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Participation of the Poles in the Norwegian Campaign
 


The German invasion of Denmark and Norway (9 April 1940) provided the grounds - even on the same day - for the allied Supreme War Council making the decision to support the fighting Norwegian army, initially at sea and then also on land. Polish troops also took part in this operation.

As early as 8th April near Kristiansand a Polish submarine ORP "Orzeł" sank a German freighter "Rio de Janeiro" which was carrying German invasion troops.

Soon afterwards, she was joined in Norwegian waters by the Polish destroyers: ORP "Błyskawica", ORP "Burza" and ORP "Grom". During the next days they attacked the enemy's artillery positions, its areas of troop concentration, and defended themselves against the attacking Luftwaffe's planes. On 4 May, in the Rombakken fiord, the German air force sank the ORP "Grom", commanded by Ltn. Comm. Aleksander Hulewicz. The ORP "Błyskawica" was also damaged in the course of this operation. On 10 May both destroyers left Norwegian waters, along the British destroyer "Grafton".

Scotland, July 1940 - decoration of the colors of the Independent Podhale Rifle Brigade - with the Virtuti Militari cross of the 5th class - for the participation in the operations in Norway - by the Supreme Commander, Gen. Władysław Sikorski

Meanwhile, the land operations of the allied expeditionary corps commenced. They consisted, amongst other units, of a Polish brigade - "Brygada Strzelców Podhalańskich", commanded by General Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko.

This brigade, established on 9 February 1940, was initially to take part in the defence of Finland against the Soviets, this however never became reality. Eventually, its troops departed from the French port of Brest to land in the Norwegian port of Harstad.

After disembarking the Poles initially supervised the coast, securing the areas in their "zone of responsibility", executed early warning tasks, preventing the Germans from carrying out a sea landing there. As the first unit, the 2nd Batallion took part in the fighting on land, participating in the French - Norwegian attack on Bjerkvik (12/13 May). On 16 May the Polish brigade replaced the Franco-British troops on the Ankenes peninsula. Between 27 and 28 May it took part in the Battle of Narvik, seizing Nybork and Ankenes and, by so doing, supported the allied attack on this city. As a result of this strike the German 3rd Mountain Infantry Division was forced to withdraw.

Since the allies were facing a deteriorating military situation, a decision was taken in France to evacuate the expeditionary corps (under command of Gen. Marie Bethouart). The Poles secured the embarkation of the allied troops on the ships and were the last to leave Norway, heading for France.

The merchant ships of the Polish fleet were also engaged in the operations in Norway: "Batory", "Chrobry" and "Sobieski". The freighter "Chrobry" was bombed by the Germans and sank on the night of 14/15 of May, near Bodö.

For their fortitude demonstrated in combat the Norwegian king, Haakon VII, decorated Polish soldiers with several orders and all the participants in these operations were granted an honorable decoration in the form of a cord in national colours.

The Monument of the Polish Soldier and Sailor,
unveiled in Narvik in 1979


General Zygmunt Piotr Bohusz-Szyszko
(1893-1982)

During the World War I he served first in the Russian Army, then in the Polish Legions. He served in the Polish Army from 1918. During the 1939 campaign he commanded an infantry (dywizja). From January until July 1940 he commanded the Independent (Detached) Podhale Marksmen' Brigade. Later he served as the Chief of Staff of the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR, then he became the Deputy Commander and, subsequently, the Commander of the 2nd Polish Corps during the campaign in Italy. In 1945 he was nominated a General (Dywizji). After the war he lived in London, where he worked at restoring antique objects. He died on 20 June 1982 in London. He was decorated with Virtuti Military orders of the 4th and 5th class.

Polish troops in Norway

The following Polish land and naval units took part in the allied operations:

- Independent Brigade of Podhale' Rifle (Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Podhalańskich); 4778 soldiers, equipped amongst others with 25 anti-tank cannons and 30 mortars,
- 3 destroyers,
- 1 submarine,
- 3 cargo ships.

The unit suffered the following losses:
- 79 killed,
- 138 wounded, 7 lost.

Polish Navy lost:
- 1 destroyer, 59 sailors died.

Polish merchant fleet lost:
- 1 freighter, 12 sailors died.

In acknowledgement of their successes the Norwegian king granted the sailors the right to carry an arm cord in Norwegian national colours with a knot and a golden lion.

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