Training for Freshman

This report was produced by the Royal Air Force in 1942. It explained the air training behind Operation Freshman, especially in the light of the missions failure and there being no survivors. It was not apparent at this stage, that the survivors had been murdered and a war crime committed.

The Report
MOST SECRET. Copy No. 8.

Date: 8th December 1942.

Ref: 38W/MS10/15/Air.

The purpose of Operation Freshman was to attack a Power Station situated in a narrow valley in the centre of Southern Norway with a party of not less than 12 to 15 specially trained airborne troops, in order to destroy stocks of heavy water known to be held there, the apparatus for making it and the rest of the Power Station plant as far as possible.

From the first it was clear that the operation would be an extremely difficult one owing to the distance of the objective from England, the difficulty of locating it, the nature of the country at that point and the weather conditions at the beginning of winter.

In this part of Norway there are practically no level areas suitable for landing parachute troops or gliders owing to out-crops of rock and boulders on all the high ground and the absence of any level areas in the valleys. During November there is the likelihood that lakes will be frozen, although the ice will not be strong enough to bear the weight of aircraft. Moderate snow is probable.

It was at first considered that two alternate methods of attack should be prepared: by Horsa gliders towed by four-engine aircraft and by parachute troops. It was considered that sufficient parachutists could be dropped from two Halifaxes which could alternatively be used as tugs for the gliders.

During the latter period of consideration, it was decided that owing to the disposition of enemy forces in the district, it would be essential for the attack to be carried out during the same night as the landing of the party. It was further considered that if the parachute troops were used, the suspicions of the German Garrison would be aroused by low flying aircraft. It was therefore decided to concentrate on the use of gliders.

The operation was first mentioned to O.C No. 38 Wing about 9 October 1942 and the decision to carry out the operation was communicated on 12 October 1942.

Group Captain T.B. Cooper, DFC, was appointed Ground Controller on 24 October 1942, and assumed command of the whole party on movement to the advance base. He was also responsible for selecting the base aerodrome after making an air survey of all likely aerodromes in Eastern Scotland, which he accomplished in the course of a seven hours solo flight. Other duties were as follows:

S/Ldr. P.B.N. Davis: Advisor on glider tactics. Supervision of modifications and equipment of gliders specially prepared for the operation. Supervision of training of glider pilots.

S/Ldr. A.B. Wilkinson: Flight Commander and Flight Leader during the operation.

S/Ldr. G.C. Godfrey: Supervision of installation of special radio apparatus required and all signals gear. Special training of signals personnel.

F/Lt. B.D.F. Austin: Engineer Officer to the Party. Preparation and equipment of Halifax aircraft and Horsa gliders, tow ropes etc. In charge of ground arms and ground handling apparatus and supervision of all aircraft and glider equipment.

S/Ldr WilkinsonF/Lt Parkinson
P/O KemmisP/O de Gency
Sgt JonesF/Lt Thomas
Sgt OttoSgt Buckton
Sgt FalconerSgt Watt
Sgt ConarcherF/Sgt Edward
Training – Tug Pilots.

It was considered that a minimum of 50 hours flying would be required for each crew before undertaking the operation, but owing to difficulties of serviceability and bad weather it was only possible to get in 59 hours before attempting the operation and of this 13 hours 35 minutes was on the preliminary “Nickelling” flights over the area.

Sgt M.F. Strathdee Glider Pilot RegtP/O N.A. Davis RAAF
Sgt P. Doig Glider Pilot RegtSgt H.J. Fraser RAAF
Training – Glider Pilots (RAAF: Royal Australian Air Force).

Altogether 44 hours 20 minutes glider flying was completed before the operation was carried out and all required stages of the training were adequately covered.

It was fully realised that location of the landing area would be extremely difficult unless “Rebecca” could be used. Arrangements were made for “Eureka” to be set up on the landing ground. The installation of “Rebecca” in the Halifax was quickly and successfully.

It was originally suggested that the operation might be based in the Shetlands. The necessity for a runway of at least 1,600 yards for take-off of the Halifax and loaded Horsa and the desirability of working from a Coastal Command station with full facilities, lead to the final selection of Skitton, a satellite of Wick.

Extract from History of Training and Operation (G/C Cooper).
13th November:

It was intended to move the aircraft to Scotland but only one Halifax ready. One changing cylinder block and one on inspection. Weather unfit in the morning. Crew “A” made an attempt to reach Waddington in the evening but turned back. They made a second attempt and reached Waddington.

14th November:

Weather unfit for flying.

15th November:

Crew “A” left Waddington and reached Peterhead. Unable to reach Wick owing to darkness. Late start made from Waddington owing to weather. Other two aircraft still unserviceable at Netheravon until evening.

19th November:

The weather report stated that there would be a cloud layer from 1800 to 4000 feet over the North Sea rising to 10000 feet on the west side of the Norwegian mountains, but there would be sufficiently large holes in the cloud layer near Wick to climb above the clouds. The weather in the target area, provided it was not reached until after 20:00 hours, would be cloudless with good visibility and sufficient wind to keep valleys clear of fog.

Take off was fixed for 17:30 hours but the first aircraft was delayed for 30 minutes attempting, without success, to get the inter-com serviceable. Finally arrangements were made to use the ordinary emergency lights signals between glider and tug, and the TR/9 in extreme emergency. Crew “A” with the addition of G/Capt. Cooper took off at 17:55 hours and Crew “B” with the addition of P/O. Haward took off 30 minutes later.

The subsequent history of Crew “B” is not known except that the Halifax and glider have crashed in Norway.

Signed Group Captain, Commanding

No. 38 Wing, Royal Air Force.