When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Norway swiftly declared itself neutral. However, only a few months later, the country was thrust into the conflict, when on April 8, 1940, British forces patrolled and put out sea mines off the coast of Lofoten to prevent the Nazis from transporting iron out of Narvik. The Nazis claimed this to be the end of Norwegian neutrality, and made their first strike April 9, 1940.

Narvik was an important strategic target for both the Allies and the Nazis, because of the town’s ice-free harbour into Ofotfjord, via which both sides transported iron – a vital asset in their respective war efforts – from the mines in Kiruna, Sweden.
Nazi Germany attacks Norway
On April 9, 1940, without notice, 10 German destroyers arrived in Ofotfjord, prepared to attack. In response, the Norwegian Navy sent out two armoured coastal defence ships, Norge and Eidsvold. However, after refusing to surrender to the invading Nazis, both ships were torpedoed and sunk to the bottom of the fjord, resulting in a significant loss of lives at sea, in a battle that lasted just 20 minutes.

Images: Narvik War Museum and Frank Bang - Underwater photographer
Naval Battle in the Ofotfjord
In the days following the initial attack, the Allied forces, led by Britain, came to Norway’s aid, taking part in two more battles at sea. The first attack took place on April 10, 1940, when five British destroyers attacked the German destroyers in Ofotfjord, with both sides losing two destroyers each. Three days later, on April 13, 1940, 11 British warships led by Vice-Admiral William Whitworth aboard the battleship Warspite, arrived in Norway, aiming to reclaim control over Narvik Harbour. Allied forces managed to sink three of the German destroyers, while the remaining ships retreated into the nearby Rombaksfjord.
Source: The Narvik Centre
In the mountains surrounding Narvik
German soldiers also faced resistance on land. In late May 1940, Norwegian and French soldiers, led by General Carl Gustav Fleischer, entered Narvik to the north, while Polish soldiers attacked from the south. This enabled the Allied forces to take control over Narvik by May 29, 1940. After a few days, it became only a matter of time before the Germans would either have to surrender or cross the border to Sweden. Before retreating though, the Germans managed to destroy the harbour, disrupting its further use by the Allies.
Source: The Narvik Centre
Nazi-occupied Norway
When German forces moved to attack France there was a dramatic change in Narvik. The Allied forces moved south to help the French; as a result, the Germans regained control over Narvik and the Norwegian forces capitulated. Most of the city was in ruins though, and around 10,000 inhabitants had been evacuated, with only around 100 remaining.
The Allied attack on the Germans at Narvik was very important for the rest of the Second World War. It was revealed that the Germans had planned to attack Great Britain a month after their attack on Narvik; however, the events in Ofotfjord made it impossible for them to continue the planned attack. Also, the information gained from the Germans by Allied forces when they entered Narvik proved vital in the planning of the D-Day landings in 1944.
Images: Narvik War Museum and Frank Bang - Underwater photographer
Though three of the German destroyers were moved in the 1960s to clear shipping lanes, most of the shipwrecks remain at the bottom of Ofotfjord. As a result, Narvik has become a popular destination for SCUBA divers from all over the world, as they get to explore the unique history of the fjord and its involvement in the war. In addition, in 2014 the Norwegian government removed the ban on diving in and around the two Norwegian ships Norge and the Eidsvold.
Images: Narvik War Museum and Frank Bang - Underwater photographer
Diving depth:
Ulf Eirik Torgersen – Narviksenteret
Very good description