338: Halifax II DT 620 of 138th Squadron operating from Tempsford Airfield

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Halifax II DT620

You can read more about allied airmen and their aircraft on:

http://www.airmen.dk/

http://www.airmen.dk/p143.htm

Halifax II DT 620 which was shot down in the North sea just outside Stevns 14/3-1943.
The flight belonged to the Royal Airforce 138th Squadron, Bombing command and was codet NF-T. Departure 17:50 from Tempsford with the mission: SOE to drop zone Wrona 614 in Poland.

At Kastrup airstation captain of the air squadron lieutenant-colonel Martin Drewes from the nightfighter squadron was warned by the duty officer at the radar station “Seehund” which was Tyberg
in the middle of Zealand, he reported that there were several enemy planes which were about to cross Zealand from the West to the East in low altitude. In this altitude the radar was not able to help
the nightfighter and he could only give the course of the planes.
Shortly after takeoff in his Bf 110 code D5+DR Drewes spotted a Halifax in 200 meters altitude and opened fire from a range of 80 meters. After a short burst, the Halifax caught fire, exploded in the air and fell into the sea just outside Harvig 21:42 hrs. It fell in 8 meters of water, 200 meters from the coast, East for Jens Hansens house.
The crew from flight DT620 existing of : pilot F/S Leslie R. Smith, Co pilot Sgt Horace R. Harrap RNZAF, Wop Sgt Thomas Mairs, Navigator/ Air Bomber Sgt. Colin F. Chambers, Air Gnr. F/S Eugene S. Masson, RCAF, Wop/Air Gnr. Sgt Donald R. Ross RCAF and Flt. Engr. Sgt. Arthur C. Sixsmith were all lost.
Halifax DT620 came from RAF SQN. 138 had been on a secret mission “operation Slate” for SOE (Special Operation Executive) far away in Poland, where they had dropped 6 containers and 6 parcels for the Polish resistance. The day before d. 13/3 the same plane and crew had been on “Operation Cockle 2” in France also for SOE. On the way home to England the rute went over Stevns in Denmark.
In the local newspaper “Stevns Avisen” you could read about the aerial combat by the cliff.
On sunday evening many of the local residents of Stevns witnessed an aerial combat between an English and a German plane which met  at the cliff between Rødvig and Højerup-
The English plane was hit, burst into flames and crashed in the sea a few meters from Højerup. The Police patrol boat from Rødvig came quickly to the scene but the plane sank almost at once.
From Store Heddinge where the crash was also observed, they sent a motor fireengine as they didn´t know where the plane crashed. On Monday morning several pieces of the crashed plane and two of the crew were washed ashore.
Sgt Mairs has no burial place but is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, while Sgt Chambers is buried in Fjelie, Sweden. His body was found washed ashore at Villa Hage in Bjerred between Malmø and Halskrona, 4th May 1943-20:30 hrs. He was found tangled in his parachute ropes, without the parachute. At night the body was guarded  by the local military barracks. Next morning it was examined by the local Police and put in a coffin and driven to the local chapel in Fjelie. Chambers was buried in Fjelie churchyard 26 May 1943 with full military honours.
The Army chaplain E. Eberhard carried out the funeral ceremonies.
The 15th March 00:30 hrs. a body was found on the beach close to Jens hansens house.  06:30 hrs. another pilot was found near by. Both bodies were brought to Rødvig and handed over to the German Wehrmacht who brought them to Kastrup air station. It must have been Mason and Ross who were buried in Copenhagen in Bispebjerg churchyard,d. 19 March 1943. 21st March a body was washed ashore near Rødvig. It was taken care of by the Danish Police and brought to Store Heddinge hospital. The body was badly mutilated and was dressed in a blue/grey uniform with 3 vinkler and a gold crown on the right over arm. Furthermore it carried the emblem RAF in gold. 22 March it was reported that the body was fetched by Wehrmacht. It must have been Sgt. Smith who was buried at Bispebjerg churchyard on 26 March 1943. 29th March a fisherman brought the body of a pilot to Rødvig harbour. Wehrmachten had engaged some fishermen to look for the plane wreck in the sea, and in doing this they found a body. It was the body of F/Sgt Harrap who was buried in peace in Bispebjerg churchyard on 7th April 1943. 14th April fisherman Jens hansen found a body which was brought to Store heddinge hospital. it was fetched by the aircommander from Kastrup the same day. Apparently they were the remains of Sgt Mairs on good authority were identified at the hospital, but to this day he is buried as an unknown pilot in Bispebjerg churchyard.
This Memorial is erected by Halifax group and is sponcered by:  Stevns Fire Fund, Diba Bank, Bdr. K. Hansen. The Danish Defence Brothers in Stevns,  and Højerup Vestry.
You can read more about the project on http://www.airmen.dk/p143.htm

Tempsford Air Base

ESKADRILLERNE SOM VAR STATIONERET PÅ TEMPSFORD LUFTBASE (1942 – 1945)

”Speciel Tjeneste” Eskadrillerne 138 & 161 og deres fly

 

Skønt fly fra andre eskadriller i ny og næ brugte Royal Air Force base i Tempsford så var det kun 138 & 161 eskadrille der havde hjemme på basen. Begge var involveret i disse meget hemmelige operationer som spændte over hele det fjendtligt besatte Europa ved at nedkaste våben, forsyninger og agenter.  Tabene var meget høje, med op til et fly om ugen på nogen tidspunkter under krigen, specielt omkring D-dag i Normandiet perioden i 1944.

Missionerne blev koncentreret omkring hver måneds ”månenætter” hvor fuldmånelyset gav et bedre nattesyn for piloterne.

Flyet der blev brugt til den tunge arbejdstjeneste med at nedkaste containere og pakker var Halifax og Sterling bombere, fordi de var i stand til at bære tunge ladninger af forsyninger over lange afstande. Og for det meget risikofyldte arbejde med at lande om natten for at opsamle eller landsætte agenter brugte man Hudson og ”Lizzie” Westland Lysander, utvivlsomt det mest berømte fly som var involveret i det hemmelige arbejde, fordi den var robust og kunne lande og lette på meget korte afstande, hvilket var meget nødvendigt når man forsøgte at lande på en ujævn mark om natten. Den gamle Armstrong Whithworth Whitley blev også brugt i starten til nedkastning af forsyninger, men blev siden erstattet af Lockheed Hudson.

Sande beretninger fra disse missioner lyder næsten utrolige, sådan som Hudsonen der en nat landede i det fjendtligt besatte Frankrig, som snak ned til bugen på en mudret mark, og først slap væk 2 timer og 40 minutter senere efter at okser fra lokalområdet blev brugt til at trække det fri, lige foran næsen på tyskerne. Tit og ofte returnerede flyene gennemhullet med kugler eller med rester fra levende hegn snoet omkring understellet.

Det var fra Tempsford luftbase at disse maskiner ville flyve nat efter nat under den korte måne periode, over kanalen eller Nordsøen til det besatte Frankrig, Belgien, Norge, Danmark, Polen eller Czeshoslovakiet, og ingen i de lokale byer vidste hvilket mod og tapperhed der blev udført lige oppe ad vejen. De syntes heller ikke at opfatte at flyvningerne kun blev foretaget på de månelyse nætter. Livet, skønt ofte kort, var intenst for flybesætningerne som var de eneste allierede soldater mellem 1941 – 1944 som altid (mystisk) havde en regelmæssig forsyning af fransk champagne og parfume. Vi vil ikke for meget ved den romance som udspillede sig mellem flyverne og pigerne fra den franske modstandsbevægelse, men nøjes med at sige at det var utroligt hvad der blev opnået for ”entente cordiale” på bare nogle få minutter på jorden.

Tyskerne var meget tæt på at opdage flybasen. En nat var der en enlig bomber der kastede et markeringslys langs hovedstartbanen, men fløj videre uden at være klar over hvad de havde fundet og hvor tæt på de var på at lokalisere det som Hitler kaldte ”Den største plage”.

I alt blev 1.488 agenter kastet ned med faldskærm i det fjendtligt besatte Europa og yderligere 485 var blevet landsat, med 575 VIP´s agenter og nedskudte flybesætninger og piloter bragt ud på tilbagevejen. Mens de var i det Tempsford flyvere ”befriede” også adskillige kasser med cognac, champagne og Premier cru vine. Ved en lejlighed i 1943 blev en adskilt tysk V2 raket, stjålet intakt af den polske undergrundsbevægelse og fløjet til Tempsford. 126 fly blev mistet under krigen, enten på missioner eller ved lokale uheld, med tab af mange af deres besætninger.


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