'British Forces Have Landed in Norway'
News that electrified the world was contained in a ten-word communiqué issued in London on April 15. The fact of the landing of the B.E.F. in Norway is noted below, together with some account of the first week's fighting in the new war zone.
"German forces", declared Von Ribbentrop, "will see to it that during this war no Englishman or Frenchman will get a glimpse of Norway or Denmark". That was what Germany's Foreign Secretary told the journalists in Berlin. A mere seven days elapsed, and on Saturday, April 13, there came a ten-word announcement which have him the lie. It was issued by the British Admiralty and War Office and read, "British forces have now landed at several points in Norway".
The secret of this new Expeditionary Force had been well kept. The first of the invaders had hardly set foot in Norway before thousands of British troops were on the march to join the transports which were already waiting for them in Easy Coast ports. From camps and barracks and billets they poured to the ports of embarkation, and although they travelled by night, there were thousands of people who watched their passing and who at least guessed what was afoot. Yet never a whisper escaped, and not a line appeared in the press from which Nazis or neutrals might get some hint of the expedition's approaching departure. Silently and swiftly the men embarked with all their material of war; they were transported across the stormy waters of the North Sea closely guarded by ships of the Allied navies, and at several points on the Norwegian coast they successfully disembarked.
"My Government", said King George in a personal message to King Haakon on April 13, "in full cooperation with the French Government are bringing all help in their power to Norway". Within a few hours the promise was implemented, and to the Norwegian people, bewildered and battered by the sudden blows of the Nazi war-machine, news of the actual arrival of the Allies gave new heart.
From the first day of the war in Scandinavia Britain's aeroplanes, both of the Fleet Air Arm and of the R.A.F., were concerned in a series of attacks, relentless and unremitting, on the German bases in southern Norway. Every day from April 10 Stavanger in particular was subjected to a heavy bombardment from the air with a view to preventing the Germans from consolidating their hold on Norway's most important aerodrome and seaplane harbour. German ships conveying troops and supplies to southern Norway were attacked time and again, and so, too, were those which had already arrived in the fjords of Bergen and Trondheim.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian land forces were mobilizing fast, and it was noticeable that their resistance to the north of Oslo stiffened as the days went by, although to the south-east of the capital the Germans were able to claim some advances. After a week's fighting the Germans had occupied both shores of the Oslo Fjord, and were attacking the main Norwegian army east of Oslo in the region of Kongsvinger.
In those days of bitter trial King Haakon was a tower of strength to his people – a fact which the Germans were quick to realize – and he was chased from place to place by the German bombing planes. "I am completely exhausted, without sleep or rest", said the King on April 15. "Since I left Oslo on Tuesday I have not taken off my shoes and have hardly slept. All civilization seems to have come to an end. I cannot understand that such terrible things can happen. I can no longer be sure of anything. My ministers can visit Sweden. My people can be evacuated to Sweden, but I must stay. I must stay in my country as long as there remains a single inch of Norwegian soil."