Rosefield Mill

A place of Refuge:

With the final evacuation of Allied forces in June 1940 the recently closed Rosefield and Troqueer Mills were made available to the Norwegians, at first as a transit camp for the influx of refugees. Quickly though the exiled Norwegian government and military regrouped and and it was transformed into a training camp as many displaced Norwegians sought to join the resistance. Captain Kristian Jahr summed up the mood that “many had lost everything but their spirit and will to fight, but they were still free.”[1] With hundreds more volunteers arriving regularly the number of Norwegians being trained in Dumfries quickly rose from 300 to over a thousand men and more than one hundred women.[2]

Anders Tomter was a Norwegian resident of Annandale and soldier who became Aide-de-camp to the commanding officer of Norway’s army in Dumfries, Lt-Col. Stenerson. Recalling their arrival at the new quarters in Rosefield and Troqueer Mills, Tomter noted that “everything was prepared for us, and we were hailed as comrades in arms by The Camp Commandant.”[3] Meanwhile the Brigade Headquarters was set up at Millbank just along Troqueer Road and their Officers’ Mess was made nearby at Broomlands on New Abbey Road.[4] Commando Erik Aanensen offered a comprehensive and compelling assessment as he recalled his first impression of the camp:

“And indeed! Outside the gate to Troqueer Mills stood an unmistakably Norwegian looking sentry in a British battledress with a steel helmet. When he saw we were wearing a star on the sleeves, he presented arms. We explained to him that we had just arrived, and asked where to report our arrival to the officer in command. He recommended to go to the office. Here, we got the impression of slight disorder of people coming and going and a teeming activity. Maybe not surprising if the place gave a slightly chaotic impression. After a few days in Dumfries we learned why… Meanwhile, it was already late, and we were shown our bed spaces. The next morning we arrived at a true Norwegian and overwhelmingly set breakfast table in the large dining room.”[5]

The initial hectic environment was not alleviated quickly, however, as more and more Norwegians walked from Dumfries station to the Mills at Troqueer, whether greeted by comrades or officials and led by escort or directions from locals. Yet pleasant welcomes could only provide so much comfort. Captain Jahr captured the sense of trepidation that must have been felt by many suddenly forced to flee Norway, when “without any warning or arrangements some 2,000 men found themselves in Dumfries, a strange town, a strange country, without their families and seemingly without friends.”[6] The chaos of so many arriving so quickly can’t have helped, as Aanensen explained:

(Banken Blog maybe instead?) “It didn’t take long before the number of men reached a couple of thousand, and you can imagine the challenges and difficulties we faced during this first period of time. A group of about 50 men would arrive at Dumfries late in the Evening and were met at the station. Many, often most of them, were torpedoed sailors whose only belongings were the trousers, the jumper and the turnshoes they wore. But one thing most of them had apart from these belongings was money.”[7]

The apparent wealth of these refugees in war time Dumfries was frequently remarked upon by Norwegians and locals alike. Recalling his surprise Hutcheon the Town Clerk described how soon “the Norwegians were then allowed out of barracks. What we did not know was that they were plentifully supplied with money, particularly the whalers who had been away for eighteen months. First they made for our outfitters’ shops and were transformed from a short and trouser brigade to handsome, well-set-up ‘glamour boys’. Shaved and washed they descended on our pubs and places of entertainment.”[8]

[1] Kristian Jahr, ‘Dumfries and Norway’ (1962), p.3 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[2] Dumfries Museum, ‘Norway and Dumfries: a special friendship’ (1990) p.8

[3] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.2

[4] Dumfries Museum, ‘Norway and Dumfries: a special friendship’ (1990) p.12

[5] Erik Aanensen, Når vi kommer inn fra havet: historien om Den Norske Brigade i Skottland 1940-1945 (Oslo: Dreyer, 1974), p.49

[6] Kristian Jahr, ‘Dumfries and Norway’ (1962), p.3 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[7] Erik Aanensen, Når vi kommer inn fra havet: historien om Den Norske Brigade i Skottland 1940-1945 (Oslo: Dreyer, 1974), p.55

[8] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.2 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

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