Thursday, 10 April 2014

Battle of Midtskogen

Their Majesties King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway in
their coronation attire
Today is the 74th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Midtskogen in the Kingdom of Norway, when Nazi German forces under the command of Eberhard Spiller attempted to capture the King of Norway, Haakon VII, and his cabinet in order to force Norway into submission. The Norwegian force consisted of one rifle company of the King's Guards, the unit of the Norwegian Army responsible for the defence of Norway's monarch, and a number of volunteers primarily from local rifle clubs. The German force consisted of a small raiding party of paratroopers. The battle ended in a victory for the Norwegian forces, the Nazis failing to capture the King so he and his cabinet were able to escape to the United Kingdom and form a government in exile rather than be turned into a puppet of the occupying German Army. Casualties were light on both sides- two Germans were killed and only three Norwegians wounded- but this was a great moral victory for Norway.

The Germans invaded the Kingdom in 1940 despite Norway declaring independence at the outset of the war as Norway was of great strategic importance to both sides. Controlling Norway secured the Germans' supply of iron ore from Sweden, and also allowed Germany to use its sea power more effectively. Air raids on the United Kingdom were also conducted from captured German airfields. And, ridiculous as it seems in retrospect, the Nazis feared that the British would launch their own invasion of Scandinavia, which would give the Royal Navy the ability to strike the German Kriegsmarine in the Baltic. Approximately 6,602 Norwegian and Allied troops died, were injured or went missing while defending Norway from the German invasion, and around 400 Norwegian civilians were also killed in the crossfire; the Germans lost 5,296 troops. The Norwegian Armed Forces in Exile and the underground Norwegian Resistance would continue to fight for Norwegian liberation against the Third Reich until the end of the war. On this anniversary, I wish to join the people of Norway in celebrating the safe delivery of their King to Great Britain and the ultimate victory of the Allies against the Third Reich, and in commemorating those who gave their lives for the cause of Norwegian liberty. A Norwegian diplomat, Halvard Lange, once said  "We do not regard Englishmen as foreigners. We look on them only as rather mad Norwegians." If that is the case I can proudly call myself a mad Norwegian, and so raise a toast to "our" King.

Lenge leve kongen! Enig og tro til Dovre faller!

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