Anne Margrethe Strømsheim

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Anne Margrethe Strømsheim
Nickname(s) Lotten fra Hegra (English: The women's defence league volunteer from Hegra)
Born 1914
Trondheim, Norway
Died October 2008 (aged 93–94)
Bærum, Norway
Allegiance Norway
Service/branch Norwegian Army
Years of service 1940–1945
Unit Hegra Fortress
Norwegian resistance movement
Battles/wars

World War II

Awards Norway Norwegian War Medal
Norway Defence Medal 1940–1945
Norway HM The King's Medal of Merit
Other work Social worker

Anne Margrethe Strømsheim (née Bang) (1914 – 6 October 2008) was a Norwegian resistance member during the German occupation of Norway during World War II. She is best known for her participation in the defence of Hegra Fortress in 1940 and her post-World War II war information work.

Early life[edit]

Anne Margrethe Bang was born in Trondheim in 1914, the daughter of a medical doctor.[1] Her father, a surgeon, served as an inspiration for her. He had taken part in World War I and the Balkan Wars as a medical volunteer and was convinced that sooner or later the Germans or Russians would attack Norway. From the age of 11 Anne Margrethe was taught by her father how to disinfect medical equipment and perform first aid. Although she wanted to become a professional nurse when World War II was over she lacked money to fund any education.[2]

World War II[edit]

During the Norwegian Campaign she took part in the Battle of Hegra Fortress as a nurse.[2][3] The battle saw a small force of Norwegian volunteers holding back German forces for 25 days, with Hegra Fortress eventually capitulating on 5 May — after all other Norwegian forces in southern Norway had laid down their arms.[4] The only woman at Hegra, Bang became known nationally as a resistance heroine and was given the nickname Lotten fra Hegra.[1]

Outbreak of war[edit]

At the outbreak of the German invasion on 9 April 1940 she was at Kongsvoll mountain station recovering from bronchitis. As the news reached her she put on her skis and started off for Trondheim, catching a lift with a freight train to Oppdal. From Oppdal she took a taxicab to Trondheim, arriving late in the evening of 9 April. After evacuating her mother from Trondheim she returned to the city before moving on Lake Selbusjø where she encountered Norwegian Army Air Service pilots who had evacuated from Værnes. The pilots told her that fighting was expected in the area around Hegra and that the Norwegian forces there were lacking medical supplies. In response to these reports she gathered together medical supplies and went to Hegra. At Hegra, she met two childhood friends who had volunteered to fight the German invasion, both of whom were to die during the upcoming battle. Even before the fighting began she had to use her first aid skills when a civilian train was accidentally fired upon by the Norwegian soldiers blocking the Meråker Line rail line. After the incident, she tended a severely wounded Finnish woman until the woman could be operated on at a hospital in Selbu, singing a Finnish song to calm her down. On her way back to the fortress Bang had to pass through German road blocks and for the last bit wade through deep snow.[2]

Some of the Norwegian defenders at Hegra gathered in one of the fortress' subterranean halls during the siege.

Under siege at Hegra[edit]

During the 25-day[5] Battle of Hegra Fortress Anne Margrethe Bang tended the sick and wounded for 20 hours a day if there were no German attacks going on; during attacks she would work non-stop. The German besiegers soon noticed her as their observers spotted a person in military uniform but without a cap and with long, blonde hair at the fortress.[2] The Germans took to calling her Jeanne d'Arc.[2] The cold and wet conditions within the fortress led to sickness amongst most of the Norwegian soldiers and Bang herself had to have several toes amputated after the battle.[2]

Prisoner of war[edit]

After Hegra Fortress surrendered on 5 May 1940 Bang was held as a prisoner of war by the Germans, although she was treated much better than her fellow male soldiers who were set to do forced labour. The PoWs from Hegra worked with lumber intended to be used for repairing bridges destroyed by Norwegian forces during the fighting. Only after she managed to contact the Norwegian Red Cross did the PoWs receive medical treatment, with more than 40 men being hospitalised and several dying of tuberculosis.[2]

During the German occupation[edit]

After the end of the 1940 Campaign she continued her fight against the occupiers through participation in the Norwegian resistance movement[1][6] In the autumn of 1940 Bang was brought in for interrogation by the Gestapo. When she was confronted with her resistance efforts at Hegra she quoted a section of Mein Kampf that states that any country and people that does not intend to defend itself is not worthy of existence and should be exterminated.[2] Continuing her activities in the Norwegian resistance Bang eventually had to flee Trøndelag to avoid arrest, being warned in advance by a local Nazi.[2]

Honours[edit]

For her wartime efforts she was decorated with the Norwegian War Medal, the Defence Medal 1940–1945 and the HM The King's Medal of Merit in gold,[6] as well as four others including one American. Initially the Norwegian authorities were hesitant to give her the War Medal due to her gender, but she eventually received it.[2]

On International Women's Day (8 March) 2005 a street in Stjørdal was named Anne Margrethe Bangs gate in honour of the sole female defender of Hegra Fortress. As she was told of the decision to name the street after her she stated that she was glad of the honour, having been fond of the area since an early age.[7]

In 2006 Strømsheim donated her medals to the museum at Hegra Fortress.[5]

Post-war life[edit]

After World War II Strømsheim worked for the benefit of blind children, war invalids and divers injured during oil exploration in the North Sea.[6] Strømsheim expressed concern over the young Norwegian people being sent to conflict zones in the 21st century, stating that her own mother had not recognised her after the war.[2] She also expresses grave concerns as to the condition of the Norwegian Defence Force and its ability to defend Norway's oil and energy resources. In addition she stated that modern Norwegian youths were not given enough information on the realities of war by the government.[8]

In her later years she lived in Bærum, and died there on 6 October 2008.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Fjørtoft, Jan Egil (1995). "lotten fra Hegra". In Dahl, Hans Fredrik. Norsk krigsleksikon 1940-45 (in Norwegian). Oslo: Cappelen. p. 256. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Krissly, Beate (2004). "Hegra Lotten". Lottebladet (in Norwegian) 75 (4): 14–16. 
  3. ^ "Hegra festning". Aschehoug og Gyldendals Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Kunnskapsforlaget. 2007. 
  4. ^ Kildenett.no: Hegra Festning (Norwegian)
  5. ^ a b "Hegra Festning". Nasjonale Festningsverk (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 19 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  6. ^ a b c Jonassen, Trine Høklie (6 October 2008). "- Et stort tap for oss". Adresseavisen (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  7. ^ Sloreby, Beate Krissly (2005). "Hegra lotten hedret med egen gate". Lottebladet (in Norwegian) 75 (2): 10. 
  8. ^ "Sprudler som en Foss". Forsvarsforum (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  9. ^ Haugen, Martin (7 October 2008). "Lotten fra Hegra Festning er død". Adresseavisen (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 9 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 

Further reading[edit]