War comes to Norway

The 9th of April 1940 is forever imprinted on many older people s’  minds in Norway, because that’s the day our country was invaded by German troops. Early in the morning, on a clear and bright day airplanes and warships approached the many inlets leading to Bergen harbour, and all at once we were involved in a very bloody war lasting until 1945.

I lived with my parents and grandparents in a house built by granddad in 1902, about 6-7 miles south of Bergen. It was not a large house, but we managed. In those days the toilet was placed  in a shed across the garden, so we were not too bothered having to go outside last thing at night. That’s the way life was in those days!! Indoor plumbing was for the better-off people. My grandfather had retired and he kept busy with the small holding. Our property was big enough for us to keep a couple of pigs, a few goats and raise enough vegetables to sustain us during the winter months. We also had quite a few berrybushes, ie raspberry, gooseberry, red currant and strawberries. My mother made jam and jellies and canned what was left over.

The Germans encountered very little resistance when they arrived in Bergen and surrounding area, with surprisingly few soldiers. At Håkonsvern Fortress (at the inlet of Bergen harbour) shots were fired and a few people killed. The invasion was expected since Hitler’s relentless occupation of several European countries began in 1939, but it still came as a shock. People were relatively calm, according to the books I have read lately about this event, but very frightened.Quite a few of our relatives lived in or around Bergen and many of them left the city within days of the German takeover. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends arrived at our house and as many as 15-20 stayed for weeks on end. Where they all slept I can’t imagine. Times were hard everywhere in the 1930s and 40s. My own father had a dreadful time finding work, and money was in short supply. I was too young to remember any of this, but somehow it must have made a deep impression on me because I’ve been told I began to stammer so badly that my mother was worried. She was adviced to ignore it, and within a few months I was back to my usual chatty self – no more stammer. One thing my mother insisted upon was that I was to stay in my own bed, no matter where the rest of them slept.

One episode I vaguely remember is that, a few weeks into the war, we were told to evacuate our homes because the resistance planned to blow up a bridge nearby, and it might be dangerous to stay at home. We headed for Totland, a mountainous ski-area some miles from our house. To a four year old this was exciting, and I didn’t mind sleeping in the hayloft on a farm for a couple of nights. As it turned out nothing happened, and we all went back home.

 My grandmother is dressed in the local national costume.

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