From Irish Guards Association Journal, 1961:
By Brigadier DML GORDON-WATSON, OBE, MC
At the invitation of the Lieutenant-Colonel I found myself, happily, representing the IRISH GUARDS at the Norwegian celebrations of the 20th Anniversary of the Liberation of NARVIK. In fact I found myself leading the British Army delegation in the company of Air Marshal Sir Richard ATCHERLEY and Rear Admiral Sir Hilary BIGGS (who had commanded one of the destroyers under WARBURTON LEE in the Battle of NARVIK).
Of the journey suffice to say that we sped, in true sense, from DUSSELDORF to OSLO by Caravelle, and then on by Viscount over TRONDHEIM, BODO and NARVIK fjord to BARDUFOSS. So there we were quite suddenly in the Arctic Circle; the day was beautiful, the sun shining, the air crisp, the snow melted though still showing on the tops, the rivers in spate with snow water but too dirty and too cold yet for the salmon to run.
After a pleasant journey by bus we passed GRATANGEN, where the Norwegian forces first met the Germans, and then we descended to BJERKVIK.
It was here that I remember sailing into the bay in H.M.S. ZULU whilst we were shooting up German troops and transport vehicles.
As we drove down the hill to BJERKVIK I was sitting in the bus next to Air Commodore JAMESON, a New Zealander known throughout the Air Force as “Jamie”. He had led the Hurricans at NARVIK and (now with Air Marshal Sir Kenneth CROSS, Chief of Bomber Command) had survived on a Carley float after being sunk in H.M.S. GLORIOUS, the only two left of some thirty odd forty-eight hours before.
“We were flying down the valley at 1,000 feet, when we saw two Heinkels above us over NARVIK, so we went up underneath them, they didn’t see us …” “I must have a look up ROMBAKS fjord, I clobbered a flying boat in there.”
All this sounded very reminiscent, yet somehow a little unreal.
We crossed ROMBAKS fjord to NARVIK, by ferry and approached the very landing stage which we would have “stormed” in naval cutters had we assault landed at NARVIK as planned.
It was past here that “Brigadier TRAPPES” [Trappes-Lomax, SG] “Colonel FAULKS” [Faulkner, IG], myself, and the present Lieutenant-Colonel had sailed to H.M.S. AURORA to make the reconnaissance in preparation for the assault that never happened.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel, a pleasant hotel with a night club in the basement – not that it was ever night, or that one got any sleep in one’s three days at NARVIK.
This hotel was, as it were, on the reverse slope to where we would have landed.
I tried to cast my mind back to that reconnaissance that we made. I still remember the German caught at this morning duties, whom we chased up the hill with four inch shells as he stumbled in several feet of snow.
I don’t believe the attack was ever on, and, had we landed machine guns on the hill above, the town would have put paid to those who died. Of the town itself, what looked comparatively small and flat, was full of defiladed places from where machine guns could have played havoc undisturbed.
From NARVIC we visited BALLANGEN where the SOUTH WALES BORDERERS had fought and where the HARDY had been sunk. Here there is a beautiful cemetery, most lovingly cared for by the Norwegians, as are they all, where the graves are mostly naval and Polish.
The Polish delegation incidentally came from WARSAW. Reserved to start with, and accompanied by the inevitable military and naval political commissars, they soon warmed up (the commissars especially in the night club, the naval one being particularly good at rock and roll). Among them was Colonel DEC, a most distinguished man who had commanded one of their Battalion’s throughout the NARVIK campaign.
Among the French delegation was a very, very small man about five feet one inch. Monsieur Alex MAGNY, ex private soldier, Foreign Legionnaire. Now, if you enter the Galeries des Elysees opposite the Hotel Bristol, you will find him there, and if you visit him in his flat in the Avenue Foch you will find there many beautiful Renoirs, Bonnards and Sisleys.
During my time at NARVIK I walked to the cemetery some mile or so from the hotel. In that cemetery, one grave away from each other, are the graves of John BOWEN and FAULKS [Faulkner]. It’s a little difficult to describe jut what that meant to me.
All I have have done in this short article is to try and give some impressions what it felt like to go back to this place in a matter of hours, which it had taken us so much effort to get to, and which in those days had felt like the end of the earth. How much had passed, how many great and gallant friends had passed away too, and yet how everything existed and lived and how much and how many of us were the same.
I would not like to finish this short article without saying how incredibly kind and friendly the Norwegians were to all of us. Anyone who goes there will find a tremendous welcome awaiting them.