While Europe was celebrating Victory Day, in Norway, the operation Doomsday – liberation of Norway was about to start. The goal of the operation was supervising the surrender of the German forces in Norway as well as preventing the sabotage of vital military and civilian facilities. Thousands of military personnel was flown to Norway. Unfortunately due to various reasons three airplanes got crashed and 48 soldiers got killed right after the war in Europe was ended.
On Ascention day Thursday May 10th 1945 between 7:30 and 8:00 hours, the Short Stirling LK147 from 196 Squadron took off from Shepherds Grove in Suffolk, UK, to join the main stream heading for Norway. The four engine bomber with a crew of 6 men converted to a transport aircraft for the occasion and was loaded with approx.450 kg of equipment. In addition, there were 14 men attached The Border Regiment 1st Airborn Battalion on board the aircraft.
A four hours flight across the North Sea was ahead of the 20 men on board. The 24 year old pilot Flying Officer John Leonard Breed, one of two Australians, had become a father a month earlier. Several of the men were married and had children who were waiting back home, now that the war in Europe was finally over.
The crew had carried out several operations across Europe during the war, and survived them. They even carried out airdrops in Norway to the Norwegian resistance force in February same year. Several of the soldiers on board had survived the heavy battles in Arnhem, Netherlands, during «Operation Market Garden». The weather over the Oslo area was getting worse in terms of low clouds and heavy rain. It was therefore decided at 0915 hours that the plains on their way to Norway had to return. A recall signal was send out, but for unknown reasons not all the aircrafts received this message.
At about noon at the farm Lyshaug in Nannestad the big bomber flew approx. 10 meters above the rooftops of the farm. Sigmund saw no smoke or flames from the plane from his position. Suddenly, the plane disappeared behind the treetops and crashed into the ravine. The first people on the scene had been German forces which included a medical officer. They found that there were no survivors. A German soldier reported that he had seen the aircraft emerge out of cloud, climb steeply and dive into the ravine where it was found.
The 20 deceased men were buried in a small Cemetery that was built near the crash site. It was set up a simple but beautiful white picket fence that surrounded the Cemetery. Each grave was marked with a white wooden cross. The graves were decorated with flowers. In late November 1945, six month after the crash, the 20 men were exhumed and transferred to Vestre gravlund civil Cemetery in Oslo, where they rest today.
Leader of Milorg during WW2 and later Minister of Defence Jens Christian Hauge wrote in his book “ Flyalarm””: “ Who knew that on May 9th and while we sang the Victory is ours, there flew hundreds of British aircrafts with soldiers from the famous Red Devils on board, bound for Gardemoen? They encountered thick fog in Norway and had to return. Three aircrafts crashed in the eastern area. There were 50 fallen, among them British Air Vice Marshal. They were our fallen”.
WW2 Veterans F/Lt Douglas John Coxell and Flight Engineer Norman Shepherd share their story from Operation Doomsday, Gardermoen Airfield, Norway in May 1945.