Operation Duck

The British cruiser ”Suffolk” was just finished disembarking a unit at Torshavn on the Faroe islands, when an order to attack Sola airfield outside Stavanger came. The airfield was frequently used by German bomber units as base for their attacks northwards in Norway. The British plan to send a landingforce to Aandalsnes and Namsos could be much more difficult if the Luftwaffe had full air superiority. In order to try to disable as many planes as possible, the cruiser, which had an rendesvouz with the 4 destroyers, “Kipling”, “Juno”, “Janus” and “Herwark”, set off to bombard the airfield before sunset on the 17th April. As aircover, 12 Beaufighters from 107sqn Bomber command were ready to follow as soon as the cruiser were starting it`s retreat. In addition to “Suffolk`s”  two Walrus scoutplanes, it was decided to send 2 Hudson`s from 233Sqn Coastal command carrying navy artillery observers and radio operators. Just after take-off  at 01:15 from Lossiemouth, one of the Hudsons suffered a technical problem, and had to return. The last Hudson continued on it`s own.

Hudson N-7254

Pilot : G. Edwards (RAF)

2nd pilot: Tacon (RAF)

Radio/gunner :Purves (RAF)

L.A.C :Middle (RAF)

LT.Cdr Fleming (Royal navy artillery observer)

T.A.G Rine (Royal navy telegraphist)

In order to avoid some reported German destroyers, Suffolk decided to take an northen approach, thus missing the rendesvouz with the waiting British destroyer escort. The lone Hudson took the German flak batteries totally by surprise. Edwards was able to drop his load of 9 25Lbs Incendiary bombs in the middle of the airport. As they were heading for the observation line, Oberfeldwebel Jescke in his Ju88C (Z./KG30) attacked them. After a 20 minute dogfight between the two aircrafts, the Ju got away with a damaged engine. The Hudson then noticed rather heavy AA fire, only to find out that it was the cruiser which were shooting at them! They dropped a few “friendly” flares, and the bombardement begun. Suffolk was completely alone some 20 Km`s from the busiest German airfield in Norway. The fires started by the Hudson were not easy to differ from the heavy flak barage over the airport. The radiocommunictation between the 3 scoutplanes and Suffolk prooved to be useless, and only a few words came through. Suffolk started the bombardment allmost on pure luck at 05:13. The first 4 grenades hit a hillside south of the airport. Several civilian houses were damaged along with Sola church, causing the death of one civilian. It is unclear how many grenades Suffolk fired, but the number is most likely between 100-150 8” grenades. Most of the grenades were way too short to damage the airport, but as the ship was starting it`s retreat, their targeting had become more accurate. The last broadside fired, hit the seaplane harbour north of the airport (Sola-See). 5 He59 and a Bv138 from KGzbv 108, 4 He 115 from 106 Kü.Fl.Gr., two fueldrum stores, one truck and the German commanders house was destroyed. The Hudson and the two Walruses all arrived safe in Lossiemouth and Aberdeen. As Suffolk returned home, the Germans started their retaliation. At 08:25, 10 He111 from I./KG26 bombed the cruiser from high altitude, but without results. Several Dornier 18 recon planes followed the cruiser at safe distance. Ca 10:00, 28 Ju88`s from II./KG30 started a low level attack. At 10:27, one of the planes scored a direct hit. The officersmess was blown to pieces, jammed two of the main turrtes and damaged the engine room. The cruiser partially lost control over the rudder, and had to manouver with her propellers. 33 British sailors were killed, 38 wounded. The ship was taking in rather much water, and the situation was allready crictical when another 22 He111`s from III./KG26 arrived at the scene. Again, none of the Heinkels were able to hit the ship directly. Additional 22 He 111`s from III/KG4 had left their bases in Germany, but never found their target. At this stage, the British battleships Renown and Repulse assisted by several destroyers and planes were able to chase away the German planes. Suffolk arrived at Scapa Flow with most of the aft deck under water. She stayed under repair for several months and later participated in the hunt for Bismarck. By the time they arrived, there were no more AA ammunition onboard! The 12 Beaufighters from 107sqn continued all the way to Sola to Attack the Germans planes on ground. The German bombers were attacked in the middle of the refueling. Several more German planes were destoyed at Sola, but also two Beaufighters were lost (L-9041 and N-6185) this day.

Sources:

-Kampen om Sola

-Sola 1930-2000

-Norwegian Patrol

-Bomber commad losses of ww2

By

Erik Ettrup

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