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
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.