NEW LOCAL BOOK - THE TRAGIC FATE
OF A LONGNOR SOLDIER IN WORLD WAR 2.
mark the 70th Anniversary of the start of the Second World War, Leek historian
and author, Chris Sheldon, best known for his books on local war memorials, has
just published 'Longnor's Hero of Telemark'. This fascinating book tells the
true story of Vernon Belfield, a young soldier from Church Street, Longnor, who
was captured and taken prisoner by the Germans during a top-secret mission to
Norway and executed in cold blood by a firing squad on the orders of Adolph
In November, 1942, thirty British soldiers were flown in two gliders on a commando mission to the Telemark region of Norway. Their task was to destroy a hydro-electric plant, controlled by the occupying German forces, which produced ‘heavy water’, a substance desperately needed by Hitler in the race for the Atom Bomb. The outcome was a tragic failure, culminating in murder and deceit on the part of the German Army and the Gestapo. Both gliders crashed in bad weather, killing and injuring some of the soldiers. The survivors, including Vernon Belfield, the son of the village corn merchant, were captured by the Germans and later executed, most of them by shooting, contrary to all the rules of war and in circumstances which amounted to murder. The bodies of Vernon and his friends were found after the war in mass graves where they had been secretly hidden on the orders of the Gestapo. For years, Vernon's death was shrouded in mystery, and his family had no idea what had befallen him.
Later attacks on the heavy water factory were made famous by the 1965 film: “The Heroes of Telemark”, but this book focuses on Vernon Belfield, a young man who, like his fellow-commandos on the mission, had volunteered for a task from which he had little chance of returning alive. The book's author, Chris Sheldon, said: "Vernon Belfield was the eldest son of a successful businessman and, being in a reserved occupation he did not have to volunteer for the army, but he did. He then went on to volunteer for a dangerous mission behind enemy lines in Norway and he must have known that coming back from it unscathed was highly unlikely. His ultimate fate at the hands of a firing squad, and the vital importance of the task he was sent on, are not generally known about here in the Moorlands and I feel that the story should be told and Vernon can then be rightly remembered for the brave man he was and what he tried to accomplish".
‘Longnor’s Hero of Telemark’ is priced at £5.99 and is the fifth in a series of local books on servicemen who gave their lives in the two World Wars. Copies can be purchased from: St. Bartholomew's Church, Longnor (Mr. Les Riley), Sweetmore's Stores, Longnor, and Longnor Craft Centre as well as bookshops in Leek, Hartington and Buxton.