British troops evacuated from Namsos and Andalsnes

HMS Bittern ablaze in Namsos Fjord after having suffered a direct hit in the stern by a bomb.

Following the decision to abandon the campaign in central Norway, the Royal Navy began the task of embarking British and French troops from Namsos in the north part of the Trondheim area and Andalsnes in the south. Allied forces continued the campaign in the far north of Norway, where there remained the hope of preventing the Germans taking Narvik and thereby blocking her access to Swedish iron ore exports.

Sub-Lieutenant (later to become Rear Admiral) John Adams was on the British destroyer HMS Walker which had been ordered across the North sea from Scapa Flow at short notice:

30 April, 1940

We met Sheffield, Southampton, 3 Tribals and a passenger ship at 15.00 on a lovely fine day and entered Romsdals Fjord at 19.00 at action stations to evacuate troops from Andalsnes expecting German planes to blow us sky high at any moment. We don’t seem to be doing so well in Norway!

We went in amongst the high mountains (one was 5,700 feet) all covered in snow and several fishermen and their wives watching us from the shore. It wasn’t dark till 23.00, but we saw no German planes. Two trawlers were aground in various places, Andalsnes itself was in indescribable ruins. Not a wall standing and fires everywhere. The German Air Force certainly knew their stuff.

Galatea went alongside a ruined jetty and we went outside of her and 578 troops were pushed into us. They were in a completely demoralised state and had been machine gunned and bombed the whole day by 3 Heinkels who had come all the way from Hamburg! They hadn’t seen many German troops, but lots of parachutists, with light tanks, bicycles and field artillery in pieces! We took these men to the Southampton and then went back again for more, but there were hardly any left. There were only 120 men from 1200 of the Sherwood Foresters, and they had only been ashore a week!

Several of the cruisers took troops – but not many. We had the biggest load, and then all retired. In the meanwhile Wanderer had gone aground and a tribal just managed to tow her off. Westcott and ourselves stayed behind to pick up 150 Royal Marines who were waiting on a lonely beach to be embarked. This we had to do in boats which was a long task and just got them off by 03.00 / 1st May when it was just daylight. The German planes were due any moment now!
The Marines had been told to embark at 04.00 but there would have been no-one there at that time if we hadn’t found them. Apparently the Germans were having it all their own way.

The RMs were fed up at the RAF and told us the following true tale. Glorious flew off 18 Gladiator pilots for patrol round Andalsnes and they landed on a frozen lake. Next morning over came the Germans and bombed the lake and planes to hell. 7 were left while the RAF men ran for cover and didn’t move the planes. They had let their engines freeze up. Next day two crashed taking off so 5 were left. These RMs had to guard [them], and actually burnt them the same day we picked the troops up. There was no-one to fly them. [see 24th May 1940]

Well, we left in a hurry down the fjord – 36 miles to open sea and broad daylight! We were all standing on the bridge wondering why the Luftwaffe hadn’t turned up and the First Lieutenant remarked, “nasty black things, these Heinkels” when rat tat tat came the machine gun fire and we looked aft over the mainmast and there was a German diving at us. One could see the tracer bullets coming at the bridge but the range was too far and they fell into the sea astern.

Read the whole account at The Second World War Experience Centre .

HMS-Walker, British WW2 destroyer

HMS Walker, built in 1918 and brought out of reserve in 1939. She managed to avoid the Luftwaffe bombs. At the end of May she would be back to assist in the evacuation of Narvik

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