Heligoland

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by rudicantfail, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. rudicantfail

    rudicantfail New Member

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    A topic that is probably not talked about that much. On the 18th and 19th of April 1945, the RAF launched devastating air raids against Helgoland. This small island in the North sea had no real tactical importance. There was an airfield on the smaller island {only able to take around a dozen or so Messerschmitt BF109T's}, and a U-boat pen on the main island, which could hold three subs. In fact, the pens were used more often than not to shelter E-boats and sometimes Sprengbootes. The island had various coastal gun and flak emplacements. There was a civilian population of around 1,900. The war in Europe had move far beyond the reaches of Helgoland, yet on the 18th April, 969 aircraft - 617 Lancasters, 332 Halifaxes and 20 Mosquitos attacked the naval base, the airfield and the town on this small island. The bombing was accurate and the target areas were turned almost into crater-pitted moonscapes. This attack took place between 12.25 and 1.55 pm. 3 Halifaxes were lost. The second attack was carried out the next day between 5.08 and 5.36 pm by 36 Lancasters of 9 and 617 Squadrons, which attacked coastal battery positions at Heligoland with Tallboy bombs. All targets were hit and no aircraft were lost. On the island, there were over 100 killed, mostly military personnel. Most of the civilians had taken refuge in the tunnels and caves around the island. The infrastructure of the island was ruined so much that the fortress commanding officer requested the evacuation of the civilian population. This took place during the nights of 19th and 21st April 1945.

    I suppose that the question has to be asked, why such a heavy attack on such as small, somewhat unimportant target? The war in Europe was coming to a close, plain for all to see. 18 days after the attack Germany surrendered! Was this a case of wanting to get rid of surplus munitions before the war ended? Remember how in the First World War, in the hours leading up to the agreed cease fire time, Allied artillery bombardments actually increased in intensity! it? To me it just seems a very senseless, and over the top attack. I was wondering what other people think about? I have found some images to do with Helgoland and the raid.

    I am going to ask the same question on another forum that I am on, just in case you see the same post elsewhere!

    First photo shows the U-Boat pen in the lower left, and the town in the center.
    The second shows how "compact" the airfield is on Dune Island.
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The bombing raid was just a warm up exercise. After the war Britain attempted to entirely destroy the tiny island. I guess you need to be British to understand such hatred for a big rock in the middle of Helgoland Bight. :cry:

    Heligoland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  3. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    I was under the impression it was something of a payback from Bomber Command. They had to fly over the island frequently and were fired on by the gunners, causing casualties.

    When all the targets that HAD to be bombed were finished, the RAF went after targets they WANTED to bomb. The island was on the list because it had shot down Bomber Command aircraft over the years.

    At least that was my understanding of the attack.
     
  4. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Wow, that was pretty interesting!
     
  5. r2800doublewasp

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    Wow very cool!!!
     
  6. wheelsup_cavu

    wheelsup_cavu Well-Known Member

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    Interesting story.


    Wheels
     
  7. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Agreed, great find!
     
  8. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    I seem to recall reading an account of the raid on Heligoland, and the reasons why. Far as I recall, it was carried out for reasons not disimilar to those put forward by Timshatz. The fortress was known to be a hot bed of flak installations, and had accounted for a fair number of allied aircraft over the years. Raids on the island had been considered, in an effort to neutralise the flak hazard, but the course of the bombing campaign took preference. When time and munitions did allow a raid, the place was flattened. Sorry i can't remember where I read this, it was at least thirty five years ago!
     
  9. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Total destruction.
     
  10. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    #10 bobbysocks, May 9, 2010
    Last edited: May 9, 2010
    i know this is an old thread..but i just came across it. helgoland was the target of at least one project APHRODITE mission and possibly more. its ( i believe ) the target of a mission my father taked about where he flew to sub pens at the frisian islands. project APHRODITE was the US mistel basically. a war weary heavy bomber was packed full of explosives. a pilot and co-pilot usually flew the plane until shortly after take off then they set the controls and bailed. after that it was a radio controlled drone. in short this mission was a comedy of errors. the weather was bad when they got close to the target. so they had to circle around over the sea waiting for things to clear. either the LW was busy elsewhere or didnt know they were there because they never sent any ac to engage. i guess word was finally given to strike the target no matter what or the weather cleared enough. they sent the drone in against murderous flak. it did strike land but missed the sub pens completely ( think it hit the nearby island ). dad said the explosion was tremendous and all the flak batteries went silent....not that they were hit.but probably stunned. the project never produced any measure of success and was scrapped later on. but helgoland was one of those sore spots ... a hard nut they couldnt crack so they kept at it.
     
  11. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    I didn't know that. Good post.

    I know the Aphrodite Missions were the missions Joe Kennedy, JFK's older brother, was killed doing.
     
  12. phurball

    phurball New Member

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    ...was navigator F/O Donald Maurice Neilson, my uncle.
     
  13. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Veyr cool phurball and welcome aboard!
     
  14. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Holy necro-thread, Batman!

    Found some film at the Imperial War Museum site which shows the attacks on Helgoland (among other raids).

    Right at the very end, there's a gigantic explosion, which I take to be one of the six Grand-Slams dropped during the second raid, against gun positions.

    By the by, the Mossie raid earlier in the piece is against the Gestapo in Odense, though I'd associated some of the air-to-air shots with the Copenhagen raid, Airframes may be able to clarify.

    [RAIDS BY 2ND TAF AND BOMBER COMMAND] [Allocated] | Imperial War Museums
     
  15. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    UK should have kept Heligoland and done without Zanzibar. German Vicky was not amused when she found out that her government had swapped it for Zanzibar without asking her or the islanders who were very pro Britian.

    Useless factoid: the German national anthem was composed on Heligoland while it was British.

    Another useless factoid: Heligoland shares it's flag with Bulgaria.
     
  16. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Sorry, I can't get the video to stream fully - it keeps stopping at different places, and then starts from the beginning again, so can't comment on the Odense raid fooatge.
     
  17. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Cheers Airframes, I'll see if I can grab some screenies and post the stills.
     
  18. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Here they are:

    As I say, I'd associated the shots with the Shellhuis raid - especially the last one, in which the Mossie pulls up to cross the coast, just as a train comes into view.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    Just trying to get the feel of this wee spot of land in the middle of a vast body of water. Its about 30 miles from any mainland and the closest land is another tiny drop of land called Scharhörn, about 25 miles away. Just curious as to why the allied aircraft would always fly over it. Five miles in any direction puts you out of range for anti-aircraft fire and still be over twenty miles away from the mainland. Scharhorn looks like it may have been fortified at one point.

    Geo
     
  20. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Not footage from the Shell House raid. Different Squadron aircraft, and different weather and land scape. From what I remember of the footage from the Odense raid, this is it.
     

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