940. This seemingly impossible rate of reaction was, of course, not so impossible, as Germany had long since planned for such an invasion and occupation.

ww2dbase For decades, Friedrich Krupp AG, a German munitions firm, had been the weapons suppliers of many nations. Norway and Denmark were no different. Two months before the invasion, Krupp agents at Oslo and Copenhagen had already sent information back to Berlin regarding the weaponry of their respective nations. The agents at Oslo, however, would make one mistake: they had forgotten the ancient 28-cm Krupp cannon at the fortress at Oscarborg. Despite the old age, the cannon was still in remarkably good condition, and this oversight was to have consequences during the invasion.

ww2dbase On 9 Apr 1940, German armor and men poured across the Danish border. A few dozen defenders were killed before the Danish government surrendered a few hours later.

ww2dbase Control of the Skagerrak Channel by warships usually secured the control of the entire Baltic Sea in previous wars. The introduction of aviation meant machines costing a fraction of ships-of-the-line could perform the same function. By a swift takeover of Danish airfields, German aircraft now controlled both the channel and the sea. William Manchester noted that

In the 135 years since Trafalgar, sea power had permitted [Britain] to control its future and build the greatest Empire in history. Now tiny little craft, hardly more expensive than ammunition for an 18-inch gun, could deny strategy waters to the mightiest navy the world has ever known.

ww2dbase Even before Denmark was fully occupied, German transports set sail for Oslo, Norway. En route, engagements with the Norwegian Navy spelled the end of the small Norwegian vessel Pol III by naval gunfire. The German Navy was not left without scars, however. As the German fleet approached Oslo, the ancient 28-mm Krupp cannon at Oscarborg opened up, surprising the Germans. The cruiser Lützow was damaged, and the cruiser Blücher was sunk, taking 1,600 men with her. Oskar Kumetz, the admiral commanding the fleet who had broken his flag aboard Blücher, had to swim ashore to save his own life. King Haakon VII of Norway, with the delay achieved at Oscarborg, announced his intention to fight the German invasion, and retreated away from Oslo with the royal family and members of the government. Meanwhile, German paratroopers took control of airports and airfields in the Oslo region, including the seizure of Aalborg airfield on 9 Apr 1940. Together with the airborne operation at Masnedø, Denmark, the German campaign against Denmark and Norway was the first to fully utilize an organized airborne assault in history. Before long, German naval forces landed troops at or near Bergen, Stavanger, Egersund, Kristiansand, Arendal, Horten, Trondheim, and Narvik.

ww2dbase At Narvik, a naval engagement on 10 Apr between British and German naval forces saw two German destroyers sunk and five seriously damaged at the cost of two British destroyers three days later, British Vice Admiral William Whitworth led the battleship HMS Warspite and aircraft carrier HMS Furious, supported by British and Polish destroyers, in the destruction of the remainder of the German fleet at Narvik. Although 2,000 German troops had a secure footing on land near Narvik, the unexpected naval losses brought Adolf Hitler into an uncontrollable panic, knowing that Germany had just lost half of her destroyer strength. "The hysteria is frightful", recalled Alfred Jodl who witnessed Hitler's reaction to the news. The German leader was only able to regain composure after Jodl's reassurance that the losses were trivial in the grand war plan. This would be one of the events that would lead to Hitler's later pattern for his total personal control of the battlefields "even in seemingly trivial matters", recalled Wilhelm Keitel. Although the Allied forces eventually recaptured Narvik on 28 May 1940, Allied inefficiencies and inexperience consistently gave the German forces an upper hand. American foreign correspondent Leland Stowe observed the British troops in Norway and reported sadly that they were untrained, poorly equipped, and without adequate leadership British newspaper journalists agreed. The best British troops were in France, first sitting idle, then overwhelmed by the German invasion of France and the Low Countries.

ww2dbase Initially, the political leaders in London focused on denying the Germans the use of Norwegian ports and on disrupting German supplies from sailing up and down the coast. However, after King Haakon VII urged Britain to retake Trondheim, Norway's historical and cultural capital, the prior focused strategy began to waver. Although Britain was without a force strong enough to retake Norway, Lord Halifax and others committed to the royal request. Winston Churchill fought fervently against it, but he met little success. On 13 Apr, British troop transports originally bound for Narvik were redirected to Trondheim. Beyond the fact that Norwegian and British intelligence failed to acquire a good estimate of the strength of German forces at Trondheim (the British would send too small a force, the decision having been based on intelligence reports with underestimated German strength), the battlefield tacticians also committed grave errors. Avoiding a frontal attack, they decided to deploy a pincer around Trondheim. The northern pincer landed in Namsos, but this force was slowed by heavy snow, unable to move toward Trondheim at the planned rate of advance. The southern pincer landed at Andalsnes. Instead of moving toward Trondheim, it was diverted to reinforce Lillehammer, eighty miles away in the opposite direction. When the Germans captured Lillehammer, British formations became separated and became lost in the vast fields of snow. A group found themselves two days later at the town of Nykirke, 200 miles from Trondheim. German troops pushed both pincers all the way back to the ports where they had originally disembarked. The cost of this failed operation came in the form of 1,559 casualties. Not a meter of ground was won.

ww2dbase On the European continent, France was about to fall, which factored in the British leadership's decision to withdraw from Norway by 9 Jun 1940. King Haakon VII departed Norway for Britain aboard British cruiser HMS Devonshire on 7 Jun 1940 three days later, Norway officially capitulated. A German-sponsored puppet government was established in Norway to ensure German access to Swedish iron ore, but armed Norwegian resistance would continue for the remainder of the war. In addition to gaining safer passage for transports between Norway and Germany, a German-controlled Norway also provided the German Navy control of the North Sea, disrupting Allied supply convoys bound for the Soviet Union in the later years of the war. For the remainder of the war, Britain would conduct occasional commando raids in Norway against German occupation forces, forcing Germany to commit troops in Norway that could otherwise be deployed on the continent.

ww2dbase Sources:
Wilhelm Keitel, In the Service of the Reich
William Manchester, The Arms of Krupp
William Manchester, The Last Lion
Anthony Read and David Fisher, The Fall of Berlin
William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

Last Major Update: Jul 2008

Invasion of Denmark and Norway Interactive Map

Invasion of Denmark and Norway Timeline

10 Oct 1939 Erich Raeder informed Adolf Hitler the strategic importance of Norway to the German Navy.
13 Jan 1940 The German Navy Operations Division reported that while Norway presented strategic importance, Germany should not invade the neutral country if there was little risk of a British violation of Norwegian neutrality.
27 Jan 1940 Adolf Hitler ordered Wilhelm Keitel to continue with the planning of an invasion of Norway.
19 Feb 1940 Adolf Hitler, alarmed by the Altmark Incident of 16 Feb 1940, ordered to hasten the planning of the invasion of Norway.
21 Feb 1940 Adolf Hitler authorized the Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. Lieutenant General Falkenhorst was ordered to submit his final invasion plan by 1700 hours on the same day. Having no clue he was to be assigned this commanding role prior to the meeting and given little time to prepare, Falkenhorst purchased a traveler's guide to Norway and used it to design a general invasion plan the general plan he would devise in his hotel room in the next few hours would generally agree with the plan the OKW had come up with thus far.
29 Feb 1940 Adolf Hitler approved Nikolaus von Falkenhorst's invasion plan for Norway.
1 Mar 1940 Adolf Hitler issued a formal war directive for Weserübung, the invasion of Norway and Denmark.
2 Mar 1940 The United Kingdom and France once again requested Sweden and Norway to allow passage of Allied troops through their borders in order to aid Finland, should Finland formally requested such aid from the Allies.
3 Mar 1940 Adolf Hitler decided that the invasion of Norway would take place prior to the invasion of France.
7 Mar 1940 Adolf Hitler allocated 8 divisions for the invasion of Norway and Denmark.
14 Mar 1940 According to Alfred Jodl's diary entry for this date, Adolf Hitler was actively searching for excuses that would justify the planned invasion of Norway.
1 Apr 1940 Hitler set the date of the Denmark and Norway invasion to be 9 Apr 1940. 2 divisions were allocated for Denmark and 6 division for Norway, while a bulk of the German Navy was to support the overall operation. Coordinated support in the air from the Luftwaffe was also planned.
2 Apr 1940 In the afternoon, Adolf Hitler issued the directive for the invasion of Denmark and Norway, with the planned launch date to be 9 Apr 1940. Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was made aware of the invasion for the first time so that his office could help develop excuses for the invasion. Meanwhile, Dutch border guards were placed on full alert due to the detected German deployments.
3 Apr 1940 German supply ships began departing Hamburg, Germany for the invasion of Norway in all 7 freighters of 28,693 tons would set sail. The British cabinet was warned of this action and the German concentration of troops within hours.
5 Apr 1940 The United Kingdom informed Norway and Sweden of its intent to mine Norwegian waters British warships departed Scapa Flow at 1830 hours for this operation. Force WB consisting of two minelaying destroyers sailed for the Norwegian coast between the towns of Bud and Kristiansund. Force WS, consisting of minelayer Teviot Bank and destroyers Inglefield, Ilex, Imogen and Isis sailed for waters off Stadtlandet, but this force would be recalled before laying any mines. Force WV consisting of minelaying destroyers Esk, Icarius, Impulsive and Ivanhoe, escorted by the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of 4 destroyers, set sail for waters near Bodö. The operation had a covering force under Vice-Admiral William Whitworth on battlecruiser Renown and destroyers Hyperion, Hero, Greyhound and Glowworm. Glowworm turned back in heavy weather to recover a rating that was washed overboard.
5 Apr 1940 Norwegian ambassador in Berlin warned Danish and Norwegian capitals of a possible invasion, as did British intelligence.
6 Apr 1940 RAF aircraft conducted a photo reconnaissance mission over Kiel, Germany to monitor preparations for the German invasion of Norway. German Kriegsmarine's Marine Gruppe 1 departed Cuxhaven, Germany for Narvik, Norway with 2,000 soldiers on 10 destroyers escorted by battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Marine Gruppe 2 departed Wesermünde, Germany for Trondheim, Norway with 1,700 soldiers on 4 destroyers escorted by cruiser Admiral Hipper. Both departures were made after nightfall to escape British detection.
7 Apr 1940 In the morning, the first German naval forces set sail for Operation Weserbüng. The huge Frorce was split into 10 groups under overall command of Admiral Rolf Carls. In the force were the old battleship Schleswig-Holstein, the heavy cruisers Hipper, Blücher and Lützow, with light cruisers Köln, Königsberg and Karlsruhe. There were also over 20 destroyers, mineseepers and torpedo boats, as well as tenders and transports. Admiral Karl Dönitz made up 9 submarine groups to accompany the surface vessels, 31 submarines in all the U-boat operations would end as a total failure: despite good conditions the torpedoes showed defects in the depth-keeping mechanisms and the magnetic fuses failed, ending in only 6 Allied sinkings at the cost of 4 submarines. At 1325 hours, Hudson reconnaissance aircraft of No. 220 Squadron RAF spotted a part of German Marine Gruppe 1 and reported the presence of 1 cruiser and 6 destroyers at 1325 hours, sailing in a northward direction 12 Blenheim and 24 Wellington bombers were dispatched to attack this group but the attack was not successful. The British Admiralty, receiving reports of major German naval movements, incorrectly assumed the Germans were launching a major attack into the Atlantic Ocean. The Home Fleet departed from Scapa Flow at 2115 hours, while the 1st Cruiser Squadron disembarked the troops already on board in order to prepare for a battle on the open seas. Nevertheless, British submarines continued to patrol the European coast for German activity rather than going out to the open seas HMS Shark and HMS Seawolf departed Harwich naval base to patrol off Dutch coast, while HMS Clyde and HMS Thistle departed Scapa Flow to patrol the coast of Norway.
8 Apr 1940 British destroyer HMS Glowworm discovered German Navy Marine Gruppe 1 at 0800 hours and was fired upon by cruiser Admiral Hipper at close range. Outgunned, Glowworm's captain decided to ram the German cruiser, which caused heavy damage for Admiral Hipper but it also led to her sinking, which killed 118, including commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope, who received a posthumous Victoria Cross, the first of the war captain Hellmuth Heye of Admiral Hipper spoke highly of Roope's courage. Off Narvik, British destroyers Esk, Icarus, Impulsive, and Ivanhoe mined Vestfjord at 0500 hours in preparation for landings by British and French forces at Namsos, Narvik, and Andalsnes Norway was informed of this action at 0600 hours. Meanwhile, German Navy Marine Gruppe 3 departed Wilhelmshaven, Germany for Bergen, Norway (1,900 troops aboard 2 cruisers, 1 transport, 1 minelayer, and 5 torpedo boats), Marine Gruppe 4 and Marine Gruppe 6 departed Cuxhaven, Germany for southern Norway (1,250 troops), and Marine Gruppe 5 departed Swinemünde, Germany for Oslo, Norway (2,000 troops aboard 3 cruisers, 8 minesweepers, and 3 torpedo boats). In Britain, Vice Admiral Max Horton dispatched 6 more submarines to intercept these additional German invasion fleets many of his peers were against this decision, believe there would not be any additional fleets being dispatched by the Germans. Among the 6 newly dispatched British submarines included HMS Ursula, HMS Triad, and HMS Sterlet, which departed to patrol the Skagerrak between Denmark and Norway.
8 Apr 1940 Albatros attempted to hunt down British submarine HMS Triton, which had tried to attack the German force off the Norwegian coast Triton escaped unharmed. Later that day, as the German force approached the Norwegian coast, Norwegian patrol boat Pol III rammed Albatros. Albatros fired upon Pol III, thus gaining the honor of having fired the opening salvos of the German-Norwegian war.
9 Apr 1940 German troops crossed into Denmark at 0500 hours, with landings near Copenhagen unopposed the Danish government surrendered within the same day, and Germany completed the conquest Denmark with only 20 casualties. To the north in Norway, German troops attacked four locations. At Narvik, German destroyers sank Norwegian coastal cruisers Eidsvold and Norge, killing 276. At Trondheim, German warships pretended to be British ships and sailed by the coastal batteries without being hassled, thus the city was captured with relative ease. At Bergen, the coastal batteries at Fort Kvarven damaged German cruiser Königsberg and minelayer Bremse. Off Bergen, German Ju 88 and He 111 aircraft attacked British battleship HMS Rodney and destroyer HMS Gurkha at 1400 hours Rodney was hit by a dud 500-kg bomb, and Gurkha sank at 1600 hours, killing 15 only four German Ju 88 aircraft were lost in this attack. Finally, at Oslo, the batteries at Oscarborg sank German cruiser Blücher in the Oslofjord, killing 830. Out at sea, British battlecruiser HMS Renown intercepted German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau after they had successfully escorted Marine Gruppe 1 to Narvik Renown fired first, hitting Gneisenau three times, but received two hits before the German ships disengaged from the battle. Given the dire situation, the Norwegian royal family, the government, and the country's gold reserves (with over 48 tons of gold) departed from Oslo at 0830 hours.
9 Apr 1940 German merchant steamer Seattle was lost off Kristiansand, Norway when she was mistaken for a German Navy supply ship and was fatally damaged by Norwegian 15-millimeter guns of the Odderøya forgress. The surviving crew were taken as prisoners of war for about one day until their civilian identities were confirmed. The wreck of Seattle burned for several days before finally sinking.
9 Apr 1940 Emden transferred 350 of her 600 carried troops onto Räumboote minesweepers, which would act as landing ships for the Oslo, Norway invasion operation. At 1555 hours, Emden began firing on the Oscarborg fortress.
9 Apr 1940 Seeadler arrived off Kristiansand, Agder, Norway, assisted in the capture of the fortress in the morning, and departed for Kiel, Germany at 1800 hours.
9 Apr 1940 Albatros was hit by a shell from Norwegian minelayer Olav Tryggvason at Karljohansvern, Horten, Norway, killing two and wounding two.
10 Apr 1940 At the First Battle of Narvik, 10 German destroyers were attacked in the Ofot fjord by 5 British destroyers. 2 German destroyers, 11 merchant ships, and 1 supply ship were sunk. 2 British destroyers were lost. Both commanding officers, British Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee and German Commodore Friedrich Bonte, were killed in the action. Warburton-Lee was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross and Bonte the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
10 Apr 1940 Albatros escorted merchant ship Curityba as she unloaded troops on the Norwegian island of Rauøy. Upon completion of the escort mission, Albatros sailed southeast and struck the Gyren shoal southwest of Frederikstad, Norway at the speed of 20 knots. She was lost, and the survivors were taken aboard auxiliary ship V707 Arthur Dunker.
11 Apr 1940 In Norway, the German 196th Division moved north from Oslo up the Gudbrandsdal and Østerdal valleys in an attempt to link up with the German forces in Trondheim. In an attempt to halt the German advances, RAF attacked the Stavanger airfield in southern Norway. Norwegian Army General Kristian Laake was relieved of command for his failures in the opening chapters of the German invasion General Otto Ruge took over as his successor. Meanwhile, German collaborator Vidkun Quisling sent a message to King Haakon VII of Norway, asking him to return to Oslo seeing through his plot to use him as a puppet, the king chose to ignore the request. Seeing a lack of response from the king and his government, German bombers attacked the village where they were hiding in a failed attempt to wipe out Norwegian leadership. In Britain, Winston Churchill spoke at the House of Commons and used Norway as an example to urge other smaller neutral European countries to join the Allies before Germany violated their neutrality as well.
11 Apr 1940 Battleship Warspite and aircraft carrier furious joined the Home Fleet which continued unsuccessfully to find the German force west of Norway. Light cruisers and some destroyers were detached for re-fuelling. A sortie was made by battleships Rodney, Valiant and Warspite, the carrier Furious and the heavy cruisers Berwick, Devonshire and York under command of Admiral Charles Forbes. An unsuccessful attack was undertaken against three German destroyers after the cruiser Hipper set out undetected and heads south with the destroyer Friedrich Eckoldt.
12 Apr 1940 Norwegian artillery Major Hans Holtermann and 250 volunteers began reactivating the old fort at Ingstadkleiva near Trondheim, Norway, which would become known as Hegra Fortress for defense against the Germans.
12 Apr 1940 Corporal Jack H. Langridge of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, assigned to a Wellington bomber of No. 149 Squadron RAF, became the first of 1,670 New Zealanders to be killed while serving with RAF Bomber Command during the war. The aircraft took off from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, United Kingdom, attacked Stavanger Airfield in Norway during daylight, and was shot down around 1610 hours by a Bf 110 fighter just off of the coast southwest of Stavanger.
13 Apr 1940 At Narvik, Norway, a British naval force consisted of battleship HMS Warspite and 9 destroyers under the command of Vice Admiral William Whitworth entered Ofotfjord in the Second Battle of Narvik, Warspite's Swordfish torpedo bomber sank German submarine U-64 with bombs, while surface vessels sank 3 destroyers, with another 5 German ships scuttled by their own crews after suffering extensive damage three British ships were damaged in the battle without their ships, 2,600 German sailors went on land and served as infantrymen Whitworth radioed London, noting that German forces at Narvik were now stranded, and a single brigade could defeat them. Meanwhile, off Trondheim, Norwegian cruiser-minelayer Frøya was damaged by German warships while defending the Agdenes fortress German submarine U-34 scuttled Frøya to prevent salvage.
14 Apr 1940 350 British Royal Marines landed at Namsos, Norway to prepare for the arrival of the 146th Territorial Brigade these Marines were the first British forces to land in Norway. German paratroopers of the 7th Flieger Division were paradropped into Dombås, Norway after heavy casualties incurred largely due to the fact that they landed right into Norwegian 11th Infantry Regiment's camp, they successfully damage the nearby railways and occupied farmhouses, thus able to hamper with Norwegian transportation efforts for several days. Out at sea, British submarine HMS Sterlet damaged the German gunnery training ship and minelayer Brummer in the Skagerrak between Norway and Sweden with torpedoes Brummer would remain afloat until the next day.
15 Apr 1940 British troops landed in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway in response to German invasion their original objective was to secure the rail line to Swedish iron ore fields. Also in northern Norway, instead of making a landing directly at Narvik against an unknown number of German defenders, British Major General Pierse Mackesy decided to land his troops north of the city at an undefended location due to the large amounts of snow on the ground, his troops would have to wait before making a major advance at Narvik. Further south, the British 146th Territorial Brigade landed at Namsos and was immediately ordered to march south toward Trondheim, which saw attacks by RAF Blenheim bombers based in the United Kingdom it was the first time the Bomber Command sent aircraft based in the UK against targets overseas.
16 Apr 1940 The ill-equipped British 24th Brigade landed at Harstat, Norway 37 miles north of Narvik. Meanwhile, at Namsos, the reserve unit 148th Territorial Brigade boarded cruisers HMS Carlisle and HMS Curacoa for Trondheim, without their anti-aircraft weapons due to lack of space.
17 Apr 1940 Before dawn, British cruiser HMS Suffolk shelled the German-controlled airfield of Sola at Stavanger, Norway. Suffolk's Walrus seaplane, used to drop flares over the airfield, was shot down early in the bombardment, thus the shelling was largely inaccurate and destroyed only 4 aircraft. After sunrise, Suffolk was repeated attacked by German aircraft. She was hit twice and heavily damaged, and was placed out of action until Feb 1941. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the British War Cabinet approved direct troop landings at Trondheim, Norway (rather than the landing done at Narvik in which troops were dropped off at undefended beaches far away). The landing was to be supported by simultaneous landings at Namsos in the north and Åndalsnes in the south.
18 Apr 1940 The Norwegian government declared war on Germany after several days of fighting. On the same day, German troops advanced past Oslo, but were held up by Norwegian forces north of the city in the village of Bagn. The British 148th Brigade arrived in Åndalsnes overnight commanding officer Brigadier Morgan was given conflicting orders, one ordering him to march north to Trondheim, while the other ordered him to march south to support Norwegian troops in the Gudbrandsdal and Østerdal valleys north of Oslo. Meanwhile, troops of the German 181st Infantry Division began to arrive at Trondheim as reinforcements via aircraft, transport ships, and submarines.
19 Apr 1940 The first engagement between British and German troops in Norway took place at Verdal, north of Trondheim, when the British 146th Brigade and Norwegian troops clashed with troops of the German 138th Gebirgsjäger Regiment later on the same day, 45 German paratroopers surrendered to the Norwegian forces at Dombås. Norwegian General Ruge convinced British Brigadier Morgan to lead the British 148th Brigade in an effort to block the German advance from Oslo. Overnight, 3 battalions of French mountain troops arrived at Namsos, Norway, but without their skis, mules, and anti-aircraft weapons.
20 Apr 1940 The British 148th Brigade arrived at Lillehammer, Norway by train at 0250 hours and began to march south toward the front lines held by Norwegian troops on both sides of Lake Mjøsa. At Namsos, Norway, German aircraft destroyed large quantities of British supplies and equipment piled near the docks the British could do little to fight back as they were short on anti-aircraft weapons in an attempt to remedy this, the 263 Squadron RAF dispatched 18 Gladiator biplanes to Scapa Flow, where they would be ferried to Norway by HMS Glorious. In the United Kingdom, the British War Cabinet canceled the plans for direct landings at Trondheim, Norway (Operation Hammer) in fear of heavy casualties a failure in communications meant that the British 146th Brigade remained in precarious positions near Trondheim.
21 Apr 1940 German troops landed at Verdal and Kirknessvag, Norway, causing the British 146th Brigade near Trondheim to withdraw to Vist. Around Lake Mjøsa, British 148th Brigade reinforced Norwegian positions, but on the same day German forces broke through the line, causing the entire Norwegian-British force to withdraw north toward Lillehammer. Out at sea, German submarine U-26 sank British merchant vessel Cedarbank of convoy AP-1 50 miles northwest of Ålesund, killing 15 destroyer HMS Javelin rescued 30 men, but the vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons, ammunition, and food destined for the British 148th Brigade near Lillehammer were all lost.
22 Apr 1940 British 146th Brigade began to retreat toward Namsos, Norway as German troops began to surround their positions. British 148th Brigade defended against German attacks north of Lillehammer, Norway and were flanked by mountain troops. The British troops fell back 20 miles to the north overnight and formed a new line at Tretten Gorge. Out at sea, British sloop Auckland, still carrying some troops after a snowstorm prevented her from disembarking all of her passengers, made rendezvous with French transport Ville d'Alger, British destroyer Maori, British cruiser HMS Birmingham, British anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Calcutta, and French destroyers Bison and Foudroyant.
22 Apr 1940 The anti-aircraft sloop HMS Pelican, on her way to the Romsdal Fjord carrying the personnel of the Naval Base party for Molde, Norway, was crippled by a dive-bomber and suffered heavy casualties.
23 Apr 1940 British 146th Brigade retreated to Namsos, Norway the brigade had thus far suffered 19 dead, 42 wounded, and 96 missing. British 148th Brigade's defense line at Tretten Gorge in Norway suffered a heavy artillery barrage in the morning, an attack by light tanks in the early afternoon, and a surprise mountain troops attack from behind the lines they began to retreat northward at 1900 hours, strafed by German aircraft in the process the 148th Brigade had thus far suffered 705 killed, wounded, or missing. Near Oslo, British aircraft conducted a raid on German-controlled airfields.
23 Apr 1940 A brief action took place between the French 8th Destoyer Division under Captain E. G. M. Barthes. The heavy destroyers L'Imdomptable, Le Malin and Le Triomphant engaged the German 7th Patrol Boat Flotillacommanded by Lieutenant Commander G. Schultze. The German called in bombers but their attack scored no hits and the French forces returned to the North Sea.
24 Apr 1940 In Norway, 18 Gladiator biplanes of the 263 Squadron RAF arrived at the frozen Lake Lesjaskogsvatnet in Norway, which was to become their base of operations the field had no anti-aircraft defense. Troops of the British 15th Brigade landed at Åndalsnes after a 9-day journey by sea from France they immediately marched south toward Lillehammer, Norway. Troops of the Norwegian 6th Brigade attacked German positions north of Narvik, Norway Gratangsbotn was briefly re-captured by Norwegian troops. German troops repelled a British attack near Trondheim.
24 Apr 1940 The 6,503-ton merchant steamer Afrika, a German cargo ship previously captured by Norwegian torpedo boat Stegg, was scuttled by Norwegian troops during the Germans attempt at recapture at Ulvik, Norway.
24 Apr 1940 HMS Glorious arrived off off the Norwegian and transferred Gladiator aircraft to airfields on land.
24 Apr 1940 During an air raid near Molde, Norway, the British trawlers HMT Bradman and HMT Hammond were both sunk by German aircraft. Hammond was salvaged by the German Navy in 1941 and commissioned as the Salier. In 1942 she was renamed NT-04, and after various other names she was broken up in 1971.
24 Apr 1940 British trawler HMT Larwood, requisitioned in Aug 1939 and used as an anti-submarine vessel, was sunk in a German air raid on the coast of Norway. She was later raised by the German Navy and was used under the names Franke (1940), V-6110 (1941), V-6111 (1942), and V-6305 (1944).
25 Apr 1940 3,000 troops of the British 15th Brigade were engaged by 8,500 troops of the German 196th Division at the village of Kvam in Norway, 55 kilometers south of Dombås despite German numerical advantage and being supported by dive bombers, the British troops held ground and stopped the German advance. Elsewhere, a group of RAF Gladiator aircraft operating on the frozen Lake Lesjaskogsvatnet in Norway was discovered by the Germans. German aircraft bombed the rough airfield on and off for eight hours, destroying 13 aircraft on the ground. Three German He 111 bombers were shot down by RAF aircraft. By the end of the day, Squadron Leader Donaldson ordered the position to be abandoned the 5 surviving Gladiator aircraft were to be withdrawn to Stetnesmoen.
25 Apr 1940 HMS Glorious transferred Gladiator aircraft to airfields on land in Norway.
26 Apr 1940 Gladiator biplanes based out of Stetnesmoen, Norway intercepted a group of German He 111 bombers, downing one of them this RAF unit would run out of fuel and ammunition by the end of this engagement, however. Adolf Hitler, unhappy that the British 15th Brigade was able to land in Norway without German interference, ordered Åndalsnes, Norway to be bombed the entire day part of the British 15th Brigade's supplies were destroyed by the bombing while they continued to hold their line against attacks by the German 196th Division at Kvam, 172 kilometers from Åndalsnes. In the evening, the British 15th Brigade fell back 3 kilometers to form a new line at Kjorem.
27 Apr 1940 A British attempt to deliver much-needed anti-aircraft weapons by ground to Åndalsnes, Norway was turned back by a three-hour German aerial bombardment. At Kjorem, after holding the line against attacks by the German 196th Division throughout the day, the British 15th Brigade withdrew 17 kilometers to the north to form a new line at Otta. Meanwhile, the German 196th Division captured the Østerdal valley in Norway.
28 Apr 1940 The British War Cabinet ordered the withdraw of British troops at Trondheim, Norway to the dismay of Norwegian leaders. Meanwhile, troops of the British 15th Brigade held their line against attacks by the German 196th Division at Otta throughout the day before they fell back 25 miles to the north to Dombås overnight.
29 Apr 1940 Troops of the German 196th Division marched out of the Gudbrandsdal Valley in Norway and linked up with German troops near Trondheim, threatening to surround the British 15th Brigade.
29 Apr 1940 British destroyers HMS Kelly, HMS Maori, and HMS Imperial and French destroyer Bison departed Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom to evacuate British troops at Namsos, Norway they were escorted by cruisers and other destroyers.
30 Apr 1940 The German 196th Division arrived at Dombås, Norway on foot as their vehicles had been rendered useless after encountering blown bridges their initial attacks were held off by the British 15th Brigade despite causing heavy casualties to the Germans, the British withdrew their defensive line at dusk by train toward Åndalsnes. Near Oslo, RAF bombers conducted attacks on German-controlled airfields in Stavanger and Fornebu, escorted by naval fighters launched by HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious Germans detected the location of the British carriers and successfully launched a fighter attack that drove off the carriers. Off Namsos, Norway, German Ju 87 aircraft attacked British anti-submarine sloop HMS Bittern, hitting her with a bomb and starting a fire on the stern that killed 20 destroyer HMS Janus rescued the survivors and scuttled HMS Bittern to prevent capture. Off Trondheim, Norway, German aircraft sank British trawler HMS Warwickshire her wreck was later raised by the Germans and put into service. In the United Kingdom, a British fleet consisted of cruisers HMS Manchester and HMS Birmingham and destroyers HMS Inglefield, HMS Diana, and HMS Delight, under the command of Vice Admiral Layton, departed Scapa Flow, Scotland for Norway its mission was to evacuate the British 148th and 15th Brigades from Åndalsnes and Molde.
30 Apr 1940 HMS Glorious provided air cover for troops fighting on land in Norway.
1 May 1940 Norwegian troops in Lillehammer surrendered. En route to Åndalsnes, Norway for evacuation, the train carrying troops of the British 15th Brigade crashed into a bomb crater at 0115 hours, killing 8 and wounding 30 the surviving troops marched 17 miles through deep snow, arriving at Åndalsnes at 0900 hours. British Vice Admiral Layton's task force consisted of cruisers Manchester and Birmingham and destroyers Inglefield, Diana, and Delight arrived at Åndalsnes, Norway to evacuate the British 148th and 15th Brigades they embarked 5,084 men overnight and departed at 0200 hours on the next day. Joining the British evacuation was Norwegian General Ruge, who departed Åndalsnes aboard British destroyer HMS Diana to join the Norwegian government at Tromsø. Four British destroyers arrived at Namsos to evacuate the British 146th Brigade and other Allied troops in the area heavy fog delayed the operation, and only 850 French troops were embarked overnight. In the Kattegat, British submarine HMS Narwhal fired six torpedoes at a German merchant convoy carrying parts of 2nd Gebirgsjager Division to Norway German steamer Buenos Aires was hit by one of the torpedoes and sank, killing 62 men and 240 horses another transport, Bahia Castillo, was hit but did not sink, killing 10 men and 26 horses.
2 May 1940 German forces reached Aandalesnes, Norway. In southern Norway, British troops began to withdraw, but continued to fight in the north to interrupt the flow of iron to Germany. British Vice Admiral John Cunningham arrived in Namsos, Norway with 3 cruisers, 5 destroyers, and 3 transports to aid with the evacuation of the British 146th Brigade German aircraft attempted to interfere, damaging HMS Maori with a near miss, killing 5 and wounding 18 through the end of the night, 5,350 men were embarked.
3 May 1940 Norwegian troops south of Trondheim surrendered to the Germans. The Allies completed the evacuation at Namsos, Norway. The British destroyer HMS Afridi, left behind to shell British vehicles on the dock that could not be evacuated, departed at 0445 hours. German aircraft found part of the evacuation fleet and attacked the convoy at 0945 hours, sinking French destroyer Bison at 1010 hours, killing 103. HMS Afridi was bombed at 1400 hours and sank 45 minutes later, killing 49 men of the crew, 13 men of 146th Brigade, and 30 rescued men of Bison.
4 May 1940 30,000 Allied troops were present near Narvik, Norway, including units of the French Foreign Legion, French mountain troops, Polish troops, the British 24th Brigade, and Norwegian troops, aiming to take Narvik from the Germans. Meanwhile, German 2nd Gebirgsjäger Division's mountain troops began marching 350 miles north from Trondheim, Norway to relieve the German 139th Gebirgsjäger Regiment in Narvik detecting this, the Allies deployed 300 to 500 men each at Mosjöen, Mo, and Bodö in an attempt to stop this movement.
5 May 1940 After a 25-day battle, the Norwegian fortress of Hegra surrendered at 0525 hours. The 190 men were the last Norwegian troops actively resisting German invasion in southern Norway. Civilian nurse Anne Margrethe Bang was also captured. They would all be released within the next two months by the order of Adolf Hitler in recognition of their bravery during the defense.
6 May 1940 German mountain troops of the 2nd Gebirgsjäger Division continued their slow march north from Trondheim, Norway to Narvik, where South Wales Borderers of the British 24th Brigade, French Chasseurs Alpins mountain infantry, and French colonial artillery troops continued to assert pressure on the German troops. Off Narvik, British cruiser HMS Enterprise was slightly damaged by a near miss by an aerial bomb, killing one Royal Marine. Meanwhile, the Norwegian gold reserves arrived in London, England, United Kingdom.
7 May 1940 German Luftwaffe aircraft attacked British cruiser HMS Aurora off Narvik, Norway at 1641 hours, putting A and B turrets out of action and killing 7 Royal Marines.
9 May 1940 Four Polish battalions arrived at Narvik, Norway.
13 May 1940 At midnight, which was light due to the latitude, British cruiser HMS Aurora, cruiser HMS Effingham, and battleship HMS Resolution bombarded Narvik, Norway in preparation of the 0100-hour amphibious operation at Bjerkvik, which was the first of the European War. French Foreign Legion and light tanks came ashore at Bjerkvik in landing craft, suffering 36 casualties, then reached and captured Øyjord unopposed. Many Norwegian civilians died during the attack.
21 May 1940 British Royal Air Force 263 Squadron and 46 Squadron arrived in Narvik, Norway with 18 Gladiator and 18 Hurricane aircraft to provide additional, but still not adequate, protection for Allied warships in the area.
24 May 1940 The British War Cabinet issued the order to withdraw the British troops in Norway in light of the situation in France.
26 May 1940 German Ju 88 aircraft attacked and sank British anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curlew off Narvik, Norway, killing 9. HMS Curlew was equipped with the only early warning radar set.
27 May 1940 German Luftwaffe aircraft attacked Bodø, Norway, rendering 3,500 of the town's 6,000 residents homeless. 2 British servicemen and 13 Norwegian civilians were killed.
28 May 1940 Allied forces consisted of British, French, Norwegian, and Polish troops attacked Narvik, Norway across the Rombaksfjord and by land starting at 0015 hours. German aircraft did not arrived until 0430 hours, but they were able to force the Allied fleet to withdraw after damaging cruiser HMS Cairo (killing 10 and wounding 7). At 1200 hours, Allied troops captured the city. German troops withdrew to nearby hills.
30 May 1940 Allied troops began pushing German troops from the Narvik, Norway region back toward the Swedish border.
1 Jun 1940 British troops at Narvik, Norway began evacuating to reinforce Britain itself from a potential invasion. British ambassador to Norway Sir Cecil Dormer informed Norwegian King Haakon VII of the news and recommended the royal family and the government to evacuate as well.
2 Jun 1940 The Allies dispatched Polish and French troops to push German troops eastward from Narvik, Norway, while evacuated British troops. Carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious provided air cover for the evacuation of 26,000 British troops.
2 Jun 1940 HMS Glorious provided escort for British RAF bombers attacking German airfields in Norway.
3 Jun 1940 After nightfall, the Allies began to evacuate Narvik, Norway. Through the night and the following day's daybreak, British destroyers and Norwegian fishing boats ferried Allied personnel to six troops transports in various fjords nearby.
4 Jun 1940 German Admiral Wilhelm Marschall launched Operation Juno, sending Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Admiral Hipper, and several destroyers from Kiel for Norway, aiming at disrupting the Allied supply lines to Narvik.
5 Jun 1940 4,900 Allied troops boarded transport ships at Narvik, Norway during the evacuation operation.
6 Jun 1940 5,100 Allied personnel were transported to troop transports hiding in fjords near Narvik, Norway over the previous night. They then departed the area with about 15,000 troops aboard, escorted by destroyer HMS Arrow and sloop HMS Stork for the first phase of their trip back to Britain.
7 Jun 1940 The troop transports of British Group II arrived at Narvik, Norway and embarked 5,200 men overnight. Out at sea, troop transports of Group I which had departed Narvik on the previous day were spotted by German aircraft, but they were mis-identified as empty supply ships heading back to Britain, thus spared from attack.
7 Jun 1940 British pilots without proper carrier landing training safely landed 10 Gladiator and 8 Hurricane aircraft aboard HMS Glorious, completing the evacuation of 46 and 263 Squadrons RAF from Norway.
8 Jun 1940 French and Polish troops left dummies on the front lines to trick their German foes and fell back into Narvik, Norway for evacuation. British Group II troop transports took on the final 4,600 Allied troops and departed Narvik, escorted by carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruisers HMS Southampton and HMS Coventry, and 11 destroyers. German aircraft conducted nearly continuous attacks on the convoy, while German troops on land quickly realized the situation and moved into Narvik.
9 Jun 1940 The Norwegian 6th Division, essentially the last Norwegian unit still actively fighting the German invasion, surrendered to the Germans. An armistice was to take effect at midnight.
10 Jun 1940 Norway surrendered to Germany.
13 Jun 1940 At dawn, 0243 hours, 15 British Fleet Air Arm Skua aircraft from HMS Ark Royal dive bombed German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Trondheim, Norway. Scharnhorst was hit by a 500-pound bomb, but it failed to explode. 8 Skua aircraft were shot down 6 airmen were killed and 10 were taken prisoner. The remaining 7 aircraft returned to Ark Royal at 0345 hours. Nearby, Ark Royal's escorting destroyers HMS Antelope and HMS Electra collided in fog both sustained damage that would take them out of action until Aug 1940.

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Disasters and Shipwrecks

The small town of Narvik in Northern Norway is the centre point of the iron ore trade which branches out in all directions from the Arctic Circle down to Oslo and beyond. It was this trade that made the area a very important target for Nazi Germany and sure enough the expected invasion was soon to take place in early 1940 in order to secure this land.

The Royal Navy though was already a step ahead and a fleet of ships was already deployed to protect the area despite the growing presence of German warships in the seas around Narvik.

On 9th April 1940 the invasion took place which swiftly sent the two Norwegian warships Eidsvold and Norge to the bottom during a battle involving no fewer than ten German warships. The land was taken in no time at all and the British had to act fast in order to prevent the situation getting worse.

The following days saw ship after ship sunk in this small area of water, the fjords now littered with dozens of shipwrecks from all sides. Ironically the German warships were by now sat around stranded due to the lack of fuel, their tankers being able to get through to replenish the units.

By the end of May 1940 the land had been retaken but unfortunately it was the smallest of victories as Norway fell less than a month later and the Allies withdrew from Narvik.

Today there are remnants of the Battle of Narvik all around the town and in July 2019 I had the opportunity to see them for myself.

To start with I visited one of the Commonwealth War Cemeteries which had dozens of graves from the loss of the British warships Hunter, Hardy and Acasta as well as a section of German graves on the other side of the cemetery. Just this one place really brings it home to you just how many individual sailors alone were killed on these ships. Each person buried here had friends, a family, a home and a story. Some just say "A Sailor of the Second World War" and may never now be identified.

A memorial in the town centre honours those lost on the two Norwegian ships Eidsvold and Norge. These two put up an incredible fight against all odds and were the first casualties of a long battle. Today a peaceful memorial garden is dominated by a free standing stone marking the loss of these once proud ships.

Nearby to the memorial is the Narvik War Museum, a building which is packed with information and relics from 1940 telling the story in several languages and giving an easy to understand view of the events leading up to the invasion as well as displaying some incredible artefacts from some of the wrecks of those ships which over the years have been located and dived upon. A light show over a map of the fjords shows the visitor what happened day by day and gives you a better realisation of the horrors of the war and the history of this tiny town.

But the highlight of this trip was the visit to a site far away from the main town but one which was well worth doing. Taking a car across the bridge onto the main road and then back over the other side, down a country road surrounding by hills and trees and parking up where the road ends near a utilities station, we had to go the rest of the way on foot. Heading through foliage and mud, climbing over rocks and hanging onto tree branches, it was soon apparent that my shoes and jeans were suffering, not that I cared about this by now. For we had come to see the wreck of the German destroyer Georg Thiele, run aground deliberately during the campaign in order to save the crew from certain death after taking heavy damage.

The wreck today is in the exact same location but is now upside down, brown with rust and her bow up on the rocks. The 390ft long ship is now mostly underwater and is a fascinating dive site, but the foc's'le remains above water for you to see, the damage to the underside now exposed, along with the various holes which expose parts of her machinery spaces. Bollards and anchor holes remind you that this was once a fine vessel of fighting capability with a proud crew and a shining personality. Today she is a piece of history that is there for all to see for those who can be willing to make the journey. A journey that is well worth it if you love history and want to see first hand this amazing relic.

The Battle of Narvik is today remembered in the history books and has featured in only a few documentaries and it seems that it is still very much overshadowed by the bigger campaigns of the Second World War. The memories of what happened here together with the graves of all those who died during this campaign will forever lay quietly in a corner of those cemeteries or sit undisturbed underwater in the steel coffins that litter the waters of this tranquil slice of Arctic paradise.

But thanks to the residents of this town and the historians who study this battlefield, the story of what happened here almost 80 years ago will never fade away.

Germans halted

Although he halted Rommel's advance at the First Battle of El Alamein in July 1942, Auchinleck was replaced by Lieutenant-General Sir Harold Alexander as Commander-in-Chief Middle East. At the same time, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery took over command of the 8th Army.

Montgomery exuded confidence and rapidly restored the army's flagging morale. Through Alexander he also ensured that his army was properly supplied.

In late August 1942 Rommel made a last effort to break through but short of fuel and supplies, was repulsed at Alam Halfa. For nearly two months Montgomery continued to train and re-equip his army.

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Watch the video: Norway 1940: The Siege of Narvik (May 2022).