Thursday, 7 August 2014

Gunvald Tomstad Norwegian double agent

The entire coastline in Norway has some sort of history from the Second World War, including other wars. During the German occupation in WW2, there were many famous Norwegian resistance fighters that worked with British Intelligence to create havoc for the Germans.

Gunvald Tomstad was one such famous Norwegian resistance fighter during the Second World War who lived on a farm in Flekkefjord in Southern Norway.

Tomstad lived with his grandfather Gunleiv after his father passed away and in 1942 and inherited the family farm at the age of 22. He worked as an apprentice typographer in the local paper ''Agder Flekkefjord''.  (a typographer is a person whose job is to choose the style, arrangement, or appearance of printed letters on a page).

(Tomstad was a keen photographer. Here is a picture he took overlooking the farm during the occupation. To the right is his own motorcycle)

The editor of the newspaper, Ingvar Seland, refused to publish German propaganda and as a result, closed down the newspaper. Tomstad lost his job and then started working as a farmer with milk,  fruit and bee keeping.

Before the war, Tomstad was technically interested in radio transmitters and successfully built a few but this was short lived because in the autumn of 1941, the Germans confiscated all radio transmissions.

As a typographer, it was relatively easy for Tomstad to help produce and distribute the illegal newspaper Kongsposten "King Post" which was created by Ola Eide, Tor Njaa, Gudmund Seland, Johannes Seland and himself.

(A picture of a German motorcycle on the farm that Tomstad sometimes used during his disguise as a Nazi sympathiser)

After an agreement with the British Intelligence Service in London, in 1941, Tomstad went into the NS - (National Gathering) which was a fascist group supporting the Nazis and their ideals. They suggested he do this to cover up his resistance communication operations that he started from a hidden radio room on his farm at Helle in Flekkefjord.

Tomstad took a picture of Odd Kjeld Starheim on the radio.

The radio was also operated by Odd Kjeld Starheim (pictured above) who was disguised as a farm worker, John Seland and other resistance fighters from the Flekkefjord area. The radio transmission network was called "Cheese" which was under the command of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) - a British organization that built up military resistance in occupied countries.

Tomstad sent information back to London on German warships and supply vessels along the Norwegian coast, German troop movements and the construction of airfields.

The Germans used censoring measuring equipment to locate the radio transmitter which they pinpointed to the district around Flekkefjord.

They searched many houses in the area but not Tomstad's as he was seen as a Nazi sympathiser. He did not work alone and had help from other undercover resistance fighters;
Esther Synnøve Øysteinsland - disguised as a maid, Kåre Austad - who helped with the coding and decoding of the messages and Andreas Lone who sent transmissions at other times when Tomstad was unable to.

Tomstad took this picture with a self timer. He is standing in the middle with the Germans on his farm. Also seated is a Norwegian Nazi symphathiser whose face has ben shaded out)

It was during this time that Tomstad met Fie Rørvik who was also in the resistance. She worked at a dairy where Tomstad would deliver his milk. She would help convey important messages from Flekkefjord to other major cities including Stavanger and Oslo. After the war, Tomstad and Rørvik were married.

Gradually Tomstad became a leading resistance leader and at the same time, a prominent Nazi sympathiser within the Flekkefjord area. Living this double life did take its toll on him as he wrote to the British:

"sometimes I need to stop and ask myself, is it really you? I feel very sorry for my mother. She's taking it pretty hard and yesterday she cried when she was with me. "

(Tomstad took a picture of the radio equipment with his German issued pistol)

Tomstad kept up his double agent charade for two years until early in 1943 when the local Gestapo agents Hauptscharführer Lipicki and Sturmscharführer Lappe realised that Tomstad was behind the illegal radio operations.

Luckily at the last minute, me managed to escape and fled to Sweden and onto the UK.

Tomstad bitterly opposed the war and was not pleased to receive medals and decorations after its conclusion. He dug them under a plumb tree in the garden on his farm because he did not want to see them - considering all the friends and comrades who lost their lives during the war.

Tomstad suffered physically and mentally after the war and died far too young at the age of 51. Some comrades and friends said at his funeral  "You fought for everything, but now you have sacrificed everything."

He is survived by his three children, one of whom still lives on the farm.

In 1977, there was a monument erected for him in the centre of Flekkefjord on the church grounds. This was designed by a Norwegian/Danish artist called Per Palle Storm.

All photos are courtesy the Tomstad family and some have never been seen by the public before.

Some other historical World War 2 places to visit in Southern Norway are:

If you require any further information, contact Adam from Visit Sørlandet
adam (at) Dra på ferie til Flekkefjord


  1. This is a relative of my Grandfather Leif A Syversen. Leif is now 92 and lives in Utah.

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