The Battle for Norway – April/June 1940
The Norwegian port of Narvik, well above the Arctic Circle, was used to export Swedish iron-ore. Germany required this raw material and needed to have control of the port. Codenamed “Operation Weserubung”, the German invasion began 9 April 1940. The attack on Narvik was difficult considering the location and supply route. Only 2000 German alpine soldiers were dispatched but they were able to capture the town and the surrounding territories. The Norwegians and Allies transferred soldiers to the Narvik front and by the end of April they were strong enough to attack. Throughout the month of May, British, French, Polish and Norwegian troops fiercely fought the Germans who were slowly driven back. On 28 May, Narvik was re-taken by Allied Forces and this was the first important defeat the Germans had suffered.
By April 1940, SSX26426 Able Seaman Joseph Vincent “Vince” Gardiner, brought up in Gordon Lane, Ramshaw and Stable Row, Evenwood had served 2 years in the Royal Navy. He was aboard HMS Aurora which was involved in action at Narvik. 18 and 22 April: HMS Aurora carried out bombardment of shore targets in Rombaksfjord.
24 April: Bombarded enemy positions near Narvik. HMS Warspite, HMS Effingham, HMS Enterprise, HMS Zulu also took part as troops landed from HMS Vindictive.
30 April: HMS Aurora assisted with the evacuation of troops from Molde with HMS Galetea.
3 May: Bombarded Beisfjord with HMS Resolution and 3 Polish destroyers.
7 May: HMS Aurora sustained damage during air attacks when 2 turrets were disabled. There were several casualties.
12 May: Bombarded enemy positions in Herjangsfjord, north of Narvik with HMS Resolution, HMS Effingham and HMS Vindictive.
13 May: Returned to the UK (Portsmouth) for repair.
Able Seaman Gardiner served aboard HMS Aurora between 28 April 1939 and 30 January 1941.
Another to be involved in the Battle of Norway was Vince’s future brother-in-law, Telegraphist John T. Cramman who would later marry Vince’s sister, Dorothy Gardiner. Between 5 January 1939 and 4 May 1940, John served on HMS Arethusa and on the 19 April as part of “Primrose Force”, along with HMS Galetea, HMS Carlisle, HMS Curacoa and 2 destroyers disembarked about 1,000 troops of the 148th Brigade at Molde, Norway. The Brigade’s orders were to take offensive action against the Germans in the Trondheim area. Following an unsuccessful sortie, on the 30 April, HMS Arethusa was back and she helped evacuate these troops from Andalsnes. They were urgently required for the defence of Britain.
Telegraphist J.T. Cramman
Able Seaman J.V. Gardiner