Director General attends ceremony to mark 70th anniversary of Operation Freshman
15 November 2012
For Remembrance Sunday Alan Pateman-Jones, the Director General
of the CWGC, visited Stavanger in Norway. During a
tour of the southern and western coasts in July, and having met
both the local British Consul and Ion Drew, a British academic
living in Stavanger, Alan gathered that the local community made
the November commemoration an important date in the diary.
Alan decided that this, the 70th anniversary of the
Freshman operation, was an ideal time to join NATO staff and local
Norwegians at both Eiganes and Sola churchyards on 11 November.
Operation Freshman was the codename given to a British airborne
operation conducted in November 1942. It was the first British
airborne operation conducted using gliders and its target was the
Vemork chemical plant, run by Norsk Hydro. It produced heavy
water that the Germans wanted to use in their atomic weapons
programme. The British decided to launch a raid to destroy the
plant, so a small airborne force composed of Royal Engineers
was tasked with landing by glider a short distance from the
plant. Their aim was to demolish it with explosives and then escape
over the border into Sweden.
The airborne force took off in two aircraft-glider combinations
on the night of 19 November 1942. Both managed to reach the
Norwegian coast, but neither reached its objective. The first
pair suffered from navigational difficulties and severe weather,
which resulted in the tow rope snapping and the first glider
crash-landing, with its towing aircraft returning to base; eight
airborne troops were killed outright, four were severely injured
and five unhurt, with the survivors captured shortly after the
crash. The second pair fared even worse, with both aircraft and
glider crashing into a mountain for unknown reasons; the aircrew
and a number of airborne troops were killed outright, and those who
survived were taken prisoner. Survivors did not live
for long. Adolf Hitler's Commando Order instructed that all
commando were to be executed upon capture.
The ceremonies at both Eiganes and Sola churchyardss were
very well attended, with family members of the casualties visiting
from both the UK and Australia. Local and national TV
stations covered the event at Eiganes, emphasising the significance
of Operation Freshman to Norwegians and typical of the wonderful
support the Commission receives in its work in Norway.
Click here to see the clip from Norwegian national
TV. The item starts at 13 min 40 seconds.