Scandinavian Collectors Club


Prisoners of War and Internees in Norway in World War I 1914-1919 by John Thiesen. 8 by 11 ½ inches, card covers, 120 pages, perfect bound, War and Philabooks Ltd, Oslo, Norway 2006. ISBN-10: 82-92826-00-9, $55 postpaid by air from War and Philabooks Ltd., Gydas v. 52, 1413 Tårnåsen, Norway.

Although the Scandinavian countries were neutral in World War I, Norway lost half its fleet and over 2,000 seamen due to German submarine activity. The author examines the mail to and from POWs and internees that resided in camps in Norway. These people ended up in Norway due to several specific incidents.

The German auxiliary cruiser SMH Berlin entered the Trondheim fjord in November 1914 and the ship and its crew were interned. In August 1915 the British auxiliary cruiser HMS India was torpedoed off the coast of Norway and the survivors were interned.

The German naval airship L 20 crash-landed in Norway in May 1916 and the crew was interned. In 1917-1918 semi-invalid (sick and wounded) POWs from Russia, Germany, and Austro-Hungary were transferred to Norway. In 1917 twelve crew members of the British trawler Lord Alverstone were interned, and lastly there was a little known camp in Harstad where Finnish soldiers were interned.

After providing some statistics on the vessels mentioned above and some details about the semi-invalid POWS transferred to Norway, the author launches into a study of the postal history of camp mail. He first examines the types of mail (letters, post cards, parcels, insured, registered, stationery including cards and envelopes) and then the markings or handstamps found on much of this mail.

The censorship devices are illustrated and described, and they include adhesive labels, sealing tapes, handstamps and one manuscript marking. There were 23 camps in Norway and they are listed along with some details about how mail was handled at each location.

Many pieces of mail are shown that reveal specific marks used at the camps. There are quite a few picture post cards of the cruiser Berlin and photo cards of interned crew members. For each camp there is also an indication of the number of censored pieces of mail from and to the camp, any special markings, and various types of stationery or picture post cards known. There is also some discussion for each location that includes any unusual events that took place and their dates.

There is a chapter that describes the role of relief organizations such as the Red Cross, the Central Bank of Norway for conveying funds to internees, and private organizations with examples of their forms. Several appendices list the crew members of the vessels cited above. There are also lists of sick and wounded internees with an indication of those for whom there is known mail. A bibliography concludes the book.

With so much literature available on the Second World War it is nice to have this study of WW I censored mail.

Alan Warren