"Innocent people lost their lives for the peace we have been able to enjoy for 70 years," said Executive Vice President Eivind Kallevik on Thursday when he laid a wreath on behalf of Hydro at the memorial for the sinking of the train ferry D/F "Hydro" in Lake Tinnsjø on 20 February 1944.
The allied sabotage campaign during World War II against Hydro's production of heavy water in Vemork, and the subsequent sinking of the ferry "Hydro" that was carrying five barrels of heavy water across Lake Tinnsjø, has stood as a shining example in Norwegian war history of resistance against the Nazi occupation.
However, the sabotage came at a price, not least the sinking of "Hydro." The explosives and timer the Norwegian saboteurs managed to plant on board resulted in the ferry sinking quickly. It still lies at the bottom of Lake Tinnsjø, 430 meters deep.
The ferry had 47 people on board. Eighteen of them were killed – 14 Norwegians and four German soldiers.
In 1994, on the 50th anniversary of the sinking, a monument was unveiled in Rudsgrend in Tinn municipality in Telemark county, near the spot where "Hydro" went down.
On Thursday, the 70th anniversary, there was a formal wreath-laying ceremony at the monument with speeches, songs and a historical review. The signal corps of His Majesty the King's Guard provided a fine setting for the ceremony.
"Imagine the weeping and wailing of those that were left at home, when their loved ones never returned to Mother and Father.
We have Hitler to thank for what has happened here, because there was heavy water hidden in 'Hydro's' hold."(From "Tinnsjøvisa" by Arvid Andersson, translated from Norwegian)
Battle for heavy water
In his speech, Eivind Kallevik noted that the sinking of D/F "Hydro" was the final, dramatic chapter in the battle for the Norwegian heavy water that Hitler's Germany needed to develop a nuclear weapon.
Unfortunately it also claimed civilian lives – 12 regular passengers and two crew members.
"Several precautions were taken in advance to reduce the chances that innocent lives would be lost. In addition, once the ferry sank, heroic efforts were made to save as many passengers as possible," said Kallevik at the ceremony in Rudsgrend before he called down peace over the memory of those who lost their lives.