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The Story of Camp Norway

The Story of Camp Norway

The shooting phase of the Second World War started on the 1st of September, 1939, with the German invasion of Poland. Britain declared war on Germany on September 3rd and Canada followed suit on September 9th. The fall and winter of 1939/40 was the period of the so-called phoney war when there was not much happening on the ground in Europe. However, in the spring of 1940 it was a different story. The Germans invaded and occupied Denmark and Norway, overran the Netherlands and Belgium, drove the British from the continent at Dunkirk and defeated France. For our purposes, the key date is April 9th 1940, the day the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway. Denmark was quickly overrun and occupied but that was not the case in Norway. Though ill-prepared to face the might of the German military machine, the King and government rejected calls to surrender and resisted the invasion with whatever resources they could muster. They managed to hold out for two months but eventually had to accept the reality that they couldn't stand up to the Third Reich. 

On the day of the invasion the King, Haakon VII, and his government headed northward, stopping at various places along the way until forced to move on. Eventually, on June 7th, the King and Queen with the Crown Prince and the government were evacuated from Norway to Britain on the British cruiser HMS Devonshire. They quickly set up a Government-in-exile in London and prepared to continue the fight, which they did to good effect. At the outbreak of the war, Norway had a population of around 3 million (it's only a little over 4 million today) but she had the third largest ocean-going merchant fleet in the world. As a neutral nation, she could charter her ships to anyone and did so, mainly to the Allies. A flag of neutrality was a poor defence and from September 1939 to April 1940, neutral Norway lost 50 ships, mostly to German submarines. When the invasion took place, more than 1000 of the country's 1100 ships were at sea. The King immediately sent out radio message to all ships ordering them to go to a British or Allied port. At the same time, the German-backed government that had been set up in Oslo under Vidkun Quisling, was broadcasting orders for the ships to return home. Not a single one did so and Norway's great merchant fleet was now at the disposal of the Allies. This is where Nova Scotia comes in to play. At that time, whaling was a very big industry and the Norwegians were very big players. When the country was invaded there was a whaling fleet, consisting of seven factory ships and a large number of smaller whale catchers, en route home from the Antarctic. This fleet was diverted to various ports to unload their cargoes. The oil that the factory ships carried was unloaded in New Orleans or New York and the ships then proceeded on to Halifax. During the spring and summer of 1940, seven factory ships and 22 or 23 whale catchers with upwards of 2,000 men on board arrived in Halifax and anchored in Bedford Basin.

Story Location: 
81 Tannery Road, Lunenburg, Canada
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