At noon today the state funeral of Gunnar Sønsteby, widely considered the ultimate war hero, was held in the Cathedral of a sweltering Oslo. Sønsteby died on 10 May, aged 94.
The Cathedral was not quite full, but in addition to family, friends and fellow war veterans there were many VIPs to be seen. The King was on the first row, together with Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn, Princess Astrid and Johan Martin Ferner (both with newly acquired walking sticks), and Princess Ragnhild’s husband Erling Lorentzen, accompanied by his eldest daughter, Ingeborg Lorentzen Ribeiro. Lorentzen was one of Sønsteby’s closest friends, a fellow veteran of the elite resistance group Company Linge, chose him as his best man in 1953 and later set up a company with him. Lorentzen, who is 89, had travelled all the way from Brazil to bid farewell to his friend. Almost the entire Cabinet was also in attendance, as well as most living former defence ministers.
The Dean, Olav Dag Hauge, officiated, and there were eulogies by the Speaker of Parliament, Dag Terje Andersen, the Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, the Chief of Defence, General Harald Sunde, and two of Sønsteby’s grandchildren. Six guardsmen from His Majesty the King’s Guard formed a guard of honour at the sides of the coffin, which was draped in the Norwegian flag, while another 24 guardsmen (Sønsteby’s most famous code name was “No 24”) formed a guard of honour outside the Cathedral.
At the end of the service the coffin was carried out of the Cathedral by six officers and as it was placed in the hearse, four fighter planes flew past above in the so-called “Missing Man” formation, which pays tribute to the dead. Despite her eighty years and somewhat weak legs, Princess Astrid curtseyed to the ground as the hearse departed, accompanied by a mounted police escort.
The funeral was followed by a reception in the City Hall.