Helgoland

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markh
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Helgoland

Post by markh » 19 Feb 2010 19:33

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.



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





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.
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phylo_roadking
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Re: Helgoland

Post by phylo_roadking » 20 Feb 2010 04:53

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?
Mark, in case you check here before that other forum...

There's something slightly more interesting underlaying the 18th April raids...

EARLIER in the month the British had been expecting the island to be handed over to them PEACEFULLY! 8O

According to Heligoland Past and Present by Alex Ritsema, a group of islanders under an "Erich Friedrichs" managed to contact the Allies at the start of the month - possibly in reaction to Heligoland being declared a hold-out Festung by Berlin? - and said they would hoist a white flag over the island and invite the Allies in. However, very early on the morning of the 18th the Gestapo rounded up Friedrich's group, with him and six others being shot in Cuxhaven three days later.

It might be worth checking at Kew, but it's very possible the raids of the midday of the 18th were EITHER

1/ arranged at VERY short notice....

2/ had been pre-arranged in case Friedrich's coup didn't come off :wink: or in case the military defenders of the island simply locked their gates in the face of Friedrich's group.

It's also worth noting that designation of Heligoland a Festung on the 7th of the month...given the trouble that other Channel-facing hold-outs had given the Allies, it's possible, given its island nature, that they just decided to squash resistance at one fell swoop :wink:

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Re: Helgoland

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 20 Feb 2010 16:49

phylo_roadking wrote: According to Heligoland Past and Present by Alex Ritsema, a group of islanders under an "Erich Friedrichs" managed to contact the Allies at the start of the month - possibly in reaction to Heligoland being declared a hold-out Festung by Berlin? - and said they would hoist a white flag over the island and invite the Allies in. However, very early on the morning of the 18th the Gestapo rounded up Friedrich's group, with him and six others being shot in Cuxhaven three days later.
Oh the irony. Whilst Fredrichs was being arrested by Gestapo representatives other Gestapo members were attempting contact with US commanders hoping for 'cooperation' arrignments. In one case a OSS team recently arrived in Austrian had Gestapo agents knock on the door, not wanting to to arrest the OSS team but to ingratiate themselves with the US intelligence service.

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Helgoland

Post by phylo_roadking » 20 Feb 2010 17:15

It might be interesting to known to what degreee the British attitude had been modified by the 8th March "Granville Raid" out of the Channel Islands :wink: Obviously they couldn't exactly plaster the Channel Islands in retaliation - but it's likely to have modified their attitudes when it came to dealing with an offshore Festung with no embedded British civilian population....

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markh
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Re: Helgoland

Post by markh » 20 Feb 2010 21:25

phylo_roadking wrote:
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?
Mark, in case you check here before that other forum...

There's something slightly more interesting underlaying the 18th April raids...

EARLIER in the month the British had been expecting the island to be handed over to them PEACEFULLY! 8O

According to Heligoland Past and Present by Alex Ritsema, a group of islanders under an "Erich Friedrichs" managed to contact the Allies at the start of the month - possibly in reaction to Heligoland being declared a hold-out Festung by Berlin? - and said they would hoist a white flag over the island and invite the Allies in. However, very early on the morning of the 18th the Gestapo rounded up Friedrich's group, with him and six others being shot in Cuxhaven three days later.

It might be worth checking at Kew, but it's very possible the raids of the midday of the 18th were EITHER

1/ arranged at VERY short notice....

2/ had been pre-arranged in case Friedrich's coup didn't come off :wink: or in case the military defenders of the island simply locked their gates in the face of Friedrich's group.

It's also worth noting that designation of Heligoland a Festung on the 7th of the month...given the trouble that other Channel-facing hold-outs had given the Allies, it's possible, given its island nature, that they just decided to squash resistance at one fell swoop :wink:

Very interesting phylo! I did not know about the "Friedrich plan". I can quite believe the story, which sadly failed. But, you still have to ask the question, the Brits knew that there was a large civilian population on such a small island, so why conduct such a devestating raid? The Allies could have simply started a blockade of the island, and waited for the island to surrender due to lack of provisions! The raid seems senseless to me. We Brits can be very extreme at times..............

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Helgoland

Post by phylo_roadking » 20 Feb 2010 21:40

But, you still have to ask the question, the Brits knew that there was a large civilian population on such a small island, so why conduct such a devestating raid? The Allies could have simply started a blockade of the island, and waited for the island to surrender due to lack of provisions!
1/ It didn't work with the Channel Islands - in fact, quite the reverse, the Germans both stripped the islands of food for their OWN use reducing the civilian population ration allowance to one of the lowest in Occupied Europe; Islanders could and WERE sent - including children - to mainland detention/concentration camps for stealing single potatoes!....and THEN in extremis the German garrison organised and mounted their OWN very successful commando raid on the Allied-liberated French coast to get supplies in March 1945! 8O

2/ Look at the losses the Allies took reducing the French Channel coast Festungen! And THAT was with the "advantage" of a land approach to each!!! 8O

3/ To reduce Heligoland would have meant an expensive amphibious op....and look at the losses that the Walcheren operation actually cost, for instance...IIRC the Commandos took very high losses there...

4/ and not least -
the Brits knew that there was a large civilian population on such a small island
...exactly WHO were these civilians? GERMAN civilians I.E enemy noncombatants. I hate to labour the point, but "war is hell", and the HRLW did allow for civilian losses in attacking military targets embedded in the civilian population - the "Law of Military necessity". Proportional collateral civilian casualties were permitted, especially on a target like Heligoland with its defensive works/military installations etc.

In other words - there was absolutely nothing preventing enemy installations being attacked there :wink: Do you leave an enemy NOT attacked during a war if it represents a threat in some way to you?

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Re: Helgoland

Post by bobbysocks » 17 Mar 2010 08:33

i found this site researching my father's stories. as a young boy i remember him telling me about a mission he flew. it was to the Frisian islands....the sub pens there...and it was an APHRODITE mission. if you are not familiar with that term...it was the US version of the German MISTEL. a B 17 or 24 was loaded with explosives and flown by radio control ( joe kennedy...JFK's brother was killed in an earlier version of this mission ) and guided into the target. the mission he spoke of was a comedy of errors....with the radio controlled drone missing the target. it was nice fireworks but a total waste of time $$ and possible lives. it took me a long time to get this far in my research and i appreciate this forum. my only idea why the allies went this far was.... this island was a thorn in its side. they flew many missions to destroy the sub pens....ALL failed. i think it became a matter of " we WILL get it...come hell or high water!!"... and despite the military value or monetary cost...its a yank thing i think the brits picked up on. the mission i speak of was sept 3, 1944 and the B17 was flown into the wrong island ( into dune or duene island). the weather wasnt the best so the allies had to circle for a long time over the sea....then they sent in the drone. the fighter escort stayed back ( who wants to get close to that kind of bomb??)....the flak was extremely intense as i recall my dad's story. they ( the fighter pilots ) couldnt see where the APHRODITE hit...but it was a HUGE explosion...and ALL the anti-aircraft guns STOPPED suddenly...but they completely missed. the rest of the story is just as much of comedy of errors as this.... but such is life... and war. thank you for this site and this thread....it has helped me more than you know.

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Re: Helgoland

Post by markh » 17 Mar 2010 11:27

Hi bobbysocks, from what I have read, there were four "Aphrodite" Missions against the U Boat pens on Helgoland.

3 September 1944, the one that you are referring to, is actually "Project Anvil", the US Navy code name for Operation Aphrodite, the controller of USN Special Air Unit N°1 flew a PB4Y-1 Liberator (B-24D 42-63954) into Düne Island by mistake.

11 September 1944, a B-17, number 42-30180 , was hit by enemy flak, and crashed into sea. {After takeoff, and arming the payload, the pilot of this drone was killed when his parachute failed to open at bailout.}

15 October 1944, two B 17's, number 42-30039 "Liberty Belle" (drone differs from 42-30096 "Liberty Belle" lost due to accidental on-board fire and the "Liberty Belle" (B-17) 44-85734) and B-17 number 42-37743 flew Mission 678A. Both drones missed target due to poor weather conditions.

30 October 1944, Mission 693A using two B-17's. Drone number 42-30066, "MugWump", went out of control and crashed near Trollhattan, Sweden, and drone 42-3438 crashes in North Sea after running out of fuel.

There was a total of 18 Bombing and minelaying missions against Helgoland between March 1944 and April 1945 by the British and Americans.

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Re: Helgoland

Post by bobbysocks » 17 Mar 2010 19:35

Yeah i saw they bombed it various ways a lot! i matched his fighter group mission list...it had 2 dates just listed as operation APHRODITE ( ANVIL was the navy term, yes ). it failed to say what the target was. i just remember he talked about it was the the Frisian and i began my research there. i also see from the mission list that they went there as escorts on several regular bombing runs. i am sure this forum will help me in a lot of ways in further research...thanks

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Re: Helgoland

Post by bf109 emil » 17 Mar 2010 20:55

It might be worth checking at Kew, but it's very possible the raids of the midday of the 18th were EITHER

1/ arranged at VERY short notice....

2/ had been pre-arranged in case Friedrich's coup didn't come off :wink: or in case the military defenders of the island simply locked their gates in the face of Friedrich's group.
Lets not forget the 617 squadron's 20 plane raid on the 19th, dropping 6 of the 22,000 lb grand slams against naval guns and the other 14 using tallboys along with some 16 others from 9 squadron :wink: I'm guessing the island shook a little from this raid

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Re: Helgoland

Post by UbootNorway » 26 Jan 2020 09:17

Hi, Very interesting info.

I just wonder was the base at Helgoland/Heligoland named Nordsee III or Nordsee II. I find both in sources when I look for info.

And does anyone of you have a photo of the penn/base which I may use for an article on Helgoland about one of the uboats.

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