This part of the site is based on the experiences and reminiscences of Trooper Arthur "Chalky" White who was a despatch rider with HQ Troop of the Recce Squadron.
Assigned to Norway
On 10 May 1945, two days after the end of the war, the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, along with other units of the division, left England for Norway. Travelling by air in C47 Dakotas and C53 Commandos, they landed at Sola airfield near Stavanger during late afternoon. At this time the Squadron was under the command of Captain David Allsop, who had been in charge since Major Freddie Gough had been captured during the Arnhem operation.
During their service in Norway, British troops were armed at all times. Airborne soldiers such as the men of the Recce
Squadron usually carried a Sten gun and a pistol. Orders of dress was "smock order" with a ‘37 pattern belt
and holster and a couple of spare Sten gun magazines thrust into the pockets of the Dennison.1st Airborne’s role in
Norway was primarily of "policing" nature, as trouble was expected from the remaining German units as they attempted
to escape across the border into neutral Sweden. There were also known war criminals and SS personnel in PoW camps formerly
used to hold captured Russian prisoners. With the help of the Norwegian Resistance, those Germans guilty of war crimes and SS
men had to be separated from other prisoners, pending their return to Germany for trail.
Recce Squadron spent its first week or so in Norway in Stavanger. One afternoon during this time "Chalky" White and the other HQ Troop despatch rider, Trooper Jimmy Cooke, were both out riding their "Matchless" motorcycles in the nearby countryside. Suddenly they were flagged down at the roadside by a very tall German officer, dressed in a long leather coat, who, it turned out, was a Kriegsmarine Flotilla Commander. Speaking good English, he told Chalky and Jimmy that he wanted to surrender.They followed as the German officer led them down a narrow track to a yard on the edge of a fjord. Moored in the lake were three U-boats with their crews assembled in the yard. It was a good job they had decided to call it a day because there were about 100 of them - most of them still armed!Faced with this most unusual situation, the Recce lads sat the German commander on the back of Jimmy Cooke’s motorbike and took him back to Squadron HQ in Stavanger. Chalky remembers that he followed behind Jimmy with his pistol levelled at their prisoner’s back - just in case. At HQ the prisoner was presented to Captain Allsop, who duly sent the Military Police and other troops back to the fjord to sort out the German surrender.
Based in Oslo
With the exception of ‘C’ Troop, the Recce Squadron then moved to the Oslo area. The journey was made by road in jeeps and three ton trucks, with unit despatch riders travelling on their motorcycles. HQ Troop stayed at Lillistrom, about 12 miles outside Oslo, in an ex-German barracks that they found to be just as comfortable as the British equivalent.Whilst en route the Squadron stopped off in Christiansand and took part in a parade on Norwegian Independence Day. The Squadron parked up in an ex-empty camp, got washed and changed into best BDs before going into town. They stayed all night at the ensuing festivities which, Chalky remembers, was like VE Day all over again!One of the daily tasks for despatch riders like Chalky was to deliver unit despatches and communications to the other troops of the Squadron (‘A’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ troops). There was also a twice-daily mail run to Divisional HQ which had been set up in the old HQ of Radio Norway in Oslo. This was next to the building that had been used as Gestapo HQ during the German occupation. The flagpole of this establishment still sported a very large German flag, which Chalky and some of the lads were quick to "acquire"! Chalky’s wife was suprised, to say the least, when she received this trophy of war through the post. In post-war years, the flag was used variously as a bedspread and, for a short time, as a car cover!
PoW Camp Duties
Another building of note in the Norwegian Capital was Fort Akersuus. This was used as a transit camp for holding SS troops who were being returned to Germany. After two or three weeks at Lillistrom, HQ Troop moved north to Hasselbacker where they were billeted in a large private house on the edge of a fjord. From here they continued with their duties at PoW camps in the area around Eidsval Fjord.One particular morning about 2 a.m., having picked up their Norwegian interpreters, HQ Troop descended upon a former German airfield and barracks at Gaedomon. As usual the British troops were detailed to guard the German PoWs held there whilst the Norwegians picked out those who they knew had been involved in war crimes.It was pouring with rain at the time, and the Recce jeeps (still fitted with twin Vickers ‘K’ guns) were parked around the edge of the compound with their headlamps on. There were about three or four hundred Germans, of all arms, in the camp, and they were turned out of their huts and paraded in the compounds. The lads in Chalky’s jeep were ordered to search the officers’ mess and this they did, finding the senior German officer and his girlfriend inside - both naked. Being gentlemen, the Recce boys found a shawl for the lady, but the officer was not so lucky!
During the course of events, it was noticed that one of the German airmen in the crowd looked very pale and pasty, and kept moving about unsteadily. Suddenly he collapsed, and it turned out that he had been standing on a broken leg, so he was immediately taken to hospital.
Some spare time was spent by Chalky and his mates playing football with local Norwegian teams. There was usually a wooden dance floor at the corner of the pitch and some liberated liquor was poured into a large wooden vat to provide the necessary refreshments after the game!After another six weeks or so, HQ Troop moved to a former German barracks in the woods at Haversatter. Recreational facilities here included a swimming pool and stables. Stored in some of the huts was a quantity of wooden crates, measuring about eight feet square, which contained German Henschel HS 293 radio-controlled glider bombs. These had been intended for use against Allied shipping.HQ Troop had acquired a great deal of liberated "hooch" and the CO gave some of it away to the Norwegian civilians. As it was now in the air that the Division was soon to return to England, HQ Troop held a party in one of the larger huts at Haversatter in order to get rid of some of this excess booze. Chalky remembers that many Divisional troops attended this party and everyone got roaring drunk. This was also the only occasion when they were allowed to invite a crowd of local girls to a "do" and a very relaxed couple of days followed to sleep off this binge.
Other occurrences, which stick out in Chalky’s memory, include a Victory Parade in the Karl Johansgarte, during which King Olaf gave an address. Liberated Russians also took part in this parade but they had to be specially kited out with British BDs, such was the filthy state of their own uniforms.
There were, obviously, also many distasteful and shocking tasks, including the liberation of Norwegian, Russian and Finnish prisoners from Trivi concentration camp, and a firing squad for six convicted war criminals.
The Recce Squadron finally left Norway in late September 1945. Sailing from Oslo to Leith near Edinburgh, they returned to
an army camp near Devizes in Wiltshire.