9 April revised:

On the Norwegian history tradition
after Magne Skodvin on Quisling
and the invasion of Norway in 1940

by Lars Borgersrud

Published in Scandinavian Journal of History vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 353–397
doi: 10.1080/03468755.2014.907198

(note 1)

The Norwegian tradition of historiography on the invasion of Norway on 9 April 1940 was first and foremost established by Professor Magne Skodvin (1915–2004) with his doctoral thesis in 1956, numerous books and articles, and through his teaching at the University of Oslo, which inspired many students. In this article, four of Skodvin’s positions are reviewed with arguments that demand a revision of the historical validity of these viewpoints. The four positions consist of Skodvin’s opinion concerning the role of Quisling in the events leading up to 9 April 1940, his view of Quisling’s role in Norway on 9 April 1940, his presentation of the Allied invasion plans before 9 April 1940, and his claim that Quisling had next to no followers amongst Norwegian military officers. Finally, this criticism is placed in context by looking at the historical directions of the development of the Nasjonal Samling (NS), both prior to these events and in the aftermath.


In December 1939, the leader of the Norwegian party Nasjonal Samling and former minister of defence, Major Vidkun Quisling, secretly travelled to Berlin, where he met, amongst others, Alfred Rosenberg, head of the foreign political office Aussenpolitischen Amt (APA) of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP),(note 2) the expert for the north, Hans-Wilhelm Scheidt, the Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, Grossadmiral Erich Raeder, and Adolf Hitler himself. On the German side, these meetings initiated planning for the invasion of Norway and improved Germany’s strategic position, which the leadership of the German Navy had regarded as desirable during the First World War. In the autumn of 1939, this was seen as imperative by the German naval command. Quisling’s visit provided the arguments needed to convince Hitler.

There is no historical doubt that this visit started the planning, but the degree of Quisling’s involvement in the different preparation phases has been fiercely disputed. Hitler personally took charge and clearly separated between the political plan, for which he himself would be responsible, and the purely military plan, which a special staff under the High Command of the Wehrmacht was to develop, at first in a preparatory phase and later on, from 21 February, as a direct planning of the ‘Weserübung’ (note 3) under the leadership of General Nikolaus Falkenhorst. (note 4) This differentiation between the political and military sides of the project is essential in order to understand what will be discussed here. Quisling, it is largely believed, had nothing to do with the military planning and had not been attached to political planning after the British infringement of neutrality in Jøssingfjord on 16 February 1940. This is what we have learned from the doyen of Norwegian occupation history, Professor Magne Skodvin. He also taught us that Germany’s claim that they had come to protect Norway from an English invasion simply was false propaganda. According to Skodvin, there had hardly been any British invasion plans following the end of the Russo-Finnish War on 12 March 1940, probably not previous to this, and what had finally hesitantly been planned was so inept it was irrelevant. Several sources argue that the time may have come for a more nuanced view of his theses and to perhaps re-evaluate them.

The analysis of the occupation period and its first months in Skodvin’s dissertation, Striden om okkupasjonsstyret i Norge fram til 25. september 1940, from 1956, belongs to the most detailed works written on the topic. (note 5) Skodvin was very close to the events. He had participated in the first resistance among the students of the University of Oslo, and was associated with the secretariat of the Hjemmefront’s (home front’s) leadership at the end of the war. Thus, he also had experience as an actor in the events that were to become the subject of his career as a historian. He personally talked with numerous persons involved, got to know them, and was one of the first in Norway to use scientific methods to overview the vast amount of source material concerning the events in 1940. Fifty-eight years later, Skodvin’s importance in the way we see the events today should certainly not be underestimated. His main theses on the matter, and on associated topics, have been echoed by most Norwegian and foreign historians and are widespread with students. Skodvin, however, was also a child of his times. It is necessary to analyse his works, as well those of others, under the historical and political prerequisites of his era. This article will present a possible connection between Skodvin’s views of the role Quisling had in the German plans and his views of the Allied expeditionary corps project to Norway prior to the German invasion on 9 April 1940. Furthermore, various connections linking his view with the thoughts and events which led Quisling to visit Berlin in the autumn of 1939 and several long-term political developments within the Nasjonal Samling are shown. These developments are based on the reinterpretation of sources known to Skodvin, as well as sources concerning Quisling and his most important backer and advisor, estate owner and captain Frederik Prytz, which were probably unknown to Skodvin.

‘Unser Mittelsmann […] ans Ruder’

(note 6)

On 15 June 1940, Alfred Rosenberg finished working on a comprehensive document titled ‘Die politische Vorbereitung der Norwegen-Aktion’ (The political preparation of the Norwegian action), which was prepared in collaboration with Stabsleiter (head of staff) Arno Schickedanz, but written down by Hans-Wilhelm Scheidt, head of the APA’s Northern Department (Abteilung Norden). (note7) With a total of 30 attachments, the report provided a detailed introduction to the APA’s contribution to the preparation and execution of the German attack on Norway in general, and especially to what Rosenberg called ‘the political action’, which lead Quisling to launch his coup d’état on 9 April.

Rosenberg saw this as a conclusion to his involvement in the Norwegian action. The report was created to document the APA’s various steps in the matter, from the first initiative in June 1939 to the final clarification of the political situation in Norway with the official assignment of Reichskommissar Josef Terboven on 24 April 1940. (note 8) This clarification terminated the 10 days of rapid development following 9 April. Quisling’s coup d’état government between 9 and 15 April was not able to end the resistance, as had been expected. The case was the same for the set-up of the Administrative Government (Administrasjonsrådet) on 15 April. Consequently, as a third and final measure came the installation of the German Reichskommissariat, which was formally declared through Hitler’s decree, ‘Führererlass’, on 24 April 1940. Hitler’s Reich Minister and Secretary General, Hans Heinrich Lammers, created the decree together with the head of section L IV in the Wehrmacht operations staff (Wehrmachtführungsamt), Lieutenant-Colonel Hermann Böhme, on 22 April. Böhme was strongly involved in the military preparations for the attack on Norway and Denmark. (note 9) Released on 24 April, this declaration implicated a declaration of war against Norway by Germany. From this point in time, the German occupation policies concerning Norway were coarsely outlined. Hitler had decided that Germany would remain in a state of war with Norway for as long as the greater war would last, a decision he never reversed, despite great efforts of the later Quisling regime to have him revoke it. (note 10)

It was entirely natural that Rosenberg wished to hand in his final report, as the political situation in Norway between 9 and 24 April had developed in a direction requiring no further involvement of his men. The APA, especially Scheidt, saw itself subjected to criticism, as Quisling’s government was unable to achieve the desired peaceful development, instead provoking more extreme resistance. By the time the report was documented, all military resistance in Norway had been dealt with. Quisling, the man supported by the APA, was not in command of the Norwegian ship. However, Hitler had not dropped him. He was merely commanded to wait, ready to continue when the time was right. As we know, it was no longer than five months until his return.

On 24 April, all formalities were concluded. As a consequence, Minister Dr Curt Bräuer – who as envoy was effectively the director of the German Legation in Oslo until he was ordered back to Berlin on 16 April, although he kept his formal title (‘Bevollmächtigter des Reichs in Norwegen’) until 24 April – and the German Foreign Office staff in Norway were recalled and the legation shut down as a diplomatic mission. He was replaced by the authoritative Josef Terboven, an experienced regional Nazi leader (Gauleiter) from Essen and a veteran of the NSDAP’s leadership, and his dictatorial occupation regime (Reichskommissariat Norwegen).

Owing to this richly detailed report, with all its attachments, we can track how Rosenberg tried to accommodate Hitler and the interests of the Nazi state in the Norwegian question. It was certainly not Rosenberg’s intention to act in opposition to Hitler’s wishes. On the contrary, the report was written for Hitler. Whether Hitler ever took it upon himself to read it is unknown to us. A receipt, however, shows his deputy Rudolf Hess had lent the documents and that they had circulated in his circle. (note 11) It can thus be assumed that the main points were explained to Hitler. The idea that Rosenberg had the audacity to create such a tale for the members of the high-ranking circle in the Third Reich, who undoubtedly were familiar with the innermost truth, is entirely unconvincing. The mass of documents did not pose a way to distort the picture of events, unless possibly by omitting details, yet it does not seem this was the case.

These documents concerning the APA’s involvement, alongside sources from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the military preparations and interviews with Norwegian and German participants, formed the basis for Skodvin’s 1956 dissertation, which in turn laid the foundation for Skodvin’s unique dominance in this area of history, his professorship from 1963–1981, and the school he formed, which many of Norway’s most talented historians belong to. His main thesis was that the idea of Hitler’s backing of Quisling when he seized power on 9 April 1940, just six hours after the Germans had marched down the Karl Johan’s Avenue in Oslo, was erroneous. Someone, however, believed that this was the case. This had been stated and commonly accepted as the truth during Quisling’s trial in 1945. Even the Norwegian Parliament’s commission of 1945, headed by prominent history professors Arne Bergsgaard and Sverre Steen, saw this as given. (note 12)

Apart from what was accepted as obvious, which everyone believed to know anyway, there was an especially important source for this assumption: the German Chief of Command in Norway during the first four years of the war, Colonel-General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst. During an interrogation in Oslo on 4 September 1945, Falkenhorst claimed that Minister Bräuer had confided to him on 10 or 11 April 1940 that he personally had received a special order from Hitler on the evening of 8 April, in addition to the ultimatum from the Auswärtiges Amt (AA), the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was to be submitted to the government. The order involved the takeover under the auspices of Quisling, directly after the government had been apprehended and the king had been placed under guard in Oslo: ‘The plan was that after the government had been arrested, Bräuer was to turn to the king to have Quisling’s government recognised’. (note 13) The interrogation protocol of Falkenhorst was passed on to Norwegian military intelligence and the parliamentary commission. Falkenhorst was later interrogated several times, and he also wrote a detailed report himself, in which he emphasized that the military planning had had nothing to do with the political situation. It was Hitler’s matter. This could explain why Falkenhorst, commander of the attack, did not have any previous knowledge of the plan Bräuer told him about. The general, however, never refuted his statement from 4 September, according to which Hitler already had planned to install Quisling should the government not accept the ultimatum.

Skodvin’s view was different. Skodvin largely cleared Quisling from his capacity as a tool for Hitler’s military attack on Norway, at least as an active participant, as well as having participated in the military preparations of the attack. In his earliest works, Skodvin certainly acknowledges and even discusses Quisling’s meetings with Hitler in Berlin in December 1939. In one of his last books, however, Skodvin went as far as to not even mention Quisling in the context of what happened in Berlin, which formed the underlying cause for the invasion plans to be developed. (note 14) It appears that Quisling has receded into the background for Skodvin.

Furthermore, Skodvin claims that Quisling could hardly have been a relevant source of military intelligence, and if he had provided information, then most of it was of no value. This ‘acquittal’ of Quisling, originally not from his non-negotiable responsibility of setting the entire process in motion during his December 1939 meetings with Hitler, but from his complicity before and during the German invasion of Norway, continues to be the current state of research not only in Norway but also internationally. One example is the categorical analysis of this circumstance by the French historian François Kersaudy in his book 1940. La guerre du fer from 1987, which he repeated in the movie Krigshelt i utakt (War hero out of step) on the Norwegian TV station NRK in 2006. (note 15) Although Skodvin’s works have, quite naturally, faded to the background in international research, it is unnecessary to emphasize that this standpoint is shared in the majority of Norwegian and international literature. For example, the latest Norwegian military history fully recognises this portrayal. (note 16)

But is it correct? It is inconsistent with the impression received from Scheidt’s report. We will return to this later. We have another important source that tells us that the process was not that simple. This source presupposes that an overall or additional plan of Hitler’s implies the inclusion of Quisling. Joseph Goebbels, Germany’s powerful minister of propaganda, is the source. On 11 April 1940 he wrote the following in his diary: ‘With the Führer […]. Government in Oslo stepped down. Our helper Quisling comes to the leadership. Calls for calm and order’. Goebbels’ detailed notes during the entire planning phase of the ‘Weserübung’ do not include anything indicating he had had insight of what had happened. It is of course possible that his loyalty prevented him from even writing about it. This does not, however, concur with what he noted three days later, to explain what for him was incomprehensible: ‘With the Führer. Vidkun Quisling was with him’. Hitler had once more lifted the veil and told Goebbels of Quisling’s visit and, with tacit understanding, had again discussed the matter. On 18 April, Goebbels again wrote: ‘The Führer still holds on to Quisling. I am not of his opinion. Without him, I believe, we would be much further’. These entries can hardly be interpreted other than that Goebbels must have assumed that Hitler had a plan for Quisling. According to Loock, Rosenberg, who was not as close to Hitler as Goebbels, also suggests something similar. He writes that Scheidt and the naval attaché in Oslo, Lieutenant Commander Richard Schreiber, after the German ultimatum was rejected and the government had fled, safely ‘could have fallen back on the coup plan to the nicest degree of accordance with the Führer’, when they noticed that Quisling had not been arrested and ‘towed’ out of Oslo. Loock cites how Rosenberg described Hitler’s reaction in his diary: ‘He is smiling across all of his face. Now Quisling can form his government’. (note 17)

Goebbels’ remark ‘Unser Mittelsmann […] ans Ruder’, supported by Rosenberg, provides us with a different picture of Quisling’s participation than the one Skodvin presents. Although fragments of Goebbels’ diaries were already known in 1956, they were nonetheless incomplete and hotly debated. Skodvin hardly knew this source. Today, Goebbels’ diaries are seen as an invaluable source for the Nazi period, describing events that occurred in close proximity to the leaders surrounding Hitler. There is a further reason: Goebbels was no friend of Quisling. On the contrary, he was extremely sceptical of the Norwegian leader, and he did not conceal his disdain. Nonetheless, such a source must be viewed critically. The diary gives the impression of having been written for a victorious, national socialist posterity. It conveys the images of a loyal, yet at the same time critical Goebbels, an ideal, national socialist figure, who did not share Hitler’s opinion of everything and everyone. If such a central figure as Goebbels was able to write such things, one may ask if Quisling nonetheless was involved in Hitler’s plans for Norway. It is by no means certain, Skodvin would have disagreed, but it does not entirely fit in with what he actually wrote.

Here, we shall not consider Skodvin’s view of the military preparation of the invasion, as planned and executed by the ‘Sonderkommando’ under the command of Colonel-General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, who had been appointed by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht). Skodvin’s depiction is consistent with the other works we know. This was a selfcontained, exclusively military process, where there was no place for Quisling, not even for politics as such; it was characterized by vigour and a clear chain of command. Political action involving anything apart from paying respect to the honour of Norwegian officers, such as allowing them to keep their personal weapons, was explicitly forbidden for the generals. Dr Curt Bräuer received political directives in Oslo from Lieutenant Colonel Hartwig Pohlman from the OKW and Falkenhorst’s staff during the evening of 8 April on how the government was to be ‘convinced’. Incidentally, all political matters connected to Norway were reserved for Hitler alone. Hitler personally monitored day-to-day military planning. His instructions for the military, outlining how to solve the political situation in Norway, were simple. The occupation was to be such a shock for the Norwegian government that it would see itself as forced to cooperate with the occupying force, just as was intended for Denmark. The military need not know more. Should political improvisation be required, it had to be initiated by Hitler.

Hitler thus called for what we in retrospect refer to as the ‘Danish solution’. According to Skodvin, because of his absolute confidence on this point he seems to have ruled out the possibility that became reality: namely that the government did not allow itself to be imprisoned and resisted instead of collaborating. Skodvin’s view of these unforeseen incidents, these political entanglements that occurred in Norway – but not in Denmark, after the adventurer Quisling declared his coup d’état on 9 April – was that they were expected to be solved by the diplomatic envoy, Bräuer. The Norwegian party leader was not intended to play a role. Skodvin describes Quisling as an operetta figure, whereas the real doers were led by Hans-Wilhelm Scheidt, who had staged everything as a part of his own power-political ambitions in the Third Reich. So it was Rosenberg, Schickedanz, and Scheidt, resembling medieval ‘kingmakers’, who entered the stage from the side, set up Quisling’s week-long government, lasting from 9 to 15 April, and imposed this on Hitler as a fait accompli.

Was this the true context? Or was it Hitler who used the men from APA as tools to switch over to a political plan, which included a role for the Norwegian Führer? Was it an alternative plan, should the main plan be unsuccessful? Early indications for the existence of such a plan are to be found in the wording of the first memorandum notes, which were prepared by the Wehrmacht’s planning staff on 27 January 1940, after Hitler had ordered the detailed preparation of the ‘Weserübung’: ‘Should the government put up active or passive resistance, it needs to be removed. In its place, leading personalities from the country need to be placed, who are willing’. The passage is directly based on an instruction from Hitler himself, writes German historian Hans-Dietrich Loock. (note 18) Was Quisling simply activated by Hitler’s own hand as soon as Bräuer failed to function as a tool for the surprise attack?

How did Skodvin view the unique source material that ‘Die politische Vorbereitung der Norwegen-Aktion’ provides us; and not only this document with its 30 attachments, but also all the other archive material concerning the invasion of Norway which is found in the APA archives? Skodvin knew some, and perhaps all of these sources, and he quoted some of them. Therefore, his analysis of their contents is hardly based on their inaccessibility, but rather that he did not emphasize their value.

It is hardly surprising that Skodvin paid limited interest to Scheidt and his APA colleagues. Would anyone possessing the slightest knowledge of the German attack on Norway not be disgusted by these Nazi liaisons with the Norwegian Führer? For Skodvin, however, this disregard was not primarily a moral question. Skodvin placed special emphasis on the fact that the officials of the traditional civil bureaucracy of the German Foreign Service evaluated many things differently from Rosenberg’s people in the APA. Obviously he is correct in this respect. Now and then, however, it appears as if Skodvin believes that the old bureaucrats, based on their sound knowledge of the real situation at hand – in contrast to the people surrounding Rosenberg – had a real possibility of influencing Hitler’s course of action in the Norwegian question. Concerning Scheidt and his hireling, the businessman Albert Viljam Hagelin, Skodvin wrote:

They were the architects of much of the policy that was released in the name of Quisling and Rosenberg. Had not their cooperation had such tragic consequences, they would have appeared like two politician amateurs among many others. As it appeared, they put a lasting mark on the dangers of a political situation, where strange shortcuts would lead the irresponsible dilettante to an almighty Führer. Hitler himself disengaged the thoroughly German Beatentum that could have protected him. (note 19)

Why, in Skodvin’s view, had these amateurs and armchair politicians led Hitler astray? They not only stood behind Quisling’s coup government, which Hitler had more or less reluctantly accepted after the coup d’état had actually taken place on 9 April. No, there is something more fundamental. These two gentlemen brought Hitler to believe that the Allies were planning to invade Norway. It was them who were behind all of the events, in the course of which they hired various other Norwegian and German political pirates and, with the help of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, had paved the way to Hitler’s attention. Hitler, who had originally wished that Norway would remain neutral and defend its neutrality, was led to believe that the British did indeed want to entrench themselves in Norway and use the country as a part of their strategy of surrounding Germany. Germany’s Foreign Ministry did not share with this view, but Scheidt and his colleagues had succeeded, thanks to their intrigues, in outmanoeuvring the ministry.

Skodvin’s defence of the figures from the Foreign Ministry, such as Curt Bräuer, Walter Hewel, Werner von Grundherr, and Ernst von Weizsäcker, appears to be exaggerated, although Skodvin also provides us with an interesting analysis of the contradictions between these and the more clear-cut Nazis such as Theodor Habicht and Joachim von Ribbentrop. At the time it appears as if Skodvin emphasizes too strongly that the German Foreign Ministry and the Wehrmacht were elevated above the Nazi state. Concerning the Wehrmacht, he wrote that ‘they waged war where it was necessary, yet in an impersonal manner, in line with the military code, ‘correctly’ – they respected its conventions. In the political climate of 1940 this was a useful basis for cooperation with the Foreign Ministry; it also held fast to its old school traditions’. (note 20) His view of the Foreign Ministry and the Wehrmacht needs to be balanced in a more nuanced manner today. (note 21) We know that both institutions were Nazified through and through, and corrupted by the NSDAP. Even if they considered many things differently than Rosenberg’s people, it can hardly be claimed that they respected the ‘conventions’. (note 22) The Wehrmacht even carried out the Holocaust as Hitler had ordered. (note 23)

Skodvin’s main premise for his line of argument went further than leaning heavily on myths about the German Beamtentum, which gained a very strong position in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Cold War spread its veil over the German memory. This prerequisite is formed on the basis that it actually had been an illusion that the Allies were about to invade Norway on the days around 9 April. This was a construction forged by Scheidt and his colleagues. Britain indeed had exerted pressure on Norway and threatened it, as Skodvin admits. He did not disregard the existence of the various Allied endeavours, which he lists successively. However, British politics were contradictory and faltering. An invasion in the regular sense was out of the question, an invention of Scheidt and his colleagues, picked up and nourished in the surrounding circle of Quisling, thus creating unique career prospects within the Third Reich.

Was this in line with Allied policy? Was the danger of an Allied invasion of Norway an illusion, conjured up by Scheidt and his people in the APA? Or was it a fact, which was so far outside of what the Norwegian public could digest or accept in 1956 that Skodvin could not raise questions about it? Did the answer to this question have anything to do with Skodvin’s view that the APA was a troop of dilettante charlatans, pursuing their own Norwegian politics, in opposition to Hitler’s intentions and wishes and in opposition to the civil servants of the German Foreign Office? In view of our current knowledge it appears that the answers to both questions are connected.

It may appear as if Skodvin turns the Norwegian campaign into a project that only interested the German Navy and the APA. Even though the Navy was greatly involved, it alone would not have had the power to influence Hitler’s policy and the course of the Second World War without a change in the strategic situation. The Navy’s involvement and the interest of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder in the matter can be traced back to the time around 1905, to the First World War and to Admiral Wolfgang Wegener’s study Die Seestrategie des Weltkrieges (The sea strategy of the World War) from 1926, as well as the staff exercises in the 1930s. Yet the German Navy was weak following the defeat in the First World War, and Hitler was not occupying himself with its interests. (note 24) It was hardly able to do anything but needle Britain’s mighty Royal Navy, and it was aware of this circumstance. Sufficient resources were not allocated towards the ambitious ‘Plan Z’ (note 25) of 1938 to expand the Navy, which in theory should have helped Germany possess a fleet of battleships by 1947, and by 1939 a fleet ready for war. These ambitions were far and away. Consequently, the admiralty believed that Germany would be served best through the neutrality of the Nordic countries. According to Hitler’s view, the prerequisite of Germany’s position as a world power lay in the conquest of the European heartland in the east of the continent, which was to be achieved with ground and air forces. From Hitler’s point of view, Germany’s great dependency on Swedish iron ore was most likely secured through Swedish and Norwegian neutrality.

However, the reassessment of the Allied war policy in regard to the north, following the failed negotiations between Great Britain and the Soviet Union in July and August 1939, the non-aggression pact concluded between Germany and the Soviet Union on 23 August, the outbreak of the Second World War on 3 September, and especially the Russo-Finnish War in Finland following 30 November formed the basis for a changed German view on Norway’s neutrality in general. The same, of course, also applied for the admiralty, which, in addition, had to protect its own strategic interests. This showed itself to be the case on 10 October, when Grand Admiral Raeder brought up the subject of bases in Norway in his conversations with Hitler. (note 26) Swedish historian Carl-Axel Gemzell has proven it was a post-war myth that knowledge of concrete Allied plans in Scandinavia formed the backdrop for the turn towards the region. The Navy was motivated by its desire to strongly increase the U boat fleet and to require bases for the U boat war in the Atlantic. (note 27) Raeder suggested alternatives, including a base on the Kola Peninsula. Trondheim, however, was far more favoured. For the time being, Raeder did not succeed in awakening Hitler’s interest in an invasion of Norway based on the U boat question alone. More was needed, and its name was Major Vidkun Quisling.

Allied plans, described by the Norwegian party leader during his visit to Berlin in December 1939, served as a broader base for the Navy’s wishes and gave them more weight. (note 28) The same was the case for the APA and the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht’s intelligence arm, the Abwehr. The attention of the Abwehr was logical and self-explanatory, not only because it was led by an admiral, but also because its business was to take care of the interests the Navy as well as being responsible for the military interests of the entire Nazi state. Germany’s economic security of supply and capability for war in a major military conflict was determined by the control of her neighbouring waters in order to prevent a repetition of the blockade that took place during the First World War. Scandinavian resources were important for Germany, especially iron ore from Sweden, which was exported from Narvik during the winter season. Britain, which itself received large shipments from Narvik and had better options than Germany to fall back onto shipments from Spain or overseas, tended to overestimate this importance, however. In addition, the Norwegian coast, with its countless locations that provided harbour possibilities for bases to control the North Sea and entrance to the Atlantic, and its good rail connections towards the east, posed a potential for offensive warfare, as well as a danger for defensive warfare, both for the Allies and the Germans. Without controlling these waters, supply of iron ore was threatened and access to the oceans blocked, as it had been in 1918, following the mine laying of the Allies.

Since the last phase of the First World War in 1918 there had been a similar understanding in Navy circles in Berlin and London concerning the necessity of bases along the Norwegian coast. Both were first and foremost interested in bases in the region around Kristiansand. In the final phase of the Great War, the Allies had mined the North Sea right up to Norway’s waters and planned a base near Stavanger. The Germans were unable to counter, due to the course the war was taking, as the English historian Patrick Salmon has pointed out. (note 29) Yet the Great War ended before the Great Powers could set up their bases. The combination of iron ore exports and offensive and defensive naval strategy formed the impetus for the Great Powers. In 1939, the admiralties of both countries were entirely occupied with new plans, and the intelligence services established contacts in Scandinavia, particularly in Norway. Here Britain had advantages owing to its good relationship with the Norwegian Navy, the Royal Court, and not least to Norway’s strongly westward orientated maritime tradition and commercial ties.

The Abwehr did not have such advantages. Its opportunities to establish contacts chiefly occurred through pro-German circles within the officer corps of the Norwegian military, especially the army. These contacts were used well, and the Abwehr won very good knowledge on Norway’s military capabilities. (note 30) A further group of interest to the Abwehr were the Norwegians who frequented Norwegian-German circles in Berlin. It was here they picked up the Norwegian intellectual, Hermann Harris Aall, in 1938. He was just about to establish a German-Norwegian chamber of commerce, which led him to be included on the guest list for Hitler’s 50th birthday on 20 April 1939. (note 31) Quisling was not to be found on this list. Thus, Aall was invited to the Abwehr’s offices in Berlin and made head of the philosophical school of ‘social individualism’, a creation of the Abwehr’s Amt II (second department), which stood under the direction of Majors Theo von Hippel and Walther de Laporte, alias ‘Prince von Hohenstein’ and ‘de La Roche’. Provided with money, Aall was placed in Malmö in order to conduct information work, intelligence activities and to exert influence in the north, and to provide the clearing of German intelligence agents on the American continent. This in itself is a thrilling story, but it falls outside of the focus of the subject at hand. (note 32)

Aall’s duties also included catering to party leader Quisling and bringing him to Berlin. Aall was behind Quisling’s first invitation in June 1939, when he visited the APA and the summer meeting of the Nordische Gesellschaft (the Nordic Society), an institution directed by Rosenberg’s APA. One of Aall’s other coups was to activate the bustling businessman Albert Viljam Hagelin in Dresden, who had been observed by the Abwehr in Berlin’s Norwegian-German milieu. A third caper was his effort in having 25 leading cadres of the Nasjonal Samling invited to Berlin in order to deepen their party contacts and learn from the NSDAP through some two-week lectures in the NSDAP’s ‘schooling centre’, which was headed by Scheidt.

As we have already seen, the motivation of the Abwehr and APA to strengthen its contacts to the Norwegian national socialist party immediately before the outbreak of Second World War was sparked by the Navy’s fear that Germany could face grave problems should Britain entrench itself in Norway, or if Norway, as was the case in the First World War, was to give in to the pressure from the Allies and limit, or even deny, Germany’s access to the seas. On the contrary, the experience of the Great War promised that German control over Norwegian waters would give decisive advantages in any war against Britain, particularly as they were also a stepping stone to control the Shetland Isles, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, as Admiral Wegener thought. (note 33) In this respect, the Second World War accordingly started where the Great War had ended.

When the war began in September 1939, alongside the following Russo-Finnish War, things showed themselves even more clearly. One highly topical matter was whether the Allies would march into Scandinavia as a response to the actions of the Soviet Union. The Nasjonal Samling placed itself at the spearhead of a propaganda campaign, claiming that Norway had to prepare itself militarily for a Soviet invasion, which would make an Allied intervention inevitable. Britain and Russia wanted to split up Norway among themselves, the party alleged. This description of the situation formed the background for the reception of Quisling by Grand Admiral Raeder in the first half of December 1939 and, afterwards, Quisling’s two meetings with Hitler on 14 and 18 December 1939. There the Norwegian party leader, former defence minister, and officer of the General Staff brought his plan forward: how and why Germany could be invited to Norway by a ‘national government’ under his leadership. Quisling had already caught Hitler’s attention after the first talk. Following this first talk on 14 December, Hitler, for the first time, asked for a report on the prospects of undertaking an invasion of Norway. (note 34)

A major political initiative and its consequences

What was Quisling’s plan? In order to answer that question, we need to return to the time around the outbreak of war in 1939.

The background was the following: after the outbreak of war in 1939, the ‘grand old man’ of the Nasjonal Samling, captain, financier, and landowner, Frederik Prytz, had turned to Quisling with the suggestion that they should take an initiative of great significance for world politics. (note 35) The time had now come for something he had been on a crusade for since the party was founded in 1933, namely the founding of a grand alliance of the North Sea states, centring on an alliance between the two Germanic brother nations, Germany and Great Britain, and directed against the Soviet Union. Such an alliance was supposed to commence with a customs and monetary union for further cooperation between Germany and Great Britain, whereby disputes between the two parties were to be solved in a way that ‘both can conquer the other from within’. The basic idea was that Quisling would travel to Berlin with these plans while Prytz would use his contacts in the financial world of the City of London to reach the inner circles of Neville Chamberlain’s government. By this means, they would enter secret negotiations which, they hoped, would lead to a German-British coalition capable of destroying the great communist power in the east.

Was this seen as an entirely unrealistic plan of two dreamers? In retrospect, with our knowledge of British politics in the Chamberlain era, it appears totally illusory and even strange to believe that something like this was possible or even imagined. Our view of how matters were in the real world is, however, not of interest here, but rather how Prytz and Quisling saw their cause. They definitely had a different view. Their points of reference were the broad outlines set by the Munich Agreement of 1938 and the British reluctance towards a collective safety policy including the Soviet Union only a couple of months earlier. Both Germany and Britain had moved in the direction of an anti-Soviet understanding, which gave the two Norwegians a reason to repeatedly touch the topic, and perhaps even to stimulate the idea that both powers might be considering a war with the Soviet Union. Such a scenario was certainly not made up out of thin air. (note 36) The ‘Phoney War’ between 1939 and 1940, going to and fro between both sides, could be interpreted as a continuation of the Munich Agreement, not only directed against Czechoslovakia but also against the Soviet Union. At the same time, one has to realize that Quisling and Prytz had certain prerequisites qualifying them for the international stage: Quisling with his prestige following the Nansen era and as a protector of British interests in Moscow in 1928, and Prytz, who had established an important position in the City’s financial community in 1928–1930, when he safeguarded substantial Western capital interests in north Russia. Prytz even had contact with persons occupying high positions in Chamberlain’s cabinet.

An in-depth account on the further course of events was provided by historian Oddvar Høidal, then in more detail by historian Hans Fredrik Dahl in his comprehensive biography of the Norwegian Nazi leader, which has been supplemented by the author of this article. (note 37) However, Prytz’s initiative was picked up by Aall in Oslo, who, without doubt instructed by the Abwehr, had a hand in relaying the issue to Berlin. Moreover, in what seems to have been intended and indeed amounted to a catastrophe for the plan, he had the matter wired to London in an open telegram which was then published in the Norwegian Nazi paper Fritt Folk. Aall hastily organized an incognito trip for Quisling to Berlin, without anyone in Norway finding out about it; not even Prytz. In Berlin, Quisling first met with Raeder, who developed an interest in the former defence minister that predicted a British invasion of Norway. Raeder consequently facilitated the two meetings with Hitler in December. During these meetings Quisling quickly changed his position. Instead of promoting the future alliances, which formed the initiative’s points of origin, he took sides with Germany and against Great Britain. Exactly why he did so remains unanswered. In collaboration with Scheidt and Rosenberg he formulated the plan later presented to Hitler, stating how Germany would be able to outmanoeuvre Britain with the help of the Nasjonal Samling and Quisling himself.

How did Quisling outline his plan to Hitler? According to the document ‘Die politische Vorbereitung der Norwegen-Aktion’, the plan had various stages. (note 38) It was based on the danger of a Soviet and following British invasion of Norway, which would heighten the necessity of a ‘national government’ in Norway due to a worsening political crisis. Here, Quisling would stand ready with military preparations. At the same time selected cadres of the Nasjonal Samling were to be trained in Germany as trackers, translators, and military assistants for a German force. German coal freighters should quietly run into Norwegian ports, transporting these assistants and German commandos, where they were supposed to silently stay in port until the moment came for Quisling to launch his ‘national government’. The commandos would then apprehend the king, members of the government, and other key figures, whilst the newly appointed commander of the main Norwegian army base Gardermoen, Major Ragnvald Hvoslef, directed the troops towards the capital. (note 39) As the self-appointed head of state, Quisling would then ask Germany for help. In advance, the German Navy, carrying sufficient regular troops, would have sailed unnoticed to nearby waters, and by then rapidly enter Norwegian ports in a lightning operation.

As a matter of fact, the plan appears as fantastic when seen from our perspective, with the benefit of hindsight. To Hitler, who earlier had implemented such hoax tactics when attacking Poland, the plan did not sound quite so impossible. The ‘soliden Beamtentum’ of the German Foreign Ministry, in any case, did not see the plan as exotic. What caused concern was not as much the role of such national socialist projects for foreign policy, but rather that they were directed by agencies outside the ministry. Here, one was familiar with the plan shortly after Quisling had presented it, namely as early as 19 December, as Skodvin also had to admit. (note 40) Skodvin even quotes details from it, although he refrains from commenting on it. The plan was dependent on Quisling’s ability to make use of a domestic political situation that would allow him to assume power, and to position himself with purely practical means of his own; that is, to exploit a political crisis caused by the Winter War to claim governmental powers for a ‘national government’. Quisling’s actions in the winter of 1939 and spring of 1940 were directed towards this goal. We find no traces in the APA archives of how Quisling thought the coup d’état would take place, or on how he imagined exploiting the necessary troops. A lot remains in the dark, but not everything. Some has been enlightened in the book Vi er jo et militært parti. (note 41) Here, in short, it can be summarized that it seems that the battalion of the 4th infantry regiment’s (IR 4) neutrality guard, located at Gardermoen where Hvoslef was in command, was intended to play a key role in the operation. Furthermore, it seems that rumours concerning a Soviet coup government in Finnmark, spread nationwide by the staff of the 6th Division in Kirkenes, where several NS officers were in key positions, were intended to cause a state of emergency. We also know that Quisling created a list of cabinet members for a coup government directly after his return to Norway from his meetings in Berlin.

Quisling never came into a position to execute such a plan before the Russians had enforced peace on 12 March. A possible reason may have been his illness, which caused him to be bedridden for several weeks after the New Year and left him paralyzed and somewhat unable to act. Time took its course and with the end of the Russo-Finnish War the pretext was suddenly gone. Nonetheless, between 28 March and 6 April, the Allies dug out their landing plans again and it is easy to imagine that Quisling saw a new chance appearing. In the meantime, Hvoslef had accepted an assignment from the ‘Finland committee’ to travel to Finland to bring back the Norwegian military volunteers. Quisling was not able to do much more than assemble his private army, his Hird, in Oslo on 8 April. (note 42)

Quisling must have understood that whatever he himself was able to do and what Hitler believed he could achieve did not necessarily overlap. Hitler had to secure his bets and consider alternatives. One can gather Hitler’s assessment of Quisling’s significance from the fact that he asked for a first military report on possible action in Norway while the latter was still in Berlin, and from this point on outlined separate political and military plans. Therefore one may ask whether it was logical for Hitler to consider alternative political solutions, solutions that would take different scenarios into account, which also contradicted each other. After all, Quisling could not know in advance whether he would be able to pursue his plan several months later; both the political and the military situation could change. Therefore he had to understand the necessity of contributing military intelligence, which would not necessarily be used to the degree he expected. We also know for a fact that he did contribute military intelligence. He had given a lot of detailed military advice through Hagelin, which was forwarded to Hitler’s liaison officer in the Wehrmacht’s Supreme Command (OKW), Colonel Rudolf Schmundt, in the Reich Chancellery. (note 43) ‘He has then communicated everything in more detail to Colonel Sc.’, Rosenberg told Hitler on 11 April 1940. (note 44) Quisling had been extensively questioned in Oslo by Laporte shortly before 25 March. Laporte had openly introduced himself as a representative of the OKW. (note 45) Moreover, Quisling had been interviewed by Abwehr officer Colonel Hans Piekenbrock in Copenhagen on 3 April, then directly on Hitler’s personal order.

What was the nature of Quisling’s military advice? Skodvin gives the impression that the former Norwegian General Staff officer and defence minister had very limited knowledge of the military situation, to the point that he was almost of no interest to the Germans. Let us have a look at what Scheidt wrote on this matter. In a note from 26 May 1940 he refers to concrete talks with the naval attaché in Oslo, Lieutenant Commander Schreiber, and to Colonel Schmundt. It follows that Quisling strongly warned about sailing the ships past the coastal fortress of Oscarsborg, and that they should instead land in Moss, Fredrikstad, Brevik, and Larvik – from where they would be able to reach Oslo in less than four hours – combined with landing airborne troops at Fornebu, Kjeller, and Gardermoen, in order to prevent mobilization from the inner eastern part of Norway and the escape of political authorities. (note 46) The problem was that the OKW’s task force staff did not heed this advice. Colonel Schmundt had explicitly asked Scheidt whether one could expect the help of local guides from the Nasjonal Samling on landing, and during the first operations. Scheidt had answered positively, even though he added that they would probably find no more than two candidates at each place, as the party was so small. Scheidt saw difficulties in the fact that he was not allowed to give Quisling exact information on the time and place, making it impossible to prepare the people selected for the task.

Scheidt wrote this down in view of the criticism following the sinking of the Blücher in the Oslofjord and that the Norwegian government had been able to escape from Oslo. In no way did this mean that all of the advice was completely ignored. This is illustrated, for example, by an episode in Narvik in which a German destroyer wasted a lot of time attacking a coastal battery supposedly in alert, but instead was hardly visible under the deep snow and not in service following the Treaty of Moscow on 12 March. The cannons had been brought to Bergen. Quisling thus was not that well informed. But who, except for the troops manning that particular coastal artillery and the high brass military leaders, were informed of the shipping of three simple guns?

‘If the Norwegians open fire on your troops’

(note 47)

Let us return to what we have described to be the keystone of Skodvin’s line of argument – as the ultimate proof of the APA’s amateurism – namely, his assessment of whether the Allies, chiefly Great Britain, indeed wanted to invade Norway. In his dissertation, Skodvin takes the view that the entire matter was simply a fairy tale. This assessment was based on his own research and extensive German and British literature, perhaps in particular Thomas K. Derry’s work The Campaign in Norway, which had been published four years earlier. (note 48) Furthermore, the question of an Allied invasion during the Russo-Finnish War up until 12 March, and later in the period from 28 March to the 9 April, had been almost continuously debated by the Norwegian and foreign press since 1945. (note 49) This problem was not new to Skodvin when he started to busy himself with it. It would go beyond the scope of this article to repeat the entire background story or this debate; we will concentrate on the key points.

Since the German attack on Poland on 1 September 1939 and the British and French declaration of war against Germany on 3 September, the allied French and British governments had discussed the necessity of creating a new centre of gravity of the war in Scandinavia as well as giving it a new direction, with the Russo-Finnish War and the supposed Soviet threat in the north providing a framework. Various scenarios were discussed, accompanied by a strange blend of enemy images and offensive and defensive strategy contemplations. Whether the large-scale war was to be a short or long one, if Germany or the Soviet Union were the main enemy, even if the war against Germany on the continent would continue or if the Nazi state would find its way to the bargaining table were all matters of discussion. The French and British governments held different opinions. On the French side, the northern flank was emphasized in order to reduce pressure on the Franco-German border. The British were strongly confused over the question of who posed a greater threat for the British Empire in the long run, Germany or the Soviet Union. Both countries had long complied with German demands, such as with the agreement on building a German naval fleet in breach of the Treaty of Versailles with the 1935 Anglo-German Naval Treaty, the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, the obstruction of military aid for the Republic of Spain during the Spanish Civil War after German and Italian intervention on behalf of Franco, and the settlement of the Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938, which led to the annexation of Czechoslovakia in the same and the following year. France and Great Britain had endlessly delayed the Soviet offer in the summer of 1939 that proposed a three-power agreement directed against Germany when the negotiations finally broke down in Moscow in August without any positive result.

As a result of this process, the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was signed on 23 August, making the Soviet Union a potential enemy of the Allies and possible supporter of Hitler, either directly or indirectly. Amongst themselves, the Allies talked about not only opening a front against the Soviet Union on the northern flank, but also on the southern flank, in the areas around the Black Sea and the Caucasus. This would mean a war with the Socialist state, a recurring topic of Allied planning in 1939 and 1940 which has been underestimated among historians of the period. As late as 6 February 1940, the Chiefs of Staff Committee commissioned a comprehensive and detailed report on the entire matter. (note 50) The answer came on 8 March 1940 in the form of a 16-page report to the ‘War Cabinet’, in light of the Russo-Finnish War. (note 51) The report analysed the possibilities open to the Allies to attack the Soviet Union, in particular through Narvik, northern Sweden, and Finland but also through the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Far East, Afghanistan, and India. It concluded that the risk of such a grand strategy were only justifiable if it would lead to a timely defeat of Germany. As a conclusion, the report stated that a more limited attack in Scandinavia, intervention in the Russo-Finnish War and the occupation of the Swedish ore fields, accompanied by an attack on the oil fields in Baku and Batumi in the Caucasus and a blockade of the Black Sea, were the most appropriate and realistic plan. The first part of such a plan would require the cooperation of Norway and Sweden, the latter the cooperation of Turkey and Iran, in each case with uncertain chances of a success. Additionally, there were clear military counterarguments to the giant plan: in the Far East, the Allied ground forces would not be strong enough until near the end of 1940, and in India, Afghanistan, and Iran there would not be enough air capabilities in 1940 without weakening the forces at home.

The last time before 9 April 1940 that the question of war with the Soviet Union was discussed by the Anglo-French Supreme War Council was as late as 28 March. The proposal of bombing Baku and Batumi, together with a blockade of the Black Sea, was again discussed. (note 52) Even then, one weighed the pros and cons: maybe such actions would cripple Soviet oil transport to Germany, yet without a doubt the price would be war with the Soviet Union and a great, nearly incalculable, risk for the empire.

The Russo-Finnish War was anything but a background consideration. As proof of the character of the Soviet leadership, the Russo-Finnish War gave the Allied governments the opportunity to resolutely quench political opposition at home. They were able to utilize the image of the Russian enemy, which went back to the intervention following the Great War, when both countries had troops invading the region around the White Sea in Russia. A French proposal suggesting landing in Petsamo with the aim of destroying the Murmansk railroad, occupying the surrounding regions, and pushing forward in the south, into Finland, was brought forward. It was deemed unrealistic by Britain, just like a plan to advance into Finland through Kirkenes, as it would have been difficult to occupy the Swedish ore fields from such a geographical starting point. (note 53)

Another proposal, to dispatch nominal ‘volunteers’ individually into Finland, ‘after the model of the Italian non-intervention in Spain’, was seen as less risky, but would result in legal problems and be of little use. (note 54) Direct air raids against the harbour of Luleå were also considered, as well as the sabotage of the mine railway Luleå–Kiruna– Narvik. A direct raid through airborne saboteurs was refuted; a sabotage team led by an agent was, however, assembled in Sweden, in which First Lord of the Admiralty Churchill had great confidence. (note 55) The operation amounted to a scandal uncovered by the Swedish security police. (note 56)

Conversely, an operation launched from Norwegian harbours such as Narvik and Trondheim would have been more feasible and effective. Even though the actual goal was saving the Finns, such an operation would have given the Allies the chance to kill two birds with one stone: helping Finland against the Russians as well as stopping the export of iron ore to Germany. (note 57) Control of the ore fields was not only important to end exports to Germany, it was also important to secure considerable imports to Great Britain. In addition, Great Britain feared that the Russians would ramp up the war to include Sweden, in order to control the ore fields themselves, and to advance on Narvik; all of this in view of Germany and the Soviet Union possibly carving up Scandinavia between them. This twofold goal, designed to hit both the Russians and Germans, made an Allied invasion in northern Sweden through Narvik and perhaps Trondheim, over the Swedish city of Östersund, appear suitable, and formed the basis for the Allied resolution from 4 February.

The war council assumed it would be possible to enforce the cooperation of Sweden and Norway, allowing expeditionary forces to land and to advance to their target areas. In order to achieve this goal, the Finns, who found themselves in severe difficulty on the battlefield, at a suitable date, were to make a worldwide plea for help to save them from the Soviet Union. Such an appeal would put both the Norwegian and Swedish governments under sufficient pressure. The Chiefs of Staff Committee emphatically told the War Cabinet that, in reality, this would mean exposing the governments to a force majeure, the compulsory fulfilment of the Allied wishes. (note 58) Thereafter, the Allies would demand passage through both countries to Finland. Should Norway and Sweden consequently be confronted with the danger of a German attack, the Allies would send major forces, ready in all respects, to their assistance. Armed forces would have to be on the ready to help not only the Finns but also Norway and Sweden, before the plan could be rolled out. (note 59) The Allies hence had an interest in the Finns holding out for as long as possible. This plan inspired British Foreign Minister Lord Halifax to such a degree that he rejected a proposal from Russian ambassador Ivan Maisky on 24 February to convoy a peace proposal with the Finns. (note 60)

Since the outbreak of war in the autumn of 1939, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had advised mining Norway’s waters in order to force German ore freighters into international waters, where the British Navy could deal with them. He alternatively suggested that the Navy should enter Norwegian territorial waters to track down and attack German ships, as was the case during the Altmark incident on 16–17 February 1940. As the plan to penetrate Sweden would take a long time to be put into action, such actions against German shipping could be carried out swiftly.

In late autumn 1939, at the behest of the War Cabinet, the British military authorities worked nearly continuously on reports and plans aimed at figuring out how to shift the war into Scandinavia. On 22 December the War Cabinet requested a study from the Chiefs of Staff Committee concerning how to prevent iron ore exports. In a responsive report on 31 December, the committee stated that the only secure option to stop exports would be to send expeditionary forces, and that these must be supported by ‘a Substantial land force’ in Sweden in case of a German attack, ‘in holding the line of the “Lakes”’, Trondheim being the unloading port and background base. (note 61) To remain in control of the city as ‘a base port’, it was recognized to be of great importance to control all maritime communications in the North Sea, thus preventing the Germans from establishing themselves on the Norwegian west coast. From then on, in addition to the occupation of Trondheim, towns further down the coast, such as Bergen and Stavanger, perhaps even as far south as Kristiansand, started to play a role in the plans.

Around the turn of the year, the Allies had agreed upon sending an expeditionary force, composed of four divisions into central Sweden, two brigades from Narvik, a further three into Finland, and two brigades to Bergen and Stavanger, totalling around 150,000 men, who would require 20 passenger ships for transport across the North Sea, and up to 40 fighter planes and 25 patrol boats as escorts, all in all a total of 380,000 tons. (note 62) The main part of the operation, which was aimed at occupying Narvik and the Swedish ore fields down to Luleå and the Swedish–Finnish border, was made up of a French and an English brigade, whereas three English brigades were to march into Finland to operate against the Russians along the Salla front. This part of the plan was codenamed ‘Avonmouth’. Five battalions were to be employed for the occupation of Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger, with two battalions for each of the latter two towns and one for Trondheim. This part of the plan was codenamed ‘Stratford’. The plan to invade Sweden by advancing on its central districts through the Trondheim area, to counter a possible German move on the country, was called ‘Plymouth’. (note 63) The Chiefs of Staff Committee remarked that all of these projects were to be seen in a certain context. ‘Avonmouth’ required access to the harbours of Narvik and Trondheim, and therefore ‘Avonmouth’ was inseparable from the seizing ‘of Stavanger and Bergen, where we cannot see the Germans installed’. (note 64)

It was these invasion forces that were ready for action on 12 March. The embarking and marching orders had been issued just as the Allies received the message in the course of the afternoon that the Finns had accepted a peace agreement with the Russians. The French government, which was facing a parliamentary crisis, had declared on 10 March that the Allies ‘could only adopt one attitude and that is to ensure the departure of their expeditionary force even in the event of Scandinavian refusal’. (note 65) One day later, the Chiefs of Staff Committee gave support to and underlined that the Scandinavian Governments should not be notified of the landings ‘in order that there should not be time for the Norwegians to take measures to oppose the landing’. (note 66) This was also the final decision. Regarding the question of how much force should be exercised, it was left to the commanders in the field to decide themselves what was ‘sufficient force to achieve our object’.

There can be no doubt as to the offensive character of this endeavour, which was based on the Allies reaching their goals in Norway and Sweden before the Germans did. If the plan had been carried out it would certainly have changed the course of the Second World War. In all likelihood an attack on Norway would not only have led to an attack on Sweden, but also to a war between the Allies and the Soviet Union, with unforeseeable consequences for the development of the war.

After the Treaty of Moscow on 12 March, parts of the expeditionary force that had been gathered for the Scandinavian invasion were transferred to the British expedition forces on the continent. It would still take more than two weeks until Hitler, who was roughly informed of the proceedings on the side of the Allies, gave the final order for the time and date of the execution of the ‘Weserübung’ on 9 April. (note 67)

Despite the Russo-Finnish peace treaty, the pressure for a Scandinavian endeavour persisted in Great Britain and especially in France, where the Finnish collapse forced the government to resign. On 14 March, Churchill suggested a new action, even though, as he wrote to the War Cabinet, ‘we cannot proclaim that we are going to help Finland at this juncture, circumstances may soon arise when we shall have to do so […] in order to the almost certain aggression upon Norway and Sweden that may be expected from Russia or/and Germany in the near future’. (note 68) It did not take many days for the War Cabinet to place the operations in Scandinavia back on the agenda. In France, a new and less timid government was set up. On the one hand, the Allies did not expect the peace with Finland to last very long. A war with the Soviet Union could happen sooner rather than later. On the other hand, the Allied governments were under strong political pressure to demonstrate their ability to act decisively. As an answer to a French aide-mémoire from 15 March, stating that the Allies should receive direct control of Norwegian territorial waters and carry out the ‘occupation of strategic points on Norwegian territory’, regardless of ‘the Finnish problem’, Lord Halifax concluded that they ‘could no longer afford to acquiesce in the present state of affairs whereby, under the pretext of Scandinavian neutrality, Germany draws from Sweden and Norway resources vital for her prosecution of war and enjoys facilities in Sweden and Norway which places the Allies at a dangerous disadvantage’. (note 69) A new project was being forged.

The new and, as it would prove to be, final plans for Allied intervention in Scandinavia were named ‘Wilfred’ and ‘R. 4’, and was resolved by the War Cabinet on 30 and 31 March. ‘Wilfred’ included laying three precisely defined minefields within Norwegian territorial waters, by which German ore freighters were to be forced out into international waters. ‘R. 4’ was in principle composed of the preceding plans ‘Avonmouth’ and ‘Stratford’, could for the sake of the worldwide public opinion not be executed as an unprovoked attack, but had to be justified as a continuation of the mining operation directed against ‘a German move against Norway or Sweden’, as is stated in the planning document from 4 April. (note 70)

A schedule of operation was submitted, yet questions regarding what the expected German countermeasures would be remained unanswered. It was difficult to provide clear points of reference for how Germany was expected to answer. The movements of the German Navy were of course closely monitored by air reconnaissance, yet information might be ‘vague and unconfirmed’, and it was not denied that nothing might happen by the time the invasion fleet reached the Norwegian harbours. The passage would take 20 hours, and within this timeframe the ships could be ordered back. It was therefore recommended that the War Cabinet should commence the operation, even if information concerning German countermeasures was ‘unconfirmed’. The War Cabinet would have the ability to decide whether the ships were to be called back or continue their passage until the expedition was to call at the Norwegian ports.

This was an offensive plan with a poorly hidden justification. Derry writes that the Allied threats to the Norwegian and Swedish governments on 5 April and the mine laying on 8 April were aimed at provoking a German countermeasure, and that landing ‘would only take place if evidence of a suitably hostile German reaction to the mine laying were available immediately’. (note 71) In defence of Derry, it needs to be said that the examination of the course of events up until 9 April was not his main subject. He placed his focus on the British participation in the ensuing campaign in Norway. He does not let us know whether the Allies evaluated the situation differently after 12 March, or does he provide us with the documents penned by the Chief of Staff Committee and War Cabinet in their exact wording. The same can be said of Skodvin. Skodvin, however, concluded by stating that a British landing before 9 April was clearly out of the question. He was to return several times to a similar statement. In the journal Samtid og historie, he asked: ‘Was the mine laying in Norwegian waters 8 April a part of an invasion? Many claim so, including members of the military, not at least German. Considering by itself, this should make one wonder. If someone wants to invade, what sensible purpose would it serve, if one would advertise this with a previous fairly random laying of mines in advance?’ (note 72) His examination of the British plans ends with the remark of the War Cabinet from 4 April, that ‘no arrangement has, however, yet been made’. How ridiculous would it be, after all to talk of an invasion, only to advertise it in the newspapers?

His entire analysis, however, is based upon his observation that an Allied invasion never took place, not that it had never been discussed. In a lecture he gave at the military society in Oslo (Oslo Militære Samfund) in 1973, he went even further: ‘On one point, one can express oneself less cautiously now. There is one interpretation that can no longer be maintained; namely that Great Britain for a long time systematically and consistently planned landings in Norway […] this theory is dead’. (note 73) This expression by Skodvin covers not only the period up to 12 March but also the period following 28 March. If Skodvin had limited himself in stating that it was the planning itself which was not ‘systematic and consistent’, it could have been read as if he had no opinion on the ‘landings’. However, the way he combines the terms leaves us no alternative interpretation. He actually meant that the ‘theory’ of the landings was dead.

Skodvin was known for his precise use of language as a historian. He was a clever wordsmith, and his reasoning was sometimes infused with irony and sarcasm when addressing those whose opinions he did not share. In the quote from Samtid og historie he makes fun of a ‘random mine laying’, with emphasis placed on ‘random’ and ‘advertise’, that is words which are contrary to systematic, planned, and secret. Another expression he uses on the same page is ‘an eventual landing’. What he really tried to say at the Oslo Militære Samfund was that it was meaningless to talk about ‘landing’, because it had not been planned for ‘a long time, systematically and consistently’, as was the case with the German project. Thus we must ask ourselves whether the term ‘landing’ – that is, invasion – can only be used as long as it had been planned ‘for a long time, systematically and in secret’, like Skodvin wants us to believe, just as in the case of the Germans. Of course this is not always the case; we have countless examples of invasions from military history that were ill prepared, neither systematically planned nor kept secret, and of little surprise.

A prime example of such a case is the British landing at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles in 1915, in which numerous naval forces and an expeditionary corps, following an initiative of first lord of the admiralty Winston Churchill, tried opening a southern front against Germany by attacking the Ottoman Empire, in a move to force this powerful German ally out of the Great War. This did not succeed. The plans were well known at the time, and the Turks had, accordingly, prepared themselves well. This historical parallel was present during British planning during the winter of 1940. (note 74) In 1915, the invasion ended with a massive military defeat and Churchill’s resignation. Even though the 1915 landing had been known to the enemy in advance, it nonetheless undoubtedly counted as an invasion of the Ottoman Empire, and had the aim of seizing its capital, Istanbul.

In short, did the 1940 Allied endeavour’s ‘asymmetrical’ nature compared to the German project make it less of a planned ‘invasion’? It is difficult to believe that the erudite historian Skodvin could have been of that opinion. He has to be understood in this manner, however, should he not consciously have wanted to appear as ambiguous.

In this context it would go too far to serve Skodvin justice in all nuances and details he provided through the years in his written works, lectures, and talks on this topic. The same applies for the literature he leaned on. That his central view is correctly referred to here has to suffice, at this point.

However, is this view in line with the empirical facts? Since Derry’s and Skodvin’s time, the Allied Norwegian action in early 1940 has been treated in a series of works, yet hardly as thoroughly as the German counterpart, the preparatory study ‘Studie Nord’ and its successor, the ‘Weserübung’ itself. In this respect, the difference between the classic German study Weserübung by Walter Hubatsch in 1952, which was later deepened and corrected through the excellent works of historians such as Carl-Axel Gemzell and Michael Salewski, and the work of Thomas Kingston Derry, is striking. (note 75) Until the publication of Patrick Salmon’s Deadlock and Diversion in 2012, we have had no similar study of the Allied expedition plans to Scandinavia and Norway, including ‘Wilfred/R. 4’, or on the intelligence aspects of the endeavour, similar to Desarzen’s study on the ‘Weserübung’, even though many have touched on the subject. (note 76) There may be numerous reasons for this. The post-war era of course saw an utterly different approach in Germany to the events leading to the outbreak of war when compared to Great Britain. An additional reason could be the strict secrecy of the British archives, while the German files, as Allied war booty, were more or less open to historians. A third factor could be the British traditional policy of authorizing or classifying public studies on security affairs. (note 77) Both Derry and the English historian Basil Liddell Hart primarily concentrated themselves on the military operations rather than on the policy makers. However, in contrast to Derry, Liddell Hart did not doubt that the British and the German projects were two competing invasion plans, whereby both powers correctly considered their individual strategic interests. There he cited the words of a minister without portfolio in the War Cabinet, Lord Maurice Hankey, who had actually been among the British policy makers. Hankey wrote that:

from the start of planning to the German invasion, both Great Britain and Germany were keeping more or less level in their plans and preparations. Britain actually started planning a little earlier, partly owing to Mr. Churchill’s prescience, and partly perhaps because she had a better and more experienced system of Higher Control of the War than Germany. Throughout the period of preparations the planning continued normally. Both plans could be classed as major offensive operations of war […] both plans were executed almost simultaneously, Britain being twenty-four hours ahead in this so-called act of aggression, if the term is really applicable to either side. At any rate, if it was applicable to one belligerent, it was equally applicable to the other, and that is where the Nuremberg Tribunal, by describing only the German side of the campaign, went so grievously astray. (note 78)

What was it about the British operation following 12 March that Skodvin missed in his studies? The problem is that he separates ‘the rather haphazard’ ‘Wilfred’, the mining on 8 April with its intended effects, from the remaining parts of the entire plan of operations. Furthermore, he fails to analyse the consequences from the most important part of the entire plan, namely the ‘R. 4’ operation, which was decided upon during the same meeting of the War Cabinet as was ‘Wilfred’, and was being put into full effect on 8 April. ‘R. 4’ was a direct continuation of ‘Avonmouth’ and ‘Stratford’, even involving the same troops, and now, following 12 March, employing different grounds and with reduced forces, yet with considerable reserves up its sleeves.

Rather little has been written on ‘R. 4’, yet Derry – and of course Salmon – mentions the operation, as well as other studies. In Churchill and the Norway Campaign, British historian Graham Rhys-Jones writes that it was too late to deploy all of the ‘Stratford’ troops, as ‘R. 4’ had proposed, and that the Chiefs of Staff submitted to the War Cabinet on 6 April the option of sending a smaller amount of troops, now under the name ‘R. 4’, to occupy Narvik and the region to the Swedish border, Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger, as soon as German soldiers put their boots on Norwegian soil. According to Rhys-Jones, there was such a condition. (note 79) Knowledge concerning ‘R. 4’ has long found its way into popular science books, such as Douglas C. Dildy’s Denmark and Norway 1940. In Hitler’s Boldest Operation, Dildy writes that the forces intended for ‘R. 4’ were transported to the 1st Cruiser Squadron as early as 8 April and had been shipped out from Rosyth, Scotland, in the Firth of Forth, towards Norway’s harbours. (note 80)

The sources on which the entire decision concerning the implementation of ‘Wilfred/R. 4’ was based were made public in 1972, when the government documents from the 1939–1945 period were handed over to the Public Record Office (PRO) in London, the present National Archives, and eventually were made available to the public. (note 81) It seems as though Skodvin had, in vain, applied for access to the War Cabinet documents in 1951, as well as the war booty documents from the German Navy. (note 82) It appears from his deposited private archive in the Norwegian National Archive that he brought home a vast number of copied documents from the War Cabinet and various civil and military authorities after 1975. (note 83) We must believe that he wished to make a more thorough investigation than had been possible for his earlier works. He never remarked, however, whether this comprehensive selection of sources led him to alter or correct some of his former views and positions. Whatever may be the case, the uncertainties about what had happened on the side of the Allies, which lasted up to the early 1970s, were removed when the archives became accessible in 1972.

Skodvin was thus definitely of the opinion that the landing project was not to be considered an invasion in any classical interpretation of the term. It was basically to be seen as a response to a long-planned German attack on Norway and was supposed to be put into action only when it was certain such an attack was underway. He seems to have underestimated the fact that the Allied project was also based on long-term planning and that Hitler too was waiting for signs revealing the Allies’ intention to invade before giving the order to commence the ‘Weserübung’. The basic question is, consequently, if ‘R. 4’ can be seen separately from the mine laying operation ‘Wilfred’, and if ‘R. 4’ was purely thought of as a relief operation, in support of Norway, regardless of what Britain had intended shortly before.

The explicit answer to this question can be found in a document penned by the secretary of the War Cabinet, which will be examined in detail. One can indirectly extrapolate the answer if one takes a closer look at three conditions, which illustrate that the British had no doubts concerning the true nature of their undertaking. First, there are two occasions on which it was determined at what point in time ‘R. 4’ should follow ‘Wilfred’, which was odd if one earnestly wanted to wait for the German reaction. Second, ‘R. 4’ was to be set into motion despite the danger of a military confrontation with Norway, which is difficult to reconcile with the fact that it was designed to aid Norway in its campaign against Germany. The third point concerns how the plan was actually to be carried out, as it simply left no room to consider the German countermeasures.

The decision to restore the ‘Avonmouth’ and ‘Stratford’ troops from before 12 March was thus made by the War Cabinet on 30 March. The troops were reconstituted as ‘R. 4’ and coupled with Churchill’s old mine-laying proposal, ‘Wilfred’. (note 84) First, ‘R. 4’ as a plan was meant ‘to reply to any German violation of Norwegian territory or any clear intentions of the Germans to do so’; to land in Narvik, ‘to secure the port’ and the railroad until the Swedish border, ‘thus paving the way to the Galivare ore-fields’; and to subsequently ‘occupy Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim as a defensive measure in order to deny their use to the Germans as naval and/or air bases’. (note 85) Here, strategic reasons were repeatedly used. Moreover, it was determined that the forces to Stavanger, Bergen, and Trondheim should be ready to sail on 5 April, and that the mine laying was to take place the day before.

The protocol from the Chiefs of Staff Committee meeting on 3 April provides more precise dates. (note 86) The first battalion was to ship to Narvik on 5 April from Tail of the Bank on board the SS Batory, escorted by two battle cruisers and three destroyers, and arrive in Narvik on 10 April. The commander of the ground troops, Major-General Pierse Mackesy, and two companies were to follow aboard the HMS Aurora, which was also to serve as the flag ship for Admiral Lord Edward Mountevans, the naval Commander-in-Chief, ‘The Nore’. The main force was to sail seven days later. Two supply vessels would leave the Bristol Channel on 8 April and reach Narvik on 17 April, whereas the rest of the 1st British Brigade would leave the Clyde, according to plan, on 12 April and arrive at Narvik on 17 April. The two battalions on the way to Bergen and Stavanger were to leave on 5 April and arrive on 6 April. The battalion destined for Trondheim was to sail on 5 April aboard the SS Chobry and enter the port on 9 April. It was important that the troops board the ships in the proper order, as they were not able to stay aboard the battle cruisers for a longer time, which especially was the case for the 3,000 men waiting to board in Rosyth, on the east coast of Scotland.

One can clearly see how unrealistic the reservations of ‘clear evidence’ were from the fact that both the dates of departure and arrival were set in the ‘R. 4’, without any precise definition of what kind of evidence was expected. As will be shown, the clarification of such incertitude was simply postponed.

The question of acceptable use of force upon landing may indicate that the British themselves thought that this was an invasion, unwanted by the Norwegians, regardless of how immediate a German intervention may have been. In the military directives, which the War Office devised for the leaders of the ‘R. 4’, the question of the use of force was addressed. (note 87) The document contains four attachments describing the suboperations. The one for ‘Avonmouth’ claims that the landing would take place in collaboration with the Norwegian government. Opposing scenarios were also described, indicating that in exceptional cases one might encounter ‘minor opposition’. It was not desired that the troops would have to fight their way through Norway, but ‘If Norwegian troops or civilians open fire on your troops, a certain number of causalities must be accepted’. Answering fire was to be the last resort. (note 88) Corresponding sentences were included in the directive for ‘Stratford’, together of course with numerous practical details applying to the case of Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger.

Would they risk military confrontation with the Norwegians? When this question was posed by Foreign Secretary Halifax on 5 April, it was on the basis of continuous discussion since February, in which differing opinions were expressed. (note 89) The day that technical decisions were made to set the ‘machinery in motion’ for ‘Wilfred/R. 4’ was 5 April, as was said; that is, decisions on the necessary shipping capacity, on the proposed military orders for the commanding officers, and all sorts of practical arrangements that would make it finally possible to commence the action following the political decision to be made the next day. In conjunction with the decision on the mine laying then scheduled for 8 April, and the announcement made by the BBC early in the morning, Foreign Secretary Halifax asked if there was a danger of exchange of fire with Norwegian troops. (note 90) Churchill retorted that even if a minimal amount of force were to be used, they would not find themselves ‘ridden off by Norwegian warships […] The possibility of an exchange of shots could not, however, be excluded’. He was able to disclose that although the Norwegian forces had received orders to oppose violations of their neutrality, it appeared as if the Norwegians ‘were most afraid of a landing of troops’.

On 6 April, in the War Cabinet, Halifax called attention to the apparent inconsistency between the statements on collaboration with the Norwegian government and the danger of an exchange of fire, whereupon the Empire’s Chief of Staff, Major- General Hastings Ismay, responded that the Norwegian forces in Narvik ‘might be somewhat disorganised and might not be in communication with higher authority’. (note 91) Consequently there was the danger that ‘some opposition from the local troops might be encountered’, in spite of the general cooperation with the government. Halifax thus remarked that when it came to cooperation with the government, things ‘might be somewhat misleading’. His remark led to the military orders being altered. The question concerning an acceptable method of using force on landing hence remained unanswered and was left to the individual commanders. Even though the formula on exchanging fire disappeared, it had in the meantime become clear what they indicated: the military had not denied the danger of military resistance against mine laying as well as a landing.

What picture did the British have of the Norwegian military? In a separate enclosure to the military instructions, cooperation was deemed important yet it should not distract British troops from their missions. (note 92) In general, Norwegian soldiers were to be given less important tasks, such as guarding the coast, sentry duties, and similar functions. The Norwegians could continue their guarding of Norwegian naval and army air stations ‘unless our assistance is necessary and acceptable’. There was no disagreement over who would have the power over decisions in the occupied areas. More on the Norwegian military can be found in another document, treating the eventualities of a German attack on Norway. (note 93) Estimates saw four to five German divisions, which would be necessary for an attack in the Oslofjord area and westwards to Kristiansand, although a certain degree of insecurity remained in view of Stavanger, further to the west.

There can thus hardly be any doubt, despite the general assumptions, that the British were worried about being involved in possible acts of war with the Norwegian forces during their landing. It was impossible to anticipate how far these hostilities might go. However, it was absolutely realistic to fear fire from the strong Norwegian fortifications on the coast outside Bergen and Trondheim, let alone the uncertain situation in Narvik, regardless of what the Germans would undertake. The recognition of these problems exemplifies the degree to which the British were aware of the difficulties of selling the landings as a rescue mission for the Norwegians.

As previously mentioned, an explicit text can be found in one of the War Cabinet documents, in which the execution of ‘R. 4’ was no longer connected to the German reaction to ‘Wilfred’. The background for this document was that the operation had once more been delayed and had thus come under immense time pressure. The delay was caused by disagreements within the French government; ‘Wilfred/R. 4’ was originally linked to an at least equally daring operation on the continent, called ‘Royal Marine’. This operation aimed at mining the Rhine through an enormous and nigh unmanageable air operation, which was supposed to obstruct the Germans from crossing the Rhine as a part of their expected attack on France.

‘Royal Marine’ was a controversial plan for the French, as they feared this operation would unleash the German drive westwards. After the resignation of the French government, following the collapse of Finland in the Russo-Finnish war, a new government in France demanded – under great pressure from public unrest at home – fast and determined military action as far away as possible from their borders, preferably in Scandinavia. The new French Prime minister, Paul Reynaud, took part in the Allied War Council on 28 March, where he supported determined action in the north, but also spoke out against operation ‘Royal Marine’. On the one hand, this can be seen as a starting point for ‘a more virile war policy’, with a clear time schedule for the events to follow, while on the other, Britain had to wait to launch ‘Wilfred/R. 4’. (note 94) The controversies concerning the ‘Royal Marine’ plan brought Churchill to Paris with the intention of convincing the French, which led to ‘Wilfred’ being delayed three days, from 5 to 8 April. On 5 April Chamberlain had finally recognized that there could be no further delay and the launching of ‘Wilfred/ R. 4‘ had to commence without regard for ‘Royal Marine’. Churchill returned empty-handed; he had not succeeded and had tacitly accepted that the mining of the Rhine would not take place. (note 95)

Finally, on 5 April the War Cabinet decided to schedule the beginning of the mine laying on 8 April. The day after, on 6 April, the last decisions were made and the operation was set in motion. Halifax then received protest from the Swedish and Norwegian governments in reply to the preceding diplomatic notes from the Allies, which had been sent the previous day. (note 96) Afterwards, the cabinet moved forward to make the necessary decisions for the upcoming operations. The Secretary of the War Cabinet gave the following synopsis of the decisions in his ‘Summary of War Cabinet Conclusions on Scandinavia and Finland’, which was a part of the complete conclusions of the War Cabinet for the entire of 1939 and 1940:

The War Cabinet approved, subject to minor corrections, draft instructions (W. P.(40) 188) to naval and military commanders who were to carry out operation “Wilfred” and operation R. 4 (the seizing of Narvik, Trondhjem, Bergen and Stavanger). (note 97)

Presumably, Skodvin did not know this document. (note 98) Here one finds none of the reservations that had been included in the planning documentation for the landing operation until 5 April, namely that the Germans should first put their boots on Norwegian ground, or should have revealed their clear will to do so. There was probably a simple reason for this. Now the irrelevant talk and justifications directed to the public had to give way to the realities of the situation. Developments no longer made it possible to pay heed to such things, and the actual intention, which had been present before 12 March, came to light: there will be landings in four towns – without fuss or quibble – in order to get there before the Germans. The ‘minor corrections’ already mentioned consisted of details on how to cope with Norwegian resistance, and in particular that the commander of ‘Avonmouth’ should receive more specific orders before entering Sweden. ‘Wilfred’ and ‘R. 4’ were to be put into action, without waiting for something else to happen.

As a result of the delay, the German operation had a day or two’s lead in the race. The Allies previously only had knowledge of the German naval movements through air surveillance, just as German airplanes monitored daily movements of the British vessels of the Home Fleet. Initial reports on 7 April of German naval movements towards the north were, however, not directly put in connection with Norway.

What happened then with ‘R. 4’? Everything was prepared for and ready on 5 April. Due to the delay, the boarding of troops from ‘Avonmouth’ and ‘Stratford’ first took place on 6 April. (note 99) Military agents with wireless radio equipment had been transported and stationed in the four Norwegian towns. Their role was to make local arrangements, serve as liaisons to loyal Norwegian military, and to receive the troops. (note 100) Two naval forces, lying in wait in Scotland, were made ready to sail once more. The first battle cruiser division, consisting of two cruisers and 15 destroyers in Rosyth in the Firth of Forth, were to land four battalions in Bergen and Stavanger; whereas the ships in the Clyde on the west coast, the second battle cruiser division, consisting of a cruiser and six destroyers, were to ship a battalion to Trondheim and a reduced brigade to Narvik. (note 101) Admiral Lord Mountevans hoisted his flag on board the HMS Aurora, commanding three other cruisers, the battleship HMS Warspite, and four destroyers, where he forwarded the instructions and orders of the Admiralty on how the landings in the four towns should take place. (note 102) In addition, there was a battleship group of the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow on the Orkney Isles, consisting of the battleships HMS Rodney, HMS Repulse, and HMS Valiant, in addition to 10 destroyers, to support the Narvik group, and the naval units to escort the ‘Wilfred’. Eighteen submarines cruising towards selected targets in the Skagerrak formed a further part of the operation, in order to cut off German naval vessels from travelling northwards, and also a convoy escort, which was to ship supplies safely over the North Sea to the Norwegian coast. The passage was calculated to take around 20 hours. All available warships were engaged. (note 103)

Is it nonetheless conceivable that the Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Dudley Pound, was still able to call off the operation? Theoretically he was in a position to do so, but practically it did not appear as relevant. The condition for a call-off would have been the observation of no German counteractions to the mine laying, which, due to the delay, was to take place just hours prior to the fleet arriving in the Norwegian harbours. It would have been practically impossible to detect a German reaction in such a short time.

Furthermore, it was simply impossible to take such reservations into consideration due to the great speed of things after the plans were set in motion following the War Cabinet decision on 6 April. The delay had made it impossible to have a pause between mine laying and landing. ‘Wilfred’ and ‘R. 4’ had to proceed in succession, with only hours in between. Whilst the sailing orders for ‘R. 4’ had already been given for midnight 7 April, the mine laying took place only five hours later. As the mines were laid, the ‘R. 4’ was already sailing across the sea. Owing to all practical concerns, it was already too late for the invasion fleet to consider possible German manoeuvers. This was an inevitable consequence of the fact that the fleet had sailed. It could, of course, for all practical purposes, not be sent on an unlimited series of voyages up and down the Norwegian coast. On 8 April, Britain told France that they were preparing to withdraw two divisions and a corps headquarter, and perhaps even a third division, from the continent in order to reinforce ‘R. 4’. (note 104)

The scene then once again shifted. Later the same day as the ‘R. 4’ ships were on course to Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, and Narvik, observations of German naval units were conveyed to the Admiralty. At this point, the Admiral of the Fleet could have realised that all expected German countermeasures had in fact taken place, should they have had any relevance to the British course of action. (note 105) In any case, at this stage they would have provided a watertight excuse for the landing operation. The Admiralty, however, interpreted the German naval movements incorrectly. After an early assumption that the ships would turn into Skagerrak, they later concluded that the ships were sailing north-west to break out to the North Sea, setting course to the Atlantic. (note 106)

The observation of the German vessels, therefore, led to the landing operation being called off. Not only ‘R. 4’ but also the mine laying and observation of the mine fields were stopped, after just a single field had been laid out with real mines. The ‘R. 4’ troops, which had been on the open sea, were unloaded to prepare the cruisers and other naval units for hunting down the German vessels. (note 107) The Admiralty assumed that the German fleet could be destroyed if the cruisers succeeded in forcing it into close combat. The signs pointed towards another Battle of Jutland, as in 1916. Here, we will let the further course of events rest.

There is, then, hardly a doubt that a full-scale British landing operation was underway on 8 April, with the aim of occupying Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger, and that the troops were on the high seas whilst mines were laid. Was this a ‘real invasion’? Not according to Skodvin. Not because he denied the existence of these ships and crews, but because he was of the opinion that the mine laying operation ‘Wilfred’ and the invasion forces of ‘R. 4’ had nothing to do with each other and were not connected. He interpreted ‘R. 4’ as a sort of aid for Norway, already being under invasion by Germany.

To sum up, there were undoubtedly similarities and differences between both of these invasion forces. As for the similarities, both the German and most of the British landing forces had been loaded onto naval vessels, which were in fact audacious experiments. The most important similarity was that both primarily aimed at cooperating with the Norwegian government and military, so that a military occupation would result in the least possible impact on everyday civilian life. Both, however, expected the danger of Norwegian resistance and were prepared to ignore Norwegian protests. Both were motivated by the military threat posed by the respective other, especially in view of preventing a strategic naval chokehold of the other side. During preparations, both had positioned secret agents and helpers in Norway, and both sides were eager to arrive first. Both forces roughly counted the same number of troops for the first wave, and required further reinforcements for later waves. (note 108) Both used the threat posed by the respective other as a pretext and a cover in order to pursue their own interests.

Furthermore, there were a lot of differences. The political characters of Great Britain and Germany naturally pose the greatest difference. The Allied project had stronger political and geographical limitations than the German one. However, both Churchill and Hankey characterize the operation in strategic terms as offensive warfare. (note 109) Just as before 12 March, the Allies were primarily interested in the ore fields located in north Sweden and the ore transports in Norwegian waters, as well as denying Germany access to the coastal areas of western Norway, where they could set up naval bases; the ulterior motive being a possible attack on Great Britain and the strategically important naval war. The Germans had far greater ambitions. They wanted to occupy the whole of Norway and to include her in Germany’s strategic and military plans, as well as exploit her economic and human resources. While Britain did not desire an extensive military confrontation with Norway, or, with exception of operations from Narvik, any offensive operations from her beachheads, Germany was prepared to crush any serious resistance of Norwegian military units in the entire country, using all possible means. The need for air support and heavier weapons had been underestimated by Britain, whereas Germany had meticulously planned everything down to the smallest detail, amongst other things by shipping supplies and equipment into Norwegian harbours before the attack. The British operational instructions were less thorough and prepared than the German, also in view of a row of practical details of military relevance, as was confirmed by the ensuing campaign in Norway.

In short, it has to be concluded that even though the operations were ‘asymmetrical’ due to their differences, they nonetheless were invasions, if this term is to have any practical meaning. This asymmetry means, therefore, that the Allied landing operation was nothing less than an invasion, and that the relationship between the German and Allied invasion was nothing short of a race. If one enters a country with troops against the will of its inhabitants, then it is an invasion. A race stays a race, even if its participants are very dissimilar. There can be no doubt that the main actors on both sides perceived and interpreted the situation as a race, even though they had no accurate information on the opponent, and there Raeder and Churchill were no exceptions. (note 110) Intelligence personnel on the spot and diplomats were accustomed to these and similar sport-like descriptions in their cables; a case in point was the Norwegian envoy to Berlin, Arne Scheel, who wired home about a possible German action, speculating that their intention was ‘to come ahead of the Western powers and speed up the tempo of the war’. (note 111)

The first Allied orders to attack had been given before the end of the Finno- Russian war on 12 March, and the second orders, ‘Wilfred/R. 4’, on 6 April. The argument behind both operations was to carry the war onto Scandinavian soil, and to force Sweden and Norway to declare war on Germany and, if the Treaty of Moscow had not been signed, also on the Soviet Union. A highly aggressive policy was thus concealed here. The question on the side of the Allies was not if Germany was to attack Norway, Denmark, or Sweden, but how to make her do so in a manner beneficial to the Allies. ‘It is clearly not in the German interest that the war should spread to Scandinavia’, wrote the Chiefs of Staff Committee as late as 29 March, and added: ‘We must […] guard against any improvements they may attempt to make in their strategic position. We therefore set out below the possible German re-actions and the precautionary and counter measures which we consider the Allies should be prepared to take’. (note 112) The intention was to enhance the Allied strategic position and to prevent the Germans from improving their own position in the region. That is what really matters in this context, rather than which pretexts were offered and in which sequence to create a sufficient reason for war. It is not difficult to find examples of Great Powers creating more or less credible grounds to justify invasions, whether in the past or the present; in fact, this is rather the rule than the exception.

Thus, both the strategic arguments and the actual details undermine Skodvin’s argument that the German assumptions for their attack were based on an illusion. As far as we know for certain, Skodvin never returned to the complete contents of the decision made by the War Cabinet on 6 April, and he never commented on the summary rendered by the War Cabinet Secretary. However, as a chief editor of the voluminous work Norge i krig, he indirectly paid the British landing operation a visit in 1984. In that year, the Norwegian historian Professor Ole Kristian Grimnes, one of Skodvin’s most brilliant students and author of the first volume, Overfall (Attack), stated that ‘the landing was to be put into action, as soon as the Germans had placed a foot on Norwegian soil or there was evidence that they intended to do so’. (note 113) In other words, in his opinion and – as we must presume – also in the opinion of the chief editor, Skodvin, the British landing operation had the German reaction as a prerequisite. It was, thus, not an independent invasion, but a conditional invasion. This was essentially the same as what Skodvin had already written in 1956. Moreover, Skodvin repeated these formulations in a book published in 1990. (note 114)

Another student of Skodvin’s, Professor Olav Riste, attacked in autumn 2012 the chief editor and author of the latest survey of Norwegian history, Norvergr, Professor Maj-Brith Ohman Nielsen, for her portrayal of the events leading to the invasion of Norway in April 1940. (note 115) There he goes so far as to accuse Ohman Nielsen of historical forgery, claiming that she ‘strikes the pendulum back to the German propaganda version of 1940, according to which the Great Powers had devised parallel plans of occupying Norway’. (note 116) He believes that she had discarded all the well-founded research of Loock, Salewski, Salmon, and Skodvin. Riste, however, tries to open an already opened door, as Ohman Nielsen has shown. (note 117) What nearly all accounts of modern history on the issue have proven was simply that Germany could not blame the Allies for the invasion of Norway, but was following its own strategic goals with the occupation. Thus the German propaganda, blaming the Allies, was false. For Riste, as for Skodvin before him, this meant that the Allied invasion plan did not exist at all, and for that reason there was no race between the Allies and Germany for control over Norway. The reader may judge the validity of such logic.

It must be presumed that in 1984, as well as in 1990, Skodvin still believed that the German assumption of a British invasion of Norway was based on an illusion, in the beginning presented by the German navy and later promoted by Rosenberg’s APA staff – not least by Scheidt – and by Quisling and Prytz. But, as proved by the sources, this was no illusion. Regarding the Allied side, the Germans, in broad terms, had come to a proper assessment of how plans would unfold. The conclusion is obvious: had the Finno-Russian war lasted beyond 12 March and the final delay not occurred on 5 April, the Allies would have landed in Norway before the Germans. Or, if the Germans had scheduled the ‘Wesertag’ for 10 April, they would have arrived at the same time as the Allies. Had Hitler chosen 11 April, the British would have been the first to make it to Norway. (note 118) Liddell Hart adds that the Germans were faster and more energetic in the final sprint: ‘The Germans won the race with a short margin – it was almost a photo finish’. (note 119)

Quisling’s coup and the NS officers

The ensuing events are known to us. On 9 April, Quisling launched the coup he had planned since 18 December 1939, for which Hitler apparently gave the green light on the same day. This was not in conflict with Hitler’s main plan to force the Norwegian government to adopt a ‘Danish solution’. On the contrary, Quisling’s actions were a logical alternative, as the original plan of capturing the king and government had failed due to the sinking of the Blücher. Here, Scheidt and the APA beyond doubt played a supporting role, particularly as a channel of communication between Quisling and Berlin.

The most interesting question for us here is when Hitler switched from his original plan to the alternative. This presumably happened shortly after Bräuer informed Berlin about the Norwegian government’s rejection of the German ultimatum on the morning of 9 April. From then on all German political initiatives were conducted in conjunction with military commando operations. Bräuer’s well-known journey to Elverum on 10 April, where he tried to persuade the king to accept Quisling as his prime minister, followed shortly after the commando raid on Midtskogen, where the Germans had attempted to capture both king and government. Directly before this, Quisling had ordered Colonel Hans Hiorth, commanding officer of the Elverum regiment and a member of the Nasjonal Samling, to arrest them. It would be highly illogical not to connect these three events. Pohlman, Schreiber, and Scheidt worked closely together, whilst Bräuer played the role of the trapping diplomatic decoy. Whereas Skodvin still views Bräuer’s negotiation as traditional diplomacy, it should rather be regarded as a bluffing hit in the air on the German side, designed to weaken and sustain resistance while the German military did its job. To argue an alternative plan, i.e. Quisling’s coup, was miserably prepared, as is obvious, does not provide proof to falsify the existence of such a plan. Although strategically in line, he too had to consider in which position he could be if the Allies landed first. We must bear in mind that the situation was extremely uncertain and anything could happen. For example, successfully utilizing Quisling depended on a string of totally unpredictable events, such as Blücher not reaching Oslo, the air force not landing at Fornebu Airport, and the Germans not succeeding in capturing the king and government. It was certainly not the matter of the commanding military to consider the political consequences of the outcome of these events. Hitler had explicitly prohibited the generals to interfere in politics, this was Hitler’s matter, and that political problems caused military problems can hardly count as an objection.

Quisling’s efforts to convert a political crisis into a ‘national’ government during the winter of 1939 and spring of 1940 pervaded the Nasjonal Samling’s propaganda, claiming the parliament to be illegitimate since 1 January 1940. (note 120) To further stimulate this development, a flow of rumours were spread about an imminent communist coup in Finnmark in mid-February, that the government would neither resist a Soviet invasion in the north nor a British one in the south. This was all presumably aimed at provoking a military state of emergency in the entire country, or parts of it.

As shown in the recent study on the Norwegian military fascism Vi er jo et militært parti, the Nasjonal Samling had at this point a number of officers in key positions in the army. They were found in the general staff, naval staff, and in the defence ministry. They were even found in Colonel Wilhelm Faye’s brigade staff in the headquarters of the mobilized forces on neutrality watch in north Norway, where the communist coup rumours originated, determining the agenda. Skodvin writes, however, in a sort of an agreement with a report of Bräuer: ‘The supporters of Quisling in the Norwegian military were few, and there were hardly any among the youngest officers’. (note 121) Skodvin never attempted to verify or prove this claim. Furthermore, there is no evidence in his private archive of if he ever tried to substantiate the claim by researching the Nasjonal Samling’s files for member officers. One might surmise that a skilled rhetorician such as he would have replied that it was useless to demand evidence for nothing. Nonetheless, the claim was not based on research. Skodvin’s opinion on this matter has continually been repeated by his students, despite abundant evidence in the comprehensive files in the archives of the Nasjonal Samling, the files of different military and civil investigation and research commissions, and a vast number of treason trials after 1945. Quite the contrary, a study shows that at least 14 % of the 648 officers in service with the Norwegian military on 9 April 1940, above the rank of lieutenant, were or had recently been Nasjonal Samling members. At least 20 % became members following 9 April, a percentage which is roughly seven times higher than membership in other professions. Additional studies on cadets from the military academy and of lower ranking officers confirm this figure, although the latter group had a slightly lower percentage membership than the senior officers. A further 22 % of senior officers held central public office functions and positions in the Nazi state without being party members. So, in total, slightly more than 40% should be counted as professional military followers of Quisling, the existence of whom Skodvin denies. (note 122)

Quisling, Prytz, and the motives of the Nasjonal Samling movement

The time has come to question if Skodvin is going too far in absolving Quisling from his participation in the German invasion. There are a number of clues indicating that he played a role in Hitler’s plans, and that the person who was supposed to activate him should the military’s surprise attack fail was Hans-Wilhelm Scheidt, Hitler’s confidant. Hitler’s primary wish was to collaborate with the Norwegian government, just like in Denmark. If this was not successful, the Norwegian party leader was available for Hitler’s alternative solutions. Undoubtedly it is incorrect that Quisling was not involved in feeding the military preparations. On several occasions he contributed intelligence on the Norwegian army and gave officers of the Abwehr direct advice for operations, the last time only six days prior to 9 April and specifically requested by Hitler himself.

Likewise, it is time to accept that the national socialist actors within the APA, who most urgently warned of the danger of a British landing in Norway, and the German admiralty, which underscored the warnings from the point of view of the Navy’s strategic interest, were, alongside the OKW’s Abwehr, the parties that most correctly analysed the strategic situation in view of how the Allied plans would develop. They did this far more precisely than Skodvin’s witnesses of faith within the German Foreign Service. (note 123) In this context it could prove interesting to pose the question of whether it was at all possible in the mid-1950s to claim that our British friends in the west – who were our saviours in 1945 and guarantors against communism in the following years – had actually planned to invade us in 1940.

Quisling’s coup d’état in the spring of 1940, originating in agreement with Hitler, who had probably accepted it with certain reservations, was not the first coup d’état project by the Nasjonal Samling. It can be traced back to an attempted coup in 1932, when the so-called ‘Hafrsfjord Circle’ around captain and financier Frederik Prytz commenced military planning for a coup and tried to put it into effect during the governmental crisis in the autumn of 1932, when Quisling was defence minister. (note 124) Then, a group of young, aspiring officers with bright careers ahead of them were at the helm of the conspiracy. Central in this circle were the commander of the right-wing paramilitary secret army, the Norges Samfundsvern, Major Ragnvald Hvoslef, section chief in the general staff, Captain Adolf Munthe, minister and major in the artillery, Vidkun Quisling, office manager in the defence ministry, Captain Petter Mjøllner, and chief of staff in the 6th division, Captain Halvor Hansson, as well as other younger and older officers. But above all stood Frederik Prytz, the half-British timber trade baron from Archangelsk, who lost his gilt-edged source of income when the Bolsheviks nationalized the great foreign possessions in the densely-wooded governorate Archangelsk and threw out the investors in 1928. (note 125)

Thus, in December 1939, it was Prytz who came up with the idea that led Quisling to Hitler. Events, however, developed in a totally different manner than Prytz had imagined; his great scheme was that Germany and the Allies would destroy the Bolshevist state in the east, and not that the Nasjonal Samling would become involved in the German invasion plans for Norway, or simply to serve as a clientele movement for Hitler. Quisling’s transformation through the hands of Hitler’s people, the APA, and the German Navy, turning him into a traitor, took place in great secrecy within the Nasjonal Samling. It appears that even Prytz was never told the truth before 9 April. Certainly he criticized Quisling for publicizing his approach towards Chamberlain in Fritt Folk, yet later accepted that this had torpedoed his great plan of striking a pact between Germany and Great Britain. In this respect, Skodvin seems to have been totally unaware of the diametrically opposed interests within the Nasjonal Samling concerning Norway’s position in the game the great powers were playing in the north. One of the reasons for this neglect may be Skodvin’s focus on the despised Scheidt and the even more detested Hagelin, Scheidt’s most eager and perhaps most capable Norwegian assistant.

For Prytz, an alliance between Germany and Britain was the logical continuation of what he and others had planned when they joined the movement at its birth in 1931. (note 126) Prytz’s ideas of politics were based on what he had privately experienced and his own economic interests. He had been the spokesman of a group of financiers in Norway and Great Britain who had invested heavily in developing the timber trade in the governorate of Archangelsk in northern Russia. From 1909, he had established himself there as a central stakeholder. It was also there that he, adapting to the constantly changing politics in Russia, had created great revenue for himself and his investors. Eventually he was forced to realize the end of the game as the New Economic Policy of the Soviet Union was terminated in 1928. (note 127) But he did not give up. His experience convinced him that it would be worthwhile to fight for what had been lost. This had, however, to be done on the political battlefield, and from the outside. That is why Prytz, from this date on, became a driving force in putting Norway in place for a final countdown with the Bolshevik state. As an instrument of this imperialist urge, Prytz became mentor of Nordic racism, which used saga literature and contemporary pseudo-science to establish that northern Russia, from medieval days, had been inhabited by people of ‘the Nordic race’, and thus Norway had historically-founded sovereign claims to the territory. He was instrumental in placing this idea at the centre of the Norwegian Nazi ideology from the time the movement emerged, as can be seen from its name until 1933: ‘Nordiske Folkereisning’ (Nordic Folk Uprising’). (note 128)

Prytz held a decisive role during the movement’s first few years. As the ‘grand old man’, he was the leading architect of the 1932 coup project and the founding of the party in the following year. After the Nasjonal Samling was founded, he tried to keep the party on track from his remote landed estate in Trøndelag, just like he set Quisling in motion with the alliance project in the summer and autumn of 1939. This failed, yet he did not give in. In the summer of 1941, directly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, operation ‘Barbarossa’, he again saw events open a possibility to realize the Nordic imperialist project for which he lived and breathed. He now proposed that Nazi Norway would put its entire weight behind the German eastern campaign. Finally, there was the hope of recapturing what had been lost. Moreover, the decisive military battle with Bolshevism would prove what an important ally Norway was for Germany. This posed the possibility that Hitler would terminate the state of war de jure with Norway, thus redeeming the goodwill for which Quisling had a legitimate claim since December 1939.

Prytz again made a proposal that encouraged his friend Quisling to act. As he believed that the German campaign would most likely succeed over the course of a few weeks, he proposed that Norway should contribute military aid as soon as possible. The condition to the Germans would have to be that Norway received the northern sectors of the occupied territories, so that the old Nordic regions of northern Russia would fall under Norwegian military rule. There was work behind the scenes to make Prytz governor general of a new region, consisting of the old and new northern territories and with Vadsø as a regional capital. (note 129)

As a result, ‘Den norske Legion’ (The Norwegian Legion) emerged. Although the legion was never used as Prytz had wished, and although he never served as governor general of a new, consolidated Finnmark/Archangelsk region, Norwegian Nazism would once again play a role on the international scene, as it had already done in connection with the German invasion on 9 April 1940.


There is good reason to claim that Skodvin’s view of Quisling’s role in connection with the German invasion of 1940 leans too far in acquitting Quisling. Indeed, Quisling did everything in his power to prepare for a German invasion by honouring what he saw as an arrangement made with Hitler during their Berlin meetings in December 1939. Even though we do not know how far he came in the process, it seems he was determined to prepare to seize power through military means and, as the head of a national government, invite German military assistance against an Allied invasion. As a source for secret military intelligence, he did everything feasible to answer German questions, even travelling incognito to Copenhagen on 3 April.

Skodvin’s underestimation of Quisling’s role prior to 9 April is a part of his even greater neglect of the Norwegian party leader’s influence among Norwegian officers. For Quisling, the coup d’état on 9 April can be seen as the realization of the 1932 coup attempt, but now with German help. Skodvin, conversely, believed that the coup d’état on 9 April was merely the result of intrigues, conducted by the office of the NSDAP’s Außenpolitisches Amt, without Hitler’s knowledge and will. This assumption is based on an over-interpretation of sources originating in the Auswärtiges Amt. A more balanced interpretation must be that Hitler, in addition to a purely military plan, also had a political plan up his sleeve which offered space for Quisling and his officers, a plan B to be set in motion should the lawful government, through unforeseen events, be pushed into resistance, in contrast to all assumptions. And that was precisely what happened.

As a consequence of the great differences between the German and Allied invasion projects, Skodvin underemphasizes the importance of the Allied operation. He even goes so far as to question if it ever was put into action, and with a rhetorical lash denies that it could even be called an ‘invasion’ in the sense of everyday language. (note 130) Here, in contrast, we have to agree with the German historian Hans-Dietrich Loock, who, in his book on Quisling, Rosenberg, and Terboven, concurred with Churchill when noting: ‘The two admiralties thought with precision along the same lines in correct strategies’. (note 131)

Our conclusion is that the German admiralty and the NSDAP’s foreign office, on the whole, made a realistic assessment of an Allied landing in Norway. In the short term, an Allied victory would have weakened Germany’s position vis-à-vis Great Britain and seriously weakened Germany’s situation in relation to global strategy.

Quite another part of the story is that the leaders of the Nasjonal Samling had their own motives to establish contact with Hitler following the outbreak of the Second World War. They wanted power and needed Hitler to attain it. The plan originated in Prytz’s proposal to forge an alliance between Germany and England, enabling both states jointly to smash the Soviet Union and to destroy international Bolshevism. These thoughts paved the way for Quisling’s meeting in December 1939 in Berlin. A corresponding approach to British authorities, which would have made it possible for Prytz to travel to London, was torpedoed, probably due to the German involvement. During Quisling’s talks in Berlin, Prytz’s idea of a German–British alliance was altered to a unilateral support of Germany. This, in the end, led to Quisling committing support to a German invasion.

By placing greater significance on the German civil service and disparaging the antagonists in the APA, it appears as if Skodvin was unable really to grasp the threat posed by the Allies. From his perspective, the German invasion appears separated from the actual political areas of tension between the great powers and the strategic game in which it unfolded. Quisling also appears disproportionally downgraded when confronted with the great force of the German project. Quisling’s transformation in the development from Prytz’s proposal of a German–British pact towards becoming a unilateral German actor also appears to be absent in Skodvin’s reflections.

The historiographical tradition based on Skodvin has a tendency to use the German invasion plans to downplay those of the Allies, explaining them away in the mist and thus rendering them as non-existent. This is done through almost unanimous and meritorious research, which has proven that the German invasion was motivated by its own strategic considerations, and that these cannot be trivialized through a race with the Allies. However, a reference to German strategic plans does not prove that the Allies had no such plans of their own.

Perhaps Skodvin’s real concern was to explain why a German invasion had to take place sooner or later, regardless of what the Allies did, and irrespective of whether Norway had mobilized or not, or if the Norwegians had been weakened by a mistaken mobilization in the north and had nearly been paralysed by the threat from the west. Perhaps he was right about that. However, this can never be verified, as it lies outside of the domain of historical research.


1 This article is based on a lecture held on 6 February 2011 at the Norwegian Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, in context with the publication of the first volume of the author’s study of Norwegian military fascism, Vi er jo et militært parti. This English translation by John Daly is based on a German translation by Magnus Enxing and the Norwegian original text.

2 The APA, under leadership of Alfred Rosenberg, was founded shortly after Hitler took power in 1933. The Abteilung Norden (Northern Division) was led by Thilo von Trotha until his death in 1938, when Hans-Wilhelm Scheidt took over. Scheidt was born in Russia as the child of German parents, was educated in England, and developed a great interest for Scandinavian affairs after several trips to the northern countries. Archive material of the APA’s Abteilung Norden are today stored in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin-Lichterfelde (BA), under the shelfmark R 58, NS 43.

3 Weserübung was the code name of the operation of the German invasion of Norway and Denmark.

4 Desarzens, Nachrichtendienstliche Aspekte, 9f.

5 The title is ambiguous as it refers both to the real conflict in 1940 and the debate among historians about it. This ambiguity was probably intentional.

6 ‘Our helper […] in leadership’; Goebbels, Die Tagebücher, vol. 4, 104.

7 BA. R 58, NS 43 28.

8 The work of the German historian Hans-Dietrich Loock, Quisling, Rosenberg und Terboven, gave a broad and almost encyclopaedic introduction of the subject matter treated in this article without sharing Skodvin’s exaggerated conclusions. The proposal of appointing Terboven to Norway came, according to Loock, from Field Marshall Hermann Göring on 16 April 1940. On 19 April 1940, Terboven was ordered to Berlin und informed of his appointment by Hitler; Loock, Quisling, Rosenberg und Terboven, 339.

9 The two developed formulations concerning the future balance of power between the civil and military authorities in Norway, enforcing Hitler’s desire for a strong Reichskommissar, at the same time as objections from the Wehrmacht were considered; Loock, Quisling, Rosenberg und Terboven, 339.

10 There has been a lengthy public discussion in Norway of whether or not Norway as a state surrendered to Germany, and consequently whether or not Norway and Germany were at war, after signing the military capitulation treaty on 10 June 1940 in Trondheim. The discussion, first commenced after the capitulation treaty became known to the public during NS minister Ragnar Skancke’s 1947 trial for treason, was based on the interpretation of the treaty text signed by General Otto Ruge and the German Oberkommando Colonel Erich Buschenhagen. In view of the fact that Hitler’s decree from 24 April 1940 maintained a state of war with Norway until the German capitulation in 1945, this discussion is entirely irrelevant. It was because of this state of war that Quisling tried unsuccessfully through the entire occupation period to convince Hitler to make peace with Norway. For a recent summary of the discussion concerning the surrender treaty, see Hovland and Borgersrud, ‘Introduction’.

11 Note from 30 May 1940; BA. R 58, NS 43 25, p. 250.

12 The parliamentary commission, set up to investigate the actions of the Storting, the government, the Supreme Court, the Administrative Government, and other civil 9 APRIL REVISED 387 and military authorities during the period 9 April–25 September 1940, was appointed on 3 August 1945 and delivered five recommendations by 1946, with nine attachments; Stortinget, Innstilling.

13 Falkenhorst’s Interrogation from 4 September 1945, Riksarkivet (RA), UK-45, 6, ‘Falkenhorst’.

14 ‘On 14 December, Hitler commissioned a report on an operation concerning Norwegian targets (“Studie Nord”)’, wrote Skodvin, without mentioning that this first happened after two meetings with Quisling; Skodvin, Norsk historie, 35. The only mention in the book of Quisling’s trips to Berlin is found in an indirect reference: ‘In Berlin, in December 1939, Quisling understood he could expect German help if it were to come to a change of government, which would bring him to power in Norway’; Skodvin, Norsk historie, 50.

15 The film, made by Ingerid Hagen, Jon Gjerstad, and Bente Olav, is about the war veteran Svein Blindheim and was televised by the Norwegian State Broadcasting Corporation in June 2006 and November 2007.

16 The Norwegian historians Rolf Hobson and Tom Kristiansen, both from the Norwegian Defence Research Institute, have played down Quisling’s role to such an extent that it appears as if the German Navy’s desire for bases in Norway would have led to the invasions even if Quisling and his supporters had not visited Berlin. They renounce any kind of rivalry between the Allies and Germany, maintain that whatever the Allies and Norway had planned was of little importance, and that the Norwegian resistance would have been nipped in the bud by the greatly superior German forces, even if Norway’s military had been fully mobilized. Hobson and Kristiansen, Total krig.

17 Loock, Quisling, Rosenberg und Terboven, 290.

18 Ibid., 272.

19 Skodvin, Striden om okkupasjonsstyret, 28.

20 Ibid., 54.

21 For a closer look at the coup, see Borgersrud, Like gode nordmenn?, 24–67.

22 In a detailed study on the history of the Auswärtiges Amt, an independent German commission of historians showed that this was not the case; see Conze et al., Das Amt und die Vergangenheit; Döscher, Seilschaften.

23 The exhibition ‘Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941–1944’, by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, which was set up in 34 cities in Germany and Austria between 1995 and 1999, removed any doubts on the participation of the Wehrmacht in the Holocaust and gave rise to renewed discussion on the ethical and structural role of the Wehrmacht in the Nazi state; see ‘Crimes of the German Wehrmacht’.

24 Cf. Salewski, Deutschland und der Zweite Weltkrieg, 109.

25 Cf. Bekker, Hitler’s Naval War, 392.

26 Cf. Salmon, Scandinavia and the Great Powers, 332.

27 Cf. Gemzell, Raeder, Hitler und Skandinavien, 217–29.

28 Cf. ibid., 271–4.

29 Cf. Salmon, Scandinavia and the Great Powers, 161.

30 Cf. Desarzens, Nachrichtendienstliche Aspekte, 105–30.

31 On 26 March 1947, during Hermann Harris Aall’s trial for treason, Assistant Commissioner Gunnar Meyer gave a detailed report on Aall’s connections to the Abwehr; see RA. Landssvikarkivet, Oslo politikammer: dom 3089/47, dok. 14, 4, 19.

32 Borgersrud, Vi er jo et militært parti, 299–303.

33 Cf. Salmon, Scandinavia and the Great Powers, 330.

34 There had been a certain level of uncertainty at what dates these meetings with Hitler actually took place. In his diary, Rosenberg wrote on 19 December 1939 that they happened on 15 and 17 December. Based on numerous authors, Dahl has come to the conclusion that the correct dates were the 14 and 18 December: Dahl, Vidkun Quisling, 41; Gemzell, Raeder, Hitler und Skandinavien, 217f; Desarzens, Nachrichtendienstliche Aspekte, 3.

35 Prytz’s plan and the course of events until the meetings in Berlin are treated in the 9th chapter of Borgersrud, Vi er jo et militært parti, 288–337.

36 During the time around the outbreak of war with Poland on 1 September 1939, Grand Admiral Raeder hoped that it would be a short war and Hitler would compromise with England; Salewski, Deutschland und der Zweite Weltkrieg, 116. There were naturally also such hopes in Great Britain. An external witness for this was the Soviet ambassador in Great Britain, Ivan Maisky (Maiskij), who, in his account of his time in London, describes the so-called Cliveden Circle, which worked towards a treaty between the four powers Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany in the period after 1933. He cites Lady Nancy Astor, Neville Chamberlain, Lord Halifax, Samuel Hoare, and Kingsley Wood as the circle’s central figures; Maiski, Hvem hjalp Hitler?, 61. Tamelander and Zetterling claim that the actions of the Chamberlain–Halifax circle in the years 1939–1940 were motivated by the hope for a quick end to the war and a negotiated peace with Germany; see Tamelander and Zetterling, 9. april, 31.

37 Høidal, Quisling, 252–73; Dahl, Vidkun Quisling, 13–41; Borgersrud, Vi er jo et militært parti, 337–88.

38 BA. R 58, NS 43 28. 9.

39 Hvoslef was the former head of the King’s Guard, Military Attaché in Washington, and later head of the Norges Samfundsvern (The Norwegian Defence League, 1924–1940), a right-wing paramilitary organization directed against the labour movement. Hvoslef was a founding member of the Nasjonal Samling in 1933, after already having collaborated with Prytz and Quisling since 1930.

40 Skodvin, Striden om okkupasjonsstyret, 44.

41 Borgersrud, Vi er jo et militært parti, ch. 10.

42 The paramilitary arm of the Nasjonal Samling, led by army officers.

43 Memo by Scheidt, without title, from 26 May 1940. BA. R 58, NS 43 28, ‘Anlage 29’.

44 Skodvin, Striden om okkupasjonsstyret, 117.

45 Memo by Scheidt, 28 March 1940 (‘Betrifft: Norwegen’). BA. R 58, NS 43 28, ‘Anlage 17’.

46 Memo by Scheidt, without title, 26 May 1940. BA. R 58, NS 43 28, ‘Anlage 29’.

47 ‘Draft Instructions to Officer commanding Stratford’ I, 4 April 1940; The National Archives, London (NA), War Cabinet (CAB) 80/105; The Chiefs of Staff Committee (COS), (40) 277 (S).

48 Derry, The Campaign in Norway.

49 In Norway, Doctor Johan Scharffenberg has, in particular, confronted in a series of books, lectures, and newspaper articles whether or not there existed a British invasion plan prior to 9 April. About Scharffenberg’s many utterings, see Salmon, Deadlock and Diversion, 211–26.

50 ‘Hostilities with Russia in 1940. Note by the Joint Planning Sub-Committee’, 3 March 1940; NA. CAB (40) 80 (5) and COS (40) 24 (2).

51 ‘Military Implications of Hostilities with Russia in 1940’, 8 March 1940; NA. CAB 66/6, WP (40) 91.

52 ‘Memoranda on the Caucasus’, 25 March 1940 u. a.; NA. CAB, Premier 1/437. The War Council decided to further evaluate the consequences, but also to send bombing equipment to the Middle East, to be able to quickly carry out the action at a later time. NA. CAB 99/3, Supreme War Council, Series 1939–1940.

53 ‘The Petsamo Operation’, Chiefs of Staff (COS), 20 February 1940; NA. Note to COS (40) 244 (8); NA. War Office (WO) 193/772, XC/A/1777. A further objection was that a landing in Petsamo would possibly have to be done by the same forces already included in the plans for the operation in Narvik, thus making the latter more complicated. One finally noticed there was limited chance of occupying the Swedish ore fields from the Petsamo district; cf. ‘Certain preparations’, 14 February 1940; NA. Note to COS (40) 240 (8).

54 Conclusions of the Supreme War Council, 4 February 1940; NA. Premier 1/437. A small number of disguised specialists were sent out through Bergen, where several of them were exposed by German intelligence.

55 The sabotage team was under the commando by the Englishman Alfred Rickman, who had been sent by the War Office’s ‘Section D’ to Sweden in the autumn of 1939. He was to organize demolition in the harbours of Oxelösund, Luleå, Narvik, and in the Porjus power plant, which supplied the mine railway with electricity. The ‘Rickman-League’, exposed by the Swedish police on 19 April 1940, led to wide spread scandalizing of Allied politics in neutral Sweden. The case is well documented in the Swedish police archives. Borgersrud, Die Wollweber-Organisation und Norwegen, 179 ff, 230.

56 On 30 November 1939, the War Cabinet asked the Chiefs of Staff Committee to assess proposals and the consequences of different actions concerning iron ore exports, with an emphasis on acts of sabotage. A report filling 19 pages expressed scepticism in regard to sabotage and instead stressed action in Narvik, combined with the stationing of naval units in the Vestfjord and control of the coast to the south of Bergen, where the committee proposed establishing a base on the island of Bømlo. Action in Narvik was ‘[t]he only action we can take to prevent the Russians capturing Narvik’, as the committee stressed, at the same time doubting that mine fields would be enough to cause a German occupation of south Scandinavia. ‘Report’ 20 December 1939; NA. CAB (39) 80 (6), COS (39) 168.

57 Ibid.

58 ‘Scandinavia: Operations in the face of Scandinavian non-cooperation’, 8 March 1940. NA. WP (40) 90.

59 According to Tamelander and Zetterling, the plan was originally created for the Chiefs of Staff by General Edmund Ironside; Tamelander and Zetterling, 9. april, 31.

60 ‘Memorandum by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs’, 24 February 1940 and ‘Annex A’ (R. A. Butler); NA. WP (40) 72.

61 ‘Military Implications of a Policy aimed at stopping the Export of Swedish Iron Ore to Germany. Report’, 31 December 1939. NA, CAB (39) 80 (6), COS (39) 181.

62 ‘Intervention in Scandinavia: Plans and Implications. January 1940’. NA. CAB (40) 80 (7), COS (40) 218. Even if no more than around 8,800 men were to take part in the first phase of the German attack, the entire German operation in Norway would, according to the plan, consist of around 100,000 men. All in all, the estimates of the required volume of troops on both sides coincided.

63 Skodvin misunderstood completely the ‘Plymouth’ operation. Thus, he erroneously describes ‘Plymouth’ as an operation involving ‘large landings in Narvik’; Skodvin, Norsk historie, 36.

64 ‘Scandinavia: Operations in the face of Scandinavian non-cooperation’, 8 March 1940. NA, WP (40) 90.

65 Note of the French ambassador to Halifax on 10 March 1940. NA. CAB 66/6.

66 ‘A certain operation’, 11 March 1940. NA. CAB 79/85, 7599, COS (40) 51. Admiral Sir Edward Evans, who was appointed to lead the naval transporting forces, told the Chiefs of Staff that he believed the Norwegian government would not shoot, out of fear of the reaction of the population. He thought the popular sentiment was extremely critical to the Social Democratic government. Evans possessed deep knowledge about the situation in Norway.

67 Desarzens, Nachrichtendienstliche Aspekte, 15. Hitler designated the ‘Wesertag’ on 2 April.

68 ‘Effect of the Russian-Finnish Treaty on our Naval Situation’, 14 March 1940. NA. CAB 66/6.

69 ‘Policy to be adopted towards Norway and Sweden in consequence of their attitude during the Finnish war’, 26 March 1940. NA. CAB 66/6, WP (40) 107.

70 ‘Machinery for setting in motion plan R. 4’. NA. CAB 66/6, WP (40) 117.

71 Derry, The Campaign in Norway, 24.

72 Skodvin, Samtid og Historie (in the chapter ‘Nytt materiale om Vestmaktene og Norden 1939–1940’), 74.

73 Skodvin, Samtid og Historie, 76. As an echo of this statement by Skodvin, one of his inspired Norwegian military historians, Tom Kristiansen, notes in a review of Patrick Salmon’s Deadlock and Diversion that ‘those who still choose to believe in the myth of a British invasion, do it either out of ignorance or defiance to research and sources’ (Historisk Tidsskrift 92 (2013), 485). Although this statement was not a quote, it is nonetheless almost a direct quotation of Salmon, who wrote: ‘The myth of a British invasion of Norway was no longer tenable. Those who still chose to believe in it would do so in defiance or ignorance of the evidence’ (Salmon, Deadlock and Diversion, 226).

74 See ‘Prime minister’, 17 April 1940. NA. CAB 63/160.

75 Hubatsch, Weserübung; Gemzell, Raeder, Hitler und Skandinavien; Salewski, Deutschland und der Zweite Weltkrieg.

76 Desarzens, Nachrichtendienstliche Aspekte; Salmon, Scandinavia and the Great Powers. Salmon’s doctoral dissertation from 1979, which was first available to the public in 2012, describes the Allied strategy, supposed plans of invasion, the interpretation and significance of these to the negotiations at the Nurenberg Tribunal, as well as the debate in post-war years. His analysis and conclusions are close to Skodvin’s, but more detailed and better source based; Salmon, Deadlock and Diversion.

77 The 32-year delay of Salmon’s dissertation remains a mystery, especially in light of the author’s great productivity and creativity in these years. Currently, Salmon is the Chief Historian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

78 Hankey, Politics, Trials and Errors, 78–9. Hart and Henry, History of the Second World War, 63. Lord Maurice Hankey had been Secretary to all British Cabinets since 1920, Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence from 1912 to 1938, and Minister of the Crown in Chamberlain’s and Churchill’s cabinets until he resigned in 1941. In the prosecution at the Nurenberg Tribunal of the German leaders responsible for the attack on Norway, he turned into a critic of the British legal grounds, referring to the violation on international law by his own government. In Politics, Trials and Errors, in a chapter called ‘Norway’, he analyses step by step how the strategic planning of Germany and Britain developed. Because of his detailed and uncensored revelations of British cabinet’s planning and policies prior to the attack on Norway, Hankey drew considerable criticism during the Cold War; see Salmon, Deadlock and Diversion, 213–17.

79 Rhys-Jones, Churchill and the Norway Campaign, 11.

80 Dildy, Denmark and Norway, 14.

81 Skodvin’s private archive is located in the Norwegian National Archives (Riksarkivet) in Oslo. The number of copies of British documents to be found there is large, filling up around half a metre of shelf space. RA. Archive 16, handed over on 8 December 1992. According to information from the British National Archive given in 2012, the War Cabinets documents from 1939–1945 were made open to the public on 1 January 1972. Notes on Skodvin’s copies indicate that he received them in 1975, 1980, and 1983. It appears he also received something in 1972, in particular the NA. CAB 80/105, stamped by the PRO with: ‘Not open to public inspection before 1991’. Skodvin created a list for these copies on 3 June 1972. RA, DA-16, 6, noted with ‘CAB 80/105. 1940’.

82 Salmon, Deadlock and Diversion, 223.

83 The first academic use of these sources in Norway appeared in Svendsen, ‘Britisk norgespolitikk’. This made the publication of Bjørnsen, Narvik 1940, possible.

84 The term ‘reconstituted’ might perhaps explain the strange code name ‘R. 4’. Although Churchill revealed that he chose the name ‘Wilfred’ from the literature he was so well acquainted with, to reflect the fact that the mine laying operation was small and modest, he wrote nothing about the ‘R. 4’; Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 457. I have been informed by the National Archive that the military specialist of the Military, Maritime, and Transport Team at the National Archive, as well as the Ministry of Defence, Naval Historical Branch, have not been able to find the origin of the name; most likely it is to signify the phrase ‘reconstituted troops for Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger’.

85 NA. CAB. ‘Note on WP (40) 115 & WP (40) 116’, on meeting in the War Cabinet on 1 April 1940.

86 ‘Scandinavia’ and ‘Annex. Plan R. 4, Progress Report’, 3 April 1940; NA. CAB 79/85, COS (40) 63.

87 ‘Draft instructions to commanders’; NA. CAB 66/7/2, WP (40) 122.

88 ‘Draft instructions for commander Avonmouth’, 4 a and b; NA. CAB 66/7/2, WP (40) 122.

89 Two days earlier, Admiral Dudley Pound informed Halifax that two Norwegian warships had been moved from Tromsø and stationed in the harbour basin at Narvik. ‘Scandinavia’, 3 April 1940; NA. CAB 79/85, COS (40) 63.

90 The reason given for the announcement was the need to reach the world press before the Germans and Norwegians; NA. CAB. WM (40) 82 (6). The Secretary of the cabinet noted the following worrying remarks after the discussion: ‘Action of H. M. Ships in the event of Norwegian resistance’.

91 NA. CAB. WM (40) 83 (6). General Ismay was clearly worried about the level of influence Colonel Konrad Sundlo had. He was army commander-in-chief at Narvik and a central member of the Nasjonal Samling. The events on 9 April, when the Colonel surrendered to the Germans without firing a shot, confirmed Ismay’s fears.

92 ‘Note on co-operation with the armed forces of Norway’; NA. CAB 66/7/2, WP (40) 122.

93 ‘Note on possible German operations in Norway’; NA. CAB 66/7/2, WP (40) 122.

94 Rhys-Jones, Churchill and the Norway Campaign, 10.

95 ‘Certain operations in Norwegian territorial waters’; NA. CAB 80/104.

96 Protocol in NA. CAB 65/6/28, WM (40) 83 (6), quoted from the ‘Summary of War Cabinet Conclusions on Scandinavia and Finland’; NA. CAB 106/1159.

97 Protocol in NA, CAB 65/6/28, WM (40) 83 (6), quoted from the ‘Summary’, NA, CAB 106/1159.

98 The ‘Summary’ cannot be found in his archives; see RA. DA-16.

99 Rhys-Jones, Churchill and the Norway Campaign, 28–9.

100 Of these we know the identity of Captains Malcolm Munthe, Andrew Croft, T. A. Torrance, and Major Palmer; see Salmon, Scandinavia and the Great Powers, 180. Captain Munthe, who parachuted into the Jæren area near Stavanger with his wireless, wrote in his war biography that he was to be a ‘liaison to the Norwegian Army’. However, he was surprised as he realized that the ships entering Stavanger harbour in the early hours of 9 April were indeed German, not British. Munthe, Sweet is War, 53–62. In Narvik, Captain Torrance was positioned similarly. For his tasks and report, see: NA. WO 168/24 and WO 198/15.

101 Rhys-Jones, Churchill and the Norway Campaign, 32–3.

102 Edward Evans was married to the Norwegian Elsa Andvord and was a personal friend of King Haakon. Being a friend of Norway, he had insisted to the Admiralty that the landing should not take place in conflict with the wishes of the Norwegian government. During the later campaign in Norway, he was sent via Sweden as a liaison to King Haakon, who was at the time located in Gudbrandsdalen Vally. The diary and correspondence of Evans is to be found in: RA. UD, Dye, 10622, dos. 27.6/40.

103 Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 467.

104 ‘Skandinavia – Transmission of information to the French’, 8 April 1940; NA. CAB 80/105, COS (40) 285 (S).

105 The sources did not reveal how far the battle cruisers had sailed, and if they even left Scottish waters. Furthermore, it appears as if Skodvin or others have not written anything on this matter, except for Rhys-Jones, who commented that ‘The 2nd Cruiser Squadron had already sailed’ and was ordered to Scapa Flow on the Orkney Isles. He continues: ‘Late that evening, Pound gave instructions that the 1st Cruiser Squadron (poised in Rosyth for the occupation of Bergen and Stavanger) should march its troops ashore and sail to join the C-in-C’; Rhys- Jones, Churchill and the Norway Campaign, 33.

106 Churchill was probably the first to admit this misinterpretation in public.

107 Some uncertainty remains as to where the respective troops disembarked. This probably took place in Scapa Flow and in Rosyth.

108 On 4 April, the Chiefs of Staff Committee reported to the War Cabinet that two divisions and a contingent of airplanes from the British expeditionary forces were standing by in France to be moved to Scandinavia, together with the 49th Division, which was being mobilized on English soil. ‘Policy regarding forces for Scandinavia’, 4 April 1940; NA. CAB 66/6, WP (40) 118.

109 Chuchill, The Gathering Storm, 460; Hankey, Politics, Trials and Errors, 78.

110 Churchill frequently invokes the race in his texts, as in the following: ‘As our mining of Norwegian waters might provoke a German retort, it was also agreed that a British brigade and a French contingent should be sent to Narvik to clear port and advance to the Swedish frontier. Other forces should be dispatched to Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim, in order to prevent these bases to the enemy’; Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 457.

111 Cipher 5 April 1940; RA. UD, Dye 10619, dos. 27.6/13 B.

112 ‘Certain operations in Norwegian territorial waters’, 29 March 1940; NA. CAB 84/11, COS (40) (S).

113 Grimnes, Overfall, 55.

114 Skodvin, Norsk historie, 42.

115 Ohman Nielsen, Etter 1914.

116 Riste, ‘Norvegr om 9. april 1940: Attersyn med ei historieforfalsking’, Historisk Tidsskrift 3/2012.

117 Ohman Nielsen, ‘Ser du spøkelser, Olav Riste?’

118 This invites a counterfactual reflection, which is difficult, however, due to the lack of documented operational orders for the British units to the respective Norwegian occupation areas, in contrast to the German counterpart. As part of the propaganda war after the campaign in Norway in 1940, the Auswärtiges Amt issued six White Books, exploiting documents found, among others, in the files of the French General Staff, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, as well as from fleeing British troops during the campaign in Norway. Although these documents are mostly recognized to be to true to the originals, they have never been verified on behalf of the British. For Salmon’s view on the White Books, see Salmon, Deadlock and Diversion, 196–9.

119 Liddell Hart, History of the Second World War, 63.

120 On 1 April 1938 the Storting passed an amendment to the constitution, changing the election period from three to four years. The reform sparked a row, as they had not explicitly mentioned a date when it would come into force. It was decided by the constitutional committee that the reform was to be put into effect immediately, in accord with common practice. The next election was thus moved from 1939 to 1940. Quisling, in contrast, was of the opinion that the Storting, as a consequence, had become illegitimate on 1 January 1940.

121 Skodvin, Striden om okkupasjonsstyret, 49.

122 Borgersrud, Vi er jo et militært parti, 353–72; Borgersrud, Like gode nordmenn?, 67–9.

123 The careers of the APA’s men do not show that Hitler was unhappy with their work in 1940. In connection with the German attack on the Soviet Union, Rosenberg was made ‘Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories’ in July 1941. Acting in this function, he led the civil administration in the Baltic countries and in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union, in the course of which he was given the responsibility of carrying out the Holocaust in these areas. Due to the way the war developed, the APA lost its purpose and was phased out in 1943. Both Schickedanz and Scheidt were moved to the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories in 1941, together with Rosenberg.

124 For the preparations of the coup in 1932 and the planning documents, see Borgersrud, Vi er jo et militært parti, 109–64.

125 Prytz often made coquetries about his half British origin, been brought up in Scotland as the son of a Norwegian seaman priest.

126 The Nordiske Folkereisning (1931–1933), during the period when Quisling served as defence minister, was the direct precursor of the Nasjonal Samling.

127 The New Economic Policy (NEP – Nowaja ekonomitscheskaja politika), the new Soviet policy 1921 to 1928 to liberalize the trade, industrial, and agriculture production, following the war economy of the civil wars 1918–1921.

128 Borgersrud, Vi er jo et militært parti, 74–9.

129 Regarding Vadsø as a centre in the new region, see the note by NS’s informal foreign secretary, Finn Støren, dated 24 June 1941, and about the role of Prytz, see the letter from Støren to Prytz, 28 June 1941, both in RA, PA 749, 1, ‘Bjarmland’. Prytz was himself of the opinion that Trondheim should be the regional capital of this expanded region, including the ‘Bjarmland’ area. Borgersrud, Like gode nordmenn?, 407–16.

130 As does Salmon in his published book from 2012, adding that those who still believe in ‘the myth of a British invasion’ do so by defiance or ignorance. Salmon, Deadlock and Diversion, 226.

131 In demonstrating how the quoted passage had been changed in the different editions of Churchill’s memoirs, Loock adds that authorization came too late from the British government, in contrast to Berlin, with the result that the Allies lost the race. Loock, Quisling, Rosenberg und Terboven, 259f.


Archival sources


Lars Borgersrud (b. 1949) is a postdoctal Government Research Fellow (statstipendiat) in Oslo. His doctoral thesis of 1995 was a study on the communist sabotage organization The Wollweber League in the Nordic countries prior to and during the Second World War. In 2005 he published the study Vi ville ikke ha dem, on how the Norwegian state after 1945 treated children of German fathers and Norwegian mothers during the German occupation. His latest work is a two-volume history of Norwegian military fascism in 1930–1945 (Vi er jo et militært parti, 2010, and Like gode nordmenn?, 2012). At present he is writing a study about the sabotage resistance activities in western Norway and Bergen against the occupation in 1940–1945. Address: Vålerenggt. 40, N-0658 Oslo, Norway. [email: lars.borgersrud@online.no]