After a period of relative calm in Europe following the fall of Poland, save for minor clashes over the French and German border, Germany opened a massive combined operations invasion of not one, but two Western Countries. On April 9th, 1940, Denmark and Norway were invaded by German air, land and sea forces. Denmark offered only token resistance and fell within a few days of the invasion, while the Norwegian armed forces attempted to resist the German attack. The Allies (Mainly Britain) managed to prolong the campaign in Norway by mauling the German naval forces involved, and by sending ground forces into Norway itself to try to push back the Germans. After many fierce battles, the Allied position in Norway became lost due to an Axis invasion of the Low Countries in Europe in May, 1940. Although significant fighting had ended earlier in the campaign, the embattled city of Narvik on the Northern coast of Norway was the scene of some very bitter fighting up until the final Allied capitulation in Norway.
Prior to the outbreak of WWII in Norway, there existed only one significant political party that was sympathetic to the Germans. In the same year that Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany (1933), Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Quisling formed the Nasjonal Samling, or National Union (also stated as Unity). This party was styled after the German National Socialists under Hitler, and came to the forefront after the Germans invaded Norway as the only Norwegian party to support the Germans, although the party did not aid in the actual invasion itself (Noted researcher Andrew Mollow states that the NS may have aided the German invasion, while author David Littlejohn states that the NS did in fact not aid Germany at all).
Quislings NS party never managed to gain any seats on local councils or in the Norwegian Parliment prior to the German invasion. When the Germans invaded Norway, Quisling assumed power and announced himself as the new leader of Norway. His declaration was not very popular among the Norwegian population though, and one week after his announcement, Hitler asked Quisling to step down. Later, in February of 1942, Quisling was finaly appointed as the actual leader of Norway, being appointed Minister President by Hitler. Quisling continued to serve as the leader of the NS party after his initial removal from office in 1940, as the National Union was the only political party allowed in Norway after the Germans invaded.
Although The Norwegian National Union Party was the only political party allowed in Norway after the Germans invaded, even after Quisling was appointed Minister President, actual power in Norway rested in Josef Terboven - the German appointed Reichscommissar for Norway. Below Terboven was Higher SS and Police Leader, SS Obergruppenführer und General der Polizie Weitzel. Weitzel was later replaced by SS Obergruppenführer und General der Polizie Wilhelm Rediess. Both men acted in the position of controlling all aspects of the SS (and many other areas) in Norway, under direction from their own commander, Heinrich Himmler.
Quisling and Terboven disliked one another a great deal, and each attempted to undermine the others postion and authority within Norway. Quisling attempted to undermine Terbovens attempt at forming a Norwegian branch of the Germanic SS, and Terboven attempted to undermine Quislings National Union party and his overall control of Norway.
Quisling had been, prior to the German invasion, a member of the Agraian Party, the party that controlled Norway. Quisling was a soldier by profession, and while aiding a famous Norwegian explorer on famine relief in Russia in the early 1920s, he acted as the Norwegian diplomatic representative to Russia. He was later given the position of Minister of Defense in 1931 for his work in Russia, but only served until 1932 - he was removed due to poor performance in his position.
Norway can be considered to have been a puppet state during WWII, controlled between the forces of the German occupation and Quisling's NS party. The NS was given some authority within Norway, and in this manner formed a great number of formations and units under complete Norwegian control. Although an occupied nation under the direct control of Germany, Norway was allowed some degree of freedom through the NS party, and it was in this respect that Norway served as an Axis Ally during WWII - although at best a puppet state. The history of its formations and units is none-the-less and important facet of the Axis cause in WWII.
The Nasjonal Samling party itself consisted of the following sub-sections:
The Hirden, or Rikshirden, was the Norwegian form of the German SA or Storm Troopers. Hird in Ancient Norse indicates a kings followers, thus "National or state followers" would be a loose translation. The Hird or Rikshird was formed in 1933 for members of the Nasjonal Samling between the ages of 18 and 45. The total number of members before the German occupation of Norway was very small though, around 500. After occupation, membership increased, and when Quisling became the leader of Norway, membership really took off with numbers for the NS as a whole between 45,000 and 60,000 in 1943. This success was ironically in part due to the aid of Josef Terboven, the very individual that attempted to undermine Quisling throughout much of the German occupation in Norway. Hitler had ordered Terboven to aid in Quislings drive to increase the power and size of the NS. The success of this drive can be seen in the increase from 6000 in 1940, to some 50,000 in 1943 of the NS as a whole.
In March, 1941, the Rikshird was given police powers, and one year later, in March of 1942, the first armed unit of the Rikshird was formed, the Hird Armed Battalion. This unit would later go on to become the Hird Factory Guard (See below). In 1943, the entire Rikshird became a part of the offical Norwegian Armed Forces along with the Foregarden, the Germanic SS Norge and parts of the Norwegian Police.
The Rikshird was, much like the German SA it was modeled after, a part time organization for most of its members. Duty was served a few times a week, apart from the two regular formations of the Rikshird that served without pause, the Hird Factory Guard and the Föregarden (Both explained in detail below).
The Rikshird consisted organizationally of 7 regiments and a number of independent units. The independent units were composed of Norwegian students in German schools. The 7 regiments of the Rikshird were as follows:
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Members of a specific Rikshird regiment would wear cuff titles, but it is not know if all regiments had their own cuff titles or not. Two examples of cuff titles are known to exist according to David Littlejohn, and they were Rikshird Regiment No 1, Viken, and Rikshird Regiment No 7, Viking. Cuff titles were worn on the Left cuff.
A Rikshird Officers school existed in Odnes, Norway, and from 1943 produced 300 students a year. All instructors at the Rikshird school were former members of the Norwegian Legion (Explained below).
A black flag with a gold and red sun cross with upward pointing swords upon the two horizontal branches of the sun cross, was used by the Rikshird. Each regiment in the Rikshird that used a flag would also have a specific emblem or the location of the regiment on the upper right quarter of the flag.
The uniform of the Rikshird consisted of a dark blue tunic, dark blue ski pants or trousers, brown shirt, black tie, and blue ski cap. A "Sam Browne" belt and cross strap was worn over the shirt, either with or without the tunic. A yellow sun cross on a red background with two upward pointing swords on a black brassard was worn on the upper left arm of the tunic. Members of certain regiments (Maybe all regiments) wore a cuff title bearing the name or designation of their unit. This was worn on the lower cuff of the left arm of the tunic.
The Föregarden was Quislings personal bodyguard formation. It was one of the regular or full time formations of the National Union. It consisted of 150 men who spent six months at a time guarding Quisling and his places of residence.
Members of this formation wore either service dress or a gala dress. The Service dress consisted of a grey-green tunic, ski trousers, and forage cap. Worn on the upper left arm was a VQ monogram that stood for Vidkun Quisling, and a National Union eagle with sun cross. The gala dress consisted of a dark blue tunic, trousers and forage cap with a tassel. A VQ monogram was worn on both collars, and on the upper right arm a silver sun cross and swords upon a black circular patch.
The Unghirden was the Young Lads Hird, basically like the Hitlerjugend or Hitler Youth for the National Socialists in Germany. It served as the youth organiztion for the National Union, and consisted of two main groups of youth. The first group of youths in the Unghirden were those boys (Girls had their own organization, explained below) from ages 10 to 14 years old, called the Guttehirden. The second group of youth were boys from ages 14 to 18 years old, called the Unghirden. Once finished with service in the Unghirden, a young man would, presumably, join the Rikshirden itself.
A brassard was worn on the upper left sleeve. For the Unghirden this was green with a silver sun cross with swords upon red, and for the Guttehirden, green with a brown sun cross and swords upon red.
The Unghirden, along with the other Norwegian youth groups, the Unghirdmarinenen, Guttehirden, Jentehirden, and the Småhirden (Explained below), were all known collectively as the Nasjonal Samling Ungdomsfylking, or the National Union Youth Front. membership in the Nation Union Youth Front was declared obligatory on March 1st, 1941, and all able-bodied and healthy youth between the ages of 10 and 18 were expected to join one of the NS youth organizations. All other youth organization in Norway at the time were then declared illegal. The emblem of the NSUF was a gold sun cross without swords on a red background within a green circle.
The Hirdmarinen was the Naval Hird of the National Union, and the Unghirdmarinen was the Young Lads Naval Hird of the National Union (Again, much like the German version of their own Hitlerjugend oriented marine organization). These groups were organized in May, 1942, and according to David Littlejohn, seem to have been used more-or-less as training formations for recruits into the German Kriegsmarine. A group of Norwegian volunteers that were members of this organization were transfered to Germany in January, 1943 and sent to the training area at Trondheim. The badge of this organization was the National Union eagle holding a sun cross over an anchor.
The Unghirdmarinen was a part of the NSUF, as explained above.
The Hirdens Flykorpset
This organization was the Hird Air Section of the National Union. This group was organized in 1942, and it served mainly as a training ground for entrance into the German Luftwaffe, much like the NSFK in Germany itself. (The NSFK served to train Germans prior to entrance into the actual Luftwaffe, and the Hitlerjugend had its own form of NSFK designed to specifically train HJ members prior to entrance into the Luftwaffe). The first group of trained members from the Hirdens Flykorpset was sent to the Luftwaffe in February, 1943. Members of this organization were trained in principals of gliding and powered flight. The Hirdens Flykorpset badge was of a National Union eagle in flight holding a shield with a cross and two upwards pointing swords with two oak leaves below.
The Kvinnehirden was the female branch of the Hird. It was organized much like the male section of the hirden with different aged females grouped into separate sections. These sections were the Småhirden or youngsters for girls from 10 to 14 years old, the Jentehird or teenage girls Hird for girls from 14 to 18 years old, and the Kvinnehirden for females from 18 to 35 or 40 years old.
Instead of a brasserie worn on the upper left sleeve, members of the Kvinnehirden wore a yellow sun cross on a red circle background upon a white diamond-like patch.
The two sections of female youth under 18 that were a part of the Kvinnehirden were a part of the larger NSUF, as explained above.
The NS Kvinne-Organisasjonen
This organization was the National Union adult womens group.
Along with the above sub-sections of the National Union existed the following groups, organizations, formations, and units that consisted of Norwegians.
The Arbeids-tjensten was the Norwegian National Union party version of the German Reichsarbeitbients, or RAD, the German State Labor Service. The RAD was a Nation wide German labor force organized along para-military lines and designed to be used on National and local labor tasks of civilian and military value. The Norwegian version was designed to for these same purposes, only for use in Norway by the Norwegians.
The Labor Service, as it would translate in English, or AT, as it was abbreviated in Norwegian, was organized in September, 1940.