The Norway Campaign and the Rise of Churchill 1940, Anthony Dix

The Norway Campaign and the Rise of Churchill 1940, Anthony Dix

The Norwegian campaign of 1940 was quickly overshadowed by the Nazi invasion of Western Europe that overlapped with it, but its political consequences were immense, triggering the fall of Chamberlain and the rise to power of Winston Churchill. I've read plenty of books on this topic, but they have tended to focus on particular aspects of the campaign such as the naval fighting or the British intervention or to be very weighty tomes, of great value to the historian, but perhaps a bit much for the general reader.

In contrast this is a single volume English language account of the campaign that covers the Norwegian, German, French and British contributions, the war on land, at sea and in the air, and the political consequences of the campaign.

The background on Scandinavian neutrality is interesting. Sweden, where the key iron ore mines were actually located, had an army five times larger than Norway, 700 tanks and the Bofors arms firm, and wasn't invaded. In contrast the Norwegian army was tiny, not well equipped, and not trusted by the interwar governments. Despite these handicaps those Norwegian troops who managed to reach the army generally performed well.

In contrast the British and French performance wasn't great. Plans kept changing, most of the Allied troops weren't equipped for fighting in the snow, and some of the British senior officers don’t seem to have any sense of urgency. Those troops that did reach Norway were often hampered by poor planning - one unit was embarked carefully with its equipment combat loaded, ordered back onshore, then finally transported to Norway in a rush, and as a result found itself missing many key items.

The Royal Navy also did surprisingly poorly. The biggest German ship to be lost was sunk by Norwegian coastal defences, and the biggest loss on either side was an RN aircraft carrier. Only the destruction of the German destroyer force at Narvik equalled the balance. However the Royal Navy could afford its losses and the Germans couldn't, so the fighting around Norway may have played a part in convincing the Germans not to risk an invasion of Britain later in the year.

Don't be mislead by the sub-title. Although the Norway debate and the appointment of Churchill as Prime Minister do indeed get a chapter, they aren't a key part of the book, which focuses very much on the military campaign.

The result is a very useful single volume history of the Norwegian campaign of 1940 that provides a clear picture of the Norwegian efforts to defend their country as well as the more familiar German and British contributions to the campaign.

Chapters
1 - Disarmament, Pacifism, Rearmament and Appeasement
2 - Churchill at the Admiralty
3 - Scandinavian Neutrality
4 - The Winter War
5 - The Allies Dither
6 - Consequences of the Finnish Collapse
7 - Weserubung
8 - The Invasion Fleets
9 - Is it Christmas?
10 - The Rape of Denmark
11 - The First and Second Battles of Narvik
12 - The Royal Navy Encounter the Luftwaffe
13 - Submarine Warfare
14 - We are coming as quickly as possible and in great strength
15 - The Norwegians Fight
16 - General Ruge takes over
17 - The Ill-fated 148 Brigade
18 - A Fighting Retreat through the Gudsbrandsdal
19 - Trondheim
20 - Evacuation of the Central Valley
21 - 'Impossible' the Navy does not know the meaning of the word
22 - The Norway Debate
23 - 'Rough Winds do shake the darling buds of May'
24 - The German drive to the North
25 - Harstad
26 - Bjerkvik and the Capture of Narvik
27 - The Beginning of the End
28 - Operation Juno
29 - A Leader to match a Leader

Author: Anthony Dix
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2014


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