April 27/28th 1942 Tirpitz Raid
|Despite the lack of impact made on the target, Tirpitz, during the Mach 30/31 attack, Winston Churchill remained determined that Tirpitz must be sunk or crippled, and another attack from the air was planned.
Once again, Halifax bomber aircraft from 10, 35 and 76 Squadrons were to be used flying from the same advanced bases as before. In addition, six Lancasters from 44 Squadron and six Lancasters from 97 Squadron were to fly from Lossiemouth.
As with the attack in March, this operation was to be carried out in two phases. The aircraft from 44, 76 and 97 Squadrons who would each carry a 4,000 lb bomb to be dropped from 6,000 feet would open the attack. They would also carry 500lb bombs to use against flak and searchlight positions.
The second phase would see the mine carrying 10 and 35 Squadron Halifax aircraft fly over the Tirpitz at an incredible 150 feet to drop the mines along the length of the ship between the ship and the shore. Each Halifax was to carry four 1,000 lb mines.
In the event that Tirpitz could not be located the alternative target given for all Squadrons were the German ships Prinz Eugen, Admiral Hipper and Admiral Scheer who were lying in Lofjord two miles to the north of Fættenfjord.
On April 23rd 1942, the aircraft from the five squadrons arrived at their advanced bases in the North East of Scotland. The crews were briefed on April 25th but were prevented from taking off on the 25th and 26th due to haar, a coastal sea fog which blights the North East coast of Scotland at any time of year. It was not until 1650 hrs on the 27th April that the crews were told "Ops on".
At 2001 hrs DBST on the 27th April the first of the 43 bomber aircraft commenced take off. Two Halifaxes and one Lancaster returned early due to technical problems. The remaining 40 aircraft continued to Norway. The night was brightly lit by the moon and there were no clouds.
Phase one of the attack commenced with the leading Lancaster from 44 Squadron flying over Tirpitz and dropping its 4,000 lb bomb at 0006 hrs. At this time the target was clearly visible, but within minutes smoke barrels and smoke ships that were strategically placed around the fjords began to emit a thick and acrid blanket of smoke which soon covered the fjord and shipping making it extremely difficult for the aircraft to locate the Tirpitz or other ships.
The second phase commenced with the 35 Squadron Halifaxes followed by 10 Squadron flying low up the fjord. By this time Tirpitz was totally obscured by the smoke screen and the crews had to rely on an outcrop of rock above where Tirpitz was berthed as an aiming point.
Due to the low level that the aircraft were flying at they encountered AA fire not only from below the aircraft, but also raining down on them from the AA batteries on the cliffs above the fjord.
Several of the attacking aircraft were hit and crashed in the target area.
Five of the forty aircraft that took off failed to return.
From 10 Squadron:
W1041 ZA-B flown by Wing Commander Bennett and crew. Hit by AA fire, the crew bailed out while the aircraft flew on itself until crashing near Flornes. Three of the crew were subsequently captured and taken POW while the remainder evaded capture and made it to Sweden and back to the UK.
From 35 Squadron:
W1048 TL-S flown by Pilot Officer MacIntyre and crew made a successful crash landing on the frozen Lake Hoklingen. The crew escaped and evaded with the exception of the Flight Engineer, Vic Stevens who had been injured in the crash landing and was unable to walk far.
From 97 Squadron:
The 35 remaining aircraft returned to Scotland landing in the early hours of the morning on 28th April.
The RAF PRU aircraft flew over Tirpitz on the 28th of April and photographs taken showed that no damage had been sustained by Tirpitz despite the twenty 4,000 lb bombs and 44 mines that the aircraft had dropped overnight. At midday the crews were told that they were to fly again that night to the same target.
|The map below shows the location of Tirpitz in Fættenfjord and the positions of flak guns, smoke vessels, searchlights and other German shipping.
The 10 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
The 35 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
|W/C J H Marks
|S/Ldr P H Cribb
|F/O A Abels
|P/O G Jackson
|P/O C J Henry
The 44 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
|F/Sgt Jones DFM
|F/Lt Barlow DFC
|W/O Stott DFM
|F/Sgt Rowan Parry
|F/Sgt Thirkall DFM
The 76 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
The 97 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
|Sgt Smith M R
|F/Sgt Robinson C
|F/Sgt Jones C A