New museum exhibit highlights Lunenburg’s Camp Norway
By Ryan Melanson,
A unique Second World War story from Nova Scotia’s south shore can now be explored in depth at the Naval Museum of Halifax, with the museum’s newest exhibit titled “Home Away from Home: Camp Norway in Lunenburg” officially opening on November 29.
It’s the result of museum staff’s efforts to tell the story of roughly 2,000 Norwegian merchant sailors, mainly from whaling ships, who arrived in the Bedford Basin during the spring and summer of 1940. As museum director Jennifer Denty explained, the Norwegians had one of the world’s largest merchant fleets at the time, and its government in exile advised ships at sea to head for allied ports rather than return to Nazi-occupied Norway.
“The collaborationist government ordered all Norwegian vessels at sea to return home, and to demonstrate the moxie of the Norwegian merchant fleet, none of them did,” Denty said.
Their arrival led to the establishment of a Norwegian military training facility known as “Camp Norway” in Lunenburg, the site chosen by the Canadian government, which opened in November of 1940. More than 1,200 sailors trained for foundry services at the facility, and many Norwegians also found work in local ship repair facilities, fish plants, or in forestry and farming in the area. Denty said the sailors famously made long-lasting friendships and permanent relationships with the citizens of Lunenburg and Chester, and many returned to the area following the war or took their war brides home.
“This exhibit is meant to act as a piece of recognition of the service and remembrance for all of the families that have roots in Camp Norway, and to explore the battle of the Atlantic from a new perspective for us as a museum, as we approach the 80th anniversary of its conclusion.”
The museum welcomed guests for the exhibit opening, including the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, Arthur J. LeBlanc and his wife Patsy LeBlanc, as well as representatives from the Royal Norwegian Embassy Ottawa, who highlighted ties between the two countries.
“We are forever thankful to Canada and Canadian society for this unique reception in Nova Scotia. The ties that were forged during the difficult war years left a lasting legacy and contributed to Norway and Canada’s closely shared output on international peace and security,” said Norwegian First Secretary Sofia Tesfaghiorghis.
“The sailors must have missed Norway and those they left behind, and I’m sure they found comfort in this peaceful and beautiful landscape, which in many ways resembles Norway. It is easy to understand why the Norwegian sailors and soldiers perceived Lunenburg as a home away from home,” Tesfaghiorghis added.
Along with items on display from their own collection, the Naval Museum thanked Lunenburg’s Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, as well as the Convoy Cup Foundation, for loaning artifacts and memorabilia. Visitors can expect to see uniforms, letters, journals, photos, written narratives and more during a visit to the newly-designed exhibit.
The Naval Museum of Halifax is open weekdays between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are graciously accepted. Members of the public should be aware that photo ID is required for entry onto CFB Halifax property.