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    Really Senior Member jon_norstog's Avatar
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    The German attack on Norway and sinking of the KMS Blucher

    I had been hearing stories about the Norwegianicon resistance long as I can remember. One of the stories I heard from my father was about the “sea cadets” on an island in Oslofjord who loaded up an old cannon named Moses and sank a big German ship full of troops, with one shot no less. In the story the Germans were all lined up on deck at parade rest, in their dress uniforms. Bands playing, flags flying. In the story it was a troopship and the troops were expecting an enthusiastic welcome.

    I spent a month in Norway, all of June, visiting family and seeing the places we all came from. After my wife and son went back to the US I stayed on into July, traveling by bicycle and camping. I got to see the Vermork power plant at Rjukan, the Resistance Museum in Oslo, a couple of the places where there were fights. I got up in Haukelifjel, one of the roadless areas above treeline where resistance units found safety between operations, part of the area called Hardangervidda.

    Oscarsborg in Oslofjord was the island in the story. It is about 35 K south of Oslo, a rock island in the middle of a narrows in the fjord. It is a good square KM of solid, 600-million-year-old stone, two islands joined by a short bridge. There were two channel approaches past it, but the government filled up one channel in the 19th century leaving just one channel for large craft. The island has had guns for a long time and was fortified heavily in 1845 with 30 heavy guns, smoothbores in the 100-pound class.

    The island got a single Krupp breechloader, the 1878 30.5 cm (12 inch) L/22 model, in 1882, which was emplaced in front of the old fort. Depending on the charge, this gun could send a thousand-pound shell off at 2,000 fps using the best black powder of the day. Standard loading was a 725-pound shell at a little over 1,700 fps. (1)

    The armament was stiffened in 1893 by the addition of three of the new Krupp 1892-model 28 cm guns, MRK L/35 models. These used a nitro-based powder and sent their shells off considerably faster than the older guns. A trained crew could load these guns in two minutes for a follow-up shot. Like the older guns, though, elevation and traverse were adjusted by hand cranking. These were the guns known as Moses, Aaron and Joshua.



    Around this time batteries were also set up on the shore across from Oscarsborg, including the Kopas battery at Drobak with its three six-inch Armstrong guns.

    This is a view of the business end of Oscarsborg, taken from the site of the Kopas battery onshore.



    In 1902 a battery of shore-based torpedoes was added to the upchannel island. This installation was in a cave blasted into living rock and the fish were launched though tunnels three meters below the water. The torpedoes in the launch cradles were Whitehead Mark Vs manufactured in Austriaicon-Hungary prior to the Great War. These were a 45 cm torpedo with a top speed of 40 kt and a 100 KG load of HE. The Oscarsborg launcher had 3 fish in cradles ready to launch, plus six more racked up for immediate use.



    At the time all this stuff was built, Norway was in a “personal union” with Swedenicon, having been awarded to that country as fallout from the Napoleonic Wars. Previously it had been the poorest region in Denmarkicon, now it was the poorest part of Sweden. After Norway broke away in 1905, the country was too broke to have much in the way of military ambition and pursued a policy of neutrality. There was no money to modernize the Oscarsborg defences, so it retained its state-of-the-art 19th century systems. You could call it a steampunk installation. Oscarsborg, meanwhile became a training center for coast artillery officers, and was taken off the list of active shore defense installations.

    Fast forward to early 1940, the period known as the “Phoney War.” Britain and Germanyicon both had plans to invade Norway, but hadn’t taken any overt action. Oscarsborg got a fresh class of 450 cadets around the first of April and classes had just begun. The CO was 64-year-old Birger Eriksen, and there were a few experienced officer-instructors and NCOs; the commandant of the torpedo battery was on sick leave, so the former commandant, Andreass Anderssen, had been recalled from retirement and was nominally in charge of the fish.

    The situation was pretty confusing those first days of April. A British task group led by the battlecruiser HMS Renown had begun laying mines inside Norwegian territorial waters. Both the Germans and the British had put in motion their plans to invade and occupy Norway, neutrality be damned. At 23:00 on 8 April a fleet of warships forced Oslofjord’s outer defenses, ignoring warning shots and live rounds. A Norwegian patrol boat was sunk, but not before its captain had radioed naval HQ in Oslo and sent up flares signaling hostile vessels. The mystery fleet disappeared upchannel into the dark and fog.
    The mystery fleet consisted of the new heavy cruisers Blucher and Lutzow, the light cruiser Emden, three torpedo boats and eight minesweepers, with 2,000 troops plus a good number of civilian administrators and police aboard. Their mission was to take the Norwegian government by surprise at 6 AM and secure the country for the Reich.

    HQ must have radioed Eriksen in time for him to make preparations. Or he got the word somehow, but no orders as to what to do. In any case the three big Krupp guns were loaded with HE rounds and aimed to strike a vessel in the channel point blank. They were manned by artillery instructors, some cooks, and the cadets. A boat was sent to get Anderssen out of bed and bring him to the island. Time wore on but no orders came from HQ or the government.


    The view downchannel. This is where the Germans came into view

    It must have been good visibility, because the searchlights were able to illuminate the unknown attackers as they came into view in the channel. At 04:21 Eriksen gave the order to fire. The order was apparently questioned because he then said “Either I will be decorated or I will be court martialled, Fire!" The gunners got off two rounds, one each from Moses and Aaron. Both rounds hit the lead vessel, the Blucher, and both did major damage. The first round hit the ship above the main deck, penetrated and blew up in a compartment full of fuel and explosives, - not the magazines for the big guns - setting them off, blowing out a bunch of bulkheads and setting the ship afire. The second round hit high, at the fire control station on 02 or 03 deck, knocking out one of the range finders and the electrics for aiming the Blucher’s main battery guns. As Blucher continued toward Oslo, batteries at Drobak opened up, including the 6” guns at Kopas. One of those shells knocked out Blucher’s steering while another destroyed her firefighting mains. Blucher now had to use engines and shaft controls to steer. She was unable to return effective fire except from her AA guns, which forced the abandonment of the two 57 mm guns at Husvik. Meanwhile Kopas Battery turned its attention to Lutzow, scoring hits that disabled that ship’s main batteries.

    As Blucher passed the batteries the guns fell silent and supposedly the sound of Germans singing “Deutschland uber Alles” could be heard. Again, supposedly, that was the first hint they had that they had been firing at Germans. In any case Blucher steamed on into the kill zone for the torpedoes. Anderssen fired his first fish which hit forward without doing much damage. He adjusted his aim and put the second fish into the machinery spaces amidships, It looked good so he held onto his last fish and reloaded the two empty cradles, waiting for the next target, which would have been Lutzow. Except no one else came to the party

    This site includes a very accurate film clip of the sinking of the Blucher, plus a couple B&W photos of her last few minutes above water. It’s from a Norwegian movie, “Kongens nei.”

    https://forum.worldofwarships.com/to...-bl%C3%BCcher/


    Lutzow, Emden and the rest of the invasion fleet held back to see what would happen. What happened is Blucher’s magazines caught fire and blew, the ship turned turtle and sank taking at least half of the crew and the troops – SS and Gestapo she was carrying, plus administrative people - with her. Some drowned, some died in the burning oil that surrounded the ship. A few made it to shore and were taken prisoner. The commander of the Lutzow and the rest of the COs agreed to retreat. The planned 6 AM landing and lightning coup against the King and the government failed to materialize. The royal family, the cabinet, the elected officials, and the gold reserves all got away, eventually to Englandicon, where they maintained a presence as the legitimate government of Norway.

    Quisling and the Nazis of the Nasjonal Samling had probably painted a rosy picture of Norwegians longing to be liberated by their aryan brothers. “The women will go nuts over your men.” If the Germans believed that, they were seriously misled. In any case, after April 9, things were never the same between the Nazis and the Norwegians. To say the least.

    The Luftwaffe began bombing Oscarsborg and the Drobak forts later on April 9, damaging the buildings but inflicting no casualties. Eriksen surrendered Oscarsborg the next day. I guess he figured he had done as much damage as he could.

    So the stories I had been told were not entirely correct. The action took place between 04: and 05:00, in the dark. The troops were not lined up in dress uniforms, no flags or brass band either. The entire action took place well away from Oslo, so there wasn’t much of an audience. The old guns did a lot of damage, but it was the fish that sank the Blucher.

    There were no troopships. The Germans put their invasion troops into the fast cruisers – these were 30+ knot ships with fast escort vessels. They were planning a surprise and hoped for a shock attack that would preempt any possible resistance.

    In the official version of events, no one knew who the attackers were – they could have been British. A task group led by the battlecruiser HMS Renown was operating in Norwegian waters and the British had a plan for a preemptive occupation of strategic sites in Norway, with or without Norwegian permission. The Renown had heavier guns, thicker armor and a hollow “bulge” on her hull below waterline to absorb torpedo blasts. Her crew was seasoned and probably far-better trained. Chances are she would have escaped major damage from the same hits that sank Blucher. In any case, British and Frenchicon troops landed in Norway joining with Norwegian armed forces to fight around Narvik and in central Norway. The Germans had established control of the airspace in the first days of the invasion; within two months the allies evacuated and Norwegian armed forces surrendered, defected to Sweden or disbanded. The resistance continued. It was five long years.

    jn



    So a few more thoughts on the Oscarsborg fight. I would call it a strategic loss for the Germans, since it foiled their plans for a lightning strike that would capture the entire Norwegian government and force a capitulation. If the naval force had been able to force its way past Oscarsborg, the Germans would probably have been able to capture the entire government as they did in Denmark. They did try to follow up and capture the royal family, cabinet ministers and elected officials, sending a force of fallschirmjaeger after them. This force was met by a road blockade ambush at Midtskogen, Norwegian regulars and armed locals, and turned back. This gave the Storting (parliament) enough time to meet at Elverum and issue the Elverum Proclamation which cut the ground from under Quisling and the Germans by authorizing executive government by the King and Cabinet until the Storting could meet again. It established resistance as the official position and put the legitimate government on a wartime footing. A new, more bellicose head of the armed forces was appointed.

    Norway had strategic value for the Germans. They were heavily dependent on iron and nickel ore from mines in far north Sweden that were shipped out of Narvik. They needed Norwegian ports and airfields to operate in the North Sea and eastern north Atlantic, and once they invaded the USSR they needed those ports to interdict the Murmansk convoys. Apparently Hitler believed that the Allies would invade Norway first thing as a play to recover Europe. It would have been a crazy thing for them to do, but they did an equally crazy thing in 1943 by invading Italyicon instead of southern France.

    The original plan was to blitz Norway, then draw down troops for other theaters. It did not work out that way. By the end of the war there were at least 400,000 combat troops occupying a country with a population of what? Five million? The Kriegsmarine suffered serious losses as well, a heavy cruiser and two cruisers, plus a lot of troopships and auxiliaries during the fighting, then further losses throughout the war. The Norwegian merchant marine mostly got out and were incorporated into the British sea transport system. The last Norwegian forces to surrender was the Telemark Infantry Regiment, an ad-hoc unit about 300 strong, organized and armed by Second Lt. Tor Hannevig, composed of a mix of regulars and Telemark hunters and farmers. They blocked the communications between Oslo and Bergen operating in the high country my family is from. They were never defeated, but gave up or went underground after the rest of the Norwegian military surrendered or disbanded.



    These two Telemark men were killed in a two-day battle at Ringerike, an airfield north and west of Oslo. The Germans had to bring in panzer units and Stukas at this fight. Their marker is in the yard of the church at Mo, where some of my family is buried.

    The resistance continued. Within a year it had been penetrated by informers and provocateurs, then the Gestapo moved in and tortured, murdered or imprisoned as many as they could catch. The military arm of the resistance reorganized with a LOT of training, equipment and support from Britain. The civilian branch decentralized and used communication, passive resistance, slowdowns and sabotage to great effect. Civilian resistance was coordinated through a decentralized network; a lot of the people carrying messages and underfround newspapers were teenaged girls. For the Germans, getting anything done in Norway must have been like trying to run through molasses or carry a big mattress up a set of narrow stairs. The Germans seized radio receivers, the Norwegians built new ones. The occupation went crazy with their RDFs, chasing transmitters. The Norwegians started building transmitters faster than the Germans could shut them down. They couldn’t control the population and couldn’t seal off the coastline. They couldnt move troops or supplies without the whole country and the Allies finding out.

    The Germans killed around 10,000 Norwegian civilians mostly on suspicion of resistance activity, in reprisals, or for not obeying the new masters. They killed about half of Norway’s Jews, and no one knows how many Saami. The resistance counted almost 1500 dead, including 255 women and girls. There were collaborators and profiteers, enough of them that a lot of people who should have been shot went to prison for a few years instead. Some collaborators and informers were shot by the resistance. In his book, “Skis Against the Atom”, my cousin said he performed a rather shocking number of these executions himself.

    After the German surrender there was an accounting. An example of Norwegian justice is the sentencing of upper-level collaborators to hard labor, digging up the two-hundred plus bodies buried in mass graves in the Trandumskogen forest near the present Oslo International Airport. Quisling and a few others were executed; others got long prison sentences that were later commuted. In the end, the people of Norway had to move on.

    Speaking of Quisling, he made a grab at power in the turmoil surrounding the German invasion, naming himself prime minister. Once the Germans were on the scene, they pushed him to the side. The real power was Reichskommisar Josef Terboven who gave orders to be carried out both by his own secret police and by a Norwegian collaborator government. Terboven had the common sense to commit suicide when the Reich collapsed. In the great atrium of Oslo’s city hall is a mural depicting the occupation and resistance and the final liberation.

    Norway has a long history, most of it being a neglected province of some other country. It became independent in 1905, the first time since the 14th century. The old guys who sank the Blucher, Eriksen and Andersson, were young men in 1905. The resistance to the Germans is a kind of defining act for the national identity. When I was at Oscarsborg I ran into a wedding party – the couple was getting married at the fort! Big, beautiful Norwegian bride! The groom looked OK too. People brought their kids, there were guided tours, etc. On weekends there is a public transit boat (B-21) there and back from Oslo, the dock near City Hall. There is a good hotel that serves a killer breakfast buffet free with the cost of the room.





    The Kopas battery is mostly an overgrown ruin, with one 10.5 cm gun left in place. It seems to be a local party spot. I found a campsite there with a fire ring and stayed there one night. There was plenty of firewood.


    Originally Posted by blackhawknj

    Yes, Hitler became so obsessed with Norway as a strategic theater of war that hundreds of thousand of Wehrmacht troops were tied down there. The Allies took advantage of this in Operation Fortitude North by creating a fictitious British 4th Army, creating the illusion that it was training for an invasion of Norway, sending out messages requesting snow shoes, the "distinguished skiing instructor...." etc.


    That's my thinking too. The Germans did draw down after D-Day, but they still had 400,000 in Norway when the Reich imploded. Some of the sources I read said it was 500,000 troops twiddling their thumbs there in 1944. My own thought is that Norway was punching way over its weight when it came to tying up German military resources.


    Originally Posted by blackhawknj

    Despite his claims to the contrary, Quisling-along with all other collaborators-was not let in on the Germans plans. Goebbels dismissed him as a "theoretician and dogmatist", Speer quotes Hitler as saying of Quisling-along with Mussert and Frits Clausen-that they were mere "copyists."

    It looks like that to me, too. Quisling didn't have much say in how the Germans ran things in Norway, he was just there for window dressing. One more reason to shoot him, if you ask me. There were other collaborators who were more useful to the Germans, including management of the National Railway. Ship a trainload of Jews to a port of debarkation so they can go to Auschwitz? Can do!

    A lot of policemen refused to carry out instructions from the Occupation - hundreds of them were sent to camps in Germany and many of them were killed. The Germans put together a collaborator police force to replace them. Some of those people received justice after the war, some did not. I could go on, dammit ...


    jn


    There was a kind of Brownshirt type organization called the Hird, had about 8,000 men and 1,500 women, who threw their weight around during the occupation. Most of the new police the Nazis organized were Hird, I think. They actively recruited Norwegians for the Wehrmacht, SS and Kriegsmarine as well and a fair number of men signed up. A lot of doctors and nurses went to work at German clinics and hospitals.

    There was no way to punish everyone who deserved it, so they tried to get the worst. Corporate collaborators mostly got off scot free. But memory is longer than life in that country - my grandmother was really down on Germany and the Catholic Church, near as I can tell because of the counter-reformation and the 30-years' war.

    jn


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    Contributing Member Flying10uk's Avatar
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    Very interesting. Norwayicon made a valuable contribution for the winning of WW2 by tying up thousands and thousands of Germanicon troops who could have been deployed elsewhere.

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    Really Senior Member jon_norstog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flying10uk View Post
    Very interesting. Norwayicon made a valuable contribution for the winning of WW2 by tying up thousands and thousands of Germanicon troops who could have been deployed elsewhere.
    The Germans could have put another 400,000 along the Atlantic Wall and left plenty in Norway in 1944. Or sent half to the Eastern Front. I'm glad they didn't.

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    Yeah, even another 50-100,000 troops in Normandy would have made a big difference on D Day and beyond.

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    Wonderful piece of history! Thank you for sharing. As an aside, my father was a tail gunner in a Halifax with RCAF 429 Sqn. Their plane was shot to doll rags by flak and AA fire when they went to lay sea mines ("gardening") in Oslo Fjord. They had to ditch in the North Sea due to damage but they didn't lose a single crewman and eventually were rescued by an Air Sea rescue launch out of Englandicon.


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