I Was There! - We Drew V's at Night in Oslo's Streets

The War Illustrated, Volume 6, No. 131, Page 29-30, June 26, 1942.

Norwegians have suffered drastic penalties for their opposition to German rule, but, as described in the following story received from Oslo by the Norwegian Ministry of Information, they keep their spirit of defiance.

The first time the V campaign appeal was broadcast from London there was very little reaction in Oslo. Certainly a few people began to use the V sign as a greeting, but that was all.

After the second appeal was broadcast my friend and I started drawing V's at night, and for four consecutive nights we two were almost the only V campaigners in the centre of Oslo. The first night we were in action we went round with chalk drawing huge V's in all the most conspicuous places. Among other places we drew one in the Karl-Johansgate, the main Oslo street, and I sat in a window opposite during the whole of the next afternoon watching passers-by. This V of ours aroused real enthusiasm; I saw many delighted faces. Most people saw the significance and enjoyed the joke, but others could not see anything particularly Norwegian about the sign, and in some cases they stopped and asked one another what it meant.

I had tasted blood, however, and was determined to make a serious offensive next night. As soon as it grew dark, my V's began to appear - chalk-white V's on dark walls and pitch-black V's on light walls. But the anticlimax came the next morning. The Germans had launched had launched a gigantic counter V campaign. Our V's were completely dwarfed by the fine huge stencilled V's of the Germans. Only then did the people start to take the matter seriously, for they were not only following the appeal from London but defying the Germans at the same time. Nearly everybody used the V sign and tapped out V's in Morse code. I decided not to give up in the first round; I had seen the effect of our V's and I knew that one Norwegian V -for Victory- had a very much greater effect than a hundred German V's.

They Had to Repaint the Wall! That night we two went to the rounds again with two buckets, one of pitch and one of whitewash. We drew enormous V's and decorated them with H7 for King Hakkon VII. One which we drew on the quisling Ministry of Supply remained there for three whole days, and even when it was painted over it still showed through as plainly as before. It caused such a sensation that a fortnight later the whole wall was repainted.

During the same night we had our first contact with our German rivals. We were drawing on one wall of a corner house when my friend noticed there was someone round the corner. We finished our V and then investigated. There stood two quisilings, one stencilling a fine V on the other wall of the house, and one sticking up posters. Three German policemen, including an officer, were superintending. We went quietly past them, and continued our work in another street. In the centre of Oslo alone that night we met three similar Nazi parties busy at work, and in the course of the night we clashed many times with these -our technically superior- rivals. They pasted over our V's, while we tore down their posters, painted over their V's and drew new ones. The Germans then started painting V's on the pavements; we followed at fifty yards distance, crossing them out or painting over them with an improvised stencil. With the latter the German signs were altered from a V to "Verloren", German for lost.

At one moment, when we were painting on the pavement, a Norwegian policeman came running towards us. We took the offensive and walked quickly towards him. He was obviously disconcerted, for he ran right past us and up to the place where we had been painting. There he turned and set off in pursuit of us, but after we had dodged once round a church and up a few more streets we were able to continue our work undisturbed. We had to stop work at 3.30 a.m. when it grew too light, but the Germans continued until 5 a.m.

After that night the V campaign spread all over the town. People tore down German posters and outlined V's in stairways, lifts, etc. Some people were caught in the act and imprisoned for three or four months.

On the following night we continued our work. We altered a German V opposite the guard-room at the Palace so effectively that even after it had been painted over by the Germans next morning it still showed and aroused great enthusiasm. Even today the words can still be read --"Germany Verloren". We spent one night drawing V's on the doors and windows of all well-known Nazis -- we got special paint for the fine window-panes of a particular Nazi glazier, and to remove that V it would be necessary to scratch it off. Shops in the centre of the town which were unlucky enough to get German V's on their windows were forbidden to remove the sign. We therefore helped those people by decorating the German V's as described, and next day the shopkeeper would be ordered to remove them.

At the beginning of the campaign people smiled at the childishness of the Germans in setting up their counteroffensive, but later they quite simply ignored the Germans' prolific sign-writing.

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