Norway in Canada
Norway is training several hundred airmen at Toronto for the battle against Hitler
ONE DAY last August a new name went up on the directory board of a modest office building in mid-town Toronto. Two names, in fact. Like this:
Royal Norwegian Army Air Force Royal Norwegian Naval Air Force
At about the same time a rash of carpenters, roofers, plumbers, glaziers and other offspring of the construction industry broke out on a fiat stretch of vacant land fronting Lake Ontario, along from lake shipping docks. Toiling lustily, the workmen caused to rise on the hitherto barren acreage, rows of barracks, a dining hall, a hospital, and a number of other buildings—seventeen in all. Later, just as the leaves were beginning to display their autumn shades of yellows, crimsons and browns, many men, speaking a tongue strange to Torontonians, moved into the empty village, bringing it to life with cheerful hullabaloo and much going to and fro. “Little Norway’’ had come into being.
Little Norway—the name was affectionately bestowed upon the community by its residents—is just one more sturdy gesture of defiance intended to show Adolf Hitler and his mobsters that they cannot hold free men in chains. It is an encampment, a training station, a village, and a symbol of the conviction held in the heart of every true Norwegian that Norway’s integrity and independence shall some day be restored to her. The men who live and work in Little Norway have pledged their lives to that end.
There were, in their new camp, several hundred of them at the beginning of October. Most of them are recent exiles from their ravished native land. Many are Norwegian-born Canadians. Some are sons of Norwegian-born Canadians who have never seen the country of their fathers. A few slipped over from the United States, drawn by a racial kinship and a common cause.
All sorts and conditions of Norsemen are there. Highranking officers of Norway’s army and navy. Pilots, aircraftsmen, radio operators, soldiers, sailors, signallers, mechanics, fishermen, clerks and cooks. Of those who have come now to the shores of Lake Ontario from Norway since the German invasion, every one has a strange and splendid tale to tell. Many shroud themselves in anonymity. Some are going under names other than those they were born with. Not for their own protection, or for any mean reason; but for the sake of mothers and fathers, wives and children, left behind in Norway at the mercy of the Nazi Gestapo.
It happened this way. When the German hordes rolled over Norway, and Norway’s brave, but pitifully insufficient, resistance was crushed beneath the avalanche, a large number of loyal Norwegians—nobody knows or will venture to guess how many—managed to escape capture. Some of them were at sea or in friendly foreign ports on Norwegian ships. Some were pulling nets in fishing trawlers. Many others contrived by almost miraculous stratagems to evade pursuit and make their way over devious routes to Great Britain, where Norway’s leaders have set up a provisional government of free Norwegians, ignoring the Nazi-controlled puppet administration now pretending to function in Oslo under the notorious Quisling.
Among those who escaped were a number of fliers. Army and navy pilots, observers, navigators, bombers and gunners. These begged their leaders in England to find them an opportunity to carry on the war against Germany. But how and where could they carry on? The Royal Air Force was fully occupied with its own heroic tasks. Only a handful of the Norwegians could speak or understand English. There simply was not room in Great Britain for them to establish a camp of their own — but there might be room in Canada. Continued on page 32
Norway in Canada
Continued from page 15--
The Norwegian Government in Britain sent General William Steffens, a veteran army administrator, to Canada early in the summer, with instructions to study the situation here and report. General Steffens is now established at Ottawa as chief liaison officer between all Norwegian forces in this country and the Dominion Government. He it was who last July made the preliminary plans for the establishment of Little Norway on the shores of Lake Ontario.
Toronto’s Municipal Airport, administered by the Toronto Harbor Commission, is located on the northwest point of the scattered group of small islands that lie in front of the city in Toronto Harbor. The airport's northernmost boundary lies a bare quarter mile from the mainland, across the western channel. It is fully equipped with a fair-sized landing field hangars and a seaplane base. The Island Airport is not the largest in the world, but it affords everything a small, compact squad of airmen needs for training purjxises.
Toronto was not disposed to haggle with the Norwegians. They have been granted the full facilities of the airport, but will purchase their fuel, oil and other supplies from the Harbor Commission. The land where Little Norway stands—also Harbor Commission property—has been turned over to them for as long as they need it. They financed the construction of the camp themselves.
Good Men—Fast Planes
T ITTLE Norway is in a happier financial position than many other colonies ot exiles from Nazi-occupied countries. The Germans did not succeed in grabbing everything Norway possessed. Especially they missed out on a large number of Norwegian merchant ships. That tonnage is now operating under the protection of the British flag and under charter to the
British Government. The earnings of those Norwegian ships go to the Norse Government in Britain. There are, of course, other sources of income. The total investment of the Norwegian Government in its Canadian training station is all provided for.
They have the planes, too. That was another bit of luck for the Norsemen, and the circumstances had a bearing on the selection of Toronto as their base. Before the Nazi invasion, the Norwegian Government had ordered a number of modern aircraft from United States manufacturers. The purchase was made too late to do any good against the blitzkrieg, but the machines belong to Norway. According to present plans they will be delivered at Toronto to be used for training. All of them will be taken overseas when the Norwegian flying squadrons are ready to do a little blitzkrieging of their own. The ships will include Lockheed Hudson bombers, the same type now being employed as part of the R.A.F. fleet, Curtiss P-40 fighters, good for four hundred miles an hour, and Northrop seaplane patrol bombers. Before their own training ships began to arrive in September, the Norwegian fliers put in many hours of training in planes loaned them by the Toronto Flying Club. Hitherto Norway’s air forces had been equipped with British, French and German planes, many of them obsolete types. The new combat and bomber machines, when delivered, will be a wonder and a delight to most of the Norse airmen, who have never flown anything like them.
Organization of Norway’s air squadrons has been along the same lines as that of the United States. There is a Naval Air Force and an Army Air Force, functioning as separate units, co-operating, but not co-ordinated under one command as is the British R.A.F. Captain Hjalmer Riiser-Larsen, a veteran navy flier, is in command of the Naval Air Force at
Toronto headquarters. Major Bjarne Oen is chief of the Army Air Force. Second in Command to Captain Riiser-Larsen is Commander A. W. Hagtvedt, and Major Oen’s Chief of Staff is Captain Jens Hertzberg.
Headquarters is quite a place. The two services occupy one entire floor of the building, Captain Riiser-Larsen’s department in front. Major Oen’s at the back. Everything is very brisk and businesslike, after the pattern of an efficient Canadian commercial office. There is a telephone switchboard with a Canadian-Norwegian operator and receptionist who says cheerfully: “Royal Norwegian Air Force,” in answer to calls, and advises visitors impartially in excellent English, and what we presume is even more excellent Nor¡ wegian. There are chairs if you have to wait, and even magazines to help pass the time. On one wall is a bulletin board filled with copies of Norwegian news letters and other official information. The mail for Little Norway is delivered first to headquarters, then carried downtown by orderlies. “Royal Norwegian Air Force, Toronto,” is all the address needed.
Captain Riiser-Larsen is spokesman for the organization. A huge man, six feet two inches tall, broad as a hangar door and weighing around two hundred and thirty pounds, the captain is a conspicuous contradiction of the conviction held by many that all Norwegians are blond. His hair is black, his eyes blue. He is fifty years old.
The head of the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Force in Canada has been around a lot. His father was skipper of a sailing vessel, and when Riiser-Larsen was two months old he went to sea with his parents. During his boyhood, when he was not in school he was sure to be somewhere on an ocean; but in 1915 he found out about flying and joined the air wing of the Norwegian Navy. He has been an airman ever since.
Captain Riiser-Larsen has made two trips to the Arctic. In 1925 he was second in command of the Amundsen-Ellsworth Polar flight, and three years later be was given command of the Norwegian expedition sent out to find Amundsen and Nobile after they had been lost near the Pole. More recently he has held various high executive posts in the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Force.
After the Nazi invasion had smothered Norway, Captain Riiser-Larsen and his wife got out of their plundered homeland by way of Stockholm. They were aiming for London, but since direct travel was out of the question, and with the threat of internment hanging over them every minute, they hurried from the Swedish capital to Moscow, managed to move from Moscow to Bucharest and from Bucharest to Milan. As Italy had not at that time stabbed France in the back, they contrived to make their way from Milan to Paris, and from Paris to London was comparatively a simple stroll. The Norwegian Government in Britain sent Captain Riiser-Larsen to Washington where he served for a while last summer as naval attaché at the Norwegian legation. He came from that post to take over his Toronto command.
The Riiser-Larsens have four children, a son and three daughters, who are still in Norway. For a time Riiser-Larsen, junior, was held prisoner by the German army of occupation, but a few weeks ago his anxious parents received word that he had been released. The Nazis will not permit any of the family to leave Norway.
Captain Riiser-Larsen is an affable, friendly and extremely busy person. He speaks, reads and writes a competent English, so that most of the headquarters affairs involving contact with Canadian officials demand his attention. In his office he usually wears civilian clothes. Hours mean nothing in his life. He starts work early and stays up late. Whether he is authorizing the purchase of supplies for ! Little Norway, writing a report to the I head of the Norwegian Admiralty in
London, or talking to reporters, he smokes an English-made brand of Egyptian cigarettes at high speed.
Thrilling Escapes From Norway
XJÖRSEMEN at headquarters are warmly appreciative of the welcome and the assistance given their cause by Canadians in their private and in their official capacities. “Nothing could have, been finer,” Captain Riiser-Larsen said.
Major Bjarne Oen is a contrasting type. Beside Riiser-Larsen's bulk the Major appears as a slightly built slim person of average height, neat and trim in his R.N.A.A.F. uniform of air force blue a shade lighter than ours. He is ten years Riiser-Larsen’s junior, but a veteran army flier with twenty years of service behind him.
Major Oen’s escape from Norway to England is one of the many new sagas of Little Norway. With eighteen fellow airmen the Major set out from a Norwegian coast town in a steam trawler. Nazi fliers scouting the coast, discovering the helpless unarmed vessel as it moved toward the open sea, blasted it out of the water with bombs and raked it with machine-gun bullets. Clinging to the wreckage, the men struggled back to shore.
This was in April. The North Sea is cold in April. Rallying his little company, Major Oen discovered a small fishing boat equipped with sails and an auxiliary engine. Crowded into this cockleshell craft the nineteen dauntless Norsemen, some of them wounded, all of them drenched to the skin, started out again under cover of darkness. Frozen, hungry, exhausted and storm-tossed, they accomplished the crossing and landed on the Scottish coast. After medical treatment the Major made his way to London and reported to the Norwegian Ministry there. As soon as the Canadian training camp had been officially authorized, he was ordered to Toronto to take charge of the Army branch of the work.
There are approximately one hundred officers now attached to the Island Airport Training Centre. Practically all of them wrestled their way out of Norway in similar all-out fashion, rather than remain and submit to the invader. About half the N.C.O.’s and men suffered comparable hardships. For the most part they made their way across the turbulent North Sea in small fishing smacks. Officers and men were drowned together when their tiny craft were swamped in typical North Sea gales. Survivors are still arriving. Hardly a week passes but half a dozen exiles turn up at headquarters, among them some who have been thought dead. They get to Canada by all sorts of circuitous routes. Some crossed on Norwegian freighters. Others have shipped halfway round the world before touching a Canadian port. Only a few are sufficiently well off to get over as passengers.
Early arrivals last summer were two flight-lieutenants. Odd Bull and Olav B. Stene. They were among the fortunate ones. Two jumps ahead of the Nazi jxinzer units, they managed to grab a fishing smack and put to sea. They had only the vaguest ideas as to their probable destination, but they set a rough course by compass and were just as surprised as they were gratified when they found themselves sailing through a group of mistshrouded islands that turned out to be the Shetlands.
Less fortunate was a naval officer— name withheld—who was attempting a similar escape in a fisherman’s boat when heavy seas swamped his frail craft and broke it up. It was sink or swim, and he swam two miles to shore—then discovered that he had crawled up almost naked on a Swedish beach. Fearing internment, he hid for four hours until darkness, then made his way stealthily to a near-by village where he hunted out and promptly commandeered a second fishing boat. Again he put to sea, and this time he made it, in a Swedish vessel.
fliers of the camp. He has 4,000 flying hours on his record, most of them logged in peacetime over several now non-existent European air lines. With two companions, Flight-Lieutenant Steen escaped from Norway in an open motorboat. The three landed safely on the Scottish coast after fifty-eight hours of audacious adventure. When they were about halfway across, a Nazi submarine rose to the surface a hundred yards away. Steen says his boatload were a pretty shabby-looking lot. They wore nondescript clothing, and the story they had planned to tell was that they were just poor honest fishermen working at their trade.
Apparently the U-boat commander figured out something of the sort for himself, or else decided that three ragged fellows in an open motorboat weren't worth wasting ammunition on. After keeping them under observation for about half an hour the submarine dived, and they saw no more of her. All three men are now at the Island Airport. They wish there were some way of getting word to that U-boat commander, telling him who they are and what they are doing. They think he might be annoyed about it. and they’d like that.
There is another Norwegian naval officer busy about the camp whose adventures took a different form. He was one of a party told off to defend a railroad station against a Nazi attack. For three days the
little group held off the raiders, lying flat on the floor of the waiting room most of the time, rising in turn to fire volleys into the ranks of the invaders who kept machine guns trained on the station buildings, apparently under the impression that the defense force was far more numerous than was the fact. Every window in the place was shattered, but each time the enemy attempted to take the position by direct assault they were driven back by blasts of concentrated rifle fire.
Meanwhile two girls, one seventeen, the other a year older, had joined forces with the besieged. They cooked food in a basement kitchen for the fighting men, carried it upstairs and crawled across the floor on their hands and knees to keep out of range of the machine guns while serving the defenders. On the night of the third day the party, their ammunition almost gone, made a dash for it in the darkness, smashed their way through the German line and escaped.
Perhaps the most dramatic of all the exploits these daring Norsemen recount is the story of the stolen airplane. The airman who pulled off this jaunty escapade was on duty at a remote coastal station when a Nazi plane came down in a forced landing, out of fuel. The Germans had been told the Norwegian people would welcome them with open arms, so they left
their machine and moved in a body to the village, demanding food, shelter and gasoline. They were profoundly shocked when the villagers surrounded them, beat them into submission and took them prisoners.
A young Norse airman, learning of the incident, flew with a crew to the spot, took possession of the German plane and piloted it back to his base, where he painted out the Nazi insignia and substituted the Norse emblem. “The ship,” he says, ‘Vas better than any we had, so I just went to work with it.” The “work” he did with that German craft included the bombing of Narvik after the Germans had entered the port.
Still further strange adventures were in store for the captured machine. FlightLieutenant Haakon M. Joergensen obtained possession of the plane when he was making plans for his escape from the beleaguered country. He took off at dawn one morning, intending to fly to Scotland. A friend started with him in another plane. They were hardly off the ground w-hen a squadron of German pursuit planes spotted them and hightailed it in their wake. But the Norse pilots knew the country. Especially they knew the fiords and the rocky peaks hemming them in. For half an hour the two Norwegians played tag with the Germans among the mountain passes, until at last they shook off their attackers and were able to head for the open sea.
Halfway across, Joergensen and his friend ran into fog and were separated. Joergensen continued on his way, flying blind. He found the Shetlands, he says, by sheer accident, but there was no trace of his companion, and after a two-day search along the rugged coast had discovered no traces of either the pilot or the plane, he gave him up for lost. Much later he heard that the missing flier had turned back to Norway in the fog, preferring to take a chance on a landfall he knew rather than gamble on one strange to him. Eventually the second man planned another escape, and this time he was successful. Both officers are now in Toronto, learning to handle their new Americanmade ships.
Hope to Retain Norse Identity
HTHE Island Airport training station and Little Norway can take care of a personnel of one hundred officers and four hundred other ranks, without crowding. The broad plan of operation is first to train the more experienced pilots in the heavier, faster ships, then send them to England to serve with the Royal Air Force as a Norwegian squadron. Other squadrons will follow as fast as they can be trained, and the station will remain in active operation as long as pilot material can be found among exiled Norsemen. Naval
; fliers, experienced in seaplane operation, 1 will join the air arm of the Royal Navy, i but so far as is practicable they will retain t their identity as Norwegian units. Officers
1 and enlisted men are paid at the same rates they would receive for similar duty
2 in the Norwegian forces.
c Difference in language has proved some-
1 thing of a handicap, since the pilots who
2 will serve with the R.A.F. must know English well in order to be able to respond
2 to commands without error or hesitation. I To overcome this difficulty a school has ’ been established as part of the Little i Norway organization. It is something of a s spectacle there to watch brawny Norsemen
solemnly and earnestly occupied with first i primer reading—“This is a ship.” “This is an airplane.”—with writing, oral exercises, and similar kindergarten tasks, e For a while there were all sorts of odd i uniforms on exhibition around the training t station. Only a few of the officers, and
3 fewrer still of the men, were able to bring i their military or naval equipment out of e Norway with them; and in many escapes i it was imperative that all uniforms should
be abandoned. Recently an arrangement e has been made to outfit the officers and / other ranks with uniforms of air force blue very little different in design from 3 those worn by the R.C.A.F. The Nors wegians, however, will put up their own t design of wings, and will carry the word e “Norway” on one sleeve.
Civilian Norwegians and Norwegians Canadians are working wholeheartedly to forward the interests of the camp, many of g them giving their time and their services i, without charge. Little Norway has its e own hospital, fully staffed by Norwegian y doctors and nurses. The sanitation problems of the camp were tackled by no e less a person than Dr. L. Kreyberg, a r distinguished cancer researcher who, heil fore the war, had won world renown for 3 his work at the University of Oslo. Dr. r Kreyberg, now a refugee living in the United States, came to Toronto especially to plan the sanitary arrangements for Little Norway.
Planned entertainment is part of the camp life. Concerts featuring the old country folk songs are held at regular intervals. Norwegian cooks prepare the familiar Norwegian foods for the men.
All the residents of Little Norway are i enthusiastic about Canada. Although 1 they find some of our ways strange and r peculiar, even quaint, they love our climate, our clear blue skies, and the crisp i cold autumn air along the waterfront.
, These things, they say, are "just like Nor) way.” They have been told, too, that
1 Canadian winters are very similar to s Norwegian winters, and that there is , likely to be plenty of skiing later on.
2 Next to getting a bit of their own back 2 at the Hun, they want more than any1 thing to see the first fall of snow.