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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Johann Grübler and Fritz Wild

Presenting another photograph of Germans at Narvik that Swedish Air Force veteran Lennart Engerby got already in 1945 while visiting the town. There are some puzzles in the photo...

On our Narvik trip this summer we brought a paper copy of this photo from Mr. Engerby´s photo album:

From the left: the graves of Johann Grübler, an unknown soldier and Fritz Wild.

Finding Fritz Wild´s grave today was easy, as all German Narvik war dead are now in one place as far as I know: the main cemetery of Narvik just outside the city centre going north. Thanks to a public grave register, stored inside the stone wall by the German section staircase, we quickly located Wild´s current grave.

Fritz Wild´s grave in 2010. Born on December 7, 1916 and killed the same day the Allies recaptured Narvik, on May 28, 1940.

Thanks to internet and some googling I now know more about Wild. He was born in Kapfenberg, Austria. In the army he became a Gefreiter, a private first class. But I do not recognize the place where he was killed: "b. Forsnat". Could someone tell me if the spelling is right?

Presumably Wild died in the same action as Gefreiter Johann Grübler, the man furthest to the left in the top photograph. While visiting Narvik we did not know this latter man´s name as it can´t be made out from the above photo. But again thanks to now googling (should have done it earlier!) I found another photo of the graves, taken from another angle. As that photo is in a forum where photos are not public there is not much use in linking to it, but it is clear from that photo that Johann Grübler belonged to the 11th company of "Geb Jäg Regt 137" i.e. the 137th Mountain Infantry Regiment.

From the forum photo it is also clear that Johann Grübler like Fritz Wild was killed on May 28, 1940. This date connects perfectly to our previous Narvik trip, which was mainly about the Allied amphibious landing on that date.

But why did someone put a Luftwaffe-marked paratrooper helmet on the cross of Johann Grübler if he was in the army mountain infantry? I reckon it was no mistake. Many "paratroopers" dropped over the Narvik area in 1940 were mountain infantry that had received some (I believe mostly almost none) parachute training and Luftwaffe helmets.

It would be good to learn some more about Grübler and Wild, especially more about the circumstances of their deaths.


  1. Hi Lars

    The photo above was taken in 1940, as you mention there are various photos of Wild's grave and subsequent ones show slightly more formalised graves or rather with more additions like stones around them, ie. taken later.

    Here's the full post i made on the forum you mention about these men. It begins with a reference to a previous post but i include the whole post as it's relevant.

    "The marker doesn't says II./GJR 137 but 11./GJR137. ie. the 11 company which belonged the III Btl. Now, the two composite companies from the regiment were formed from the I and III Btl. We also know who commanded the company from the III Btl. Oberleutnant Erich Schwaiger who was also killed that same day, 28th May 1940 (you'll find him listed on the volksbund database).
    This company was acting as an alarm unit and when the Germans realised the allies were attempting an amphibious landing on the North side of Narvik (2 French Foreign Legion btls. and a Norwegian Btl. supported by tanks, Royal Navy fire support, artillery and air) the company was rushed down the rail line from the Bjørnfjell area to put in a counterattack. This counterattack came under naval artillery fire and the company suffered heavy casualties. The lack of name on the one marker was quite likely because there wasn't enough left to identify the man.

    This amphibious assault was, i believe the first of it's kind during the war, mirroring the landings of later years it included the use of landing craft, an opposed beach landing, naval gunfire support and air support. This allied victory which resulted in the recapture of Narvik town is forgotten due to the greater events happening in France which were also to be the cause of the allies decision to pull out of North Norway just 10 days later.


    1. Hello Simon,
      it is a valuable note, congratulations. Not infrequently cited the raid against Dieppe as the crucial (and very expensive ...) exercise for the larger landings in North Africa, Italy and Normandy. More interesting, it was minor surgery in Spitsbergen, Norway coast and at Narvik that you emphasize that initiated the absorption of knowledge in this area.

      Suggests that someone - maybe yourself? - Write an informed article about this, too many unknowns combined landing!

      good greetings
      / / Karl-Gunnar

  2. Many thanks, Simon!

    What about the place "b. Forsnat", it seems wrong. Or not?

  3. It's a misspelling of Forneset. There are two small railway tunnels there, which ties in with the description of where the men died. A place to have a look at in the future perhaps?

  4. Do you know more about fritz wild? He has been my grandfather.

  5. Dear Ms. Metzger,
    Thanks for your feedback. I will let you know if I find something.
    Kind regards,