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Verdal, Norway

Memorial to Private Harry Prike and Private Ronald Maurice Smith, 1st/4th Battalion, Royal Lincolnshire Regiment, 21 April 1940

The photographs on this page were submitted by Paul Kiddell. Paul is an ex TA soldier who served in Norway (Verdal) in 1992. Paul has lived in Steinkjer since 1994.

At about 4.00am, lookouts for the 4th Lincolns and the Norwegian Dragoons spotted a German Destroyer slipping into the Fjord. By 6.00am Norwegian troops were fighting against a German advance along the road from Trondheim whilst more German troops were advancing on Verdalsora. The Norwegian machine-gun squadron and Royal Engineers had to withdrew inland to Stiklestad, where one British company was already posted. A second company was also forced to retire. By 7.30am the British brigade, spread out along the road between Verdal to Namdalseid, was threatened by at least two German attacks on its right flank. Besides the move against Verdalsora, which had already succeeded, intelligence reports warned of about 400 Germans advancing north-eastward along the coast towards Vist, just south of Steinkjer and another German force of unknown strength proceeding, from the quay (belonging to a sawmill) at Kirknesvaag, south-eastward to cut the main road about 10 miles south of Vist. The Germans ahd better equipment, were trained for this weather and terrain and were for the most part mountaineers which gave them quite an advantage.

The south-eastward advance from Kirknesvaag failed. We had a very good defensive position at Strömmen bridge, closing the only way out from the south of the Inderöy peninsula. The Germans, had landed without any significant menas of transport, apart mfrom a few motorcycles. Their objective was the neck of the peninsula round Vist. The Germans busily ransacked the farms for carts, sledges, and any motor vehicle they could find. The 4th Lincolns were moving up to form a front through Vist facing west and the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry prepared to hold the main-road attack as far south of Vist as possible. The allies thought that the Germans might also push north by a secondary road which begins at Verdalsora, roughly parallel with the main road from Stiklestad along the east shore of the Leksdalsvatn to Fisknes, but the British and Norwegian detachments did manage to retire, without being attacked, from Stiklestad in the afternoon and evening. The ice and snow on the roads caused the Norwegian Dragoons to exchange their motor transport for horse sledges. The weather probably explains why our extreme left was not seriously attacked that day. This was the flank defended by the Norwegians, with their HQ at Ogndal, but a British suggestion that their ski troops should counterattack along both sides of the Leksdalsvatn was rejected because we could not guarantee their line of retreat. About 8.00pm the Norwegian ski patrols, at the head of the lake, spotted the first Germans as they approached, 110 strong.


Against Vist, however, the pressure soon became severe. The distance from Kirknesvaag is about 12 miles by a very hilly, narrow, winding lane, but the first motorcyclist made contact by 9.30am. Intensive fire from trench mortars, carried in the side-cars of the motor cycles, as well as from machine guns, and the skilful use by the Germans of the numerous farm tracks to outflank us made it very hard for our men to establish a firm line across the peninsula. For the most part, German troops were confined to the roads, just as our men were, and their superior mobility was chiefly a result of superior fitness. Moreover, they had a tremendous asset in the light field guns, which they dragged up to strategic positions at Gangstad and Hustad Church. During the afternoon a series of heavy air attacks was launched against our Brigade and Battalion HQs in Steinkjer (5 miles behind our line). By late afternoon the town was on fire, deprived of it's water supply, it's road bridge was destroyed, and it's railway immobilised. At nightfall the situation in the whole area was already in the balance. Two companies plus an HQ detachment of the Lincolns were in the line, but a third company, having borne the brunt of the fighting at the critical point where the road from Kirknesvaag skirts the shore one mile west of Vist, had had to be withdrawn with a twenty percent casualty list. On the main road one half of the area between Verdalsöra and Vist was relinquished to the enemy at dusk, when the two companies of K.O.Y.L.I. which had been stationed at Strömmen and Röra retired to the main road between Sparbu and Vist.

 


Accordingly, Brigadier Phillips reported to the General that no position was now tenable anywhere near the fjord and proposed a withdrawal along the north bank of the Snaasavatn towards Grong. General Carton de Wiart approved the withdrawal but changed it's direction towards the north, so as not to interfere with Norwegian troop movements along Snaasavatn.

  • Mauriceforce, Commanded by Major-General Carton de Wiart V.C., this group began landing at Namsos on April 14
  • British 146th (Territorial) Infantry Brigade - Commanded by Brigadier Charles G. Phillips
  • 1st/4th Battalion, Royal Lincolnshire Regiment
  • 1st/4th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • Hallamshire Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment
  • French 5e Demi-Brigade Chasseurs Alpins - Commanded by Général de Brigade Antoine Béthouart.
  • 13ème Bataillon Chasseurs Alpins
  • 53ème Bataillon Chasseurs Alpins
  • 67ème Bataillon Chasseurs Alpins
  •  
  • Sickleforce, Commanded by Major-General Bernard Charles Tolver Paget, this force landed at Åndalsnes starting April 18
  • 15th Infantry Brigade - Commanded by Brigadier Herbert Edward Fitzroy Smyth.
  • 1st Battalion, Green Howards
  • 1st Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • 1st Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment
  • 148th Infantry (Territorial) Brigade - Commanded by General Harold de Riemer Morgan
  • 1st/5th Battalion, Royal Leicestershire Regiment
  • 1st/8th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters
  •  
  • Rupertforce, Commanded by Major-General Pierse Joseph Mackesy, this force landed at Harstad, near Narvik, between April 15 and May 5
  • 24th (Guards) Brigade - Commanded by Brigadier William Fraser
  • 1st Battalion, Scots Guards
  • 1st Battalion, Irish Guards
  • 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers
  • French 27e Demi-Brigade de Chasseurs Alpins - Commanded by Lieutenant-colonel Valentini
  • 6ème Bataillon Chasseurs Alpins
  • 12ème Bataillon Chasseurs Alpins
  • 14ème Bataillon Chasseurs Alpins
  • French 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade - Commanded by Lieutenant-colonel Magrin-Verneret. Landed at Harstad on May 5
  • 1er Bataillon
  • 2ème Bataillon
  • Polish Carpathian "Podhale" Brigade - Commanded by General Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko
  • 1st Demi-Brigade
  • 1 Battalion
  • 2 Battalion
  • 2nd Demi-Brigade
  • 3 Battalion
  • 4 Battalion
  • Troop, 3rd King's Own Hussars (personnel only, no tanks)
  • 203rd Field Battery/51st Field Regiment
  • French 342me Independent Tank Company
  • French 2me Independent Colonial Artillery Group
  • British 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Independent Companies

Update - 16 September 2009

There's a move in Norway for a memorial to be placed at the farm where "B" Company and a section of "D" Company of the 4th Lincolns came into contact with Nazi forces on 21 April 1940. This was the first land encounter beyween the British and German (or rather Austrian) forces in WW2. It is proposed that the memorial should include the names of the soldiers who were killed there. The move has been initiated by Paul Kiddell, who sent quite a lot of material which is on your website under February 2009 ("Prike"). He is seeing the local mayor tomorrow (Thursday) and I will let you know how he has got on with a view to your having something on your website a bit later on.

One of those involved in this action was 2/Lt J Flint who was mentioned in dispatches (he later got the DSO and MC).

John Benson
---------------------
9 Oct 2009
I am working with the local communes and hope to have memorial plaques raised to next years 70th anniversary. I am hoping to get a response from this article. Is there any other information on veterans or their relatives in your archives? They would certainly wish to be informed. The names of these men are in John Benson’s book. Thanks if you can help
Paul Kiddell


---------------------

Brit Schei Kiddell
(Translation)
Will honour the fallen British British Paul Kiddell is hurt over the lack of willingness to erect memorial plaques with the names of 12 British soldiers killed during fighting in Nord-Trondelag in April 1940.

Paul Kiddell shows bomb shrapnel which his father-in-law Roald Schei found in Johan Bojers street by the pine forest after the German bombing of Steinkjer in 1940. Paul Kiddell has approached both Steinkjer and Inderøy communes in an attempt to arouse their interest to establish the memorial plaques. The soldiers who fell belonged to "The 4th Lincolnshire Regiment" and "King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry."

Most fell in the hard fighting at Krogs farm at Sandvollan 21 April 1940. Rightly so in connection with the 50-year anniversary in 1995 Inderøy commune raised a memorial stone at Krogs farm. Though here it states "Krogs farm. Burnt down after the bombing by German planes, Sunday 21 April 1940. Not a word about the fallen British.

Lives in Steinkjer

Paul Kiddell has lived in Steinkjer since 1992. After military service he trained as a microlight instructor. He is also interested in local history. His interest in war history, was awakened by his father in law Roald Schei, who has written an article on local war history in Steinkjer.

Also around Steinkjer fell more British soldiers in April 1940 in the battle with advancing Austrians under German command. The same happened in Verdal, where Norwegian troops were killed in skirmishes. In Verdal are both the British and Norwegian fallen remembered with names on the memorial stone that stands at Mo park in Verdal. The 12 British, who were killed in Inderøy and Steinkjer, are not mentioned by name anywhere else in Steinkjer or Inderøy.

Wrote to the communes
I have approached both communes Inderøy and Steinkjer, and asked if they can think of establishing such plaques, "says Kiddell. He adds that the response he has received has been noncommittal, and somewhat vague.

I am very disappointed with how little commitment there seems to be in the two communes to preserve this memorial to my countrymen who gave their lives in the struggle for the Norwegian freedom, "says Kiddell.
Positive Now

Both in Inderøy and in Steinkjer the talk is now about a memorial plaque to fallen British soldiers. Head of Department of Culture in Steinkjer, Ellen Samuelsen, takes reserve to confer with the history teams, but said in principle that the British casualties in Steinkjer should be able to get this memorial plaque in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the bombing Sunday in Steinkjer next year. An expert group will be appointed in terms of the arrangements for the ceremony.

Paul Kiddell suggest the names of the fallen British soldiers from April 1940 are placed under the names of the Norwegian fallen on a memorial stone which currently stands at Sannan, and now being restored. When it comes to Inderøy , Kiddell has proposed a far greater recognition of Krogs farm as a unique war memorial.

It was culture secretary Kåre Bjerkan at Inderøy who responded to Kiddell’s inquiry. He confirmed that the commune has not taken any concrete steps when it comes to the requests, but says he has full understanding with a plaque with the names, and a stronger recognition of the War Memorial at Krogs farm.

Unique war memorial in Inderøy The first direct fighting between British and German forces during the 2nd World War could have happened in Inderøy.

The memorial at Balbergstillingen at Lillehammer, set up in 2000. It is claimed that it was here the first real skirmish between England and Germany in World War II happened. Is this correct?


5 September 2009

The English war historian and author John Benson more than suggests that the hard fighting between the German-Austrian troops and English in Inderøy 21st April 1940, was the first close combat between the two countries in World War II. The book was published in 2005 and is titled "Saturday Night Soldiers". The author has written several historical war books. Paul Kiddell has contributed a little research in the effort to find out what happened to the fallen British soldiers in April days in Nord-Trøndelag in 1940. The book of Benson's is about the history of the fourth battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, which was sent to Norway in April 1940. The book describes details of the fighting on 21st April at Krogs farm, at Vist, as well as at Sparbu and around Sannan in Steinkjer. Benson describes far tougher battles at Vist and the Krogs farm than was previously thought, with killed and wounded on both sides.

That the first real encounter between Britain and Germany in World War II occurred at the Krogs farm, says Paul Kiddell is so unique that Inderøy should focus around this unique war memory. Kiddell says that English people are very interested in their own war history. For the English it will be important to visit such a war memorial. At Lillehammer, there is set up a memorial in connection with the fighting at Balberg. It states that the first real skirmish between British and German ground forces in World War II took place here. Not correct, "says Kiddell and pointing at Krogs farm on Inderøy and the date April 21st. That most of the soldiers on the German side were the Austrian Alpine troops is irrelevant.

They were under German command and enrolled into the German army, "said Kiddell.
Here it happened: It is dedicated to verifying that the Battle of Krog farm on Inderøy between the German-Austrian and British forces took place 21 April 1940. And the fighting was far harder than what one has previously believed.


Halaxton Journal
11th November 2009
Norway campaign 1940.

Further to my previous enquiry, I'm pleased to say that I have now contacted Major J O Flint DL DSO MC TD. He is now 93 years of age and I went to see him on Thursday morning, 5 November 2009.

I have also recently been contacted by John Gritten who was instrumental in having a memorial to the British casualties erected at the port of Namsos. Mr Gritten had a book published called 'Full Circle', which includes a description of the Norway campaign as seen through the eyes of a naval rating. He was on HMS Afridi, a very modern and fast destroyer which landed some of the 4th Lincolns at Namsos and took a few of them off again later. It was bombed and sunk. Mr Gritten was the very first conscript in the RN and so had the distinction of having "1" as his number. Full Circle is well worth reading. Mr Gritten, now 90 years of age, is secretary of the Friends of Namsos War Memorial which organises a yearly visit to Namsos and he can be contacted on 02076 031 396 or by email at aajg@btinternet.com
John Benson


Editor's Note
We were sad to learn that Major Flint passed away on 15th December 2009. He had been in hospital since 10th November, when he had a fall. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Major Flint's family.
We respectfully ask that if anyone feels able to share any more information about 2/Lt (later Major) J O Flint, could they please contact the webmaster.


Update 31 May 2010

The 21st April 2010 marked the 70th anniversary of the 4th Lincolns' encounter with the enemy (Austrian actually) in Norway. I believe this was the very first real action between British troops and an advancing enemy in WW2. A plaque to commemorate those who were killed was placed at Krogs farm (where the action took place) and a further memorial was also unveiled at the nearby town of Steinkjer commemorating the 8 men of the 4th Lincolns and 3 from the KOYLI who lost their lives in the vicinity. Tom Fowler, now aged 91, was in action at Krogs farm and intended to be present (together with his grandson, who is the RSM of the 1st Royal Horse Artillery) but unfortunately they couldn't go because of the volcanic ash problem. The event was covered by local television,the local newspaper produced a special supplement and there was a fly-past by jets of the Norwegian Air Force. However Tom and his grandson were able to travel to Norway for the Norwegian National Day on 17th May where they joined a party which commemorated those who lost their lives at the port of nearby Namsos - where the Lincolns disembarked and later embarked for their return journey home.

Paul Kiddell, a former Territorial Army soldier (although not with the Lincolns), lives locally in Norway and was responsible for prompting the placing of these two memorials. He will probably send photographs for the website. Meanwhile, here are a few which he has sent to me.

John Benson


Inderoy Krogs Krogs Farm Plaque Steinkjer Tom Fowler & Grandson


Update 26 July 2010

Thanks for your email. Here are some photos from Tom Fowler's visit to Norway in May, the other veteran is Frank Lodge, he was here in April 1940 with KOYLI.
The [new] bronze plaque at Krogs farm [pictured above] was made in Lincoln and generously paid for by John Benson.
Regards

Paul Kiddell

Tom Fowler & Frank Lodge Tom Fowler & Frank Lodge at the Ceremony Tom Fowler Tom Fowler Tom Fowler

The sign reads:

"ANDRE VERDENSKRIG - HAMPER VED KROGS
21st & 22nd April 1940 - Second World War - The battle for Inderøy and Vist

The fighting at the Krogs farm on April 21st 1910 was the first close combat between British and German ground forces in the Second World War.

Background
Germany attacked Norway April 9th 1940 and took possession of a number of towns, among those Trondheim. Britain and France sent troops to help the Norwegians and British and French forces were landed in Namsos. In co-operation with the Norwegian troops, their mission was to reconquer Trondheim. Troops from The Lincolnshire Regiment and King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regiment (KOYLI) moved south through Steinkjer on April 20th and set up positions at Vist, Mære, Sparbu and Straumen. One company moves all the way to Stiklestad.

Early In the morning of Sunday April 21st, German forces from the Gebirgs Jäger Regiment 138 were landed In Kjerknesvãgen and started their advance towards Vist. Here, they encounter Company B from 4th Lincolns that had entrenched at the Krogs farm. The fighting was hard and there were many dead and wounded. The Krogs farm was bombed and all the houses on the farm burn down with animals, furniture, machines and equipment. The same day, even Steinkjer Is bombed. The fighting at Vist continues until the evening of April 22nd when the British troops are forced to retire.

This memorial is raised to preserve and bring forth to coming generations, the knowledge about these dramatic events in the history of our country, at the same time, this is in gratitude to the British soldiers who fell here in battle to defend a free Norway."


The Webmaster of www.thelincolnshireregiment.org is always pleased to hear from anyone who has information or photographs that we could publish on our website (must have strong connections to the Lincolnshire Regiment or the Royal Anglian Regiment please). You can contact him via our [ Contacts ] page.