|A Norwegian Gold Coin. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.|
Last month I shared the beginning of the story about the dramatic rescue of Norway's gold during the Nazi invasion of 1940. If you missed the post, you can read it here. We left the gold train sitting undetected on a railroad siding in Otta, Norway on its way to the west coast. The train didn't run during the day because the German bombers loved to target anything moving. After a twenty-four-hour wait at Otta, the gold train left at 10:00 PM and arrived at the port town of Åndalsnes at 4:30 AM on April 20th.
|View of the innermost part of the Romsdalsfjord with Åndalsnes up to the left in the picture.|
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.
Åndalsnes is located at the head of a fjord - a long narrow inlet which connects to the Norwegian Sea. The British had landed troops and secured Åndalsnes two days before, and at 9:00 AM on the 20th, the Germans commenced bombing the port, the British ships, all transport routes, and the town of approximately 2000 people. In spite of their intelligence, the Germans were not aware of the presence of Norway's gold, which remained at the station awaiting transportation out by British warship to the United Kingdom.
At 11:00 PM, Fredrik Haslund, the official tasked with conveying the gold out of Norway, sent the gold train to a siding at Romsdalhorn, a few kilometers away. Towering mountains guarded the tiny station, making it a perfect place to hide a train. Due to the constant daytime bombing, a crew of railwaymen worked in twelve-hour shifts to repair the area's rail lines.
|A Modern View of Åndalsnes from the Romsdalsjjord|
Courtesy of Creative Commons via Wikimedia. Author Ludovic Peron.
The Norwegians expected German soldiers to come up the valley into Åndalsnes at any moment. Only hours remained to move the gold. An army captain obtained twenty-five trucks and drivers, and in two hours' time, all the gold was removed from the train and loaded on the trucks. The convoy navigated over poorly paved roads that were covered with melting snow and mud. Unfortunately, the Luftwaffe returned to Åndalsnes and attacked the convoy. The soldiers and drivers ran for cover and no one was injured during the forty-five minutes of strafing. The convoy continued its journey, and when the next attack commenced, the drivers sped up. The Germans weren't successful at hitting their targets. After reaching a ferry crossing, some trucks were hidden and some were camouflaged until dark.
|Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.|
A ferry arrived but could only carry two trucks across the water at a time. It took six hours to convey all the trucks to the other side. Because of deep ruts and potholes caused by the winter weather, the road ahead had to be repaired in places before the convoy could pass through. Trucks broke down and had to be replaced, and the crews became exhausted unloading and reloading the gold. Local farmers utilized their horses and equipment to drag one truck out of a ditch and back onto the road. Eventually the convey arrived at the port of Molde where the Norwegian Government, King Haakon, and Crown Prince Olav were taking cover. They had arrived on April 23rd, and Molde had essentially become the new capital of Norway. The gold was unloaded into a large vault in the basement of the Confectionsfabriken building (clothing factory) in town.
|Confectionsfabriken Building - Molde|
The people of Molde were very helpful. They assisted with unloading the gold, providing security, and feeding the exhausted soldiers. But the Germans were intent on capturing or killing the King, Crown Prince, and Government. The Luftwaffe attacked Molde and it's surroundings with bombs and incendiaries. The townsfolk set off the air-raid alarms as soon as they spotted aircraft, which allowed everyone time to escape to the woods. On April 28th, the German Government announced that they were at war with Germany and that King Haakon was wanted 'dead or alive.' This was no surprise to the king or the Government. The relentless air strikes forced the British to send the cruiser HMS Glasgow to Molde and plans were made to evacuate.
The Germans bombed Molde for the first time at night. With debris littering the roads and fires raging, Norway's gold was loaded on any available truck and transported to various locations at the harbor. Not all the trucks were immediately able to find a safe path through the destruction.
Before the HMS Glasgow could pull into port, a fire had to be extinguished on the dock. A portion of the gold was carried on board from this dock, and some was ferried by smaller ships from other points and loaded by crane onto the ship. The King, Crown Prince, members of the Norwegian Government, and the French, Danish, and British embassy members and staff joined British soldiers aboard the ship.
|The Ruins of Molde - 1940. Courtesy of Flickr.|
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After the Germans unsuccessfully attacked the ship, the Glasgow left port and sailed down the fjord in reverse for at least an hour. It was too dangerous to turn around in the fjord at night. Not all of the gold had been loaded and not all of the gold had even made it to the dock before the Glasgow was forced to sail.
Please return on March 1st to read the conclusion of the dramatic rescue of Norway's gold.
Source: Gold Run by Robert Pearson. Casemate Publishers, 2015.
Source: Gold Run by Robert Pearson. Casemate Publishers, 2015.
Cindy Stewart, a high school social studies teacher, church pianist, and inspirational historical fiction author, semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2017 Genesis contest, and won ACFW’s 2014 First Impressions contest in the historical category. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of thirty-seven years and near her married daughter, son-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren. She’s currently writing a fiction series set in WWII Europe.
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