We Die Alone by David Howarth, UK, 1955

This amazing true story tells how, in March 1943, Jan Baalsrud, a Norwegian expatriate resistance fighter, sails from the Shetland Islands to the northern coast of Norway with three other Norwegians and the crew of the small fishing boat. The idea is to help train Norwegians within the resistance movement; however, after making landfall above the Arctic circle, plans go horribly wrong, and Jan is forced to flee across the inhospitable winter wasteland of northern Norway. With Nazi soldiers pursuing him and not knowing whom he is able to trust, Jan has no choice but to push on.

Wounded, without proper clothing and with very little food, he survives almost six weeks in conditions that would have seen the death of most people after only a few days. Freezing temperatures, blizzards, avalanches, snow blindness, frostbite, gangrene were only some of the hurdles that Baalsrud encounters as he desperately tries to take himself across occupied Norway into neutral Sweden.

That he succeeds is dependent to a great extent on his own strength of character but it is also thanks to the many people who help him. These people offer their help even though they are fully aware that discovery will most surely result in a death sentence for both themselves and their families. We Die Alone is a wonderful example of courage against formidable odds but also a celebration of ordinary people's charity and self sacrifice.

Although this is not a novel of great literary merit, We Die Alone is definitely worth reading for the suspense and the descriptions of bravery and resilience that go far beyond what we believe could be possible.

 Photo of Jan Baalsrud from www.samlerforumet.net