Sweden in World War II - across borders

Military conflicts, incidents...

In the beginning of October 1939 Norway complained about the Swedish reconnaissance flights near Norwegian waters. The Swedish units were then ordered to inform Norwegian naval authorities in advance for every flight in such areas. [s75]

In connection with the German attack on Denmark and Norway on 9 April 1940, many foreign planes had passed Trelleborg on the Swedish southwest coast. [s71]

On 10 April 1940 50-75 dark-painted planes passed the city Gävle on the way north. Probably they were from the Soviet Union. [s75]

The Swedish air defence units got a new order on 11 April 1940 - to open fire on foreign planes without warning shots. [s75]

On 22 April 1940 the first air raid warnings were heard over southern Sweden. During some days many German planes flew over Swedish territory, and several of them were shot down. [s49]

One German Heinkel He 111 was shot down over Sweden, by a Swedish Hansa-Brandenburg S 5 - a German plane that came into production during World War I. S 5 planes, the last version of the model, was used by Sweden until the end of WW2. [s75]

One day in late May 1940 a couple of fast smaller boats without identifications approached the harbour, and the artillery fired at them. Six grenades fell close to the boats, who stopped and turned their sides towards the battery. It was motor torpedo boats Sweden had managed to buy and receive before 9 April, unfamiliar navy vessels in Sweden. [s71]

On 20 May 1940 a German Dornier Do 26 flew over Vassijaure, where the Swedish armoured train Kiruna opened fire. Fire from the plane killed a Swedish soldier. [s77]

At Riksgränsen railway station In late May - early June 1940 the Norwegian and Allied troops almost had defeated the German troops in the Narvik area in northern Norway. The Germans almost had been forced into Sweden, where they would have been detained.

But, the Allies left Norway on 8 June 1940.

During the final battles in the area, both German and Norwegian troops (a plutoon led by a Swedish officer) passed the border to Sweden. Afterwards the Swedish officer excused the Norwegians trespass into Sweden. [s50]

British WWII gun in the fort Stóri Skansi, in Tórshavn on Færøyene (the Faroe Islands)In 1940 four Swedish destroyers, purchased from Italy, were on the way to Sweden. Near Færøyene (the Faroe Islands) a larger British naval force seized the Swedish warships. After discussions they were handed back in June 1940. [s28]

The Swedish ships had anchored in a fjord, and were to bunker oil and water, when in the morning of 21 June three larger British destroyers stopped in the mouth of the fjord and armed soldiers took positions on land. Force would be used if the Swedes resisted, or tried to contact Sweden by radio. [s68]

The destroyers sailed along a route that had been approved by the British. They were searched and also plundered by the British. Shortly after the release of the destroyers Britain paid for the damages, but the treatment was not well seen within the Swedish navy who had had closer contact with the German navy before the war. [s48]

On 30 June the destroyers were given back to the Swedish crews in Kirkwall on the Orkney islands. The ships had to be repaired, and it wasn't until 5 July they could continue the journey to Sweden. [s68]

Destroyers, bought from Italy

During the war German bomber planes made 'shameless overflights' over the Swedish west coast. [s52]

An ammunition train exploded in the city of Krylbo in 1941, and 24 persons were injured. [s06]

On 19 July 1941 a freight train exploded at Krylbo railway station in Sweden. The source tells that it was a train used for transit of German soldiers who on leave travelled through Sweden to and from Norway, and that the train carried ammunition too. It is also said that, after WWII, it was discovered that British saboteurs were behind the explosion. [s59]

Malcolm Munthe, who worked for SOE at the British embassy in Stockholm, was ordered to attach an explosive device on a German ammunition train when it passed through Sweden. Something went wrong or there was a misunderstanding, and the train exploded in Krylbo in Sweden. Munthe left Sweden the same evening on a British courier plane. [s50]

In mid 1941 the German Kriegsmarine only could detach torpedo boats, some smaller submarines and armed trawlers for the war in the Baltic Ocean. Between 18th and 21st June, before Germany had occupied the Baltic nations, Germany laid 1,150 mines and 1,800 explosive buoys between the Baltic coast and the Swedish islands Gotland and Öland. [s59]

On 28 June the Swedish navy laid a minefield in Swedish waters east of southern Öland, after request from Germany. This should be a complement to the large German minefield. [s59]

On 9 July, a calm sunny day, a group of three German minelayers (rebuilt passenger ships) and eight Räumbooten was spotted by the Swedish minesweeper on guard near the Swedish minefield at southern Öland. The German ships came from Finland, and had apparently sailed along the Swedish coast undetected. They sailed right towards the minefield, and the Swedes tried in various ways to signal to them. They managed to come close to one R-boat and tell them about the danger, and the R-boat changed course towards one of the minelayers. But, the ships continued. All three minelayers were sunk by mines, but in rather shallow water. After tough discussions, which showed that the Germans had not learnt of the minefield (requested by Germany, and announced two weeks earlier), and where the commander of the R-boat said that he had forwarded the warning to the commander of the ships, and another German admitted that he had misread one of the Swedish signal flags ... In short: the German R-boats were ordered to leave Swedish waters and bring most of the men to Germany while the Swedish ship brought the seriously injured to a Swedish hospital. Before the Swedish ship left the area, the second officer had been set ashore on an island, so that he could telephone to the Swedish naval base and report what had happened. (Yes, so it says. Some 70 years ago when I write this. My note.). In March 1942 the Swedish captain was awarded the German 'Eagle Order'. [s59]

Luckily many Swedish sailors were on leave in the morning of 17 September 1941, and several others were waiting for a medical examination on the forecastle of the Swedish destroyer Klas Horn. The three destroyers Klas Uggla, Klas Horn and Göteborg were moored side by side. At 09.58 there was an explosion on Göteborg, followed by an explosion in the torpedo tube rack in the aft of Klas Horn, where there were armed torpedoes. [s59]

33 men were killed. Klas Horn and Göteborg sank within 15 minutes, but could be salvaged and were back in service in 1943. Klas Uggla was damaged beyond repair. The investigation came to the conclusion that the explosions probably were caused by deliberate damage, by unknown perpetrator. [s59]

Since Swedish naval ships escorted both merchant ships with iron ore to Germany, and German convoys with support ships, there was a British interest to decimate the Swedish naval power. The source tells that the reason for Britain to be unwilling to 'take the blame' was because of the 33 killed Swedish sailors, but also tells that the perpetrators could have been Swedish communists. [s59]

The three Swedish destroyers who exploded and sank in the Stockholm archipelago, where 33 men died - that was probably due to sabotage. [s06]

The Germans used to test their Sonar equipment on submarines at the Danish island Bornholm, south of Sweden and occupied by Germany since the attack on Denmark and Norway in 1940. An annoying risk for the submarines was to be caught by especially the several Swedish fishingboat's nets. Some Swedish fishing boats were towed backwards until the crew managed to cut loose the net. [s52]

A large explosion at Karlberg in 1942 was fatal, as were among others Swedish military plane crashes in Sweden. [s49]

Bodies of Allied and German soldiers were washed ashore in Sweden. [s49]

Swedish destroyers Malmö and Sundsvall, both built by Eriksberg 1938 resp 1942

From the spring of 1944 German fighters more often attacked Swedish reconnaissance planes over the Baltic Sea. Some S 16 planes disappeared, foremost over the south of the Baltic Sea, and it is presumed that they were shot down. [s75]

The number of German and Allied planes that crossed the border around southern Sweden increased in 1944, both those who took the shortest way (which often was over Sweden) and those who made emergency landings and similar in Sweden. [s75]

According to an order from Luftwaffe supreme command 10 April 1944, it was generally permitted for night fighters to persue enemy airplanes into Swedish territory. But it was forbidden for German planes equipped with modern electronics. [s77]

On 11 April 1944 a Messerschmitt Me 410 was shot down by Swedish anti-aircraft while it circled an airfield on low altitude. It is unclear if there was any fire towards the ground. The plane crashed, and hit a Swedish soldier who passed the site on bicycle. Three other Swedes were close to be killed. The same day a B-17G, one of more than 900 USA AF bombers that was sent to Germany that day, was hit by Swedish anti-aircraft and had to land. [s77]

During an air combat between a Messerschmitt Me 210 and a Boeing B-17 near Ystad on 13 May 1944, Swedish anti-aircraft fired on the German fighter. It turned southwards, and the bomber made an emergency landing at Bulltofta airfield near Malmö [s77]

On 14 May 1944 a Swedish Caproni reconnaissance plane was shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 on a routine flight near the Baltic coast. The pilot in one of the two fighters (stationed in Libau) that were sent towards the foreign plane saw it as a DB 2 from the Soviet Union and fired at it, but as he passed the now burning plane he saw the Swedish nationality sign on the side of the plane. (During a period the Swedish air force planes didn't have nationality identifications on top of the wings.) The three survivors were picked up by the German ship "Louise Schröder", who searched for the missing fourth person until dusk. From the city Windau they had transports via several cities, and arrived back in Sweden on 27 May. During diplomatic contacts between Sweden and Germany, Germany pointed out that Sweden ought not make such reconnaissance flights since it didn't serve the protection of the Swedish neutrality. German reconnaissance fligths near Sweden was motivated since Germany was a warfaring nation. [s77]

Another Swedish Caproni was sent on a search mission the following day, on 15 May. It didn't come back. Germany did not know anything about it. Towards the end of the war, some German refugees from the fighter and air defence unit in Libau fled to Sweden. During interrogation they told that a second Swedish reconnaissance plane had been shot down on 15 May 1944. (Later, a note was found in a German archive with among others the name of the German pilot.) [s77]

On 23 May 1944 one more Swedish Caproni reconnaissance plane disappeared, this time near the Swedish west coast. Germany did not know anything about it. In 1951 the wreck was found, with evidence that it had been hit. German archive information told that it had been identified as a "Douglas" and was shot down over Kattegatt. [s77]

On 3 January 1945 a German bomber flew northwards and crashed west of Kalmar. There were no traces of the crew. 60 years later a probable explanation was found. It was one of the bombers that from autumn 1944 were used as flying launching platforms for V 1 rockets aimed at London. That bad-weather night the British air defence had registred 52 V 1 bombs aimed at London during around 2 hours. Four German bombers were reported as missing. It is believed that the crew of this plane couldn't find an airfield, sent the plane northwards over the Baltic Sea, and bailed out - but landed in the sea and didn't survive in the bad winter weather. [s77]

One diary note from a Falkenberg citizen, from the first half of January 1945, tells that the loud noice from the bombers engines could be heard from eight o'clock in the evening and for half an hour. At nine o'clock he heard the air raid warning for Ostpommern on German radio. [s49]

A newspaper article about one hazy night tells about bombers visible at around 50 metres above the rooftops in Falkenberg. The first planes passed around 19.50 in the evening, and the anti-aircraft guns were active until 20.30. Other anti-aircraft guns were active in among others Halmstad and Karlskrona, and many planes were reported to have passed over the province Skåne. The bombers passed Falkenberg again shortly before 23 o'clock, on their way back from Germany, but this time on higher altitude - and they were fewer this time. [s49]

Swedish anti-aircraft guns were used against both German and Allied planes that flew over Swedish territory until the last days of WWII. [s49]

20 foreign planes are known to have been shot down over Sweden with anti-aircraft guns during WWII, and another 20 were presumed to have been downed. 11 German, 6 British, 2 USA and one unknown. One of the British planes, shot down on 8 February 1945 outside Helsingborg with 6 killed crew members, caused extra discussions in Sweden. Among the views were that Sweden should not fire against Allied planes, and another that Swedens neutrality demanded that the territory was defended against any intruders. [s49]

Almost 350 foreign planes landed in Sweden during WW2, half of them from the USA. Some days around 20 bombers landed on Bulltofta airport in Malmö on the same day. [s75]

In March 1945 some Swedish fishing boats at work in around southern Sweden were stopped by submarines from Bornholm, and the crews demanded that the fish was given to them. [s68]

In the morning of 6 May 1945 a Swedish marine policeman on duty on Vrångö in the Göteborg archipelago discovered a submarine. The marine policeman and his chief used their official boat to get to the large unfamiliar submarine. This was routine for the policemen, so they did not contact any superiors before they left the island. The submarine stopped, and the Swedes were helped on board. Meanwhile the signal station on the island Vinga also had discovered the submarine, but not the Swedish police boat, and routine military activities began. Among others signals were hoisted with the order to stop at once, and a warning shot was fired. A military motorboat and another marine policeboat went to the submarine. [s52]

On 30 April 1945 German supreme admiral Dönitz had issued a special order to all German naval ships. When they heard the word "Regenbogen" over the radio, the ships should be sunk or destroyed. (Excepted were some special ships that would be of use after the end of the war.). However, the captain of U 3503 (Hugo Deiring) and some other submarine captains had received other orders from Dönitz during a meet in late April. He wanted to gather as many submarines in fighting trim as possible in Norway. Before all he hoped that Germany would have a powerful argument in the coming peace negotiations. [s52]

The U 3503 was of the new large type XXI. Despite Allied bomb attacks German shipyards had managed to complete 7 of the new XXI submarines before 1 August 1944, and 119 (of 385 commissioned in November 1943) before 20 April 1945 when it became impossible for the shipyards to keep the production running. [s52]

The night between 2 and 3 May the final orders were given by the flotilla chief, among others that they would receive further orders in Norway. And then the submarines sailed towards Norway. [s52]

The U 3503 had been equipped with various kinds of meat, beer, wine, et cetera for a 9 months long expedition. She also had a doctor onboard, which was unusual for submarines. [s52]

On 4 May they arrived in the Danish city Helsingør. On the other side of the narrow sound they could see an unusual sight - a fully lit city. It was Helsingborg in Sweden. [s52]

Also on 4 May, during initial peace negotiations, Dönitz sent the order to all German navy ships that it was forbidden to sink any ships. Many German officers thought this order was given under threat, and neglected the order. 218 submarines were sunk by the crews. [s52]

In this period 10 submarines were sailing northwards to Norway. It was summer in Europe, and this far north the nights were light. During a British bomber attack in the night the U 3503 had made a fast dive, but the diesel engines weren't stopped quick enough and exhausts had poisoned most of the crew. Only the captain and 7 men of a crew of 57 could work, and they managed to bring the submarine into Swedish waters. The captain only wanted to stay in Swedish waters until the poisoned crew had been taken care of and damages had been repaired. To stay in Swedish waters up to 24 hours was according to normal rules. [s52]

The damages also had to be confirmed by the Swedes - which the submarine commander refused. He was ordered to leave Swedish waters at once. However the capstan had been damaged so the anchor could not be lifted, and the captain was given one hour to repair it or to cut the anchor chain. [s52]

Now Swedish engineers were allowed onboard, and at noon the captain was given permission to stay until 17.00 o'clock in the afternoon. [s52]

Around 14.50 Swedish authorities gave the order that the submarine were to remain at the site, with the Swedish destroyer Göteborg and other naval vessels. [s52]

On the submarine ammunition was brought up to the anti-aircraft guns, explosives were placed on vital places and the crew ordered to pack their belongings. [s52]

The submarine was equipped with new equipment, where the torpedoes seemed to be extra secret, and the captain wanted to sink the submarine in deep water. The Swedish navy wanted to capture the submarine without further damage. Both sides were prepared to use weapons. [s52]

After a visit by the German consul-general Kolb, who told the crew that Germany had capitulated and lost the war, the submarine captain spoke to his crew. A Swede was on board inspecting the submarine. The captain among others told the crew what of the advanced technical installations on board that had to be destroyed in various ways before the Swedes could take over the submarine, and that they should begin to recharge the batteries to disturb the Swedish sonar from hearing the noice. [s52]

Around 19 o'clock the captain demanded that most of the crew should be interned in Sweden, and permission to sail to international waters where the submarine would be sunk. He promised not to undertake any war activities in Swedish waters. The Swedish answer was negative. [s52]

Late in the evening the captain got a written message from the German naval attaché in Stockholm. It said among others that the submarine would not get further assignments so code books et cetera should be destroyed, and that international rules and orders from the Swedish commander should be obeyed. [s52]

In the early morning of 7 May the Swedes (who had noticed that the submarine had leaks) wanted the captain to move the submarine close to an island where the water was more shallow, but the captain refused. The captain received new information from the German marine attaché. Some fragments of what the marine attaché said during their conversation around 9.40 in the morning of 7 May 1945, which was overheard by the Swedes: German capitulation in Norway can only be a question of hours or days, only technical differences ... Sweden will be needed in the circumstances ... thinkable the 100 000 German soldiers will be disarmed in Sweden and then sent home ... supreme admiral Dönitz had ordered to avoid any complication with Sweden ... Dönitz total capitulation also technical question about saving millions of Germans in Slovakia, otherwise it would have happened long ago ... about the submarine the Swedes can't do anything, they stand under tremendous pressure from the Allies ... you can go to Norway but that would cause political complications ... I wish I could say sink the boat but I can't due to the supreme admirals order ... it would be insane with a fight between Swedish and German soldiers now, then all would be even more meaningless. [s52]

The captain told the Swedes that he would give his new standpoint the following day. The destroyer Stockholm also arrived at the scene. [s52]

Then the 8 May began, the day when peace was restored in Europe. In the early afternoon the captain asked for permission to stay at the site, and be interned around 19 o'clock in the evening. The Swedish order was to tow the submarine to shallow waters in a specific fjord, where a joint inspection should be conducted before the Germans were allowed to leave the submarine. [s52]

Shortly after 5 o'clock in the afternoon of 8 May a Swedish officer thought the submarine was unusually low in the water. The submarine was sinking. The Swedes acted fast. Among others a Swedish marine engineer entered the sinking submarine while the German crew went out, and tried to find the right valves. The lights went out gradually, but the engineer managed to start the electro engines in the submarine he had never seen and where signs had been removed. [s52]

The U 3503 sank in the evening while towed towards the fjord, and came to rest under some 15 metres of water. The Germans were interned. Some of the Germans could make themselves understood in speaking Swedish. [s52]

Since U 3503 had been engaged in fight with the British, the Soviet Union had no claim on this war booty. The British were reluctant to share acquisitions of German secrets, but had no objections to Swedish salvage of the submarine if the Swedes promised to scrap the hull after their examination. The submarine was salvaged by filling it with air, after reparations of leaks. A diver happened to sit atop the hull as it rose to the surface the final time. At the site where the U 3503 had been kept initially, Swedish divers had earlier salvaged torpedoes of the new model and other secret material that the Germans had thrown from the submarine. [s52]

Among the material the Germans had thrown overboard were drawings and books with information about the submarine. [s70]

(During the last week of the war, 21 German submarines were sunk while sailing towards Norway. Of the 10 mentioned above, 6 reached Norway.) [s52]

2019-04-07. www.granfoss.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss