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Winston Churchill Liveblogs World War II: October 29, 1939

October 29, 1939:

German Supplies of Iron Ore from Narvik

  1. At the end of November the Gulf of Bothnia normally freezes. so that Swedish iron ore can be sent to Germany only through Oxelosund, in the Baltic, or from Narvik, at the north of Norway. Oxelosund can export only about one-fifth of the weight of ore Germany requires from Sweden. In winter normally the main trade is from Narvik, whence ships can pass down the west coast of Norway, and make the whole voyage to Gerrtnany without leaving territorial waters until inside the Skagerrak.

It must be understood that an adequate supply of Swedish iron ore is vital to Germany, and the interception or prevention of these Narvik supplies during the winter months, i.e., from October to the end of April, will greatly reduce her power of resistance. For the first three weeks of the war no iron ore ships left Narvik owing to the reluctance of crews to sail and other causes outside our control. Should this satisfactory state of affairs continue, no special action would be de- manded from the Admiralty. Furthermore, negotiations are proceeding with the Swedish Government which in themselves may effectively reduce the supplies of Scandinavian ore to Germany.

Should however the supplies from Narvik to Germany start moving again, more drastic action will be needed....

Ought we not to secure the control, by charter or otherwise, of all the free neutral shipping we can obtain, as well as the Norwegian, and thus give the allies power to regulate the greater part of the sea transport of the world and recharter it, profitably, to those who act as we wish?

And ought we not to extend to neutral shipping not under our direct control the benefit of our convoy system?

The results so far achieved by the Royal Navy against the U-boat attack seem, in the opinion of the Admiralty, to justify the adoption of this latter course. This would mean that we should offer safe convoy to all vessels of all countries traversing our sea routes, provided they conform to our rules of contraband and pay the necessary premiums in foreign devisen. They would therefore be able to contract themselves out of the war risk, and with the success of our anti-U-boat campaign we may well hope to make a profit to offset its heavy expense

Thus not only vessels owned by us or controlled by us, but independent neutral ships, would all come to enjoy the British protection on the high seas, or be indemnified in case of accidents. it is not believed at the Admiralty that this is beyond our strength. Had some such scheme for the chartcring and insurance of neutral shipping been in force from the early days of the last war, there is little doubt that it would have proved a highly profitable speculation....

Almost at this very moment... German eyes were turned in the same direction. On October 3 Admiral Raeder, Chief of the Naval Staff, submitted a proposal to Hitler headed "Gaining of Bases in Norway." He asked, "That the Fuehrer be informed as soon as possible of the opinions of the Naval War Staff on the possibilities of extending the operational base to the north.... "In these notes," he wrote, "I stressed the disadvantages which an occupation of Norway by the British would have for us: the control of the approaches to the Baltic, the outflanking of our naval operations and of our air attacks on Britain, the end of our pressure on Sweden. I also stressed the advantages for us of the occupation of the Norwegian coast: outlet to the North Atlantic, no possibility of a British mine barrier, as in the ycar 1917-18.... The Fuehrer saw at once the significance of the Norwegian problem; he asked me to leave the notes, and stated that he wished to consider the question himself...."

[Alfred] Rosenberg, the foreign affairs expert of the Nazi Party... had discovered an instrument in the extreme Nationalist Party in Norway, which was led by a former Norwegian Minister of War named Vidkun Quisling. Contacts were established...