Why 40,6cm batteries to Norway?

Hitler was extremely obsessed with Norway and the Northern Flank. He ordered, against his staff’s advice, that Narvik should also be attacked and invaded 9 April 1940 to secure Narvik harbour and the export of iron ore from Sweden.

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The iron ore was important even though Germany, after Europe was conquered in 1940, controlled an annual production of more than 26 million tons of iron ore. The German armament industry required 11 million tons annually at that time, but the Swedish ore was an important resource as it was especially suitable for the production of steel for the production of weapons. It was therefore important to control the export from Narvik, to ensure the iron ore was not used by the Allies. Thus, iron ore from Sweden had great strategic importance.

Iron ore was not the major reason for the German invasion in 1940. The Norwegian strategic position with open sea directly to the Atlantic Ocean gave the German submarines and battleships the possibility to operate from Norwegian harbours. Such bases, whether for submarines or battleships, had to be protected. This was an important factor in the German evaluation of the need for a strong coastal artillery in Norway, and especially in the areas where the bases were located.

Hitler was convinced that, after the two British raids on Lofoten in 1941, an Allied invasion would be in the Narvik area in an attempt to gain control of the iron ore and the port. The raids on Lofoten were perceived as so called armed reconnaissance before the final attack. Colin Partridge in his book “Hitler’s Atlantic Wall” wrote that Hitler was convinced that Norway was the war’s area of destiny and “of all the Norwegian development, the Harstad-Narvik area was given priority”. This is most probably true as the German reaction to a possible Allied invasion was a formidable development of coastal defences which controlled the approaches towards Narvik, both from the west and north. Almost a quarter of the largest German coastal fortifications built in Norway were in Ofoten, Lofoten, Vesterålen and the Harstad area.

The eight 40.6cm guns which were sent northwards were a part of this development. One of the guns sank under transport, therefore only three were sent to Batterie Dietl on Engeløy, and four to Batterie Trondenes I or Batterie Theo as it later was called.

The Germans used part of 1941 and 1942 for reconnaissance, measuring and deciding what should be placed where. Organisation Todt was given the task in 1942 and the construction began on Engeløy and at Trondenes. Russian prisoners of war were slave labourers and carried out all the heavy work. The first gun bunkers and turrets were ready for trial shooting in the spring of 1943, whilst the remaining war years were used for additional development, camouflaging and close-range defence.

The Adolf Guns in Norway were never used in battle against the Allied forces during WWII. Both Batterie Dietl and Trondenes were incorporated into the Norwegian coastal defence after the war. Batterie Dietl, however, was never operative because of a lack of important equipment, much having been destroyed immediately after the war. What remained was transferred to Trondenes. The Norwegian Defence phased out the batteries and the guns were destroyed in 1956, but those at Trondenes are still in existence, the only 40.6cm German guns in the world that have been preserved and can be seen and visited.