A Total Success or a Human Tragedy – Operation Carthage

The Shell House attack.

Whilst researching a recent trip I came across this interesting film detailing the attack by 140 Wing (RAF) on the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1945. Codenamed ‘Operation Carthage’. Technically it was 100% successful, the building was destroyed, the papers burned and resistance fighters escaped, but the attack resulted in the loss of 10 crew members 13 civilians and 86 children.

On March 21st 1945, 18 Mosquitos from 140 Wing (RAF) consisting of 3 waves of 6 from 487 Squadron, 464 Squadron and 21 Squadron  and two supporting photographic Mosquitos, took off from RAF Fersfield to attack and destroy the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Leaving just before 9:00am, so they would arrive over the target when it was at its busiest, they headed out over the north sea on a direct line to Denmark.

Attacking at roof top height, they struck a blow at the heart of the Gestapo, killing 151 Gestapo officers and allowing for the escape of 30 Danish resistance fighters.

Sadly in the attack, a Mosquito s/n SZ977, flown by Wg. Cdr. Peter A Kleboe and Fg.Off. K Hall, struck a building causing it to crash and burst into flames. Following aircraft blinded by the smoke, believed this to be the target and bombed it, hitting a school killing 86 children inside.

Some argue the loss of those civilians was not sufficient to justify the attack whilst others claim the success of the mission outweighs the tragic loss of civilian life. The Debate goes on!

Aircraft involved in the attack

(Mosquito Mk.VI)

No 487 Squadron

RS570 ‘X’ Gp Capt R N Bateson / Sqn Ldr E B Sismore (Raid Leader)
PZ402 ‘A’ Wg Cdr F M Denton / Fg Off A J Coe (damaged, belly landed at base)
PZ462 ‘J’ Flt Lt R J Dempsey / Flt Sgt E J Paige (hit by flak, 1 engine u/s, returned safely)
PZ339 ‘T’ Sqn Ldr W P Kemp / Flt Lt R Peel
SZ985 ‘M’ Fg Off G L Peet / Fg Off L A Graham
NT123 ‘Z’ Flt Lt D V Pattison / Flt Sgt F Pygram (missing)

No 464 Squadron

PZ353 Flt Lt W K Shrimpton RAAF (Pilot) / Fg Off P R Lake RAAF
PZ463 Flt Lt C B Thompson / Sgt H D Carter
PZ309 Flt Lt A J Smith RAAF / Flt Sgt H L Green RAAF
SZ999 Fg Off H G Dawson RAAF / Fg Off P T Murray (missing)
RS609 Fg Off J H Palmer RAAF / 2nd Lt H H Becker RNorAF (missing)
SZ968 Wg Cdr Iredale RAAF / Fg Off Johnson
All aircraft took off at 0840; last back landed 1405.

No 21 Squadron

SZ977 Wg Cdr P A Kleboe / Fg Off K Hall (missing)
PZ306 Sqn Ldr A F Carlisle / Flt Lt N J Ingram
LR388 Sqn Ldr A C Henderson / Flt Lt W A Moore
HR162 Flt Lt M Hetherington / Fg Off J K Bell
No 21 Squadron records list only these four aircraft and crews above as taking part in this operation.
All aircraft took off at 0835; the three which returned did so at 1355.

Sources:National Archives, June 14th 2015.


6 thoughts on “A Total Success or a Human Tragedy – Operation Carthage

  1. Britian should be held accountable for all the thousands of incidents where they recklessly and sometime with utmost malicious and inhumane content killed imprisoned civialians especially women and children as wascthe case in the boer war wherevthey effectively murdered 86 000 wonen and children


  2. No detailed photos of the Jeanne D’Arc school aftermath online. Shameful censorship by the ‘victors’ who in this case ‘write the history’.


  3. Nobody carries out a bombing mission with the benefit of hindsight. To me, its a little bit like the very strong feelings that Barnes Wallis had after so many men were killed on the Dams Raid. And at least it isn’t like the incident in London where a Luftwaffe pilot actually waved to the children who had mistaken him for an RAF plane, and then proceeded to attack the school. At least the RAF did it accidentally, if that’s any consolation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed a big difference between the two. Sadly in war there are always accidental civilian casualties, and hindsight is wonderful. I don’t have the definitive answer but often these casualties are inevitable and need to be accepted. Thanks for your contribution John.


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