This World War 2 disaster took an astonishing 2,571 lives. It was the result of mistaken identification by British RAF planes. In November 1944, MS Rigel was sailing south under the German flag. It was picking up prisoners of war at various ports and planned to disembark them at Trondheim. Not too far from this destination on November 27, the Rigel was spotted by a British air patrol, mistakenly identified as a troopship, and attacked and sunk. In terms of lives lost, this was the third worst sinking in history, exceeding even the 1912 sinking of the Titanic.
During the German occupation during World War 2, Norway had a lifeline to the Allies across the North Sea. It was risky and very dangerous, but it provided secret agents, radios, information and weapons while also enabling some of its endangered citizens to escape. This lifeline was maintained initially by a few Norwegian fishing vessels and later by American submarine chasers based in the Shetland Islands. It became known as the Shetland Bus. The Shetland Bus ran 210 missions from August 1941 to the end of the war. Fishing vessels were used until the spring of 1943. However, too many of the vulnerable vessels were being lost. So in the fall of 1943 three American sub chasers were brought in to replace them. These three military vessels completed 116 missions without any fatalities.
The Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940 succeeded quickly and efficiently but only after a dramatic initial setback. Needing to protect its vital supply of steel from Northern Sweden and also to secure submarine bases for the North Sea, Germany devised a plan to attack Norway at five different locations: Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen, Kristiansand/Arendal, and Oslo. This plan worked well and control of the whole country was achieved in a few days. Norway was not expecting an imminent invasion and thus had limited defences.
Albert Jaern’s And Then Came the Liberators Of the many books on the Nazi occupation of Norway from 1940-1945, Albert Jaern’s 1945 book of woodcuts, And Then Came the Liberators, does as well as any in conveying the experience. The 102 woodcuts depict Jaern’s everyday experiences as an Oslo native from April 8, 1940, when all the lights went out except those in the German consulate, to May 7 five years later, when peace was announced. Each woodcut is accompanied by a short prose comment. Sixty-six years later Borderland Books published a superb new version.
Reliable weather forecasts were essential in WW2. And the Allies went to extreme lengths to make sure they were available. That is why in 1941 Britain and Norway re-established a weather station on one of the remotest and most inhospitable islands in the world—Jan Mayen. The island is 55km long and 373 square km in area. It is located in the Arctic Ocean 60km north-east of Iceland, 500km east of Greenland and 1,000km west of Norway’s North Cape. It became part of Norway officially in 1921. A four-man meteorological station was established there in 1930, but during WW2 in the spring of 1940, after a failed attempt to land materials to reinforce the island against the Nazis, the island was temporarily abandoned and the station destroyed purposely.