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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Norway Campaign

9 April to 10 May 1940

Location: Norway, especially Oslo and Narvik
Players: Germans Grand Admiral Erich Raeder and General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst; Winston Churchill; and Nazi Norwegian leader Vidkun Quisling
Outcome: German invasion of Denmark and Norway.

Norway was a neutral country so any military presence there would have been a violation of that status. Nonetheless, Hitler's Grand Admiral Erich Raeder was keen to take over Norwegian naval bases to provide the Germans with strategic positions from which to operate.

Hitler was consumed with planning an attack in the west, but Raeder arranged for the Nazi Norwegian leader, Vidkun Quisling, to visit Berlin in December, forcing Hitler to consider his proposition.

It wasn't until the humiliation in which the German pocket battleship Graf Spee was sunk by its own captain after being cornered by the British, that Hitler authorised action. His fury had been compounded by the interception of the Altmark in Norwegian waters, freeing 300 British merchant seaman. Hitler's motive then was to deny Britain access rather than provide his navy with bases.

General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst was instructed to plan an attack. He decided that Denmark would provide a land route to Norway and divisions were mobilised on 7 April 1940.

Two days later Denmark surrendered, totally unprepared for invasion. But the Norwegians, similarly surprised, did not succumb. They even managed to sink the German Blücher off the coast of Oslo. Their small army then prepared to face attacks up the coast and in the north. They were offered support from 12,000 British and French troops.

The British had to retreat from Gudbrandsal, but in the north the German navy lost the two battles of Narvik (10 and 13 April). Ten destroyers were sunk and German troops went ashore where they were outnumbered six to one. They were besieged at Narvik, then escaped to Switzerland.

The campaign was brought to an end by the collapse of the Allied front in France and Allied troops were moved from Norway to replace those lost in battle against the Wehrmacht on 10 May.

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.


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