Joachim Ronneberg was born on 30/08/1919 and died on 21/10/18 He fled from his home at Alesund in western Norway to UK and was given commando training in the Scottish Highlands, centred at Arisaig House, Achacarry House, near Spean Bridge and arpound Rothiemurchus & the high Cairngorms. At the age of 23 and without previous military experience, he became the leader of a Special Operations sabotage Group.
Attempts by the RAF to bomb the Norsk Hydro, Vermork power plant at Rujkan, in Telemark, which produces heavy water was unsuccessful, as was a British commando raid.
A group of British trained Norwegian commandos were parachuted on to the eastern Hardangervidda, “Operation Gunnerside”, in the winter of 1942-43. By mid February 1943 the Norwegians reached the Rujkan Vermork plant.
The story of the operations were told, fairly accurately in the 1963 film,
“ The Heroes of Telemark “, starring Kirk Douglas. The film has been on television, a number of times, over the years.
Ronneberg and his team reached the Rujkan plant at 11.30 pm, undetected.
They set their charges which went off 2 hours later, badly damaging the plant. Their operation was both daring and successful. They then skied, undected, eastwards for 200 miles, to neutral Sweden.
Later information, informed the British sources that the plant had been repaired after 3 months. All remaining heavy water stored in a basement was to be transported to Germany. The ferry from Rujkan sailed across Tinnsja, a lake at 10.00. At 10.45, charges placed by Ronneberg and his team exploded sinking the ferry and its cargo of heavy water.
The German hopes of developing an atomic bomb ended with the sinking of the ferry.
Ronneberg & his team was one of the most successful of all the SOE trained commando groups. They did not realise how successful they had been until the US atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ended World War 11.
Lieutenant Ronneberg had a successful Norwegian military and later NRK radio career, after the War, retiring in 1987. He also worked with schools and young people on war and conflict issues, after his military career was over.
He received Norway’s highest military honour, “the War Cross with Sword” and a DSO, a “Distinguished Service Order from the UK.
Joachim Ronneberg died in mid October 2018, in Alesund, aged 99. He was the last survivor of the Commando group. His most famous quote was as follows. “People must realise that peace and freedom have to be fought for every day”
Written by John Ross Mowat