AHEAD of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War on May 8, historian Mark Muller shares the first of three fascinating instalments from the diaries of local soldier Sid Thomas.

Early in the Second World War, neutral Norway was viewed as important to both Germany and the Allies.

This was primarily due to Germany’s essential iron ore imports, obtained from Sweden, being shipped out of the ice-free northern port of Narvik in the winter.

The British plan, to start on April 5, 1940, was to mine the iron ore sea route followed by landing an Allied force and the occupation of several western and northern Norwegian towns and cities. Unknown at the time, the German invasion of Norway was planned to start on the April 9.

With both sides unaware of the other, both plans began to be put into action.

And so, as a 38,500-strong British force was landed in Norway, the incredible experiences and journey of Haverfordwest man Sid Thomas began.

Sid, of Dew Street, was serving with The Sherwood Foresters infantry regiment, and his diaries from the time – kindly shown to me by his daughter Gail Smith – tell of his escape from the Nazis and a remarkable trek across northern Norway to Sweden following the disastrous British attempt to invade.

Tuesday, April 2: Boarded the ship Cyclops. Aboard for four days with nothing to eat, had to go back to Edinburgh on Friday, April 5.

Sunday, April 15: Left Edinburgh on board the SS Orion, noted as a crack liner. We were anchored just under the Firth of Forth. Jerry came bombing us – had to leave the Orion and go back to Dunfermline on Tuesday, April 17, 1940.

Thursday, April 19: Left for Aberdeen, Drew pay of 6d and went down town. Bought two cards to send home and bought two penny stamps; cost 4d, had 2d left, bought a bar of chocolate, 6d gone. Boarded the SS Sunniva. Third ship in all. Set sail on the April 20.

Friday, April 20: Torpedo meant for Sunniva misses us and hits the transport ship; it went down in three minutes.

Sunday, April 22: Reached Norway, landed at Adalness. Have again had no food now for four days. Found some chocolate. Wish I had never come now. Moved off just after mid morning.

Monday, April 23: Battle of Hamer.

Tuesday, April 24: Big battle of Trettan, battalion smashed up. I was one of the 20 sent out to give covering fire for what was left of the battalion to withdraw. Supposed to hold the ridge just in front of the bridge. They were supposed to send a runner back to let us know when to withdraw. No runner arrived. Sixteen hours passed, only 10 of 20 men left. Germans went around us and cut us off. Germans asked us to give ourselves up. One boy went and was shot.

[Next entry]: I have now escaped behind the German line – have had no food.

Wednesday, April 25: Reached the top of the mountain. Snow too deep for the Germans up here. Have kept in hiding, had to sleep in the snow, very hungry and too cold to sleep. Trying to make snow shoes for ourselves. Reg Tent, Arthur James and myself are still together. We have lived three days on our chocolate ration. Met some more boys; have no idea what date it is.

[Next entry]: We are now 20 in number, lost in the woods, have said my prayers for the first time, still no food. Terrible journey over mountain now, hell of a job, must keep moving. Gerry party is after us.

Tuesday, May 1: Long journey, wishing for something to eat. Walked over an ice lake. Wish I had never left home. Met up with some English soldiers and a Captain. Lost time because of the snow – sometimes it is up to one’s chest. We have been going for 16 hours now. There’s been some dropping out; funny thing but all of the big men have dropped out. A village in sight. Having a rest before trying to get to it.

*Continues next week.