The Best Saboteur Team in Europe: The Oslo Detachment

Discussion in 'Scandinavia' started by Stormbird, Jan 12, 2011.

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  1. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    This became the nickname for a handful of dedicated people who performed a series of successful sabotage actions in the Oslo area. The name was originally given by SOE Colonel Wilson.


    The group emerged almost unnoticed in the winter of 1943-1944 without any direct planning by either London or Milorg. The members were SOE trained members from Company Linge, including Andreas Aubert, Gregers Gram, William Houlder, Tor Stenersen, Birger Rasmussen and Edvard Tallaksen. Several lost their lives before the war was over. In his autobiography Max Manus expresses bitter feelings about how few of the ”old hands” were alive towards the end of the war.


    Two of the more famous members of the group were Gunnar Soensteby (group leader) and Max Manus.


    OD Sonsteby.jpg Soensteby


    OD Manus.jpg Manus


    The group was responsible for a a number of major famous sabotage actions, amongst which were the blow-up of the machinery for the labour mobilisation, the attack on Korsvoll Flyfabrikk where 28 Messerschmitt fuselages and 150 aircraft engines were destroyed and the extensive damage inflicted on the Kongsbeg weapons plant by the use of over 100 kg ’plastic’ explosive.

    View attachment 44147
    OD AT.jpg
    OD sabotage.jpg

    Members of the group also arranged other important organisations. One of these was Derby, a well-developed and coordinated propaganda operation.

    In retrospect SOE assessed the Oslo Detachment to be the best team of saboteurs in Europe.


    Especially impressive were the spectacular sabotage actions on shipping, peformed by Max Manus, Gregers Gram and others. In the autumn of 1943 Royal Navy had attempted to sink ships in Norwegian waters by placing large charges by miniature submarines. The project, named Welman, was a major technological undertaking, but completely without success. The conclusion was that the best conditions for this kind of operation can be found only by a party which is in a position to wait and watch almost endlessly, until it knows each shift of enemy plans by instinct and can instantly discern the false move which will give the opening.


    OD Donau.jpg


    The actions of the group were facilitated by the passive support from the great majority of the civilian population and active participaton fom Milorg volunteers, but the inspiration came from Soensteby and the Oslo Detachment.


    Quote from William Mackenzie: The Secret History of SOE: “They lived and fought in daily presence of the enemy for over eighteen months – Fehmer, the head of the Oslo Gestapo, was to be seen daily going about his business, and his HQ and torture-chambers at Viktoria Terrasse were a familiar landmark: In these conditions the ceaseless freshness, ingenuity, even impudence of their methods is almost more impressive than their physical and moral toughness.”

    Recommended titles available in English:

    William MacKenzie; The secret history of SOE:

    OD MacK.jpg

    Max Manus; Underwater saboteur:

    OD Underwater.jpg

    Gunnar Soensteby; Report from # 24:

    OD # 24.jpg
     
    17thDYRCH and Smudger Jnr like this.
  2. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Better known as the Oslo Gang - Max Manus had a recent movie depicting his exploits
    which I can highly recommend Max Manus - Man of War
     
  3. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    Better known as the Oslo Gang - Max Manus had a recent movie depicting his exploits
    which I can highly recommend Max Manus - Man of War

    Agreed: Oslogjengen in Norwegian.
    I simply used the only quote I could find in English - which was MacKenzie's.

    Agree on the Max Manus movie as well. I will refer to it in an 'upcoming' (work in process) thread on his achievements.
     
  4. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    The exploits of the Norwegian underground are legendary and deservedly so.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  5. Cutstone

    Cutstone Junior Member

    The Oslo gang were very efficient, but got up to speed fairly late in the war. It has been interesting to follow the discussion this last year conserning the lack of attention given to the communist resistance after the war, especially those on the west coast of Norway. They were possibly quite as succesful and started way earlier than the Milorg and Linge guys in Oslo. Since the writing of WWII history in Norway pretty much have been controlled by the former agents in and around Oslo, especially Jens Chr. Hauge, it's now wonder. I'm really looking foreward too upcoming books on this subject.
     
  6. Cutstone

    Cutstone Junior Member

    By the way, the british also used limpets against ships in Norway, in the spring of 1943. In the little known operation Checkmate british 7 agents were landed on Karmøy, where they stayed for over 2 weeks, sinking multiple ships with lipets, according to a german document. The were evetually caught and sendt to Sachenshausen, where all but one were executed, the 7th died of Thyphus.
     
  7. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    The Oslo gang were very efficient, but got up to speed fairly late in the war. It has been interesting to follow the discussion this last year conserning the lack of attention given to the communist resistance after the war, especially those on the west coast of Norway. They were possibly quite as succesful and started way earlier than the Milorg and Linge guys in Oslo. Since the writing of WWII history in Norway pretty much have been controlled by the former agents in and around Oslo, especially Jens Chr. Hauge, it's now wonder. I'm really looking foreward too upcoming books on this subject.

    Welome to the forum, Cutstone, and thank you for commenting on my post.

    It is undoubtedly true that after the war Norwegian communists felt they were treated unfairly and that their contribution to the war effort wasn’t appreciated. Sab org or Osvaldgruppen was a direct continuation of the Wollweber communist organisation, and was in Norway at first led by Asbjørn Sunde. The group formally took its orders directly from the Soviet Union, but there was literally no radio communication nor courier activity with Moscow. The group built up sabotage parties in several Norwegian towns and independently performed more than 200 sabotage actions during the war.
    (Vesla Vetlesen: Kommunist og sabotør ISBN – 978-82-03-29143-2.Knut Løfsnes: Motstandsmann og politiker. ©1991 Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, ISBN 82-05-20195-1. Birger Bakken: Død over de tyske okkupanter. ©1998 Informasjonsforlaget.)

    1943 saw a breakdown in cooperation between Sab org and Mil org. There appears to have been a fundamental disagreement on the use of active resistance, where Sab org wanted to go for sabotage and guerilla warfare regardless of the costs, like in Yugoslavia , while Milorg was worried that the Allies didn’t support the actions. Mil org was also concerned about the reprisal threat: In Norway the Nazis could literally have wiped out the entire population in a day or two.
    (William Mackenzie: The Secret History of SOE. © 2000 St. Ermin’s. ISBN-0-9536151-8-9 page 650.)


    This is however heavily mined land. The issue is inherently politically inflamed and I’m not certain whether any recent research will bring clarification or further muddling of the water. It has been said that the matter is so complex that the relations between the communists and the rest of the resistance movement is a subject that rarely will reach beyond the domain of the specialised literature.
    (Anne Eriksen: Det var noe annet under krigen. ©1995 Pax forlag. ISBN-82-530-1744-8 page 59.)
     
  8. Cutstone

    Cutstone Junior Member

  9. fredleander

    fredleander Senior Member

  10. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    There were other saboteur groups in Oslo before "Oslo-gjengen". One that is little known, but very active was Per Röed. There is a book about him: Den ukjente sabotör - the unknown saboteur.


    The book you mention seems to be his autobiography. There is very little to be found about him. Do you have any further information ?
     
  11. fredleander

    fredleander Senior Member

    The book you mention seems to be his autobiography. There is very little to be found about him. Do you have any further information ?

    I suppose that is why he wrote a book. No further info. I knew the co-writer but he is gone now.
     
  12. Stormbird

    Stormbird Restless

    Some information found:

    Per Roed was the operational leader of Aks 13.000, the D13 section of Milorg based in Oslo. The group, led by SOE trained Svein Blindheim, claimed over 100 sabotage actions and an unknown number of assassinations May 1944 – May 1945.
    No details of sabotage actions have so far surfaced.

    As Per Roed himself was neither enlisted in Company Linge (NORIC1) nor trained by SOE, he wasn’t subject for the same war decorations as some of his more celebrated colleagues. He died in 1992.

    General note:
    The total sum of sabotage actions in Norway during the entire war has been estimated at 350-450. The majority were performed during the end stage, March 1945 alone seeing 70 actions.

    Sources:
    (Apologising for providing incomplete list, due to present unavailability of books)

    Lars Borgersrud: Noedvendig innsats – sabotoerene som skapte den aktive motstanden
    Hans Fredrik Dahl: Norsk Krigsleksikon
    William Mackenzie: The secret history of SOE
    Saeter and Saeter: XU - I hemmelig teneste
    Kjell Soerhus: Milorg D13 i kamp
    Asbjoern Sunde: Menn i moerket
    Vesla Vetlesen. Kommunist og sabotoer
     
  13. KOS

    KOS Junior Member

    It has been interesting to follow the discussion this last year conserning the lack of attention given to the communist resistance after the war, especially those on the west coast of Norway. They were possibly quite as succesful and started way earlier than the Milorg and Linge guys in Oslo. Since the writing of WWII history in Norway pretty much have been controlled by the former agents in and around Oslo, especially Jens Chr. Hauge, it's now wonder. I'm really looking foreward too upcoming books on this subject.

    Old thread, yes, but still of some interest - at least for some Norwegians o_O
    The history seems somehow 'shaped' as it was handled in the earlier post (read: cold) war years. But as more research is released in books etc. now - it changes slowly is my impression.

    I've been to a couple 'Sunde biographers lectures' on their books of the subject, Ulateig and Borgersrud, and especially the later shed som light on the subject previously unknown to me.

    It was too sad the Max Manus film screenwriter Thomas Nordseth-Tiller died so early :mellow: His follow up film was planned to be 'Menn i mørket' about A.Sunde and the 'Osvald gang'. Anyway, the hope is that someone makes that film, truthfully, one day ...

    regards/
     
  14. Vooon

    Vooon Member

    Interesting discussion, and for sure still a mine field. I don't think there's any other area of Norway's occupation history more inflamed. (Maybe the Merchant Navy sailors, but pretty much everyone agree they were treated like garbage after the war).

    As Kos writes the story has definitely been coloured by its time, and the different generations. Personally I think it's wise to navigate in the middle of the debate. Some historians and authors, on both sides, look at this communist vs Milorg issue with way too much emotion. It's not as black and white as some present it. There's also some myths and lies still moving around in people's mind these days. Recently someone claimed Max Manus took credit for some of the work of the Pelle group, while to my knowledge this has been taken out of thin air. Sønsteby also recognised the work of the communists.

    Anyway, the reason why I follow up on this old thread is that one of the historians at Norway's Resistance Museum is at this very moment finishing his PhD about the relationship between Milorg and the communists. (I'm pretty sure that was the topic). For those interested I would assume it's possible to attend his disputas at the University of Oslo - someyime in the autumn was the last I heard. I know the guy as very reflected and one of the most knowledgable people on any WW2 in Norway related topic in the country, so it should be interesting.
     
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