75th anniversary of the recapture of Narvik

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Defence

The battle for Narvik was the first allied victory during the Second World War. For the first time British, French, Polish and Norwegian Armed Forces fought shoulder by shoulder.

His Majesty The Crown prince, The President of the Storting and Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide participated together at the 75th anniversary of the recapture of Narvik. The Minister of Defence held this speech during the opening ceremony.

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Your Royal Highness, The Crown Prince Regent,

President of the Storting,

Minister, Excellencies, Generals, Mayor of Narvik

Dear veterans, ladies and gentlemen,

We are on historical ground. On this very day the successful recapture of Narvik was accomplished.

We are gathered in a city and in a region that saw war descend upon it 75 years ago.

- summoned to commemorate all those soldiers and civilians that became victims during two months of heavy battle. 

- joined to renew our pledge and honour our commitments to democracy, liberal values and the rule of law.    

- united in our shared vision of a strong and peaceful Europe.

Some of you have experienced the perils of war. I am grateful that we today have awarded five veterans from the Second World War with the Government of Norway’s Commemorative Medal.

In these mountains and fjords, under terrible weather conditions, Norway experienced its heaviest battle during Second World War. The battle of Narvik was the first allied victory.

All of a sudden and without warning a peaceful and rather remote town and region of the High North, became a war theater.

It was a battle of strategic and international significance. During several weeks in the spring of 1940 Narvik was on front-pages of the international press.

It was not one battle, but rather a number of skirmishes on land and at sea from April to June.

And it was not one nation under attack, but Polish, British, French and Norwegian soldiers fighting shoulder to shoulder.   

It was the first battle we as allies fought side by side.

Yesterday I marked the end of this year soldier campaign among our conscripts. They have chosen “without everyone we are no one” as their theme this year.

In my opinion, that builds a wonderful bridge between the past and the present, between those who fought together in 1940 and those who fight together 75 years later.

Today, on behalf of the Norwegian Government, I would like to convey our deep-felt gratitude for your support and your sacrifice.

It was a hard won campaign. And as we know, it was not the longest battle of the war.

Nevertheless, it had a long and lasting impact.

In hindsight, we rightfully may claim that a seed was sown. It was a seed that was to grow and give way to wide European resistance.  

The recapture of Narvik gave faith and confidence to all those brave men and women seeking to defeat Nazi Germany. It served as a lesson for the D-day to come.

Moreover, the battle of Narvik left a lasting and solid imprint on our security and defence policy. 

It taught us a valuable lesson: We cannot safeguard our lives and security on our own.

It  is best secured in close co-operation with nations sharing values and ideas. 

As such, the recapturing of Narvik stands out as a symbol of allied solidarity that later was to become the most fundamental principle of NATO.

The past can never be undone. But the past can be forgotten or left in the history books.

This should never be an option.

Our responsibility is to prevent ignorance and oblivion. We must never forget what the soldiers and civilians went through. This is our recent history. Some of them who experienced the horrors of the war are still here to tell.

The best way to honour our commitments and those who fought for our freedom is to remember. And to listen carefully to those still among us that took up the fight. Let us honour them by passing their stories on to future generations.

The history of the war is still being written, and there are many voices that still need to be heard.

Albert Einstein has reminded us that “peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding”. 

Monuments and museums help new generations to better understand and become aware of our recent past.

It is a place to seek comfort for those who suffered losses. And it offers an opportunity to heal and reconcile with our past.

Today we pay tribute to all those who gave their lives here 75 years ago.

We salute all of you present who defended freedom with strength and sacrifice.