Why did the British confiscate these Norwegian warships?

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Why did the British confiscate these Norwegian warships?

Post  Black Hornet on Fri 15 Apr 2011 - 22:10

It was intended to augment the Norwegian Panserskip fleet with the two ships of the Bjørgvin class, ordered in 1912, but after these were confiscated by the British Royal Navy at the outbreak of World War I,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HNoMS_Eidsvold

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Re: Why did the British confiscate these Norwegian warships?

Post  AltforNorge on Sat 16 Apr 2011 - 10:07

I think the same happened at the outbreak of WWII. Germany, UK and Italy confiscated Norwegian weapons, planes and ordnance.

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Norwegian?

Post  kaii on Sun 17 Apr 2011 - 0:06

None of the mentioned "confiscated" ships had been formally handed over to the Norwegian Navy by the shipyard where they were being built, so the ships were not Norwegian at the time. hence, the British did not legally confiscate Norwegian property, they "confiscated" private British property.

Compare to the modern day Nansen class frigates, these did not become Norwegian property until they were formally handed over to the Norwegian Navy after sea trials. Before this, they remained the legal property of the Spanish ship yard that built them.

As to why the british decided to "compulsorily purchase" these ships, I suppose it was a result of the outbreak of the war and they did the same with most ships under construction in British naval yards at the time. Nothing illegal in it. They even refunded money that foreign navies had allready paid for the ships.


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Re: Why did the British confiscate these Norwegian warships?

Post  Black Hornet on Sun 17 Apr 2011 - 4:56

Well no one said it was illegal. But a prior agreement was broken.

If the Norwegian government did previously pay for these ships, then technically they were not British property.

Confiscate means to Appropriate.

To take possession of or make use of exclusively for oneself, often without permission:
http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/appropriate

If payment was forwarded, these terms would be correct technically.





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Re: Why did the British confiscate these Norwegian warships?

Post  kaii on Mon 18 Apr 2011 - 2:07

I agree with you that a commercial agreement was broken, but this is not uncommon, and happens every day in business life. The parties then either settle the matter in court, or outside court in an amicable settlement - as it was in this case. There is a legal aspect to this, and there is a moral aspect of it.

The ships were not legally confiscated, they were "compulsorily purchased" according to British law- which may seem insignificant from a moral point of view, but is highly significant from a legal point of view.

In this case 1/3 of the purchase price was paid upon the signing of the contract, 1/3 was paid in installments over the building period, and the last 1/3 would be paid upon delivery and acceptance of the finished ships. Imagine this like purchasing an apartment - you pay normally 10% at contract signing to ensure you are a serious customer, and you do not take formal ownership until the remaining funds have been comfirmed in the sellers account. This applies even more when the product is not a "shelf product", i.e. it needs to be built/produced before the sale is complete.

The ships were therefore legally the property of the shipyard that was building them, until they had been formally handed over to, and accepted by, the Norwegian government - at which point the Norwegian government would have paid the last 1/3 of the agreed purchase price. This is normal contract law, and is still applied today when nations order ships from shipyards in other nations, last time when Norway ordered the new frigates from Spain. Morally, of course, one can argue that the ships were Norwegian, because a contract had been made to buy them.

In times of war, the British government (as does the Norwegian government) has the authorithy to requisition all and any private British property, should this be deemed necessary for the war effort. One example of similar use of laws is the Norwegian government-in-exile's requisition of private Norwegian merchant ships to create Nortraship in ww2.

In this case the ships, which were the private property of the shipyard, were requisitioned by the British authorithies. The Norwegian government had a purchase agreement with a private British company, not the British government. Hence, the British government did not break any agreements it was a party to.

The fact that the British government actually refunded the 2/3 of the purchase price that had allready been paid by the Norwegian government was not based on legal obligation (the obligation to refund the money to Norway, if any obligation at all, would be with the shipyard rather than the British government), but probably more based on political considerations - the British could not afford to alienate the nations that had ordered these ships.
It is even doubtful if Norway would have recovered any of the money paid in an international court of law, as the British government had no obligation (as they had acted in accordance with British law towards a British company) and no agreement with the Norwegian government, and the shipyard would probably claim force majeure - i.e. circumstances beyond their control. It sucks, I know, but that's the law of it.

I would imagine a further consideration in the decision was to prevent the Germans from getting hold of any of the ships throug purchase or capture.



PS The terms Confiscate and Appropriate are NOT legally interchangeable terms - i.e. they have distinctly different legal meanings.

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Re: Why did the British confiscate these Norwegian warships?

Post  Black Hornet on Mon 18 Apr 2011 - 5:51

Rather than delve into legality re confiscating Norwegian, ( not British), property, tis simpler to just stick with the 'why' of it, which was the war. This part below is logical.


I would imagine a further consideration in the decision was to prevent the Germans from getting hold of any of the ships throug purchase or capture.

& I mentioned no one stated it was illegal, therefore your differentiation of the legalese form of the 2 terms Appropriate & Confiscate is irrelevant as regards the discourse here.

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Re: Why did the British confiscate these Norwegian warships?

Post  kaii on Mon 18 Apr 2011 - 11:53

Agreed, it was a side track.

I would suggest two immediate reasons for the british decision:

1. The possible need for the ships in the Royal Navy, especially ships that could operate as escorts and close to the coast (although I am not sure how aware they were of the submarine threat at this stage)

2. The need to keep control of the ships to prevent them from ending up in German hands, either through purchase or through conquest.


I suppose another interesting aspect would be what effect these two ships may have had during the German invasion in 1940. As it was the two armoured ships did not accomplish much at Narvik, but they were manned and ready to fight, had events transpired differently, and they did pack a punch, as you have pointed out in another thread. Although I do not thing these two Bjørgvin class ships would have made a big difference, they might have been able to cause some damage.

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