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In this extraordinary book, historian Tony Insall reveals how some of the most striking achievements of the Norwegian resistance were the detailed reports produced by intelligence agents living in the dangerous conditions of the country’s desolate wilderness.

A definitive appraisal of Anglo-Norwegian WWII cooperation, Secret Alliances provides remarkable insights into the uniquely close political relationship that afforded powerful assistance for a successful resistance movement. Using previously unpublished archival material from London, Oslo and Moscow, Insall explores how SIS and SOE developed productive links with their Norwegian counterparts – and examines the crucial intelligence from the Security Service and Bletchley Park codebreakers who supported their sabotage operations.

Offering dramatic details on operations such as GUNNERSIDE – which targeted the heavy water plant in Vemork in order to foil the Nazis’ plans to build an atomic bomb – and the sinking of the Tirpitz in November 1944, Secret Alliances is an authoritative new perspective on some of the most remarkable exploits of the Second World War.


“A fascinating and novel insight into British intelligence and special operations in wartime Norway. Among a number of important new sources, Tony Insall has discovered in Oslo top-secret SIS files which are unavailable in Britain.”

Professor Christopher Andrew, founder of Cambridge University Intelligence Seminar and author of The Secret World: A History of Intelligence

“This is a beautifully detailed account that brings to life the extraordinary story of the Norwegian resistance. So many played their part – kings, prime ministers, traitors like Kim Philby – but mostly this is a tale of bloody-minded determination on the part of unsung heroes. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand this vital period of Norwegian history.”

Michael Dobbs

“A fascinating account of Anglo-Norwegian cooperation in the heroic struggle against German occupation.”

Andy McNab

“The most detailed and comprehensive study of wartime clandestine operations conducted in Norway yet published. Highly readable and thoroughly researched.”

Nigel West, intelligence historian

“Some of the most important links between Britain and Norway during WWII were welded through the vast and varied numbers of clandestine operations undertaken by SOE and SIS. Here, Tony Insall describes these activities against the complex political backdrop – whilst drawing upon a thorough understanding of Norway – to add considerably to our knowledge on the subject.”

Ivar Kraglund, Norway’s Resistance Museum

Secret Alliances is a gripping history of wide-ranging Anglo-Norwegian wartime cooperation, spiced with vivid stories of heroism and betrayal. Tony Insall makes unprecedented use of British and Norwegian archives to present a detailed picture of resistance operations in Norway, and also explains the political context that facilitated what was perhaps the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe.”

Patrick Salmon, Chief Historian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Secret Alliances shines a light on a fascinating but little-known part of the war. Filled with new details and insight, it brings to life the drama of special operations and intelligence work in Norway, including the extent of SIS coast-watching, which provided significant coverage of the German fleet, especially the Tirpitz.”

Gordon Corera, broadcaster and author of MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service

“Tony Insall draws on new archive material to provide an authoritative perspective on some of the most remarkable operations of the Second World War.”

Military History Monthly

Secret Alliances is a "thorough, authoritative and probably definitive account" of "the successes and failures of UK-Norwegian collaboration".

Alan Judd, Former British Diplomat, Novelist and Biographer, The Spectator
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  • Paperback, 464 pages
  • ISBN: 9781785906619
  • 8 April 2021
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