Saturday, 31 July 2021

Henley Probus Club

MANY members of Henley Probus Club, meeting at Badgemore Golf Club, will have known of the Nazi attack on Norway

MANY members of Henley Probus Club, meeting at Badgemore Golf Club, will have known of the Nazi attack on Norway at the beginning of the Second World War but not why or how and had been looking forward to learning more.

Rolf Richardson lived with his sister and mother in Norway at the beginning of the war, when Hitler decided to attack the country and occupy it, even though Norway was neutral.

It seems that the German high command had an economic interest which outweighed Norway’s own interests as iron ore was in great demand.

Rolf posed the question “what if” the German occupation had not been successful or even far more successful. In fact, it very nearly failed.

The iron ore route from Sweden along the ice-free Narvik channel led to an Atlantic port, where the Royal Navy controlled the North Sea.

Hitler had firstly overwhelmed Danish resistance but the German navy opposed continuing on to Norway with an amphibious force into a very difficult terrain with British ships in close contact with all movements.

It took two months to get some Panzers there under General Farkenhorst as they were not equipped for the steep terrain. Norway is the most difficult country to attack from the sea. The secret plan had been to attack four towns simultaneously. Even Goebbels didn’t know.

Rolf’s father, being a British pilot, had access to aerial photos and was aware that German shipping was being amassed in Danzig. Fearing an attack on Norway, he brought Rolf, his sister and mother to safety.

Churchill’s reaction to intelligence was to order the placement of mines in Norwegian waters and, with further information, the British fleet sailed against the expected German navy sailing.

Norwegian defences were not fully mobilised, placing King Haakon and the Government of Norway in peril but because coastal lighting was extinguished and German ships delayed by the natural defences of the coastline, they escaped to the north.

But one ancient battery fired straight at the capital ship Blücher which exploded, causing the other attacking ships to retreat. Very few troops landed and reached Oslo but the city was quickly overwhelmed, although some citizens were guided away.

Under Quisling’s command, Norway surrendered after a small force of British soldiers were taken. In command of the country, Germany removed Norway’s gold reserves and more, while the Government went to Britain to work with the Allies in exile.

Had the German fleet arrived on time and in full force and had there been no Norwegian resistance, German domination of the North Sea and shipping routes would have been greater than it was.

At the September meeting, members heard a talk about the Great Wall of China from Jacqui Brazil, the Mayor of Henley’s secretary, who had visited the famous landmark with a party of 25 people as part of a fund-raising project in 2012.

She said seeing the wall from the air as they flew in was memorable. The group started their visit in a street food market in Beijing and then began to walk.

The next day, after passing through another street market, they left the city and the smog. They met very few tourists but were frequently photographed on their way to where the wall climbs up the side of a mountain. Piped music was occasionally broadcast but less so when the walking became more serious.

They encountered steps built into the walkway, some low and others almost too high to step on to, but the spectacular views and fine weather made anything tolerable. English language signage for walkers was amusing but easy to understand.

At different points, the group encountered races, a folk band and traditional costumes. One of the most bizarre sights was a village built for the 2008 Olympics which is now unoccupied even though millions of people need better housing.

Henley Men’s Probus meets on the second Tuesday of the month at Badgemore Golf Club at 10.30am. For more information, visit henleyprobus

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