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:
From 35 Squadron:
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:
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.
The 10 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
Click on aircraft number to find out more about the flight and their fate
The 35 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
The 76 Squadron Aircraft and Crews
|P/O D Anderson
|Sgt A Potts