10th June 2015 Oslo, Norway
Never Forgetting the Second World War
Blog post by Ambassador Sarah Gillett
Recent weeks have been filled with events marking the Second World War, especially notable this year given the historical milestones of 75 years since it began, and 70 years since it concluded. Last Sunday was a particularly significant date for Norway. On 7 June 1940 King Haakon left Tromsø with the Crown Prince and government, and established a government-in-exile in London. And on 7 June 1945 His Majesty returned to Oslo after the country’s liberation.I read that one quarter of history books sold in Norway are about the Second World War. I have certainly been struck by the way Norwegians keep alive the memories of what their country endured for five testing years, and regularly pay tribute to the many acts of heroism selflessly undertaken for the sake of liberty.
I was lucky enough to be in Narvik from 27-28 May. His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Regent, the Defence Minister, the Chief of Defence, the Regional Governor, and the City Mayor were wonderful hosts to distinguished representatives from Poland, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The most special guests of all were the veterans who participated in all the commemorations.
Narvik was a significant battleground for so many reasons. The port’s strategic importance for iron ore exports made it an early focal point in the war. The naval battle of April 1940 resulted in the first Victoria Cross (Britain’s highest honour for bravery), awarded posthumously to Captain Warburton-Lee after two of the Royal Navy’s five ships were sunk. The recapture of Narvik from the Nazis by Norwegian, Polish, French and British forces, was the first Allied victory of the war. The history books are full of stories of individual strength and courage against military occupation and dictatorship, and in the most challenging of weather conditions.
All of us gathered in Narvik on 28 May under a moistening rain to remember 1940 events with wreath-laying and thoughtful speeches felt a special sense of privilege and responsibility. We are so privileged to enjoy freedom and prosperity. And it is our responsibility to learn from history, and never to forget those who fought for our freedom.