Sweden in World War II - across borders

Swedish border control and defence

Swedish soldier When Sweden began to rearm in the late 1930s, not much was spent on anti-aircraft guns. The armed forces were willing to man anti-aircraft guns, but the purchase of the guns had to be made with civilian funding. In April 1938 the rules for the use of such gift-guns were ready. [s49]

(One of Sweden's three large armoured warships, "Sverige" (1915), had also been funded with civilian funding - but that was due to political disagreement.) [s62]

The first permanent aircraft warning central was built in 1933, in Hässleholm in southern Sweden, planned to be manned with elder men from the home guard and members from the women's voluntary defence service. They did not get much training. In 1938 the air defence in Stockholm was tested, and for the first time it included early information to the air force - a direct telephone line to a nearby fighter wing. [s75]

In September 1939 there were among ten centrals in Sweden, organized under the Army with the main purposes early warnings to civilians and to anti-aircraft units. The first fortified aircraft warning central was built in Karlskoga in 1937, by the Swedish company AB Bofors. This central also directed one of Swedens two barrage balloon units. The other unit was placed in Sundsvall. The balloons were repaired stray British and German balloons. [s75]

During 1943 the air force established aircraft warning stations for their own use. [s75]

The German attack on Poland in 1939 had the effect that the armed forces placed anti-aircraft guns at important industrial areas. [s49]

One example of areas where there were no military plans for anti-aircraft defence is the town Falkenberg, on Sweden's west coast south of Göteborg, with 6,000 inhabitants at the time. The military said that four 20 mm automatic guns (in two groups) could be suitable for a town with the size as Falkenberg. The fundraising began on 6 February 1940, with a second fundraising campaign from 2 March. The second time the names of the contributors were published in the local newspaper, with the sum they had given. On 11 September 1940 a letter was sent to the Swedish king about the gift of two guns with equipment and spare parts (the town people didn't manage to collect more money). A contract with Bofors was signed the same day, 11 September 1940, including 16 magazines with 25 rounds each. On 10 November 1942 the guns were shipped from Bofors via railway, and the test shooting took place on 14 February 1943. The test included diving planes from the Swedish air force. On 22 June 1944 the anti-aircraft gun was used for real for the first time, this time too against a plane from the Swedish air force (which wasn't hit). There was no radar or searchlights in Falkenberg. The guns were used often, especially when large Allied bomber groups flew southwards to Germany along the Swedish coast. [s49]

At the time the fund-raising went on, three plutoons with 79 men were formed for guard duty along bridges and a part of the beach. Each soldiers military equipment was a belt for ammunition, a hat and a jacket. Later they also got rifles. [s49]

Gas masks were handed out free, but not so many. One family of four received one gas mask. [s49]

Swedish mineWhen WWII began the Swedish navy had an operative force of about 50 ships. A few of the ships had test radar equipment. They were among others used to escort ship convoys in Swedish waters, where the lighthouses were out of use. Merchant ships were given orders about narrow safe passages, when to blind the lights, et cetera. There had also been incidents when depth charges or anti-aircraft guns had been used. [s52]

In May 1940 a Swedish minefield was laid in Swedish waters near the city Varberg. [s63]

The Swedish navy laid a minefield in Swedish waters south of the island Öland in the summer of 1941, as Germany wanted. This minefield worked as an extension to one of the German minefields in the Baltid Sea, laid when Germany attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June. [s63]

On 9 July 1941 3 German support cruisers sailed into the Swedish minefield, despite attempts by a Swedish naval vessel to warn them, and sank. [s63]

In 1936-1942 Sweden built 9 submarines of the type Sjölejonet. [s52]

In the early morning of 19 May 1940 a Swedish Junkers Ju 86K, with engine problems, landed on the Dievenow airfield. After 15 minutes a guard with a dog came walking, and led them to a building. After repair, wait for start permission and bad weather, they left for Sweden on 29 May. They had been treated well, like invited guests. [s75]

It happened that Swedish reconnaissance pilotes were a bit too curious. In May 1940 one flew over Danish and German waters to take photos. [s75]

After a cold winter and spring in 1942, with plenty of sea ice, the Swedish coastal fleet was operative again at the end of April. The coastal fleet consisted of 3 large armoured ships, 9 destroyers, 8 submarines and 4 smaller warships. [s59]

For escort duties in Swedish waters the fleet could not support more than 4-6 destroyers and the smaller warships. Even convoys with more than 20 ships seldom had more than 2 navy escort ships. [s59]

During transit of German troops in Swedish waters, there were Swedish guards on board the German ships [s68]. (My note: at least sometimes.)

Swedish minesweeper M20The Swedish minesweeper M 20 was in service for minesweeping and patrol in various areas on Sweden's west coast during WWII, among others at the Swedish island Ven between Denmark and Sweden. In June-July 1944 she often was anchored, to save fuel. (She was built at the Neglingevarvet in Stockholm in 1941, in a series of 12 built at 12 (10? my note) warfts and delivered within one year. She was in service until December 2004, and rebuilt a couple of times. In June 2005 she became a museal ship. Today she looks about the same as when she was new.) [s66]

The Swedish island Ven seen from Landskrona

Sweden's old open seaplanes, type S-5 Hansa, were effective when looking for submarines. [s59]

S-5 Hansa sea planes

Destroyers alongside a panser ship

The Swedish escort ships and reconnaissance planes forced submarines to attack in submerged position, which slowed down the submarines and made it more difficult to aim correctly. Now and then destroyers made nightly patrols to disturb or maybe capture submarines on the surface recharging their batteries. [s59]

In 1942 some of the Swedish destroyers, normally with light grey paint, got camouflage paint instead. The normally white identification numbers were also painted over and not visible, and on a few destroyers also the white 'neutrality ribbons' were painted over. [s70]

Swedish radar development began in 1939. In the autumn of 1941, a Swedish naval officer managed to bring some transmitters from Germany, and a Swedish reconnaissance radar was installed on the large armoured ship "Drottning Victoria". In the summer of 1944 several ships were equipped with radar. [s75]

The national 'board of inventions' made an agreement in June 1942 with the Swedish companies Bofors, L.M. Ericsson and Saab, in order to co-ordinate the radar research and development. From August 1944 the first radar equipment was set up in the Stockholm archipelago, on four sites, with British radar stations. In comparative tests the similar Swedish construction had some advantages, but since the British was already in production more of the British radar stations were ordered. [s75]

From late May (1942? - didn't note the year when I wrote this text fragment ...) Swedish merchant ships in the "lejdtrafiken" began to get anti-mine devices. 75 ships were equipped with them, but seemingly none of them rendered mines harmless. [s64]

At least 11 mines were made harmless by the anti-mine devices. [s65]

The escort duty was one of the tasks for the Swedish navy. The need grew after the German attack on the Soviet Union, when Soviet Union submarines began to attack ships that sailed between Sweden and Germany in the Baltic Sea. In June-October 1942 some 9,000 ship sailings were escorted in convoys, of which 2 were sunk. (3 other sunk ships were not in convoys at the time of the torpedo attacks.) Totally 17,796 ship sailings got escort during the war. [s71]

Sweden sank two Swedish tankers outside Göteborg harbour in late March 1944, and made other preparations to meet a German attack. Sweden had learnt that Germany knew about the Finnish peace feelers with the Soviet Union, and feared that a German counter move could involve Sweden. [s64]

T 28, built by Kockums in 1943 - one of many motor torpedo boats built by Kockums

Sweden laid a minefield along the west coast after the Allied invasion in Normandie on 6 June 1944, and sharpened the guard. Naval battles were expected in the area between Allied and German forces. The minefield forced ships that sailed between Germany and Norway to use international waters, where British bombers attacked them. [s64]

On 20 November 1944 a radar station equipment arrived in Kiruna, one of the first five that Sweden had bought for the air defence. [s75]

Sverige - panser ship built 1915-1917 by Götaverken, Göteborgs MV

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