Wartime Norway
Shetland "Hands Across the Sea" Norway



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Norway during World War II

When the war started Norway was a neutral country and was not allied to either Britain or Germany. As a result Norway did not feel she needed to maintain anything more than a minimum of armed forces. Despite Norway's neutrality the Germans felt that the occupation of Norway would bring them several benefits.

Firstly it would help the Germans to break the naval blockade that the British were operating to prevent supplies reaching Germany. The British had used this tactic before in the first world war and it had proved to have a very damaging impact upon Germany.

Secondly Norwegian ports would provide ideal bases from which German U-boats could launch attacks against British shipping.

Thirdly it was vital that the Germans controlled the Norwegian port of Narvik through which essential supplies of iron ore were transported to Germany. This iron ore was needed by the German armaments industry.

The occupying German forces quickly made their presence felt upon the Norwegian people. Nazi troop parades were common in the streets. The Norwegian flag was removed from public displays to be replaced by the swastika, the symbol of the Nazi Party. Rationing was introduced immediately. To make matters worse German troops bought up many of the goods in the shops using Norwegian currency printed in Germany.

The Nazis made it very difficult for anyone to organise protests against their rule by banning all public gatherings and discouraging people from stopping to chat to their friends in the street. The newspapers were censored which meant that only positive stories about the German rule in Norway were printed. No criticism of the German authorities was allowed. People were even banned from tuning in to the BBC on their radios. People could not travel freely. A special pass was required if you wanted to travel out of your local area.

Many Norwegians were able to escape from their occupied homeland despite the iron grip that the Nazis tried to exert upon the Norwegian people. During 1940 thirty boats brought over two hundred refugees, including women and children, from Norway to Shetland.

The unexpected arrival of so many refugees in Shetland provided the authorities with an unexpected challenge. James Garriock of Hay and Company, who was also the Norwegian vice-consul in Lerwick and his son, Francis, played key roles in meeting the needs of the refugees. A refugee camp was set up at James Sutherland's herring station and the herring girls' hut were used as emergency accommodation.

The ordinary Shetland people responded very positively to the arrival of the Norwegian refugees. Indeed a letter written by the Norwegian government in exile on 30th May 1944 describes:

" The excellent reception which has been given the refugees at Shetland has been indicated by every newcomer who has passed through Shetland. They have met with kindness and understanding by everyone they have been in contact with and for this we are very grateful."

The Norwegians experienced great difficulties and much vicious oppression during the war. Events in Telavåg for instance make chilling reading. They have been summed up by the Norwegians in the phrase "They burnt our homes, they killed our men" The population there were particularly involved with the actions of The Shetland Bus, so their story is important in the context of this website. A page has been devoted to this subject

Please refer to other Norwegian websites (see the WWW Links page) for more information or Norway during the Second World War


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