Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Christmas Tree

Did you know Norway gives a Xmas tree to Britain, every year since 1947. It stands by Nelson's column in Trafalgar square.

This isnt like the Hong Kong thing, a hold over from when we killed them for not taking our drugs, its a symbol of gratitude. For fighting the war that ultimately led to their liberation from the nazis, for allowing King Haakon (their monarch) to remain in Britain in exile until his triumphant return after the war.

King Haakon is a man who isnt as well known as he should be, not just due to his awesome name. It could clearly be the name of some sort of renegade jedi smuggler in Star Wars and you wouldnt think twice about it.

And he was the bad ass renegade jedi smuggler of his time. Well, the upper class well bred monarch kind of jedi smuggler. When the Germans invaded Norway, the Norweigans didnt lie down and take it, oh no, that isnt how Norway rolls. They fought off the initial Naval assault as long as they could, even bagging an enemy ship in the process. Giving time to rush away the Royal Family, The Cabinet and the bulk of Parliament out of the about to be occupied Oslo.

Now these guys were the ruling powers of Norway. On the run from a massive German invasion force. What did they do? They stopped a little outside the city to form an official meeting THE SAME DAY. Someone pointed out the Germans were pretty close, maybe leave the official government procedure for a few hours. This was generally accepted and thats just what they did. At Elverum, happy the Germans werent about the kill them all for ten minutes or so, they formed an orderly meeting.

They formed an orderly meeting. While fleeing a hostile invasion force targetting them personally! They decided to temporarily allow cabinet the full power of government to make decisions, since all of Parliament wasnt there and it might slow things down a bit to put decisions to Parlimentary debate, this was decided to be the best course. They were laying out a procedures of power policy as the third reich was hunting them down.

Now the Germans had a fairly simple Modus Operandi when it came to invading countries with an established workable set up. Establish a military presence, put down military resistance, meet with the Monarch or ruling government organisation (Norway was a monarchy so power to appoint government ultimately lied with the king if power lied with the government) and pretty much explain to him once he is in a room with a lot of scary chaps that he is going to appoint some Nazi sympathiser to rule over them, to give the Nazis a vague sense of legitimacy in their rule by having locals in charge. Just the crazy, evil locals.

So they set up the meeting with Haakon. "Yo, listen up Haak, you know whats doing down, bro. We are here, we are going to mess you guys up unless you completely surrender your freedom and give up your dignity by appointing some douche (in this case Quisling, a total douche that actually tried to set up a nazi fan boy party and was ignored by Hitler for being a dork, seriously) and you best recognise, dawg". Thats how I imagined the Nazis spoke, anyway, only in German obviously.

Haakon went to his government with this "proposal" of being told what to do by Quisling the dork but really the Nazis, so they could make their call. Did he quietly accept defeat? Make the best of a bad situation? No, he told them "Fuck Germany". Actually he said...

"For my part I cannot accept the German demands. It would conflict with all that I have considered to be my duty as King of Norway since I came to this country nearly thirty-five years ago"

.. but he is a king and thats as close as they get to telling someone to fuck off.

Touched by his majesty's balls' of steel, the government decided, why not? They phoned the Germans and actually refused their request. They phoned an invading army, that was about to crush them and was essentially giving them an illusion of a choice, where to stick it.

Trying to avoid capture so his title would not be misused Haakon headed off north. Eventually being picked up by the British, who gave him safe passage to Britain.

This pissed the Germans off further of course, they started demanding the government make the dude abdicate so they could get someone who WOULD do what he was told and break the spirit of the loyalists. The government, still jonesing off his complete bad ass attitude and jedi like spirit, just refused. They were getting good at it now. I like to imagine they were also laughing at the nazis and throwing paper airplanes around during the meetings at this point as a really uptight German guy kept demanding respect.

Eventually the German, showing why they were the bad guys in this war, threatened to intern the majority of the population of the country if they didnt demand his abdication. The government reluctantly accepted this one, because hey, you can push the Germans so far but they are crazy. So they sent him a letter, asking for his resignation.

He sent a reply, polite and pithy, pointing out that this was clearly a letter sent under duress so "no" he wouldnt. Just that, a polite no.

Of course the Nazis (Josef Terboven was the guy in charge at this point and was becoming a little stressed) had to declare the King had lost his right to rule, dissolved the democractic powers and lost any vague claim to legitimacy he had. The Norweigans continued to resist where they could, they wore badges to mark and honour their lost but not beaten king... and his spirit of rebellion.... They certainly had some of the most dedicated and well planned resistance movements. Basically, they figure if their king wasnt going to let the Germans get what they want, why the hell should they?

When Britain (and a couple of other countries I think?) defeated Germany ending the war, there was still a large number of German troops in Norway. It was a tense moment, would they fight their way out, try to establish a mini state, or just ransack the place? Of course not, they had put up with Norway dogging their every move for years, they didnt want to fight those crazy bastards again. It did take a few months to intern them, switch from the now illegal civilian nazi placed government and back into Norway as it was. The King finally came home 7th June 1945 to get started on that.

So they give us a xmas tree for looking after their king and helping liberate them from the Germans (note to other countries, we have a lot of space, if you also wanted to send us trees.)

But who gives them a tree, for being awesome?

Fun Fact I didnt fit in the post - Quisling constantly tried to volunteer Norweigan citizens as cannon fodder to save German troops from early volleys in combat. An idea so impractical and so insane the Germans constantly turned him down. Something too insane and evil for NAZIS. He was trying to LITERALLY sell his own people for brownie points.

Why Quisling now means "traitor" and not as would be more appropriate "complete asshat" is a hotly discussed eytmological topic.


Evil said...

I didn't know there was an actual dude named Quisling. He and Judas should get together and form some sort of club for guys who did things so terrible their name became synonomous with 'snivelling coward traitor'.

Mr. Gale said...

Yeah, them and John Coward who famously wouldnt stand to fight the French in Agincourt.

industrialtanga said...

Oh frostiest dog, you are so tantalizing inquisitive...

Camerhil said...

It's all a ploy. First he draws you in with delightful historical tidbits, and then he gets you blind drunk and has his way with you. Believe me, I know.

I shan't name the baby after you, Gale, you can be sure of that.

Mr. Gale said...

We had a gentlemens agreement on "Buffy Anya Willow Gale".

I find your betrayal of this to be uncouth in the highest order, sir.