Chamberlain, in the House of Commons
Defending His Conduct of the War,
7 May 1940*
When I spoke on Thursday last, I stated that I could give only an incomplete account of the operations, and that a further statement would be made this week, when I hoped to be able to give a fuller story. I also intimated that I was obliged to impose a certain reticence upon myself, in order to avoid saying anything which might involve risk to our troops. Since then, no doubt, hon. Members have realised that, while at that time it was known that our Forces had been withdrawn from Andalsnes, we still had to withdraw troops from Namsos, and I was extremely anxious not to give any hint of an operation that was bound to be even more dangerous than the withdrawal from Andalsnes, both on account of the larger number of men to be taken off and of the fact that it would be possible for the Germans to bring there the whole available force of their bombers. Now, I am able once again to pay my tribute to the very remarkable skill of our naval and military Forces, who managed to effect this withdrawal, in the course of one single short night, without suffering any loss in the operation. The danger which they were running is illustrated by the fact that early on the following morning the Germans discovered that the troops were returning in their ships, and they sent a force of some 50 bombers to attack them. Considering that this convoy was outside the range of our fighters and that it had to depend, therefore, solely upon the anti-aircraft fire of the ships, I think we may count ourselves fortunate that we did not lose more than one British and one French destroyer—His Majesty’s Ship “Afridi” and the French ship “Bison.” By this time the men from Namsos and those from Andalsnes are back again, and the campaign in Southern Norway is at an end.
Whatever criticisms may be made about anyone else, I am sure everybody will agree that the troops who have been engaged in this campaign carried out their task with magnificent gallantry and in a way which has added still further to the great traditions of the Service. Whether in hard fighting, or in stolid endurance, or in quick and skilful movements, exposed as they were to superior forces with superior equipment, they distinguished themselves in every respect, and man for man they showed themselves superior to their foes. I should add that we have also watched with pride and with admiration the splendid gallantry and dash of the men of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, both of
* Hansard, 5.s., CCCLX, 1073–86.