Friday, March 1, 2019

Rescuing Norway's Gold: A WWII Story

by Cindy K. Stewart

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain

How did the Norwegian government manage to remove all their gold from the country while the Germans attacked them relentlessly? If you missed the first two installments of this miraculous story you can read them here and here. If the Nazis had taken possession of Norway's treasure, the Germans would have greatly enhanced their ability to purchase more war materials.


HMS Glasgow - Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain

At the conclusion of last month's story, 23 tons of Norway's gold had been loaded on the British cruiser HMS Glasgow at the Norwegian coastal town of Molde. The Glasgow carried King Haakon, Crown Prince Olav, members of the Norwegian Government, and diplomatic officials from Britain, France, and Denmark to the Tromso area in the far north of Norway. From here, the Norwegians hoped to form an offensive against the Germans and drive them out of the country. 


Summer Night in Tromso (2012)
Phote Credit: Mark Ledingham via Wikimedia Commons

After delivering its precious human cargo, the Glasgow turned south and safely landed the second installment of Norway's gold in Scotland. Norwegian officials accompanied the shipment by train to London where it was stored in the vault of the Bank of England.

Back in Molde, Fredrik Haslund, the official in charge of rescuing the gold, searched for a way to remove the 18 tons which the Glasgow had been forced to leave behind due to the bombings. While Molde was burning, Haslund loaded eight tons of the gold on the steamer Driva, and the ship set off at 2:00 AM, only one hour after the Glasgow had pulled away. The Luftwaffe dropped a stick of bombs in the water near the Driva, but she wasn't damaged. During her trip north she was attacked by a German seaplane, and to avoid being sunk, the Driva's first mate beached the craft on a flat shoreline. Bombs fell but landed in the sea. As the tide came in, another steamer pulled the Driva back out into the fjord. 


Molde Under Attack in 1940
Painting by Rolf Groven
In the meantime, near Molde, Haslund decided the gold should be moved to fishing vessels because the Driva was too much of a target for the Germans. Word was sent to the Driva to rendezvous at the village of Gjemnes. The remaining ten tons of gold was transported by truck to Gjemnes and loaded onto fishing boats (puffers) there. Five hundred and forty-seven boxes of bullion were loaded in the dark, including the gold from the Driva. By this time, Norway's fight against the Nazis was over in southern Norway but still continued in the far north of the country.

The puffers sailed through the fjords, laying over at coastguard stations and villages but not staying in any one place for long. Unfortunately, the captains of the puffers weren't comfortable moving into unfamiliar waters farther north along the dangerous coast, and Haslund was forced to find other sources to move the gold to Tromso where the new capitol had been established. 


Bodo at the time Haslund visited before it was bombed by the Germans on May 27, 1940
Courtesy of Hundholmen

The gold was again unloaded and reloaded on two different fishing boats. The boats split up but rendezvoused at a small port north of Bodo on May 7th. Hasland left the boat and traveled by car to Bodo where he located the local military commander and learned where the British had placed the minefields in a fjord they must pass through. After safe passage through the fjord, they obtained the services of the commanding officer of a Norwegian guard ship who boarded and piloted them safely to Tromso where they arrived on May 9th. 

The gold was combined on one of the puffers, and that boat went out to sea with the other fishing boats each day. On May 21st, the gold was loaded on the HMS Enterprise, a Royal Navy cruiser. The Luftwaffe had previously attacked the Enterprise with 150 bombs, and she was in poor condition. She left on May 23rd on a zig-zag course for the UK. She was attacked again, but none of the bombs hit their target. The Enterprise traveled down the west coast of England without destroyer protection and docked at Plymouth in the south. The gold was transported by train to London and deposited in the Bank of England.


HMS Enterprise. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

Expecting a German invasion of Britain at any moment, the Norwegians made plans to move its gold once again. The British had already removed all of its own gold reserves before the war started in September of 1939. The Norwegian precious metal was split into several shipments and sent across the Atlantic to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and to the Bank of Canada in Ottawa. A small portion of the gold remained with the Norwegian Government-in-Exile established in England. This allowed them to function independently throughout the war. 


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Source:  Gold Run by Robert Pearson. Casemate Publishers, 2015.



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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.





4 comments:

  1. Wow! That gold was well-traveled, that's for sure!

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    1. It sure did get around! A lot of dedicated people kept it from falling into the wrong hands!

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  2. Nice read, as a person from the town of Molde i find it amusing that people from abroad also find this story interesting. :-)

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    1. Thank you! While researching this story, I was amazed at the courage and fortitude of those who whisked the gold to safety. It would have been lost to the enemy if not for the dedication of the Norwegian people.

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