Attack on Gestapo Headquarters
Attack on Gestapo Headquarters, Copenhagen, 21 March 1945
On the morning of 21 March 1945, a special force of Mosquitos from No 140 Wing took off from an aerodrome in England to attack the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen.
Before the attack could be carried out, several weeks of careful planning were necessary. Two large scale models, one representing the city, and the other the Gestapo building, were used to brief the pilots in every detail - trees, lake and houses - were pointed out on these models which took 340 man hours to construct.
The target was a large building, U-shaped, and six storeys in height. From information received it was known that the entire Gestapo staff for the whole of Denmark as well as a large number of criminal police were housed in this headquarters.
The Mosquitos took off in three waves of six, together with two Mosquitos of the RAF Film Unit at exactly nine o'clock in the morning - the time that the Gestapo workers would be arriving at the Headquarters. After flying across the North Sea for over two hours, they made landfall exactly as planned on the coast of Jutland and soon the city of Copenhagen came into view.
It had been an exceedingly bumpy trip. The first wave attacked the Headquarters from roof top level - so low, in fact, that the aircraft flown by Wg Cdr Kleboe struck one of the buildings and although he made a gallant effort to carry on with a damaged wing, he was seen to crash later in one of the city's boulevards.
This was the most unfortunate incident of the raid because the other aircraft, seeing the flames of this burning machine, attacked that spot thinking it was the headquarters.
A reconnaissance aircraft of No 34 Wing took off the following day and photographed the area. Interception reports of these photographs showed that the target had received severe damage. The top storey and roof of the south front were destroyed and the remainder was partially gutted and destroyed. The west wing was destroyed nearly to ground level and the east wing, the top storey and roof were destroyed and the floor below damaged. Rescue work was in progress when the photographs were taken. A photograph received later from Underground sources shows the building ablaze from end to end - concrete evidence the mission was most successful.
Mustangs of Fighter Command played a dual role. They escorted the fighter-bombers on both outward and return journeys and during the actual attack they were detailed to silence flak positions in the vicinity. But the attack was such a complete surprise that anti-aircraft defences did not go into action until the Mosquitos were on their way home. The only real opposition was from ships in the harbour.
The leading navigator did his job so thoroughly that all the aircraft landed back at base only two minutes after the original schedule.
The Germans put out a rumour that the officials were out at a funeral at the time of the attack but official information from Denmark states that 151 Gestapo men were killed and 30 Danish patriots imprisoned in the building got away.
The cruiser Leipzig was in the harbour at the time of the raid and it got underway as the Mosquitos attacked as the Germans apparently were under the impression that we were after the remnants of the German Navy.
Aircraft involved in the attack (all 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.|