Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More on the Norway National Guard courtesy of Shorter Half

Shorter Half has been really, really busy at work. So busy that he hasn't kept up with his blogs when he gets home. So when he sent me an e-mail with some potential blogfodder, I said "Um, I already posted that. Last week."

What I didn't know was the rest of what he included. (And yes, this is a typical communication from him.)

Number 3 Company, Norwegian Royal Guards, in Gibraltar. No. 3 Company is the drill and band company, but they all still have to meet the same standards of a crack light infantry unit that is personally responsible for the defense of Oslo, but also the day-to-day protection of the King. (A-yup, unlike most European “Guards” units, these “Guards” are still legally and factually the King’s personal bodyguards.)

The Royal Guards are formally called “His Majesty The King's Guard”, and are a battalion sized formation that are a direct and personal command of the King of Norway – regardless of what the Norwegian parliament or Prime Minister may say, and regardless of the fact that the Norwegian King is largely just a figurehead of a constitutional monarch (while the King has HUGE personal powers on paper, they have been almost exclusively read to mean the King rubberstamps whatever the elected government does), these guys answer only to him. If he told them to invade China tomorrow, off they would go, even if all alone – as long as the King took over paying their costs out of his own pocket. (This is WAY more direct control than, say Elizabeth II, has over “her” personal regiments and Guardsmen. . . )

During WWII, the battalion was single-handedly responsible for keeping Norway in the war on the Allied side. On the first day of the Invasion of Norway in April 1940, the Germans sent a crack paratrooper unit, EXTREMELY heavily armed (almost every man had an MP40 submachinegun, except the guys carrying the 10 or so belt-fed MG34 General Purpose Machine Guns, and every man DID have a sidearm and a slew of grenades.), and extensively trained for exactly this particular mission, to capture the Royal Family and Cabinet in 1940. One company of Guardsmen, with bolt action rifles and limited ammo, only two Colt M-29 water cooled machine guns (basically, the 103 lbs water cooled Browning .30, only firing the same ammo as the German MG34), and a bunch of “militia” (the local rifle club, armed with the obsolete rifles the US abandoned), stopped them butt-cold, losing only three wounded in a 90 minute firefight. Total German losses before the commander gave up and retreated are unknown, but they left two dead behind.

This was considered a critical mission by the German command – grab the Royal Family and Cabinet, and they could force an immediate surrender and effective annexation of Norway in a day or two. Instead, they occupied Norway. . . but without any support from the official government. (King Hakon VII flat out told the parliament that if they surrendered to Germany, he would abdicate. . . as he could not, even by silence, acquiesce in the surrender of Norway. Instead, the parliament voted to give ALL formal control over Norwegian government over to the King’s Council until parliament could have a regular meeting.) Meanwhile, the Norwegian Government in Exile functioned superbly throughout the war, and the people of Norway kept their morale up, even under occupation and the puppet government of Quisling.

The battalion fought in the line for the remainder of the Norwegian Campaign, and their German adversaries respectfully named them, "Die Schwarzen Teufel" ("The Black Devils” -- they apparently fought in their black regimentals, not standard field uniforms. . . given their pre-war ceremonial duties, they may not have even been issued field uniforms!), much as they named the Marines “Devil Dogs” in WWI, Scots in WWI “The Ladies From Hell”, and British paras “The Red Devils” in North Africa.


  1. Them Norwegians may talk slow, but they sure are handy with a gun...

  2. Every man being armed with a sub-machine gun nets a very high rate of fire, but at awful short range, and with concomitant resupply issues.

    And those water-cooled Browning .30s (okay, 7.92mms) should not be discounted: Steady as a rock, and capable of pretty much continuous fire as long as they were supplied with belts of ammo.

  3. DW:

    Two Browing water cooled MMGs, while totally awesome MMGs, in an urban, nightime environment, WITHOUT a bunker location, and without the mountain of water cans, pre-linked (or pre-belted, if you have cloth belts) ammo boxes, do not equal the offensive firepower and mobility of ten or so GPMGs.

    Heck, you can tie up each one of their MMG positions with 3 or 4 GPMGs firing in succession to keep the barrels cooler, adn STILL have a couple GPMGs for the assault force as either door-knockers or suppressive overwatch on the actual assault point.

    Ammo resupply is only relevant for the NEXT firefight. The German paras were on a short duration (so, no need to carry a bunch of food and snivel gear -- more room for ammo!), well rehearsed, surprise attack, with a VERY limited aim, and no anticipation of having to fight their way out against long odds. (Dude, you got the King and his council as POWs -- ain't NOBODY going get real sparky with you on the way out, unless they are convinced you're just going to execute the prisoners once you're away.)

    The short range of the SMGs wouldn't normally be seen as a disadvantage for a surprise, urban, nighttime, snatch & grab. That sort of close range, high intensity, short duration assault work is what they were invented for, after all.

    Long story short - the Germans had the objective advantages -- they had an equal fore, of (theoretically) higher quality, a well-rehearsed and planned operation with the initiative, better equipment, equipment that was better suited to the conditions of the engagement (Krag-Jorgensen rifles for most of your troops, who happen to be unorganzied militia, are NOT ideal for an night urban engagement against automatic weapons), better supply, MORE support firepower, limited aims, etc. They should have rolled up the Norweigians like a newspaper and they got stopped butt-cold.

    Becuase the Germans brought better STUFF, while the Noweigans brought better MEN.