Saturday, 11 November 2017

Remembrance Day 2017 ~ Lunenburg

Today I attended the annual Remembrance Day service in Lunenburg. The location of the memorial park is high on the hill which defines the town and looks down and across the scenic and naturally protected harbour. Included within the memorial park is a monument to the WWII  "Camp Norway”.

The following taken from the web-site of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa, describes a little of Norwegian contribution to WWII and the creation of Camp Norway ~
In 1940 Norway, with a population of some 3,000,000, had the third largest ocean going merchant fleet in the world, about 1100 ships. When Nazi Germany invaded the country without warning on the 9th of April that year, 1024 of those ships were at sea. The King and government immediately ordered them all to proceed to allied ports. At the same time, the German-backed government that had been set up in Oslo under Vidkun Quisling, was broadcasting orders for the ships to return home.  Not a single one did so, resulting in Norway's great merchant fleet being at the disposal of the Allies.

When the King and government escaped to England, they set up a Government-in-exile and took control of all Norwegian ships outside of Norway through Nortraship (The Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission) and made them fully available to the Allies. This was a very important contribution since until 1942 Norwegian ships carried about half of the fuel and one third of all other supplies that were transported to Britain. The Norwegian merchant fleet lost 570 ships, and suffered nearly 4,000 seamen dead and about 6,000 sick or wounded.

The Antarctic whaling fleet, with about 2,000 men, came into Halifax in the spring of 1940 to await further orders. In Halifax, the Norwegians set up offices for the Royal Norwegian Navy and Nortraship as well as a hospital, a seamen's church and a seamen's club. In November of 1940 they established a training facility, called Camp Norway, in Lunenburg to train gunners for Norwegian merchant ships. They also bought a hotel in Chester in which they set up a convalescent home for sick and injured seamen. The Norwegian Army also had a small base in Lunenburg from the spring of 1942 to the summer of 1943. Countless Norwegians trod the streets of Halifax and sailed out of this port during the war.
The population of Lunenburg in 1940 was just over 2500. Most of the young men had joined the armed forces or were at sea on merchant ships. As one old-timer said, "The ones left was too young or too old or not fit". According to newspaper reports the Norwegians were very well received by the townspeople and it wasn't long before they were taking part in the social activities of the town. Their Sunday morning parades to Zion's Lutheran Church became a weekly spectacle and they began holding evening benefits in aid of the Red Cross.

The presence of the Norwegians also had a significant effect on the economy. Here were hundreds of men, most of them young, with money in their pockets which they couldn't send home, so they spent it locally. When the whalers received their final shares of the sale of the whale oil, they had plenty because their shares were based on the selling price of the oil and it had increased quite considerably due to the war. It is said that they bought so many cars that they cleaned out the car dealers in the area who had to get more sent from Halifax to meet the demand.
However, the Norwegians caused remarkably little trouble. Hugh Corkum, former Chief of Lunenburg's two-man police force, devotes a chapter of his memoirs, On Both Sides of the Law, to them and cites no really serious incidents except for some drunkenness and dance-hall fights. The police took on four part-time men as auxiliaries and, together with the Norwegian Navy shore patrol, seem to have maintained law and order quite well.

In general, the Norwegians fit in well and the newspapers of the time report various social events either at or sponsored by Camp Norway. Perhaps the single biggest event in the town’s history was the visit by Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha in February, 1941, which was extensively reported on in the local press.
There were also quite a few weddings. After the war, many of those couples went home to Norway but we understand that most of them came back to the South Shore. Some of the local people, particularly young women, kept up correspondence with the Norwegians after they left the camp. They sent them parcels of what was called comforts. As further evidence of the good reputation of the Norwegians and the high esteem in which they were held, the town council and the business sector held a farewell dinner at Camp Norway when the camp closed in 1943. In the House of Commons, MP J.J. Kinley asked that something be done to officially commemorate their service in Canada, adding "When we said goodbye to those Norwegians we felt that we were losing good citizens...."

In 1994 a week-long Camp Norway reunion took place where about 100 veterans from Norway and a considerable number from Canada and the U.S.A. attended. Included in the many events that took place during the reunion was the unveiling of memorial stones in Lunenburg, Chester and Liverpool.
The veterans received a very warm welcome, and many old acquaintances and friendships were renewed. The towns, the Provincial government, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Royal Canadian Legion, the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, the Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and others too numerous to mention made sure it was a memorable event.











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