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Heroes of Telemark-the Bedfordshire Connection

The story of the Heroes of Telemark is well known; the daring mission by British Special Forces and members of the Norwegian Resistance to disable the Nazi atomic-bomb program. The ambitious plan was to sabotage and take out of action the Norsk Hydro facility at Vemork in the Telemark region of Norway. Under Nazi command the hydro-electric plant was producing ‘heavy water’, which coulkd be used to create tritium, a principal source of energy release in nuclear weapons

Whilst unsure of how advanced Nazi nuclear weapon’s development was, the Allies realised how important it was that they be stopped at all cost.

The story is well documented and was made into a feature film in 1965 starring Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris and Michael Redgrave, but what many will not realise is the number of hidden threads that connect this, one of the most spectacular acts of sabotage of World War II, with Bedfordshire

Einar Skinnarland was an engineer who had worked on the construction of the Norsk Hydro plant; during the war he joined the Norwegian resistance operating as an agent for the British within his occupied homeland.

Skinnarland had been sending coded messages to British Intelligence via the listening station at Chicksands Priory; Bedfordshire’s Y station. The messages were being relayed for decoding to Bletchley Park also known as Station X. It may have been through lack of training that there was difficulty in interpreting Skinnarland’s messages but as "indecipherables" they were sent on to Leo Marks the master cryptographer, who provided the key to unlock the valuable message within.

Marks’ talents were first discovered in January 1942 in Bedford at the The English School of Cryptography, when he was called up to train as a cryptographer. The school was known locally as the ‘Spy School’. Marks was the only one of his intake not to be recruited to Bletchley Park; instead, having in an evening cracked a code intended as a group exercise to be spread across a week, he was labeled a misfit and dispatched to Baker Street, the headquarters of the Special Operations Executive. More

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