The Norwegian Spy Who Jumped Tree to Tree in a 200 mile Trek to Escape German Captivity

The amazing feat of a resistance fighter from Norway has been revealed in the book “Another Man’s Shoes”. Being captured for spying Sven Somme managed to escape and kept out of Nazi hands in a 200 mile pursuit across Norway.  At times leaping from tree to tree to avoid leaving tell tale tracks in the snow.

Sven Somme, a fisheries officer before the war, was a middle-aged man from Norway. Along with his brother Iacob, did everything in his power to help dislodge the Germanic hold over his beloved lands.

Unfortunately, Iacob Somme was caught and executed in 1943 by the Gestapo after he had helped sabotage the hydro plant in Telemark. There operations were underway to build a material for a nuclear bomb. The Nazis also knew about Sven and they had warrants for his arrest.

Sven persisted in his undercover work and in 1944 he was given orders to go to the U-Boat facilities in Norway to take pictures of the submarines  and equipment there. He performed his job well, hiding and taking pictures whenever possible, However, during a photography session at one of the bases on the island of Otteroy, the sun caught the lens of his camera and Sven was noticed and quickly captured.

Thrown into handcuffs and condemned to be executed for spying, Sven felt the game was up when he was hauled onto a ship to the mainland.  But  it was hardly the end for him. When the boat was in the harbor and while his guards slept, Sven Somme broke out of his cuffs and he then walked past five armed guards who assumed he was merely a civilian.

Before long Sven’s escape was discovered and the Germans sent 900 soldiers with bloodhounds after him. In two months he undertook a remarkable 200-mile trek, avoiding the Nazis as best as he could. At certain stages of the pursuit, Sven would climb up pine trees and jump from tree to tree, eliminating tracks so his enemies couldn’t follow him. His trails took him over streams and through ravines and ever deepening snow. Had it not been for the help of a friendly family, who gave him new boots, he would have gotten severe frostbite.

Yet Sven still wasn’t out of the country, and he spent five weeks hiding out in a safe house. When he finally attained false papers, he fled again and through neutral Sweden made his way to Britain. His story was so extraordinary that the exiled King of Norway granted him a private audience, the Mail Online reports.

In England, he met his wife, an Englishwoman named Primrose, and together they had three children.  After the war Sven Somme returned to Norway. Cancer took his life in 1961 and Mrs. Somme returned to England, where she and her children settled down in Dartmouth, Devon.

After Primrose Somme died, Ellie Target, the oldest of the children, was clearing out her parents’ home and discovered much of her father’s WWII memorabilia. This included the two pairs of shoes he had worn during his escape. She determined to save this part of her family’s legacy, and took the items to the BBC Antiques Roadshow. There specialists said that the artifacts were impressive and commented that it was brave men like Sven Somme that kept the world out of Nazi hands; if it hadn’t been for men like Sven, WWII would have had a completely different outcome.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE