The end of the Phoney War

Decision Making Blunders Costing Decisive Battles and Wars

Many turning point battles were lost because of series of decisions made by incompetent generals that didn’t act on initiative or respond on time. Some of these critical battles had a delay or wrong movement which enabled their enemy a flanking manoeuvre which neutralised their armies while trying to outflank the enemy by themselves, Incompetence may be a result of lack of analytic skills, lack of resolve, lack of supervision, lack of understanding logistics and intelligence, cowardliness, arrogance, feud with privilege or rivality between generals or a combination of one of those factors.

The Battle of Norway is another example of wrong decision making and faulty enemy assessment as well as a timely reaction and coordination. Winston Churchill as the head of the Naval Admiralty reiterated a similar failure in Galipoli navy battles and landings support. On the Hand he had a successful evacuation amphibious retreats in Galipoli, Dunkirk and to some extent in Norway if we disregard the HMS Glorious calamity.

1940 – The Battle or Norway

The British had naval superiority in the Atlantic and Norwegian Sea, so the British Admiralty considered impossible the Germans to carry out an successful amphibious invasion of Norway. As a consequence, they didn’t expect Operation Weserübung where the cities and ports of Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik were occupied. Narvik was the railway gateway line towards Gällivare iron ore mines.

Operation Weserubüng was the code name for the German invasion of Norway and Denmark. It was the turning point battle that enabled the conquest of east Europe including France. It marked the air and land superiority of Germany in Europe as well as Britain superiority in the sea. It was the end of the Phoney war and the opening of World War II de-facto.

The Allies prepared to occupy the shores and key Norwegian port before moving into the Swedish frontiers and akin control of the iron ore sites and access routes but the Germans outmanoeuvred them

Both Britain and Germany had been embarking troops and preparing Destroyers, submarines and battleships for the purpose of conquering Norway right after the Altmark incindent which took place in February 1940.

The Germans needed a steady supply of iron ore from Sweden and a launchpad against Allied convoys in the Atlantic and later on another front against Russia. The Allies needed exactly that too, but also a military and commercial access Sweden and to Finland were the winter war was ending.

On 3 April, the Allies got reports of preparations and buildup of troops, materiel and ships in the Baltic. They decided to proceed with the mining of the iron ore route in parallel to the landing operation, setting a date of 8 April for the Admiralty to implement it. It was assumed that it was part of a force being sent to counter Allied plans after the Altmark incident. They amassed troops and ships close to Scapa Flow, the Royal Navy base in the Orkney Estuary.

Norway allocated about 40% of their tiny outdated strategic Air and Naval forces against Germany and about 60% preparing to oppose the allies. The Norwegian government wanted to uphold neutrality at all costs. Norway’s main cities and ports, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik, were occupied in the following 24 hours using amphibious landing. on the same day During the day paratrooper troops captured the aerodromes in Oslo and Stavanger with this as the first capture done by air. German paratroopers would also land in airports in Oslo, Kristiansand, and also in the perimeter of the air base in Sola. These were the first airborne attack in the history of this kind. This new startegy was the predecessor of the paratrooper capture of the fort Eben Emael which enabled the fast fall of Belgium and France and the encirclement of Royal Expedition Force.

By the end of the second day of the German invasion it was too late to redistribute the forces and the Royal Family and government fled to Sweden as British and French aid was slow and disorganised.

The Germans had 4 Echelons of navy and 1 airborne unit which captured the strategic ports and airfields all the way to Narvik, Denmark was captured within 4 hours using diplomatic deceit with military occupation. This gave the Germans an Airfield in Northern Denmark that allowed strategic air superiority and logistic supply to their troops in Norway. It also meant that all counter attacks by land and sea on Norway would be easily intercepted and counter attacked from the air with bombings, paratroopers or air supply.

The Royal navy had the capability of reaching Norway or engaging Jutland operation area within 10 hours from call, but they misused this advantage. Their reaction to the German invasion was prompt since air scouts reported ship movements. But the direction and manoeuvre wasn’t effective and properly coordinated. The assessment of the British navy was that the Germans were headed west-north to destroy convoys and not as a mission to capture Norway. After the Hence British navy desembarqued their troops and moved their navy northwest in a disorganised manner. Plans were altered many times while underway. This produced confusion and sometimes chaos. British troops, which were embarked for the Norwegian invasion, had to be disembarked in Scotland so that the battle cruisers could be chased.
When the British troops were re-embarked for a counter invasion, they didn’t have the right equipment and air coverage. Thus, the liberation of Norway failed and brought the downfall of the Chamberlain government.

The HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious air carriers were sent support the Allied counterattack, but they arrived 15 days after the beginning of the campaign. The Glorious was sunk because of wrong decision-making of its captain and a feud with his Air wingcommander.

At the end of the campaign , Britain and France had ceded a strategic launchpad from Denmark and Norway and also committed and loss troops, artillery, navy and warplanes that would be needed later on for defending Fance and Belgium.

Operation Wilfred was a belligerent assault of Norway’s territorial waters, which preceded the invasion carried out by Germany. At the Nuremberg Trials, Admiral Raeder received a life sentence, partly for violating Norway’s neutrality. 

Related Resources and Links

Battle-of-Fredericksburg Visuals

How Britain Navy Incompetence that enabled Norway Conquest

Air and land superiority achieved by British navy wrong reactions

Battle of Norway

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