ROADSTEAD to Norway on
7 December 1944
On the 7th of December 1944, a strike formation of Mosquitoes and Beaufighters with their escort of Mustangs was ordered to sweep Norwegian waters for German shipping reported to be in the Aalesund area.
The entire strike force was led by Squadron Leader (S/L) J. Barnes with his navigator, Flying Officer (F/O) Clayton, who were aboard their antiflak (rocket armed) 235 Squadron Mosquito FB VI, coded J (J).
Flying behind him were the rest of the Banff Wing which consisted of the five other antiflak Mosquitoes of 235 Squadron, six antiflak Mosquito FB.VIs of 143 Squadron, six Mosquito FB.VIs and four (possibly ten?) Mosquito Mk XVIII 'Tsetses' of 248 Squadron.
Following them were the Dallachy Wing Beaufighters lead by S/L W.R. Christison and his navigator, Flight Lieutenant (F/L) W.J. Toon in their 404 Squadron Beaufighter LX940 (Y).
The Dallachy Wing aircraft consisted of eleven rocket armed antiflak Beaufighters (Rockbeaus) from 404 Squadron (RAF), a further eleven Rockbeaus from 455 Squadron (Australia), twelve torpedo armed Beaufighters (Torbeaus ) from 144 Squadron (RAF) and six Torbeaus from 489 Squadron (New Zealand). The 455 Squadron Beaus became airborne between 11.18 and 11.30 hours and were carrying eight rocket projectiles armed with J type 25 lb. armour piercing heads.
Their escort was provided by twelve Mustang IIIs from 315 Squadron (Poland) led by Wing Commander (W/C) Kazimierz 'Sledz' (Hering) Rutkowski in aircraft (A).
315 Squadron contacted the 'Banff & Dallachy boys' at 1,500ft over Banff shortly after 11.35 hours. The formation which totalled seventy eight aircraft (twenty three Mosquitos, forty one Beaufighters, twelve Mustangs and supported by two Air, Sea Rescue (ASR) Warwicks from 279 Squadron (RAF), set course for Norway, according to the 455 Squadron diary, at 11.50 hours. The Poles flew on the port side of the strike force, in the standard 'finger four' formation.
The force was slightly weakened when two Beaufighters from 404 Squadron and one Mosquito from 143 Squadron had to turn back early due to VHF radio failure. At 11.26 hours, two Beaufighters from 455 Squadron and two Mosquitoes from 248 Squadron reported engine problems and also returned to their bases.
The weather in Scotland was relatively good but over the sea frequent showers were encountered and 6/10 haze was reported at 1500ft. The haze did not concern the formation as it flew at less than 100 feet during the North Sea transit.
The flight plan, agreed to at the joint briefing, called for a speed of 180 knots to allow the Beaufighters to cruise on their most economical settings but for some reason the Mosquitoes accelerated to 220 knots, their normal cruise. The 455 Squadron diary notes that the Beaufighter pilots were unable to keep up and were left well behind. Presumably the fighter escort stayed with the Beaufighters.
At 13.23 hours, Mosquito FB.VI (Y) of 248 Squadron, crewed by F/L A. McLeod (DFC) and Warrant Officer (W/O) Wheely also experienced engine trouble. This aircraft was escorted back to base by the 248 Squadron Mosquito FB.VI (F) crewed by W/O G.A. Macaskill (DFC) and W/O W.J. Jeffers, one of the ASR Warwicks and two Mustangs (F/O Bozydar Nowosielski (N) and ?). Both Mosquitoes landed at Fraseburgh at 15.15 (This time is probably error and should be read 15.45) and 15.50 hours respectively.
At 16.05 hours the Mosquito FB.VI (M) of 248 Squadron flown by F/L J. F. Lown and F/O C. J. Daynton also landed at Fraseburgh. They had experienced problems with the fuel feed from the port inner tank. They returned via Sumburgh Island in the Shetlands.
The formation proper was, as usual, preceded by a special recce crew, F/L Quelch and F/O Barber from 143 Squadron, so called Outrider. Directed from Fraseburgh, they flew their Mosquito FB.VI (U) for almost 8 hours. Leaving at 10.42 hours they flew to Aalesund where they observed two motor vessels (M/V) of between 2,000 and 3,000 tons. North of the main anchorage they found two other stationary M/V of about 1,500 tons. All sightings were immediately reported by VHF radio. Shortly afterwards they reported heavy flak off the western end of the end of the island of Sulo. They returned safely to base at about 17.20 hours.
For the main formation, the weather near the Norwegian coast improved, the cloud cover being 5/10 at 5000ft. They began climbing to 4000ft about 15 miles off the coast and as they gained height they discovered that they had tracked to the north of Aalesund. It became clear that they were between about 15 and 20 miles west of Hano Island. S/L Barnes turned the force in a WSW direction, their escort now flying on the starboard side. Landfall was made 5 miles East of Gossen and while the Mustangs remained at 4000ft, the strike force gradually lost height through intense and accurate light flak.
At 14.12, according to the 404 Squadron Operational ??? (ORB), due to an error of Banff leader's navigator, the formation swung over Gossen airfield from the north. A green verey light was observed when the formation was 15 miles WSW of Gossen and enemy aircraft were sighted at 500 ft flying toward the formation from the east.
S/L Barnes immediately ordered 'Bandits ahead, turn out to sea' followed by 'seek cloud cover engage bandits if in position to do so but continue to withdraw'. However it was too late to avoid the German attack.
One Schwarm of Messerschmitt 109s flew through the 315 Squadron aircraft, shooting down in flames F/O Andrzej Czerwinski (C (HB857)). F/L Konrad Stembrowicz (W) and the other pilots of Blue section saw them coming but were unable to warn F/O Czerwinski because the R/T Channel D, was jammed. This cleared after the initial combat and according to F/O Nowosielski (N), it was probably caused by the malfunction of F/O Czerwinski's R/T.
F/S Jakub Bargielowski (T) immediately pursued the succesful German pilot and managed to shoot him down. The Messerschmitt broke up in the air and the remains plunged into the sea, 1 mile SW of Gossen. This victory, his fifth, elevating F/S Bargielowski to the status of youngest ace in the Polish Air Force.
Another 'Messer' latched onto F/S Bargielowski's tail but the leader of Yellow section, F/L Franek Wiza (E), sent him crashing into nearby Hano Island. Seconds later F/L Wiza saw enemy tracers flashing by and wheeled to fight. Shortly afterwards another German pilot went into the sea.
At the time F/O Czerwinski was being shot down, W/C Rutkowski turned the Squadron 180 degrees to face the approaching enemy. He chose an enemy aircraft which he recognised as an Fw 190. After a sharp attack the German, smoking badly, slipped away. After the action W/C Rutkowski claimed '1 Fw 190 probably destroyed'. While 'Sledz' was engaging his enemy, his wingman, W/O Ryszard Idrian (B) saw two Fw 190s flying on the deck in the direction of Gossen. He dove and attempted to intercept them, but the Fw 190s collided, probably while trying to evade the approaching Idrian and fell on the western tip of Gossen.
Six or seven German aircraft, most probably part of 11./JG5 led by Oberleutnant Rudi Glöckner, flying on a course of 200 degrees, set out in line abreast after the Torbeaus who were now flying down on the deck. Although the Beaufighters increased their speed to well over 200 knots, they were unable to keep up with the similarly retreating Mosquitoes.
144 Squadron Beaufighter (K) flown by F/S C.H Foster and F/S Cunningham was attacked by two German fighters. A section of 144 Squadron aircraft, including (A), (V) and (S), were attacked by Me109Fs 5 miles west of Gossen. The Germans made three attacks at 200ft. The first from 300 yards astern, the second from 250 yards and a third from 400yds. 144 Squadron Beaufighter (S) crewed by W/O R. McAfee and F/S F. Rhodes, corkscrewed violently in a westerly direction. Their aircraft received a bullet hole in the port engine and port tail plane. The pilot, W/O R McAfee, jettisoned his torpedo during the attack. Neither crew member was injured. Their enemy was probably Glöckner himself, who claimed this aircraft as his 31st victory.
One 489 Squadron Beaufighter also showed her teeth: 'An Me 109 appearing in front of (R) was engaged and was last seen trailing smoke. A moment later a thick column of black smoke shot up from behind a screen of land and this aircraft is presumed destroyed', however the claim by the squadron was rejected. Shortly afterwards, this crew, consisting of, F/S M. Graham and W/O I. Clarke ditched their Torbeau (LZ448 (R)) due to extensive combat damage, probably caused by Gefreiter Dieter Baasch from 10./JG5 who joined Glöckner's section.
144 Squadron Beaufighter (X) flown by P/O J.M. Andrew and W/O A. Bates observed this incident, circled and took a Gee fix. They also dropped a marker when they saw the dinghy with two passengers. W/O Field and F/S D.H. Anstey in (U) also of 143 Squadron were also present and fixed the position at 6025N 0020E. This crew was ultimately rescued, their story is described separately.
404 Squadron aircraft, NT916 (S), crewed by P/O H.F. Flynn and W/O M.H. Michael was also hit and the navigator received a minor wound when a shell exploded in his cupola. P/O Flynn kept the damaged Beau under control and escorted by two other aircraft, headed to Sumburgh Island.
As the German attack commenced, Blue section leader, Konrad Stembrowicz (W), jettisoned his drop tanks and went down to protect the 'strike boys'. He attacked two Me 109s, which were forced to break off their attacks on the Beaufighters. One of the Me 109s went down emitting grey smoke, however Stembrowicz was unable to finish him, as the second German fighter put some accurate bursts into both the Mustang's wings. Stembrowicz, not knowing how serious the damage was, decided to disengage. W/O Bronislaw Czerwinski (U), tried to help his section leader but was attacked by a schwarm of four 'Messers'. He shot down one of them but decided to beat a strategic retreat at full throttle as the remaining three were eager to avenge their defeated comrade.
Meanwhile, the 248 Squadron Mosquitoes came under attack from another group of German aircraft. At about 14.10 hours, some 2.5 miles West of Gossen, aircraft of 248 Squadron were attacked by a group of at least three Me 109s flying at 1000 ft.
Aircraft (Z1) crewed by F/L B. Beattie and F/L E. Gittens and (T1) crewed by F/O W.G. Woodcock and F/O J.J. Vacher, both Mk XVIII Tsetses evaded the Germans and were undamaged.
However, two other Tsetses of 248 Squadron, (O) crewed by F/O W.N. Cosman, DFC and F/O L.M. Freedman and (Z) crewed by F/O K.C. Wing and F/S V.R. Shield, failed to return. It's likely that the destruction of one of them was reported by 248 Squadron Mk VI (X) crewed by F/L R. Bacon F/O W. Voce who reported a Mosquito at 100 ft going vertically into sea, after being chased and attacked by an Me 109. This may have been the same aircraft seen by the crew of (T1). Lt. Podewils from 11./JG5 claimed a Beaufighter at 14.15, 13km off Gossen. This could be a misidentified Tsetse of 248 Squadron.
The attacking Germans broke off, when they were attacked by another Mosquito, possibly an FB.VI (K) of 235 Squadron. W/O Cogswell and F/S Brown made two attacks on an Me 109 estimating nil damage to the enemy aircraft. The reported time was 14.05, but this may be wrong.
Simulatneously,143 Squadron Mosquito FB.VI (HR436 (J)) crewed by F/O D.E. Howley and F/S Brader was attacked by five Me109s, they turned in to attack but broke off before engaging. Later, two fighters approached from the port and starboard quarters but remained out of firing range. F/O Howley jettisoned his rockets and managed to reach Sumburgh safely. A fellow 143 Squadron crew flying in (R) reported a Mosquito with one engine on fire, flying at sea level just North of Gossen, however it was not seen to go into the sea.
As the combat came to an end, S/L Barnes, who climbed to the cloudbase now at 5000 ft, ordered 'reform out to sea'.
After the formation had set course to base, a message was sent on the VHF at about 14.17 hours. 'Formation check petrol and divert if necessary'. Accordingly, a number of aircraft, including two from 235 Squadron, four from 248 Squadron and five from 144 Squadron landed at Sumburgh between 15.35-15.57 hours.
This order was followed at 14.23 hours by 'Proceed to base individually'.
Most of the aircraft touched down at their bases about 16.30. The 404 Squadron ORB noted, 'our aircraft returned safely but some with (only) 10 gallons of fuel (left)'.
The combat was over but now the exhausted crews of both sides had another problem. Their intelligence officers now tried to get as much detail as possible about the action.
Beaufighter crews reported one twin engined fighter going down at 6251N 0642E and two single engined aircraft shot down. One of the fighters went in flames at 14.12 hours from 4000ft at 6243N 0632E, and was also reported by (Z1) of 248 Squadron. Most probably, this was the Mustang III (HB857 (C)) of F/O Andrzej Czerwinski as a few moments later the other Mustangs were seen to attack. The crew of 235 Squadron Mosquito (R), reported an explosion in the water followed by oil slicks at 6225N 0604E which could not be conclusively linked to any of the several dog fights in the area.
Interestingly, several crews reported seeing a Ju 88. It is not known what this aircraft was doing in the vicinity. As it did not take part in the combat, it may have been transiting the area at the time.
The pilots of the 'Eismeer Geschwader' (Ice-Sea Wing) successfully prevented a shipping attack, however their claim for 13 twin engined and 2 single engined aircraft was somewhat exaggerated, as only 2 Mosquito MkXVIII Tsetses, 1 Torbeau and 1 Mustang were lost. Some of the over-claiming may well have been due to the evasive tactics used by the Beaufighter pilots. Violent corkscrewing combined with heavy oil smoke from wide open sleeve valve Hercules engines did give the impression of an aircraft in trouble. In the heat of combat this could be mistaken by attacking pilots as a shoot-down. Of course, there would be no visible evidence when an aircraft subsequently crashed into the sea.
The Polish pilots of 315 Squadron claimed four Me 109s destroyed (F/L Wiza: two, W/O Czerwinski: one, F/S Bargielowski: one) and one probable for F/L Stembrowicz. W/C Rutkowski claimed one Fw 190 probable while the claim of his wingman W/O Idrian for two Fw 190s was rejected.
It appears that the Poles also over-claimed as German documents confirm loss of only four Me 109Gs of III/JG5:
Unteroffizier Raimund Bruscagin of 11./JG5 reported missing off Gossen in his Bf 109G-6 410816,
Unteroffizier Harry Bernhardt of 10./JG5 killed at Gossen while force landing Bf 109G-6 410817 'Black 11' (also reported as 410818 'Yellow 11'),
Leutnant Heinrich von Podeweils 11./JG5 shot down off Gossen in Bf 109G 'Yellow 12A',
Oberleutnant. Rudi Glöckner 11./JG5 Bf 109G 'Yellow 12'.
Nevertheless the 315 Squadron victories were confirmed by Fighter Command on 29.01.45.
This Roadstead had a significant consequence. RAF Coastal Command came to the conclusion that Beaufighters and Mosquitoes should not fly in same formation due to better performance of the latter. This was extremely dangerous, as the slower Beaufighters significantly lengthened the formations. This made them very sensitive to German attacks as the formation was very difficult to protect with a limited fighter escort. The Mosquitoes and Beaufighters never flew, escorted, together again.
Aircraft flown by 315 Squadron
A W/C Kazimierz Rutkowski 11.35 - 16.35 (Red Section Leader) B W/O Ryszard Idrian 11.35 - 16.35 (Red section) C (HB857) F/O Andrzej Czerwinski 11.35 - 14.35 E?I F/L Franciszek Wiza 11.35 - 16.35 (Yellow Section Leader) U W/O Bronislaw Czerwinski 11.35 - 16.35 (Blue section) N F/O Bozydar Nowosielski 11.35 - 15.25 (???) Q F/O Tadeusz Haczkiewicz 11.35 - 16.25 T F/S Jakub Bargielowski 11.35 - 16.35 W F/L Konrad Stembrowicz 11.35 - 16.25 (Blue Section Leader) X F/S Tadeusz Berka 11.35 - 16.25 Y Sgt. Marian Cempel 11.35 - 16.25 Z F/O Borowczyk 11.35 - 16.25
To contact the author: Franek Grabowski