Åsmund Pedersen was a very close friend of my late friend and fellow Woollupian Bill Pearson.
This is Åsmund’s story from WWII.
‘After seeing some notes and a reminder 53 years later I am writing of how and why I came to Sweden and joined the Norwegian Police there in 1944.
On Sunday 11th June 1944 I got to know that the German Secret Police (Gestapo) were interested in me personally, therefore I did not dare go back home again. On a neighbour’s property at Myrvol there stood the remains of a stone building which had burnt down and next to it a very small outbuilding, and I slept there that night. On the 26th June I got a letter via Yngve Hanson from the Gestapo asking me to go to Victoria Terrace to help clear up a matter about a man I knew who had been arrested and was in Grini prison but was about to be moved to Germany. The letter was very friendly and said that they were sure it was all a big mistake and with my help it could soon be put right.
I was actually on my way to see them when I remembered that a lawyer who had also been connected with this matter had an office in Back Storting Gate, so I went there and showed him the letter. After reading it, he told me that I was not the only one to receive such a letter and those who went to Victoria Terrace were not seen again.
On the 27th June, I went home in the dead of night and there I got a message that I had to go to an address in Kolbotn, that it was very important and I must come at once. I went there and was told the Germans were coming to arrest me early in the morning, after the war I found out the Gestapo had ransacked my flat and also my place of work. The man who warned me took me out to a large forest at Flatåsen in Størmarka where some Kolbotn boys, who were also on the run from the Germans, were hiding in a small hut deep in the forest. It was very crowded and we had to sleep two to each bunk bed, so three of us decided to build another hut.
We knew that winter would soon be on its way, so we set about looking for a suitable site for the hut. We found a perfect place in a stretch of very densely wooded land close by, but we could not risk cutting any timber there so we had to fell it some distance away and carry it in. Some local lads told us we could use the dance floor from the Myr Sports Ground hall for the roof of the hut and that this would stop the Germans from holding dances there. The floor was taken up and carried to Araldrud Farm where we were waiting for it and took it to Assur Lake on a horse and cart. Now the three of us had to swim the whole length of the lake with the floor sections and next day we carried them up to the hut site at Flatåsen.
Building the hut soon had us really slimmed down. One day we were visited by a man who said that I should go to the doctor’s office at Kolbotn School and get some vitamin pills from him, so with the food and the pills we were feeling fine. Unfortunately, all our good work on the hut came to nothing, as at the end of July we got orders to leave the area because the Germans were going to use the woods for training purposes.
There were four groups of us in the Størmarka area and we were told to make our way to Sweden. A comrade and myself said we would rather not go to Sweden, so on the 31st July we left the area and were taken down in the dead of night to Hakerdal, where we rested up for a couple of hours or so – then we moved on a few kilometres north of the town. We came to a deserted, run-down farm with a very well hidden barn set some distance away from the ruined farm buildings. Inside we found a couple of broken down bunk-beds which we were able to fix up with some sound planks we found among the hay. It was raining hard and the roof leaked but we were happy there and slept well.
Next morning the sun shone from a clear blue sky. My comrades wanted to sleep on but I wanted to get out into the sun and dry my clothes. I took with me a 9 mm. revolver and went for a walk to see more of our surroundings. I followed a good track, holding the revolver in my trouser pocket. After a while the track turned sharply right and in front of me was a farmhouse; outside the door stood a man who looked like he had just got out of bed. I took my hand out of my pocket so he would not think that I was armed, but I should not have done that because the gun was heavy – the lining tore and the gun fell down the slope with me close behind. I was sure the man must have seen what happened but he showed no sign that he had done so. I later found out that he was an old German soldier in charge of Russian prisoners of war who were working in the forest, so we had to leave that area in a hurry.
On the 7th August we waited for a new food supply but it did not come. Instead, we got word that the driver had been stopped at a control point. Our food was left at a certain location by a local tradesman and at night I would collect it and take it down to the dense thickets by the river, where I had made a well-hidden shelter. It was just big enough for me and the food, with a tiny opening for me to watch the bit of open ground leading down to the river. Here I slept at night covered by two very heavy wool blankets, with the pistol in my hand. It was very rainy weather and the clouds were very low down, so I knew my shelter would not be easily seen.
On Sunday, 13th August, it was sunny and warm and I went to the home of the local resistance officer to dry my clothes and get some food. He lived right across the road from the local school which was occupied by German officers. When I arrived, a couple of our group were there for a tactics meeting and after a while one of them suggested going out into the garden as it was such a lovely sunny day. I said I would stay indoors as I wanted to clean my pistol after all the rainy weather we’d been having. I asked for some old newspapers to cover the kitchen table and one of the men asked if I would clean his gun as well. I was sitting at the table with the parts of the two guns spread out in front of me, when there was a knock on the door just behind me and I heard it opening. I quickly pulled the newspapers over the guns and stood up as a German officer looked round the door and asked if it were possible to buy some beer from us. I answered very calmly that if he went down to the garden and saw the landlord, I was sure he could buy some from him. The only thing on my mind was to get him out of that room and away from the guns as quickly as possible. When the others came back in, they told me that he was quite a nice man and he had got his beer.
On the same day I got orders to take some food and put it on the train to Sandermosen station. The next day I had to take the 8.40am train to Sandermosen and go up to the dam, where I would be met by a man at 12 o’clock. We exchanged passwords and it went OK, so he led me to Mellomkollen, where there was a group of about ten men in a little tarpaper hut on a small ledge just under a small peak, with good views eastwards down the valley. We slept in the hut, heads to feet with our few possessions under our heads, as it was very cramped. On the day we collected the food, we walked over a ridge with good views down Maridalen and we saw four lorries with two escort vehicles on their way up the valley. Leaving one man to keep watch on the road, we collected the food and remained there out of sight until we saw the vehicles come back down the valley, when we returned to our hut and so to bed.
Some days later I went on a mission, so I had to catch the first train to Oslo from Skar. I set off just after dawn and never thought there would be any danger so early in the morning, but when I came out of the woods through a dense thicket and into a small field, there right in front of me was a group of German soldiers all lined up for inspection. The only thing I could do was to continue walking right past them. Luckily, there was no officer with them so all went well and I reached Skar unhindered. Beside the bus station stood four lorries with seating for twenty-five soldiers on each one, plus two armoured personnel carriers. In the town was a large depot for technical materials and the troops were on their way up there. The bus came in and I travelled on it to the east railway station, where I took the train to Oslo.
The rest of the day went well until I returned to the east railway station to find the Germans were checking everyone leaving the station. I slowed down, walked slowly towards them, then turned round and walked slowly back again as if I was waiting for a train to go out. Then I heard footsteps coming up behind me and as the man passed me he asked if I was going out of the station. It was a man in a railway uniform so I said “Yes” and he softly said “Follow me”. We walked from Platform 12, then onto a train and, after walking the length of the train, we got down on the line and up onto the platform on the other side, where there was a wooden fence with a door in it. He opened this door with a large key and said “Now you are safe”.
When I got back to the camp it was dark and I thought I might find the Germans waiting for me there, but everything was as before. Because of the bad weather no-one had gone out until late in the day. There was no enthusiasm to get up for breakfast when all we had to eat was some stale bread in a paper bag. It was covered in green mould, which we brushed off with a twist of grass – any mould inside we ate. We had no butter or sandwich filling – all we had were some salted sild in an old wooden barrel. One day we ate them as they were, and the next day we lit a very small fire and fried them in an old frying pan and it was nice to have a variation in our daily diet. We had no ration cards and no money.
On the 2nd September I was told that I had to go to Sweden on the 8th, on the 7 pm train from Oslo. On the same day I met Thorolf Kallberg, an old friend from my home town of Myrvoll, and I told him that I was going to Sweden. He told me that he, too, was on the run and asked if I could fix it for him to go with me. I promised to have a word with my contact, which I did, and it was OK’d. I met him at the east railway station at an agreed time and received our instructions and tickets to Stange station.
We got on the train, which consisted of carriages with a corridor down the middle. All the doors and the walls were of glass, so we had very good views in all directions. There were some empty seats in the middle of the carriage and I sat alongside a young lady with a little boy on her lap. Kallberg sat opposite, with a small table between us, and I started a conversation with the lady, and made friends with the young boy. They had come from the south of Norway and were very tired. I said she should try to sleep and I would look after the young boy. She settled back while I took the little boy on my knee. As I was amusing him, I suddenly saw a German soldier come through the door at the front of the carriage. I turned around and looked towards the other end of the carriage, to see if there was an escape route that way, but there were soldiers that way too. They were checking everyone’s papers and coming nearer all the time.
There was nothing to do but hope for the best, but I could already see us on our way to Victoria Terrace. It was an officer who entered our carriage first. He saw us and smiled, then nodded: he wasn’t going to disturb this young Norwegian family, where father sat with his young son on his knee, while mother tried to sleep; so he turned around and went on to the next carriage. The lady left the train at Eidsvoll and I carried the boy out on to the platform. I very much wanted to embrace her as a big “Thank you”, but I didn’t dare, as she hadn’t seen the German officer, and I could hardly tell her about him BUT I shall be forever grateful that she and her son were there that day.
We walked on to Stange, from where we would go on by road to Hamar. We went under a railway bridge and took the first road on the left until we came to a parked lorry with a green covering over the back, which we climbed under as quickly as possible. The lorry moved off immediately we were aboard – for how long and where to, we had no idea. At last it stopped – a man came around and told us to follow him. He took us a long way into a forest until we came to an old hut in which there was a stall for a horse and a double bunk, and that was it. It was pitch black inside, so we lay down in the bunk and tried to get some sleep until morning. When it was light we saw that there were no windows in the hut but none were needed: because of the many large gaps in the planking, we could see out all around the hut. Behind the hut was a small tarn with a light covering of ice, and each morning we broke a small hole in it so we could get some water to wash with. We had no food at the hut, but all around were lots of lovely frozen whortle berries. We picked and ate them until our fingers were so stiff with the cold we could hardly move them. It went on like this for three days, but the more berries we ate the more hungry we felt.
On the third day another man joined us and the following day a man came who was our guide for the next stage of our journey. We travelled in pairs with Kallaberg; the guide in front and myself and the other man close behind. It all went well until the path became two equally good tracks with no sign of which way the guide had gone: so we returned to the hut and the berries.
Two days later, on the 14th September, someone else came to take us on our way again. We set off at 7.30am and walked through the forest until we came to an isolated farm on the edge of the forest. It had a large barn set back from the house and we crawled in and buried ourselves in the hay, where we had to lie quietly until the next evening when our guide returned. We walked through the wood again until we came to a place by the side of a road, where three bicycles were hidden. We cycled from there to Flish where a man told us that there were no signs of any German soldiers in the town. We crossed the bridge over the Glomma and continued eastwards. There were large forests on both sides of the road and no traffic, but after a while we heard a car coming towards us. The verges were covered with very long grass, so we dived in there, together with the bikes, and lay flat. The car came and stopped right in front of me and two Germans got out, opened a small black case, and after a short conversation they got back in the car and drove off. I was overjoyed that they had not stopped to spend a penny!
We were now near the Swedish border so we went into the forest while the guide went forward to check the road ahead. He came back with the news that he had not seen a single German, so we went back on the road and past an empty guard-house and ducked under the steel pole over the road. Our guide asked me very nicely if he could have my fellboots – I gave them to him and wandered into Sweden in my stocking feet! We hadn’t gone far before we were stopped by some Swedish soldiers: it was about 1 am on Saturday, 16th September 1944. We were taken to a border patrol officer and, after a little while, two soldiers with bicycles were ordered to take us to a border post, where we were each given a wonderful soft bed. We slept until late morning, when we were brought a lovely real breakfast by a charming lady.
We had eaten nothing at all the past two days and before that we had only eaten mouldy bread, frozen whortle berries and salted sild – so when the lady said “vaere så god” (help yourself) I wasn’t slow in diving in. At the same time, while my mouth was still full of food, the border control officer came in and began to question me. I got a strong warning to stop eating and to stand up. He asked me if a intended to go over the border again, but when I told him definitely NO, all went well and we were driven a short distance to be deloused, and later taken to Likenas by the Klara river.
On the 18 September we drove by bus to Rada station and took the 2.40pm train to Karlstad, where we changed trains to Laxa. Outside the station I was suddenly aware that people were looking at my feet, then I remembered I was still wearing only my tattered black stockings and there was frost on the ground. We were met at the station and taken to a lovely villa, given a beautiful dinner in a very large dining room, and afterwards I slept in the most wonderful bed I have every slept in. Next morning we were up for an early breakfast and at 7.20 am we went by taxi to Oreryd Registration House, where I was given my number 32666. It was very raw weather and very muddy on the paths between the fields and very cold on my bare feet. I asked if I could have some footwear but it was only after I showed them the blisters on my feet that they gave me a pair of boots. On the 24th September, I was moved on to Kjeseter where all the Norwegians ended up, before being placed elsewhere’.
Åsmund joined one of these groups, was given an intensive course in military training by Norwegian military personnel, and was moved to a secret camp very close to the Norwegian border. Similar camps were in place along the whole border between the two countries, so when Germany surrendered they were able to move very quickly back into Norway, to act as a very efficient police force to round up the German soldiers and secure all their weapons.