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Battle of Calais

The Battle of Calais started after the Germans had split the Allied armies in half at Sedan on May 14th and 15th, 1940. From there, the British had been cut off from their supplies. Eight days later, the Battle of Calais had begun. Dunkirk, Boulogne, and Calais had become vitally important. So, British troops were sent to Calais to establish a new line to the BEF, who were still fighting around Lille and Arras.

The defense of Calais would be carried out by Calais Force. This force contained one battalion each from the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (60th Rifles), the Queen Victoria Rifles and the Rifle Brigade, the 229th anti-tank battery of the Royal Artillery and a battalion from the Royal Tank Regiment, equipped with 21 light and 27 cruiser forces. 

Under the command of Brigadier Claude Nicholson, they would be aided by a Searchlight Regiment as well as an anti-aircraft regiment. Additionally, some 800 French soldiers helped to defend the citadel. In all, this gave Nicholson a total of 4,000 men.

The Germans reached the coast on May 20th, then stopped for a day. On the 22nd, they continued their drive north. The 10th Panzer Division was given the responsibility of taking Calais and the 1st Panzer Division of driving on towards Dunkirk, but of stopping to capture Calais on their way. Both divisions were at “full strength,” meaning that each division had roughly 15,000 men and 300 tanks.

At the time, Calais had a border of “bastions and ramparts” (Source). However, Nicholson realized that even this wouldn’t help him hold the perimeter for very long. So, he made the decision to move further north, along an inner perimeter. This line was protected by water lines, in the canals, as well as in the docks.

By midmorning on May 23rd, the Germans tanks had begun rolling into Calais from the south west. Later that morning, three more squadrons of tanks, these under the command of Lt. Col. Keller, left Calais for Omer, some twenty minutes south east. Five miles south of Calais, at Guines, they ran into the German tanks. A short battle followed.

[Below: Calais in ruins]

Photo] Destroyed houses and church in Calais, France, afternoon of ...


The British tanks eventually retreated back north to Coquelles, which was south west of Calais. However, the Germans had also been repulsed. I Panzer Division continued on, leaving the X Panzer Division to defend Calais. At Calais, itself, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (60th Rifles) saw battle with the Rifle Brigade on the dunes east of Calais.

At 2 a.m. the next morning, on the way to Dunkirk, Brigadier Nicholson’s tanks met the Rifle Brigade. Unfortunately, the British were forced to retreat back to Calais. By 6 that evening, the Germans had also broken through the British outer perimeter at Calais, forcing Nicholson to move his headquarters back from “Boulevard Léon Gambetta to the Gare Maritime, on the waterfront” (Source).

The Royal Navy was able to provide artillery defense with the help of the Polish warship, Burza. Later, HMS Wolfhound and HMS Verity were able to bring in supplies, ammunition, and Admiral J. F. Somerville. However, the battle also saw the sinking of HMS Wessex as well as heavy damage to HMS Vimiera and the Polish Burza. But the Royal Navy had to keep up the good fight, for it meant they were giving the BEF the extra time they needed to reach Dunkirk safely.

On the morning of the 25th, the X Panzer division attacked the inner perimeter. At 9 that evening, Prime Minister Churchill sent a communiqué:

“Every hour you continue to exist is of the greatest help to the BEF. Government has therefore decided you must continue to fight. Have greatest possible admiration for your splendid stand. Evacuation will not (repeat not) take place, and craft required for above purpose are to return to Dover” (Source).

That night, a small flotilla of ships began rescuing the survivors of the Royal Marine.

Fighting continued most of the next day with yet another German attack. They were able to gradually push the British back. Later, the French surrendered. Around 11 am, “Bastion 11 was forced to surrender with barely a man unwounded” (Source). Their defenses were beginning to collapse. But the British refused to give in. They were pushed back as far as Courgain, where they held on until 9 that evening.

Shortly thereafter, soldiers were rounded up. Many of them would be in captivity of five years. Nicholson died in captivity in 1943. Overall, some 20,000 men were taken prisoner, some 3,000-4,000 of them being British. The rest were French, Belgian, and Dutch.

[Below: Captured British forces]


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The Norwegian Resistance

The Norwegian resistance was successful, in part, because they had many advantages over the Germans – “a long coast line with vast amounts of the country uninhabited. Norway also had a long border with neutral Sweden which could be easily crossed. In such an environment, a focused resistance movement could do great harm to an occupying army” (Source).

Unfortunately, though, the Norwegians were divided in the fact that many did not want to commit the acts of treason and raids that led to more Nazi atrocities – as had taken place in other countries.


Germany invaded Norway in the early hours of April 9, 1940. However, the Norwegian government refused to capitulate, saying: “We will not submit voluntarily; the struggle is already underway” (Source). The entire government evacuated Oslo and, during an emergency session, gave full authority to King Haakon VII and his cabinet – this gave the king the authority to reject Germany’s ultimatum.

However, this did not stop German invasion. Thanks to WWI, the Norwegian military was “underfed and undertrained by the late 1930′s.” (Source). Germany was able to invade Southern Norway with very little initial resistance.

[Below: Coins with the H7 monogram were worn by Norwegian nationalists as jewelry during the occupation, and subsequently confiscated by German authorities]

Fichier:Norway 1 Krone 1940 obverse H7 monogram.jpg — Wikipédia



To aid the resistance, Sweden aided the Norwegians with equipment and training by setting up “a series of camps” camouflaged as police training camps, all along the border (Source). Some 7,000-8,000 men were trained through the camps.

Although Norway did not partake in many battles officially, their military still went to great lengths to subvert the Germany army whenever possible. For the most part, this consisted of more acts of sabotage. However, their military was up and running by the time they were liberated.

Many civilians practiced their own means of civil disobedience. For example, the first outbreak was started by Oslo University students who wore paperclips attached to their collars. This was a sign demonstrating resistance, solidarity, and unity.

Another means of civil disobedience was known as the Ice Front. Here, Norwegians refused to speak to Germans, pretending to not understand German. They also refused to sit next to a German on public transportation. This only lasted until the Germans made it illegal to stand on a bus if seats were available. 

XU (Unknown Undercover Agents): These agents collected maps and photos of German fortifications. They also had Nazi connections – “Several of their members were couriers for M15 agent Paul Rosabund, who had vital information regarding German nuclear research” (Source). An interesting fact: Two of the members were female.

Osvald Group: These agents performed some 110+ sabotage missions, “storing” explosives around the country. They also provided support for the NKVD, though, becoming a military group. Through this, 35 members were killed. Below are some important dates:

July 20, 1941: Their first railway sabotage mission.

February 2, 1942: Blew up the Oslo Central Station.

August 21, 1942: Attacked Statspolitiet’s Office.

April 20, 1943: Sabotaged an employment office in Oslo.

October 25: 1944: Assassinated a policeman in Stapo.

November 9, 1944: Robbed a bank (Laksevag Sparebank)

Heavy Water Sabotage: Allied sabotage “to prevent the German nuclear energy project from acquiring heavy water (deuterium oxide)” (Source). Operations-Codenamed Grouse, Freshman, and Gunnerisde were used to completely render the Vemork Hydroelectric Plant  inoperable as of 1943.

Operation Grouse consisted of dropping a team of 4 SOE trained agents into the wilderness on October 19, 1942. From there, they were expected to ski to their location. However, they were dropped off at the wrong point and got off course several times, meaning they reached their location much later than expected. However, their mission was still successful.

This operation was followed by Operation Freshman, which was, unfortunately, unsuccessful. On November 19, 1942, “two Airspeed Horsa gliders, towed by Handley Page Halifax bombers, each glider carrying two pilots and 15 Royal Engineers of the 9th Field Company, 1st British Airborne Division, took off from RAF Skitten  near Wick in Caithness” (Source). Thanks of poor weather conditions, one of the two Halifax tugs crashed into a mountain, killing all seven of those aboard. Its glider was able to take off, but its crash claimed several more lives. The other Halifax, however, was unable to even locate its landing zone, “owing to the failure of the link between the Eureka (ground) and Rebecca (aircraft) beacons” (Source). Deciding to give up and head home, though, only proved more treacherous, and the second Halifax came down not far from the first flight, killing several more.

This was followed by Operation Gunnerside. On February 16, 1943, another six agents were dropped by a “Halifax bomber of 138 Squadron from RAF Tampsford” (Source). Their drop was mercifully successful and they met up with the team from Grouse a few days later. The next part of their plan was to take place between February 27th and 28th. However, their job was made more difficult thanks to the mines, floodlights, and additional guards placed around the plant by Germans after the failed Freshman attempt. 

Agents of the combined Grouse and Gunnerside operations were to infiltrate the plant and place “explosive charges on the heavy water electrolysis chambers, and [attach] a fuse allowing sufficient time for their escape” (Source). They left a Thompson submachine gun, hoping to show this was a British SOE mission and not a Norwegian effort, afraid of backlash from the Germans.

Their mission was successful. Over 500 kg of heavy water was destroyed.

Acts of Resistance: Destroying ships & supplies (such as the Bismarck); Distributing illegal newspapers; Killing Nazi collaborators & officials; Smuggling people in and out of Norway; Destroying Norsk Hydro’s plant and stockpile of heavy water; and numerous other acts of sabotage.

[Below: The Vemork plant blowing up.]

Article 1 (July 2018): The Catcher was a Spy : Repco Inc

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