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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Wehrmacht´s Last Window?

Just back from a hike in the Narvik area. That place just becomes more and more of a favourite of mine for "history hiking" as it always provides new insights and puzzles. I have searched for traces of WWII in Russia and in the Nordic countries since the late 1980s but have never found a Wehrmacht shelter with an intact original window. Until now.

And there were more discoveries. This trip, although it lasted just three days, provided insights into the life of soldiers from both the Heer (army), Luftwaffe and SS. One small remnant from a Norwegian soldier we found too.

This is one of the best German WWII shelters I have ever found, situated just some two or three hundred metres from the Norwegian-Swedish border. It is the only shelter I have found with a fully intact original window (the one to the right). In Finland, in the "Sturmbockstellung", there are some shelters with windows - but those are new.

Note how the roof beams are giving up. The roof may come down any day - so, do not enter, or at the very least, enter very slowly, treading very carefully, with a buddy waiting outside. But my recommendation is really DO NOT ENTER.

The reason this position is so original is partly because it is utterly hard to find. Not very far from it are half a dozen positions that were more destroyed by the retreating Germans, easier to find and that have obviously been visited several times since the war.

This window lacks glass, but has some unspent 7.92 millimetre rounds lying behind the empty frame. Not sure why. The view ought to be rather unchanged since WWII, or since the time of the Vikings, or even Christ.

Lying mostly outside, we moved these remains of German winter trousers - a loose fitting type to be worn over the standard issue trousers - indoors. There were still one or two metal buttons, covered by white cloth (one can be discerned in the upper right hand region). There were also small bits and pieces of leather straps lying about.

What you see we mostly did not dig up, nor did we take home these historic objects from Norway. In some cases we moved them up from cracks in the ground, to study them close-up and photograph them. But then we put them back, so that others may get the same experience. Still, wishing to protect historic sites and their artifacts, I will not be very specific about where these photos were taken. But if you have the enthusiasm, fitness, necessary maps (from mostly Norwegian books) and patience (not least!) you can get some tips from these photos and captions.

An overview of the most intact position we found, with the Rombak fjord in the background (the distant spot of water).

In many places there is zero vegetation and earth, but in places where there is, nature is swallowing up what fell to the ground. This bottle seemed complete but I did not pull it out to check. Nature works slowly in these parts.

This is just a fraction of what we found. I will blog more about this trip in two or three days and then write one or two more posts until I am finished reporting about this hike.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Swedish Narvik Volunteer´s Dog Tag

I was recently presented with a very special dog tag that I will shortly pass on to the Defence Museum in Boden/Abisko. I have never seen one of these before, and would appreciate some more info about them.

Here it is, the dog tag worn by Swedish volunteer Jan Danielsen at Narvik:

The front, which only states NORSK, meaning Norwegian, and then has the etched rank FENRIK meaning 2nd lieutenant + DANIELSEN.

The back, which states I/IR 16 meaning I battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment.

Jan Danielsen, with whom I recently attended the 70th anniversary ceremonies in Narvik, has kept it all these years, forgotten about it and then recently found it.

I would really like to know if this was standard operating procedure, i.e. that everyone etched their own rank, name and unit? Also, were they most usually worn by means of a piece of string or a chain? Please do reply by means of the commenting function of this blog.

Considering that there were only a dozen Swedish volunteers at Narvik this tag must be rather unique.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Wehrmacht´s Swedish General

A new photo of the Wehrmacht´s Swedish general, Count/Lord Gilbert Hamilton, has surfaced:

This Teutonic portrait has been released into the public domain by Göran Mellblom via Wikipedia. There is at the time of writing no Wikipedia article in English about the general, but there is one in Swedish and one in French.

One can note that the uniform is a mixture of Swedish cloth and German metal - beyond the regulations of both the German and Swedish armies. Presumably, this was taken in Sweden some years after WWI, perhaps in Hamilton´s home?

For more details about Hamilton including a photo of him in his complete Wehrmacht general´s uniform, see Swedes at War.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Russian War Movies Getting Better

While I lived in Russia under Boris Yeltsin not many memorable war movies were made. In fact, I can´t remember a single one. In recent years, whatever one thinks of Vladimir Putin, things have improved on that front. Here follow some movie tips.

In the movie "The Star" (2002) one gets to follow a group of army scouts during Operation Bagration:

In "9th Company" the main characters are part of the Soviet airborne forces in Afghanistan:

In "Attack on Leningrad" (2009) the story of the siege of Leningrad is told in a very fictional story - but it is still well worth seeing. NB its more of a drama than a classic war movie though.

"We Are From the Future" (2008) is a mix of WWII and science fiction. Here follows one of my favourite scenes from it, which starts off as a scene from a traditional Soviet war movie but then turns into something very different when the four visitors from the future introduce some tunes from Russia of the 21st century. Watching this scene will not, I think, spoil the experience of watching the whole film, and there are many scenes as good as this one IMHO:

Here is the trailer for the 2010 sequel:

You´ll find plenty of other clips from these and other Russian war movies on Youtube. The DVDs are sold in Russia and in some cases also in the west. The Leningrad-movie being most easily available.