Joachim Rønneberg

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Joachim Holmboe Rønneberg
30860 Klingenberg kino Kampen om tungtvannet.jpg
Joachim Rønneberg (left), Jens Anton Poulsson and Kasper Idland receive King Haakon VII of Norway at the premiere of the film Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water in Oslo (1948)
Born(1919-08-30)30 August 1919
Ålesund, Norway
Died21 October 2018(2018-10-21) (aged 99)
Ålesund, Norway
Allegiance Norway
Service/branch Norwegian Army
Years of service19411945
Rank First Lieutenant
Unit Norwegian Independent Company 1
Liv Foldal(m. 1949)
RelationsAlf Rønneberg (father)
Anna Krag Sandberg (mother)
Erling Rønneberg (brother)
Anton Johan Rønneberg (great uncle)
Other work NRK broadcaster

Joachim Holmboe Rønneberg, DSO (30 August 1919 – 21 October 2018) was a Norwegian Army officer and broadcaster. He was known for his resistance work during World War II, most notably commanding Operation Gunnerside, and his post-war war information work.

Distinguished Service Order UK military decoration

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the Commonwealth, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat. Since 1993 all ranks have been eligible.

Norwegian Army army component of Norways defense forces

The Norwegian Army is an armed branch of the Kingdom of Norway. It currently operates in Northern Norway and in Afghanistan in Central Asia, as well as in Eastern Europe. The Army is the oldest of the Norwegian service branches, established as a modern military organization under the command of the King of Norway in 1628. The Army participated in various continental wars during the 17th, 18th and 19th century as well, both in Norway and abroad, especially in World War II (1939-1945). It constitutes part of the Norwegian military contribution as a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1949, as well as the European Union.

Officer (armed forces) member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority

An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority.


Personal life

Rønneberg was born in Ålesund, Møre og Romsdal, [1] as the second son of Alf Rønneberg from Ålesund and Anna Krag Sandberg, and a member of the Rønneberg family. He was the brother of Erling Rønneberg, [2] who was a well-known resistance member too, having received British commando training. [3] On the maternal side he was a nephew of Ole Rømer Aagaard Sandberg, and thus a grandnephew of Ole Rømer Aagaard Sandberg, Sr. [4] [5] On the paternal side he was a second great grandson of Carl Rønneberg, [4] and a grandnephew of politician Anton Johan Rønneberg, whose mother was a part of the Holmboe family hence Joachim's middle name.

Ålesund Municipality in Møre og Romsdal, Norway

Ålesund is a town and municipality in Møre og Romsdal County, Norway. It is part of the traditional district of Sunnmøre and the centre of the Ålesund Region. It is a sea port and is noted for its concentration of Art Nouveau architecture. The town of Ålesund is the administrative centre of Ålesund Municipality, as well as the principal shipping town of the Sunnmøre district.

Møre og Romsdal County (fylke) of Norway

Møre og RomsdalUrban East Norwegian: [²møːrə ɔ ˈrʊmsdɑːl](listen) is a county in the northernmost part of Western Norway. It borders the counties of Trøndelag, Oppland and Sogn og Fjordane. The county administration is located in the town of Molde, while Ålesund is the largest town. The county is governed by the Møre og Romsdal County Municipality which includes an elected county council and a county mayor. The national government is represented by the county governor.

Rønneberg is a Norwegian patrician family from Sunnmøre. It was the most prominent business family of Ålesund during the 19th and early 20th century, and its history is closely connected to the rise of Ålesund as a city. The Rønneberg Company, founded in 1812, was for a long time the city's largest company and employer.

On 19 September 1949, he married Liv Foldal, a crafts teacher born in 1925. [4] [6] He last lived in Ålesund [7] where a statue honouring him was unveiled by Princess Astrid at the end of August 2014. Rønneberg died on 21 October 2018. [8] [9]


Rønneberg reported for national service in 1938, being told to report for duty with the surveying department in 1940. [10]

National service is a system of either compulsory or voluntary government service, usually military service. Conscription is mandatory national service. The term national service comes from the United Kingdom's National Service Act 1939. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes. Compulsory military service typically requires all male citizens to enroll for one or two years, usually at age 18, while voluntary national service requires only three months of basic military training. The US equivalent is Selective Service. In the United States, voluntary enrollments at the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are also known as national service.

Surveying The technique, profession, and science of determining the positions of points and the distances and angles between them

Surveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional positions of points and the distances and angles between them. A land surveying professional is called a land surveyor. These points are usually on the surface of the Earth, and they are often used to establish maps and boundaries for ownership, locations, such as building corners or the surface location of subsurface features, or other purposes required by government or civil law, such as property sales.

World War II

World War II broke out when Rønneberg was a young adult, and Norway was occupied by Germany from April 1940. He joined Norwegian Independent Company 1 (NOR.I.C.1) (Norwegian : Kompani Linge) in 1941, [1] having escaped Norway with eight friends by boat to Scotland the same year. [10] [11] He received military training in the United Kingdom, [1] and held the rank of Second Lieutenant. [12]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Norwegian Independent Company 1 was a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) group formed in March 1941 originally for the purpose of performing commando raids during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. Organized under the leadership of Captain Martin Linge, it soon became a pool of talent for a variety of special operations in Norway.

Norwegian language North Germanic language spoken in Norway

Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway, where it is the official language. Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional varieties, and some Norwegian and Swedish dialects, in particular, are very close. These Scandinavian languages, together with Faroese and Icelandic as well as some extinct languages, constitute the North Germanic languages. Faroese and Icelandic are hardly mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them. While the two Germanic languages with the greatest numbers of speakers, English and German, have close similarities with Norwegian, neither is mutually intelligible with it. Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era.

Heavy water sabotage

The Vemork hydroelectric plant in 1935. The heavy water was produced in the front building (the Hydrogen Production Plant). Vemork Hydroelectric Plant 1935.jpg
The Vemork hydroelectric plant in 1935. The heavy water was produced in the front building (the Hydrogen Production Plant).

Rønneberg, now a First Lieutenant and put in charge of training, selected and led the six-man Operation Gunnerside team, reinforcing the five-man team Grouse sent in earlier, during the heavy water sabotage action. [11] After landing at a location 45 kilometres (28 mi) from the other team Gunnerside spent five days waiting out an intense blizzard in an uninhabited hunting cabin before meeting up with Grouse. [13] The combined Norwegian team went into action against the Norsk Hydro heavy water production plant in Vemork in 1943, parachuting into the Hardangervidda plateau on 16 February. [10] Rønneberg led the demolition team when the saboteurs, on the night of 27–28 February 1943, entered the Norsk Hydro plant and set explosive charges. The team then escaped from the factory as the explosives went off, without the German guards discovering the saboteurs or indeed noticing that there had been an attack on the plant, probably believing that the heavy snow had set off one of their own land mines. Rønneberg recalled the dawn as they escaped: "It was a mackerel sky, it was a marvellous sunrise. We sat there very tired, very happy. Nobody said anything. That was a very special moment." [11] Although chased by 2,800 German troops, [14] five of the saboteurs, led by Rønneberg, escaped safely to neutral Sweden by way of a 14-day march over a distance of 400 kilometres (250 mi) [15] after the successful completion of their mission. [16] The six other members of the sabotage team hid out in various locations in Norway without being caught by the Germans. [15] Eighteen heavy water cells and around 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) of heavy water were destroyed during the attack, [17] as well as a loss of production of 400 kilograms (880 lb) of heavy water. [14]

Norwegian heavy water sabotage battle

The Norwegian heavy water sabotage was a series of operations undertaken by Norwegian saboteurs during World War II to prevent the German nuclear weapon project from acquiring heavy water, which could have been used by the Germans to produce nuclear weapons. In 1934, at Vemork, Norway, Norsk Hydro built the first commercial plant capable of producing heavy water as a byproduct of fertilizer production. It had a capacity of 12 tonnes per year. During World War II, the Allies decided to remove the heavy water supply and destroy the heavy water plant in order to inhibit the German development of nuclear weapons. Raids were aimed at the 60 MW Vemork power station at the Rjukan waterfall in Telemark, Norway.

Norsk Hydro

Norsk Hydro ASA is a Norwegian aluminium and renewable energy company, headquartered in Oslo. It is one of the largest aluminium companies worldwide. It has operations in some 50 countries around the world and is active on all continents. The Norwegian state owns 34.3% of the company through the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. A further 6.5% is owned by Folketrygdfond, which administers the Government Pension Fund of Norway. Norsk Hydro employs approximately 35,000 people. Svein Richard Brandtzæg has been the CEO since 2009.

Heavy water is a form of water that contains a larger than normal amount of the hydrogen isotope deuterium, rather than the common hydrogen-1 isotope that makes up most of the hydrogen in normal water. The presence of deuterium gives the water different nuclear properties, and the increase of mass gives it slightly different physical and chemical properties when compared to normal water.

After the factory was reported to have been rebuilt in the summer of 1943 a new saboteur attack was planned, but eventually scrapped in favour of an air strike. On 16 November 1943 161 United States Army Air Forces B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers attacked the Vemork heavy water plant, and another 12 bombers the nitrogen plant at nearby Rjukan. The attack had not been cleared with the Norwegian government in exile in London and led to a diplomatic crisis between the Norwegian and other Allied governments. Of particular concern for the Norwegian government was the targeting of the Rjukan nitrogen plant, as it supposedly only produced products for Norwegian agriculture. [18] Twenty-one civilian lives were lost in the bombing raid. [14] Following the bombing raid the Germans decided to move the production to Germany, leading the British War Cabinet to order Norwegian saboteur Knut Haukelid to sink the Norwegian ferry SF Hydro carrying the containers of heavy water across Lake Tinn. The ferry was sunk with hidden explosives on 19 February 1944, going down with 15,000 litres (3,300 imp gal) of heavy water and killing 14 Norwegian civilians, ending the struggle for the Norwegian heavy water. [19]

The sabotage action against the Vemork plant was portrayed in the Franco-Norwegian 1948 film Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water , where Rønneberg was portrayed by Norwegian actor Claus Wiese. [20] In 1965 the less-than-accurate American film The Heroes of Telemark , starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris, was released by Columbia Pictures. [21] Rønneberg dismissed this film as a "hopeless" portrayal, when he told his memories in 2010 after many years of silence. [11]

Other World War II work

Rønneberg subsequently commanded other raids against the Germans, including the Fieldfare operation in Sunnmøre, [12] in preparation for attacks against German supply lines in the Romsdal valley. [22] In January 1945 Rønneberg had led a three-man unit of NOR.I.C.1 on a mission to destroy the Stuguflåt railway bridge, blowing up the bridge with a 130-kilogram (290 lb) charge of plastic explosives, putting it out of service for three weeks. The team then escaped without casualties. [23] His service with NOR.I.C.1 ended with the liberation of Norway in 1945. [1]

Honours and awards

In 1943, he was awarded Norways's highest decoration for military gallantry, the War Cross with sword. [24] For his war service Rønneberg also received St. Olav's Medal With Oak Branch, Defence Medal 1940–1945 and Haakon VIIs 70th Anniversary Medal. [25] In addition to his Norwegian decorations, he was also decorated by the British with the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), [26] by the Americans with the Medal of Freedom with silver palm and by the French with the Legion of Honour and Croix de Guerre. [25]

Post-war career

After the war he began a career in broadcasting. He was hired in NRK Ålesund in 1948, was promoted to programme secretary in 1954 and sub-editor in 1977. He retired in 1988. [1] In the 1970s, from 1971, Rønneberg was governor of Rotary International's 128th district. [27] He also participated in the rebuilding of Fieldfare Cabin in the valley Veltedalen in the summer of 1990, where he had hidden out the last year of the war with two other officers from NOR.I.C.1. Fieldfare Cabin today gives an image of Norwegian resistance during the war. [28] [29]

In his later years Rønneberg was involved in war information work, holding lectures for audiences around Norway. He said that he was particularly fond of holding talks for school children. Rønneberg was highly critical of the current situation for the Norwegian military, stating that its capacity for mobilisation was only 9% of the 1990 level. [10] In 1995, Rønneberg, together with fellow World War II resistance leader Gunnar Sønsteby and Norwegian businessman Erling Lorentzen, received the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce Achievement Award for "individuals whose outstanding personal accomplishments exemplify the spirit of commitment, perseverance and endeavor that sustains the strong relations between Norway and the United States of America". [30] Rønneberg was a member of the Linge Club, a Norwegian veterans' association, until it was disbanded on 17 October 2007. [31] In April 2013, Rønneberg was presented with a Union Jack during a ceremony at the Special Operations Executive (SOE) monument in London to mark 70 years since the successful Gunnerside mission. [32]


Related Research Articles

Vemork power plant in Norway

Vemork is the name of a hydroelectric power plant outside Rjukan in Tinn, Norway. The plant was built by Norsk Hydro and opened in 1911, its main purpose being to fix nitrogen for the production of fertilizer. At opening, it was the world's largest power plant with a capacity of 108 MW.

Knut Haukelid Norwegian resistance member

Knut Haukelid was a Norwegian resistance movement soldier during World War II, most notable for participating in the Norwegian heavy water sabotage.

Fieldfare Cabin

Fieldfare cabin (Fieldfarehytta) is a shelter built during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. It is situated in the Tafjordfjella mountains on the northern shore of the Lake Veltdalsvatnet in Sunnmøre, Norway.

Ole Rømer Aagaard Sandberg was a Norwegian farmer and politician for the Centre Party. He chaired the Norwegian Agrarian Association from 1951 to 1955 and was a member of Parliament from 1957 to 1965.

Events in the year 1943 in Norway.

Leif Tronstad Norwegian scientist and military officer

Leif Hans Larsen Tronstad DSO, OBE was a Norwegian scientist, intelligence officer and military organizer. He graduated from the Norwegian Institute of Technology in 1927 and was a prolific researcher and writer of academic publications. A professor of chemistry at the Norwegian Institute of Technology from 1936, he was also among the pioneers of heavy water research, and was instrumental when a heavy water plant was built at Vemork.

Erling Rønneberg was a Norwegian politician for the Labour Party.

Gregers Gram Norwegian resistance fighter

Gregers Winther Wulfsberg Gram MC MM was a Norwegian resistance fighter and saboteur. A corporal and later second lieutenant in the Norwegian Independent Company 1 during the Second World War, he was killed in 1944.

Fredrik Thorbjørn Kayser, was a Norwegian resistance member during World War II. He was especially noted for his role in the Norwegian heavy water sabotage, and has been referred to as "Western Norway's Gunnar Sønsteby".

Kasper Idland Norwegian resistance member

Kasper Idland MM, was a Norwegian resistance member during World War II. Idland took part in the Norwegian heavy water sabotage in 1943.

Jens-Anton Poulsson Norwegian resistance member

Jens-Anton Poulsson DSO, was a Norwegian military officer. During World War II he was a Norwegian resistance member, especially noted for his role in the heavy water sabotage 1942–1943. He continued his military career after the war, and was appointed colonel in 1968.

Oslogjengen was a sabotage group operating in Oslo from May 1944 to May 1945, during the last year of the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. The group had its basis in both the British Special Operations Executive and the Norwegian Milorg, was coordinated by Gunnar Sønsteby, and had around ten members. It was the dominant sabotage group in Oslo between May and September 1944, when they performed a series of successful sabotage operations.

Arne Kjelstrup Norwegian resistance member

Arne Kjelstrup, MM was a Norwegian resistance member during World War II, especially noted for his role in the heavy water sabotage 1942–1943, and for being military leader of Milorg section D-161 (Kongsberg/Numedal) during the anti-demolition operation Sunshine 1944–1945.

Carl Rønneberg was a Norwegian merchant, ship owner, and fish exporter.

Operation Mardonius

Operation Mardonius was a military operation directed against German ships in occupied Norway, planned and carried out in 1943 by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). The outcome of the operation was sinking of two ships in the harbour of Oslo, Ortelsburg of Hamburg and Tugela.

Jomar Brun MBE was a Norwegian chemical engineer. He was born in Trondheim. He graduated from the Norwegian Institute of Technology in 1926, and worked for Norsk Hydro from 1929. He was central in the planning and running of the world's first industrial heavy water plant at Norsk Hydro Rjukan. During World War II he was called to London, and contributed to the planning phase of Operation Freshman and Operation Gunnerside, the heavy water sabotage at Vemork. He was decorated with the Order of the British Empire, and Officer of the French Legion of Honour. From 1951 he was appointed professor of electrochemistry at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim.

Birger Edvin Martin Strømsheim, was a Norwegian resistance member during World War II, especially noted for his role in the heavy water sabotage 1942–1943.

Hans "Kyllingen" Storhaug, MM, DSM was a Norwegian resistance member during World War II, especially noted for his role in the heavy water sabotage 1942–1943, and for his participation in the SOE operation Grebe and Grebe Red in Østerdalen 1943–1945.


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