Why did Germany invade Norway?

Discussion in 'Scandinavia' started by TriciaF, Jul 2, 2015.

  1. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    After reading Diane's thread about escaped prisoners in Norway, I began to wonder again why it was so important for the Germans to be there at all.
    I've done a little reading, and one explanation is to keep an eye on the UK. I used to think it was because it gave them clear access to the North Atlantic where their Uboats could interfere with the voyages of our Merchant Navy to Canada and the USA. The fijords were good natural harbours.
    And they kept a force there to the bitter end.
  2. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Germany was under Blockade by the Royal Navy and required more raw materials to help the armament industry. Norway had a lot iron ore deposits and invading and occupying was one way of securing the raw materials and was easier for them to Transport back to Germany.

    Not the whole answer of course, but Germany also gained ports and airbases in which to Mount attacks on the UK.

  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Norway was also the nearest source of Heavy Water, used in the process of atomic bomb manufacture. There is I believe a series on the UK TV at present called 'Saboteurs' which covers this area, perhaps its available on iplayer if you find out which channel it was on.

  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  5. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    Oh dear, another example of the TV getting half a story.

    In 1940 the Ryukan hydro-electric plant was the only source of heavy water in the world; but the French Deuxieme Bureau had smuggled the lot out in March 1940. They got it to the labs of Joliot-Curie in France, but had to move it again in June. The tramp ship Broompark took it, and much more, to Britain. She landed her cargo in Falmouth and a special train took it to London, firstly to Wormwood Scrubs, then most of it to a vault under the library at Windsor Castle - with the (real) Crown Jewels. It's a long, but great story.
  6. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Tom's answer is by far the closest and most accurate....with minor caveats.

    Norway's own iron ore deposits were moribund, IIRC the always-small extraction ended before the war began. Narvik's vital role to German industry was that it was the transhipment point for seven months of the year for SWEDISH iron ore at the Gallivare ore fields....which were just a few miles over the border from Narvik! Swedish ore was low in phosphorous content - so didn't need pre-roasted..."sintered"...before smelting, which meant that production was shorter, cheaper and required less energy to produce a higher-quality iron.

    Taking and holding Narvik - meant taking and holding all the approaches to Narvik up the Norwegian coast. Hence the Germans seizing the various towns and ports northwards along the coast....VERY like Britain's own plans for intervention in Norway to seize Narvik and Swedish ore...

    ...for it's often forgotten now that BRITAIN depended on Swedish ore at the same time for high-quality product! The line of iron smelters up the east coast of England in various locations were dependent on Swedish ore, with at least three ships a week transporting Swedish ore from Narvik to England! The ultimate loss of Norway meant that these production facilities had to have sinter beds built at them at great cost to pre-roast domestic ore. And of course the cost of domestic production spiked...

    It was the sudden increase in the loss of British ore carriers departing Narvik to uboats starting in February/March that gave Churchill his excuse for mining the Norwegian leads....the potential threat of which led directly to Hitler's ordering the long-prepared plans for invasion enacted.

    It was conversely a bit hard for the Royal Navy to hamper German ore carriers shipping ore from Narvik to Germany....because they sailed down the coast of Norway inside the Norwegian Three Mile Limit of the day, then into Sweden's....then into the Skaggerak and safely into the Baltic. They rarely ever needed to take to international waters.

    Another factor that's often forgotten now is that German relied on OTHER metals directly from Norway, particularly aluminium and nickel. In fact, it was German money that founded Alcan, the largest Norwegian aluminium producer...and these continued flowing to Germany from Norway long after they stopped getting them from the USSR after June 1941 ;)

    Finally - in relation to the HUGE garrison the Germans had in Norway at the end of the war - some 385,000 men! - this wasn't due to any inherent value that Norway had other than as a source of raw materials; it was more to do with Hitler's "Island Sickness", the paranoia over coastal raids that the British fostered with the Commando raids on Vaagso and the Lofoten Islands. Hitler ordered a HUGE investment in static defences etc. in Norway after these, and the continuous beefing up of the garrison there. Right up to the very end of the war the British at least worried about the potential of Norway as the real "redoubt" for the Nazis because of this huge bloc of manpower there; the Heavy Force's last mass operation was mining the Skaggerak in May 1945 to prevent a Sicily-style withdrawal to Norway - and the LNSF's Mosquito's were tasked as their last mission with attacking Kiel, to prevent the Flensburg government decamping to Norway.
    Smudger Jnr and Guy Hudson like this.
  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Roy

    I note that in Brook Richards book, Secret Flotillas Vol 1 - it says that :

    "...........the French destroyer Milan, which was evacuating a team of French nuclear scientists and their stock of heavy water to Plymouth"

    This destroyer also carried De Gaulle to the UK

  8. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The strategic reason why Germany invaded Norway was that Hitler anticipated that the Anglo French would invade Norway....caused the resignation of Neville Chamberlain after the failed 8 week operation caused a withdrawl of Anglo French forces on 10 May.Chamberlain was optimistic that the German operation would fail and had declared to the Commons...."Hitler has missed the bus" Things came to a head and on the withdrawal of Anglo French forces on10 May 1940,Chamberlain resigned to be succeeded by WSC and a coalition.So the effort to deprive the enemy of bases that were likely to threaten Scotland failed with Hitler able to declare the German presence in Denmark and Norway was one of protection.

    It was thought that an Anglo French force might also be able to jeopardise.supplies of iron ore from Northern Norway into Sweden and then on the Germany but any intentions of secondary importance came to nought when the 8 week operation was quickly wound up.

    The same strategic approach was taken by FDR in regard to the question of Iceland.On the invasion of Denmark,Iceland declred itself to be independent but possessed no defence force.Then in early May 1940,the British recognised that Iceland was at risk from a German invasion....Iceland protested about the British precautions and were promised economic settlement after the war.The situation was not to FDR's liking and he unilaterally declared in early July 1941 that the US would occupy Iceland to prevent German expansion....that was 6 months before the US entered the European War and clearly Iceland was seen as a North Atlantic bastion against Hitler,
  9. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Phylo, as far as I know Alcan was/is Canadian (founded in 1902) so this sentence took me aback. Could you expand on it?


  10. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    It wasn't hard to anticipate it - various interested parties had been hawking the idea round Whitehall for six months beforehand, fighting the bit out in articles in the press etc...all nice and public.

    Churchill ALWAYS championed the idea, ever since an MEW paper in the autumn of 1939 pointed up Germany's economic weaknesses and reliance on various non-domestic resources. He'd tried several times to force the Cabinet to take up the idea of intervening in Sweden VIA Northern Norway. Eventually he found a fellow believer in Edmund Ironside...but once again it proved impossible to move Chamberlain until the start of the Winter War....then it was seen as a way of reaching Finland to help the Finns against the Soviets - to London, Hitler's "ally". Invade Norway...occupy northern Sweden...enter Finland...fight the Soviets!

    And each time, detailed plans were drawn up for each stage of the operation...

    We got as near to it all as asking the Finns to ask us to intervene...three days before the end of the Winter War. But instead they negotiated with the Soviets...and we lost our "excuse" for entering Norway and Sweden. THEN.

    The plans were dead in the water....until THE FRENCH came up with various ideas for prosecuting the economic war against Germany, and invading Norway was back on the agenda - along with Op PIKE (to bomb Baku), finding some way to close the Iron Gates and disrupt traffic on the Danube (The SOE was still trying to do this as late as 1943!), and the French idea that the RN should enter the Black Sea (as in WWI) and carry out a submarine campaign against Soviet shipping! That was nice of them to suggest it....

    Then the issue of German uboats sinking British ore carriers JUST outside the Norwegian Three Mile Limit reared its head - there was a German agent in a shipping office in Narvik passing information regarding ship departures - which brought the Mining The Leads section of the original plans back into the limelight...along with a pre-emptive occupation of various defence positions south of Narvik and Narvik itself using the appropriate portions of the original plans. The problem was that the to'ing and fro'ing of diplomatic notes regarding all this was pretty obvious to the Germans...who were ALSO hard at work on the diplomatic scene in Oslo!

    To Hitler....the Norwegians turning a virtual blind eye...I mean, them sending a strong letter of protest.... to the Altmark Incident which took place in the middle of all this showed Adolf that the Norwegians would basically kowtow to ANY action on the part of the British...whom the majority of Norwegians saw as their defender!!! For some reason the Norwegians saw the Royal Navy in particular as the defender of Norwegian interests at sea, and the protector of their coasts and mercantile interests! So he was aware that no matter how much the Norwegians would subsequently protest about the mining of the Leads....the merchant shipping channels down the Norwegian coast inside their Three Mile Limit AND inside several chains of islands....they wouldn't do anything and the British would have free rein. So the long-anticipated need on the part of Germany to occupy Norway before the British did arose ;)

    In the end - the Germans only beat the British and French ashore by 24 hours. Unfortunately, it was enough....AND they knocked chunks out of the British occupation plans by seizing some of the coastal locations before the Allies could. The British had indeed had their troops aboard RN vessels at Rosyth, ready to depart for Norway...but THEN received word of German naval movements in the North Sea, and correctly anticipated a German invasion at the last minute. But instead of sailing immediately and landing first....they chucked the Army and their stores off the ships, and dashed out to sea to intercept the KM rather than dash straight to Norway!!!
  11. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Dave, it may have simply been a different company; it's not unknown for that to happen on opposite sides of the Pond!

    Or a locally-funded subsidiary? A bit like Ford vs. Ford Germany? The appearance of the name when I was researching the Norwegian iron and steel industry a few years ago caught me by surprise at the time too, but the company in Norway was noted as being founded in Norway with German money very early in the century, and bought up mining and extraction licenses between the wars for aluminium, nickel, and a number of other metals, specifcally alloying metals for steel.

    NOW what's left of the Norwegian concern is owned by Rio Tinto Alcan...but I have no idea if they were the original owners, or purchased the Norwegian concern post-WWII, or what.
  12. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Good Lord! So much to read and understand here. Thanks to all.
    I have a newspaper dated May 7 1945 which announces Admiral Doenitz' statement of unconditional surrender. It's followed by quite a long piece about Norway, where Doenitz addresses his Uboat men. Thought to be betwen 2-300 Uboats and 3-400 German fighter aircraft in Norway at the time of surrender. As said above, over 300,000 German forces. The Norwegian population was only about 3 million at the time.
    So they weren't there for fun.
  13. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    Hi TD,

    I don't have any record of Milan, but I am sure that Broompark carried Lew Kowarski and Von Halban to the UK with all the 187kg of heavy water.

  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Roy

    Having read the book noted above last year I have been trying (unsuccessfully to date) to try and find in the French archives to find out who the scientists were :(


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