Category: norway

Soviets Respond to Food Relief Offer

Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930).  His Fram expedition had reached 86°13′ N in 1895.  Undeterred by the failure of the 1919 relief offer, he would try again, with some more success, in 1921.

May 15 1919, Moscow–After the idea of a conference on Prinkipo fell through, the Allies had little contact with the Soviets, apart from an American mission which was ignored, and Smuts’ very indirect approach via Béla Kun.  In large part, this was because they did not want to; the French hated the Soviets, as did much of Lloyd George’s coalition.  News from Russia was limited and of exceedingly poor quality (The New York Times printed headlines in May claiming that Petrograd had fallen to the Finns), but what little there was suggested a humanitarian crisis in a country now completely cut off from the outside world.  Hoover, head of food relief in Europe, suggested that food relief be extended to the Soviets as well–this would help the people of Russia and possibly help bring Russia back into the community of nations.

To avoid the perception that this would be yet another Allied intervention in Russia, Hoover proposed that Russian food aid be organized via a prominent neutral–Fridtjof Nansen, the famous Norwegian explorer.  Under Nansen’s leadership, Norway and other neutral countries would deliver food and medical aid to Russia, provided ceasefires were arranged in the civil war.  The offer went out from Berlin (as the Allies refused to send it), and on May 15 the Soviets responded.  Lenin had instructed Chicherin and Litvinov to be “extremely polite to Nansen, extremely insolent to Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau,” and they were, rejecting outright the idea of ceasefires without a formal peace conference.  The Allies would do nothing else that attempted to reach out to the Soviets during the remainder of the Paris Peace Conference.

Sources include: Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919

Last Sortie of the High Seas Fleet

The repaired Moltke, pictured shortly after the armistice.

April 24 1918, Wilhelmshaven–The German attack on a convoy to Norway in October 1917 greatly angered the Norwegians, but also gave them a tempting new opportunity.  To satisfy the Norwegians that their convoys were not in danger and that they could rely on trade with Britain, the British began using some of their dreadnoughts to escort the convoys, aiming to protect them from a similar German surface attack.  However, this now meant that if the Germans sent their entire fleet against the Norwegian convoys, they stood a good chance of picking off some British dreadnoughts–winning a great victory for comparatively little cost.

On April 23, the High Seas Fleet left the Jade for a raid on an anticipated convoy to Norway.  Hipper’s battlecruisers would lead the attack, while the High Seas Fleet waited sixty miles off, ready to join if British reinforcements arrived.  The Germans had gotten much better at securing their communications–they had issued orders in writing, used wireless far less often (and at far lower power), and changed their keys more frequently.  As a result, Room 40 did not have any real indication that anything was afoot until the wee hours of the 24th–and even then, the evidence was circumstantial at best, and only the cruiser force at Harwich was placed on alert.  A British submarine had sighted the German battlecruiser force passing by, but inexplicably believed it to be a British force, and did not pass the information on.

At 5:10 AM on the 24th, the battlecruiser Moltke suffered a major mechanical failure; one of her propellers fell off and one of her turbines tore itself to pieces, flooding her engine room.  She broke radio silence to report her troubles an hour and a half later.  The British intercepted this signal, believed it came from Moltke, and fixed it (very approximately) to a point twelve miles inland from the Norwegian coast.  Nevertheless, it took some time for the information to reach Beatty, and the Grand Fleet was not ordered to sea until 10:47 AM; coincidentally, the High Seas Fleet would turn around, Moltke in tow, and head back for Germany three minutes later.  Hipper, meanwhile, scoured the convoy route, but found nothing; German intelligence had been off on the convoy dates.  At 2:10 PM, he turned around as well, and the British fleet was too far off to catch his fast force.  

The Moltke had managed to conduct repairs and was back under her own power (albeit at only 17 knots) twelve hours after the accident.  Two and a half hours later, however, she was struck by a torpedo from a British submarine.  She took on a large amount of water, but was still able to limp back into port; she would be out of commission for repairs until mid-September.

The operation of April 23/24 was the lat time either fleet would leave their port in full force; despite the predictions of many, there would be no decisive naval battle in this war.

Today in 1917: First Major British Offensive From Salonika

Today in 1916: The Easter Rising
Today in 1915:  Turks Arrest Armenian Notables in Constantinople

Stay tuned for a bonus edition later today.

Sources include: Patrick Beesly, Room 40; Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel.


strong, elegant, and agile gentlemen”

During WW1, Norway,
our Neutral Ally. sent a team of very skilled Mountain stretcher-bearers to the
snowy Vosges Mountains of France:

“As snow keeps falling 4 teams of Norwegian skiers were sent here to help
for the transport of the wounded. Here there are, 16 young, strong, elegant, and
agile gentlemen, friends of France who even speak French! They jump to the rescue
of our wounded and freezing soldiers, cover them with warm blankets and rush them through heavy snow to the ambulances. We are already best friends with them.”

WW1 – Translated from the French @French officer Alpin and artist – Photo: WW1 Norwegian skier in
training in Gerardmer, Vosges Mountains, France. See the entire set of these awesome photos hereBibliothèque de documentation
internationale contemporaine

Roald Amundsen Returns German Honors

Roald Amundsen (1872-1928), pictured in 1920.

October 25 1917, Kristiania [Oslo]–Major polar exploration efforts had largely ceased shortly after the outbreak of war; the last major effort, Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to cross Antarctica, left Britain five days after Britain entered the war.  Norway was neutral, however, and Roald Amundsen, first to traverse the Northwest Passage and first to reach the South Pole, was preparing a new expedition through the Northeast Passage north of Russia, and possibly reach the North Pole by ship (as Fridtjof Nansen had attempted over twenty years earlier).  Amundsen’s new ship, the Maud (named after the Queen of Norway and sister of George V), was christened in June 1917.

Amundsen was widely respected around the world for his feats of exploration, and had received honors from many countries.  On October 25, it was widely reported in the press that Amundsen went to the German embassy in Kristiana [Oslo] and officially returned the decorations he had received from Germany, in a “personal protest” against the German surface attack on a Norway-bound convoy the previous week, which had killed 17 Norwegian sailors.

Today in 1916: Central Powers Take Dobruja

Today in 1915: South Africa Begins Recruitment of Coloured Troops
Today in 1914: Enver Pasha Orders Attack on Russian Fleet.