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Thursday, 24 August 2017

Osprey's Big Reveal: Raid, August 2017

It's the moment you've all been waiting for, RAID is back in 2018 with one very exciting title!

Osprey's Big Reveal: Raid

Heroics at Telemark: Sabotaging Hitler's atomic bomb, Norway 1942–44

In May 1941, Norwegian Section of SOE received a dossier warning of the dangers of a hydroelectric fertiliser plant in Norway – for this plant, Vemork, also produced heavy water, an essential part of making plutonium for nuclear weapons. When the Germans overran Norway the entire stock had been smuggled out of the country, but the plant was intact and soon producing heavy water again, destined for the German nuclear programme.

Despite the difficulties of getting to and operating in such a remote, hostile area, SOE Norway Section decided it had to destroy the plant. Operation Grouse inserted ski-borne Norwegian commandos to establish a presence on the harsh plateau; followed by glider-borne engineers to attack the plant. But the gliders and a Halifax tug crashed en route, and the survivors were found and shot.

Despite the massive increase in security around the plant, SOE tried again. Operation Gunnerside infiltrated another six ski-borne commandos, who got past the 300 heavily armed guards through a ravine the Germans thought impassable, blew up the electrolysis cells, and escaped the way they had come, evading the pursuing Germans on skis. The plant was later bombed from the air, and then a ferry carrying the last heavy water to Germany was sabotaged and sunk as it crossed a deep lake.

At the war’s end, despite the damage that SOE caused in Norway, a plant in Bavaria was discovered that nearly had enough heavy water to develop a bomb. In the opinion of the SOE historian M.R.D. Foot the raid was of ‘cardinal importance’ and alone justified the existence of the organisation.

Osprey Publishing Ltd