Operation Freshman – The hunt for Hitler’s Heavy Water

This foundation of this book is tragedy. Two glider loads of Royal Engineers of the British 1st Airborne..

OPERATION FRESHMAN – The hunt for Hitler’s Heavy Water

By Jostein Bergyld

In the old days when the BBC could afford to show cricket test matches, if it rained they would have to show a movie to fill the gap while the covers were on. Chances are it would be a John Wayne western or war yarn, or maybe the Dam Busters. Another obvious choice would be Kirk Douglas and The Heroes of Telemark.

In this solid account, the author gives short shrift to Kirk and gets down to the hard facts of the Allies attempt to disrupt the Nazis’ development of the Atom bomb.

This foundation of this book is tragedy. Two glider loads of Royal Engineers of the British 1st Airborne Division crashed attempting to attack the heavy water plant at Vermork. The infamous Commando Order issued by Hitler sealed the fate of the survivors. My brother in law has just read the Dunkirk book I reviewed recently and said to me “I really hate the Germans”. I’m afraid to say the description of the murders of the British soldiers in this book will not alter his view.

If anything, the success of the sabotage mission carried out by a small party of Norwegians after the disaster of Freshman is underplayed. That they succeeded is a massive credit to them. Details of the sinking of a ferry carrying the remnants of the Nazis’ Heavy Water appear scant. It’s almost as if the author prefers to dwell on the bravery and suffering of the British men who went to his country.

There are some typos and odd glitches in the translation, but this is hardly a serious fault all things considered. The illustrations are interesting and the final chapter analysing subsequent historical coverage, Kirk and all, makes for good reading.

Every year the King of Norway sends a huge Christmas tree to London to stand in Trafalgar Square in honour of the bonds between Britain and Norway forged by World War II. I remember times when the late King Olaf would get a polite round of applause from his fellow Gooners when he came to watch his beloved Arsenal FC.

In his own way, Mr Bergyld insures that the Anglo-Norwegian bond should remain strong as he remembers the men who did their bit to end the occupation of his country and save the world. Herr Hitler, your boys took one hell of a beating (with acknowledgements!)

Published by Leandoer & Ekholm
ISBN-10: 9197589594 ISBN-13: 978-9197589598

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.