Max Manus 
-An Extraordinary Man
By Bob Pearson

Along with his great friend, Gregers Gram (N9), Manus was a very prickly thorn in the side of the Germans tormenting them with regular exploits of marine sabotage. The Germans were desperate; the sheer audacity of the man had them ranting and raging in the German HQ in Oslo, but despite some close calls they were never able to run down their quarry: Manus always had the edge on them. Known as N12 to the Norwegian Special Operations Executive (SOE) in the UK, but also by the cover names of Torleif Halvorsen, Torlief Hauge, Kristian Rustad, Kaare Rasmussen, Hans Engebretsen, Kjell Bugge and Knut Sorlie, Manus was certainly a man of many identities. As a result of the interest in Max Manus I have written this article in the hope that it will spark debate about Max Manus and also some of the other resistance men/women who worked with him.

        Max Manus was born on the 19th December 1914 in Bergen to Danish mother, Gerda (nee Kjørup) and Norwegian father, Juan. Max was the first son, the couple having had three daughters already; Carmen Wetsold, Ann Marie & Bente Lydia. The family moved to Copenhagen when Max was only 4 months old and they settled in Jagtveien; his father having taken over the Spanish-Danish Wine Company in the capital. 
        From 1921 to 1924 he went to St Knud’s School, but in 1924 his parents divorced and Max returned to Bergen with his father and his sister Ann Marie. 
       Max attended the Nordstrand Folk School in Bergen from 1924 and then at the Jarn Folk School until 1928 when his father decided to travel to Cuba to take over the agency of Kongsberg Harpoon with selling rights in Cuba and Mexico, but disaster struck the family as Manus senior was refused permission to sell because President Machado was concerned that the weapons would fall into the hands of the rebellion that were protesting at that time. Manus’ father and sister returned to Norway, but it was here that Max had his first taste of work as he became a ship chandler for his uncle’s business in Havana, but then later going to sea for a few months travelling on the SS Harboe Jensen, which belonged to the United States Fruit Company. He signed off in Philadelphia where he stayed around a week and then returned to Havana on the SS Jakob Kristianssen. This was followed by trip to sea on the M/V Belle Mona which belonged to Christian Smith of Oslo. 

       Later, having tired of sailing Manus returned to Oslo in 1930, but only stayed for a month before heading off to Copenhagen where he took up a job as a lard salesman, again working for another uncle who owned an animal fat business. But Manus soon grew weary of Danes and Danish life and again returned to Oslo to work with his father from 1931 to 1934, as a wholesale fruit dealer, but he also imported flowers from France, Holland and Italy as a sideline. But this wasn’t enough for Manus and he found it difficult to settle. It was around this time that he served for 3 & 1/2 months in the Norwegian army with IR1 in Fredrikstad.

        Manus did not settle on a military career but instead set up a glasshouse business with his friend Jens Nilsen. This was not a successful venture and after a row with his then fiancé in March 1936 he left Norway again taking up an offer of a farmer friend to work for him in South America. Manus sailed out on the M/V Geisha. The job lasted only a month before Manus moved on to a larger and more lucrative farm, owned, interestingly, by a Dane, Mr. Krarup. This post lasted for 8 months before he took a post with the Chilean Electricity Company at Laguna Verda whereupon he struck up a friendship with a German called Verner, a diesel motor engineer.
          Manus’s wander lust was still much in evidence and a year later left the company to travel to Buenos Aries with Verner. The journey was an exciting one, though as they travelled by rail, boat and then hiked through the jungle for two days until they reached the city. Attempts to get a job failed so Manus decided to try his luck in Veneuela with the Standard Oil Company, but without success. Disaster then struck Manus just after he left Buenos Aries he became seriously ill with a tropical disease and was strongly advised by the doctor to return to Europe. Manus was hospitalised for 2 months and once recovered he returned to Norway on the M/T Beau during March 1938.
          Manus’ father was now living near Oslo and Manus once again began importing flowers, rose trees, and bulbs from Holland, France & Italy. The office was in Karl Johangst No 8 whilst the warehouse was at Dronningsgt No. 20. Business was good and carried on right until the invasion during April 1940.

Manus’ thirst for adventure continued and in January 1940 he volunteered to fight in Finland as a Sergeant. Like the other volunteers he fought hard for about for 3 months, but the odds were nigh on impossible and with the dramatic news of the German invasion of Norway he decided to return home on the 9th April. Manus obtained a permit to leave Finland to answer his country’s call to arms and on the 12th managed to return safely and in the process helped form a small armed company of 130 men. 
         The men saw active service in Kongsvinger and Brumundal specialising in guerilla warfare against the invaders, but like the war in Finland the odds were just too great. For Manus, though, this type of warfare was to become the norm.
          Around the 15th of April the company laid down their arms, disbanded with the men returning to their respective homes. Manus, meanwhile, made his way to Oslo and joined his father at his home. It was a very dispiriting time for him and the majority of Norwegians, but his mind soon turned to matters of resistance and it didn’t take him long to meet up with like-minded people to try to do something about their frustrations. 

            Manus was not a man who liked to sit around, moan and do nothing and the Norwegians he mixed with were of a similar ilk. Manus began collecting weapons from around the area and from this he managed to make contact with a friend of his, a man called Petersen who worked for Skau & Company as a gunsmith. Petersen was well connected and soon he was recommending Manus to make contact with a certain Fridjof Tidemand-Johanssen. The two met and immediately agreed to work together. Tidemand-Johanssen was already a member of a resistance organisation that had been set up by Major Helseth: Milorg was growing in numbers and saw Manus as a useful addition to their work. 
(NB. The group was known as the ‘R Organisation’, but in the UK it was more commonly called the ‘Rognes Organisation’. At the National Archives in London there is an SOE file of the same name.)

          Manus spent all his time working for the organisation collecting weapons and acting as a correspondent collecting articles for the free, but illegal, newspapers. His work was much appreciated and soon he was in contact with Finn Juel, Captain Johan Ingebrigt Rognes (a fellow pioneer of Milorg and later liaison officer between Norwegian SOE and FOIV), Kolbein Lauring, Reinholt Eriksson and Per Jakobssen, whom at that time was engaged in secret transmitter work.
          One of Manus’ jobs was to ensure that the organisations’s documents and papers were kept safe and secure. This meant a regular trek to a hut in the forest outside of Oslo. 
          During February 1941 Manus heard whispers that a Finn, named as Toivannen, who had previously worked for the resistance, was touting names around when he should have been a little more discreet. Major Helseth’s name had become familiar to many people in Oslo, but Rognes, whose work and actions with the resistance up to that period was unknown, was now being spoken about and it was Toivannen who was talking loudly about Rognes (NB. Manus later stated to the British authorities that Toivannen was some sort of international spy who was prepared to work for the most munificent paymaster and his moral values were not of the uppermost concerns). 
         On the 16th of February, Manus returned to Oslo after his duties at the hut and started to prepare a report for Rognes about the discreetness of Toivannen, or rather lack of it, but Manus was also acutely aware of his own security and wisely didn’t write down any names. Around 21:30 that night Manus returned to his house in Viedarsgt No.4. Suspecting nothing he entered his locked room, but was immediately jumped by 6 men, four of whom he later stated were Norwegian and the other two as Gestapo agents. Manus was quickly overpowered by the men, searched and the document he had previously written for Rognes, along with some papers for the newspaper, ‘Vi Vil Os Et Land,’ recovered. Manus knew the game was over, but now became frightened as he was well aware that he knew too much about the ‘Rognes Organisation’ and that the Gestapo methods of extracting information would be brutal. Manus had to think fast and drew his captor’s attention to some sporting trophies in the room and whilst their attention was taken momentarily Manus ran and dived head first through the window, much to the shock and dismay of his captors. However, his apartment was on the second floor and the drop to the ground was too much for anyone to take and he crashed on to the concrete floor unconscious. He knew nothing except darkness until he came round in Ullevol Hospital.
          Manus was taken into the X-Ray room and whilst in there with no Gestapo or Norwegian present, and at great risk, he confided in the doctor and urged him to help him escape or poison him by injection. 
The doctor refused to do either, but said that if Manus gave him a name he would try to make contact with the resistance. At huge risk to the resistance Manus gave the names of Lauring and Eriksson to the doctor. But Manus was no fool and he purposely did not mention Rognes as he knew the other two were known to the Gestapo. The doctor, though, couldn’t promise Manus anything, except to try and make contact with the names he gave.

       The x-rays revealed that Manus had suffered spinal injuries, a broken shoulder and concussion and consequently he was placed in a private room, but guarded continuously by two Norwegian policemen. However, Manus complained that the policemen were disturbing him and so they moved outside the room. Manus then took another risk by asking his nurse, Astrid Olsen, if she would contact Per Jakobssen and pass on a secret message. Nurse Olsen, taking pity on Manus and feeling the need to do something positive duly obliged and a few days later Jakobssen replied via the nurse. Manus now knew that help was close at hand and that some sort of bid to escape would happen soon. 
        A few days later an un-named doctor smuggled a note to Manus that instructed him on how to deal with the Gestapo interrogation if and when they started their interrogations. Up to that point the senior doctor at the hospital had not allowed the Gestapo access to their patient on the grounds that Manus was not in a fit state of health to be interviewed. Such actions from the doctors and nurse were brave and almost certainly saved the life of Manus and thwarted the Gestapo in their attempts to extract information from Manus about the resistance. Their contribution to the resistance by the hospital staff was immeasurable, but would be felt over many times in the future, especially by the Germans.

         Manus realised that time was of the essence and that escape was crucial to his and the organisations’s survival so he began plotting his escape. Manus recruited Nurse Olsen to act as the go-between with him and Per Jakobssen and soon a plan was in place. A fishing line was smuggled in to the hospital and passed to Manus with the idea that at the right time it could be lowered from a window and then tied to a stronger rope which could then be hauled back in. 
         On the night of the 13th March 1941 that is exactly what happened. Manus tied the rope to a blackout frame, climbed out of the window and with immense bravery and strength shimmied down the rope using his one good arm and hand. The pain radiating from his broken shoulder and damaged back must have been considerable as he escaped down the rope, but he endured the pain knowing that freedom was just metres away.

Considerately, Manus ensured that no reprisals would be taken against the nurse and so he arranged with a doctor for the nurse to receive some painful facial injections that would cause her face to swell and discolour to make it look as if Manus had beaten the nurse with his fists in his quest to escape.

          The plan worked well and upon reaching the ground he was quickly bundled into a waiting car by his friends and driven away. A short time later Manus reached Røa, but even here Manus’ ordeal was far from over. Slipping on some skis he then spent the next 6 hours skiing his way to a small, remote hut where he spent the next 10 days recovering with the luxury of a gramophone and just one record, ‘The Greatest Mistake of my Life’! 
          Whilst at the hut his friends took the opportunity to bleach Manus’ hair and to alter the shape of his eyebrows – every opportunity was being taken to stop the Germans, and those Norwegians in league with them, in recognising this wanted man.

       Ten days later, one of Manus’ friends, Andreas Aubert, came up to the hut to collect and escort him to the safety of Sweden. The pair set off eventually crossing the border at Flisa close to where they were both arrested by the Swedish Police. 
        The Police seemed to be well aware of Manus and he had the impression that the resistance had had some contact with the Superintendent of Police. Manus was taken to Stockholm and allowed to report to the Norwegian Legation. This was an important move as proceedings were taking place to recruit Manus to SOE; his initial contact being Major Malcolm Munthe (Red Horse fame) of the British Legation.
         Manus’ time in Stockholm was short-lived, though as the Police called on him to say that the Germans had requested that he be repatriated to Norway for a trial. The Germans had created the impression to the Police that Manus was a gangster and that everyone’s best interest would be served if Manus was handed over to the Germans. The Police, though, were sympathetic to Manus and graciously permitted him time to make his own arrangements to leave Sweden. 
         Visas were hastily arranged to travel to the UK via Russia, but these were slow in being administered and so to avoid any conflict with the Swedish Police Manus was sent to Finland on the 17th of May. But he didn’t have to wait long, though, as his visas to travel were issued and consequently he made his way from Finland to Leningrad in Russia: Manus now began on a long journey to the UK via Turkey, Egypt, Cape Town, Trinidad and Halifax: a short stop-over in Canada enabled Manus to take advantage of a small arms training course before he eventually arrived in the UK on the ship ‘Brant County’.

End of part one.


          After being vetted at the Royal Victoria Patriotic School (known as ‘Sing-Sing’) in London, Manus was considered very quickly for special duties: Munthe had informed his superiors of Manus and London realised that they now had an absolute gem amongst their SOE men and Manus’ actions in Norway later on would confirm their beliefs in him.
          Trained in the UK initially at Special Training School 3 (STS 3 Stodham Park, Hampshire) Manus was highly recommended to become an agent. However, early in 1942 there was alarm from the British security service as Manus had earlier stated, whilst at the Patriotic School, that he had been in communication with a medical student called Ramstad. This man was apparently associated with the illegal newspaper, ‘Vi Vill Oss Et Land’. Anxious checks quickly took place to ensure that Manus had not been talking to a known German agent, Lyden Ramstad who was living at 103 Dramænsveien, in Oslo. Fortunately, Manus had chosen his contacts carefully and his contact was loyal and genuine and not a spy for the Germans!

          Manus quickly settled into his life as an SOE man and the following reports from Manus’ instructors gives us an insight as to the make-up of the man and how he coped with the demands of ‘Special Duties’ training:
The first report is from Sergeant (Sgt) Monsen – STS 24 (Inverie House & Glaschoille in Malliag, Scotland)

“This officer is as open as a book and cannot conceal his feelings. He is very much in love with a wealthy London widow, and she has more or less become an obsession. This man had a very trying experience in Norway. Apparently, he had been doing a lot of useful undercover sabotage and was eventually cornered by the Gestapo, and he escaped by jumping out of a second story window, probably this is the reason he has somewhat nervous spells. He is very keen and enthusiastic in everything he does. He speaks good English and Spanish”.

A further report was issued in February 42:

“As full of life and good spirits as ever, this officer simply doesn’t give a damn if it snows. He received a letter from his “wealthy widow” yesterday and was so pleased he showed it to everyone. He is very interested in everything that goes on, particularly in demolition. I am not too sure regarding his security, but will report on his reactions to the security lecture I am giving this week-end’.

The lady that so much filled Manus’ thoughts was a certain Mrs Olive Watchman of Flat B 11 Craven Hill, Paddington, London. The security services checked out Mrs Watchman and issued the following statement – 

“Mrs W is a shrewd business woman who might be without scruples in some things but is not likely to engage in any matter contrary to the security of this country” – D/CE – Security Section.

“Good type of officer, works hard, tough & energetic [and] plenty of command. Popular with all members of the party & would get a good following. Weapon training is his specialty. A leader.”

        The reports continued and Manus was assessed by a variety of officers and men, although as can be seen not all the reports were favourable to the great man.
At Meoble Lodge, in Scotland (STS 23) it was reported that Manus 
‘was a very enthusiastic and impetuous man, not always thorough enough. He shows great spirit and ingenuity in extricating himself from the tight corners in which his rashness leads him. 
        Rather inclined to rush things, but is full of “guts”. [He is] most popular with everyone. [Manus is] full of ideas and goes to trouble of expounding them in practice. Would get a good following’

        A rather mixed bag of comments came from his observing officer at STS 51 in March 1942 (Parachute school at Dunham House & Fulshaw Hall in Manchester). The officer is not named, but clearly Manus did not impress him.

“Worked hard and was fairly keen. Poor type of officer. No control over his men and generally was the leader in all horse-play. Jumped fairly well with no nerves. Missed his door drop owing to bad weather. Made three descents.”

       At STS 33 (Finishing School – The House on the Shore – Beaulieu) the observing officer took a different, if elitist view:

“Very alert and intelligent although handicapped by a certain lack of education. He has the confidence born or experience and is clearly very resourceful. He should make an excellent leader among men of his own kind. Captain Dehn reports very well of him and considers that his outlook, intelligence and previous experience qualify him very highly for Captain Hackett’s school for which he strongly recommends him.”

       Consequently, the report from Captain Hackett at STS 26 (Propaganda training at Aviemore, Scotland) states: 
“showed great common sense and worked very hard with enthusiasm and interest. In practical matters has reached a good average. Background is not such as to make it reasonable to expect him to be good at the planning and creation of propaganda. In relation to background his work was very good. [He] would make a good organiser, provided the team under him included a good writer and planner.”

        It didn’t take the British and Norwegian authorities long to make a decision on Manus and soon he was back in Norway on a designated operation with his good friend, Gregers Gram. The following is a report given after the operation

‘Military Cross awarded for his work on Operation Mardonius – It was Manus’ idea to sabotage shipping in Oslo Harbour using specially constructed charges placed on the sides of ships from canoes. 
         On 12th March 1943 Manus and Gregers Gram parachuted in to Norway, but almost immediately disaster struck as Manus was struck down by a bout of pneumonia, which nearly killed him. Difficulties also arose in getting loyal Norwegians to assist with the attack despite Gram making hazardous trips into Oslo to recruit. However, Manus recovered and on 28th April Manus and Gram pressed home their attack resulting in the sinking of two ships and a third damaged. 
         The conditions were not favourable as it was a light night and the canoes gave off very distinctive phosphorescence which would have indicated to any alert guard that a craft of some description was in the area. To compound matters extremely bright dockyard lights flooded the harbour making any seaborne attack very difficult. However, notwithstanding all these problems Manus and Gram carried out their operation successfully and returned to the UK with valuable information.’

         The report is typically understated and does not reflect the extreme lengths and difficulties that Manus, Gram and the other volunteers, Sigurd Jacobsen, Halvor Haddeland and Einar Riis-Johansen went through. It is fair to conclude, though, that the awards were very well deserved and hard earned.
          From a British perspective there was a difference of opinion as to the award of the MC to Gregers Gram. Although he was a corporal, on this particular operation he was promoted temporarily to Fenrik. However, because he was not fully commissioned and because the rank was relinquished upon his return to the UK the award of Military Medal was deemed appropriate.
           The recommendation for the awards to Max Manus and Gregers Gram all came from the Colonel in charge of Norwegian Section SOE – John Skinner Wilson.
For the Distinguished Service Order the following, more explicit, report was made:

‘Manus planned and carried out the operation which saw the sinking of the ship ‘Donau’ approx 9,000tons and the damaging of the ‘Rolandseck’ of approx 2000 tons. 
            It was not a straight forward operation as the limpet mines, the rubber boat and other equipment had to be concealed first on a wharf in Oslo harbour that was used for the embarkation of German troops. This in itself was a hazardous operation, but the shear audacity of Manus’ methods saw him through. 
          Brazen use was made of a well of a lift which led from the deck of the wharf to the lower platform whereby the equipment could be stowed. To get through the guard entrance at the dock a decoy vehicle was used with the occupant creating a nuisance of himself with the guards. 
The second vehicle, with Manus and packed with all the equipment was then waved through…the ruse had worked. But to Manus’ chagrin the wharf was full of Germans. However, fortune favours the brave and with great daring, and in full view of the Germans, the equipment was unloaded close to the lift. The car was then driven out of the dock. 
          Later, when the wharf was clear of Germans, the equipment was stowed away in the lift and taken down to the lower section. Manus was aided by two loyal Norwegian workers.

         The plan was to attack a large, heavy transport ship, but Manus had to wait some days until a suitable target presented itself. On the 15th January the ‘Donau’ arrived from Aarhus and Manus made the decision to attack her (NB. The ‘Donau’ had previously been used to transport Jews from Norway to Germany whereby many of them were taken to Auschwitz where their lives were sadly and cruelly taken).

         Early next morning, Manus, with a helper met with his dock contact, but the man was not at all optimistic. The water surrounding the wharf was full of floating ice, a German soldier had recently fallen in and a search was in progress and finally a number of horses had been tied off to the door entrance which led to the lift. Manus decided to carry on.
Manus and his companion, Roy Nielsen dressed in full British battle-dress with over 100 metres of cordtex tied around their waists, but all concealed under boiler suits, approached the dock guard and proceeded to take part in a comic sketch to aid them through the gate…
         Nielsen ‘slipped’ on the icy ground, much to the amusement of the guard…it worked, though, and they were through, despite a cursory inspection of their papers. 
Once again the sheer audacity and bravery of the Norwegians had come to the fore. However, the atmosphere was still tense as the guards that were posted on the wharf to protect the ‘Donau’ regularly aimed their rifles and shot in to the water at anything that was suspicious. 

        Fortunately, the horses had been embarked and the door was clear to enter. The lift was positioned so that the two men could slip underneath it. Looking through a small chink they could see Germans approaching, but all the Germans wanted to do was to get out off the wind. There was at least 8 degrees of frost and it was exceptionally cold in the biting wind. After a while the Germans moved on and Manus’ contact on the docks carefully locked the door.
        A rope ladder was let down amongst the wharf timbers but soon the rungs were full of ice: the rubber dingy was also lowered and blown up to the covering tune of a German sergeant drilling an unfortunate squad. 
        Eleven limpet mines were care fully loaded in to the dingy along with two Sten guns, ammunition and grenades in case they had to fight their way out of any trouble. The two men removed their boiler suits and stepped into the dingy in preparation to pushing off. However, a German patrol boat pulled up alongside the wharf and began a searching amongst the timbers. 
Manus and Nielsen laid low in their boat daring not to breathe, but the Germans were not the most observant and soon left. After a suitable period waiting for the all clear the intrepid duo pushed off. 

        The going was tough as they inched their way forward through the ice using oars and an axe. Navigating carefully alongside the ‘Donau’ they placed their limpets aft of the engine room. With all the limpet mines in place they made their way back to the wharf, but then noticed the ‘Rolandseck’ arriving on the other side of the wharf. 
Manus knew this was too good an opportunity to miss. Despite both men being soaked through and very cold, they fetched the one remaining limpet from their improvised store. The German patrol boat returned once again, but as before it failed to spot the armed Norwegians and once it had moved off the duo paddled their way alongside the ‘Rolandseck’ and planted their limpet on its side. 
         During this operation the ‘Donau’ left its mooring moving into open water with two tugs attending alongside. This meant that light now streamed under the wharf making it even more hazardous for the men as they returned, but to their relief nothing untoward happened and they made it safely back to their timbered shelter. 
The dingy was disposed off by knifing and the men once more donned their boiler suits. Suddenly, the sound heavy steps approached the door way and then men stood ready with their Sten guns cocked for action, but to their immense relief it was their contact who had come to open the door. The men stepped out on to the wharf and made their way past the guard at the dock entrance who again laughed at Nielsen’s unfortunate earlier ‘accident’. Manus and Nielsen stepped aboard a tram and made their way home.

           At 22:00hrs the ‘Donau’ was in the sound just off Drøbak having just dropped off her pilot. The Captain had just increased speed when the explosion occurred. The Captain attempted to beach the ship and ran her ashore at full speed with crew jumping off in all directions. Despite the beaching the ship settled at the stern and sunk in 25 metre of water’.

          The report does not state how many of the 1500 Alpine troops were lost, but some unconfirmed reports stated that 300 horses were almost certainly lost as well as a substantial amount of motorised transport. German Command in Oslo was immediately informed and steps were taken to ensure that ‘Rolandseck’ was checked for mines. She was taken off the wharf and her sides scraped, but the Germans were not thorough and at 02:00hrs on the 17th the limpet exploded. 
Emergency pumps were already in place on the ship and their task to keep the ship afloat began in earnest with the result that all the troops and their equipment was saved.
          Manus and Nielsen’s operation had been a success. The men had displayed immense bravery, cunning and patience as well as a grim determination to see the operation through.

          It wasn’t all success for Manus, though. He made several attempts on enemy shipping without success and on at least one occasion was shot at by alert sentries. But although Manus’ greatest successes were on the water he also worked closely with the ‘Oslo Gang’ led by the redoubtable Gunnar Sønsteby taking part in actions against the labour records as well as ‘removing’ a Gestapo official who was being transferred to Denmark. 
          He also assisted with the attacks on German aircraft under repair at the Oslo Tramway depot as well as on the Norsk Vacuum Oil Storage depot at Sørenga. 
In this raid Manus was suffering from a recent bullet wound which had entered his knee and passed out through his thigh and then lodged against his breastbone. However, despite the severe discomfort he drove the incendiary packed lorry into the oil depot as ordered. For this action he was highly praised for his courage, particularly as he had to avoid a German military patrol just prior to the action.
Max Manus as Crownprince Olav's life guard during the King and Crownprinces return to Norway after the war. If a grenade was thrown, Max had orders to jump at it, taking the blow. He later recalled this mission as quite exciting. (Red) 

          For many Gunnar Sønsteby is seen as the archetypal Norwegian resistance fighter, but Max Manus can be considered as one of the most resourceful men that fought for the freedom of Norway; his exploits against enemy shipping in Oslo Fjord demonstrated bravery, grim determination and stamina of immeasurable proportions and those exploits and qualities have never been surpassed and hopefully never will be.
Operational Missions: – Mardonius, Bundle & Derby
Awarded Norwegian War Cross with swords, Military Cross (MC) and bar and Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

Sources: National Archives – London. Ref: HS9/986/2:
‘SOE in Scandinavia’ by Charles Cruickshank (OUP 1986):
Inside SOE’ by E H Cookridge (Barker 1966)
‘Underwater Saboteur’ by Max Manus (Kimber 1954) 
© Bob Pearson 2008


The opening of the Max Manus file came about after I heard that there was a film being made about him in Norway. I enquired at the National Archives in London (previously known as the Public Records Office, Kew) to see if the film company had managed to obtain the release of Manus' file and therefore open to the public domain. This was not the case and proof was need for the file to be considered for release.

I should explain that there are of course millions of files kept at the NA, but to access them there are certain rules governing their release. Many files are released after 30 years, but others have a much larger time embargo placed on them and cannot be opened until that time has passed. Personal files - in the case of SOE personnel they are called HS9 - cannot be opened unless the individual concerned has passed away...and then absolute proof is required of this. This usually means a death certificate with authenticity (official stamp).

Through a very good Norwegian friend and trusted source I was able to evetually produce a copy of the certifcate to the National Archives. This was considered by the NA who then in turn released the file into the public domain. I hasten to add that all rules, Norwegian and British were followed implicitly to the letter.

My interest in Max Manus was two fold. I have read his stories, but they were all about his time in Norway. And as interesting and fascinating as they were I wanted to know more about his time in the UK. This was coupled with the fact that Max Manus was also closely associated with Kaptein Johan (John) Ingebrigt Rognes (later Major). Rognes had his own resistance organisation in Norway and known as the 'R' Organisation or to the British, 'The Rognes Organisation'. When the file was opened I was not to be disappointed. Both Manus' time in Britain was mentioned as was his link with Rognes. This information allowed me to time track John Rognes. I should point out that Rognes was later with FOIV in the UK (Feb 1941 onwards) and became liasion officer to Norwegian SOE. He was also known as 'Kapteinen på Shetlands' (Captain of the Shetlands). At various times he went back to Norway.

Once I had seen the Manus file, I decided to digitally photograph it. A copy of the file was sent to the Hjemmefrontmuseum, Oslo and to Max Manus' wife as a matter of courtesy.
I am now in the process of copying the file again and will post this to Kurt as soon as I can so that it can be placed on NUAV for all to see. (RED: To control the bandwith going out from our server, you can contact the webmaster to get the file! )

I would like to add that my primary interest is establishing the known whereabouts of John Rognes from his particpation in the Battle of Midtskogen until his arrival in the UK in Feb 1941. It is my belief he was initially recruited to Britain by Major Malcom Munthe of the legation in Sweden. I would be interested to hear from anyone with information on Rognes, particularly if he was in the areas of Lillehammer, Åndalsnes, Molde and Tromsø between April 19th until June 7th 1940.

Bob Pearson

Norge under andre verdenskrig

-Din bokhandel på nettet!


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