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History
THE TELEMARK HEROES
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1.30pm, Sunday 15 June 2003

Memorial to the casuatlies of the raid and Julian Pettifer who presents the programme.


Introduction
60 years on, Julian Pettifer tells the story of the extraordinary raid when ten young Norwegian resistance fighters trained by the SOE destroyed the German heavy water plant in Vemork, Norway and thwarted Hitler's plans for the atom bomb.

The Raid
One moonlit winter night in 1943, ten Norwegian commandos of Company Linge, trained and equipped in England, infiltrated the most heavily defended structure in occupied Europe. Their objective was to destroy the heavy water production facility in Vemork near Rjukan, which was critical to the Nazi atom bomb project.

Norsk Hydro was the only plant in the world capable of producing the quantities of heavy water sought by the Nazis - which explains the importance of this plant during WWII. A special team of Norwegians was put together in England to have a second attempt at destroying it in I943 in what would be called 'Operation Gunnerside'.

'I was sitting there, waiting, scared, thinking what to do if it went wrong. Then I heard the explosion. We were not even seen.' Claus Helberg, radio operator, "Operation Gunnerside"

After living under cover high on the Hardanger plateau for four months, living on moss and reindeer, the Norwegian team descended and then climbed the 'un-scaleable' gorge below Norsk Hydro; snuck into the facility, set and detonated their charges and escaped back onto the plateau without a single shot being fired.

In this programme, Julian Pettifer tracks down the surviving members of the 'Operation Gunnerside' team, follows the route of their remarkable actions, and hears why the men have become such folk heroes for Norwegians.

He also examines whether, with the benefit of hindsight, their British controllers were negligent in allowing civilian lives to be put at risk, and whether intelligence reports from Germany about the level of atom bomb development were actually ignored before the operation was given the go ahead.

The Telemark Heroes is a Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.
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