‘War Sailor’ Episode 1: Recap & Ending, Explained: Why Did Alfred Choose To Stay?

The brutality of war tormented the common people of Norway with the outbreak of World War II. But a major victory against Hitler was achieved when many Norwegian merchant seamen were conscripted to help the British Allies during WWII. The Norwegian drama “War Sailor,” which is now available on Netflix, depicts how the war destroyed the lives of those merchant seamen and their families.


The story of “War Sailor” revolves around a sailor, Alfred Garnes (Kristoffer Joner), and his comrade Sigbjorn (Pål Sverre Hagen) as they travel aboard a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. While Alfred and Sigbjorn struggled as unarmed citizens who had never joined the army, Alfred’s wife and three children were anxiously awaiting their return. The plight of Alfred’s family and the merchant seamen who were torpedoed at sea by the Germans became the show’s highlight. Meanwhile, when the Brits attempted to blow up the German submarines in Bergen, and several schools and houses were damaged, Alfred and his fellow sailors started to worry whether they would ever see their families alive.

In the opening sequence of episode 1, Sigbjorn was shown in Singapore in 1948. He was looking for his friend Freddy, also known as Alfred, and discovered him in a chamber of what appeared to be a factory. Freddy appeared confused and terrified, and upon seeing Sigbjorn, he struck him and ran away. As Sigbjorn followed him, he found Alfred eventually slumped on the ground.


Spoilers Ahead

Why Did Alfred Leave Home?

In 1940, the German forces invaded Denmark and Norway, thereby launching the Norwegian campaign. For Nazi Germany, it was the beginning of their conquest of Norway as part of Operation Weserubung. The “War Sailor” series features Alfred and Sigbjorn working as wage laborers seven months before the Nazi takeover of Norway, in 1939. Both of them were working-class sailors who had been given the opportunity to join a ship sailing for their British allies. With the merchant ships being sunk by the Germans at the time, Alfred was unsure if he would ever be able to return home. Sigbjorn urged him to take advantage of the opportunity so that he could provide for his family.


Cecilia (Ine Marie Wilmann), Alfred’s wife, understood the situation, but Maggie, their daughter, was convinced that if her father took the job, he may never return home. The news of numerous ships being blown up by the Germans was widely reported during this period, and one of them really concerned Maggie. She pleaded with her father to stay home, but Alfred was determined. He started his voyage with Sigbjorn after bidding goodbye to his wife and three kids. Cecilia was concerned as well, but she felt at ease seeing Sigbjorn by her husband’s side. Maybe she also knew in her heart that life wouldn’t be much easier for Alfred on the sea. Nonetheless, the financial circumstances of the working class at the time were such that he couldn’t just stay at home and do nothing. Notwithstanding their worries of impending death, many working-class people of the day, like Alfred and Sigbjorn, welcomed these opportunities to support their families.

Germany seized Norway in 1940 and continued torpedoing the Norwegian ships as they navigated the Atlantic. Already, 70 cargo ships from Norway had been sunk. Some were being saved by the other trade ships, but many sailors perished in the water. While Alfred was able to save one life aboard his merchant ship, several others were left behind. Alfred even tried to halt the ship to save them, but there were some mechanical issues in the ship.


Aksel, a 16-year-old lad, was a survivor who was greeted by the crew of the ship. The captain of the ship flatly stated that the ship was exclusively going for the British allies because the armaments and missiles required by the British were provided by Norway. Since the war had started, sailors were not permitted to take leave, and if they disobeyed orders and fled, Norway would treat them as traitors, and no other shipping firm would ever consider hiring them. Alfred had no idea how he would send money or letters to his family, but whenever he had free time, he wrote to his wife, expressing his sorrow at not being able to see or help them. Meanwhile, Cecilia was fighting to make ends meet in Bergen. She started selling wood in return for wheat. The landlords continued to demand rent, but Cecilia had no answer or money to pay them. She could only wait and hope that her husband would return.

What Happened To The Ship, Frostenack?

Alfred, Sigbjorn, Hanna, Kjell, Monsen, and Aksel were transferred to another ship named MS. Frostenack a few days later. But right after being transported to Frostenack, they were informed that the ship they’d previously been on had been blown up by torpedoes, and no one survived. On the docks in Liverpool, Alfred broke the awful news to the rest of the crew, which brought tears to Aksel’s eyes. When Alfred saw him crying, he advised him to go home because he wasn’t even an adult yet. He could just return home and start over, but Aksel told them that he had no one to return home to. He, therefore, desired to join the crew and learn to sail. Sigbjorn wanted everyone to have a little fun in order to forget about death and misery.


In a tavern, news spread that British planes had begun bombing German U-boats, which seemed like excellent news to these Norwegians. They began to celebrate the German subs’ loss by boozing and partying. Meanwhile, a ruckus broke out inside the tavern. Alfred discovered some enraged seamen encircling and yelling at a guy. This guy was a ballet dancer who used to be a sailor, but while traveling in America, he’d jumped off the boat and then rejoined it, so the other sailors labeled him a traitor who had no right to be on that ship, according to them. Sigbjorn tried to calm everyone down and asked the guy to perform for them. He performed ballet, and at the same time, in another sequence, we saw him drowning in the sea as Alfred and others tried to save him.

The Frostenack had also been torpedoed, and a major portion of its structure had been destroyed. As a result, this guy and others perished in the water due to the explosion. Alfred, Sigbjorn, and their companions were once again fortunate to be alive. They landed on the shores of Malta in 1942, and the local people began to applaud upon seeing the survivors. Kjell, a member of the ship’s crew, didn’t feel like he deserved to survive because he hadn’t been able to save the other sailors, who had been killed by German torpedoes. Despite his outward strength and bravery, Kjell was actually a guy who had been badly affected by trauma. The water frightened Kjell, perhaps as a result of the multiple fatalities he had seen there, which had come to represent a never-ending horror for him.


Why Did Alfred Choose To Stay?

Finally, after arriving in New York in 1942 with a new ship, the Falkanger, Alfred and his crew learned that the Brits had begun bombing Norway. Around this time, the Brits planned an invasion to finish off the German submarines near the port of Narvik and several other towns in Norway. Alfred and his crew began to wonder if they would ever see their families alive. Meanwhile, new sailors were being recruited for the ship. The captains made the decision to bring Hanna and Aksel onshore, where they would be safe. But the rest of the crew, including Alfred and Sigbjorn, decided to stay. They were keen to visit their family, but leaving the job in the middle would not get them paid; therefore, in order to make a peaceful living afterward, they would just have to survive to complete the shipment.

The opening scene of “War Sailor” episode 1 foreshadows Alfred’s plight. We could guess he was in serious shock because he was fully bewildered and in a wretched situation. He was either worried he’d lost his family or been disturbed by the mounting deaths that he had witnessed all the while. Let’s check that out in the next episodes to get a better idea.


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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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