Bergen

Bergen – A personal account of the Bergen Raid

bergenI will try to describe the events that led to this, and several other failed bombing raids at Laksevaag during 1944-45. During the last months of 1939, and the first of 1940, German submarines attacked allied ships, mainly in the Atlantic Ocean. The range of the German submarines was limited, and they had no ability to attack the very important allied convoys sailing to Murmansk in Russia. In addition to the U-boat bases in France and Biscay, the Germans needed bases in Norway to be able to really hurt the allied shipping. After the invasion of Norway, it was decided to build U-boat bases in Trondheim and Bergen.

In May 1942 construction started on a massive Uu-boat bunker in Bergen. It contained 7 pens, and had a 6 meter thick roof and walls 2.5 to 4 meters thick. The U-boat bunker was planned to be completed in July 1945. The 11.Unterseebootsflottille was formed in mid 1942 and was stationed in Bergen. By the end of the war they had been assigned over 190 U-boats of VII, XXI and XXIII type, extended the range of U boat operations and caused substantial allied shipping casualties.

When the Germans withdrew from France in 1944, the French based U-boats were transferred to Norway and caused a major threat to the allied convoys in the North sea and to shipping supporting the French landings. Destruction of the U-boats and their bunker was therefore very desirable for the Allies. The bombing raid on the bunker in 1944 was to become one of biggest tragedies in Norway during WW2.

It was early morning of 4th October 1944 the first planes were observed at 09.05. 93 Halifax and 47 Lancasters approached the target from the west and turned north over the city and bombed. Most aircraft were to bomb the U-boat pens but 14 Halifax and 6 Lancasters were targeting individual U-boats in the harbour. The bombing became scattered as so often happened and little damage was done to the U-boat pens (7 bombs hit doing little structural damage but putting the electrics out of commission, nearby ship yards were badly damaged and 3 U-boats were damaged but did not sink). The remaining bombs fell across the town and hit everywhere. On the ground it seemed as though the RAF was carpet bombing the whole of Laksevåg. One of the bombs hit Holen skole, crashing through the roof and exploded over the air-raid shelter that was housing 350 children, teachers and men from the civil air defence. The rescue teams and fire fighters who found the dead children said that at the instant of death some of the children had clung to their teachers and was now nearly impossible to remove. Others died under collapsing walls and of suffocation.

It is impossible to imagine the dreadful seconds in the shelter, when the lights went out, and the panic started among the children. 61 children, 2 teachers and 16 men from the civilian air defence died on Holen Skole that day. A total of 193 Norwegian civilians died as a result of the raid, 180 were wounded, 60 houses were totally destroyed and over 700 people were made homeless. The Germans lost 12 men, 3 U-boats (damaged or destroyed: U-228 and U-993) and at least one auxiliary boat (E. Bornhofen) sunk and two more damaged. It is believed that a few Russian POW’s working on the bunker was killed too, but this is not confirmed. One Lancaster was last on this raid.

During the raid 1260 100
0lb kg bombs and 172 500lb kg bombs were dropped in 11 minutes. The raid had been a partial failure and the RAF would return.
On the 29th October 1944 a second raid took place with 244 aircraft (237 Lancasters and 7 Mosquito). Due to dense clouds only 47 dropped their bombs before the raid was aborted. Four hits were recorded to the U-boat pens without causing further damage. Bombing again became scattered and fell in the main town area killing a total of 52 civilians and 2 Germans. 3 planes were shot down on this second raid.
The second raid had been a failure.

The third raid was on the 12th January 1945 (Please read the story below). This time 32 Lancasters of 617 and 9 Sqns loaded with Tallboy “Earthquake” bombs weighing approx 10,000 lb and one Mosquito were tasked to bomb the U-boat pens and the harbour. The accuracy of the bombing was greatly improved and three tallboys found their primary target and penetrated the bunker. One penetrated the roof, causing an 8 meter wide crater on the top and a 4 meter crater inside! Great damage was caused to workshops, offices and stores within by the bomb strikes. 2 U-boats (U-775 and U-864) were slightly damaged, a minesweeper sunk and a transport ship damaged. 20 Germans were killed and no Norwegian casualties were reported.

In the harbour the minesweeper M1 was steaming towards Helleneset (Away from Bergen), trying to avoid the Lancasters. One Lancaster decided to go for the minesweeper and managed to hit the boat. It is probably the only time a minesweeper was hit by a Tallboy! 20 of the crew of 34 were immediately killed.
Three Lancasters were lost on this raid.

The allies damaged but did not manage to destroy the bunker during the war. Today the bunker is used by the Norwegian Navy to maintain and repair submarines. Holen skole was demolished and rebuilt in 1958. Today there is little left to remind about the accident in 1944 except the U-boat bunker 300 meters away.

The Raid

Commanding Officer at the time was Group Captain J.E Fauquier
12th January 1945

NF992 KC-B Type Lancaster I took off from Woodhall Spa at 8.30am (12th January 1945) carrying tallboy bombs the mission was to attack the U-Boat pens at Bergen, they were attacked by German 190’s off the Norwegian coast. The Lancaster was seen by other crews to have an engine fire, but made a perfect landing on the sea at approx 13.15 hours. All the crew managed to scramble onto the top of the aircraft even life saving equipment was dropped to them by a Warwick aircraft, which had to take evasive action due to an enemy Junkers 88. The Junkers proceeded to strafe the downed Lancaster killing all onboard. The only body found was that of F/O Ellwood. The DFM awarded to W/O Anderson had been published on the 14th September 1943 following his service with 467 Squadron.

In Memory of Ian Steward Ross

Flying Officer 18839 Royal Australian Air Force
Died: on Friday, 12th January 1945.
Age: 24
Additional Information: Son of Alexander McLachlan Ross, and of Christina Lillian Ross, of Alphington, Victoria, Australia
Commemorative Information: Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, UK
Grave Reference/ Panel Number: Panel 283
Location: This Memorial overlooks the River Thames on Cooper’s Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.

In Memory of William Walter

Flight Sergeant 1866667 617 Sqn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died: Friday, 12th January 1945.
Commemorative Information: Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, UK
Grave Reference/ Panel Number: Panel 273.
Location: This Memorial overlooks the River Thames on Cooper’s Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.

In Memory of Sydney Rodd Anderson DFM

Warrant Officer 1098277 617 Sqn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died: Friday, 12th January 1945.
Age:22.
Additional Information: Son of Robert and Norah Anderson; husband of F. Joan Anderson, of Dollis Hill, Middlesex.
Commemorative Information: Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, UK Grave Reference/ Panel Number: Panel 269.
Location: This Memorial overlooks the River Thames on Cooper’s Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.

In Memory of Edward George Tilby

Pilot Officer 184159 617 Sqn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died: Friday, 12th January 1945.
Commemorative Information: Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, UK
Grave Reference/ Panel Number: Panel 269.
Location: This Memorial overlooks the River Thames on Cooper’s Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.

In Memory of Leslie Douglas Griffiths

Flight Sergeant 1580829 617 Sqn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died: Friday, 12th January 1945.
Age: 22. Additional Information: Son of Mrs. E. M. Griffiths, of Handsworth, Birmingham.
Commemorative Information: Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, UK
Grave Reference/ Panel Number: Panel 271.
Location: This Memorial overlooks the River Thames on Cooper’s Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.

In Memory of Alexander Farley McKellar

Flying Officer 176945 617 Sqn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died: Friday, 12th January 1945.
Age: 20.
Additional Information: Son of Alexander and Elsie McKellar, of Edinburgh.
Commemorative Information: Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, UK
Grave Reference/ Panel Number: Panel 267.
Location: This Memorial overlooks the River Thames on Cooper’s Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.

In Memory of Mowbray Ellwood DFM

Flying Officer 54542 W.Op. 617 Sqn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died: Friday, 12th January 1945.
Age: 24.
Additional Information: Son of Leonard and Winifred Ellwood; husband of Primrose Mary Ellwood, of Boston, Lincolnshire. A IV British.
Commemorative Information: Trondheim (Stavne) cemetery, Norway
Grave Reference/ Panel Number: A 10.
Location: The town of Trondheim stands on the west coast of Norway approximately 300 km north of Oslo. Approaching Trondheim from the south on the main E6 route from Oslo exit the A6 shortly before the toll bridge at junction 11a signposted route 715 to Fosen. Follow the 715 turning right at the T junction and right again at the roundabout approximately 1 km further on, still signposted to Fosen. 50 metres beyond the roundabout turn right into a short lane at the sign for Stavne church. The churchyard is 100 metres along on the left. From the entrance to the churchyard the Cross and war plot can be plainly seen at a distance of 100 metres immediately behind the wooden chapel.
Historical Information
Trondheim (Stavne) Cemetery contains the largest Commonwealth War Graves Plot in Norway, where servicemen of the 1939-1945 War are buried. Three of the graves were transferred here from Namsos in 1957 and a further six from four other burial sites in 1961, of whom three came from Nesna Cemetery, one from Valoy Cemetery Extension and one from each of the two churchyards at Bronnoysund and Selsverket. Among those buried here are the first casualties of the Norwegian campaign, six sailors from the destroyer Glowworm which blew up after attacking and ramming the German cruiser Hipper on 8th April, 1940. Some of the soldiers belonged to the force which landed at Namsos later that month and advanced towards Trondheim, while many were casualties from the raid made on the island of Vagsoy at Christmas 1941. The majority are airmen who were shot down in this area, many whilst attacking German shipping in Norwegian coastal waters, the losses being particularly heavy during the spring of 1942. The entrance to the War Graves Plot is beside the chapel facing the long lines of graves, on which Portland stone headstones have been erected in the wide expanse of level turf. Outlined against a background of pines at the back of the plot stands the Cross of Sacrifice, which was unveiled by the General Officer Commanding, Trondheim District, on Remembrance Day 1949. There are twenty-six unidentified burials within the cemetery.
Falkenberg Forest Cemetery – SWE. 359
Fjelie Churchyard – 459
Halsingborg (Palsjo) Municipal Cemetery – 157
Kviberg Cemetery – 560
Malmo Eastern Municipal Cemetery – 1262
Malmo Jewish Cemetery – 1363
Ockero Churchyard – 1763
Varberg Churcb New Cemetery – 2663
Varobacka Churchyard – 2764

Sweden

Although Sweden retained her neutrality throughout the 1939-1945 War, 121 Commonwealth servicemen, of whom 113 were airmen died there during the war and are buried in nine cemeteries and churchyards. Most of them lost their lives when they failed to return from air raids over Germany or neighbouring German-occupied territory. Some crash-landed over Sweden and the bodies of others were washed up on the west coast. A large number were buried at Halsingborg, but many whose bodies drifted ashore in remote places were buried in uninhabited islands and other scattered sites difficult of access. The remains of 43 casualties buried in 19 such places were therefore concentrated in 1961 to a newly established Commonwealth War Graves Plot in Kviberg Cemetery, provided for the purpose by the Gothenburg Church Commission, together with most of the casualties of the 1914-1918 War from these and other burial sites in Sweden, where their graves could more easily be maintained. The remaining cemeteries and churchyards in Sweden containing Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 War are also located on the south-west coast, in the area lying between Gothenburg and Malmo. The citizens and local authorities of Sweden have always taken a great interest in the graves of the servicemen of both World Wars who died in their country and have erected private memorials in many of the cemeteries in honour of those buried there.

PD233 KC-G Type Lancaster I took off from Woodhall Spa at 8.30am (12th January 1945) carrying tallboy bombs the mission was to attack the U-Boat pens at Bergen. Crashed at Lille Landon Norway, NW of Bergen. The crew (Except Kendrick) survived and were sent to prisoner of war camps. It is reported that F/L Kendrick’s parachute failed to open after he baled out of the aircraft.

F/L H.J Pryor (DFC) . POW
W/O A.L Winston . POW
F/O H Ellis (DFC) . POW
P/O A Hepworth . POW
F/L E.N Armstrong (DFC) . POW
W/O E.C Temple (DFM) . POW

In Memory of George Aldred Kendrick

Flight Lieutenant 135033 Air Bomber 617 Sqn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died: Friday, 12th January 1945.
Age: 24
Additional Information: Son of Archibald and Sarah Alice Kendrick, of Erdington, Birmingham.
Commemorative Information: Bergen (Mollendal) church cemetery, Norway
Grave Reference/ Panel Number: D. 5.
Location: Bergen is a large seaport in south-west Norway, about 500 kilometres by rail from Oslo. The cemetery is located approximately 2.5 kilometres from the harbour. To locate the cemetery from the harbour, take the signs to Kong Oscar’s Gate, follow RV585 along Kalfarveien and Kalvedalsveien. Turn right before the tunnel to Mollendalsbakken. The main entrance to the cemetery will be found 50 metres on the left along this road.

Historical Information

Bergen (Mollendal) church cemetery is a large seaport in south-west Norway, connected by steamship services with the UK (Newcastle-on-Tyne). To locate the cemetery from the harbour, take the signs to Konogoscar’s Gate and then Koffovveien, and after about 1 kilometre the Sykehus Hospital is seen on the hill to the right hand side, and the cemetery Is below the hospital. In Mollendal Church Cemetery is a Commonwealth War Graves Plot containing 46 war burials. They comprise 4 men of the Royal Navy of whom one is unidentified, 2 soldiers of the 1st Airborne Squadron and 34 airmen all from the UK, and 2 airmen of the Royal Canadian Air Force, 2 of the Royal Australian Air Force and 2 of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The non-world war graves of 3 airmen of the Royal Air Force are also located in the same plot. The graves of the airmen who were killed in and around Bergen were tended by the local citizens during the German occupation and were later concentrated here by the Municipality. A Memorial erected by the Norwegian authorities stands on a raised platform at the entrance to the plot. Steps on either side lead up to the four rows of graves, two lining the side of the plot and two the centre marked by Commission headstones.

Also lost on this raid was a Lancaster from 9 Squadron.

NG257 WS-N Type Lancaster 1 took off from Bardney at 8.48am (12th January 1945) armed with a Tallboy bomb, they were shot down over the target.
F/O E.C Redfern (DFC)
F/S J.W Williams
SGT R.W.R Cooper
F/O O.P Hull
SGT L.G Roberts
SGT W Brand
SGT D Winch