Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class wpdb in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 49

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/cache.php on line 35

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Object_Cache in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/cache.php on line 400

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 534

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 534

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 534

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 534

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_PageDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 553

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_CategoryDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 674

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/query.php on line 15

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/theme.php on line 505
Finnmark 2007 Diary » Blog Archive » Norway’’s greatest war hero

Norway’’s greatest war hero


Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

We’’re continually delighted by the hospitality, openness and sheer friendliness shown to us by people here in the small coastal communities of North Troms. On Palm Sunday, in Furuflaten, we were welcomed by one of Tom-Frode and his wife Liz’’s closest friends Wiktor Sørensen, the Chief Executive of Norut in Tromso. During the course of three hours, conversation ranged from climate change to oceanography to fishing stocks. Then, at one point, some other friends, Bjarne Dalhaug and his wife, called by. Bjarne, now retired as headmaster of a local boarding school, will take up a position as director of a small museum devoted to the memory of Jan Baalsrud. He and his wife were personal friends of the Baalsrud family. Many people with a knowledge of Norway’’s heroic resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II will be familiar with this name – as was Adam, whose father Malcolm Munthe was something of a war hero in these parts himself, and who considered the Norwegians to be the bravest people he had ever met. Yet the name meant nothing to me (Euan) and in case there are others who may be unaware of Jan Baalsrud and who never saw the film ‘Nine Lives’ based on his exploits, or read David Howarth’s book about him, ‘We Die Alone’, it may be useful to give a brief summary of his wartime career.

In March 1943, aged 26, Baalsrud and some other Norwegian commandos packed a fishing vessel with eight tons of explosives and sailed into the Toftefjord. Their aim was to destroy the German air control tower at Badefost and thereby help liberate Norway from Nazi occupation. They were betrayed, however, and their boat was hit by a German ship. Baalsrud and his companions scuttled their boat and swam ashore through Arctic waters. Some of them were shot, two others were taken to Tromso and later tortured to death, and only Jan Baalsrud escaped. For several months he wandered the high tundra of Finnmark and North Troms, managing to avoid German search parties, who had put a high price on his head, all thanks to the bravery of some sixty local families who risked their own lives hiding and helping him survive. Finally, two Sámi brothers, the Baals, both reindeer herders, smuggled him over the Swedish frontier, though not before he had been forced to amputate his big toe because of gangrene. He spent several months in a hospital in Sweden before eventually making his way back to Britain to continue the struggle. Baalsrud received Norway’s highest military honours after the war and became a national hero. He died in Tenerife in 1989. Every year his memory is preserved by the local people here in North Troms who set out in July on a nine-day walk following the route of his evasion. In 2011 certain details about Baalsrud are due to be made public for the first time. Many wonder about the reasons for this secrecy and why there should be anything to hide.

Bjarne Dalhaug also mentioned some other brave Norwegians who performed other heroic deeds working for the resistance. One, for instance, by the name of Ovesen, made no less than forty-nine crossings through the heavily guarded North Sea from Western Norway to the Shetlands in small boats, transporting resistance fighters who subsequently worked for the Allied cause. I wonder, but have no means of checking at present, whether this was not the subject of another book by David Howarth, ‘The Shetland Bus’…

Today we aim for the border with Sweden, with our new Sámi interpreter and guide, Marja. She and her family live and herd a little North of Kiruna, and thanks to her efficiency we have a number of meetings scheduled in the mountains. We said farewell to Ellen-Anne yesterday before she returned to her herds in Kautokeino. A tear or two were shed! The weather reports are severe. There’’s a strong North Easterly blowing and heavy snow falls. Luckily, at least to start with, the wind should be coming mostly from our backs, but we’’re likely to be out of contact range for the next days. This means that when we’re not exhausted the reports will be coming in over satellite phone!

3 Responses to “Norway’’s greatest war hero”

  1. Hans-Arne Nordeng Says:

    Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

    I would just correct some small details that was wrong in the story about Baalsrud.

    The name of the airport they should blow up is Bardufoss. He was never in Finnmark, just Nord-Troms and i did not walk for SEVERAL months. He walked to Furuflaten by himself, from there he was transported on a sled made there and was lying in a small cavern (or more a crack) in Manndalen for some weeks.

    There is also a newer book “Defiant Courage: Norway’s Longest WWII Escape” about Baalsruds escape, with more details (and some say more correct), by Tore Haug and Astrid Karlsen Scott. The norwegian title is “Jan Baalsrud og de som hjalp ham”.

  2. Alun Davies Says:

    Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

    It is good to see the story of Jan Baalsrud retold. Such heoic deeds are an inspiration for generations to come. The general story is correct but the details from Defiant Courage are more correct - as a small example I believe that while staying in Hotel Savoy (a small wooden hut that I visited in 2006) Jan was forced to cut off nine of his toes - the tenth had been shot off by a German bullet.

  3. Euan Cameron Says:

    Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

    Thank you both for correcting what was probably too hurried a diary piece on Jan Baalsrud. His career and exploits had been outlined to me one memorable afternoon in Furuflaten and I quickly jotted down all I had been told in a fit of enthusiasm. I intend to get hold of a copy of ‘Defiant Courage’ and discover more about this heroic figure. E.C.

Leave a Reply