War - the historic picture
Bodø anno 1936
|April 8 the greater part of the German Navy left its safe havens in Northern Germany and raised sails for the north. None knew whereto the ships were bound, but very few thought Norway were to be the destination. Maybe it was an attempt on breaking free into the Atlantic?
But it was to be clear after a time that the ships were heading for Norway. April 9 troops made landfall in several Norwegian towns and cities. The most daring was Narvik, far north. In the Oslo Fjord the cruiser Blücher was sunk. That allowed the Norwegian government and King to get away. But shortly afterwards the greater part of the cities of Southern Norway was in German hands.
But in Northern Norway it took longer before the Germans came. Only in Narvik did they try an amphibious assault early on. But Norwegian forces, shortly afterwards strengthened by both British, French and Polish troops put up a staunch defence, and the Germans had to withdraw from the town. Only when the allied troops pulled out following the German invasion of France, and Norway was on its own, did the Germans manage to conquer the town. Then it was already June 1940.
In Bodø, 300 kilometres south of Narvik and 750 kilometres north of Trondheim, it took longer before the war made itself properly felt. But already the same day as the Germans attacked Norway, the town started preparing for war. An evacuation committee was set up, and the inhabitants of Bodø encouraged to leave town for the countryside. The town authorities feared that the town sooner or later would be exposed to acts of war. The greatest fear was air raids. Everybody had heard about the awful consequences of such attacks in Spain and Poland.
The town police force of a peacetime strength of 7 - 8 men had to be enlarged, and a local police militia was appointed. All the windows in town had to be covered after dark. People were encouraged to remove inflammable goods from the attics and paste paper strips on the inside of windows to prevent the air pressure from eventual explosions from blowing glass into the houses. Sand was to be filled in sacks and put in front of cellar windows as protection against splinters from bombs. A guard company of 120 men was put to guard public buildings, banks, the harbour area, post and telegraph. The fire department set up six temporary fire stations in different parts of the town.
Already on April 10 the first German planes was seen flying north toward Narvik, and this was afterwards to become a recurrent sight. It meant frequent air raid warnings. But as Bodø had no air raid siren the church bells was used when message of enemy planes was underway. This speeded the evacuation. April 12-13 schools was closed. In mid-April half the population of Bodø had evacuated to cabins further north, to farms in the interior, everywhere there was housing to be had. A great many didn't return before after the war.
Evacuation from Bodø: The Isaksen family of two adults and seven children travelled by foot 40 km to Valnesfjord in the interior.
In April and first half of May a party of volunteer youths was stationed on the mountain pass of Saltfjellet. They was to clear the entire road from snow to allow Norwegian and Allied troops to pass through. In the end it was the Germans who got to use it.
|Sunday May 5 there occurred the first German air raid. Two British maritime aircraft had just landed in the harbour. They brought with them British air force troops (RAF) to oversee the making of a temporary airstrip in Bodø. Both planes were destroyed by German bombs. The day after, May 6, some bombers arrived and hit a Norwegian guard ship and a naval airplane. One casualty.
Then several of the town shopkeepers packed their goods and drove out of town.
May 20 the bombers returned. In the meantime an air raid siren had arrived in Bodø. The buildings of the National Bank, plus Storgaten 8 and Sandgaten 2 and 4 was hit by firebombs that day. The attempts to extinguish the fires were made the harder by the German bombers returning and strafing the firemen with machinegun fire.
From then on the bombings occurred more frequently: Wednesday May 22: A British platoon stationed in the Rensåsen park was bombed. There were several casualties. In Storgaten 37 there's a fire: a two-kilogram stone was hurled all the way from Rensåsen 500 meters, hitting the roof, falling down two stores and then meeting with a stove which falls to the floor and starts the fire.
May 24: A house in the suburb of Breivika is hit by a firebomb. Sunday May 26: Three British fighters, Gloster Gladiators, lands on the brand new airstrip. After tanking their bound for a mission, but one of the pilots is unlucky enough to crash at the end of the runway. The other two planes flies to Saltdal 90 km away to shoot down three German transport planes bound for Narvik.
At the same time most of the British forces in the Bodø and Salten area are pulling out. Up to 4.000 troops was stationed in the area. When all the Allied troops are gone, and no Norwegian troops near enough to speak of, the county major and local police chief decides to declare Bodø an open town, in the hope of avoiding more air raids. To be an open town meant not to partake in acts of war. It was then some 1.500 people left in Bodø.
Monday May 27:
8 AM: German planes are strafing Bodø with machinegun fire and tries to bomb the radiomasts right outside town. One of the masts goes down.
Several downtown shopkeepers are talking together this morning. They all feel that something's in the air, and decides to close down business in order to get out of town.
5.30 PM: Ones again a raid against the radio masts and the radio station. It doesn't get hit, but three nearby houses burns down.
5.55 PM: The main attack begins. 37 German bombers, Heinkel 111 and JU-87 "Stuka" arrives in waves with a few minutes in between. The attack lasts two and a half hour. Waterpipes gets hit on twenty different places and makes extinguishing fires impossible. The hospital gets hit by two 250 kilogram bombs plus an unknown number of firebombs. The entire attic floor and parts of second floor is burning. The 142 patients in addition to the staff is evacuated to the psychiatric hospital some 2 km away, during the attack, without nobody getting hurt.
Police, militia and firemen are saving several houses from the fires by removing fences and trees which could have helped the fires to spread. Even so, after a preliminary count the town engineers can count craters from some 205 larger bombs, including 25 to 30 inside the hospital area. Of the 1.500 people in Bodø at the time of the attack, 15 lost their lives. Two of them British soldiers.
In the time approaching May 27, German forces had come steadily closer to Bodø. At the same time the British was pulling out of Norway gradually, in order to defend closer to home: France and the Lower Countries came under German attack from May 10. The bombing of Bodø must in all probability be seen in the light of the town's strategic position regarding Germany's chances of getting further north, and the Allied chances of stopping them. In the Bodø area there were up to 4.000 troops, as I earlier mentioned. In addition was an airstrip erected, and here were excellent harbours for receiving reinforcements by way of sea. The German attack on Narvik was also faring badly. The German forces were isolated and on the retreat. Therefore we might also consider a motive of revenge. It's not impossible to conceive that the Germans wanted to show what active participation in the resistance might lead to, by bombing a town.
June 1 the first German troops occupied Bodø.
Might one find something of any use?
|Street motive from Bodø during the war. During the entire war the town looked like this.
A few grounds were cleaned out and some barracks erected. But the town preserved it's ruined look the entire war.
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