Eighty years ago, the British campaign in central Norway nears collapse but Franco-British relations get a big fillip
The British campaign in central Norway more-or-less collapsed in the face of its own stratgical incoherence and German units operating on internal lines. The Germans had near complete air superiority; British supply bases were devastated by the Luftwaffe. The British were commanded by General Adrian Carton de Wiart, a much decorated veteran of the First World War in which he had been severely wounded eight times; it was said of him that he had one eye, one arm and, surprisingly, only one Victoria Cross. But bravery was not enough. The British abandoned Trondheim as an objective; it had been chosen on purely political grounds anyway. The evacuation of the southern component of the force began from Andalsnes and the northern element fought a successful rear-guard action in difficult terrain at Kvam, but in London the decision had been taken to pull out of the central region entirely.
The information reaching London was fragmentary and confused, but the opposition did not have to work hard to recognise that things were not going well. The mood was little better amongst many backbench government MPs. Clement Attlee called on Neville Chamberlain to make a statement to the House of Commons. It was not a call he could not easily resist although he tried to make do with calling the opposition leaders in for personal briefings.
The conflict in Scandinavia at last made itself directly felt in British households. It brought newsprint into short supply and British newspapers announced a reduction in the number of pages by about one quarter. Readers of the The Times were warned that it might be necessary to shorten some non-news items and the opportunity was taken to revive or make explicit what was clearly a long-held exhortation, “…the need for conciseness in letters to the Editor will manifestly be greater than ever."
Franco-British relations received a major boost (for some remote future) following the visit to Paris a few weeks previously of the Earl (“Buck”) de la Warr, the minister for education. His French counterpart issued instructions to all French universities that they were to appoint at least one professor of the English language, literature, and culture. Pupils in secondary schools were to be subjected to one hour's instruction a fortnight on matters concerning the British Empire and those in primary schools were to be even less fortunate and receive one hour’s such instruction per week.