Per and Tor: Norge I Fest

Sunrise/sunset: 04:51/20:48 Daylength: 15hr57min

Back in January this year, the day before my birthday, I received an unexpected request through the “Comments” function of this website.

“Hi Sarah.” it read.

“I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now and look forward to seeing your posts to start my weekends.

“I’m sorting through old papers and have found an illustrated book called Norge I Fest that my mother was given in 1945 by a Norwegian friend who was in London during WW2. If you would like it, I’d like to send it to you as you are probably the only person I know who would appreciate it!”

I was very touched by this. I know that many people reading my blog are family and friends, but there are also a number of people I have never met who pop in every week to find out what I’ve been up to. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that what I write is interesting enough to draw in people with whom I have no previous connection. I love reading the comments people leave and especially those who come here regularly, but this was something new.

It was signed “Kind regards, Mary” and invited me to get in contact and so I did.

Due to a cyber attack on the Royal Mail, it was a few weeks until Mary was able to send Norge I Fest, but it was sent in early February and right at the end of February, I was able to pick it up from the post office.

I opened it to find that Mary had sent me the most beautiful letter of the kind that I’ve only really ever read about in books: on proper writing paper, creamy white and thick with neatly printed paragraphs and a handwritten signature.

Mary wrote:

“My mother came from a large, predominantly Irish family in London; mostly women (mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins) and very strong, even formidable ones at that! But it was a warm and loving environment, where all the households welcomed the ‘boys’ serving in WW2. Amongst these young men were two Norwegians, Per and Tor. I have no idea about their surnames or even whereabouts in Norway they called home. My mother talked fondly of them but there were no romantic feelings on her side – I always got the impression though that Tor in particular was rather keen on her.”

This wonderful, background information added so much colour. Norge I Fest, I had found before the book arrived, started with a photograph of the German surrender to Norway and then followed with pictures of the festivals and parades that followed in May and June, 1945. The real thing, when it arrived, was so much more.

In the front of the book was this inscription.

I turned the page, and found that Tor had added a translation of the title. I was interested to see that he translated it as “The happy Norway” rather than “Norway in Celebration” which is how I think it would be translated now.

As I flipped through the pages, I was touched to see that Tor had gone through and translated many of the captions of the pictures. Normally writing in a book would seem like sacrilege, but here I was, reading words, written over seventy five years ago, by a young man who had been stationed in the UK during World War Two, who had gone home when the war had ended and had felt enough for the young woman he had met to send her a book from his homeland.

A few pictures from the book; this one, “The Homeforces on parade for H.M. The King.” is the only one that is in colour.

And this one documents “A historical moment. The Germans surrendering to the Homeforces at the Fort Akershus.”

There are many different photos of the festivities around Norway as King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav toured the country, from the far north, right down to the southern tip. Here are pictures of the crowds around the distinctive town hall in Oslo, a parade headed by a car in Stavanger and the celebratory scenes in Bergen.

There are also some phtos that were taken much closer to home as the Crown Prince visited Tromsø, passed through Bardufoss and Sørreisa to Harstad, then on down to Narvik.

As I read the book, I found myself wondering how Per and Tor must have felt during the war. Norway was occupied by the Germans from the 9th April 1940 until the 8th of May in 1945. Would Per and Tor have been stranded in the UK? How homesick must they have felt? It is hard to imagine, so long ago, when any communication could have only occurred by post or telegram.

Would they even have been able to write home or receive news of their families? How wonderful though, that they found some comfort amongst the strong Irish women in Mary’s family.

On looking through her mother’s photo album from the war years, Mary found something even more precious: a picture of Per and Tor with Mary’s mother’s cousin Norah, taken in Hyde Park in 1945.

It’s not certain which is Per and which is Tor. Though Mary’s mother generally wrote the names in order when labelling photographs, there is a handwritten inscription on the back of this one with the names the other way round.

And so, I will probably never know any more about Per and Tor, though of course if anyone recognises them, I would be delighted to hear. But I cannot express how happy it makes me to have been sent this wonderful piece of history, with its fascinating back story. The the photograph and the lovingly translated, handwritten comments make it feel so much more personal than if it was only the book itself.

So thank you Mary. I know you will be reading this. I hope I have done it justice. And though I know it is highly unlikely, it would be wonderful to find out what became of these two young men after they returned home. I hope that they had happy and successful lives after the end of the upheaval. If any of my Norwegian friends wanted to share the post on social media, I would be very grateful.

Thanks for reading.

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