Robbie Reid

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Diary - Robbie Reid

Click here to see Ray Harington's diary from 1945.

Saturday, 17/03/1945 - Raid on Aalesund
Sunday, 18/03/1945 - Training
Monday, 19/03/1945 - Training
Tuesday, 20/03/1945 - Ranger Patrol
Wednesday, 21/03/1945 - Training
Thursday, 22/03/1945 - Training
Friday, 23/03/1945 - Shipping Attacks

Saturday, 17/03/1945 - Raid on Aalesund

Morning reconnaissance patrols report the presence of a number of merchant vessels lying in Aalesund harbour, together with favourable weather reports.

Map of Norway


Aalesund, at the entrance of Geirangerfjord, is set over several islands stretching into the sea. A large fire devastated property in 1904, and a rapid rebuilding programme resulted in a unique colourful, art nouveau architectural style which is visible to this day.

During WW2 Aalesund was a major port for German shipping activity and thus heavily defended against both sea and air attacks - defences included coastal batteries, and anti-aircraft and machine gun emplacements.

Due to the potential targets on offer, a large strike force was ordered and in the early afternoon the heavily laden Mosquitos took to the air. The force comprised;

11 aircraft from 235 squadron, including squadron leader Robbie Reid and flying officer Alex Turner
9 aircraft from 143 squadron
11 aircraft from 248 squadron
2 aircraft from 333 squadron

The earlier reconnaissance patrols would have put the German defences on alert, knowing an attack would be carried out later in the day. The strike force, led by wind commander Roy Orrock from 248 squadron, therefore made landfall south of Aalesund and circled inland to climb over the mountains behind the port, in order to gain as much surprise and cover as possible.

The attack commenced at 1557 hours on the shipping lying in both the inner harbour and in more open water, using rocket projectiles and cannon fire. Return fire from the German defences was heavy from the coastal defences, but meagre from the vessels.

Three ships were sunk, the IRIS (3323 tons) and the REMAGE (1830 tons), together with the Norwegian Merchant vessel LOG (1684 tons). Further shipping was damaged, evidencing the deadliness of the rocket projectiles accurately aimed at shipping both above ("dry" hits) and below ("wet" hits) the waterline.

Two aircraft failed to return, wing commander Orrock's aircraft was hit by flak and made a successful ditching but became a POW; flying officer Ceybird's aircraft was also hit by flak and crashed, both crewmembers perishing.

All 235 squadron aircraft landed safely, at 1803 hours.

The Iris burns   Shipping attacked outside the harbour

Mosquitos press home attacks over Aalesund   

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Postscript

Evidence of Aalesund's past during WW2 is still very much in evidence today. The hill above Aalesund, Aksla (reached by 418 steps from the Town Park below) offers a fine view of the archipelago and was thus a natural military vantage point.

Substantial remains of the German underground system and observation post can be visited here.

Of the air attack on the 17th March, certain evidence can still be seen. During the attack some buildings around the harbour were inadvertently set on fire, leading to redevelopment. The spare propeller from the Remage has been salvaged and can be seen on display at the Fisheries Museum.

German underground system, Aksla    German underground system, Aksla

Aalesund from the top of the Town Mountain, Aksla    German underground system, Aksla

Flak gun remains, Aksla     Aalesund 2007

Aalesund harbour 2007     Aalesund lighthouse 2007

Aalesund 2007      Aalesund 2007

Aalesund harbour 2007

    The spare propeller from the Remage, salvaged and donated to the Aalesund Fisheries museum     The spare propeller from the Remage, salvaged and donated to the Aalesund Fisheries museum

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Sunday, 18/03/1945 - Training

No engagements with enemy. 235 squadron released for training, 12 training sorties carried out.

       Squadron Leader Reid & Flying Officer Turner infront of an unidentified Mosquito

 
Monday, 19/03/1945 - Training

No engagements with enemy. 235 squadron released for training, 11 training sorties carried out.

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Tuesday, 20/03/1945 - Ranger Patrol

At 1410 hours squadron leader Reid and flight officer Turner lifted off on a ranger patrol (offensive strikes looking for low level targets of opportunity) in Mosquito "D".

However, due to one of the drop tanks carrying additional fuel not feeding, Reid conferred with the Mustang leader and passed over the flight plan.

At 1412 hours Mosquito "D" was forced to turn for home. Two Mustangs escorted "D", the remainder continuing the patrol. "D" landed safely at base at 1833 hours.

Later, 40 Mosquitos with 12 Mustang escorts search the Kattegat area (a strait of the North Sea between southwest Sweden and eastern Jutland, Denmark) for shipping targets, but none found.

Certain Mustang fighter squadrons, famed for their long range abilities utilising drop tanks to escort US bombers deep into the heart of Germany, were diverted to bases in Northern Scotland to escort the Banff strike wing and combat the various Luftwaffe Staffen established on the West coast of Norway during the conflict.




315 squadron Mustang

Mustangs of 315 Squadron

Mustangs of 315 squadron

 


Wednesday, 21/03/1945 - Training

No engagements with enemy. 235 squadron released for training, 9 training sorties carried out.
 

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Thursday, 22/03/1945 - Training

No engagements with enemy. 235 squadron released for training, 13 training sorties carried out.

A Mosquito from 333 squadron crashed near the airfield on a routine air test, the pilot Leithe perishing in the accident, the navigator Skjelanger was thrown from the wreckage and survived.


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Friday, 23/03/1945 - Shipping Attacks

235 launch 2 early morning reconnaissance patrols, but little seen. Other squadron patrols report the presence of shipping in the Stadtlandet area.

At 1523 12 aircraft from 235 squadron take of, together with aircraft from 143 and 248 aircraft. 42 Mosquitos in total, with 12 Mustangs as escort. Squadron leader Reid leads 235 squadron in "W".

At 16.50hours 235 squadron turned away from the formation, and at 17.01 approach VAEROYA with visibility 1 mile, no cloud but very hazy. The squadron turns north and continues overland eastwards, led by their Norwegian outrider.

At 1710 hours, 8 aircraft from 248 squadron attempt strikes against shipping in Maloy, but the positioning of the vessels make effective strikes difficult and the aircraft resume searching for targets, before turning for home.

At 1723 hours the remaining force attacks the general cargo vessel LYSAKER (909 tons), berthed at Sandshamm in the Sunnmore area, with rocket projectiles and cannon, claiming many strikes. The ship is sunk. The Norwegian passenger ship ROMSDAL (138 tons) in machine gunned by mistake.

2 aircraft were lost to enemy flak, flying officer McCall of 143 squadron and his navigator Etchells, whose aircraft was seen to catch fire and crash into the sea - both perished in the crash. Flight lieutenant Lowe and his navigator Hannaford, also of 143 squadron performed a successful ditching a mile offshore with the starboard engine smoking - both survived to become prisoners of war.

Meanwhile the 12 aircraft of 235 squadron launch an attack against the German vessel ROTENFELS (7851 tons), at berth in the southern end of Dalsfjord near the small village of Steinsvik. The vessel is loaded with munitions. Using similar tactics to the Aalesund raid on the 17th, the aircraft line up and attack over the mountains behind the fjord, avoiding the open water approach to give the German gunners as little time as possible to focus on their targets. They then enter a shallow dive and aim for the vessel.

The local villagers, aware an attack is coming due to the sighting of the reconnaissance aircraft earlier that day, rush for shelter as the Mosquitos scream in for attack, the Merlins shattering the silence, the aircraft scattering spent ammunition casings over the village.

The Germans were also alert. Squadron leader Reid in "W" was first to attack, suffered a direct hit and the Mosquito dived into the sea 50 yards ahead and beyond the merchant vessel. The aircraft did not burn, but disintegrated on impact leaving a cloud of steam and smoke.

The remaining aircraft attack, soon silencing the return fire from the vessel, and 79 rocket projectiles are launched from 10 Mosquitos ("H" suffers a one rocket hang-up), scoring 4 wet and 11 dry hits. 4 aircraft were unable to observe results owing to steepness of dive and difficulty of attack. All aircraft attack the merchant vessel with cannon, all scoring strikes.

As a result of the attack the merchant vessel was left burning furiously and a large explosion from the bridge superstructure was seen. The outrider led the force down VOLDSFJORD and over HARIEDLANDET firing green cartridges to attract attention. The outrider covered DAVIKEN, CULENS, NORDFJORD, EID, VOLDSFJORD, ORSFENFJORD and VARTDALSFJORD sighting no shipping.

235 squadron returned to base, the last aircraft touching down at 1957 hours.

Lysaker under attack     Rotenfels under attack, Dalsfjord. Crash site of Robbie Reid's Mosquito.

 Mosquito R attacks from 1500 foot     Mosquito A attacks from 1000 foot

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Postscript

Of the evening, Ken Parkinson remembers:
"We had a session in the aircrew canteen tonight to give the ground staff a few drinks and remember Robbie and Turner.  I left early to start packing for my leave.  Others seemed to press on because about 1:30am we were awoken by some of them throwing bricks on our tin roof!"


The wreck of the LYSAKER was raised in 1946 and re-entered service as the SOLSKIN, eventually being broken up in 1969.

  LYSAKER


The Rotenfels was eventually taken away, repaired and in 1947 sold to Alcyone Shipping Co, renamed Alcyone Hope.

In 1950, a memorial was erected and a service took place in the small village of Steinsvik, positioned as it is near to where the ROTENFELS was berthed and attacked, in honour of squadron leader Reid and flight officer Turner. Every year, on the Norwegian day of independence 17th May, the Norwegian and the Scottish flags (both pilots were from Scotland) are raised over the memorial and thoughts given to the bravery of all aircrew during the Norwegian campaign.

Norwegian day of Independence and memorial service, 17th March 2006.

     Memorial          Memorial Steinsvik

Memorial service and monument unveiling, Steinsvik 1950    View of Dalsfjord from Steinsvik    

Entry point of attack, over the back of Dalsfjord     Memorial inscription

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  Robbie Reid  2010