My wife was born in Norway, I was born in England. We have four children and twelve grandchildren and have lived in Norway since 1962. Before that we both spent several years in the USA, where we met, decided to marry and then left for Norway.
I was four years old when the war broke out in 1939. I remember my father coming home from a place called Dunkirk and later, learning that he had lost an eye while training for further duty. One uncle was taken prisoner in Crete, another served in Burma. From none of these did I ever hear any ‘war stories’. At school we sang songs about Hitler’s and Goebbels’ physical deficiencies. Posters about walls having ears, ration cards for buying sweets, blanked-out road signs, sirens at night and hours in the cellar made their impressions but I can hardly call these experiences close contact with the war. As I grew up, the war as history became one of my interests. The first war book I read was Chester Wilmot’s acclaimed ‘Struggle for Europe’ and this was followed by Winston Churchill’s six-volume ‘The Second World War’. Nobody else in my circle of friends and family seemed too interested – the war was a bad memory, not to be talked about, to be forgotten as quickly as possible.
My wife Else spent the war years in Oslo. She remembers the day the Germans came and the following day’s exodus from Oslo to escape the rumored Allied bombing that never came. She remembers the turmoil that ensued when the invaders took over the schools, the night the saboteurs destroyed German ships in the harbour – and she remembers the day the Royal Family came back to a tumultuous reception in Oslo. Her father listened to the ‘illegal’ BBC news broadcasts and was briefly arrested and imprisoned. One of her uncles was sent to a concentration camp in Germany, and a school friend had to flee to Sweden to escape the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
When I came to Norway in 1960 it seemed, from the newspapers and conversations, that the war was still very much alive. The words Resistance, Gestapo, Blücher, Quisling, Narvik and Telemark took new meanings for me and I found that the German occupation, of which I knew almost nothing, was still a palpable part of Norway’s daily life. I heard of and met some of those who had been in the resistance movement. I knew, and knew of, some of those who had been on the wrong side, supporters of Quisling. Later I read ‘official’ history books and books by some of the ‘war heroes.’ I began to wonder about their families and all the other men and women in occupied Norway who had helped to achieve victory. I wondered about other things that seemed to have been somewhat neglected: the influence and fate of the ordinary NS members, the contribution and fate of the war sailors, the women in the Resistance and the men who became double agents.
During the past seven years we have had many wonderful contacts with people around the world who have asked us questions, asked for information and given praise and suggestions. Most satisfying of all are the comments from high-school and college students who have found a special interest in the Second World War and who are searching for information.
We hope that many of these students will continue to keep alive the memory of the events we relate and refer to in the following texts and photographs.