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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
Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.