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John Gilmour - Norway & Sweden WWII - Fact, Fiction or Friction?

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

by Jim Carchrie - December 2nd 2019

Norway/Sweden during WWII - Fact, Fiction of Friction by John Gilmour 13th November

John is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and is an acknowledged expert in Scandinavian Studies. He was introduced to a good turnout of members by President Ken Kristoffersen and his subject was titled Fact/Fiction/Friction which dealt with the relationship between Norway and Sweden during and after the Second World War. Ken established John’s credentials by giving an impressive list of his published books, research papers and other interests.

John began his talk by leading us all up the garden path with a fictional history of the events around the invasion of Norway by Germany in 1940 which resulted in the Swedish army, navy and air force being totally destroyed in six weeks, concentration camps being sited in Northern Sweden and the combined Norwegian, Swedish and Danish Nazi forces under German control invading Finland in 1943! The eventual outcome of this fictional scenario was that Russian forces would have eventually taken over all of the Scandinavian countries and Russia would remain in control for many years in a similar way as the unfortunate conquered Eastern European countries that were annexed during the war.

Thankfully the actual history as it happened was not as terrible as the above fiction. Norway and Sweden before 1939 had spent many years trying to find a diplomatic treaty of mutual support but due to political positioning no agreement was reached before it was too late.

After the German invasion King Gustav of Sweden offered asylum to the Norwegian Royal Family but anybody wearing uniform would be interned. He also suggested that Princess Marta would not be permitted to travel to America. King Haakon was absolutely furious with what he saw as Swedish/German interference and relations became frosty. The Germans requested that transit through Sweden be allowed for humanitarian reasons such as medical goods, nurses and refugees. This was refused at first but various pressures were brought to bear so that when Norway surrendered on the 11th June 1940, Sweden capitulated to the German demands. The evidence from diaries, letters and communications examined after the war show that many high positioned Swedes such as the Prime Minister were very unhappy with the situation but felt they had been forced into it by the Germans under threat of invasion. The first transit of Swedish Territory was on the 18th June 1940 and continued until the tide of war swung in the Allies favour in 1943.

There after the Swedish government opened relations with the Norwegian Government in Exile.

The final word was from the British Ambassador in Sweden during the war.

After a period of interesting questions from the audience a vote of thanks was given to the speaker by Margaret Thompson to loud applause.

Jim Carchrie.

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