1940 and Britain was struggling with the war against Germany. The U.S.A was still staying neutral and although the Commonwealth and other allies were fighting, the war was not going well.
- Damien Lewis
It could - if drastic measures were not taken - go even worse; Hitler was accelerating the program to build a nuclear weapon.
Even before the war had started, the notable German chemical company I.G. Farben had been making heavy water at a plant in Norway. This company - which also manufactured and supplied Zyklon B which was the gas used in the concentration death camps - was manufacturing large quantities of deuterium oxide, heavy water. This was an essential element in the making of an atomic bomb and, although heavy water in itself is perfectly useable in everyday life, the only rationale for making it was the bomb. This manufacturing facility in Norway was one of the prime reasons for the invasion of that counrty.
Winston Churchill - who had issued an edict to " set Europe ablaze " by use of the newly formed Commando units turned his attention to Norway and commanded the Special Operations Executive to make it a priority. The facility at Vermork was to be the subject of three operations with the intent of denying the Germans the use and supply of it's product.
Some of the story may be familiar from films such as 'The Heroes of Telemark' but even Hollywood at it's most inventive could hardly show the true facts, the sheer nerve and courage involved. This is essentially a story of Norwegian valour and dogged determination, not to mention sheer audacity.
Damien Lewis knows how to tell a good story and he tells this one very well. The characters come to life through his narrative and lead one to wonder at the inner fortitude these people had. Suffering from the cold, hunger, injuries and being hunted constantly by the enemy, they persevered despite all that opposed them, and we must also acknowledge the help that they recieved from their fellow countrymen who just by feeding or sheltering them, put their own lives and those of their families at great risk.
The title of the book does indeed give the sum of the story and yet these hunters, the SOE and the commando groups flesh out the narrative, the ordinary and everyday seeming locals show what love of your country and hatred of oppression can do to harden the spirit.
An excellent book about a subject that is not so well known as other areas of the war.