The Bombing of the Shellhus on March 21, 1945

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Zeke_Freak, Dec 31, 2010.

  1. Zeke_Freak

    Zeke_Freak Member

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    #1 Zeke_Freak, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
    On March 21, 1945 the allies launched a bombing raid on the Shell Oil building in downtown Copenhagen, then the HQ for the Gestapo, during the German occupation of Denmark.

    I was wondering if there was anyone here who was very familiar with this Allied attack?

    For those who may not be familiar with the attack, the following is an excellent overview: The Bombing of the Shellhus on March 21, 1945 Note, as the website details, that the Gestapo had Danish prisoners on the top floor of the building to prevent the allies from bombing them. The allies were apparently aware of this.

    The reason I ask about this event, is that my grandfather witnessed things first hand, and he has described something to me that I would like to verify from other sources. While he was alive we spoke a number of times about events in Denmark during the occupation. He remembered the Mustang fighters screaming over the buildings, as he put it... so low they seemed to be nearly scraping the tiles off the roof tops. German Bf-109's were hot on their tails.

    Then he also recounted that the allied planes seemed to be trying to skip the bombs down the street, hoping to bounce them off the pavement, into the side of the building. In particular I am hoping that someone here might be able to comment on what my grandfather described, and tell me whether the allies were actually trying to do this, or if maybe it was a matter of coincidence that some bombs appeared to be hitting the streets and then 'bouncing' toward the Shell Hus building.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A little history about my grandfather, Theodore Nielsen. He was in the Danish army during the actual invasion/occupation of Denmark, and served as one of King Christian X's Royal Guards early in the occupation. The following is his unit, dressed in battle gear and not dress uniforms, as was the custom during times of war.

    This is a Danish newspaper clipping from the early 1940's. My grandfather is the guard on the far left. That is the King tipping his hat to them.

    Newspaper Clipping, Early 1940's - King Christian X and Guards

    By 1943 he had joined the Danich Police force. In 1944 the Germans rounded up the Danish police. After a brief fire fight and stand off, they were ordered to stand down by the King. My grandfather and another officer escaped the round up by climbing to the roof of the police station, and jumping from roof top to roof top. Most of the police were shipped off to Buchenwald concentration camp, including many friends. He spent the next year 'under ground' in Copenhagen, on the run. He had some interesting knowledge of Danish resistance efforts, and some very interesting photographs. Since he knew the prince personally (they had both entered army basic training at the same time) he even spent one night hiding out in the prince's royal residences. He was still on the run when the 'Shell Hus' bombing raid took place.

    Leif
     
  2. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Hi,

    Mustangs did indeed escort the Mosquitos on the Shellhaus raid. I've not heard of any 109s having gotten onto their tails - certainly none of the Mosquito crews seem to have reported 109s.

    I have a book about Mossies in the Far East intentionally skip-bombing, however as I understand it, the intention in the ETO was to drop the bombs into the side of the building. Inevitably some bounced past / over the target and struck buildings beyond the target. There's a new book on the Amiens raid which plots all the bomb falls. Same thing happened on the early raid on Oslo, I believe.

    There's a fellow on The Mosquito Page with a special interest in the Shellhaus raid, will see if I can track him down for you.
     
  3. Zeke_Freak

    Zeke_Freak Member

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    #3 Zeke_Freak, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
    mhuxt - That would be terrific.

    I wonder if what he saw were just Mustangs following other Mustangs. But he seemed quite certain he saw German Bf-109s as well, and the planes were certainly flying low enough to see easily. He specifically mentioned that he could see their undersides quite clearly as they flew over. But they were also moving quite fast, so from a ground perspective they weren't in view for long before they were obscured by other buildings.

    His is the only account I've ever heard where some bombs were skipping off pavement. So I've often wondered if it was simply a coincidence that a few bombs did this. I actually suggested that to him once, but he was very certain of the experience, and convinced it was intentional.

    Though he had some 'inside' info about some of the resistance activity, he was suprised by the raid, so I don't believe it was expected in any way. Maybe by a few of the higher ups in the resistance.

    When I was younger I got to go through his old photographs, and he had some very interesting shots that not just anyone would have had in their possession. For instance, resistance fighters, readying their weapons for an operation. A few others that looked like surveillance shots, capturing German activity among the civilian populace. Later on, after he passed away, some of those photos seem to have disappeared. It's only a hunch, but I wonder if he may have destroyed some of them. But, its possible we just missed them, and they may turn up yet.

    He had a bunch of pictures from the police 'round up' of collaborators after the German withdrawl. We still have those around. And an old newspaper full of pictures documenting the occupation, up to the end. Hmmm... all this has made me think that I need to document what we have. Maybe there's even some pictures of the Shell Hus raid in the old newspaper I have.

    Leif
     
  4. Zeke_Freak

    Zeke_Freak Member

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    #4 Zeke_Freak, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
    I located the Danish newspaper from May 1945. It does indeed have some images from the Shell building bombing. The last pages shows contrasting photos of German troops entering Denmark in 1940, and then leaving Denmark in 1945.

    Front Page
    Page 38
    Page 39
    Page 40
    Last Page

    Leif
     
  5. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Hi Leif,

    Thanks for the pics. The name of the fellow you want is Derek Carter, and he posts fairly regularly in the Forum section of The Mosquito Page. You may want to PM him or simply start an identical thread to this one on the other forum.

    One other fellow who sometimes posts there is Robert Kirkpatrick, an American in the RCAF who filmed the raid from the air. He mentions it briefly in his story here:

    Wings To Operations

    Two Mustangs were lost on the raid, apparently to flak, though I suppose some Luftwaffe fighters may have snuck in un-noticed. I've checked a couple of my books and there's no mention of them - Derek may know more.

    One thing that sticks out in my memory of what I've read is that the crews visited the city post-war and, from what I've read, were made welcome despite the tragedy at the school.
     
  6. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    There was a member of the forum or somebody who knew somebody that was researching this raid. I keep thinking it was Airframes but I could be mistaken.

    Here is a pic I found of the raid.
     

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  7. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    #7 mhuxt, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
    I think that photo is from the raid on the prison at Amiens, Feb 18 '44.

    Various shots I have lying about are:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Bob Kirkpatrick's on the left of the last shot.
     
  8. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    #8 Njaco, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
  9. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    There's some rather stark film footage of the attack and the aftermath here:

    Dril Agenten v. 3
     
  10. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    #10 Airframes, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
    Yep, it was me Chris.
    I was involved in the creation of a memorial to the crews lost on the raid, and produced a painting, made into limited edition prints, to help raise funds for this.
    Derek carter is a friend who, at the time, was a business colleague based in Denmark and, with his enormous help, over a period of seven years, the research was completed to allow an accurate painting to be produced.
    The memorial to the crews took the form of a Mosquito propellor blade, which I was able to source and have donated by the BBMF, and this was flown out to Denmark courtesy of a RDanAF Hercules!
    The blade was then used as a master from which to cast a bronze blade, which was mounted above the entrance to the shop at the current Shell House.
    On the 50th anniversary of the raid ('Operation Carthage'), 21st March, 1995, at 11.15 hrs, the memorial was unveiled in a dedication ceremony, which I attended, and surviving aircrew, SOE agents and Resistance members were present. My good friend Bob Kirkpatrick was among them, and Bob flew one of two FPU Mosquito BIV srs ii on the raid.
    The approach to the target, the only camouflage-painted building in Copenhagen (!), was made across the reservoirs, from a clear area, at below roof-top height, the intention being to 'toss' the delay-fused bombs into the side of the building. Some bombs bounced off the road, and hit the Technical Institute, the large building opposite Shell House.
    As is known, the Jeanne d'Arc School was accidentally bombed, after one of the leading Mosquitos struck a lighting pylon in the rail marshalling yards, and crashed into a garage opposite the school. At least one of the following Mossie (there were three waves) bombed on the smoke and flames, thinking this was the target. remember, it was March, hazy, and at roof-top height, and the smoke etc were in direct line with the target.
    The children and nuns whom died at the school had taken shelter in the cellars, and drowned when the fire service attended the fire, as the cellars filled with water.
    The raid was at the request of the Freedom Council, and was asked for specifically, to prevent the Resistance prisoners on the fifth floor of Shell House from being interrogated under torture, thereby disclosing information which would not only have lead to the arrest and subsequent probable execution of thousand of other patriots, but would have also lead to many thousands of German troops being freed to join the fighting in Germany itself.
    Although there was a late intervention by the Luftwaffe (FW190s IIRC), flak from German naval vessels in the harbour accounted for the losses of Mustangs and Mosquitos, one of the former crash landing in a park in Copenhagen, then bursting into flames, killing the pilot.
    Sorry this is a very brief overview, but the full account is quite involved and, as mentioned, Derek Carter is 'the man' when it comes to this operation, having spent most of his adult life researching the subject. I have to thank Derek for his assistance and encouragement during the production of the painting, and for hosting me and my then wife during our week in Denmark, when we spent some valuable time with the aircrew and others involved, a memory I will treasure forever.
    EDIT: Forgot to add, I was provided with all of the film footage taken on the raid, sent from the IWM, on the proviso it was not shown, loaned etc, on pain of being locked in the Tower of London !
    Unfortunately, the strike camera footage only shows rear views of the Danish countryside (at extremely low level), as the camera circuits were on the same switches as the drop tanks. The latter were jettisoned after crossing the Danish coast, and of course the film was exhausted long before the target was reached. The film footage I have, and all that has been shown publiclt, was taken from the two FPU Mosquitos.
     
  11. BikerBabe

    BikerBabe Active Member

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    #11 BikerBabe, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
    Hi Leif, and thanks for sharing all this.

    [​IMG]

    I'll be happy to translate whatever I can tomorrow - right now I'm on my way to celebrate New Year's eve with buddy Jørn at his place, and since my alcohol intake will be limited to a couple of glasses of champagne tonight, I'll be fine tomorrow, and thus I'll be able to translate just fine. :)

    You mention that you've got some photos from the rounding up of the danish police on Sept. 19th, 1944. Now I'm getting very curious, I work at the Police Museum in Copenhagen.
    One of my old colleagues, Poul Fjeldgaard (deceased) was one of the many young officers who was captured and sent off to - among other camps - Buchenwald.
    Fortunately he survived the ordeal, and afterwards lived a long, happy life until a couple of years ago where he died at the age of 88.
    Do you know if these photos has been published anywhere, or are they unique shots?

    Cheers,

    Maria - in Denmark. *points* Right there. :D
     
  12. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Here's a pic of my original painting, which has two small errors, one of which was corrected in the final prints. That was the colour of the 'No Entry' sign on the road alongside Shell House. The other was, there should be three guys in white lab coats, having a crafty smoke on the roof of the tower of the Technical Institute (!), the large building in the foreground, which received some hits by the bombs bounced off the road.
    The main aircraft is that flown by Gr.Cpt Bateson and Sq Ldr Ted Sismore, a lovely chap whom I met in Copenhagen. In the background, the smoke from Kleboe's crashed aircraft can be seen. This is the Mossie which hit the lighting gantry, and crashed into the garage opposite the Jeann d' Arc School.
    If you need any further details, just ask, as I have the full story, aircraft details, formations etc, plus some photos taken at the 50th Anniversary, in Copenhagen, which include some well-known aircrew, as well as Ole Lippman, the SOE operative, and a former Policeman, a member of the Resistance who escaped from the building during the raid.
     

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  13. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Your painting is outstanding, Terry!

    And thanks for sharing your information with us, Zeke_Freak
     
  14. TheMustangRider

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    Great painting Airframes, you are very talented.
     
  15. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Thanks very much, Dave and TMR.
     
  16. Zeke_Freak

    Zeke_Freak Member

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    #16 Zeke_Freak, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
    Wow. Just wow. This is pretty silly, but I'm actually tearing up a bit as I scan over all of this. I don't think my gramps had any idea so much information existed, so many pictures, even video... and possible connections with people so familiar with the events. I had no idea. He would have loved to have seen all of this. He passed away just 4 years ago, in 2006.

    To all of you, thank you so much for all of your posts. I want to take some time this weekend to study all of this much more carefully.


    Airframes - thank you so much for shedding so much light on these events for me. I've searched online for details in the past, but never had I imagined there was so much to learn. Your work of art is wonderful.


    BikerBabe - I have to say, I am very pleased to make your acquaintance.

    I am leaving to visit my parent in a few hours. This weekend I'm going to try to dig through my grand fathers pictures to see if I can find some of the pictures I recall seeing. Some of the photos he has are ones that have been published. I suspect others have not been published anywhere. Some are shots that feature himself and other officers, on duty. Plus some photos from his days in the army and as a royal guard.

    My grandfather's best friend 'Ras' Rassmussen (sp), who was also a police officer, was taken to Buchenwald. He survived the camp, and lived a long life afterward. I have some pictures of him with his dogs (he was a dog handler). His family stayed in Denmark, while my grandfather left the police force in 1949 (took 1 year leave, then quit officially in 1950), and moved his family to Canada.

    Somewhere I have a tape recording of my grandfather recounting many of the events of these times. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate it in the last couple of years. My plan was to transcribe our discussions into writing, when I can locate it. But I do still recall many details.

    I also know my grandfather was involved in protecting Jewish Danes and even smuggling some from Denmark to Sweden. He was very proud of their efforts. He also knew something first hand of collaborators who were executed by resistance fighters. Unlike other people I know who did not like to speak of WWII, my grandfather was very willing to talk, but he was not untouched by the events. I recall him telling me about the fire fight with the Germans during the police round up. He said that it was the easiest thing to do, to point your gun at another person, and pull the trigger. But tears welled up in his eyes as he said it.

    I have so many items here that my grandfather kept, and many I know little about. My mother was born in Copenhagen in 1943, and she is able to roughly translate some things. But not that much, as she been speaking English since they moved to Canada in '49. For instance, I know we have a sort of old 'memorial' book that lists all of the captured Danish Police officers, who survived, who died where. So many died in Buchenwald. There are many little things, booklets, badges, pieces of uniforms, etc.

    Here are some shots of my grandfather's police driver's license, his hat, and whistle, which we still have.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]



    I am sorry so much of my post goes off topic of the Shell building attack.

    Leif
     
  17. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Great stuff, and it's a pleasure to help.
    If you would like to see some pictures taken at the 50th Anniversary celebrations, I can put a small article together, along with the information on, and reasons for the raid, and post them here in PDF form. Meanwhile, here's a pic of how the present Shell House looked at around 13.00 hrs, on 21st March, 1995. We'd all just had lunch on the fifth floor - where the cells had been located, holding the resistance men, prisoners of the Gestapo. An eerie feeling, having lunch in what had been a target for RAF Mosquitos, exactly 50 years previously!
    The view is of the same frontage as shown in my painting.
     

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  18. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    #18 mhuxt, Jan 1, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2011
    Heya Airframes,

    Here's a slightly different edit from the one I posted earlier:

    [​IMG]

    Can you confirm if the smoke on the right is the Shell House, with the smoke on the left possibly from overshoots into the building on the other side of the road?
     
  19. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    ZF, your grandfather sounds like a real hero. Hope you can find all the stuff you are looking for and save it.
     
  20. FlexiBull

    FlexiBull Member

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    What a very interesting post. I find it amazing that a simple request from Leif can manifest itself in so many connection and such an amazing amount of relevant information.

    @ Terry - great talent. Strange thing forums, you just reply to a name not really knowing much about the person behind it.

    Very interesting story Leif you have some treasured mementos.
     
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