Real stories from the world of espionage and special operations

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  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

    This is another interesting video which details SOE weaponry. I'm a bit of a WW2/military history buff so things of this nature are always of interest to me. I've wrote a couple of spy books set in that period and I like to be historically correct as far as the details go. My character employs a commando knife the same as the one featured.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wFQ6DwDZpo

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

    Yes, I too could see the feather trick being used in a Fleming novel.

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent

    I'm watching a re-run now. The "feather boy" counted to 100 while he held a feather under the nazi's nose. I can't imagine a very tense scene where a Bond girl holds her breath while pretending to be dead.

  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

    Perhaps 'feather man' would tickle the nose instead?

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent

    Maybe, but perhaps that would've been too comical?

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,584Chief of Staff

    Yes, that would have been an intriguing and quirky element in a Bond henchman (Kidd? Vargas?) if developed.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent

    The post in the link has been mildly updated after listening to a podcast about the assassination of the WWII nazi informer Ivar Grande:

    https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/comment/964567#Comment_964567

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent
    edited May 27

    Partisans in the Arctic



    A three-man team of agents under training in the USSR. One Soviet citizen and two Norwegians.


    I'm about to tell a story of resistance against the nazis in WWII that's unusual, both in terms of what happened and where it happened, We're talking about the far north of Norway and Europe, but also as far east as the latitude of Greece. The land there is rough and desolute, the weather very cold and often brutal. Russia and the Soviet union is much closer than Oslo and continental Europe. Only about 25 years before the war there was a lively trade between these areas and the Kola peninsula in Russia, called the pomor trade. They even developed a trading language that was a mix of Russian, Norwegian and some other languages.

    But this far edge of Europe became important during the war. Especially because of the Murmansk convoys, or Artic convoys as they were also called, from the UK and America to the USSR. The Soviets did most of the fighting against the nazi forces, but much like Ukraine today they depended on supplies from the West. Much of this aid came by the ships in the convoys, a route Churchill called the worst journey in the world. The Soviets needed to protect these convoys, and to do that they needed to know where the German planes, warships and u-boats along the northeren coast of Norway were.


    Another reason was teh German convoys to Kirkenes that was vital to the German front in the far north of Europe. the Soviets needed to stop as much as possible of this transport route.

    If the locals in this region wanted to fight Germans, going to Britain wasn't really an option. They had to go east to the USSR. Some of them were communists too. Many of them were trained by the Soviets to be long range reconaissance back in Norway. the training was in radios, small arms, parachuting, hand-to-hand fighting, survival and recognizing German military equipment among other things. Usually they were sent back in groups of three, one Soviet radio specialist and two Norwegians. The Soviets often called guerillas working behind enemy lines partisans, and these three-man groups are often called that. But partisans are guerilla fighters, but this was impossible in the Arctic due to the open landscape and sparse population. These people were LRRP soldiers or agents.



    Being a part of these three-man groups was extremely dangerous. All resistance members working behind enemy lines faced the brutality of the Germans. But these men and women had no urban areas or forests to hide in. Half of them lost their lives. If they contacted the local population for food, information or human contact both parties ran a huge risk. Talk among civilians could be picked up by the German occupiers. Civilians who helped the agents risked execution or concentration camps, as happened to a number of them. For months in the summer there is no night, and for months in the winter there is only night and no day. As you can see, hiding and surviving here must be very difficult. To quote the narrator in the TV documentary The World At War (he was speaking of the desert): "Here is no nubile, girlish land; no green and virginal countryside for war to violate. This land is hard. Inviolable."


    This is what's called Spionvárri (Spy Mountain) by the local Sami population because a group of agents hid there for months observing the German forces and sending radio reports back to the USSR.


    More examples of the landscape:




    The nature and weather was also much more brutal than what most other resistance members had to survive. Weather condidtions that most people rarely experience happens many times every winter in this part of Norway.


    In my next post I will tell the story of one of these groups of agents,

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,584Chief of Staff

    Very intriguing. This part of the WW2 story is little known here

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent

    It's little known even in Norway, but a few historians have tried to give this part of the war the attention it deserves.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent


    It turns out 600 nazi war criminals in Australia died mysterious deaths or disapeared after the war. That's so sad ..... 😁

  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

    I was aware of these operations in Norway, but not in detail. The BBC did a really good (three part?) documentary on the 'Heroes of Telemark) which focussed on their incredible feat of survival. It was hosted by Ray Mears (a well known survival expert). My guess it it may by on YouTube. If so, I recommend it to anyone interested in WW2 Special Operations.


    There was another interesting and informative show on the BBC a few years ago called 'Secret Agent Selection'. It followed a group of civilian volunteers who were put through wartime SOE training before being sent on 'a mission' to put all they'd learned to the test. I think it was later renamed and broadcast on Netflix. As I remember it was six, one-hour programmes. Very well worth watching.

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

    I was right. Here's the link to part one of the Ray Mears programme.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2lEA44uMHg

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

    Here's the SOE programme.

    You have to purchase to view though, but the bumph gives an idea of what it's about.

    https://www.youtube.com/show/SCAvA4ymcPQFy2z1JLrhEU6A?season=1&sbp=CgEx

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,707MI6 Agent
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent

    Good documentary, especially the short interviews. But other than a short shot of a second or two of an old factory we don't see the factory. It was demolished back in the 70's. What's left is the hydro power plant.

    I also question the claim that the SOE agents had to learn parachuting for this mission in particular. Parachuting was a part of their basic training. One man from Vemork escaped to the UK, but was sent back after a few days to spy on the factory. He was sent back by plane and made his first jump ever there.

  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

    I haven't seen the documentary since it was first aired on British TV. I think, but am not absolutely sure, that the men involved were serving with the British commandos. They weren't fully fledged SOS operatives but selected then trained for the mission by SOE in Scotland. If I'm correct, they would have not been parachute qualified with the commandos so required to undertake the jump course at Ringway (now Manchester Airport).

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent
    edited April 24

    No. I'm sure they were SOE and not commandos. I'm less sure if all commandos were parachute qualified.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent

    I just double-checked on Wikipedia. Not the best source in the world, not the worst either. Wikipedia lists all units they were in and not a single one has a word about commandos. I also read their biographies, and again no commandos. There was a Norwegian Commando Troop in the UK during the war, though.

    Maybe you're thinking of the gliderborne troops Grouse were supposed to help land? They were British paratrooper engineers.

  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

    Perhaps the 'commandos' term came into play because of the raid on the hydro plant, when the British wanted to make sure the enemy knew it was one of their operations rather than a partisan one and sent the team in in British uniforms?

    An uncle of mine was a commando (the original army commandos not the Royal Marines, but the army commandos are what we're talking about anyway) during the war and he wasn't parachute qualified. Another uncle of mine met one of the original saboteurs while on a cruise to the fiords. Apparently he came aboard the ship to give a lecture about the operation. I would have liked to have been there to listen to that.

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent
    edited April 24

    I've seen the Vemork saboteurs being called commandos. But I've also seen the SAS and other units who weren't in the commandos being called that. I think it is used as a generic term for special forces.

    You're right in saying the saboteurs were in British uniforms to avoid revenge killings on civilians. This wasn't uncommon for SOE (Company Linge) in Norway where missions often were military in nature.

    You should be proud of your uncle. 👍

    I did pass Joachim Rønneberg on a mountain path in .... 1991 I think. I was too "starstruck" to talk to him, and he walked on and the moment was over. I would value it very much to talk to one of the Vemork saboteurs about their service, and I envy those who did. My sister's father-in-law worked a year with Rønneberg after the war, sharing the same office. They never spoke about the war.

  • MarkerMarker Posts: 66MI6 Agent

     Joachim Rønneberg, he always reminded me of Clint Eastwood. Tall, lean, tough. I believe there's a statue of him somewhere in Norway. Yes, you're right when you say that many raids which weren't actually carried out by commandos were attributed to them. Possibly to divert attention away from other, more secretive units as well as the reason you mention. Although I remember my father and the uncle I mentioned, speaking a little about army life, they too never spoke about their wartime experiences (not in front of us anyway). My father was a regular soldier who joined in the mid-1930s then served throughout and after WW2.

    We owe every one of those brave men and women who served an incalculable debt of gratitude.

    Author of 'An Ungentlemanly Act' and 'Execution of Duty'. The WW2 espionage series starring Harry Flynn.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent
    edited April 25

    The statue of Rønneberg is outside Ålesund town hall, and i agree he looked like Clint Eastwood.


  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent


    This spectacular photo from the 1960's shows a U2 Dragon Lady spy plane landing on an aircraift carrier after flighing over the USSR to take photos of secret instalations.



    These top secret planes were in no way intended to do such a thing. This phot is from a normal landing on an air field.


  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent
    edited May 27

    Partisans in the Arctic part 2


    In February 1943 two groups of agents were transported in a Soviet submarine to occupied Norway. One group was going to Arnøy. You can find the island if you go directly north from the northernmost tip of Sweden. If you go straight north from Arnøy you don't reach "land" again until you reach the North Pole. Arnøy was the perfect place to spy on the military and civilian ships going east to Kirkenes, the closest town to the border of the USSR and was the major harbour closest to the front. Only the capital of Malta was bombed more often than Kirkenes in WWII. The island has no bridge to the mainland and because of rought weather the small local population could be isolated there for weeks. The submarine arrived during a storm. The weather was so bad the German navy didn't dare sail in the open sea. The Norwegian agents had escaped to the USSR after the German military invaded and occupied their country in 1940. Not to avoid war, but to fight it. Some of these refugees were trained by the Soviet secret service NKVD in espionage, weaponry, demolition and parachuting in a secret camp near Murmans in northern Russia. I'm assuming the agents had some survival training, but many were huntersfishers and farmers who were used to living in the extreme north of the European continent so they knew a lot to begin with. Living in Stalinist Soviet Russia probably forced them to learn something new - paranoia and secrecy.

    The three agents are Ingvald Andreas Mikkelsen and Ingolv Aspås (both Norwegian) and the Soviet radio operator Vladimir Tsjisjevskij (code name Volodyna Omsk). These were tough men, used to surviving under tought condidtions and well trained in weaponry. But it seems strange to place this trio in the same group again since they had been on a six-month mission together to Arnøy before and did not get along at all. In fact they had requested not to work together again!


    K21 of the Katusja class, the submarine that transported the agents.


    They brought a lot of supplies, 65 boxes in total. This included three radios, 20 boxes of food 2-3 boxes of ammo, three semi-auto rifles, three pistols, one machine gun, 15 hand grenades, a large sum in Norwegian Kroner and one hundred liters of wine and vodka to keep varm and steady the nerves!

    A Tokarev pistol used by one of the agents.


    The crew of the submarine note that Mikkelsen is drinking "too much". Given the source that's a major red flag, and not in the communist sense. On top of the weather and the mission they also experience a fire in the submarine, so everyone is on edge. The submarine has to wait outside Arnøy for three days because of the storm before they are able to get themselves and the supplies on land on the island. It's the 20th of February 1943. At first they share a tent. Omsk is unable to get radio contact with their base in Murmansk in the USSR because of the high mountains around the beach where their tent was. They have to get up in the mountains, but the weather is too tough to even leave the tent. The three agents are of course very much on edge, they drink and smoke and things get out of hand. According to Aspås and Omsk, Mikkelsen loses his mind after a few days. They fear Mikkelsen is out of control and had become a danger to the mission. One night Aspås decides to shoot Mikkelsen and burry him in the snow outside the tent. They stay in the tent for 21 days in total, including almost three weeks after the killing of Mikkelsen. Then the wind calmed enough to get rid of the dead body. It's unclear if Aspås burried Mikkelsen under some rocks on the shore or dumped him at sea, but no-one has found the body to this day. Then Aspås and Omsk contacted a local man named Alf Jørgensen who had helped them the year before. He showed them a cave with a good view of the coastline where they could hide. Moving all the supplies into the cave is time-consuming, so they decide to leave most of it on the shore. Then a new storm happened and most of their supllies are taken by the sea. Thankfully the radios and weapons were saved and Omsk managed to contact Murmansk by radio. In the usual kind-hearted style of Stalins USSR the two remaining agents were ordered to stay and complete the mission. Now they are dependent on Alf. But buying a lot more food at the local grocery store would be noticed by everyone, and the food was rationed. The man who showed the agents the cave has an idea. Alf visits a hotel in the town of Tromsø and offers the director a deal. The hotel could buy the food using the agents' money and the Alf Jørgensencould transport the food in his boat. The fisherman knew the hotel man is risking his life too, so he decides it's only moral to tell him who the food is for. But bringing the food to his farm wasn't enough. Carrying the supplies to the cave was heavy and difficult, sometimes using a rope was neccesary and a false step could be deadly. The contact had to fish and look after his family and farm, so he needed more people to bring the food to the agents. His family had to help out.


    The village closest to the cave.


    The cave the agents lived in and the grandson of Aspås.


    Completing the mission meant several months hiding in the cave and reporting any ship traffic back to base. Because of the reports from the two remaining agents the Soviets managed to hit the German covoys supplying Kirkenes and the north-east front hard. The agents needed even more information for their Soviet masters. The two agents have a meeting with Alf and his family. They want the family to travel in the region and gather inteligence. The Jørgensen family accepts.


    Alf Jørgensen and his family.


    The family decided to travel in pairs. Alf and his daugther did it the simple way. The travelers braught pen and paper, went by bus and pretended to be looking for horse to buy, On the bus trip thy suddenly passsed an enormous grey ship. A couple of German soldiers sitting in front of them started bragging that this was the largest battleship in the world: Tirpitz! The Germans happily continued tellng them about the amazing ship.


    Then in the next fjord they saw another battleship hiding - Scharnhorst! As spy missions go this was turning out to be a huge success! Alf returned home, walked to the cave and delivered more food and some explosive informatione


    Tensions rose btween the agents and the Alf. it was getting harder to explain everything that was going on, such as sheep suddenly dispearing. One day the two agents were gone from the cave. Alf vent to see his brother who lived in the same village and knew what was going on. His brother told Alf the agents had moved to another location on the island and from now on he was the one who would give the agents food. Alf saw this asa lack of confidence in him and said so the next time he saw the agents. The reply from the two agents was cold: "We may have to liquidate you!" The borther managed to calm the both the agents and Alf down. The new agreement was that Alf and his family would continue spying, but they would no longer know whe the agents were hiding. This was probably a wise move, but Alf felt uneasy.

    But the short summer with the midnight sun came. The civilian population was small and social network among them is close. Betsy Nyvoll, Alf's niece, visited the island from Tromsø. Tromsø is the largest town in northern Norway. Alf didn't like his nice and liked her even less when she started getting nosy and asking questions. alf knew Besty worked for the German payroll office in Tromsø and she was member of the nazi party. Alf got angry at her and called her a "tyskertøs", a common insult used about women who were involved with the Germans meaning "Germans' slut". Betsy left on the ferry.

    The next time Alf Jørgensen visited Tromsø to get more food for the agents he stayed over at the hotel. to his great shock a German officer was waiting in his hotel room. The officer told Alf he was going to SiPo headquarters for questioning. SiPo had two departments, Gestapo was a part of SiPo. Alf had gathered some inteligence on his trip, and he carried maps and notes he had to get rid of. He asked to go the toilet and threw it in WC. The Gestapo started questioning him about any radio transmitter on Arnøy. He denied any knowledge, and the Gestapo reacted in typical fashion. They beat and kicked him until he lost conciousness. he woke up in the hospital, with a broken arm and his internal organs injured. The torture continued for six days. Alf was only human and finally broke down. he said he had heard about a radio transmitter. The Gestapo stopped the torture stopped immediately. He knew he had to warn his family. He got hold of a pencil and paper and wrote: "Good people. I know I'll be taken to Arnøy tomorrow to show the Germans the way to the cave. I don't know how the Germans got word of a radio transmitter on the island. I've quarreled with Betsy Nyvoll and we parted on bad terms. The people in the village has behaved strangely towards me".


    SiPo headquarters in Tromsø. This was where Karl "kalle" Rasmussen lost his life in this story: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/51043/real-stories-from-the-world-of-espionage-and-special-operations/p12


    The interrogation rooms were in the cellar.


    As predicted Alf Jørgensen wassent in chains to Arnøy the next day. There he was told to lead the Gestapo to his house. He was chained to the wall of the basement of the barn where his family soon were forced to join him. His wife Petra was sobbing. His family were beaten too and the family were kept in the basement all night. The next day Alf was ordered to show the way to the cave. He feared for his family and regretted putting them in this situation. He started leading the Germans up into the mountains. The terrain was difficult and Alf was injured , so the soldiers had to help him a lot. This exhausted the soldiers and at one point they decided to stop and rest. Alf asked to climb up on a large rock to get a better view. He had feigned being in worse shape than he was, and he started running. The soldiers shot at him, but he manged to hide because of his local knowledge and a heavy fog. Then he realized he was hit in the thigh. The German soldiers were getting closer, so Alf jumped into the sea below. He stayed in the water for six hours until the Germans left. Shaking from th cold, with a broken arm and injured abdomen he got back on land. he dragged himself towards the village. There he saw two German ships off the island and the village was crawlign with German soldiers. It was nightime now, so he managed to find a rowing boat. At 2 AM he had to stop rowing, so he found the house of a relative who lived far from the village. The relative immediately understood the situation and started helping Alf. He was given food and he got warm again, but he couldn't stay in the house. With a duvet under his arm he was helped to a scree away from the house where he could hide.

    Alf Jørgensen was exhausted and fell asleep. He was able to rest and recover for eight days. Together with his friend he started plotting his escape to Sweden. Alf was given a boat, some butter and fishing equipment. Then she started rowing with a broken arm. It took him two days of painful rowing, but he managed to get to the mainland where help was waiting for him. soldiers were searching for him ther too, but his contact knew a smugler. He was put on a lorry towards Sweden. Near the border he had to get off the lorry and walk across the border. He hoped to find some Sami people who could help him, but he saw no-one. His lonely walk gave him plenty of time to think, and Alf came to the conclusion that it must've been his niece Betsy who had informed on them.

    A large German unit comes to Arnøy on the 27th of August. By that time Aspås had entered in a relationship with a local woman named Jørghild Lovise Jørgensen. She was caught by the Germans and beaten and threathrened to guide them to the cave. As they get near the cave she breaks free and runs to the cave under enemy fire. Jørgine must have knows there was just one end for her now. She had chosen to die with her lover. The enemy force is much larger and there is only one entrance to the cave. This means the cave was well suited for defence, but also pretty much imposible to break out of. The three fight bravely, but after a while the Germans used flamethrowers and kill them.

    After the fighting a letter is found deeper in the cave. Jørgine wrote in during a lul in the fighting. She wrote: "if any Norwegians read this, please deliver this message. We are in a terrible situation, but we are ready to meet them. We know death is waiting and will come any moment. We have kneeled and prayed the Allmighty Father for help. We all hope jesus will forgive us and give us everlasting life. We wil do anything for out country. Everything for Norway! (The slogan of the king). Oh, how I think of the four small ones (Did she have children from an earleir marriage or was she an aunt?) at home! My tears wet the paper so I can barely write. may God safeguard everyone at home. Greetings from the tree of us. Jørghild Rotvåg."




    Later eight local civilians were executed and many more were sent to prison camps.


    The local victims of the German reprisals are buried in 1945.


  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,864MI6 Agent

    Two podcasts I've just discovered. I haven't even started listening yet. But they sound very exciting:

    The spy who : https://podtail.com/podcast/the-spy-who/


    True spies: https://spyscape.com/show/true-spies


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