The Day Scotland Invaded Norway; How a Trip to Scandinavia by a Scottish Army Ended in an Inglorious Bloodbath, Now All but Forgotten 400 Years Later

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Byline: by Jim McBeth

AN eerie wail silenced the men of Dundee and Caithness. In the narrow glen, the mystified and apprehensive warriors halted, unaware that the melancholic drone of a hunting horn was about to herald the strangest and most obscure battle ever fought by an army of Scots.

The sound faded, replaced by the thunder of tree logs and boulders crashing down the mountainside, trapping them between the debris. The way ahead was closed, retreat was impossible, surrender was unthinkable. They braced themselves.

A single shot rang out, felling their commander, the illegitimate but adventurous son of a Highland nobleman. Crossbow bolts rained down and then, with a furious roar, the enemy, wielding axes and spears, emerged from hiding to wreak havoc on the 1,000 Scots.

The Battle of Kringen was as swift as it was decisive. In little more than an hour, the burn running through the glen ran red with Scottish blood and - 400 years ago this week - the long forgotten 'invasion' of Norway was over.

Few Scots have even heard of the ill-fated expedition which came to a bloody end when a militia of Norwegian peasants intercepted a Scots army that was on its way to fight for the King of Sweden in a long-running conflict between that country and Denmark-Norway.

But for the next week, the descendants of the Norwegians from the mountainous region of Gudbrandsdalen will celebrate what they regard as the most iconic battle in their history - and a lasting reminder of their nation's fledgling fight for independence.

The musician and writer Dr Sally Garden, an honorary research fellow at the Centre for Scandinavian Studies at Aberdeen University, says: 'The story of the Kringen has mythic status in Norway as a symbol of how the peasants first made an independent stand for their nation.

'Sweden was the real enemy but the Scots found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time - and there will be much celebration to mark this special anniversary, albeit with "peace, reconciliation and cultural collaboration".'

THE forgotten story of Kringen began in the July of 1612, when two Scottish ships sailed from Dundee and Caithness, foregathered at the Orkney Islands and headed for Scandinavia. Sea routes to Sweden had been blocked by Danish ships and the Scots, commanded by Colonel Alexander Ramsay, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Caithness, and Colonel George Sinclair of Stirkoke, decided to land in Norway and march into Sweden.

It was an ill-fated decision. The ships landed in Isjforden and the Scots set out up the Romsdal Valley but, as they progressed peacefully southward, without any intention of engaging the Norwegians, they were followed by local scouts.

Having been warned of the 'invasion' and inflamed by the recent massacre of Norwegians in what history now calls the Kalmar War, the farmers and peasants of the area mobilised a makeshift fighting force.

Lars Gunnarson Haga, the sheriff of the region, strode into the church in Dovre with a battle axe, embedded the blade in the floor, and shouted: 'Let it be known - the enemy has come to our land!'

When he left the church service, there were 500 Norwegian 'militia' at his back, armed with swords, spears, axes, crossbows and a few muskets.

Ian Laird, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, says: 'The Scots were passing through the valley intent on reaching Sweden, which was then at war with Norway-Denmark over the territory of Kalmar in the south of Scandinavia.

'Their passage had been peaceful since they landed at the Isfjorden. They could not have anticipated what awaited them at Kringen. …