The Royal British Legion Scotland
Kirkwall Branch - Orkney Isles

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Norwegian King's Guard visit

Kirkwall Royal British Legion played host yesterday to a visit by three former members of the Norwegian King's Royal Guard, Pål Heggemsnes-Forsmo, Reidar Bragstad and Bengt Wallden. After touring Orkney mainland during the day, the three were accompanied by OIC Vice Convenor Jim Foubister for an evening visit to the Kirkwall Club premises. As spokesman Pål, who comes from Trondheim, conveyed HM King Harald V of Norway's best wishes, then presented a Split Flag Royal Banner and several framed photos to the Club for display, also medals to several senior Branch members. Branch Chairman, Mally Johnston, after giving thanks reciprocated with gifts of a mounted Branch Badge and framed aerial photo of St Magnus Cathedral. The photo, like that kindly provided above, was taken by the Branch President's great nephew, Craig Taylor.

Like the British Brigade of Guards, the Norwegian King's Royal Guard has a ceremonial role that includes guarding the Royal Family's residences. As a legacy of the Guard's participation in the 1961 Edinburgh Military Tatoo, it's official mascot is a King Penguin named Nils Olav II, a resident of Edinburgh Zoo. The Norwegian Royal Guard is organised as a light infantry battalion of seven companies, that is expected to fight if necessary in defence of the Norwegian Royal Family and Government.

During World War 2 the Norwegian Royal Guard did see action as the bodyguard of King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olaf. They, most of the Cabinet ministers and the country's gold reserves had to flee Oslo when the invading Germans attacked the capital on 9th April 1940. They had several close encounters with German troops, including a hard fight with about 100 German paratroopers at Midtskogen Gård on the 10th, before the Royal party, with most of the government and gold boarded HMS Glasgow at Molde, on the west coast in the snowy night of April 29th 1940. The Royal Guards who stayed had further fighting in central Norway, winning the German nickname "Black Devils" for their black uniforms and bravery in a fierce encounter near Lillehammer.

On arrival safely in the UK aboard HMS Glasgow, the Norwegian Royal Family and Government set up a residency in central London that has been remembered since by the annual gift of a Christmas tree erected in Trafalgar Square. Norway's most important contribution to the Allied war effort was its substantial merchant fleet, but its resistance also provided very valuable intelligence to aid the Arctic Convoys.