The British campaign in Norway in 1940 was an ignominious and abject failure. It is perhaps best known as the fiasco which directly led to the fall of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his replacement by Winston Churchill. But what were the reasons for failure? Why did the decision makers, including Churchill, make such poor decisions and exercise such bad judgement? What other factors played a part? John Kiszely draws on his own experience of working at all levels in the military to assess the campaign as a whole, its context and evolution from strategic failures, intelligence blunders and German air superiority to the performance of the troops and the serious errors of judgement by those responsible for the higher direction of the war. The result helps us to understand not only the outcome of the Norwegian campaign but also why more recent military campaigns have found success so elusive.
I meant to read this while I was in Norway a few months ago, but life got in the way and I spent that month dealing with some of the same issues the British and French dealt with in Spring 1940. Norway’s geography is punishing and demands considerable planning, while environmental factors can dramatically hinder operations.
As with any other analysis of a failed campaign, most of the lessons that should have been learned were not. Communication and air superiority continue to be the two most important components of modern warfare, and I’m not sure how much emphasis is being out on that.