The second story: Blucher

The second story from series of short stories about ships entering the Norwegian waters in 1940-45, and the fate of people who served on them. Original photos from the Oslo Photo Tour collection were are used for illustration. (first story).

Walking along the Aker Brygge embankment you can see various marine artefacts, such as: a whaling gun, screws from ships, and anchors. One of those anchors will be discussed. Although it looks no different from the others, it is associated with a heroic, and even miraculous looking, battle of Norway’s history. The anchor belonged to the flagship of the 5th flotilla armoured cruiser “Blücher”, whose task was landing in Oslo during the “Operation Weserübung” on the 9th of April 1940. At the start of World War II, the 206 meter long Blücher was the newest ship of the German fleet, and it stayed in formation for a bit over six months until it’s sinking in Norwegian waters.

For the Germans, Norway was the key to the North Sea, as well as the transit route for Swedish iron ore. Therefore, the command of the Wehrmacht was instructed by Hitler to investigate a possibility of capturing Norway. So “Operation Weserübung” was developed, with it’s main feature being the implementation of blitzkrieg, a lightning-fast and simultaneous capture of key cities, without the use of weapons if possible. A successful operation to capture Oslo was extremely important for the Germans, both in military and political terms (the capture of the king and the government). However, this exact route was the most unsuccessful for them.

About 28 km from Oslo, in the district of the town of Drøbak, the German fleet had to pass through a narrow fjord, where the key positions were located in the small fortress Oscarborg, armed with a few 280mm guns from a 1893 model, which were ironically manufactured by the German brand Krupp. On that morning only 2 of the 3 guns were estimated to be manned. Having Blücher, the main ship of the flotilla, at a distance of 1 mile (1.6 km), 2 shots ended up being fired, which disabled the main gun and caused a fire in the central part of the ship. The return fire on the fortress was ineffective, but because of the lack of trained gunners they weren’t even allowed to fire from the 3rd gun, which was also loaded. Blücher, managing to sail past the fortress, ended up within reach of the underwater torpedo tube, which was equipped with torpedoes of Austro-Hungarian production from 1901. They were regularly inspected, but no one could guarantee that those 40 year old torpedoes could work. Their use overwhelmed the coming ships, because reconnaissance missed their existence. Blücher received 2 direct hits, flipped over and sank in 3 hours after the start of the battle. Of the 2202 people on board, 830 were either killed in combat or drowned. Other ships taking explosions from torpedoes behind mines turned back. This temporary delay allowed the royal family and the government to leave the city and later evacuate the country.

The ship is still resting 90m deep under the Oslo fjord, and the anchor of the ship was raised from the bottom in 1991 and installed on the embankments of Drøbak and Aker Brygge in Oslo. There is a saying: you can’t run away from destiny, because the captain of the ship, Heinrich Woldag, survived during the battle but after 8 days ended up dying in a plane crashWould you like to know more? Order  tour Oslo during WW2.

Photo: memorial to the sunken ship near Oskarsborg. It was destroyed by Norwegian authorities soon after ending the war. Photo from a project  Present Through the Lens of the Past

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