Norway as a Primary Target?

Discussion in 'Scandinavia' started by Mussolini, Sep 16, 2011.

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  1. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru

    I am slowly reading my way through Finlands War of Choice since I know very little of what went on in the Eastern Front (in regards to actual books I have read) and found this topic to be quite interesting. Some initial surprises thus far have been how the SS Nord (i believe) unit routed in its first combat as (contrary to popular beliefe) the unit was not well trained or equipped and it took great strains by the German Officers to stop the troops retreating to the West.

    Anyways, my question here is, given the great fear Hitler had of Norway being invaded (he moved a lot of troops meant to be used in Finland to Norway as he feared an invasion there by the British) why didn't the British Invade it earlier in the war? Hitler seemed to think that it was the weak point in Festung Europe, but did the British actually have any plans or notions of invading? I am aware they performed some Commando Missions there, but was there ever any thought of invasion?
     
  2. Vitesse

    Vitesse Senior Member

    There were tentative plans for a pre-emptive "friendly" invasion in 1940 (see Iceland and the Faeroes), but presumably you're referring to 1944? As I recall, the troops Hitler left in Norway were there to repel the imaginary threats originally conjured up by the Fortitude North deception plan and sustained by the XX Committee - wasn't there a completely bogus British army created in Scotland which was nothing more than a few radio vans sending lots of fake traffic?
     
  3. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru

    No, its all 1940 - 1941 this far in the book, in regards to the Finns invasions of Russia with German help. The book focuses on Finland, but a good portion of troops that the Germans had stationed in Norway were meant to move to Finland (but transport through Sweden was questionable at best and Finnish Infrastructure would not have been able to handle it in either case - it could barely supply the limited forces already there) and the Germans in charge of Finnish Operations requested more men, but Hitler kept denying them and even moved some Finnish-bound troops to Norway. The Russian Port of Murmansk was their main target and lots of Convoys were passing off the coast supplying the port (apparently a majority of Russian Aide came in through Murmansk).

    It just seems a little unfounded for Hitler to be virtually obsessed with defending Norway while those troops and supplies could have been used to strengthen the attacks in Northern Russia.
     
  4. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Anyways, my question here is, given the great fear Hitler had of Norway being invaded (he moved a lot of troops meant to be used in Finland to Norway as he feared an invasion there by the British) why didn't the British Invade it earlier in the war? Hitler seemed to think that it was the weak point in Festung Europe, but did the British actually have any plans or notions of invading? I am aware they performed some Commando Missions there, but was there ever any thought of invasion?


    Do you mean AFTER the Norway Campaign of April-May 1940? Or leading up to it?
     
  5. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru

    Yes - after. I am referring to the troops Hitler left stationed in Norway as a defensive force. From what I've read, he was convinced the Brits would try an invasion into Norway (despite lacking the Army to do it - we're talking 1940 and 1941 here). It just seems odd for him to be thinking along these lines while also contemplating Sealion.

    Tomorrow, I'll pull some quotes out of the book to try and paint the picture a little clearer. I'm not debating that these troops retained in Norway would have made any difference in regards to Murmansk or the rest of the Finnish Offensives as part of Barbarossa (the book clearly demonstrates that Finnish Infrastructure was barely up to the task of moving what troops were there, and the supply line distance virtually cancelled out the fuel that was trasnported, while much of the terrain was inhospitable and a major region to failures - not to mention misreading Russian maps in regards to what were roads) I am trying to figure out why Hitler was so convinced the Brits were going to invade Norway and why he positioned so many troops there when they could have (potentially) been better used elsewhere.
     
  6. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Well, there are several aspects to this in the meantime;

    1/ what there was to be protected in Norway! Germany was already, even in "peacetime" vis-a-vis Norway, getting a LOT of aluminium and nickel and other alloying metals from Norway; German interests owned about half of Norway's aluminium industry, and about 80& of its nickel production!

    2/ The British were not short of men; at the end of the summer of 1940, even under the shadow of Sealion, they sent four divisions and more thanhalf the country's tanks to the Middle and Far East :mellow: Why could the British do this? First of all - the problem wasn't men, it was trained/formated divisions....and more and more were completing their reorganisation after Dunkirk, and coming out of training depots every day...and dozens of home service and holding battalions were being formed. As for tanks...the War Cabinet made the decisions that they could send so many abroad - because by that time they knew the broad dates for Sealion and reckoned that what they sent could be replaced by new builds in time!

    The Western Allies in Norway actually had 26,000 men ashore in the Narvik Enclave at its largest in May 1940! With the airfields at Bodo and Bardofuss had been fully operational, each could have hosted 2-3 squadrons....and of course within the Enclave, unlike the Luftwaffe they wouldn't have had to fly from as far away as Trondheim and Oslo; the creation of a human early warning net in Northern Norway, like Chennault did in China, would have given these defence squadrons enough advanced warning to get in the air and get an altitude advantage over any attackers incoming...while with the KM crippled by events in Norway in 1940, the Royal Navy could have protected the Enclave and its supply routes.

    The point being - these factors/advantages didn't actually change. The Allies withdrew from the Enclave because of what happened in Belgium and France, not because the Enclave idea was bad! Britain STILL needed good Swedish iron ore from the Gallivare fields via Narvik; NOT having access to it meant we had to build sinter beds at all the East Coast ironworks to pre-roast domestic ore. If we had gone back we would have had access to all this again.

    3/ Churchill actually DID give orders during the summer of 1940 for planners to draw up plans for an early break-back into Norway, perhaps by the end of the year, and re-securing of the Narvik Enclave! But events in the Western Desert were developing instead... :(

    4/ Norway as a through-supplier of Swedish ore in winter via Narvik was still vital to Germany; shipments via Narvik never reached their pre-Weserubung levels again, but the possibility always remained - reinforced by the Vaagso and Lofoten Islands commando raids that trashed Norway's whale oil stocks and industry - that the British were as aware of this importance as the Germans were, and WOULD return...and re-create an Enclave that this time would be impossible to dislodge.
     
  7. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Tomorrow, I'll pull some quotes out of the book to try and paint the picture a little clearer. I'm not debating that these troops retained in Norway would have made any difference in regards to Murmansk or the rest of the Finnish Offensives as part of Barbarossa (the book clearly demonstrates that Finnish Infrastructure was barely up to the task of moving what troops were there, and the supply line distance virtually cancelled out the fuel that was trasnported, while much of the terrain was inhospitable and a major region to failures - not to mention misreading Russian maps in regards to what were roads) I am trying to figure out why Hitler was so convinced the Brits were going to invade Norway and why he positioned so many troops there when they could have (potentially) been better used elsewhere.


    M., when you get a chance today, I'd be particularly interested in the numbers of tanks/AFVs the Germans had in Norway for this purpose...for reasons that will be obvious on reading ;)

    Axis History Forum • View topic - Barbarossa takes place in 1940
     
  8. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    I suppose one answer to what there was needing protection is the coastline itself. Its vast stretch gives the possibility to control much of the North Atlantic and so the Tirpitz hiding in some Norwegian fjord was a substantional threat to Arctic convoys.

    A common perception seems to be that the Nazis had to retain a large number of troops in Norway partly because the threat that the Allies would come back and liberate the country was pereceived as real. Also, and more important to Norwegian national pride, was that widespread resistance and organised sabotage actions bound up a lot of Nazi resources to be kept under control.

    ....

    reinforced by the Vaagso and Lofoten Islands commando raids that trashed Norway's whale oil stocks and industry
    .........


    I suppose you are referring to the operations Archery in December 1941 and Claymore in March 1941, respectively.
    Could you please cite the sources claiming that these operations trashed Norway's whale oils stocks and industry? It's not a well-known fact over here, and seems somewhat contradictory to the idea of fish oil industry scattered all along the coast.
     
  9. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

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  10. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    I suppose one answer to what there was needing protection is the coastline itself. Its vast stretch gives the possibility to control much of the North Atlantic and so the Tirpitz hiding in some Norwegian fjord was a substantional threat to Arctic convoys.


    But thse didn't start until after Barbarossa began ;) Also, the coastline protected itself...there wasn't very much of it suitable for amphibious operations...and there's the fact that an invasion of Norway itself isn't much of a strategic option, you can't really GO anywhere from it :lol: The only viable reason to go there is to gain something...

    Could you please cite the sources claiming that these operations trashed Norway's whale oils stocks and industry? It's not a well-known fact over here, and seems somewhat contradictory to the idea of fish oil industry scattered all along the coast.

    CLAYMORE's objective in the Lofoten islands was the factories processing fish oil into glycerine for munitions; the raid also saw the destruction of over 3,500 tons (800,000 gallons) of stockpiled oil and glycerine. The Lofotens Cod Boiling Plant was destroyed, two factories at Henningsvær were detroyed and thirteen at Svolvær.

    I don't have a list of the actual demolitions at Vaagso, except that "All" the major demolitions were carried out including coastal defences, oil and fish factories, radio transmitters, stores, a lighthouse, a power station.

    The fishing industry was indeed scattered - but processing of it's products was clustered by the looks of it.

    It should be noted that while fish oil was vital for glycerine, whale oil was vital for something else entirely! ;) As I posted elswhere...

    Whale oil was the best for high strength loading applications....precision instruments, industrial machinery - and automotive applications such as the transmission cases in Jeeps! [​IMG] When whales began to become scarce, the boffins came up with an additive rich lube that they called...ATF or automatic transmission fluid! [​IMG] By WWII the development of automatic transmissions was well underway, utilizing the qualities of whale oil. The torque converter's introduction right after the war gave the automatic transmission the technology required for acceptance by the driving public and by the 1950s automatics were the preferred transmission.

    By the 1960s up to 30 million pounds of whale oil were used each year, chiefly as the main additive to automatic transmission and locking differential fluids. It was whale oil that made these devices so reliable and efficient and it was primarily the auto industry's requirements that maintained the demand for whaling during the mid-20th Century.
    Automatic transmissions ran smoothly and reliably using whale oil in lubricating fluids, as long as engine coolant temperatures ran below 173 degrees F. However, by the 1970s engines became subject to tighter emissions regulations and engineers had to design them to run hotter. Other demands such as front-wheel-drive and ever-increased emissions limits boosted the operating temperatures of engines to well over 200 degrees F, forcing research efforts into synthetic lubricants and rendering the use of whale oil (really an esther, not an oil) obsolete. Technically, it was a long chain monoesther of fatty acids and fatty alcohols.
     
  11. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    Messed up my quote. Sorry. BRB.
     
  12. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    ......


    CLAYMORE's objective in the Lofoten islands was the factories processing fish oil into glycerine for munitions; the raid also saw the destruction of over 3,500 tons (800,000 gallons) of stockpiled oil and glycerine. The Lofotens Cod Boiling Plant was destroyed, two factories at Henningsvær were detroyed and thirteen at Svolvær.

    I don't have a list of the actual demolitions at Vaagso, except that "All" the major demolitions were carried out including coastal defences, oil and fish factories, radio transmitters, stores, a lighthouse, a power station.

    ....



    I'm not trying to debate objectives or success of neither Op Claymore nor Archery.
    I'm trying to find the documentation for your earlier statement that the operations 'trashed Norway's whale oil stocks and factories'.
    This would be news to the local population as fish oil factories were scattered all along Norway's appr 1600 miles of coastline.
    Some examples: Berge, Evjesund, Fedje (Hordaland), Gomalandet (Kristiansund), Husbergoyea (Oslofjord), Larvik, Sandefjord, Sotra, Stamsund, Storsteinnaes (Tromsoe), Aaalesund.

    A bit further down the page I assume you have been searching: Operation Claymore - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia my argument is perfectly phrased:
    ' In the eyes of the British the value of such actions was mainly to tie up large German forces on occupation duties in Norway.'

    It would also be approprite to mention that these operations were carried out without any involvement of the Norwegian exile Government or any other Norwegian authority at all. The Norwegian Government protested sharply about this and a period of poor relations to the British followed. To add to bitterness, severe German reprisals were taken out on the civilan population.
     
  13. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    Slightly off topic - but I'm a bit confused by parts of the original posts.I'm not very knowlegeable about this area of WW2 but I thought that the events went something like this : -

    November 1939 - [the Winter War] Russia attacks Finland who, after initial successes against Russia, eventually (March 1940) had to agree terms and cede some territory, At this time Russia was seen as "Allied" to Germany so Britain & France considered helping Finland but did not get there act together in time.

    June 1941 [the Continuation War] -
    Finland attacked at a time which coincided with the German invasion of Russia and very soon recovered all it's lost territory.
    At this time there was a only small German military prescence in Finland - except for units in the extreme North of Finlad who could make no progress because of the terrain.
    I also believe that there was very little activity during 1942

    So if German troops were diverted from Finland it would have to be late' 41 or in 1942 not 1940-41.
    Additionally I dont think SS Nord came int exsistance untill 1942 or 1943

    Please feel free to put me right if I have got this all wrong

    Noel
     
  14. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Strombird, it's been years since I did any reading on it - and not from the POV of ARCHERY or CLAYMORE themselves. The only other thing I can remember from the time is that the Germans weren't in any hurry to move the whale and fish oil stocks south for some reason; hence them getting caught there and destroyed, even though it was regarded as one of Norway's important strategic resources for the Third Reich...for obvious reasons!
     
  15. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    At this time there was a only small German military prescence in Finland - except for units in the extreme North of Finlad who could make no progress because of the terrain


    Noel, those were the forces occupying the Petsamo area; the Germans had seized it for its nickel.
     
  16. Vitesse

    Vitesse Senior Member

  17. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Fascinating though the raids are, I thought this thread was about I am aware they performed some Commando Missions there, but was there ever any thought of invasion?
    :unsure:
     
  18. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Well, according to Charles Messenger - a comment I saw in pasing earlier today - Churchill gave the CoS a date of October 1941 for a return to Trondheim...this time as a way of relieving pressure on the Russians, and to help safeguard convoys to Russia. He notes "Clearly it wasn't feasible..." But whatever progress was made towards planning this operations, it accounted for the lay-off of commando raids on Norway from March 1941 to the aborted raid on Floss on the 9th of December 1941.

    To return however to the OP's original point -

    It just seems a little unfounded for Hitler to be virtually obsessed with defending Norway while those troops and supplies could have been used to strengthen the attacks in Northern Russia.


    The Germans didnt just fear an invasion - they feared other raids! They were particularly paranoid that the British would return and repeat the damage done at the Lofoten Islands...

    An extensive fortification of Svolvær started after the "Lofoten raid". Bunkers, fortresses and machinegun-nests were built, and construction lasted up to the German capitulation in 1945. Svolvær was in fact the most fortified city in Norway, with all it's bunkers and military structures within a 2 km area.
    The attack on Lofoten, led to Gestapo establishing their main headquarter (SD) for the region (Lofoten & Vesterålen) in Svolvær. The "Wehrmacht" didn't feel safe at all after the Lofoten raid, resulting in more German soldiers being assigned to Norways northern areas. (about 100 000)
    The "Lofoten raid" is considered the first total victory against Germany during 2.w.war. (even considering the fact that the Germans were driven out of Narvik earlier, but the Germans weren't defeated.) British press made a huge number of the "Lofoten raid", and it had an enormous boost on morale. On the other side, the "Lofoten raid" led to an enormous fortification of Svolvær



    The place in Lofoten most heavily armed with military construction by the Wehrmacht was Svolvær. Antiaircraft guns and searchlights were mounted on the hills and heights. The areas surrounding the oil companies BP and Shell were heavily fortified with two 8,8 cm guns. These were modern and power full guns, and could be used at any target at sea.
    Near the entrance of the harbour on an island called “Kuba” a big fortification was situated.But the main guns were old French 15 cm from 1908. They were taken by the Germans when French capitulated in 1940.
    The Wehrmacht was running short of guns, and took advantage of whatever they could lay their hands on. At a small island right outside Svolvær (Skjæringen), they used wooden logs as decoy-guns.

    But in Svolvær the guns were real enough and were mounted so they could literally control all entrances by sea. At the dominant heights around Svolvær the Germans set up 23 20mm machineguns. Apart from this, machinegun nests were placed strategically all over town to control main streets and intersections.

    All areas around the docks and other military installations, were mined. Numerous big bunkers were excavated into hills and mountains. Tunnels extended as far as 200 meters in several directions, equipped with living rooms and sleeping quarters. The German security services, S.D. and the Gestapo had their own emergency quarters. Also a big field bunker-hospital was buildt. Huge radio-antennas were placed, reporting daily to Berlin.


    From the Lofoten War Museum's website.
     
  19. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru

    Ok. Some quotes from the book.

    Hitler became exceedingly worried about the security of northern Norway and the iron and nickel mines in Sweden and Finland after the British raid on Lofoten Islands in March 1941, and began a major force build up.
    The German offensive was fragmented. Two mountain divisions would cros.....Two additional divisions from central Norway were to cross Sweden by rail.
    Directive No. 21 also makes it clear that the most important task for Group XXI (Army of Norway) remains the protection of Norway DESPITE the operations vs. the USSR. It goes on to say, when talking about why Murmansk was made an objective along with the likes of Moscow (it was a tiny port at the time, population of about 100,000):

    A major reason for Hitler's invasion of Norway in 1940 was to secure the iron ore from the mining districts in northern Sweden. The nicke mines in Kolosjoki neat the Pechenga, only 100 kilometers from Murmansk, were also important.....and a significant reason for Germany's interest in Finaland. Of grave concern to Hitler was the possibility that Russia might use the Murmansk Railroad to quickly move significant forces to threaten these valuable soures of iron and nickle. Another worry was that the British would land forces in that area.
    I am also apparently wrong about SS Nord. It was SS Kampfgruppe Nord (reinforced by tank, machinegun, antitank, artillery, and engineer battalions).

    Operation Claymore sought to destroy the Glycerin making factories, of which 50% of all production in Norway came from those islands. The section of this (on page 70 for anyone reading along) explains (in brief) that Hitler saw Norway as a trophy due to his success there, and that he believed "Norway is the zone of destiny in this war". So the Lofoten Raid caused him to change plans for Barbarossa. SS Kampfgruppe Nord were returned to Finland and some other deployments did take place as well, but a lot were 'frozen' as they waited for new orders as Hitler had reduced the number of forces from Norway.

    Page 73 lists the forces Dietl had available for the defense of Norwaynorth of Narvik, and the execution of Renntier and Patinfuchs. The XXXVI Corps would carry out the main attack of Operation Polarfuchs (against Kandalaksha) but these forces consisted of only 40,600 men (not including the Finns). Meanwhile, seven divisions of about 150,000 men were left for the defense of Norway.

    Murmansk was a very important port, though the Germans were not aware of it. Materials transported to Murmansk and Archangel in the first year of the war alone replaced all the Materials the Russians had lost. (3,052 Aircraft, 4048 Tanks, 520000 Motor Vehicles) mostly from the US but also the British.

    The 3rd Mountain Division after it failed attacks was transferred to Germany. Apparently partly political - they were Austrians and complained that they had been left in the Arctic to die, a Nazi party member told the Authorities, and due to unrest in Austria at the time, they were all transferred.

    Platinfuchs operation failed miserable (10,000 casualties).

    Hitler's fixation with the defense of Norway, where no real threat existed, did much to doom Platinfuchs to failure. The force made available for the operation was dictated, not by what was required for its success but by what could be spared from Norway....The shortage of forces led the Germans, according to Ziemke, to modify their goals for the operation...Hitler's preoccupation with the defense of Pechenga also played a role....Stripping forces for that purpose from the attacking divisions was a poor solution.
    Sorry for the long and confusing post! I hope that clears up some matters (and all of it refers to the time period through 1941.)
     
  20. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    German divisions 1941 through all fronts.


    German Divisions 1941.jpg
     

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