by Erik Ettrup

During the Weserubüng, the 3./FJR1 managed to capture Sola airfield outside Stavanger in South-western Norway. The airport was the newest in Norway, and one of only 3 airfields with concrete runways. The distance to Scapa Flow is only 500 Km`s from here, so the Luftwaffe immediately started building runways in a large style here. By the end of the war, the airport expanded to Sola/Forus had 6 runways and over 20 Kilometres of taxi strips, making it the largest German airfield in Norway. Some of the most advanced navigation equipment were used in connection with these airfields (Lorentz A2, Knickebein, FuSan 700 & Wotan 2). In addition, it was also the Hq of JaFü Norwegen and Ln.Rgt 251, Commander of all radar stations in Southern Norway.

In order to protect this important area, General Falkenhorst ordered that the entire area should be given status as a “fortress” in 1943. “Festung Stavanger” became one of the first town in Norway with this important title.

A letter written by “Territorialabschitts befehlshaber Stavanger” to AOK Norwegen in late 1942, describes some of the importance:
The importance of Stavanger lies in its characteristic as base for sea and air forces, both for own as well as hostile ones. The port as such offers secured couch places and permits in case of bombardment an escape into the deeply cut fjords. In the possession of the opponent, Stavanger would form a desired base for hostile naval forces for the blockage of our northbound convoys. Perhaps the enemy could reach this goal also in other places and with less engagement, but the blockage in other places could only be done temporary, while it could be hold here for longer duration.

Stavanger is from substantially greater importance as an air base. A substancial part of our reconnaissance flights as well as our attack and defence possibilities against England from Norway are based upon the airbases of Sola and Forus. This applies in particular as long as further numerous airfields at the coast are missing. The mechanisms of the city (power stations etc..) offer valuable bases for the enterprise of the airfields. Stavanger in hostile possession would give a welcome, and with numerous aids, equipped flight basis to the enemy. From here reconnaissance and attack on the inside of Norway omits themselves naturally much more easily to be done than from England. In addition such an air base is very dangerous to the coast line. The coastal ship travel can be paralyzed by it completely.

The “Festungskommandant” is responsible for holding the fortress to the last soldier. He shall make sure that every German soldier capable of carrying a weapon is armed if the fortress is attacked. It is also his duty to permanently destroy everything which can be used by the enemy if the fortress is about to fall. A ceremony was held for the “Festungskommandantur” where they had to swear an oath:
Wir verpflichten uns bei unserer soldatenehre, unter ihrem befehl die festung mit allen mitteln und unter einsatz des lebens bis auf den letzten mann zu verteidigen, diesen äussersten kampfeswillen auf alle mitkämpfer zu übertragen und notfalls auch ohne befehl in ihrer verteidigung und in ihrem sinne selbständig zu handelen.

The commander himself:
Ich erkläre bei meiner soldatenehre meine entschlossenheit, den mir anvertrauten festung mit allen mitteln und unter einsatz des eigenen lebens bis auf den letzten mann zu verteidigen und diesen äussersten kampfeswillen auf allemitkämpfer zu übertragen.

By 1943, the defense of Stavanger had been made in 3 lines. The first line consisted of a anti-tank wall & ditch supported by minefields. The wall isolated the entire town from the rest of the mainland. For each 200 meters, strongpoints with pak, flamethrowers and mg nests were built. A few kilometers behind this “Landfront” 4 field artillery batteries raging from 10,5 – 22 cm guns were permanently based.
The second line was a huge minefield. Each road leading into the city could be closed with gates made by railway tracks, every open square was blocked with dragon teeth. In each valley leading into the airport, tank turrets were placed on bunkers, together with several infantry strongpoints.
The third and last line was a barbed wire fence surrounding the entire city. If the enemy reached these fences, the Festungkommandant would order his “Alarmgruppen” to man their positions. Every important part of Stavanger was prepared for street fighting with trenches, bunkers, mg positions, undermined bridges etc. In the highest level of alarm, 67 mg platoons consisting of several hundred soldiers would be prepared.

Within the range of the city, the German navy and army had close to 20 permanent coastal batteries under HKAR 978 and MAA503. The 274. Infanterie-Division were in 1943 given command over “Territorialabschitt Stavanger” after the 214. Infanterie-Division.

Festung Stavanger was never involved in any ground fighting, but the RAF had a tough time trying to destroy the airport. Festung Stavanger was officially surrendered at 16:00 on the 9th May 1945.

Sources used

Research by by Erik Ettrup

Reference material on this unit

Erik Ettrup, Erik Ritterbach & Daniel Schellenberger - Festung Stavanger

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