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Official Opening of Camp Norway

Official opening of Camp Norway

The camp, called Camp Norway, was officially opened on Friday, Nov 29th, 1940, and consisted of a barracks to house about 800 men located on a two-acre site on the south side of the town. Later, a mess hall, two storage buildings, a garage and a carpentry shop were added. The original buildings still exist and are owned and occupied by ABCO Industries and the metal sign over the main gate still proclaims it to be Camp Norway. The camp was primarily a Royal Norwegian Navy training depot for seamen and whalers who were being taken into the navy. Norway has compulsory military service for so most of these men had been through basic training and were listed as reservists. At the same time, merchant ships were being equipped, as fast as possible, with some armament, usually a 4-inch gun on the stern and pom-poms on the upper superstructure. Trained gunners were obviously needed and at first the gun crews on Norwegian ships were British army or navy. No doubt there was a language problem - and probably food problems as well - and Norwegian skippers were soon crying out for Norwegian gunners. Consequently, Camp Norway took on the additional task of training gunners for the merchant fleet. When the organisational dust had settled the Norwegians had established quite a presence in Nova Scotia. In Halifax there was the Royal Norwegian Naval Service at 183-189 Hollis Street, a Norwegian Health Service centre at 435 Barrington; a sick bay for minor ailments at 25 Kent Street; a seamen's home at 34 Tobin Street; and a church at 106 Dresden Row. On the South Shore there was Camp Norway itself in Lunenburg, a hospital and convalescent home in the Hackmatack Inn in Chester; an officers rest & recuperation home, and thanks to a couple of enterprising Norwegians, the Prince Olav Cafe in Lunenburg. There was also a Norwegian Club established by the Norwegian civilians. Once the Canadian government became convinced that the Norwegians could be trusted, they were allowed ashore and out of the camp. The young and fit men were absorbed by the Norwegians themselves as crew members for the converted whale catchers or merchant ships and as recruits for the Norwegian Armed Services. Those men who were too old or otherwise unfit for military or sea duty were allowed to take up other employment and found jobs in shipbuilding and repair, forestry, agriculture, or fishing. Those with appropriate skills worked in shipyards in Lunenburg, Halifax, Dartmouth, Liverpool or Dayspring and 20 or 30 were employed in the Lunenburg Foundry. They could live "ashore" as it were but they had to report to Camp Norway once a month. 

The camp had a training ship, the Moss, and a variety of weaponry. With the permission of the Canadian authorities the Norwegians placed two 76mm. guns to cover the entrance to Lunenburg harbour and then, at the request of the Canadians, Camp Norway was incorporated into the Canadian coastal defence system. The Norwegians became integrated into both the civilian and military sectors of Nova Scotian and Canadian society. 

Another small group of Norwegians about whom little is known also graced Lunenburg with their presence for a short time - from March 1942 to May 1943. These were Norwegian Army personnel - staff and students of a training camp that was set up to provide basic training to army recruits.
It was known that at the beginning of the war there were about 1,000 Norwegian citizens of compulsory military service age in the U.S.A. and 1600 in Canada so it was decided to set up a base in Canada, start an officers training school and establish Army companies. Unfortunately, the laws of both Canada and the U.S.A. prohibited foreign nationals residing in these two countries from being drafted into the forces of their homelands. The Army therefore had to depend on volunteers. By the winter of 1942, some 75 volunteers had been assembled and were temporarily housed in Camp Norway. However, there were no officers or NCO's among them so in March 1942 twenty-two men were sent over from the Norwegian Brigade in Scotland. Eventually, the strength reached about 100 men and they carried out their training in and around Lunenburg. The expected large influx of volunteers never did materialise, partly because the American Army established its own "Norwegian" battalion where personnel were granted American citizenship on enlistment. At the end of May, 1943, the Army base was closed and most of the men transferred to Norwegian army companies in Britain but nine were selected for training as radio operators and sent to Little Norway in Ontario. 

Camp Norway lasted from September 1940 until the Gunnery School was transferred to Travers Island, New York, in June 1943. By that time it had trained about 450 men as crew members for the converted whale catchers and other vessels and 635 gunners for armed merchant ships. The Royal Norwegian Naval Service in Halifax was disbanded in August, 1944.

Story Location: 
81 Tannery Road, Lunenburg, Canada
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