Wednesday, July 15, 2015

German Weather Units in Arctic

According to the Spitsbergen treaty, it is not allowed to keep military forces on the island. After the German occupation of Norway, the population was evacuated, this was done the 25th august 41 by a Canadian unit, the Russians (2000) were shipped to Arkhangelsk, and the Norwegians (800) to England. In April 42 a small force (British/Norwegan) was sent to Spitsbergen, 82 men, but these were attacked by German planes. 12 dead, amongst them oblt Sverdrup, 15 wounded. Later a unit of 90 men, Norwegian soldiers, landed. They controlled the "cities" of Barentsburg, Kapp Heer and Longyearbyen.This unit was reinforced in 43, and with the exception of some attacks by planes & boats, no fighting took place. On the 8 Sept 43, the ships "Tirpitz" and "Scharnhorst" started shelling these cities. 9 destroyers put a force of 900 Gebirgstruppen ashore. (the largest German ship-borne landing ever?). It came to heavy fighting, and 9 Norwegians were KIA, 41 POW's. 105 men escaped in the Mountains. The Germans burned all houses, and left for Altafjord again.

The Germans landed a weather unit at Spitsbergen in 1941, transported by sub U 377. This unit was 2 years on duty, but left the island in 44. There were several attempts to land a weather unit on Greenland, and they succeeded august 42.This unit was picked up, and flown to Norway 17/6-43.A new unit landed (26 men), and was engaged by the Danish army. However, they left in 44, and despite several attempts, the Germans never successfully landed any manned weather stations on Greenland anymore. On the isle of Jan Mayen, the Germans placed a unmanned station in 46. At Bear Island there was two Abwehr-units (1 Norwegian in each),one of these was picked up in 46. (Rijp Fjord) The Germans had to rely on weather observation ships and planes, because of allied activity!

Operation 'Gauntlet' was codename for a mainly Canadian Commando raid on Spitzbergen. The Canadian troops sailed on Royal Navy ships (rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian in command) from Scapa Flow on 19 August 1941 and the raid took place on on 3 Sept 1941. Main aim besides visible support to USSR post-Barbarossa, was to destroy the coal mines. All coal stocks were destroyed along with 3 colliers. Civilians were evacuated. On the way home the British ships sank the German cruiser 'Brense' off Portangerfjord, Norway. There were later skirmishes, on 6/8 Sept 1943 the Tirpitz, Schanarnhorst and 10 DDs raided the island (Unternehmen Zitronella).

A British task force with the purpose to: attack German ships in the Kirkenes - Petsamo area, and second to check if Spitsbergen was occupied by the Germans. The British leading ships were "Aurora" and "Nigeria", and the did sink German "Bremse". Two ships with 1 500 Gebirgsjäger from 6.Gebirgsdivision managed to escape. The ships sailed on to Spitsbergen, and landed a Norwegian officer, Lt Tamber (31.7.41). The Norwegian government in London protested, because of the Spitsbergen Treaty, and a British plan to land two Canadian Battalions was also denied by the Norwegian government. The coal mines were partly destroyed during the evacuation of the civilians (25.8.41)The purpose of the British/Norwegian force (155 men) that landed in April 1942, was to act as field guard unit. Hitler gave Göring orders to prepare an occupation, 16.5.43, but nothing came out of this.

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