Rønneberg: Hero of Telemark
Janet Voke meets Joachim Rønneberg, survivor of one of the most daring actions of the Second World War: the sabotage of a German heavy water plant deep in occupied Norway.
It has been described as ‘the most daring sabotage raid of the whole of World War Two’, recreated by Hollywood in the 1965 film, The Heroes of Telemark, a favourite of Christmas television schedules. Churchill sanctioned the mission, which took place in February 1943 and was aimed at preventing the Nazis from developing a nuclear weapon. Following its successful completion, the prime minister personally thanked the eight Norwegians, only just out of their teens, who carried it out. Their leader, Joachim Rønneberg, was awarded the British Distinguished Service Order and received the War Cross with sword from the king of Norway. The 19-year-old Rønneberg had enrolled in the free Norwegian army in 1941 following the Nazis’ surprise invasion the previous year and fled his country in a fishing boat, by cover of darkness, to Scotland. Now, just a few weeks short of his 92nd birthday, he was a guest of the Queen at Windsor Castle for a commemoration of Norway’s part in defeating Hitler.