In the early months of the Second World War, Germany and Britain soon recognised Norway’s unique strategic importance. Control of Norway would free the way to the North Atlantic, access to the Baltic Sea and German coast from the south and the Arctic Ocean and the approaches to the Soviet Union from the far north. The British Government were acutely aware of the German munition industry’s dependence on Swedish iron ore, much of which was transported through Narvik and the Norwegian Leads.

The Pacifist Norwegian Government declared Norway neutral and Hitler was not interested in mounting an offensive in the North until 14 December, 1939 when he gave an audience to Vidkun Quisling, the leader of Nasjonal Samling (National Union), a small Norwegian party. He alleged with complete assurance that the Soviet Union would soon attack Norway and that independent British intervention was imminent. Hitler ordered an investigation, Studie Nord, in which Admiral Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine recommended landings along the Norwegian coast, from Oslo to Tromsø. He considered Norway invaluable in his plans for the ‘Siege of Great Britain’.

Meanwhile, the British Government were considering various means of preventing the transport of iron ore, including plans to mine the Leads, the sea corridor between Norway’s offshore islands and the mainland down which the German merchant ships sailed. The 1939 Russo-Finnish war gave the Allies the opportunity to send troops to Scandinavia to support the defence of Finland.

Map of Sea Routes

Map of Sea Routes

On February 16, 1940 an RAF observation plane sighted the German supply ship Altmark in Norwegian territorial waters. Believing she was carrying Allied prisoners, Churchill sent a flotilla of destroyers commanded by Captain Philip Vian to intercept her in the Jøssingfjord. The destroyer Cossack approached and her men boarded the Altmark and freed the 299 captive merchant seamen on board. This incident convinced Hitler that the Allies had plans to strike in Scandinavia, and he appointed Lieutenant-General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst to command the planned conquest of Norway and Denmark code named Operation Weserűbung. D-day was to be 20 March, but was later put back to 9 April.

The signing of the Finno-Soviet Peace treaty ended Allied plans for intervention on Finland’s behalf. Following the bombing of Scapa Flow, the British War Cabinet’s attention shifted from Scandinavia though it took the decision to mine the Leads and to land troops in response to German aggression, believing there would be time to reach the major Norwegian ports before the Germans in this event.

On 26 February, 1940 the attack plan was drawn up from Studie Nord Hitler’s invasion forces comprised of two corps: for Norway XXI Corps with two mountain divisions and five infantry divisions; and for Denmark XXXI Corps with two divisions, the 170th and 198th. This included landing 2,000 men at Narvik, 1,700 at Trondheim, 1,300 at Bergen and more troops at Kristiansand and Egersund. 163rd Division, the general staff of the expedition and other staff deemed necessary (the Gestapo) were to head for Oslo. They would be supported by all available warships and 41 troop transports; and by the Luftwaffe with 290 bombers, 40 stukas and 100 fighters.

Hitler decided to implement Weserübung as soon as possible in order to prevent any British aggression in Scandinavia, secure Naval and air bases for use against Britain and to safeguard iron ore imports. A surprise attack was considered vital for the success of Weserűbung but most of the troops and their supplies had to be transported by sea so the plan relied on a lightning attack on vital locations using no more than 9,000 assault troops in the spearhead.

As Hitler’s forces embarked, the British ships also set sail for Scandinavia.

Narvik after first German bombing. 31 May, 1940

Narvik after first German bombing. 31 May, 1940

The German attack started on 9 April 1940. Denmark surrendered within hours. The German assault troops landed at the principal Norwegian ports of Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, Narvik and Oslo. Two Norwegian coastal defence vessels were blown out of the water at Narvik; at Trondheim, the heavy cruiser Hipper and four cruisers forced the fjord entrance; at Bergen the cruiser Königsberg was damaged but landed ample troops to capture the town; and in the Oslofjord, Rear-Admiral Oskar Kummetz’s force came under heavy fire, and Blűcher, Germany’s most modern cruiser, was sunk while the pocket battleship Lűtzow was damaged and had to pull out. Half the force intended to take Oslo were lost, but paratroops completed the invasion.

At Narvik, the German 3rd Mountain Division disembarked successfully from ten destroyers, but its equipment and supplies did not arrive along with one of two tankers intended for refuelling the destroyers. These had been delayed in Vestfjord, leading to Narvik, and were diccovered there on 10 April by Captain B A W Warburton Lee, in command of the British 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, sweeping into the fjord. In the resulting battle, Warburton-Lee was killed and half the German destroyers were disabled or destroyed. The other half were destroyed three days later when another Royal Navy flotilla entered, led by the battleship Warspite.

German garrisons were soon established in most of Norway’s cities. The Allies had failed to prevent the landings though some success was achieved at sea. The battle cruiser Renown damaged the German battlecruiser Gneisenau on 9 April; a British submarine sank the light cruiser Karlsruhe; and Kőnigsberg was damaged at Bergen and later destroyed by Naval aircraft.

Narvik after second German bombing 2 June 1940

Narvik after second German bombing 2 June 1940

Oslo was in chaos. German paratroopers had occupied all strategic points, the city suffered heavy air attack and her Government, King Haakon VII and her citizens were evacuating. In the evening of 9 April, Hitler accepted Quisling’s offer to govern Norway.

At Narvik, the invasion force could not have withstood an immediate Allied assault, action favoured by Allied naval commander, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cork and Orrery. The land commander, Major-General P J Mackesy, disagreed with this course of action because the harbour was strongly fortified with machine-gun posts. Mackesy wanted to occupy unoccupied positions on the approaches to Narvik and remain there until the snow melted. The two commanders could not agree and the Germans gained by the delay.

The Norwegian commander-in-chief, General Otto Ruge, attempted to retain the vast areas of Norway not occupied by the Germans, and to regain the land taken by the Germans. He did not think he could hold out until Allied reinforcements arrived, and decided to hold on to as much of the open country around Oslo as he could. He felt the Allied troops, unaccustomed to mountain warfare, may be more successful on this terrain, but the Germans quickly brought in reinforcements and equipment and Ruge’s forces were threatened at too many points and by mid-April, he could no longer defend the region of Oslo, and retreated to the south of Lillehammer where he waited for Allied reinforcements and tried to prevent the Germans in the south linking up with those at Trondheim.

The Allies now felt the keys to the campaign were Trondheim, the main link between the north and south of the country and Narvik the port from which the Swedish iron ore was shipped. Operation Hammer consisted of a frontal attack on Trondheim from the sea and for two subsidiary landings – one at Namsos, 130 km to the north of Trondheim, and another at Andalsnes, 240km to the south. Major-General A Carton de Wiart commanded the Nasmos force, the 146th Brigade and a demi-brigade of French Chasseurs Alpins. Brigadier H de R Morgan led the Andalsnes landing with the 148th Brigade. Both landings were successful, but the British chiefs-of-staff decided to cancel the Operation since they did not wish to put the fleet at risk. Instead, a pincer movement was to close in on Trondheim from Andalsnes and Nasmos, and the troops already landed would receive reinforcements.

By this time the Germans had also received reinforcements. The Luftwaffe had complete air supremacy and the Allies were subjected to continual air attack. In Namsos the troops were particularly vulnerable and they advanced to Verdal. Here, the Germans sent a stronger force to attack on 21 April, and the Allies withdrew in heavy snow. De Wiart’s force was evacuated on 3 May under heavy air attack.

Morgan and his 148th Brigade had hastened from Andalsnes to Lillehammer and joined up with General Ruge. On 24 April, Major-General B T C Paget and the 15 Brigade also arrived and Paget assumed command. They faced the Germans in a series of battles with great bravery and determination. On 1 May, the Allies were evacuated from Andalsnes.

Forces withdrew from the Trondheim area – the Inter-Allied Supreme War Council had decided on 26 April to concentrate on Narvik, much to the disappointment of the Norwegians.

The superiority of the Germans was becoming clear. The Allies failed at Trondheim; and at Narvik an improvised force of 6,000 Germans held 20,000 Allied troops at bay.

Lieutenant-General Claude Auchinleck took command of the Narvik operation and built up his force with the troops withdrawn from central Norway although some British soldiers were left to notify Auchinleck of any German attempts to advance overland from Trondheim.

Further reinforcements included General Marie Emile Béthouart’s 1st Chassuer (light) Division, two battalions of the French Foreign Legion, four Polish battalions and 3,500 Norwegians.

The German commander at Narvik, Lieutenant-General Eduard Dietl had 10 German battalions ready in defence. Dietl and Béthouart were both experts at mountain warfare.

At midnight on 27 May, Béthouart led a force, supported by a bombardment from the Royal Navy, in an assault southwards across Rombaksfjord. At the same time, two Polish battalions attacked to the east from the south bank of the fjord. By late afternoon, the German garrison retreated inland and Béthouart’s forces reached the outskirts of Narvik. He then stood aside to let the Norwegian 6th Division enter the town.
On 7 June, the Germans entered Narvik to find the Allies had gone and the port destroyed. Between 4 and 8 June, the Allies had evacuated secretly in four convoys mainly due to the worsening situation in France.

Narvik after second German bombing 2 June 1940

Narvik after second German bombing 2 June 1940

The German warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Hipper were at sea and on 8 June, they sank a British tanker and armed trawler. Then they hit the troopship Orama. Later, the British aircraft carrier Glorious was spotted and Scharnhorst and Gneisenau destroyed her and sank the destroyer Ardent. But another destroyer, Acasta, launched a torpedo which severely damaged Scharnhorst.

This was the last action of the Norwegian campaign. On 10 June, General Ruge signed the treaty of capitulation for the Norwegian Army. The Germans lost more than five thousand men; Britain, France and Poland some two thousand and Norway lost 1,335.

Although Allied action did not achieve its objective in stopping the transport of iron ore to Germany, or in recapturing Norway, the German losses suffered during the action at sea ultimately resulted in there being too few ships for the proposed invasion of England.


Rear Admiral John Adams

These journal entries were made by John Adams when serving as Sub Lieutenant on the destroyer HMS Walker during the Norwegian campaign of 1940. It will be understood, and Admiral Adams would like to stress, that his diary is that of a young man in the midst of events, rumours and instant impressions yet to be fully considered.

HMS Walker At Sea, Clyde

Sat 13 April, 1940

Well things have been happening! After a couple of days in Gladstone Dock we sailed at six in the morning to the Clyde to escort the new cruiser Fiji on her travels. We were in company with Wanderer. The same day Germany invaded Denmark and Norway. Terrific sea and air battles and the Germans lose the Gneisenau

Wed 24 April, 1940

The sinking of Pembroke Coast

The sinking of Pembroke Coast

Still at sea! We had a couple of days in harbour and left at 9am on Wednesday 17 to rendezvous with Glorious (Aircraft Carrier) off the NW of Ireland. This we did and got her into the Clyde by 7pm on 18. We then started coming home but we stopped to stand over a buoyed contact for 24 hours. We couldn’t find anything there however. Then we were sent off to the north of the Isle of Man to chase a submarine which had been sighted. This also we never saw. Eventually returned to the oiler in the Mersey at 10pm Saturday night. We got into the lock on Sunday morning to enter Gladstone, when we were told to escort an ammunition ship to Scapa Flow. We arrived there on the morning of the 23rd – Tuesday.
I have never seen so many warships there – literally hundreds! Including French, British, Pole and Norwegians – our new Allies!

April 1940

On shore there are so many anti-aircraft batteries etc that I lost count. Truly a reassuring sight. An air raid warning was in force while we were there. What wasn’t so good was the Suffolk (10,000 ton cruiser) on the mud. The Germans had bombed her off Narvik and had got a direct hit, exploding in the after engine room; she was bombed for eight hours before she was hit. 28 were killed and her side blown open. It’s a miracle she can get back to port. We oiled there and then having anchored for about half an hour, sailed for Sullom Voe in the Shetlands to escort a liner back to the Clyde.


Evacuation - disembarking at Bødo

Evacuation – disembarking at Bødo

Evacuation - skies over the fleet

Evacuation – skies over the fleet


29 April

Fierce fighting. I hope and I think we ought to drive the Germans out of Norway pretty quickly.
On 28th Warspite came in from Narvik where she had beaten up and sunk 7 German destroyers. Hardy’s survivors were also landed. At 1800 we left in panic for Scapa Flow with Wanderer, Westcott, Antelope and Ardent after our sailing orders had been altered twice.
We arrived on 29th and sailed an hour afterwards with Galatea and Arethusa, Westcott and Wanderer for the Norwegian coast.

30 April, 1940 Tuesday

We met Sheffield, Southampton, 3 Tribals and a passenger ship at 15.00 on a lovely fine day and entered Romsdals Fjord at 19.00 at action stations to evacuate troops from Andalsnes expecting German planes to blow us sky high at any moment. We don’t seem to be doing so well in Norway!
We went in amongst the high mountains (one was 5,700 feet) all covered in snow and several fishermen and their wives watching us from the shore. It wasn’t dark till 23.00, but we saw no German planes. Two trawlers were aground in various places, Andalsnes itself was in indescribable ruins. Not a wall standing and fires everywhere. The German Air Force certainly knew their stuff.
Galatea went alongside a ruined jetty and we went outside of her and 578 troops were pushed into us. They were in a completely demoralised state and had been machine gunned and bombed the whole day by 3 Heinkels who had come all the way from Hamburg! They hadn’t seen many German troops, but lots of parachutists, with light tanks, bicycles and field artillery in pieces! We took these men to the Southampton and then went back again for more, but there were hardly any left. There were only 120 men from 1200 of the Sherwood Foresters, and they had only been ashore a week!
Several of the cruisers took troops – but not many. We had the biggest load, and then all retired. In the meanwhile Wanderer had gone aground and a tribal just managed to tow her off. Westcott and ourselves stayed behind to pick up 150 Royal Marines who were waiting on a lonely beach to be embarked. This we had to do in boats which was a long task and just got them off by 03.00 / 1st May when it was just daylight. The German planes were due any moment now!
The Marines had been told to embark at 04.00 but there would have been no-one there at that time if we hadn’t found them. Apparently the Germans were having it all their own way. The RMs were fed up at the RAF and told us the following true tale. Glorious flew off 18 Gladiator pilots for patrol round Andalsnes and they landed on a frozen lake.
Next morning over came the Germans and bombed the lake and planes to hell. 7 were left while the RAF men ran for cover and didn’t move the planes. They had let their engines freeze up. Next day two crashed taking off so 5 were left. These RMs had to guard, and actually burnt them the same day we picked the troops up. There was no-one to fly them.
Well, we left in a hurry down the fjord – 36 miles to open sea and broad daylight!
We were all standing on the bridge wondering why the Luftwaffe hadn’t turned up and the First Lieutenant remarked, “nasty black things, these Heinkels” when rat tat tat came the machine gun fire and we looked aft over the mainmast and there was a German diving at us. One could see the tracer bullets coming at the bridge but the range was too far and they fell into the sea astern.

1 May 1940

Others came in much closer however.
I rushed down to ‘B’ gun as officer of the quarters there but we never got a round off as it wouldn’t elevate enough. How we cursed! The first salvo of bombs fell near Westcott and then our helm jammed. We circled round to port, Wescott just missing our stern and rang down, “Full ahead”. Black smoke came out of the funnels and this accounted for Lord Haw Haw‘s (the German radio propaganda merchant) remark that a destroyer was hit while retiring out of the fjord. The channel was luckily broad at this point, but Westcott got ahead and it was some minutes before we could straighten out and make for the sea. The second lot of bombs fell close astern and then our  X and Y guns did a very creditable shoot which made him sheer away.
Near the entrance another one attacked from ahead and I could see the bombs coming the whole way. At first I thought it was going to be a hit, but they landed abrest the bridge about half the ships length away, (40 yards).
They didn’t molest us after this and we were soon in the open sea. The cruisers were being attacked and we could see their shells bursting up in the sky, though it was too far away to see the planes or ships.
We joined the cruisers about noon and made for Scapa then a signal came through that Southampton, Westcott and ourselves were to go to Sullom Voe where we arrived at 20:00 and transferred all the troops to Westcott. She then sailed for Scapa, while we sailed off for another Andalsnes party, the Southampton already having gone on ahead. However, the final embarkation of the same night was successful and at 05:00 on 2nd May (Thursday) we were told we weren’t wanted on Thursday night and so we returned to Scapa by 20:00

Embarking Irish Guards at Harstad

Embarking Irish Guards at Harstad

HMS Walker disembarking Irish Guards at Bødo

HMS Walker disembarking Irish Guards at Bødo

Sunday 12 May

We sailed at 08:00 with about 10 ships for Narvik, full of lorries, ammunition and guns. Since then we have been steaming steadily northwards and we are now (16th) almost in the Arctic Circle. We expect to arrive tomorrow night.
Meanwhile in Europe, events have been happening so quickly that it is almost impossible to put them down on paper. The Germans invaded Holland and Belgium on Monday 13 (I think) and in two days lost 250 aeroplanes. By Wednesday 15th, Holland’s army laid down their arms after having a quarter of their army (400,000) killed mostly by Goering’s bombers. Parachute troops played an important part. Belgium is still holding out and French and English battle troops are engaged in a terrific battle which is still going on at the moment.
We have been evacuating troops from The Hook (of Holland) – all same Andalsnes! And several ships have been badly damaged by bombs. Valentine has been breached on the Dutch coast.
The Germans have lost 30 merchantmen in Dutch colonial hands and we have gained the Dutch and Belgian navies. Quite a big help.
But as I say, events are moving so rapidly that one can’t keep apace with them. Italy is due to ‘declare’ war on us at any moment. Switzerland, Greece and Turkey, everyone is mobilising!
We got to Harstad (about 20 miles across the fjord from Narvik) at 0700 on Sunday 19 May with half the convoy. It was very difficult to find anywhere to anchor, the fjord being so deep.
This took us an hour and a half and eventually anchored in 80 fathoms.
We oiled during the day and at 1930 went alongside to embark two companies of the South Wales Borderers to take them back to Bodø (150 miles away down the coast) while they were coming in, I went and looked at Eskimo, a tribal class destroyer who had had her bars blown off by a torpedo. She was an ugly mess. 20 feet away was a British FAA plane which had been shot down by the Germans. An Irish Guards lieutenant, with whom I got talking, told me of the incredible inefficiency of the British organisation – no anything and nothing to do except get bombed day and night; everyone everywhere was crying out for fighter aircraft with which to compete with the Germans bombers.
Another Tribal was sunk by a bomb yesterday just off Harstad. The Somali Effingham, a cruiser hit a rock at 20 knts and sank the same day just off Bodø. We’re not winning this war at the moment and the news in France is bad – Germans coming through everywhere. The troops we took had already had two attempts to get Bodø. The first time their transport, a Polish liner, was bombed and sank. The Poles behaved very badly – rowed away in two lifeboats and left it to the Irish Guards to lower the others. Two days later they again went down in the Effingham and now they are trying the Firedrake.
That was the first day since the war in Norway that there wasn’t an air raid in Harstad!

Thursday 16 May

I had a very good leave and was very annoyed when the time came to drive back on Friday evening.
On my return I found the 1st Lieutenant had left and S/L Graham arrived in his place. We now have a Sub Lieut! The same day Chamberlain resigned and Churchill became Prime Minister with a united national cabinet. We sailed at 08:00 on Saturday morning with a new motorboat and a cut down main mast. Arrived at Greenock at 8pm and found lots of transports etc, besides two aircraft carriers and the funnels of the French destroyer just showing above the water, where she had sunk after one of her warheads had gone up. We spent the night here.

The sinking of Jersey City: The only one we couldn't take.

The sinking of Jersey City: The only one we couldn’t take.

Norway May / June 1940. Racing through the Narrows, always a bad place to meet bombers.

Norway May / June 1940. Racing through the Narrows, always a bad place to meet bombers.

20 May, 1940

Map of Sea Patrols

Map of Sea Patrols

we got badly delayed by fog and managed to land the troops at 06:00 / 20 May. As we were leaving the air raid sirens went and over came a Heinkel. He didn’t bother us, however, and we didn’t pot at him though the temptation was strong. However the guns couldn’t have elevated high enough!
Now we’re on our way back to Harstad with dispatches from the Colonel at Bodø.
Well, coming through the Narrows (very narrow fjord between Bodø and Harstad) a huge Junkers flew over us at 10,000 feet and made a high level bombing attack at us. He dropped either 4 bombs in a cluster or one 1100 lbs one. It made a loud whistling noise and there was a terrific explosion about 100 yards on our starboard quarter. We couldn’t shoot at him and we all flung ourselves on our faces as it hit the water. Splinters came in at the ship all around, but no-one was hurt. I tried to get to bed three times in the afternoon and evening and each time the alarm bells rang and German planes came over. We were by this time carrying out an A/S sweep at the entrance to the fjord.
During the evening 14 planes attacked Harstad – we could see them – and made a direct hit on an oil fuel tank which went up in flames and made a huge pillar of smoke which went right across the sky. 2 ships, one was one of our convoy, were set on fire alongside the tanks. (12 planes were shot down)

21st May, 1940

We entered harbour from patrol at 03:00 / 21st and secured alongside the oiler after 2 hours. She was moving herself from the proximity of the fire, in case the petrol tank blew up. Anchored one and a half hours later and so I got 3 hours sleep that night.
At 08:00 hours there seemed a danger of the burning ships drifting down on the town so we were ordered to sink them by gunfire using practice projectiles. These made no impression! Then we thought we’d try and take a wire to them and tow them off but, as usual in the Navy, everyone got panicky and countermanded everyone else’s orders. Then they broke loose and went down on the town. 2 trawlers got hold of them and pulled them off and then we had a shot at towing but of course the tow parted. Eventually Aurora sank her with an 8″ H.E. shell, and then sank the other one outside. At 12:00 we went alongside the jetty and embarked more Irish Guards for Bodø and landed them there at 00:30 / 22nd May after dense fog. They told us that the German plane which sank the Polish liner had British markings and the correct two star recognition signal!
On the way back, a German seaplane had a good look at us, but we were too tired to bother about him.
5 Gladiator (fighters) have now arrived but 200,000 gallons of their petrol went up yesterday in one of the ships!
Arrived at 1430, oiled, and left in a panic as another German came over. He was, however, pursued by 2 Gladiators. The ships company’s nerves are in a terrible state.
We are now on A/S patrol at the entrance to the fjord again. At 20:00 returned to convoy some ships out. A Heinkel attacked us and dropped a bomb at the ship ahead. My guns were quite taken by surprise, these being low lying clouds and didn’t fire a shot. We got the ships to sea and returned at 1130 / 23rd May.

Norway May / June 1940: After a raid on Harstad.

Norway May / June 1940: After a raid on Harstad.

Norway May / June 1940: Narvik on and under fire.

Norway May / June 1940: Narvik on and under fire.

23rd May, 1940

Were ordered to Narvik to relieve Fame she was being bombed as we came up to her. Firedrake was just missed by a German shore battery at Narvik and is full of splinter holes.
Patrol is up and down off Narvik and we spent most of our time being bombed. One landed in the water about 10 feet off, abrest the funnel and almost lifted the ship out of the water. It blew all the lighting off the dynamos and I later found my ship’s office in terrible chaos. About 5 others were dropped at us, and two at Firedrake. The near miss was a dive bombing attack out of the sun. I heard him but couldn’t see him till too late.
There were German planes around us the whole time we were at Narvik.
Where are our fighters?!
The Germans have captured Boulogne and raided Yorkshire and Kent. Lots of Fascists have been arrested. The Government have made a bill turning everyone’s property over to the state.
Graham and I were on Watch and we were Completely speechless Shook us both
We went down to Bahoy at 23:00 / 23rd and relieved Delight who relieved Firedrake at Narvik.
Planes were coming over all the middle (I should state here that it is daylight for 24 hours out of 24, the sun sets at 23:00 and rises before 01.00!) and at 03:00 / 24th a Heinkel came very low and close apparently in difficulties and we think she crashed just over the hills. For some time she was coming straight at us, only some 40 feet up.
At 06:00 while I was asleep, 4 Junkers bombed us and I was awoken by the crash of the explosion.

24 May, 1940

Map of sea convoy

Map of sea convoy

All we can do is go full ahead and zigzag frantically. Our guns are no use. The forenoon and the afternoon were reasonably quiet, while from 18:00 till 20:00 we were attacked continuously, low clouds at first making it very difficult to spot them.
9 bombs were dropped at us, a salvo of three straddled us. One about 10 feet on port beam, abrest B gun – where I was! and failed to explode otherwise I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale. In two cases, including the latter, I could see the plane release the bombs and follow them the whole way down. It’s a most ghastly sensation! The salvo of 3 looked like a hit the whole way down, while others one could tell were a miss straightaway. All these attacks were high level bombing.
I must say I would rather be on land for a raid than in a ship with practically no AA defence. One feels so naked and exposed on the upper deck and unable to dodge, and also one knows that the plane is attacking you which you don’t get on land. One or two planes over during the night.

25 May 1940

It is now 10:00 / Saturday 25 May. Planes started coming over at 11:30 and at 12:30 the first salvo came down. In the next 3/4 of an hour 33 bombs were dropped on us. I was on watch frantically altering course every 30 seconds and doing 22 knots. They were all high level attacks and we could do absolutely nothing against it. There was no-one else to help us – that is, to have a pot at them and by the time 16:00 came I was completely exhausted. Clean blue sky and dazzling sun made it so difficult to see them that several times the first thing we knew was the rising whistle of the bombs as they came down. Several were unpleasantly close and splinters came on the bridge.
We were relieved at 17:00 by Whirlwind and dashed back to fuel. Just as we had secured an air raid warning went and we had to push off again. 40 minutes later we secured again, again an air raid warning went just as we left the oiler, out of the sun came a diving Heinkel, straight at one of our store ships, which had already hit this morning and was aground. Everyone opened fire, but he came roaring down. I could see it wasn’t at us, and for the first time took a real interest in the attack! The bombs fell just to the left of the ship and the plane had got away unhurt. However, two were brought down this morning by the Gladiator.
We secured the third time without incident and got 12 bags of mail on board, ammunition and meat.

Norway: Unloading (at least transferring troops baggage onto Lancastria

Norway: Unloading (at least transferring troops baggage onto Lancastria

Sinking of the Jersey City

Sinking of the Jersey City

Sunday 26 May, 1940

At 01:30 / 26 May we pushed off on B Patrol. During the afternoon a heavy raid took place off Harstad and the first thing we knew were bombs raining down ahead of us. Against the dazzling blue sky!
Heavy AA gun fire all evening.
Were attacked 20:30 again when a Heinkel came out of the newly formed clouds, machine gunned us and dropped 10 bombs on port side.
Returned to Harstad at 06:00, found our last oiler sinking as a result of bombing, went alongside another which had none left. We had to leave the third in a hurry because of an air raid and returned in half an hours time.
Left at 09:15 with flag officer. Narvik’s SOO took orders to various ships and dropped SOO off. French territory at Narvik. Attack on Narvik starts tonight. Picked up SOO again and put him in Cairo off Baroy.
At 23:00 we had all assembled off Narvik and started bombarding. French 75s were firing over our heads and the scream and zip as they went over were most ‘exhilarating’!

28 May 1940

Knocked down entrances to railway tunnels and various other lengths. German paratroops on train in tunnel with UK merchant – men gun on track. Troops landed in ALC and MLC in front of us. Intense machine gun fire. Carried on bombarding until about 14:00/ 28th Tuesday. Hurricanes and Gladiators overhead to keep off the bombers.
At 04:10 I was wondering where the bombers were and looking overhead saw a Heinkel about to dive bomb the Southampton. I must have been the first to see him – surprise was complete. He missed Southampton and then they came over in threes and twos for two hours – absolute pandemonium. 8 ships zigzagging like fury, everyone blazing into the sky and almost impossible to see planes. We had 52 bombs dropped on ourselves alone – we were again singled out from the others! Or so it appeared. “where were the fighters?” everyone was wailing – God knows where they got to.

Wed. 29 May, 1940

At 07:00 we left and proceeded half way up Narrows awaiting further events. French tanks got bogged on landing!
10:00 Still waiting up Narrows. Attack so far seems fairly successful but short of ammunition and Germans holding up well. At 24:00 (10 hours ago) 5 seaplanes reported nearby. Probably laying magnetic mines around the corner!
At noon we left for Harstad. Found Cairo had been hit at Narvik, 40 injured and had left for Scapa. No sooner had we finished oiling then there was an air raid and a salvo of bombs landed between Coventry and Havelock as they were steaming out of the southern entrance to Harstad.
All small puffers have to be examined for German troops. At 2200 / 1st returning to Harstad. Firedrake relieves us.

Sunday 2 June 1940

Fine day spent in Harstad waiting for air raid! At 14:00 Firedrake and Narvik got hell! Fighters overhead at Harstad all afternoon – except at 14:30 when we had an air raid and had to rush out of the harbour. Of course, then the fighters were nowhere to be seen!
How we curse these RAF men for their uncanny knack of being in the wrong place at the right moment!
Going to evacuate all Narvik forces starting tomorrow night. I told Mr Short on 10 May that I could only give Narvik another month to hold out!
Evening in harbour, waiting. Clouding over again.

Monday 3 June

took over E Patrol. Fighter shot down 13 planes over Narvik yesterday without loss. Clouding over nicely.
At 22:00 went alongside jetty at Harstad and embarked 500 troops in first stage of evacuation of Narvik: several destroyers doing it. We took our lot out to sea and round the corner and alongside the Lancastria in a heavy swell, knocked the forecastle in a bit and smashed up the starboard wing bridge. Then at 04:00 / 4th we  shot back again and got another load at 08:00 landing them on the Lancastria by 1300. We got quite a nice manilla from her in exchange for a bottle of rum. Saw our friend the Guards officer!
He then escorted the transports out to sea – Lancastria, Monarch of Bermuda and Georgia.

Norway, towing the Pembroke Coast.

Norway, towing the Pembroke Coast.

The sinking of the Jersey City: Transferring the crew from Gloucester City to Walker.

The sinking of the Jersey City: Transferring the crew from Gloucester City to Walker.

Wed 5 June

Came back and carried out A S patrol in Andfjorden to cover Batory, Sobieski and Georgia, embarking troops. Sky still covered in clouds
Fighters appeared about 10 mins later. We are now 160 rounds of SAP short. Oil fuel tanks leaking, rudder out of alignment action – result of recent bombing. We then went on B patrol all Wednesday night and Thursday.
Returned to oil at 02:00 / 31st Friday and then left for Rombauts fjord, where we’ll probably get bombed to blazes.
Mines were laid on Tuesday night and we have to be preceded by a trawler when going through the Narrows. Bodø has been razed to the ground by bombs and the other destroyers are busy evacuating it and bringing what remains of the soldiers back again. What a mess! The last two days have been misty and probably kept the planes away, but now its fine again, worst luck!
Big German plane down near Harstad, Whirlwind brought in the prisoners last night.
3 destroyers sunk off Dunkerque which is being evacuated by Allies.
Average for the last week of 70 German planes brought down a day by RAF alone. We lose about 20 a day.
Arrived Rombauts about 1300 / 31st Friday and stayed around with Echo who left us at 21:00.
At 17:00 began a big air raid on Narvik by about 20 planes coming over in threes. We tried to keep out of the way and luckily weren’t molested. This went on for about 2 1/2 hours but no fighters appeared! Huge fire started.
French might want us to bombard positions of Germans down east end of Rombauts.
Low mist all Saturday/ 1st June which gave us grand rest from aircraft. Had a talk with naval liaison officer. Machine gun fire now and then from the shore. Norwegians evacuating Narvik now it is in friendly hands again.
Germans have almost reached Boray and Tys fjord German radio says they know we are evacuating but that we will have a hot time on the way back! Went back at midnight to oil at Harstad.

Thursday 6 June

Left oiler at 04:30 and went to rendezvous D2 to pick up RAF and about 300 Chasseurs Alpines , crack French troops, who looked very tough, were very nice and much cleaner than our own troops. Still very cloudy, stops German aircraft,  Ark Royal’s and Glorious’  aircraft – Hurricanes and Gladiators carrying out patrols over Narvik until Friday midnight.
Put troops on Vindictive (old cadet training ship, converted cruiser, now destroyer store ship) at 1100 then took convoy to sea.
22:00 brought back Royal Ulsterman and Monarch, Ormonde and Orousay to rendezvous for more troops. About 10 destroyers employed A/S patrols filling ships up. Carried out A/S patrol and then took ships to sea. Friday morning, convoy all day, Germans winning hands down in France. Armed merchant cruiser ‘RMS Carinthia torpedoed off NW Ireland. Came in to oil at 2100 after trouble with smoke caused by water in our fuel tanks. German planes bombing ships and Narvik all day.

Saturday 7 June

Left oiler at 0300/8th


George Parsons

George Parsons was born in Birmingham, Small Heath in 1919, .

I had quite a job getting into the Fusiliers because I was in a reserved occupation, I went and did two camps with the Royal Fusiliers down in the New Forest, and then I was on the rear party for the second camp and we were kept back, and then we came to Balham giving out, we were working on, sort of, getting rifles, gas masks, things like that. organising it, because I think people knew that it was all coming. And then we were sent back to our jobs and I think I was back in engineering for two days and then general mobilisation came where we were all sort of mustered at Balham. We were there two nights, then I was sent down to Streatham Ice Rink and the church hall near – there were different detachments – where we stayed for some four to five weeks. That was where I met my wife Sylvia, and we eventually married at the church by the ice rink.

Then we went down to Sussex, a place called Nutmere, Chapel Wood Manor, and there we did manoeuvres. I was in the Pioneers Corps, and I remember I went on a gas course at Tunbridge Wells. Then we came back and we spent a while digging a trench system, a complete trench system, with all the ‘A’ frames and the duckboards and we had to live in those for a week.

Reverend Parsons, 1941

Reverend Parsons, 1941

One Saturday we were all confined to our billets. There was no leave, and then we were all mustered in our various groups. We didn’t know where we were going and we were told there would be a one chance in ten of getting back, and that where we were going there would be no support forces or plans for evacuation or anything. So I volunteered, and then on the Sunday morning I was told that I was one of the people who had been selected, and we were put on a truck. Our colonel said “well, you’re looking for adventure George and you know you’ll probably find it now wherever you’re going”. We went to St Mary’s Bay down at Romney Marsh, and it was more like a holiday camp there, and we were introduced to our new CO. It was a Major Peddy from the Manchester Regiment. We mustered there and then in the morning we were all put on a twenty‑five mile route march round Romney Marsh. Anybody who had got a blister on their foot or anything like that, or suffered any discomfort were sent back. So that sorted us out.

The following day we were put on a truck to the station and we were put on the train and we went up to Gourock in Scotland. There, there was our boat The Ulster Prince. We had to do quite a lot of our own loading of stores and we saw pith helmets and things like that, so it all looked as though we were going to some hot country like that. We loaded the boat and then sailed out through the Pentland Firth through Scapa Flow, and then we were told that we were going to Norway.

We were Number Five Independent Company, one of the ten Independent Companies that had been formed for this purpose, although they only used five of us, and we were told that the Germans had landed in Norway. There was only one road that led up to the north, but our main object wasn’t to hold the place itself but the iron ore at Narvik, a very essential commodity which they didn’t want the Germans to get hold of. Our code name was ‘Number Five Scissors’. We couldn’t tell anybody.

We were told that we would be landed as near to the German lines as possible, and we had a very rough journey. It was a very rough sea and the cargo started shifting and it came to the point when we had to get over one side of the boat to keep it afloat. It was so rough, I think everybody was seasick, and I remember I got up one morning and said “I want to report sick”, and several others reported sick too, and we were suddenly informed “there’s going to be no sick parades on this thing. You get up and you go and you work”. So we did what we had to do, running to the rail, coming back and carrying on.

Then we started to approach Norway. Nobody was allowed on the fore decks because it was so rough, the seas were beating over. We were informed that we were going to land at a place called Mojöen, just below the Arctic Circle. We were given hard tack rations, matches and things like that but there was so much pitching and tossing, I crashed against the bulkheads and I felt in such a rough state that I didn’t care. I didn’t care if all the German Army had been there. I just felt so rough.

The landing was quite an adventure, full of incident. We landed at this place Mojöen, and imagine how we felt when we saw a towering ice‑capped mountain in front of us standing about 2,000 feet high, we South London boys we had never seen a mountain before, most of us had never been to sea before. We landed, there was quite a detachment of people, The Foreign Legion were there and we started with a bit of ‘argy bargy’. The skipper up on the boat was shouting about wanting all our stuff unloaded quickly because he was frightened of bombers coming over and attacking.

Eventually we sorted out our stuff and then we were told to climb to the top of the mountain as the Germans were apparently just down the other side, as far as our intelligence knew. We went up there, and as I was climbing up I got landsick – it seemed as though the mountain was  coming over on top of me. But we got up to the top and found an old farmhouse like a pig sty and we bedded down there, and there was no darkness. We saw dusk when we left Scapa and we never saw any darkness after that. In the morning we were mustered and then sent out on reccies to try and contact the Norwegian troops in the area.

George Parsons wedding photograph, 1941.

George Parsons wedding photograph, 1941.

We went out on several patrols. All we found were sort of Home Guard units, but apparently there were no officers. I remember having to lug heavy boxes of ammunition about three or four mile along the road, then lugging the things up to the top to get in position. We got in position on the top of the hills overlooking a bend in the road, quite a good sort of position for an ambush. Nothing happened for quite a few hours. Then we saw German cyclists coming along the road. There was a bit of indecision about what to do, no fire had been heard or seemed to be happening. Then along came motorcyclists with sidecars, then the main body came along and then all hell let loose. They dispersed quickly, got up the other side of the road up into the hills and that and then a pretty sharp engagement went on for twenty minutes, half an hour perhaps. I think I went into that first half hour a young lad of nineteen and finished up by the end of it as a man. Very experienced because, for the first time you realise you’re playing for keeps.

There were some machine‑gunners got up on the top of the hill and he got in position and we, we threw everything at them. Within a few moments after that one shot from an anti-tank rifle hit a chap walking, he must have been carrying ammunition and it just blew him to pieces with one single shot. But then it got rather alarming because we were very inexperienced and we hadn’t quite realised that behind all this there were their ski troopers, and these were the Jäger troops, the most experienced mountain troops.

The alarm came in that they were coming round the back over the top round behind us. This was quite serious because we just didn’t know what to do. We were absolutely trapped in that respect. But there was a sort of defile and it was just enough for each one of us going one at a time to just drag your pack along. The firing went just over the top of you.

We pulled out and got back behind the shelter of a rock and sort of mustered there, and then the main thing was to get back to Mojöen, because we had been told that the engineers were blowing a bridge and this meant we would be trapped on the wrong side of it. Well, this was the first time I had ever done a speed march, it was really hectic, it was desperate. I mean we were sort of fighting for our lives really. And we got back into this place just outside Mojöen, and all I can remember there I was so gasping for something to drink and had nothing, and I gathered up some snow and was just going to put it to my mouth when a Foreign Legion chap lifted me up and gave me some water and explained to me that eating snow there gave you sore blisters.

Two German prisoners had been captured and we were ordered to take them up to a farmhouse and look after them till we heard what to do with them. So we had these two German prisoners in a sort of kitchen in the farmhouse. We could still hear fighting going on but it was getting a bit further away. I had a chat with this other chap and I said,”You know I think they are moving over there. if we are not careful we are going to finish up with prisoners of war. I don’t know what to do, we are supposed to look after them”, We agreed that we’d surreptitiously creep out and we got out and left the prisoners of war there, and we made our way back when we came across some of our troops they were trying to get out. We heard Major Schofield, “open the bloody door, let’s get on to Mo”. And that is where everybody was going to go – this town of Mo. And we just formed a sort of fighting group to make our way up to Mo. We never got there because we didn’t really know where it was. The maps we had were only Tourist Office maps, there were no Ordnance Survey maps of Norway or anything like that. We had several instances when we knew the Germans were looking for us and we got pegged down, we must have spent nearly a week sort of wandering around there and we had lost everything, we had dumped all our stuff and we were getting hungry.

I suppose there was about fifteen or so of us. We decided we didn’t know where Mo was and that we would make our way towards the coast and this we did. We got to this place and we got food from somewhere when somebody spotted German soldiers down at the other end of the quay, and Major Peddy decided that we would hide ourselves on a fishing boat and we kept down below decks while Major Peddy and the other officer were up on the bridge with the captain, ducking down and keeping low. Then there were things coming out of the sky – paratroopers. Now we knew nothing about paratroopers in those days. They were landing just outside and we assumed that they were closing in and they’d dropped these parachutes and so we were trapped. There was no way out along the quay or back across country. We decided that we’d tell the captain to try and get this fishing boat out but there was a bit of a row there because we were by the great whirlpool just off Norway and it was dangerous to cross. The captain of this fishing boat wouldn’t go. They said, “he’s refusing to go, it’s dangerous”. We thought it was probably just an excuse. We didn’t know anything about this sort of thing, and I remember somebody saying “oh put a bloody gun in his back and”, “make him go”. This is what happened.

We did clear this pool and got to the other side. We landed somewhere further along the coast near Bödo, and from there we got to a place called Fauske where we met up with the rest of the Independent Company. We stayed there for quite a while. We kept out in the hills so not to endanger the Norwegian civilians, because if word got out we were there would be trouble. The Norwegians had told us the parachutists were landing so we went out on patrols up in the mountains and out in the woods but we never came across any paratroopers until one day when we were at the quayside, and a big flying boat came over, right along the fjord. It’s engine was spluttering and it was obvious he was in trouble, it came down on the water and went round the promontory. We got the fishing boat and went out after it but as we went round the promontory a burst of machine‑gun fire came, the engine revved up and the flying boat took off. Luckily nobody was hit, but obviously it was a reconnaissance.

Very shortly after that Fauske got bombed. I always remember one high explosive bomb drop by the school and we ushered the kids over into a hall and I have very vivid memories of hearing the screams of the school children, it was quite a rough time. We learnt afterwards  there was only one house left in Fauske after the raids. We had to move on because our orders came to make for the Swedish border to make a last stand, we weren’t going to retreat any further.

And we went along there and then we met up with British troops – I don’t know if it was the Scots Guards or the Irish Guards and we took up positions. My position was by a tombstone in a cemetery looking out over the fjord. The Germans were just across the other side of the fjord, within range. We waited all night (I say ‘all night’, I suppose it was). And then we knew that something was happening, the officers all got together. News had come through that Norway had abdicated ( sic – surrendered), packed in.

That left us with a bit of a problem because here we were only about nine miles from the Swedish border and we were on our own. We decided that the only thing to do was to go back the way we knew the headquarters were, at Bödo, and so we started to march back. We got so heavily strafed and machine‑gunned that it became obvious we weren’t going to go very far, we were spending most of our time hiding in the ditches so we decided we would have to go to the high ground above the snow line, which was quite a long trek. Eventually we came just outside of Bödo which was being bombed so we just stayed outside. Then we were ordered into Bödo and hid among the ruins by the dock. A boat came to take us; they said, “when you’re called up, you move up into position, and you’re going to get so many seconds to run, throw your rifle up to the, to the seaman at the side and then go straight below decks. But if there’s any bombing, the destroyer will just take off and go back”. She was pretty crippled as it was.

We went up, did our forty seconds or whatever it was from the gangplank up to the top. Got down, and then we actually set sail, and it was another rough trip. We were all down below decks and they just started dishing out hot chocolate or hot cocoa – something like that and about everybody was sick. It was a most horrible experience. We sailed and then we landed somewhere up towards Narvik area and we thought, “well we thought we were going home”, but they said “no, you’re up here”. And then we did a terrific march through the mountains, the strong were helping the weak. I was wearing two pairs of socks then and later on when I took them off I found I was taking flesh off with them.

It was hectic. The thing that kept us going was getting to the boat that was going to take us home, we picked up a small ferry boat over to Haastad where we met up with all sorts – Foreign Legion, French, Norwegian, it seemed everybody was mustered there who wanted to go back and continue the fight. We were there for about a week. I could hardly, could hardly walk on my feet because of that march. Then we were called down and we got on a transport vessel, we went right round the mid‑ocean and then we came, and then we came across a big liner, The Lancastria, after living out rough and everything like that and to see bunks and everything nice and clean and mess decks, you know it was quite a surprise.

They landed us back at Gourock. We had lived so rough and I always remember when I got there I was wearing what I had scrounged off a line – a Norwegian girl’s blouse, an old pair of trousers and things like that, and I had a beard, and, and we looked so rough that we got pelted with bottles and things because they thought we were German prisoners of war.

Tom Carroll

Tom Carroll was born in Dukinfield in Cheshire. He joined the Brigade of Guards on a short term engagement in 1939, to be ‘drilled, smartened up, educated and looked after’ following the deaths of his parents. He hoped to join the Police Force after his training.

In early January 1940 I was transferred to the Second Battalion Irish Guards, which were stationed in Wellington Barracks. Early in March it was reckoned that the First Battalion were going to go overseas and they were issued out with tropical equipment to go abroad and all went on furlough for a fortnight prior to going overseas. But, at the last minute, I was roped in too. We got on the boat at Greenock and the first thing that the regimental sergeant major said was “right, you can all line up along the deck. Open your kitbags and get ready to dispense with that stuff”, and they took everything off us, and then they brought out more equipment. We thought “what’s all this lot”? We had extra shirts, vests, thick long pants. We had to draw twelve pairs of socks at once, woollen ones up to the knees. Balaclavas, jerseys, gloves, a whacking great big coat with big snap fasteners on and fur hats. We thought “well, we must be going to some sub‑zero place”.

We got out into the open sea and joined a convoy and it took us about twelve days zig‑zagging out into the Atlantic and then coming back, then going a bit further north, and we landed in the very northernmost part of Norway within the Arctic Circle. It was Harstad, a little fishing town in a fjord right at the very top end of Norway.

When we first landed we were told that we had to acclimatise to the weather, the extreme weather, because although it was early March it was very sub‑temperature and when the snow came down, you could walk twenty yards that way, turn round and come back ,and five minutes later go back and you wouldn’t even see your footmarks where you had been , and yet you were sinking deep into the snow.

We stayed there for about three weeks. Then we were informed that  we were going down to relieve the Scots Guards who had been in close combat with the German advance up the country, at that time, the Germans hadn’t got to Narvik. We set off on The SS Shrewsbury  (formerly SS Southborough) , and we’d had the same clothes on virtually all of the time we had been in Norway, and we could strip off and get into the bunks, and which we did, and then about midnight this Heinkel came down and strafed the boat, and then he dropped a stick of bombs which unfortunately went straight between the bridge and the first funnel, and went right down into the bows of the ship. It blew the engine rooms apart, set the boat on fire and killed all our principal officers including the ships captain. The remainder of the troops on board were gathered up forwards and aft and two destroyers that we had as escorts came alongside and we had to jump off the lower deck of the liner onto the deck of the destroyer which was about twelve foot down. The Navy were very good, they got one or two hammocks and we rolled them down and they used them like a fireman’s net, we jumped down onto them. One or two blokes did sprain ankles and things like that, but not many. Then we went back to Harstad and we thought “oh well, now that we’ve lost the CO, the lieutenant colonel, the two senior majors and all the four company commanders we’re not going to be able to fight”. But within three or four days, we got a new compliment of officers sent out to take over and we set off again and we arrived at a place called Bodö. We started marching through the countryside and took up a post on a crest of a hill and dug in.

Within twenty‑four hours we were exchanging machine‑gun and rifle fire with the Germans. We were starting to take a few casualties, and then we were ordered to withdraw. We set off and there were no boats anywhere to pick us up, so we made a long retreat, we marched for over twenty‑four hours non‑stop and covered something like about sixty kilometers, in that part of Norway there were only mountains with roads running round their bases or round the coastline. We had a detachment of engineers, and they blew every bridge that we crossed, something like eighteen bridges.

We got to this port, again I think it was Bodö, and we boarded a ship. By the time the ship was pulling away from the harbour there were Germans on motors, combinations with machine‑guns mounted. So they must have had some very good engineers of their own with mobile bridges that could drop over sort of thing. The bullets from these machine‑guns were hitting the ship as we pulled away from the harbour.

From there we went back up to Harstad and from there we were evacuated by The SS Lancastria.

Ernest Sampson

Ernest Sampson was born in Leeds in 1920. He left school in 1936 and started as a clerk at the Leeds Industrial Co-operative Society. In April 1939, he joined the Territorial Army suspecting war was imminent.
I went because I wanted to go in the RASC because my Father was an infantryman and from his tales I didn’t fancy marching. So I thought having wheels underneath would be better.

Ernest Sampson

Ernest Sampson

I was called up on the first of September. We reported to a garage in Leeds. Our Company, was split into different units and we were each allocated to a different Field Ambulance unit and I went to 147th Field Ambulance, which was a Sheffield unit, a Territorial unit. We were stationed at Boroughbridge, just outside Leeds. The medics were billeted in the village itself and we stayed in Ornhams Hall, a big hall about a mile away from the village.

We were the transport for the Field Ambulance. We were waiting for Army vehicles, ambulances and that sort of thing – it was in 1940 before we got a full strength of Army vehicles. Prior to that we were driving commandeered civilian vehicles.

I think we had about five three‑tonners and probably six ambulances, three motorcycles and two or three staff cars to accommodate a Field Ambulance unit.

It was fun. We had to do a bit of training, but, at that stage, nothing strenuous. I was acting as a dispatch rider and we would go out on convoys and we three DRs were responsible for keeping the convoy in order and making certain that nobody dropped out.

We drew new vehicles – Army vehicles – from Northallerton in the March  of 1940 just prior to going to Norway. We left Scotland on 14 April 1940 and landed at Harstad, which was about 300 miles above the Arctic Circle beginning on 20 April. We didn’t get our vehicles there until May the tenth. That was because they were on another boat. When we got the vehicles – the ambulances – the roads were useless for the ambulances so they never moved out of Harstad.

It was chaos. Information was negligible. Nobody knew where anybody was and how things were working round. How can I explain it? You were working from day to day not knowing what was happening.

I was detailed by one of the Sergeants to join The French Foreign Legion at Bjerkvik and that was it. We had no maps. So I was given just verbal instructions on how to get there, about sixty miles away.

I was dispatch riding for them. Keeping them in touch with the platoons and the head office, I didn’t need French. It was all English. It’s surprising how many people there are speak English. I stayed with them until 7 June. I got on very, very well with them. I never pulled into anywhere where I didn’t get a huge mug of coffee laced with rum.

They were in touch with the Germans the whole time. I joined them at Bjerkvik where they had just made a forced landing and I came up to them by road and joined them there. From there we went down the peninsular, to the Ofotfjord and eventually into Narvik itself after it was shelled by the Navy. The Germans had been pushed back practically to the Swedish border when we got instructions that we had to withdraw, and withdraw we did, late 6 or early 7 June. We came off by what they called puffer boats, which were small fishing craft, and then we got on board various destroyers. This was around midnight and we then went out to open water on the destroyer and boarded a troopship.

Morale was getting a bit low because they had the Germans, you know, practically at the Swedish border and we were ready for going across the border into Sweden where they would have been sort of kept there until the end of the war. We were pulled out and we were just told then to keep our mouths shut because they didn’t want the Norwegians to realise that we were pulling out.

I think we were ordered to pull out mainly because the evacuation from France was taking place from Dunkirk. I was still with the Foreign Legion on the boat, and we were due to go to France whilst the rest of the British troops that were up there were going to Scotland but by the time we got – oh halfway there, Dunkirk had finished, so we landed at Scotland on I think it was 14 June.


Patrick Dalzel-Job - RN

Patrick Dalzel-Job

Patrick Dalzel-Job was born near London in 1913. He suffered ill health as a child.Patrick was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 8 December 1939, and requested a posting as far north as possible....