In the winter months of 1939-40, after the savage destruction of Poland, all was quiet on the western front in Europe. Hitler’s Panza tanks and Stuka dive bombers were silent. Stalin was busy chewing off bits of Finland in the Winter War, but Hitler was biding his time and building his strength.
Then, on April 9th, 1940, after months of inactivity in the so-called ‘phony war,’ Hitler ignored his non-aggression treaty with his neighbor Denmark and invaded, attacking by land, sea, and air.
Hopelessly outnumbered and absurdly under-equipped, the Danish army literally cycled to defend their country against the enemy, but surrender came only six hours later, and six years of Nazi occupation began.
Simultaneously, to the north, German forces attacked Norway. The campaign would last two months, but the result would be the same, in spite of stiff resistance by the overpowered Norwegians and relieving operations by British forces.
Thus Hitler secured his control of the Baltic and its invaluable trade routes, and the vital Atlantic ports of Norway and Denmark, from Narvik to Copenhagen. Sweden remained nominally neutral, and Finland, savaged by Russia, presented no threat. Hitler’s northern flank was now firmly under his control, and would remain so throughout the war.
Now Hitler could turn his attention southward, toward Belgium, Holland and France—as he soon would, and the western front would never be quiet again.
Eleanor, my fictional protagonist in my novel Breaking Point and the forthcoming sequel Infinite Stakes, wrote to her great-aunt Charlotte Oxborough.
From the papers of the Oxborough Family Estate:
15th April, 1940
Dear Aunt Charlotte,
I’m so sorry not to have written to you for so long but there’s been a lot going on, although I admit that’s still not a good excuse. First of all, of course, I’m still getting used to married life, even though George has been away most of the time with his squadron. He’s graduated from advanced trainers to learning to fly Hawker Hurricane fighters, and he’s somewhere up north, in Lincolnshire I think, preparing to be sent to France, if necessary.
I received my WAAF commission so now I’m a Flight Officer, with two rings on my arm. The uniforms look and feel like sacks of potatoes—perhaps they are potato sacks dyed blue! I suspect that they want us to look as unattractive as possible to keep the RAF officers from being tempted. I have been assigned to the Air Minister’s staff. That may sound grand, but it means I have a small department of WAAFs who keep records and tabulate the numbers of this and that. I suppose it’s necessary but it’s very mundane and I wish they would give me a bit more of a challenge.
The news from Norway and Denmark is horrifying. I can’t believe the Danes surrendered in a day! I hope the Norwegians are made of sterner stuff, and I hope we can help to turn the Nazis back.
I am worried that Mr. Chamberlain is completely out of his depth and unable to stand up to Hitler. We thought Hitler would be satisfied with Czechoslovakia, but he was not, and then with Poland, but he was not, and now he is taking Denmark and Norway. Will he now be satisfied? I fear he will not.
Take good care,
Your affectionate niece, Eleanor