Norwegian army

Training and doctrine

The Norwegian army relied on conscription, with a cadre of professional officers. After a period of heavy cutbacks after the first world war, the Norwegian army was in no way in any satisfactory state at the beginning of world war two. The training of the regular infantryman was among the shortest in Europe (the shortest according to some sources, but I haven't been able to find comparative figures for all other countries). After being as short as 48 days in the beginning of the thirties, it was gradually increased first to 60, then to 72 and finally 84 days. In addition only two thirds of each annual contingent were trained. No repetition exercises were held after initial training. There were also a shortage of officers, and the average age of the officers were high. It also seems as the shortcomings of the army had a negative impact on the officers. A defeatist attitude was apparent among many officers, already from the beginning of the invasion.

It was realized that the short training of the troops in addition to all other shortcomings would make the units all but useless for anything else than defence, until the units could get more training and cohesion. The preferred defensive position would be on heights overlooking an open country, where the heavy machineguns could be used to their full potential. The appearance of tanks complicated the picture, as the position now also must include something blocking the advance of the tanks.

Equipment

The equipment of the army were fairly standard, compared with other European countries of that time. The personal weapon was bolt action rifles. Each team (squad) had a light machine gun, and the heavy company of the battalion had heavy machine guns. There were also mortars in the battalion. The brigade had a small artillery battalion. The infantry moved by foot, the artillery were horse drawn and the supply train were partly horse drawn and partly motorized. So far the Norwegian army were no worse off than most other armies of the period. Compared with better kept armies of other countries there were a lot amiss though. For close fighting there were no hand grenades and no sub machine guns. There were no anti tank weapons of any kind. The mortars were pitifully few, with only two for a battalion. The only anti aircraft weapon available for the field units were machine guns. The artillery was old and of small calibre. There were little radio equipment.

Organization

The Norwegian army was led by the commanding general and his staff - Over command of the Army (H.O.K.). Under H.O.K there were six district commands (D.K.), each administrating the units within its area. In each district there were a Division Command, having the military command over the units in the district, except for those commanded directly by the Over command (H.O.K.).

The administrative unit responsible for barracks, depots etc, were the regiments. In the infantry and artillery there were no field regiments though. Instead the battalions and batteries mobilized by the regiments were independent units under the Divisions, or organized into Brigades. Each District Command fielded one Brigade.  The Cavalry (Dragon) regiments did however mobilize a field regiment each, as well as a number of smaller units.

Read more about administrative organization

Ranks of Norwegian army

Infantry


Norwegian soldiers from the fighting north of Narvik

The main fighting formations of the Norwegian army were the six Infantry Brigades. They were supplemented by a number of independent battalions. Each Brigade had four infantry battalions, an artillery battalion and a bicycle company. 

During the war, the operational unit was normally no larger than the battalion. Sometimes supplemented with a couple of artillery pieces, but usually only with the organic support weapons, which were two 81mm mortars and 9 heavy machine guns.

Organization charts

Cavalry

The cavalry were the mobile units of the Norwegian army. Their mission were delaying actions, flank protection and reconnaissance. The biggest cavalry units were the three dragon regiments. Each infantry brigade also had a bicycle company.

The carbine squadrons (companies) were either mounted on horses or bicycles. The machine gun squadrons were either horse drawn or motorized. The cavalry were also equipped for operations on ski. Something that the ordinary infantry often were not.

The cavalry units differed from the infantry in that they had their support functions (engineers, supply and sanitary) distributed on a lower level than in the infantry. Thus the cavalry squadron had their own supply group, sanitary group etc, while in the infantry, these functions were on battalion level. This was of course in order to make it possible for the cavalry squadrons to operate independently in another way than the infantry companies.

Organization charts

Artillery

75gun01_in_action.jpg (24276 bytes)
A Norwegian 7.5 cm field gun m/01 (with modernized carriage).
From the fighting north of Narvik

For each district command (D.K.) there were either a field artillery regiment or a mountain artillery battalion, depending on terrain and infrastructure of the district. In addition there were two artillery battalions on army level. In all there were three field artillery regiments, two motorized field artillery battalions, three mountain artillery battalions and a couple of independent motorized field artillery batteries.

Except for the two motorized battalions on army level and a couple of batteries in northern Norway, all artillery were horse drawn. In reality many of the batteries used improvised motorization, with the guns carried on trucks (they could not be drawn by trucks, due to the wooden spooked wheels).

Most of the Norwegian artillery pieces were from before WW1. The most notable exception was the 12cm field howitzer m/32. A Norwegian design that were used by one of the motorized battalions.

The most important contribution of the Norwegian artillery were probably as anti tank units. There were a complete lack of anti tank weapons in the Norwegian inventory. There were no armour piercing ammunition available for the artillery guns either, but the light tanks used by the German forces in Norway were vulnerable to hits by the high explosive shells from the 7.5cm guns. Mostly the guns operated single or in pairs. The biggest concentration of Norwegian artillery were in the short battle for Östfold (11th to 13th April) were a full artillery battalion (among them a battery of 12cm howitzers) and improvised infantry units from A.R.1, as well as some fortress artillery took the heaviest burden of the fighting. There were also the battles in Valdres where a mountain artillery battalion participated with good results.

Engineers

All engineer units in southern Norway had their barracks and depots at the Engineer Regiment outside Hönefoss, northwest of Oslo. There were also an engineer battalion in Trondheim and a unit in northern Norway. There were two branches; the signal troops and the pioneers.

The signal troops were responsible for telephone and radio communications of the army. There were not much radio equipment, and on battalion level the communication were entirely by telephone and courier. A fact that was very unfortunate for the Norwegians during the fluid and fast moving campaign.

The pioneers were responsible for roadwork, field fortifications and most importantly roadblocks and bridge destructions. The Norwegian defence usually relied heavily on roadblocks and destroyed bridges. These were especially important due to the lack of anti tank weapons. Often civil workers were used to establish roadblocks.

Supply and transport troops

Each divisional area had a transport company (bilkompani) with about 100 trucks plus ambulances and some other vehicles.

To get supplies to the units within a District Command, there were a supply organisation with a intendenturkp. responsible for getting general supplies for the troops, and a motorized supply train for bringing the supplies to the troops. Then there were the horse drawn ammunition train for bringing ammunition forward. The ammunition train was horse drawn, not to be restricted to roads. The ammunition train held ammunition for one "battle day". A "battle day" of ammunition was the amount of ammunition calculated to be used during one day of intensive fighting.