Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
MemoryOfFinnishCampaign
Member
Posts: 12
Joined: 31 May 2010 13:38

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by MemoryOfFinnishCampaign » 09 Jun 2010 17:52

you maybe know this article.
it is from wikipedia (I know!), but maybe it helps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Bri ... Winter_War

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Jon G. » 21 Jun 2010 07:31

John T wrote:
phylo_roadking wrote:
But there would still be a major logistic choke point by using a southern Swedish port rather than Narvik and that would have been the Swedish railway network. Was the Swedish railway network capable of handling the increased volume of traffic this would have required?
Doubtful in the extreme. The shift of the Swedish Army's four divisions to the border with Finland on the outbreak of the Winter War was enough to create chaos in the Swedish railway network that lasted for months - so much so that British aid to Finland that should have transhipped through Sweden was sitting piled up at Swedish North Sea ports. At one point while discussing aid to Finland under the Chamberlain government, Chuchill suggested that British railway experts should be sent to Sweden to help them try to sort out the chaos to get the aid to Finland moving again. It seems a lot of the rail network was single line, so a constant stream of ore trains running North-South would have played merry hell with the normal running of the network...or vice versa!
Hi Phylo could you please be a bit more specific about your source than "Cabinet minutes at the Kew National Archive.",
a lot of those are on line I love to read it.
I too would be interested in reading more about this. Merry hell or not, mobilization can be a messy exercise, also for the railroads. You would think that the Swedes at least had an off the shelf plan ready for shifting units north, or were the four divisions sent north mobilized first, as implied?

Merry hell was indeed the situation on the British railroads at the time - although it is an aside to this thread - the shift in import patterns caused by the fall of France and the subsequent loss of continental allies lead to a massive shift in imports to west coast ports, with chaos, confusion and delay as a result, particularly regarding the timely removal of unloaded cargoes from ports to the places where they were needed.

Considering the situation of British railroads at the time, Sweden may not have been where British rail experts were needed the most.

As a contrast of sorts, Swedish railroads of the time were very modern - yes, most of their lines were single-track only, but the ever-foresightful Swedes had also electrified good-sized parts of their main lines in the 1930s, which allowed them to retire some of their steam engines and consequently also cause less reliance on imported coal, in preference of domestically-produced electricity.

Aurora
Member
Posts: 25
Joined: 24 Sep 2004 16:31
Location: Europe

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Aurora » 23 Jun 2010 23:34

Only glanced through the thread so apologies in advance if this has been discussed already, it would be a mistake to assume (like many British planners it would seem) that a certain % drop in steel export to Germany would result in an equal % drop in their armaments production, the effects would have been much more long term. As far as the discussion of the importance of Swedish steel I'm not too certain, but the efforts excercised by the Germans to uphold their end of the bargain should hint at the importance. Even in 1944 shipments were arriving in time from Germany with material that was urgently needed for the war, the Swedish goverment was looking for every possible loop-hole to disengage from the trade but Germany didn't provide them with one.

John T
Member
Posts: 1193
Joined: 31 Jan 2003 22:38
Location: Stockholm,Sweden

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by John T » 01 Jul 2010 23:43

Jon G. wrote:
John T wrote:
phylo_roadking wrote:
Doubtful in the extreme. The shift of the Swedish Army's four divisions to the border with Finland on the outbreak of the Winter War was enough to create chaos in the Swedish railway network that lasted for months - so much so that British aid to Finland that should have transhipped through Sweden was sitting piled up at Swedish North Sea ports. At one point while discussing aid to Finland under the Chamberlain government, Chuchill suggested that British railway experts should be sent to Sweden to help them try to sort out the chaos to get the aid to Finland moving again. It seems a lot of the rail network was single line, so a constant stream of ore trains running North-South would have played merry hell with the normal running of the network...or vice versa!
Hi Phylo could you please be a bit more specific about your source than "Cabinet minutes at the Kew National Archive.",
a lot of those are on line I love to read it.
I too would be interested in reading more about this. Merry hell or not, mobilization can be a messy exercise, also for the railroads. You would think that the Swedes at least had an off the shelf plan ready for shifting units north, or were the four divisions sent north mobilized first, as implied?
The fact that Gothenburg harbour and the railsystem had problems during the period is correct but...

I would say it is a mix up about the cause of the traffic jam in western Sweden at that time in general and the Gothenburg harbour and railway marshalling yard in particular.
It might also be that this is a try from British government to find a scape goat why Britain did little to help Finland, to use this fact to avoid the more fundamental lack of British effort.
As German navy did patrol the entrance of the Kattegat there would be a risk to send contraband directly to Gothenburg.
On the other hand Royal Navy did run convoys to Bergen. (and for instance the Brewsters where assembled west of Gothenburg (Trollhättan) where shipped to Bergen and then sent by rail down to Trollhättan)


Anyhow the cause of the congestion (According the Swedish Rail authorities) was mainly due to the German minefield south of Swedish territorial waters, as the coastal water are shallow, ocean going traffic had to use international waters. Swedish most voluminous export trade(Tree,Paper and pulp) where based on the use of east coast harbours that now only could be used by coasters.

Secondly Sweden hoarded so the import where significant bigger than usual and put greater strain on the west coast harbours too.

So now a lot more traffic is flowing through Gothenburg and to make matter worse, wartime also screws any timetables for the shipping so getting the export goods on the right rail cars to the right pier at the right moment gots basically too much for the system. But these problems starts before the winter war.
And then comes the hardest winter since 1881 freezing the Baltic, reducing the smaller coasters speed when not stopping traffic altogether.

So the changes in traffic flow attributed mostly of the problems within Swedish rail rather than the mobilization.
As part of the mobilization where also a switch to a new "military" timetable reducing traffic with aprox 15%, most of this on secondary lines and with the additional benefit of conserving coal. Shipping from Germany and Poland where also very restricted by the ice and where about to cause a coal crisis. But that 15% decrease in traffic where enough for the armed forces.

And regarding the military side -
Sweden mobilized one Division in December from the northern parts of Sweden (Falun, Östersund, Sollefteå and Boden) and one in January from East (Eksjö, Linköping and Umeå) . During the first part I seen that parts of the artillery regiment from Östersund where delayed by lack of heated boxcars(heated by steam pipes from the engine) and not that common. Later they allowed the soldiers to use the tent stove to heat ordinary freight cars.

in short: To say the mobilization affected the complete Swedish railroad system is an exaggeration.
But still you could not send any significant amount of Iron ore by rail from the Gällivare ore field down south.

As a sidenote - Railway where very "unmilitary", needed years to build and rather inflexible as timetables had to be prepared for days if not weeks ahead (AND adhered to) but where then able to pump the same quantity of trains 24/7.
While military want to transport units in one lift and arrive deployed two up front and one in the rear
I think that's the reason military men have a problem to see how little supply a corps needs compared to a civilian society. As long the railways where able to operate at peacetime efficiency that is. (like during the Swedish mobilizations)

So thats why I have investigated in the subject of Swedish railroads during ww2.


Cheers
/John T.

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17489
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 04 Jul 2010 02:34

All, there's a lot more available now in the Cabinet documents at Kew on aid to Finland than before, and I'm having to request every single 1940 document mentioning Finland (they're free!) and look through then for what I saw before a year ago.

So this stuff is going to come out in no particular order! :lol:

The first thing I've found pertainining to the railway situation in Sweden was THIS - an entry in the Conclusions for the War Cabinet meeting of 16th February 1940...

Image

...indicating that by THAT point things were "improving". As you can see, they were keeping an eye on it!

More to come as I find it.
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17489
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 04 Jul 2010 23:17

AHA!

They DID send the British railway "experts" to Sweden! 8O From three days later, on the 19th...

Image

SO....I wonder exactly WHEN they were sent??? Did the improvement noted in Sweden date from their arrival and contribution?

After all, as John noted -
As a sidenote - Railway where very "unmilitary", needed years to build and rather inflexible as timetables had to be prepared for days if not weeks ahead (AND adhered to) but where then able to pump the same quantity of trains 24/7.
While military want to transport units in one lift and arrive deployed two up front and one in the rear
I think that's the reason military men have a problem to see how little supply a corps needs compared to a civilian society. As long the railways where able to operate at peacetime efficiency that is. (like during the Swedish mobilizations)
...the British railway companies however had the very considerable experience of 20+years before to draw on :wink: I.E. for four years they channelled the military output of the Britain and the British Empire from Britain's Western and Northern Approaches ports through the nation's rail system and on to France...
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17489
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 05 Jul 2010 00:27

Some more detail; from February 15th...

Image

SO a little bit of both? Problems in Finland AND Sweden...
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17489
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 05 Jul 2010 00:52

Bingo! The very last of dozens of documents I've had to look through...from February 14th 1940 -

Image
Image
Image

Looks like they were flown out late on the 14th or very early on the 15th - when they were reported in War Cabinet as being in position in Sweden and Norway! 8O :lol:
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...

aettlinger
New member
Posts: 1
Joined: 21 Aug 2010 20:46

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by aettlinger » 21 Aug 2010 21:20

How did Swedih ore move to Germany 1941-44?

From reading the Martin bio of Churchill, I know of Churchill's desire to interdict shipments from Narvik in the first few months of the war, frustrated by others' reluctance to violate Norwegian territorial waters. But after the German occupation of Norway, were the Germans able to use the Narvik route? Didn't the Royal Navy (with submarines) attempt to block that route?

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17489
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Aug 2010 00:02

The majority of the ore went via the south and Lulea anyway; Narvik seems to have played more of a role when the Baltic ports were iced up...but THAT anyway means a much longer train journey down through Sweden, whereas the trip for the ore trains from Gallivare to Narvik porthead was FAR shorter.

Historically, the British did patrol off the Norwegian coast - but eventually the majority of the (very successful) interdiction was by air, with units like the North Coates Wing of Coastal Command taking a huge toll of Coastal shpping in Scandanavia in the second half of the war. It should be remembered that the Germans got a lot more than just iron ore from Norway - they were getting large amounts of nickel and aluminium, IIRC German interests owned huge percentages of both industries in Norway before the war.
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...

Esa K
Member
Posts: 1257
Joined: 13 Jan 2005 13:49
Location: Sweden

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Esa K » 25 Aug 2010 22:49

Hi.
phylo_roadking wrote:The majority of the ore went via the south and Lulea anyway; Narvik seems to have played more of a role when the Baltic ports were iced up...but THAT anyway means a much longer train journey down through Sweden, whereas the trip for the ore trains from Gallivare to Narvik porthead was FAR shorter.
As a short comment, from Kiruna to Narvik the railroad transport is shorter than from Kiruna to Luleå, from Gällivare (or as it really should be written: Malmberget 8-) ) to Narvik/Luleå it is kind of 50/50. Export from Narvik of iron ore has two advandiges, 1. The harbour is ice free all the year. 2. It is a shorter route, to Great Britain! as I have understood it, the Kiruna-Narvik railroad was once built for the export to GB, Germany came later in as a +. And, during 1940-1944, the Gällivare-Luleå route to Germany had the advantage of beeing shorter, more secure; and had only the disadvantage that the harbour in Luleå became a bit icy during some months every year...

Well, just some hasty thoughts...


Best regards

Esa K

Esa K
Member
Posts: 1257
Joined: 13 Jan 2005 13:49
Location: Sweden

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Esa K » 26 Aug 2010 00:02

Hi again...

...as I stumbled on this post, and thought further about it...

...if GB saw the Swedish export of iron ore through Narvik to be so strategical important, there must have been the insight of that it had only needed a very, very small input by RAF to cut it (if we take a look, and give a thought, on what the "hunt" of the battleship Tirpitz in the same area costed). As fully legitimate target (after 9/4 1940) RAF could in a raid or two have halted the transports at the "Ofotenbanan" beteween the Swedish border and Narvik by bombing some of the tunnels or/and some of the parts of the railroad in question that is built on the moutain/hillsides; and at those parts the widht of the area where you can rebuild the tracks can still be measured between your thumb and ringfinger. Cut the railroad at one, or two of theese purposed parts, no iron ore trains to Narvik (and Germany that way) in 1-2 years...

again

Best regards

Esa K

(edited it slightly, by putting in a date, and hopefully some spelling)

User avatar
phylo_roadking
Member
Posts: 17489
Joined: 30 Apr 2006 23:31
Location: Belfast

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 30 Aug 2010 21:27

...if GB saw the Swedish export of iron ore through Narvik to be so strategical important, there must have been the insight of that it had only needed a very, very small input by RAF to cut it
Prior to the taking (and leaving!) of Narvik in 1940....

1/ Britain wanted it at various times through late 1939 and early 1940 as an "in" to putting forces into Scandanavia and then into Finland via Sweden to meet the Russians. Eventually - by the time of invasion THAT requirement had vanished... :P

2/ Britain WAS getting Swedish ore from Narvik, three boatloads a week (Johann Waage Narvik, and I'm a bit duibious of how reliable he is...)....BUT British east coast iron ore smelting was predicated on supplies of Scandanavia ore - when the supply was cut in 1940, we had to go to the expense of building sinter beds for those foundries to pre-roast domestic ore.

3/ THOSE supplies had also been threatened by interdiction - GERMAN interdiction, by uboats sitting just outside (and possibly just inside) the Norwegian Three Mile Limit.

POST June 1940...

Tunnels are hard to damage - it wasn't until we had units like 617 Sqn and their superheavy ordnance much later in the war that we could do anything like THAT! 8O And I don't think even THEY managed to do it under mountains...

The other problem is, of course...very rapidly - and especially after the Arctic Convoys began! - the Germans put air assets into the Northmark; look at the tales of some of the air battles over the ingoing raids ion the Tirpitz, for example...
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...

Seppo Jyrkinen
Member
Posts: 317
Joined: 21 Dec 2010 17:51
Location: Finland, Lappeenranta

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Seppo Jyrkinen » 21 Dec 2010 19:01

When reading Martin Fritz, you can count out some interesting numbers. During 1940-44 Germany got from Sweden (as part of the iron ore):
- 28% of all iron
- 49% of iron with low phosphorous content

Iron ore with low phosphorous content was necessary to make ball-bearings and industrial tools. Sweden also made ball-bearings for Germany. About 26% of Swedish iron was low phorphorous content.

Page 96: "Thus neither economising nor technical innovations nor the supply of scrap iron could effectively assist in compensating for the shortage of raw materials with a low phosphorous content for the production of high quality steel."

So, for wafare, Swedish iron ore was important, but iron ore with low phosphorous content was vital (for Barbarossa, not for occupation of France).

Scale: During wartime 24,4 mio tn iron (about 40 mio tn iron ore) was transported from Sweden to Germany. So, if all iron had been used to build medium size tanks, like Pz III, Germany had got some 1.000.000 tanks.
A word irony is baked into the word history.

User avatar
Juha Tompuri
Forum Staff
Posts: 11550
Joined: 11 Sep 2002 20:02
Location: Mylsä

Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Juha Tompuri » 21 Dec 2010 19:48

Hi Seppo!

Welcome to the Forum.

Regards, Juha

Return to “Economy”