Special Independent Companies - Norway 1940.

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Special Independent Companies - Norway 1940.

Post by tigre » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:22 am

Hello to all :D; a new topic for sharing....................

An Interlude in the Campaign in Norway. By an Indian Army Officer.

Towards the end of April, 1940, twenty officers of the Indian Army received orders to report in Lahore immediately and from there to proceed to the United Kingdom by air. They were to "act as advisors to officers commanding battalions which might be required to operate in mountainous country." These officers assembled in Lahore on April 22. At Karachi they embarked in a new Imperial Airways flying-boat designed to carry seventeen passengers. Three extra seats had been installed in the luggage compartment aft which was noisy, smelly and dark, and soon was given the name of "Black Hole of Cathay." "Cathay" was the airplane. It was changed for the "Champion" at Alexandria, and in this airplane the journey to London was completed.

The morning after arrival the twenty officers met General Massy and Brigadier Bruce who described the situation as it then was and explained the future intentions. The British forces had been evacuated from Namsos and Andalsnes, but operations for the occupation of Narvik were still continuing. It was realized that the Germans would almost certainly continue their advance northwards, and it was the intention to harass their lines of communication by the adoption of guerrilla tactics. For this purpose special independent companies had been formed, and five of them were ready for service. They were under the command of a colonel with a staff approximating that of a brigade. Each company was about 300 strong, all volunteers from different divisions. With the exception of some of the officers all were Territorials. The company included sappers, signals, and interpreters as well as infantry; it also had a support section of four Bren guns. It was divided into three platoons of three sections, each of the latter commanded by an officer. On May 01 they received their summons to report on the following day. Here they met the commander of the Independent Companies and left with him the next evening, arriving on the Clyde the following morning. They found two ships from the Liverpool-to-Belfast run, which were to take them to Norway.

No. 3 Company was in one ship, and Nos. 4 and 5 in the other. They sailed with an escort of four destroyers. The plan was for No. 3 Company to go straight to Bodo and secure that area, while Nos. 4 and 5 Companies landed farther south at Mosjoen and established contact with the Germans. The voyage was uneventful, and was spent in overhauling kits and studying maps of Norway. It was apparent that there were no British forces between the southern landing places and the Germans, so Nos. 4 and 5 Companies made plans for an opposed landing.

To resume the story of the operations: Nos. 4 and 5 Companies landed at Mosjoen shortly after midnight on the night of May 8-9. It was snowing at the time, which kept off German aircraft. A party or Chasseurs Alpins, about a hundred strong, who had been guarding Mosjoen, met the companies and explained the situation. The Germans were advancing rapidly and were only a few miles to the south. It was decided to send No. 5 Company southwards to support the Norwegians who were still resisting the Germans, and to leave No. 4 Company to defend Mosjoen. The Chasseurs Alpins embarked on the ship which had brought the companies and departed northwards.

The next day reports were received that a German troopship was steaming northwards from the south of Mosjoen. The Navy were not prepared to work on unconfirmed reports-there were too many of them-and so the Germans were able to effect their famous landing at Hemnes, opposed by only one platoon of No. 1 Independent Company. The troopship was sunk by destroyers, but only after it had succeeded in landing its force behind our troops. There was no alternative to a reembarkation and withdrawal by sea.

Before the companies left, the Germans were made to pay the price of speed. It was their practice to send cyclists ahead of their advanced guards. One Indian Army officer, remembering the Pathan, laid an ambush on the road, into which these cyclists fell. All sixty of them were killed-the first burst of fire killed many, and the rest, shouting, "Heil Hitler!" rode jinking through the dead to their own destruction. They were admired by our men and buried by their own. A small ship was found which was intended to carry 150 men; on this 600 of our troops embarked and left safely. A small number of men were left behind; they were guards over dumps with whom it was not possible to establish contact. They arrived in Bodo fourteen days later, having marched over the mountains after destroying the dumps they had guarded. Their arms and equipment were complete.

Source: Coast Artillery Journal. July-August 1941.

More follows. Cheers. Raúl M 8-).
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Re: Special Independent Companies - Norway 1940.

Post by tigre » Fri Apr 03, 2015 6:24 am

Hello to all :D; more follows.....................

An Interlude in the Campaign in Norway. By an Indian Army Officer.

Meanwhile No. 3 Company had landed unopposed at Bodo, where they were met by a detachment of regular British infantry from Harstadt and two dejected looking Royal Air Force officers. The cause of their sorrow was soon told. They had arrived two days before in two flying-boats to reconnoiter suitable landing grounds and begin construction. The flying-boats had not been at anchor in the harbor for more than a few hours when a German airplane, the first that had been seen in that part, arrived and sank one of them with a bomb. The other was then towed up a small creek and carefully hidden. The next day the German airplane returned, made straight for the place where the flying-boat was hidden and destroyed it. This efficient spy service was not the least of our enemies. The event hastened the disembarkation of No.3 Company; they had no desire to remain in such a well-informed neighborhood longer than was necessary. They went into peaceful billets in a hamlet at the head of the fjord. These days of peace were made more delightful by a rapid movement in the weather; the country shed its snow and became strikingly beautiful. The only signs of war were constant rumors of enemy landings from parachutes, boats and seaplanes and regular air traffic northwards to Narvik. The Germans were reinforcing their beleaguered garrison with supplies.

By the middle of May Nos. 3, 4, and 5 Companies were holding positions round the edge of the Bodo fjord as far south as Rognan: No. 2 Company had arrived and was holding the Bodo area. No.1 Company, which had arrived before any of the others, was holding Mo and was in contact with the Germans. It was now apparent that the Germans intended to push northwards as fast as they could. Accordingly a brigade of Regulars was ordered down from Harstadt to reinforce the area. One battalion of this brigade went south to join No. 1 Company at Mo the rest were to stay in the Bodo area. The laborious task of making a landing ground at Bodo was begun; the ground was so soft that it needed almost complete resurfacing, and even wooden house-doors were used in making the runway. At that time things began to go wrong. The remainder of the brigade, which was due for Bodo, met with two disasters. The first battalion was in a transport when the Germans attacked with aircraft and inflicted material loss on it. It was decided to send the other battalion with more precautions, but it too met with misfortune and had to be sent back to Harstadt to refit. The delay in its final arrival at Bodo was a very serious factor in the course of the campaign.

The expected German advance from Mo developed, and the first Regular battalion and No. 1 Company were forced to give ground. The hills along this route are covered with thick pine forests in which visibility is often only ten or twenty yards. When the Germans met opposition on the line of the road, they were quick to deploy out on to the hills on either flank. In these flanking moves they were helped by the knowledge of the country which many of their officers had gained as "tourists" in peacetime. They were also helped by good modern maps and, of course, by their complete mastery in the air. Nevertheless they owed their success to other causes of more general application. Their men were very fit and hard, and were used according to their special aptitudes-those that were accustomed to hills and to snow were used widest on the flanks and so on. They do not delude themselves that all infantry are equal, or even that all men given equal training will make the same type of infantrymen. Their men were specially armed for forest and hill fighting. In place of heavy automatics (and a Bren is very heavy halfway up a steep hill!) they had machine-carbines and in place of artillery they had grenades and numerous mortars. Our men were outwalked, outweaponed, outnumbered, and finally outflanked.

No. 3 Company was sent south to relieve No. 1 Company, as the latter had suffered heavily in three weeks of continuous fighting. The relief took place at Krokstandt, some thirty miles north of Mo. The second Regular battalion to arrive was sent to take up a position at Pothus. While preparing the position they discovered a dump of German ammunition, which is rather a surprising find in an allied country as yet unoccupied by the enemy. Our "Q" [Quartermaster] staffs are taught to think ahead-perhaps they now need postgraduate training!

The first Regular battalion withdrew slowly through the Pothus position and was then sent back to Bodo to rest. No. 3 Company remained with the other Battalion and No.2 Company who were already at Pothus. Up till this time it was expected that further reinforcements would come to drive the Germans south. It was now known that they would not come. However, the day that the Pothus position was abandoned was the first of two red-letter days for the British. Three Gladiator fighters had landed on the newly-made landing ground at Bodo and now appeared in the air. One unfortunately crashed when taking off, but the other two put up a typically marvelous RAF performance. One or the other was kept continuously in the air over Rognan, where a tricky withdrawal into ferry-boats was in progress. They played ducks and drakes with the Germans, and in their two days of glorious action accounted for more than fifteen German planes.

Source: Coast Artillery Journal. July-August 1941.

More follows. Cheers. Raúl M 8).
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Forward over rock debris.......................
Das Interessante Blatt. 15. Mai 1940.
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Re: Special Independent Companies - Norway 1940.

Post by tigre » Sun Apr 05, 2015 4:09 pm

Hello to all :D; last part.....................

An Interlude in the Campaign in Norway. By an Indian Army Officer.

The effect on the troops was electric, they cheered at the sight of them and became different men; but it was not to last. A large force of Messerschmitt-110's arrived, shot one down and the other had to leave for Narvik; the pilot was, badly wounded in the plane that was shot down. Just before this action the Germans dropped leaflets on Bodo which read: "Thank you for building the landing-ground. We will not bomb it, we will take it." A sinister quip, and not quite true, for shortly afterwards about a hundred German bombers arrived and razed Bodo to the ground. High-explosive and incendiary bombs spared nothing except, of course, the brewery; even the hospital, clearly marked with Red crosses and standing apart from the town, was reduced to ashes. The town consisted largely of wooden houses, and this fact may have been a blessing, for the smoke that they gave off as they burned covered the inhabitants and garrison as they evacuated the place.

The withdrawal by ferry from Rognan to Landset was successful but with nothing to spare. The last boatload embarked as the Germans entered Rognan village, a sapper [engineer] lit the fuze which was to blow up the jetty. And then-the engine of the boat stopped. The engineer who tinkered with the engine had considerable moral support from his passengers in his desire for success, and he achieved it in time for the boat to be some fifty yards from the jetty when it went up. The explosion knocked all the troops over on to the deck, but none was hurt. It was hoped that the destruction of the jetty and removal of all boats would place an effective barrier in the way of further German advance. They had an arm of the sea between them and our forces. They attacked the next day. They had found a bridle path around the head of the fjord, and with amazing energy and determination they had marched all night and were on our tail again, not, however, in any strength.

Complete evacuation had been ordered, but with Bodo destroyed and German forces still in contact with our rear parties it looked to be a ticklish operation. In the event it was entirely successful, largely because the Germans suspended air action for the three vital days. The first echelons had left by cruiser and were taken to a lonely camp in North Britain to prevent all communication with outside; it was essential that the evacuation should be kept absolutely secret from the start. The last echelons left on destroyers, and went in the first instance to Harstadt. Harstadt was evacuated a few days later, and the operation was marked by an event which deserves credit. The Air Force pilots of the Hurricane fighters which were there were ordered to destroy their machines. This they were so loth to do that they asked permission to fly them onto an aircraft carrier. Permission was given, though the feat was extremely dangerous, as a Hurricane was never designed to land on anything but a large landing ground. They all succeeded.

So ended an adventure which has many counterparts in previous and subsequent British military history. If our civilians are a race of shopkeepers, our soldiers are a race of plumbers-they come, and then go back for their tools. It was, however, the first campaign which proved certain fundamentals of this war: One cannot fight without air equality, one shouldn't without air superiority. The battlefield is no place for any man who has not been trained to take a pride in his endurance, his hardness, and his independence of all comfort. Infantry is no longer a generic term for an armed soldier who has no horse, nor can infantry be armed and trained to fight successfully everywhere. The German infantry, who needed machine-carbines, had them; those who had snowshoes could use them, they were specialists in Norwegian warfare, not just PBI-“Poor Bloody Infantry”. These basic facts are well understood; at home, and no one on the Continent need doubt that when we come back we shall have our tools with us-for every conceivable job of war to be done.

Source: Coast Artillery Journal. July-August 1941.

It's all folks. Cheers. Raúl M 8).
Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.

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