30/31st March 1942 Tirpitz Raid

It was late March 1942 before the RAF made another attempt to attack Tirpitz in Norway. The ship was still berthed in Fættenfjord, and now had the German ships, Prinz Eugen, Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper for company in Lofjord, a small fjord two miles north of Fættenfjord.

An attack was to be made at night during the next moon phase using heavy bomber aircraft. Three Halifax squadrons from Bomber Command, 10 Squadron at Leeming, 35 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse and 76 Squadron at Middleton St George were sent orders to move to advanced air bases in the North East of Scotland. 10 Squadron flew to Lossiemouth, 35 Squadron to Kinloss and 76 Squadron to Tain. Two Lancasters from 97 Squadron based at Woodhall Spa were also to fly to Tain.

Group Captain S Graham, the Station Commander at RAF Leeming was to direct the entire operation and based himself with 10 Squadron at Lossiemouth.

The attack was planned to take place in two phases. The Lancasters from 97 Squadron were detailed to attack Værnes airfield to minimise the chance of an attack from the air on the bombers. Coinciding with this, the Halifaxes from 76 Squadron would bomb Tirpitz from 4-5,000 feet using RDX filled 4,000 lb HC bombs and 500lb or 250lb GP bombs. These aircraft were due to take off from their respective advanced bases and be in the target area between 2145 and 2230 hrs BST.

The two Lancasters from 97 Squadron did not take part in the raid. One crashed on take off from Woodhall Spa, the other landed at Lossiemouth rather than Tain as was planned. There then followed some confusion, during which the Lancaster at Lossiemouth believed that the operation had been cancelled, and it returned to Woodhall Spa on the 28th March.

The second phase was to be carried out by the Halifaxes from 10 and 35 Squadrons. They would be carrying mines and incendiaries and were to fly up Trondheimfjord into Åsenfjord and approach Tirpitz in Fættenfjord at 600 feet to release the mines. At this time there was no bomb capable of piercing the armoured decks of Tirpitz, and due to the protective torpedo netting in the fjord a torpedo attack was not possible. Therefore, naval Mk XIX spherical contact mines had been modified and tested and were to be used in the attack against Tirpitz, carried by the Halifax bombers. The idea was that the mines would be dropped in the water as close to the hull of the ship as possible where they would cause an underwater explosion which it was hoped would be large enough to sink or cripple Tirpitz. The second phase of the attack was planned to take place between 2235 and 2315 hrs.

The map below shows the location of Tirpitz in Fættenfjord and the positions of flak guns, smoke vessels, searchlights and other German shipping.

On the evening of the 30th of March, just after 1800hrs BST, twelve Halifax aircraft from 76 Squadron took off from Tain to commence the first phase of the attack. Ten Halifax aircraft from 10 Squadron took off from Lossiemouth and twelve from 35 Squadron took off from Kinloss for the second phase of the attack. One 35 Squadron Halifax returned to base early due to engine trouble.

The aircraft would be flying a total distance of approximately 1,300 miles with a total flight time, including time over target, estimated at being around eight to eight and a half hours.

On reaching the Norwegian Coast the weather was clear with bright moonlight. However, on approaching the Trondheim area sea fog and 10/10 low cloud was almost totally obscuring the landscape below making it virtually impossible to locate Tirpitz. Many of the aircraft jettisoned their loads in the target area and bombed flak and searchlights that could be seen. However, no observations were made as to the effectiveness of these due to the sea fog and haze.

Six of the thirty-four aircraft that took off failed to return.

From 10 Squadron:
W1043 ZA-F flown by Squadron Leader F D Webster DFC and crew and W1044 ZA-D flown by P/O Blunden and crew. No contact was had from either aircraft after leaving base, however, research shows that both these aircraft were shot down in the Hemnefjord area.

From 35 Squadron:
R.9438 TL-H, flown by F/Sgt Bushby and his crew. This aircraft had made it back over the North Sea almost to Shetland from the Tirpitz, but crashed in to cliffs at Fitful Head on Shetland killing all the crew.

R.9496 TL-L, flown by F/Sgt Archibald and crew, and W1015TL-P, flown by F/Sgt Steinhauer and crew were reported as missing. What happened to them was not observed by any other Squadron members, however, locals in Norway witnessed both these aircraft crash.

From 76 Squadron:
R9453 MP-K flown by Squadron Leader Burdett and crew were last heard from en route back to base passing over Sumburgh and are believed to have ditched in the sea somewhere off Sumburgh Head.

Despite their best efforts, little or no effective damage had been inflicted on Tirpitz during the March 30/31 attack.

In early April, the aircraft and crews from 10, 35 and 76 Squadrons returned to their bases in the South and resumed bombing raids on Germany.

Map Showing Locations Where the four Halifax Aircraft lost over Norway on 30/31 March 1942 Crashed
Morten Moe

The 10 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
Click on aircraft number to find out more about the flight and their fate
W/C Tuck S/L Webster F/L Hacking P/O Blunden F/Sgt Whyte
Sgt Pickett Sgt Hall P/O Dempsey P/O Day P/O Senior
F/L Buchan F/L Stevens-Fox F/Sgt Turner Sgt Eastwood P/O Davis
Sgt Stubley Sgt Hague Sgt Bradley F/Sgt Franklin F/Sgt Charlton
Sgt Murray P/O Leney Sgt Carson Sgt May Sgt Kent
F/L How Sgt Hall Sgt Porritt Sgt Henman Sgt Ruane
F/Sgt Colgan F/Sgt Wheatley Sgt McFarlane Sgt Richards Sgt Rouse
W1010 ZA-X V9985 ZA-V W1037 ZA-U W1038 ZA-O W1040 ZA-P
W/O Lloyd F/Sgt Peterson F/L Miller P/O Godfrey P/O Murray
P/O Hillier Sgt Saunders Sgt Hampton Sgt Bell

Sgt Rauch

Sgt Mapes P/O Dickson P/O Roberts F/O Watts Sgt Jenkins
F/Sgt Guertin F/Sgt LeClaire Sgt Ryder F/Sgt Beare Sgt Howells
Sgt Rycroft Sgt Savor Sgt Stott Sgt Clephane Sgt Killinbeck
Sgt Gifford Sgt Hayes Sgt Curran F/Sgt Falkoski Sgt Culverwell
Sgt Thain Sgt Manning Sgt Annable Sgt O'Connor Sgt Tomkins

The 35 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
Click on aircraft number to find out more about the flight and their fate

W/C Marks S/Ldr Wilding P/O Valters F/Lt Pooles F/Sgt Gardiner F/Sgt Roe
Sgt Hrehorak Sgt Hibburt P/O Astbury Sgt Bird Sgt Clark Sgt Newitt
Sgt Hazelton Sgt Reeve F/Sgt Armstrong P/O Henry Sgt Fuce Sgt Williams
F/O Abels Sgt Mennell Sgt Daft Sgt Rarity Sgt Hood Sgt Morrison
Sgt Catley Sgt Giddens Sgt Russell Sgt Blanchet Sgt Firth Sgt Elliot
F/Sgt Hill Sgt Stanworth Sgt Kennedy Sgt Lowe Sgt Hampton F/Sgt Parr
Sgt Gumbley Sgt Hindle Sgt Hunt Sgt Booth Sgt Gregson Sgt Butchart
R9483 TL-O R9489 TL-T W1019 TL-U R9438 TL-H R9496 TL-L W1015 TL-P
F/Lt Petley F/O Jones P/O Lane F/Sgt Bushby F/Sgt Archibald F/Sgt Steinhauer
Sgt Granger Sgt Reeve Sgt Hammond Sgt Peach Sgt Nelmes P/O Brown
Sgt Columbine Sgt Hawken Sgt Sykes Sgt Powell Sgt Murray F/Sgt Goodrum
F/Sgt Sawyers Sgt Harvey Sgt Thorpe F/Sgt Buckley Sgt McLaren Sgt Meade
Sgt Cranstone Sgt Janes Sgt Phillips Sgt Usher Sgt Staff Sgt Campbell
Sgt Pomroy Sgt Russell Sgt Williams Sgt Wood Sgt Francis Sgt Cowan
Sgt Price Sgt Mitchell Sgt Haxby Sgt Meredith Sgt Palmer Sgt Dunlop

The 76 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
Click on aircraft number to find out more about the flight and their fate

R9447 MP-R
F/S Clack F/S Hobbs Sgt Borsberry F/S Anderson F/L Iveson W/C Young
P/O D Anderson Sgt Butler P/O Norfolk Sgt Aston Sgt Willmott P/O Moorehouse
F/S Thompson F/S Rooney F/L Newsham Sgt Ilian Sgt Lloyd P/O Miller
Sgt Williams Sgt Charlsworth F/Sgt Pearce Sgt Heaton F/Sgt Craine Sgt Brooks
Sgt Oram Sgt Roberts Sgt Smith Sgt Redding Sgt Elliott Sgt O'Reilly
Sgt Lawes Sgt Jones Sgt VanSchaick Sgt LaFranchise Sgt Morrell Sgt Spriggs
Sgt Payne Sgt Davidson Sgt Hoskins Sgt Southward Sgt Holmes Sgt Greenwood
R9453 MP-K R9452 MP-L R9484 MP-G R9454 MP-S R9487 MP-X W1018 MP-M
S/L Burdett P/O Renaut F/Sgt Lambeth Sgt Harwood F/L Warner Sgt Lloyd-Jones
P/O Bowsher Sgt Kitchen Sgt Gathercole Sgt Wood

Sgt Bassom

P/O Culmsee
F/Sgt Cadger P/O Collins P/O Connolly F/Sgt Scott F/O Collins P/O Fairclough
F/Sgt Fletcher Sgt Hall Sgt Swain F/Sgt Roche F/Sgt Gook F/Sgt Hawkesworth
Sgt Davis Sgt Webb Sgt Gowers Sgt A Potts Sgt Herbert Sgt Hothersall
Sgt Martin Sgt Ellis Sgt George Sgt Petch Sgt Waddington Sgt Wheeldon
Sgt Hansen F/L Croft Sgt Reynolds Sgt Glover P/O Greenway Sgt Moule

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