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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Helpful Heroes

Gunnar Sønsteby DSO, Norway's most highly decorated warrior, has just passed away. He helped me with one of my books. Here he is portrayed in central Oslo. I took this photo last winter.

Arne Pettersson, standing to the right, who was both in Finland and Norway during WWII, has also just passed away. He helped me with several of my books. Here he is in 1941 with his typical smile and his best friend, Onni Niskanen.

Norway has just lost its most highly decorated warrior, Gunnar Sønsteby DSO. Sweden too has just lost a special soldier, Arne Pettersson. I had the privilege of meeting both and they both will continue to inspire me.

I got to know Arne Pettersson thanks to my parents, who lived close to him. He was a very warm, social person but it took me several years to understand just how experienced he was, both as an officer and an athlete. Partly because he had experienced so much, partly because he was a humble man. In Finland he served as a volunteer platoon commander on the Hangö front. Back in Sweden he commanded a ranger platoon on the Norwegian border and on several occasions performed recon missions inside Norway, i.e. spying on the German troops in Norway that Gunnar Sønsteby fought against.

Gunnar Sønsteby I met only once, at the funeral of our common friend, the Swedish SOE operator Allan Mann. But he made a very strong impression on me and later he helped me over the phone. I wrote a chapter about his wartime outfit, the SOE Linge Company and its modern heirs, in my book Elitförband i Norden ("Nordic Elite Units", a book that is yet to be translated). Arne Pettersson also contributed to that book.

When I think about people that have motivated me and that I feel strongly about, I think about these men. Their generosity, not least towards me personally, I will never forget. Their personal courage are an example for generations to come.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Ghost Patrol

The first public presentation of the cover for "Ghost Patrol" is part of this short film.

I am currently writing three books - but thankfully I am writing two of them together with trusty friends, one of them being Karl-Gunnar Norén, who just two weeks ago returned from the above adventure in the Egyptian desert.

The subject matter of the book I am writing with Karl-Gunnar is the Long Range Desert Group, amazing pioneers not only in long range desert patrols but also in a bunch of other fields as well. Aside from the history of the unit we cover its postwar impact and not least the expedition some weeks ago that i.a. resulted in the discovery of a previously unknown LRDG vehicle still out there in the desert...

Many thanks to Jack Valenti of the LRDG Preservation Society for several valuable wartime images for the coming book, especially for the front cover photo and the portrait of Bill "Swede" Anderson, whom I corresponded with in the 1980s. Yes, of course the LRDG had a Swedish connection!

The book will be out in October/November and the title Spökpatrullen translates as "The Ghost Patrol". Hopefully, it later can be translated into English.

Thanks dad, for making the above Youtube film.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Narvik On My Mind

Swedish volunteer Jan Danielsen back in Narvik two years ago, with local reenactor John K. Johnsen. Jan wore the same uniform in 1940.

Today I am preparing for this Sunday's speech at the Defence Museum in Boden about Jan Danielsen, one of a dozen Swedish volunteers who fought at Narvik in Norwegian or French uniform.

All in all some 300 Swedes went over to Norway in 1940, all to join the Norwegian Army and none to fight for Germany. There would have been many more if the Swedish government had not suppressed this volunteer movement. There were hundreds, if not some thousands, in the SFK, the just disbanded Swedish Volunteer Corps for Finland that Jan had also been in, that were eager to also fight for Norway. But the Swedish government virtually stopped this from happening.

I just spoke to Jan a few moments ago. This is something I really appreciate - because not only is he the last surviving Swedish volunteer, he is simply a wonderful person that inspires me with his vitality and ideas. And he is soon 95.

Thanks to veterans like Jan I much better understand how rich life is with possibilities and how very small most of my "problems" are. Therefore I am currently writing a book about Jan, I have worked on it for two years now alongside other projects. On Sunday, in Boden, I will provide more than a glimpse into this project.

I am also, as always, very eager to do at least a few days of hiking around Narvik this summer and will then also for the first time visit the brand new book shop of my friend Trond Kristiansen. I can see from the photos he just sent me (below, with permission) that he even has managed to find some older Narvik books that I do not yet have!

The book shop is not in central Narvik but in the southern outskirts of Narvik in an area called Ankenes. For more info check out Trond's website. I have previously written about one of the latest books published by Trond, Slaget om Narvik, Sydfronten, that is simply essential for hiking in the WWII history of Narvik.