|Part of the Second World War|
German forces advancing near Bagn in Valdres ·
Norwegian artillery in action near Narvik ·King Haakon VII of Norway and his son Crown Prince Olav during a German air raid on Molde ·
German Gebirgsjäger troops near Narvik ·German bombing of the Norwegian coastal fortress Oscarsborg
|Commanders and leaders|
|Nikolaus von Falkenhorst|| Norway|
Until 10 April:
General Kristian Laake
After 10 April:
General Otto Ruge
Admiral Lord Cork
|Casualties and losses|
| Official German figure:|
(1.317 killed on land,
2,375 lost at sea,
1,869 killed, wounded and missing
c. 2,500 lost
267 killed, wounded and missing
c. 1,700 total, of whom 860 were killed
| Civilian casualties:|
c. 400 killed
The Norwegian Campaign was a military campaign that was fought in Norway during the Second World War between the Allies and Germany, after the latter's invasion of the country. In April 1940, the United Kingdom and France came to Norway's aid with an expeditionary force. Despite moderate success in the northern parts of Norway, Germany's invasion of France the following June compelled the Allies to withdraw and the Norwegian government to seek exile in London. The campaign subsequently ended with the occupation of Norway by Germany, and the continued fighting of exiled Norwegian forces from abroad. The conflict occurred between April 9 and June 10, 1940 the 62 days of fighting making Norway the nation that withstood a German invasion for the longest period of time, aside from the Soviet Union.
Outbreak of the Second World War
Both Britain and France had signed military alliance treaties with the Soviet Union, and two days after the Soviet Union invaded Ukraine on September 1, 1939 both Austria and Germany declared war against the Soviets. As per these agreements, Britain and France declared war of Germany that same day. However, neither country opened up a western front, and no major engagements occurred between the sides for several months in what became known as the Phoney War. Winston Churchill in particular wished to move the war into a more active phase, in contrast to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
During this time, both sides were looking for secondary fronts. For the Allies, in particular the French, it was based on a desire to avoid repeating the trench warfare of the First World War, which had occurred along the Franco-German border.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War, the Norwegian government had mobilized parts of the Norwegian Army and all bar two of the Royal Norwegian Navy's warships. The Norwegian Army Air Service and the Royal Norwegian Navy Air Service were also called up to protect Norwegian neutrality from violations by the warring parties. The first such violations were the sinkings in Norwegian territorial waters of several British ships by German U-boats. In the following months aircraft from all the warring parties violated Norwegian neutrality.
Almost immediately after the outbreak of war the British began pressuring the Norwegian government to provide the United Kingdom with the services of the Norwegian merchant navy, themselves being in dire need of shipping. Following protracted negotiations between September 25 and November 20, 1939 the Norwegians agreed to charter 150 tankers, as well as other ships with a tonnage of 450,000 gross tons. The Norwegian government's concern for the country's supply lines played an important role in persuading them to accept the agreement.
Value of Norway
Norway, though neutral, was considered strategically important for both sides of the war for two main reasons. First was the importance of the port of Narvik, from which large quantities of Swedish iron ore, on which Germany depended, were exported; this route was especially important during the winter months when the Baltic Sea was frozen over. Narvik became of greater significance to the British when it became apparent that Operation Catherine, a plan to gain control of the Baltic Sea, would not be practical. Second, the ports in Norway could serve as a hole in the blockade of Germany, allowing access to the Atlantic Ocean.
The principal reason for Germany's invasion of Norway was its dependence on Swedish iron ore, which during the winter was shipped primarily from the Norwegian port of Narvik. By securing access to Norwegian ports, the Germans could more easily obtain the supply of iron ore they needed for their war effort.
Control of Norway was considered to be crucially important to Germany's ability to use its sea power effectively against the Allies, particularly Britain. While Norway was strictly neutral, and unoccupied by either of the fighting powers, there was no threat. But the weakness of the Norwegian coastal defences, and the inability of her field army to resist effectively a determined invasion by a stronger power were clear. Großadmiral Erich Raeder had pointed out several times in 1939 the potential danger to Germany of Britain seizing the initiative and launching its own invasion in Scandinavia - if the powerful Royal Navy had bases at Bergen, Narvik and Trondheim, the North Sea would be virtually closed to Germany, and the Kaiserliche Marine would be at risk even in the Baltic.
Battlefield away from France
A successful invasion of Norway by either side had the potential to strike a blow against the other without getting bogged down in the large-scale trench warfare notable of the previous conflict. Norway had particular strategic importance to the Germans during the Battle of the Atlantic. Norwegian air bases allowed German reconnaissance aircraft to operate far over the North Atlantic, while German U-boats and surface ships operating out of Norwegian naval bases were able to break the British blockade line across the North Sea and attack convoys heading to Great Britain.
After the outbreak of war between Finland and the Soviet Union, Norway mobilized larger land forces than what had initially been considered necessary. By early 1940 the 6th Division in Finnmark and Troms fielded 9,500 troops to defend against Soviet attack, positioned mostly in the eastern regions of Finnmark. Parts of the 6th Division's forces remained in Finnmark even after the German invasion, guarding against a possible Soviet attack. During the Winter War the Norwegian authorities secretly broke with the country's own neutrality by sending the Finns a shipment of 12 Ehrhardt 7.5 cm Model 1901 artillery pieces and 12,000 shells, as well as allowing the Germans to use Norwegian territory to transfer aircraft and other weaponry to Finland.
This movement caused the British concern. The previous treaties had placed Finland within the Soviet sphere of interest, and the British therefore claimed neutrality in the conflict. This policy caused a rise in anti-British sentiment throughout Scandinavia, since it was commonly believed that the British were allied with the Soviets. Fears began to crop up in German high command that Norway and Sweden would allow Allied troop movement to aid the Soviets in Finland.
The proposed Allied deployments never occurred, after protests from both Norway and Sweden, when the issue of transfers of troops through their territory was suggested. With the Moscow Peace Treaty on March 12, 1940 the Finland-related Allied plans were dropped. The abandonment of the planned landings put immense French pressure on Neville Chamberlain's British government, and eventually led to the Allied mining of the Norwegian coast on April 8.
Vidkun Quisling and initial German investigation
It was originally thought by the German High Command that having Norway remain neutral was in its interest. As long as the Allies did not enter Norwegian waters, there would be safe passage for merchant vessels travelling along the Norwegian coast to ship the ore that Germany was importing.
GroßadmiralErich Raeder, however, argued for an invasion. He believed that the Norwegian ports would be of crucial importance for Germany in a war with the United Kingdom.
On December 14, 1939 Raeder introduced Adolf Hitler to Vidkun Quisling, a pro-German former defence minister from Norway. Quisling proposed a pan-German cooperation between Germany and Norway. In the second meeting, four days later on December 18, 1939 Quisling and Hitler discussed the threat of an Allied invasion of Norway.
After the first meeting with Quisling, Hitler ordered the Oberkommando der Reichswehr to begin investigating possible invasion plans of Norway. Meeting Quisling was central in igniting Hitler's interest in conquering Norway. The first comprehensive German plan for the occupation of Norway, Studie Nord, ordered by Hitler on December 14, 1939 was completed by January 10, 1940. On January 27, Kaiser Wilhelm II became infuriated that Hitler ordered a plan without his consent. After a meeting Hitler convinced the Kaiser the importance of preventing an Allied invasion of Norway. The Kaiser ordered a new plan, named Weserübung, be developed. Work on Weserübung began on February 5.
The Altmark Incident occurred in the early hours of February 16, 1940 when the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Cossack entered Norwegian territorial waters, to intercept the German auxiliary ship Altmark, boarding Altmark in the Jøssingfjord. Altmark had spent the preceding months operating as a fleet oiler for the German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee while the latter was acting as a commerce raider in the South Atlantic. When Altmark began the return journey to Germany she carried 299 prisoners taken from the Allied ships sunk by Admiral Graf Spee. Altmark entered Norwegian territorial waters near the Trondheimsfjord on January 10, 1940 flying the German national flag. A Norwegian naval escort was provided as Altmark proceeded southwards, hugging the Norwegian coastline. As Altmark was nearing Bergen harbour on February 14, the Norwegian naval authorities demanded to inspect the German ship. Even though international law did not ban the transfer of prisoners of war through neutral waters, the German captain refused inspection. This led the naval commander in Bergen, Admiral Carsten Tank-Nielsen, to deny Altmark access to the restricted-access war harbour. Tank-Nielsen was however overruled by his superior, Commanding Admiral Henry Diesen, and Altmark was escorted through the harbour. According to Norwegian neutrality regulations, government ships operated by the warring parties were not allowed to enter a number of strategically important Norwegian ports. This violation of the regulations was allowed because Admiral Diesen feared that the British would intercept Altmark if she was forced to sail closer to the edge of the Norwegian territorial waters.
The next day, February 15, Altmark was spotted by three British aircraft. The discovery of the ship's location led the Royal Navy to send six destroyers to the area. In order to escape the approaching warships, Altmark fled into the Jøssingfjord. At the time Altmark was escorted by three Norwegian warships, the torpedo boats Kjell and Skarv and the patrol boat Firern. As Cossack entered the fjord at 22:20 local time, the Norwegian vessels did not intervene when the British boarded Altmark. The boarding action led to the freeing of 299 Allied prisoners of war held on the German ship. The boarding party killed seven Germans in the process.
Following the incident, the Germans sent strong protests to the Norwegian government. The Norwegians on their hand sent protests to the British government. While Norwegian, Swedish and American experts in international law described the British action as a violation of Norwegian neutrality, the United Kingdom declared that incident was at the most a technical violation that had been morally justified.
The Altmark Incident led to the Germans speeding up their planning for an invasion of Norway. On February 21, General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst was placed in charge of planning the invasion and in command of the land-based forces. The official approval for the invasion and occupation of Denmark and Norway was signed by Wilhelm II on March 1.
With the end of the Winter War, the Allies determined that any occupation of Norway or Sweden would likely do more harm than good, possibly driving the neutral countries into alliance with Germany. However, the new French prime minister, Paul Reynaud, took a more aggressive stance than his predecessor and wanted some form of action taken against Germany. Churchill was a strong agitator for action in Scandinavia, because he wanted to cut Germany off from Sweden and push the Scandinavian countries to side with the United Kingdom. This initially involved a 1939 plan to penetrate the Baltic with a naval force. This was soon changed to a plan involving the mining of Norwegian waters to stop iron ore shipments from Narvik and provoke Germany into attacking Norway, where it could be defeated by the Royal Navy.
It was agreed to utilize Churchill's naval mining plan, Operation Wilfred, designed to remove the sanctuary of the Leads and force transport ships into international waters where the Royal Navy could engage and destroy them. Accompanying this would be Plan R 4, an operation where, upon almost certain German counteraction to Operation Wilfred, the Allies would then proceed to occupy Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger. The planners hoped that the operation would not provoke the Norwegians to resist the Allies with armed force.
The Allies disagreed over the additional Operation Royal Marine, where mines would also be placed in the Rhine River. While the British supported this operation, the French were against it, since they also depended on the Rhine and feared German reprisals on French soil. Because of this delay, Operation Wilfred, originally scheduled for April 5, was delayed until April 8 when the British agreed to perform the Norwegian operations separately from those on the continent.
A lready in low-priority planning for considerable time, Operation Weserübung found a new sense of urgency after the Altmark Incident. The goals of the invasion were to secure the port of Narvik and the Leads for ore transport, and to control the country to prevent collaboration with the Allies. It was to be presented as an armed protection of Norway's neutrality.
One subject debated by German strategists was the occupation of Denmark. Denmark was considered vital because its location facilitated greater air and naval control of the area. While some wanted to simply pressure Denmark to acquiesce, it was eventually determined that it would be safer for the operation if Denmark were captured by force.
Another matter that caused additional rework of the plan was Fall Gelb, the proposed invasion of northern France and Belgium, which would require the bulk of German forces. Because some forces were needed for both invasions, Weserübung could not occur at the same time as Gelb, and because the nights were shortening as spring approached, which were vital cover for the naval forces, it therefore had to be sooner. Eventually, on April 2, the Germans set April 9 as the day of the invasion (Wesertag), and 04:15 (Norwegian time) as the hour of the landings (Weserzeit).
In Norway, the plan called for the capture of six primary targets by amphibious landings: Oslo, Kristiansand, Egersund, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik. Additionally, supporting Fallschirmjäger (paratroops) were to capture other key locations such as airfields at Fornebu outside of Oslo and Sola outside of Stavanger. The plan was designed to quickly overwhelm the Norwegian defenders and occupy these vital areas before any form of organized resistance could be mounted. The following forces were thus organized:
- Gruppe 1: Ten destroyers transporting 2,000 Gebirgsjäger troops commanded by General Eduard Dietl to Narvik
- Gruppe 2: The heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and four destroyers to Trondheim
- Gruppe 3: The light cruiser Köln and Königsberg, with several smaller support vessels to Bergen
- Gruppe 4: The light cruiser Karlsruhe and several smaller support vessels to Kristiansand
- Gruppe 5: The heavy cruisers Blücher and Lützow, the light cruiser Emden and several smaller support vessels to Oslo
- Gruppe 6: Four minesweepers to Egersund
Additionally, the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would escort Gruppe 1 and Gruppe 2 as they travelled together, and there would also be several echelons of transports carrying additional troops, fuel, and equipment.
Against Denmark, two motorized brigades would capture bridges and troops; paratroops would capture Aalborg airfield in the north; and heavy fighters of the Luftwaffe would destroy the Danish fighters on the ground. While there were also several naval task groups organized for this invasion, none of them contained any large ships. Unescorted troopships would sail in troops to capture the Danish High Command in Copenhagen.
The Germans hoped they could avoid armed confrontation with the native populations in both countries, and German troops were instructed to fire only if fired upon.
The German forces used in the campaign were some 100,000 troops in seven divisions and one Fallschirmjäger battalion, as well as panzer and artillery units. Most of the Kaiserliche Marine's major units were also deployed to the campaign.
Norwegian and Allied
The Norwegian Armed Forces fielded around 55,000 combatants involved in the fighting, mainly in six infantry divisions. The Allied expeditionary force to Norway numbered around 38,000 men.
The German invasion first started on April 3, 1940 when covert supply vessels began to head out in advance of the main force. The Allies initiated their plans on the following day, with sixteen Allied submarines ordered to the Skagerrak and Kattegat to serve as a screen and advance warning for a German response to Operation Wilfred, which was launched the following day when Admiral William Whitworth in HMS Renown set out from Scapa Flow for the Vestfjorden with twelve destroyers.
On April 7, bad weather began to develop in the region, blanketing the area with a thick fog and causing rough seas making travel difficult. Renown's force soon got caught in a heavy snowstorm, and HMS Glowworm, one of the destroyer escorts, had to drop out of formation to search for a man swept overboard. The weather aided the Germans, providing a screen for their forces, and in the early morning they sent out Gruppe 1 and Gruppe 2, who had the largest distance to travel.
Though the weather did make reconnaissance difficult, the two German groups were discovered 170 km (105 mi) south of the Naze (the southernmost part of Norway) slightly after 08:00 by Royal Air Force patrols and reported as one cruiser and six destroyers. A trailing squad of bombers sent out to attack the German ships found them 125 km (78 mi) farther north than they had been before. No damage was done during the attack, but the German groups strength was reassessed as being one battlecruiser, two cruisers and ten destroyers. Because of a strict enforcement of radio silence, the bombers were not able to report this until 17:30.
On learning of the German movement, the Admiralty came to the conclusion that the Germans were attempting to break the blockade that the Allies had placed on Germany and once again use their fleet to disrupt Atlantic trade routes. Admiral Sir Charles Forbes, Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Fleet, was notified of this and set out to intercept them at 20:15.
With both sides unaware of the magnitude of the situation, they proceeded as planned. Renown arrived at the Vestfjord late that night and maintained position near the entrance while the minelaying destroyers proceeded to their task. Meanwhile, the Germans launched the remainder of their invasion force. The first direct contact between the two sides occurred the next morning without either side's intention.
Glowworm, on its way to rejoin Renown, happened to come up behind the Bernd von Arnim and then the Hans Lüdemann in the heavy fog around 08:00 on April 8. Immediately a skirmish broke out and the German destroyers fled, signalling for help. The request was soon answered by Admiral Hipper, which quickly crippled Glowworm. During the action, Glowworm rammed Admiral Hipper. Significant damage was done to Hipper's starboard, and Glowworm was destroyed by a close range salvo immediately afterwards. During the fight Glowworm had broken radio silence and informed the Admiralty of her situation. She was not able to complete her transmission though, and all the Admiralty knew was that Glowworm had been confronted by a large German ship, shots were fired, and contact with the destroyer could not be re-established. In response, the Admiralty ordered Renown and her single destroyer escort (the other two had gone to friendly ports for fuel) to abandon her post at the Vestfjord and head to Glowworm's last known location. At 10:45, the remaining eight destroyers of the minelaying force were ordered to join as well.
At 14:00, the Admiralty received word that aerial reconnaissance had located a group of German ships a considerable distance west-northwest of Trondheim, bearing west. This reinforced the notion that the Germans were indeed intending a breakout, and the Home Fleet changed direction from northeast to northwest to again try to intercept. Additionally, Churchill cancelled Plan R 4 and ordered the four cruisers carrying the soldiers and their supplies to disembark their cargo and join the Home Fleet. In actuality, the German ships, Gruppe 2, were only performing delaying circling manoeuvres in order to approach their destination of Trondheim at the designated time.
That night, after learning of numerous sightings of German ships south of Norway, Charles Forbes began to doubt the validity of the breakout idea, and he ordered the Home Fleet to head south to the Skagerrak. He also ordered HMS Repulse, along with another cruiser and a few destroyers, to head north and join Renown.
At 23:00, as Forbes was just learning of the incident with Orzeł, Gruppe 5 was confronted by the Norwegian patrol vessel Pol III at the entrance to the Oslofjord. Pol III quickly sent an alarm to the coastal batteries on Rauøy (Rauøy island) and opened fire on the torpedo boat Albatros with her single gun shortly before colliding with it. Albatros and two of her companions responded with anti-aircraft fire, killing the Norwegian captain and setting Pol III on fire. Gruppe 5 continued into the Oslofjord and cleared the outer batteries without incident. Several of the smaller German ships then broke off in order to capture the bypassed fortifications along with Horten.
This activity did not go unnoticed, and soon reports had reached Oslo, leading to a midnight session of the Norwegian cabinet. At this meeting, the cabinet issued orders for the mobilization of four of the six field brigades of the Norwegian Army. The members of the cabinet failed to understand that the partial mobilization they had ordered would, according to the regulations in place, be carried out in secret and without public declarations. Troops would be issued their mobilization orders by post. The only member of the cabinet with in-depth knowledge of the mobilization system, defence minister Birger Ljungberg, failed to explain the procedure to his colleagues. He would later be heavily criticized for this oversight, which led to unnecessary delays in the Norwegian mobilization. Prior to the cabinet meeting, Ljungberg had dismissed repeated demands for a total and immediate mobilization, made by the chief of the general staff, Rasmus Hatledal. Hatledal had approached Ljungberg on April 5, 6 and 8 asking the defence minister to request the cabinet to issue orders for mobilization. The issue had been discussed in the evening of April 8, after the Commanding General, Kristian Laake, had joined the calls for a mobilization. At that time the mobilization had been limited to two field battalions in Østfold, further delaying the larger-scale call-up of troops. When Laake's call for mobilization was finally accepted at some time between 03:30 to 04:00 on April 9, the Commanding General assumed, like defence minister Ljungberg, that the cabinet knew that they were issuing a partial and silent mobilization. The poor communication between the Norwegian armed forces and the civilian authorities caused much confusion in the early days of the German invasion.
At about this time, further north, Renown was heading back to Vestfjord after reaching Glowworm's last known location and not finding anything. Heavy seas had caused Whitworth to sail more north than normal and had separated him from his destroyers when he encountered Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Renown engaged the two battleships off the Lofoten Archipelago, and during the short battle Renown scored several hits on the German vessels, forcing them to flee north. Renown attempted to pursue, but the German warships used their superior speed to escape.
In the Ofotfjord leading to Narvik, the ten German destroyers of Gruppe 1 made their approach. With Renown and her escorts earlier diverted to investigate the Glowworm incident, no British ships stood in their way, and they entered the area unopposed. By the time they had reached the inner area near Narvik, most of the destroyers had peeled off from the main formation to capture the outer batteries of the Ofotfjord, leaving only three to contend with the two old Norwegian coastal defence ship standing guard in Narvik harbour, Eidsvold and Norge. Though antiquated, the two coastal defence ships were quite capable of taking on the much more lightly armed and armoured destroyers. After a quick parlance with the captain of Eidsvold, Odd Isaachsen Willoch, the German ships opened fire pre-emptively on the coastal defence ship, sinking her after hitting her with three torpedoes. Norge entered into the fray shortly after and began to fire on the destroyers, but her marksmen were inexperienced and she did not hit the Germans ships before being sunk by a salvo of torpedoes from the German destroyers.
Following the sinking of Eidsvold and Norge, the commander of Narvik, Konrad Sundlo, surrendered the land forces in the town without a fight.
At Trondheim, Gruppe 2 also faced only minor resistance to their landings. In the Trondheimsfjord, Admiral Hipper engaged the defensive batteries while her destroyers sped past them at 25 knots (46 km/h). A well placed shot by Admiral Hippersevered the power cables for the searchlights and rendered the guns ineffective. Only one destroyer received a hit during the landing.
At Bergen, the defensive fortifications put up stiffer resistance to Gruppe 3's approach and the light cruiser Königsberg and the artillery training ship Bremse were damaged, the former seriously. The lack of working lights reduced the effectiveness of the guns though, and the landing ships were able to dock without much opposition. The fortifications were surrendered soon after, when Luftwaffe units arrived.
The fortifications at Kristiansand put up an even more resolute fight, twice repulsing the landing and damaging Karlsruhe, nearly running the cruiser aground. Confusion soon sprung up though when the Norwegians received the order not to fire on British and French ships and the Germans began to use Norwegian codes they had captured at Horten. The Germans used this opportunity to quickly reach the harbour and unload their troops, capturing the town by 11:00.
Gruppe 5 encountered the most serious resistance at the inner defensive fortifications of the Oslofjord, in the vicinity of Drøbak. Blücher, leading the group, approached the forts assuming that they would be taken by surprise and not respond in time, as had been the case with those in the outer fjord. It was not until the cruiser was at point blank range that Oscarsborg Fortress opened fire, connecting with every shot. Within a matter of minutes, Blücher was crippled and burning heavily. The damaged cruiser was sunk by a salvo of antiquated, 40-year-old torpedoes launched from land-based torpedo tubes. She carried much of the administrative personnel intended both for the occupation of Norway and also for the headquarters of the army division assigned to seize Oslo. The cruiser Lützow, also damaged in the attack and believing Blücher had entered a minefield, withdrew with Gruppe 5, twelve miles (19 km) south to Sonsbukten where she unloaded her troops. This distance delayed the arrival of the main German invasion force for Oslo by over 24 hours, though Oslo would still be captured less than 12 hours after the loss of Blücher by troops flown into Fornebu Airfield.
The delay induced by the Norwegian forces gave time for the royal family, Parliament, and with them the national treasury, to flee the capital and continue the fighting against the invasion force.
Fornebu Airfield was originally supposed to be secured by paratroops an hour before the first troops were flown in, but the initial force became lost in the fog and did not arrive. Regardless, the airfield was not heavily defended and the German soldiers who did arrive captured it promptly. The Norwegian Army Air Service's Jagevingen fighter flight based on Fornebu Airfield resisted with their Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters until ammunition ran out and then flew off to whatever secondary airfields available. The ground personnel of the Fighter Wing soon ran out of ammunition for their anti aircraft machine guns as well, in the general confusion and focus on readying the fighters for action no one had the presence of mind or the time to issue small-arms ammunition for the personal weapons of the ground personnel. Resistance at Fornebu Airfield came to an end. Norwegian attempts to mount a counter-attack were half-hearted and effectively came to nothing. On learning of this, Oslo itself was declared an open city and soon fully surrendered.
For Gruppe 6 at Egersund and the paratroops at Stavanger, there was no significant opposition and they quickly captured their targets.
Conquest of Denmark
The German plans for the invasion and occupation of Norway relied heavily on air power. In order to secure the Skagerrak strait between Norway and Denmark, the air bases in Denmark had to be seized. The domination of this strait would prevent the Royal Navy from interfering with the main supply lines of the invasion forces. In this respect, the occupation of Denmark was considered to be vital. The capture of Aalborg Airport was considered as particularly important in this respect.
The German Reichswehr crossed the Danish border around 05:15 on April 9. In a coordinated operation, German troops disembarked at the docks of Langelinie in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and began occupying the city. German paratroops also captured Aalborg Airport. Simultaneously, an ultimatum was presented by the German ambassador to King Christian X. The Danish army was small, ill-prepared and used obsolete equipment but resisted in several parts of the country; most importantly, the Royal Guards located at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, and forces in the vicinity of Haderslev in South Jutland. By 06:00, the small Danish Air Force had been taken out and 28 German Heinkel He 111 bombers were threatening to drop their bombs over Copenhagen. King Christian, having consulted with Prime Minister Thorvald Stauning, Foreign Minister P. Munch and the commanders of the army and the navy, decided to capitulate, believing that further resistance would only result in a useless loss of Danish lives. By 08:43 Denmark had capitulated. The Danish public was taken completely by surprise by the occupation, and was instructed by the government to cooperate with the German authorities. Germany's occupation of Denmark lasted until November 1946.
An important part of the Danish merchant marine escaped the occupation, as Arnold Peter Møller, President of the Mærsk shipping company, on April 8 instructed his ships on the high seas to move to Allied or neutral ports if at all possible.
In a pre-emptive move to prevent a German invasion, on April 12, 1940 British forces occupied the Faroe Islands, then a Danish amt (county). The Danish county governor and the Faroese parliament Løgting governed the islands for the duration of the war.
Soon after this, the German landings at Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger, as well as the skirmishes in the Oslofjord became known. Not willing to disperse too thinly due to the unknown location of the two German battleships, the Home Fleet chose to focus on nearby Bergen and dispatched an attack force. Royal Air Force reconnaissance soon reported stronger opposition than anticipated, and this, along with the possibility that the Germans might be controlling the shore defences, caused them to recall the force and instead use the aircraft carrier HMS Furious to launch torpedo bombers at the enemy ships. The attack never commenced though, as Luftwaffe bombers launched an assault of their own against the Home Fleet first. This attack sank the destroyer HMS Gurkha and then forced the Home Fleet to withdraw north when their anti-aircraft measures proved ineffective. This German air superiority in the area led the British to decide that all southern regions had to be left to submarines and the RAF, while surface vessels would concentrate on the north.
In addition to the German landings in south and central Norway, the Admiralty was also informed via press reports that a single German destroyer was in Narvik. In response to this they ordered the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, mostly consisting of ships previously serving as escort destroyers for Operation Wilfred, to engage. This flotilla, under the command of Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee, had already detached from the Renown during her pursuit of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, being ordered to guard the entrance to the Vestfjord. At 16:00 on April 9, the flotilla sent an officer ashore at Tranøy fifty miles west of Narvik and learned from the locals that the German force was 4–6 destroyers and a submarine. Warburton-Lee sent these findings back to the Admiralty, concluding with his intention to attack the next day at "dawn, high water", which would give him the element of surprise and protection against any mines. This decision was approved by the Admiralty in a telegram that night.
Early the following morning, Warburton-Lee led his flagship, HMS Hardy, and four other destroyers into the Ofotfjord. At 04:30, he arrived at Narvik harbour and entered along with HMS Hunter and HMS Havock, leaving HMS Hotspur and HMS Hostile to guard the entrance and watch the shore batteries. The fog and snow were extremely heavy, allowing Warburton-Lee's force to approach undetected. When they arrived at the harbour itself they found five German destroyers and opened fire, starting the First Battle of Narvik. Warburton-Lee's ships made three passes on the enemy ships, being joined after the first by Hotspur and Hostile, and sank two of the destroyers, disabled one more, and sank six tankers and supply ships. The German commander, Commodore Friedrich Bonte, lost his life when his flagship Wilhelm Heidkamp was sunk. Warburton-Lee's flotilla then left the harbour, almost untouched.
At 06:00, the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla was making their way back to the entrance of the Vestfjord when from the Herjangsfjord behind them three German destroyers emerged, commanded by Commander Erich Bey, and a few minutes later two more arrived in front of them, surrounding Warburton-Lee's force. Hardy was the first ship to be hit and was quickly taken out of action, beached by one of her officers after she was crippled. Hunter was the next ship put out of commission, coming to a dead halt in the water after several hits. Hotspur was then hit and received damage to her steering system, causing her to crash into Hunter. Several more hits were registered on the pair until Hotspur was able to reverse out of the wreck. Hostile and Havock meanwhile had raced ahead, but turned about and came back to aid the retreat of Hotspur. The German ships having received a few hits and, more importantly, being critically short of fuel, were not able to pursue. As they exited the Ofotfjord, the three British destroyers managed to sink the German supply ship Rauenfels.
Shortly after the First Battle of Narvik, two more German ships were sunk by British forces. During the night of April 9/10, the submarine HMS Truant intercepted and sank the light cruiser Karlsruhe shortly after it had left Kristiansand. On April 10, the Fleet Air Arm made a long range attack from their base at Hatston in the Orkney Islands against German warships in Bergen harbour. The attack sank the disabled German light cruiser Königsberg; recorded as the first major warship sunk by aircraft in war.
On April 10, Furious and the battleship HMS Warspite joined the Home Fleet and another air attack was made against Trondheim in hopes of sinking Admiral Hipper. Admiral Hipper, however, had already managed to escape through the watch set up outside of the port and was on her way back to Germany when the attack was launched; none of the remaining German destroyers or support ships were hit in the assault. Better luck was had in the south when HMS Spearfish severely damaged the heavy cruiser Lützow at midnight on April 11, putting the German ship out of commission for a year.
With it becoming more evident the German fleet had slipped out of Norwegian waters, Home Fleet continued north to Narvik in the hopes of catching the remaining destroyers. En route the ships suffered further harassment from German bombers, forcing them to divert course west away from the shoreline. By April 12, they were in range of Narvik and an aerial attack on Narvik from Furious was attempted, but the results were disappointing. It was instead decided to send in the battleship Warspite and a powerful escort force, to be commanded by Whitworth.
On the morning of April 13, Whitworth's force entered the Vestfjord using Warspites scouting aircraft to guide the way. Aside from locating two of the German destroyers, the scouting aircraft also sank an enemy submarine, the first such occurrence. Warspite's destroyers travelled three miles (5 km) in advance of the battleship and were the first to engage their German counterparts which had come to meet them, thus starting the Second Battle of Narvik. Though neither side inflicted notable damage, the German ships were running low on ammunition and were gradually pushed back to the harbour. By that afternoon, most attempted to flee up the Rombaksfjord, the only exception being the Hermann Künne which beached itself as it made for the Herjangsfjord and was destroyed by HMS Eskimo. Four British destroyers continued to chase the German ships up through the Rombaksfjord, Eskimo soon damaged by the waiting opposition. However, the German situation was hopeless, having run out of fuel and ammunition, and by the time the remaining British ships arrived the German crews had abandoned and scuttled their ships. By 18:30 the British ships were making their way out of the now cleared fjord.
The German invasions for the most part achieved their goal of simultaneous assault and caught the Norwegian forces off guard, a situation not aided by the Norwegian government's order for only a partial mobilization. Not all was lost for the Allies though, as the repulsion of the German Gruppe 5 in the Oslofjord gave a few additional hours of time which the Norwegians used to evacuate the Royal family and the Norwegian Government to Hamar. With the government now fugitive, Vidkun Quisling used the opportunity to take control of a radio broadcasting station and announce a coup, with himself as the new Prime Minister of Norway. Quisling's coup and his list of new ministers was announced at 19:32. On April 15 the Administrative Council was appointed by the Supreme Court of Norway to deal with the civilian administration of the occupied areas of Norway, and Quisling resigned.
In the evening of April 9, the Norwegian Government moved to Elverum, believing Hamar to be insecure. All German demands were rejected and the Elverum Authorization was passed by the members of the parliament, giving the cabinet wide-ranging powers to make decisions until the next time the Parliament could be assembled under ordinary circumstances. However, the bleakness of the situation prompted them to agree to continued negotiations with the Germans, set for the following day. As a precaution Colonel Otto Ruge, Inspector General of the Norwegian Infantry, set up a roadblock about 110 km (68 mi) north of Oslo, at Midtskogen. The Norwegian position was soon attacked by a small detachment of German troops, led by Eberhard Spiller, the air attaché for the German Embassy, who were racing north in an attempt to capture King Haakon VII. A skirmish broke out and the Germans turned back after Spiller was mortally wounded. On April 10, the final negotiations between the Norwegians and Germans failed after the Norwegian delegates, led by Haakon VII, refused to accept the German demand for recognition of Quisling's new government. The same day, panic broke out in German-occupied Oslo, following rumours of incoming British bombers. In what has since been known as "the panic day" the city's population fled to the surrounding countryside, not returning until late the same evening or the next day. Similar rumours led to mass panic in Egersund and other occupied coastal cities. The origins of the rumours have never been uncovered.
On April 11, the day after the German-Norwegian negotiations had broken down, 19 German bombers attacked Elverum. The two-hour bombing raid left the town centre in ruins and 41 people dead. The same day 11 Luftwaffe bombers also attacked the town of Nybergsund, in an attempt at killing the Norwegian King, Crown Prince and cabinet.
One of the final acts of the Norwegian authorities before dispersement was the promotion on April 10 of Otto Ruge to the rank of Major General and appointment to Commanding General of the Norwegian Army, responsible for overseeing the resistance to the German invasion. Ruge replaced the 65-year-old General Kristian Laake as Commanding General, the latter having been heavily criticized for what was considered to be passive behaviour during the initial hours of the invasion. Elements in the Norwegian cabinet considered General Laake to be a defeatist. Following the appointment of Ruge the Norwegian attitude became clear, with orders to stop the German advance being issued. With the Germans in control of the largest cities, ports and airfields, as well as most of the arms depots and communication networks, repulsing them outright would be impossible. Ruge instead decided that his only chance lay in playing for time, stalling the Germans until reinforcements from the United Kingdom and France could arrive.
On April 11, after receiving reinforcements in Oslo, General Falkenhorst's offensive began; its goal was to link up Germany's scattered forces before the Norwegians could effectively mobilize or any major Allied intervention could take place. His first task was to secure the Oslofjord area, then to use the 196th and 163rd Infantry Divisions to establish contact with the forces at Trondheim.
When the nature of the German invasion became apparent to the British military, it began to make preparations for a counter-attack. Dissension amongst the various branches was strong though, as the British Army, after conferring with Otto Ruge, wanted to assault Trondheim in Central Norway while Churchill insisted on reclaiming Narvik. It was decided to send troops to both locations as a compromise. Admiral Lord Cork was in overall command of the Allied operations.
Campaign in Eastern Norway
After the appointment of Ruge as Commanding General on April 10, the Norwegian strategy was to fight delaying actions against the Germans advancing northwards from Oslo to link up with the invasion forces at Trondheim. The main aim of the Norwegian effort in Eastern Norway was to give the Allies enough time to recapture Trondheim, and start a counter-offensive against the German main force in the Oslo area. The region surrounding the Oslofjord was defended by the 1st Division, commanded by Major General Carl Johan Erichsen. The rest of the region was covered by the 2nd Division, commanded by Major General Jacob Hvinden Haug. Having been prevented from mobilizing in an orderly fashion by the German invasion, improvised Norwegian units were sent into action against the Germans. Several of the units facing the German advance were led by officers especially selected by Ruge to replace commanders who had failed to show sufficient initiative and aggression in the early days of the campaign. The German offensive aimed at linking up their forces in Oslo and Trondheim began on April 14, with an advance north from Oslo towards the Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen valleys. Hønefoss was the first town to fall to the advancing German forces. North of Hønefoss the Germans began meeting Norwegian resistance, first delaying actions and later units fighting organized defensive actions. During intense fighting with heavy casualties on both sides, troops of the Norwegian Infantry Regiment 16 blunted the German advance at the village of Haugsbygdon April 15. The Germans only broke through the Norwegian lines at Haugsbygd the next day after employing panzers for the first time in Norway. Lacking anti-tank weapons, the Norwegian troops could not hold back the German attack.
The basis for the Norwegian strategy started collapsing already on April 13 and 14, when the 3,000 troops of the 1st Division in Østfold evacuated across the Swedish border without orders, and was interned by the neutral Swedes. The same day that the 1st Division began crossing into Sweden, the two battalions of Infantry Regiment no. 3 at Heistadmoen Army Camp in Kongsberg capitulated. The 3rd Division, commanded by Major General Einar Liljedahl and tasked with defending Southern Norway, surrendered to the Germans in Setesdal on April 15, having seen no action up to that point. Some 2,000 soldiers marched into captivity in the Setesdal capitulation. With the abandonment on April 20 of the Franco-British plans for recapturing the central Norwegian city of Trondheim, Ruge's strategy became practically infeasible.
With the calling off of the Allied plans for recapturing Trondheim, British forces which had been landed at Åndalsnes moved into Eastern Norway. By April 20 three British half-battalions had moved as far south as Fåberg, near the town of Lillehammer. The main British units deployed to Eastern Norway in April 1940 were the Territorials of the 148th Infantry Brigade and the regular 15th Infantry Brigade. In a series of battles with Norwegian and British forces over the next weeks the Germans pushed northwards from Oslo, their main effort through the Gudbrandsdal valley. Particularly heavy fighting took place in places like Tretten, Fåvang, Vinstra, Kvam, Sjoa and Otta. Other German units broke through the Valdres and Østerdalen valleys, in the former case after heavy fighting and an initially successful Norwegian counter attack.
During their advance northwards from Oslo the Germans regularly broke down Norwegian resistance using air strikes. Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers proved particularly effective in demoralizing Norwegian troops opposing the advance. The Norwegian forces' almost complete lack of anti-aircraft weapons allowed the German aircraft to operate with near impunity. Likewise, when German panzers were employed the Norwegians had no regular countermeasures. The British No. 263 Squadron RAF fighter squadron set up base on the frozen lake Lesjaskogsvatnet on April 21 to challenge German air supremacy, but many of the squadron's aircraft were destroyed by German bombing on April 25. The four Gladiators that survived to be evacuated to Setnesmoen army base near Åndalsnes were out of operation by the end of April 26. Setnesmoen was bombed and knocked out by the Luftwaffe on April 29.
Norwegian collapse in Southern Norway
After their capture of Kristiansand on April 9 the battalion-strong German invasion force in Southern Norway permitted the evacuation of the civilian population from the city. At the same time the Germans moved to secure the areas surrounding Kristiansand. After several days of confusion and episodes of panic among the Norwegian troops, despite the complete absence of fighting, the 2,000 men of the defending 3rd Division in Setesdal surrendered unconditionally on April 15.
Campaign in Western Norway
The important western cities of Bergen and Stavanger were captured by the Germans on April 9. Some 2,000 German soldiers occupied Bergen and captured the Norwegian arms depots there. The small Norwegian infantry forces in Bergen retreated eastwards, blowing up two railway bridges and sections of road after them. Despite the loss of the cities, the regional commander, General William Steffens, ordered a total mobilization. During mid-April the 6,000-strong Norwegian 4th Division, responsible for the defence of Western Norway, was mobilized around the town of Voss in Hordaland. The 4th Division was the only military district outside of Northern Norway to be mobilized completely and in an orderly fashion. The soldiers of the 4th Division managed to repulse the initial German push along the Bergen Line railway line connecting Western and Eastern Norway.
After troops of the more northerly 5th Division had covered the British landings at Åndalsnes, Steffens planned an offensive aimed at recapturing Bergen. To achieve this aim the 4th Division had a total mobilized force of 6,361 soldiers and 554 horses. General Steffens' plans were made redundant when General Ruge on April 16 ordered most of the division's forces to be redeployed to Valdres and Hallingdal, in order to reinforce the main front in Eastern Norway. The focus of the remaining forces in Western Norway became to prevent the Germans from advancing from the areas around Bergen. Norwegian naval forces, organized into three regional commands by Admiral Tank-Nielsen, prevented German intrusions into Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord. In total the Royal Norwegian Navy fielded some 17-18 warships and five to six aircraft in Western Norway following the German capture of Bergen. After the Luftwaffe bombed and severely damaged Voss and the surrounding countryside on April 23-25, inflicting civilian casualties, the Germans captured the town on April 26.
Following the fall of Voss, General Steffens evacuated the remains of his forces northward, evacuating the south side of the Sognefjord on May 28 (except for a small contingent at Lærdal). He set up his own headquarters at Førde and prepared for the further defence of Sogn og Fjordane. On April 30 a message from General Otto Ruge was communicated, telling of the evacuation of all allied troops and also of the King and Army command, from southern Norway. With no help forthcoming from either allied or Norwegian forces, on May 1, 1940 Steffens ordered his troops to disband. The advancing German forces were informed of the whereabouts of the Norwegian troops, and agreed to let them disband unmolested. On the night between May 1 and 2, Steffens left for Tromsø with three naval aircraft, effectively ending the campaign in the region. No allied land troops had been involved in the fighting in Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane. Another two aircraft flew to the United Kingdom to undergo service. Although the Royal Norwegian Navy's ships in Western Norway were ordered to evacuate to the United Kingdom or Northern Norway, only the auxiliary Bjerk sailed to the United Kingdom and Steinar to Northern Norway. The remaining ships were either prevented from leaving due to massive desertions, or had commanders who chose to disband their men rather than risk the voyages to Allied-controlled territory. The last Norwegian forces in Western Norway only disbanded in Florø on May 18, 1940.
Campaign in Central Norway
The original plans for the campaign in Central Norway called for a three pronged attack against Trondheim by Allied forces while the Norwegians contained the German forces to the south. It was called Operation Hammer, and would land Allied troops at Namsos to the north (Mauriceforce), Åndalsnes to the south (Sickleforce), and around Trondheim itself (Hammerforce). This plan was quickly changed though, as it was felt that a direct assault on Trondheim would be far too risky and therefore only the northern and southern forces would be used.
In order to block the expected allied landings the Oberkommando der Reichswehr ordered a Fallschirmjäger company to make a combat drop on the railway junction of Dombås in the north of the Gudbrandsdal valley. The force landed on April 14 and managed to block the rail and road network in Central Norway for five days before being forced to surrender to the Norwegian Army on April 19.
A British vanguard force arrived at Åndalsnes on April 12. The main landing of Sickleforce, consisting primarily of the British 148th Infantry Brigade and commanded by Major General Bernard Paget, occurred on April 17.
In the waning hours of April 14, Mauriceforce, composed primarily of the British 146th Infantry Brigade and commanded by Major General Adrian Carton de Wiart made their initial landings at the Norwegian port town of Namsos. During the trip the force had been transferred to destroyers instead of bulky transport ships due to the narrow waters of the fjord leading to Namsos; in the confusion of the transfer a great deal of their supplies and even the brigade commander were misplaced. Another great problem for Mauriceforce was the lack of air support and effective anti-aircraft defences, something of which the Luftwaffe took full advantage. On April 17 the force moved forward from Namsos to positions around the village of Follafoss and the town of Steinkjer. French troops arrived at Namsos late on April 19. On April 20 German aircraft bombed Namsos, destroying most of the houses in the town centre, and large portions of the supply storage for allied troops, leaving de Wiart without a base. Regardless, he moved 80 miles (130 km) inland to Steinkjer and linked up with the Norwegian 5th Division. Constant aerial harassment prevented any kind of offensive from taking place though, and on April 21 Mauriceforce was attacked by the German 181st Division from Trondheim. De Wiart was forced to fall back from these assaults, leaving Steinkjer for the Germans. On April 21 and 22 Steinkjer was bombed by the Luftwaffe, leaving four-fifths of the town in ruins and more than 2,000 people homeless. By April 24 Steinkjer and the surrounding areas had been occupied by the Germans.
End of the campaign in Central and South Norway
By April 28, with both groups checked by the Germans, the Allied leadership decided to withdraw all British and French forces from the southern and central regions of Norway. The Allied retreat was covered by Norwegian forces, which were then demobilized to avoid having the soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans. On April 30 the Germans advancing from Oslo and Trondheim linked up.
On April 28 and 29 the undefended port town of Kristiansund had been heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, as was the nearby port of Molde, which functioned as the headquarters of the Norwegian government and King. The town of Ålesund had also suffered heavily from German bombing during the last days of April.
Sickleforce managed to return to Åndalsnes and escape by May 2 at 02:00, only a few hours before the German 196th Division captured the port. The western Norwegian port had been subjected to heavy German bombing between April 23 and 26, and had been burning until April 27. The village of Veblungsnes and the area around Åndalsnes train station suffered particularly heavy damage. By the time the Germans arrived, some 80% of Åndalsnes lay in ruins. Mauriceforce, their convoys delayed by thick fog, were evacuated from Namsos on May 2, though two of their rescue ships, the French destroyer Bison and the British destroyer Afridi were sunk by Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers.
Organized Norwegian military resistance in the central and southern parts of Norway ceased on May 5, with the capitulation of the forces fighting at Hegra in Sør-Trøndelag and at Vinjesvingen in Telemark.
The failure of the central campaign is considered one of the direct causes of the Norway Debate, which resulted in the resignation of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the appointment of Winston Churchill to the office.
Having evacuated from Molde during German air attacks on April 29, King Haakon VII and his government arrived in Tromsø in Northern Norway by May 1. For the remaining weeks of the Norwegian Campaign Tromsø was the de facto capital of Norway, as the headquarters of the King and cabinet.
Campaign in Northern Norway
In Northern Norway the Norwegian 6th division, commanded by General Carl Gustav Fleischer faced the German invasion forces at Narvik. Following the German invasion General Fleischer assumed the position as commander-in-chief of all Norwegian forces in Northern Norway. The Norwegian counter-offensive against the Germans at Narvik was hampered by Fleischer's decision to retain significant forces in Eastern Finnmark to guard against a possible Soviet attack in the far north.
Along with the Allied landings at Åndalsnes and Namsos, aimed against Trondheim, further forces were deployed to the north of Norway. These forces were tasked with the objective of recapturing Narvik. Like the campaign in the south, the Narvik expedition also faced numerous obstacles.
One of the first problems faced by the Allies was the fact that the command was not unified, or even truly organized. Naval forces in the area were led by Admiral of the Fleet William Boyle, 12th Earl of Cork who had been ordered to rid the area of the Germans as soon as possible. In contrast, the commander of the ground forces, Major General Pierse Mackesy, was ordered not to land his forces in any area strongly held by the Germans and to avoid damaging populated areas. The two met on April 15 to determine the best course of action. Boyle argued for an immediate assault on Narvik and Mackesy countered that such a move would lead to the decimation of his attacking troops. Boyle eventually conceded to Mackesy's viewpoint.
Mackesy's force was originally codenamed Avonforce, later Rupertforce. The force consisted of the 24th Guards Brigade, as well as French units led by Brigadier Antoine Béthouart. The main force began landing at Harstad, a port town on the island of Hinnøya, on April 14. The first German air attacks on Harstad began on April 16, but anti-aircraft defences prevented serious damage. Only in late May did the Germans succeed in causing destruction in Harstad; a raid on May 20 destroying oil tanks and civilian houses and another raid on May 23 hitting Allied shipping in the harbour.
On April 15, the Allies scored a significant victory when the Royal Navy destroyers Brazen and Fearless, which were escorting the troop-carrying Convoy NP1, managed to force the German U-boat U-49 to surface and scuttle in the Vågsfjorden. Found floating around the sinking U-boat where documents detailing the dispositions, codes and operational orders of all U-boats in the Norwegian operational area, providing the Allies with an efficient and valuable tool when planning troop and supply convoys to the campaign in Northern Norway.
After the Allied failure in Central Norway, more preparation was given to the northern forces. Air cover was provided by two squadrons of carrier-transported fighters operating from Bardufoss Air Station, the re-equipped No. 263 Squadron RAF with Gloster Gladiators and No. 46 Squadron RAF with Hawker Hurricane.
As part of the Allied counter-offensive in Northern Norway, French forces made an amphibious landing at Bjerkvik on May 13. The naval gunfire from supporting Allied warships destroyed most of the village and killed 14 civilians before the Germans were dislodged from Bjerkvik.
On May 28, two French and one Norwegian battalion attacked and recaptured Narvik from the Germans. To the south of the city more troops advanced eastwards along the Beisfjord. Other Norwegian troops were pushing the Germans back towards the Swedish border near Bjørnfjell. However, the German invasion of France and Belgium had immensely altered the overall situation of the war and the importance of Norway was considerably lessened. On May 25, three days before the recapture of Narvik, the Allied commanders had received orders to evacuate from Norway. The attack on the city was in part carried out to mask from the German the Allies' intention of leaving Norway. Among those who argued against evacuating Norway was Winston Churchill, who later expressed that the decision had been a mistake. Shortly after the May 28 Allied recapture of Narvik, the city was bombed and heavily damaged by the Luftwaffe.
While the Norwegian and Allied forces were advancing at Narvik, German forces were moving swiftly northwards through Nordland to relieve Dietl's besieged troops. The captured Værnes Air Station near Trondheim was rapidly expanded and improved to provide the Luftwaffe with a base from which to support the Narvik sector. In the evening of May 27 the port city of Bodø was bombed and strafed by the Luftwaffe, causing massive damage and leaving 5,000 people homeless. Bodø was soon after captured by the advancing German units, and a British-operated improvised air strip fell into German hands. The air strip at Bodø provided the Germans with an air base much closer to the Narvik fighting, and was of great significance for their continued advance northwards.
Operation Alphabet, the general Allied retreat from Norway, had been approved on May 24. The Norwegian authorities were only informed of the decision on June 1. After a meeting on June 7 where the decision to carry on the fight abroad was made, King Haakon VII, Crown Prince Olav and the Norwegian cabinet left Norway on the British cruiser Devonshire and went into exile in the United Kingdom. Without supplies from the Allies the Norwegian Army would soon have been unable to continue the fight. Both the King and the Crown Prince had considered the possibility of remaining in Norway, but had been persuaded by the British diplomat Cecil Dormer to instead follow the government into exile. The Crown Prince suggested that he should remain and assist the Administrative Council in easing the effects of the occupation, but due to the King's old age it was decided that they both had to go into exile, in order to avoid complications should the King die while abroad. By June 8, after destroying rail lines and port facilities, all Allied troops had been evacuated. The Germans had launched Operation Juno to relieve pressure on the Narvik garrison and, after discovering the evacuation, shifted the mission to a hunt and sunk two British destroyers and the aircraft carrier Glorious. Before the British warships were sunk, however, the destroyer Acasta torpedoed and damaged Scharnhorst. Shortly after the encounter the British submarine Clyde intercepted the German ships and torpedoed Gneisenau, causing severe damage.
The Norwegian forces on the mainland capitulated to the Germans on June 10, 1940. Units fighting on the front had been ordered to disengage in the early hours of June 8. Fighting ceased at 24:00 on June 9. The formal capitulation agreement for forces fighting in mainland Norway was signed at the Bristol Hotel in Trondheim at 17:00 on June 10, 1940. Lieutenant Colonel Ragnvald Roscher Nielsen signed for the Norwegian forces, Colonel Erich Buschenhagen for the German side. A capitulation agreement for the Norwegian forces fighting at Narvik was also signed the same day, at Bjørnfjell. The signatories of this agreement, the last local capitulation of Norwegian troops during the campaign, were General Eduard Dietl for the Germans, and Lieutenant Colonel Harald Wrede Holm for the Norwegians.