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When Nazi Germany attacked Norway on 9 April 1940, with only a small number of modern aircraft, the Norwegian Army Air Service and Royal Norwegian Navy Air Service were unable to mount a sustained defence. Following the defeat of the Norwegian forces, the King, key members of the government and military left Norway in June 1940 aboard HMS Devonshire.
After arriving in England, the Norwegian government-in-exile began the process of setting up a new base of operations. A decision was swiftly made to keep the existing Norwegian pilots that had escaped to England as an independent unit. Consequently, none were allowed to participate in the Battle of Britain. Arrangements were made to transfer Norwegian pilots to a North American headquarters. Various locations were considered, and a base around the Toronto Island Airport in Toronto was chosen. Once the base was established, young Norwegians migrated to the site to enrol in the Royal Norwegian Air Forces (RNoAF).
In 1939, Bernt Balchen, a Norwegian aviator enlisted with the Royal Norwegian Navy Air Service, made his way to the United States on a crucial mission to negotiate 'matters pertaining to aircraft ordnance and ammunition with the question of the Norwegian Government's possible purchase of such materials in the United States of America.' With his status of holding dual Norwegian and US citizenship and his extensive contacts in the aviation industry, his instruction from the Norwegian Government-in-exile in London changed to a new directive: to set up a training camp and school for expatriate Norwegian airmen and soldiers in Canada. Balchen negotiated directly with Canadian government officials to obtain an agreement to use available airport facilities at the Toronto Island airport on Lake Ontario known as 'Little Norway'.
Little Norway, Toronto Canada
Little Norway, Buckie, Scotland
Allied Losses & Incidents Database: Nordic Participants