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Episodes & Studies Volume 2



DURING THE NORWEGIAN CAMPAIGN Bomber Command was unable to give direct support either to the British or Norwegian armies. There were no bomber bases nearer than in Britain, a distance of some four hundred miles, and it was impossible with the aircraft available to keep up continuous bombing in the battle area. British bombers could only harry the enemy's communications by sea and air, attacking convoys and warships between Germany and Norway and bombing airfields in Denmark and Norway which the Germans were using for their bomber, fighter, and transport aircraft.

Crews from the New Zealand Bomber Squadron were among the first to see signs of the impending invasion of Norway. On the night of 6 April they reported seeing numerous motor vehicles, their lights blazing, streaming along the Autobahn from Hamburg to Lubeck.

The following day Pilot Officers O. H. Keedwell18 and J. D. Murphy19 sighted a strong enemy naval force in the North Sea. They attacked a battleship but scored no hits. Sergeant M. H. S. Innes-Jones in the leading aircraft of one flight saw his bombs overshoot and hit one of the escorting destroyers. Unfortunately the German warships were later lost sight of until they were located and attacked at Bergen two days later.

From the time of the German invasion of Norway on 9 April the greater part of the British bombing effort was directed against enemy airfields in Denmark and Norway. The attacks were concentrated especially on Stavanger, the principal air base in Norway from which the Germans attacked Allied shipping. This airfield was first attacked by Bomber Command on 11 April. Preceded by two Blenheim fighters, six Wellingtons made their attack at a very low level in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. One Wellington was seen to crash in flames and the second pilot, Pilot Officer D. A. Rankin,20 was lost.

During the middle of April British troops landed at Namsos and Aandalsnes, but, in the face of heavy German air attacks, were forced to withdraw a fortnight later. At Narvik, where local air superiority was achieved by British fighters, the town was captured and held until the beginning of June.

There is some evidence that the attacks on his airfields did force the enemy to reduce his bombing in the Aandalsnes and Namsos areas, but attacks on shipping and the mining of Kattegat and Skagerrak had no apparent effect upon the flow of German reinforcements into Norway. They could hardly have been expected to do so. It was still winter in Norway, and the weather, the distances from bases, the limited force available, and the lack of fighter protection made it impossible for Bomber Command to intervene effectively in the campaign.