Falun is a city in Sweden located about three hours north of Stockholm, if driven today by automobile. Mining for copper was an important industry there as far back as the 700′s or even before. According to this history account during the 1600′s the mine provided two-thirds of European copper demand. 1000 men a day worked there.
In 1687 there was a collapse of parts of the underground mine creating a huge crater, Stora Stöten (the great pit.) Amazingly no one was killed. Mining continued for copper, pyrite, zinc … even gold was found there in the 1800′s. In 1992 mining ceased. Today visitors can take a tour of underground chambers and visit the museum and historic homes. You will notice that many of the homes are painted a similar color, a deep redwood. Actually this paint is a historic Falun phenomenan called Falu Rödfärg or Falu Red. It is made of the pigment from the mineralization of the copper mine.
British and German planes either damaged or out of fuel began landing in Sweden in 1939 (for Germans) and 1940 (for the British.) Germans were housed apart from the Allies although early on in the war they shared a camp with Allied (primarily British, not Americans yet) internees at Kiruna in northern Sweden, almost to the Norwegian border.
The first American plane, the Georgia Rebel, arrived on July 24, 1943. The crew was interned at Främby internment camp at the south end of Falun joining other Allied airmen who were being housed there. A closed guest house named Humlebacken was reopened to make room for them.
On October 1, 1943 Falun was opened as an official camp for interned American flyers. The internees were put up in various hotels and boarding houses. Some even stayed in private homes.
The population of Falun in 2010 was just over 37,000. During the war even though mining had dropped off to a minimum.it was still a good sized little town. The 1939 brochure of its finest establishment, the Grand Hotel, said that at the time the population was 13,000.
The Grand Hotel was popular with locals and tourists and certainly the Americans. There was dancing there and fine dining. There were lots of girls … they came round from all the surrounding towns, sometimes even from Stockholm. The Grand Hotel is still there today, but it is less “grand” and caters more to the casual visitor. The entrance is not where it was during the war. The former front part of the hotel is now a separate sports bar, and the ”grand” ballrooms do not seem to be in much use.
When my son Johnny and I were in Sweden our wonderful guide through Falun and Rättvik was Helen Engblom. Helen had done her homework! She brought us to see several ladies who were around twenty years old when the internees came to town. One remembered fondly that “Falun just came alive. The British were men, well behaved. The Americans were more like boys. They were just lots of fun!”