Did you know that Glenmore Forest Park played a key role in WWII? During the war Norwegian resistance fighters trained in the area as part of the top-secret SOE (Special Operations Executive), becoming known as Kompani Linge.
Top Secret Training
When Germany occupied Norway in 1940 many Norwegian resistance fighters escaped to Britain. Here they were trained as a special Norwegian unit of the secret SOE (Special Operations Executive), which was known as ‘Kompani Linge’, after one of their first commanders, Captain Martin Linge. They learned guerilla warfare and how to survive in harsh mountain areas. All this was to prepare them to carry out sabotage missions against the occupying Nazis at home in Norway.
A perfect training ground
The vast alpine landscape of the Cairngorms and surrounding forests offerered the ideal place to train the Norwegian volunteers to carry out operations in remote landscapes like the Hardangervidda plateau in Telemark, Norway. You can still find evidence of the bombing and sabotage training the Norwegian resistance fighters did in Glenmore Forest Park. Remnants of disused railway lines they practiced blowing up can still be seen near the shore of Loch Morlich, along with sparkles of glass in the sand from their explosive devices.
Stopping Hitler’s atomic ambitions
The Allies discovered that the Nazis were using the Vemork Hydro plant in the Telemark area of Norway to produce ‘heavy water,’ which was used in the process of creating nuclear energy. The Allies were rightly worried that they would lose the war if Hitler developed an atomic bomb before them, so a daring plan was hatched to sabotage the remote plant and stop the production of heavy water before it could create a bomb. A small group from the Kompani Linge unit was chosen to carry out the top-secret sabotage mission, known as Operation Gunnerside.
The real heroes of Telemark
On the freezing cold night of 27 February 1943, the men of Operation Gunnerside set off on their dangerous secret mission to attack the remote Vemork hydro plant. The plant could only be reached by a heavily guarded bridge across a deep ravine. The bridge was too risky, so the team scrambled down the steep rocky walls of the forbidding ravine, crossed the icy river and climbed up the opposite side. Once there, they broke into the factory and set off explosives deep in the heart of the heavy water production.
The saboteurs completed their mission, destroying over 500kg of heavy water, and fled Vemork before anyone knew what had happened. Incredibly, not one shot was fired. No one was injured and all the men escaped to safety. Although heavy water production did start up again, Operation Gunnerside had a huge impact in slowing Hitler’s progress and stopped the Nazis building an atomic bomb.
The resistance fighters of Kompani Linge carried out many sabotage missions during World War II, and the heroic story of the brave Kompani Linge soldiers who trained in Glenmore Forest Park has become the stuff of legend. Download our Kompani Linge leaflet to find out more.