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Remembered Today:

Questions about Norwegian and Swedish wartime shipping

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Given that both these countries remained officially neutral through the war, I have a few questions about their maritime affairs during WW1 that I was hoping someone could answer:


1) How much maritime traffic was there between Norway, Sweden, and the USA prior to the USA joining the war in 1917? Did the war at sea cause any serious decline in goods or passengers being moved across the Atlantic between these three neutral states?


2) How much maritime traffic was there from Norway and Sweden to Germany? Was either country able to maintain shipping links to German ports for the duration of the war?

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The British blockade extended far beyond the North Sea, whitest the Royal  Navy was responsible for executing the blockade it was an economic and, in the broadest sense, political and diplomatic operation.  For example, the British controlled most of the coaling stations throughout the world, neutral ships could only use these stations with the appropriate passes.

That said there was considerable traffic from the United States to the Scandinavian countries but the most porous were those with borders adjoining Germany, that is through Denmark and the Netherlands.  Generally Denmark was considered alongside Norway and Sweden as part of the neutral Scandinavian bloc.  All three countries conducted trade with the U.S, e,g petroleum , cotton and foodstuffs and there were agreements negotiated as to charter arrangements in return for food and other imports.


All three countries were anxious to preserve their neutrality bu Norway was more sympathetic to the Allied cause so in furtherance of the blockade most of their fleet was chartered by the Allies. Their major import was coal, which was supplied by the British, in 1917 Britain imported all but 15 per cent of fish landed in Norway, thus depriving all other export markets.  

Both Britain and Germany were dependent on Swedish iron ore which Sweden exported to Germany through the Baltic and to Britain through Norway and across the North Sea.  Sweden was leaned more to the German cause and therefore continued to trade with them until food shortages in 1917 eventually led to a change of government and a lifting of the Allied Blockade in 1918.  The Allies never gained any footing in the Baltic apart from forays by a few submarines.


The Scandinavian  countries, especially the Norwegians suffered extensive loss of ships and sailors through the introduction of 

German unrestricted U-Boat warfare.


The commercial and economic relationship and consequences of the blockade between the belligerents and neutral countries, including the United States led to a complex relationship.  Nevertheless there was extensive trade between the U.S. and Scandinavia with much contraband passing through Copenhagen.  As an example in 1914 the US exports to Denmark were worth around £5million, increasing to £17.5 million in each of the next two years, falling back to £2million in 1917, with no figures available for 1918.





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On 25/10/2019 at 14:58, Heid the Ba said:

There is a recent book called "Southern Thunder" by Steve R. Dunn which covers the North Sea aspects of this.


Thanks, might have a look for it.


20 hours ago, kenf48 said:




Great answer, cheers for that!

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There is a plaque commerating  this fact attached to a wall just outside the harbour in Bergan which I saw on a trip there.

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Go to page 38 on the Cemeteries and Memorials and you will see the photo I took of it.

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