Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 12

Thread: Liberator AM924 28/05/42 Norway/Sweden

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    299
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default Liberator AM924 28/05/42 Norway/Sweden

    I'm making this post after having contributed to a query on Keypublishing Forum during which it was established there was a query about the same aircraft on this fourm in February 2003 http://www.rafcommands.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?az=show_thread&om=2403&forum=DCForumID 6&archive=yes

    A good few of the people who responded on the 2003 thread here still visit regularly so I thought they might find it of interest.

    Grab a drink, it might take a while!

    The loss was 120 Sqdn Liberator AM924, shot down/ditched in an area near the Lofoten Islands off Norway. Crew as follows:-
    F/O Walton - evaded
    P/O Corkran - evaded
    Sgt T J Culnane - died from burns sustained during fire while in escape dinghy
    Sgt Pickering - wounded, evaded
    Sgt Booker - evaded
    F/Sgt E A Allgood - died onboard aircraft during attack by Me109's
    Sgt B F Smith - died onboard aircraft during attack by Me109's

    The following account comes from Lofotboka - a yearbook for the local Lofoten historical society. There was no name attributed to the article and I've not been able to establish which year it was produced. Some additional details of locations have been added by Morten Moe to assist with making a bit more sense of the geography of it. The article was written in Norwegian and Morten Moe has translated it into English for me.

    The aircraft was a Liberator with a seven man crew, serial AM924. It had been on a reconnaissance mission on Tirpitz. After take off from Stornoway in Scotland at 0500 hrs the navigator had led the aircraft safely over the North Sea to the Røst (south of Lofoten) where it turned north towards North Cape. The reconnaissance mission was unsuccessful; they could find no sign of Tirpitz.

    On the way back it was decided to cross over the Lofoten islands to search in the West fjord (a large fjord west of Bodø). Suddenly the British airmen became aware of three German Me109's and an air battle commenced over Hellsegga by the notorious Moskenesstraumen current on the southern tip of the Lofoten Islands. The allied aircraft turned west heading for Shetland while it tried to go steadily lower closer to the surface of the sea to avoid the gunfire from the German fighters. AM924 was hit several times and shrapnel and bullets penetrated the hull.

    During the first attack, the tail gunner, Brian Smith was killed and John Pickering took his place. He hit one of the German planes but was himself later hit by a bullet in his arm. The third air gunner, Edwin Allgood was also killed during the attack. When the German planes broke off the attack the Liberator continued on its course flying at approx 100m above the sea they discovered that there was a fire in the bomb bay. During the air battle the rudder was damaged too and the aircraft was very difficult to control. Eventually they had to ditch in the sea west of Moskenessøy (the southernmost major island in the Lofoten), and the crew got into the dinghies after having fought their way out of the sinking wreck.

    At that point, one of the German planes with Unteroffizier Robert Merkl in the cockpit had returned to its base in Bodø because his cockpit windscreen had been sprayed with oil from the allied plane. Merkl claimed that AM924 had been shot down.
    (Merkl was killed later in the war, when his Focke Wulf 190 flew into the cliffs above Gautungdalen, north of the Sognefjord Info: http://ktsorens.tihlde.org/flyvrak/geitebotnfjell.html )

    Four out of the seven crewmembers on AM924 survived. The fire caused by the German planes had caused serious burns to Sgt Culnane who died from these injuries 24 hours later. His body was left in one of the dinghies the airmen had used after removing all identification items from him. The naked and badly burned body was later found drifting in the dinghy in West fjord.

    Out of the four survivors, Ray Walten, Terry Corkran, Booker & Pickering, Pickering had suffered wounds from the German bullets but he was not seriously injured. The airmen were desperately paddling trying to get to mainland Norway.

    After two days at sea they were discovered by a fishing vessel and they were taken in tow to a place called Tuv (on the eastern shore of the Lofoten-tip) by Einar & Inge Ingebrigtsen from Reine who had been fishing in the Moskenesstraumen current. Only two people were living at Tuv at that time, Johan Larsen and his wife Laura. They took care of the airmen but after a week there were rumours that the Germans had started an investigation after discovering the naked body of Sgt Culnane in the dinghy, and suspecting that there was a connection between the air battle a week before.

    A German patrol boat which was stationed nearby started to patrol much more frequently in the area. Johan and Laura naturally enough were worried for the safety of the airmen and it was decided to take them over the mountains to a place called Refsvika - a bay on the outer side of Lofoten. Here the airmen borrowed a boat and after having been helped to plan their escape route by Torolf Refsvik (who knew a little English) which would lead through Vesterålen and Ofoten and then over to Sweden, they started rowing in a NE direction along the western shore of the Lofoten Islands. The airmen, unfamiliar with the local conditions, soon became exhausted and as they approached Gimsøya in Vågan they simply had to go ashore on a skerry on the northern side of the island. Exhausted and cold they pulled the boat ashore, tipped it upside down for shelter and went to sleep underneath it.

    Luck was still with the airmen. A boat from Refsvik was on its way home from Finnmark and one of the men onboard - Oskar Refsvik - recognised his own boat upside down on the skerry! He went ashore to investigate and thus the boat and the airmen were taken back to Refsvik once again! At that stage, brothers Sigurd and Leif Hamran came into the story. They had observed the air battle over Hellsegga and now they were told about the airmen by the man who had found them on the skerry Gimsøya.

    The Hamran brothers decided that it would be far too risky for the airmen to attempt to escape in a rowing boat, and they decided to help them. They had relatives in Beiarn (on the mainland south of Bodø) and they knew several people from Beiarn who were fishing from some of the small villages on Lofoten. The brothers believed that the best solution would be to get the airmen over to Beiarn and from there over to Sweden. In addition the brothers knew people in Beiarn who assisted people in reaching Sweden and since they often used to go to Beiarn on fish trading business they could go there without causing suspicion.

    Between Mosskenessøya and Beiarn is the West Fjord and to get to Beiarn they would have to pass not far from Bodø airfield. The first thing the Hamran brothers did was to find a safer place to hide the airmen. A place where it was easy to get to them with supplies without causing suspicion. The place they found was a scree area, Tindsura, a bit west of Å. In Tindesura there is a cave which is invisible from the sea, and it was here the airmen were installed with food supplies and warm clothes after the Hamran brothers had collected them from Refsvik in their vessel MK Hans.

    Now for the airmen it was only a matter of being patient while the snow in the mountains thawed and the brothers organised their escape. Leif and Siguard visited the airmen every third day bringing the airmen supplies, neither Leif or Siguard could speak English and it was a tough time for the airmen as they were not able to communicate and they were unsure about what lay in store for them. The brothers had problems getting enough supplies and they contacted the teacher in the area, Miss Lie. She helped them to get supplies for the airmen and also helped with the communication. The local nurse, Sister Mary, was also involved as she had to take care of Sgt Pickerings wounded arm.

    After about one month staying in the cave the time had come for the airmen to continue on their dangerous escape route. Sigurd and Leif came with their boat with 1500 kilos of frozen fish onboard. The fish was to be their excuse for the trip as they were to exchange it for firewood. It was a nice summers day and the airmen were placed in the cargo hold and the vessel set course over West fjord for Beiarn. Everything went smoothly until they approached Helligvær - a small group of islands west of Bodø - they set course between the skerries to get as much distance between themselves and Bodø as possible. When they were half way through the skerries they were approached by a German plane and a guard boat who signalled to them several times.

    The brothers went full speed with the boat and at once the guard boat turned away and left them. Afterwards they were informed that the stretch of water they had gone through was mined and they realised that was what the Germans had been trying to inform them! They arrived safely with the airmen at Tverrvika in Beiarn (near the head of the Bejarnfjord). Sigurd rowed ashore in the dinghy to find help. While he was away, Leif and the airmen got the shock of their lives. Wilhelm Tverrvik had discovered that there was a Moskenes boat in the bay and eager to have a chat with people from the same area as himself he rowed out to the vessel! When the airmen heard someone walking on the deck they dived down into the cargo in an attempt to hide themselves. They did not succeed. Wilhelm was very suspicious when Lief tried to explain that it was only some youngsters who were shy of meeting new people. Wilhelm suspected that it was not the truth but he did not say anything.

    With the assistance of Sigmund Berntsen, Hans Rengågord, Trygve Blåmoli, William Øverness and interpreter Martin Larsa - and after a hearty farewell with the Moskenes brothers - the airmen eventually got over the Swedish border to safety.

    The rumours had flourished during the time the airmen were in Mosskenes, illustrated by the fact that the local policeman, Laurits Hansen, later was arrested for not having informed the Germans about the rumours.

    Quite a remarkable account which will either fill in some of the questions unanswered in the 2003 thread or more likely throw up plenty fresh questions!

    Regards
    Linzee

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    299
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Sorry, I should have included the link to the thread running on Keypublishing relating to this aircraft too, here it is
    http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?t=85897

    Linzee the forgetful!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Wiltshire UK
    Posts
    673
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Linzee
    Quite a story !!
    I wonder if Sgt Culnane was eventually buried in a marked grave ?

    Anne

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Dublin
    Posts
    4,518
    Thanks
    5
    Thanked 35 Times in 32 Posts

    Default Cwgc

    It seems he was buried:

    http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=1807370

    Name: CULNANE, TERENCE JOHN
    Initials: T J
    Nationality: United Kingdom
    Rank: Flight Sergeant (Obs.)
    Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    Unit Text: 120 Sqdn.
    Date of Death: 30/05/1942
    Service No: 748326
    Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
    Grave/Memorial Reference: XI. K. 2.
    Cemetery: NARVIK NEW CEMETERY

    The other two men are on Runnymede.
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Suffolk
    Posts
    839
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default Am924

    Thanks Linzee for sharing the story.

    Do we know if any of the helpers were officially recognised for their part in the evasion/escape? The risks taken were very great when one considers the penalty for being caught. Not that I know every much about resistance indiviuals/organisations, but I do not believe many were justly rewarded.

    Thanks again
    Brian

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Berkshire
    Posts
    584
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Entry in 120 Squadron ORB for 28 May 1942.

    Liberator I
    F/O. Walton Capt.
    P/O. Corkran. 2nd Pil.
    F/Sgt. Culnane. Nav.
    F/Sgt. Allgood.WOP/AG.
    Sgt. Pickering. WOP/AG.
    Sgt. Smith. WOP/AG.
    SGT. Booker Eng.

    Airborne Stornaway. Time unknown.

    Failed to return.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    299
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Thanks to everyone for their replies to date, including the ORB entry supplied by Peter.

    To answer Brian. I have no knowledge of any of the people who assisted these having been officially recognised but I haven't looked into that aspect of it so can't say for certain.

    Having had experience on the ground of other cases in Norway where the local population assisted downed airmen I would suggest more than likely not. The impression that I had was during the war you kept your mouth shut and told nobody, sometimes not even your nearest and dearest, where your loyalties lay. You didn't know if you could trust anyone. Being caught assisting an airman to escape would almost certainly mean imprisonment and quite likely death not only to oneself but to those close to you as well.

    In 2003 I attended the unveiling of a memorial in Norway to the crew of a Halifax which was shot down in April 1942. Five of the crew escaped and split into two parties. Both parties were assisted by various local people in a variety of ways. Even in 2003 there were members in the community who did not know that their neighbours had assisted the airmen. In some cases it was during the various ceremonies at the unveiling that some members of the community admitted to others their part in helping escaping airmen during the war.

    There were a great number of incredibly brave people all over occupied Europe who put their lives at risk to help. It must have been terrifying for them but they did it selflessly and to a greater degree have gone unrecognised for it.

    I would say that most of the people I have met who assisted these men never forgot them and always wondered what became of the men they helped. In some cases it has been possible to put the two parties together again in recent times and that has been an amazing experience for all concerned.

    Regards
    Linzee

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Stornoway
    Posts
    94
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Linzee

    You are a gifted storyteller, so much so that I felt I was aboard the Liberator with bullets coming through the fuselage; paddling up a fjiord in a dinghy, starving in an icy cave and stinking in a boat's fishhold with the ever-present threat of capture!

    Your 'article' was an assiduous piece of research and is so detailed that I think you also deserve a medal.

    Regards
    Malcolm Macdonald

    PS
    As the aircraft took off from Stornoway, I shall keep your account on the files of the Stornoway Historical Society (I am the Secretary).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    299
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Hello Malcolm,

    I'm afraid I can take no credit for the story nor the research on this one. I simply typed the story in English as it was originally in Norwegian - and someone else did the translation for me.

    The information/article comes from a yearbook called Lofotboka which is compiled by the local historical society in Lofoten Islands, Norway. Many Norwegian local history societies publish a yearbook, pre Christmas normally, with photographs, stories and information from their local area.

    Like you I found the story absolutely captivating and I'm now trying to find out the route to Sweden the men took once reaching the Norwegian mainland. A friend is going to contact the local history societies in the relevant areas to see if they have more details about that part of the journey.

    Regards
    Linzee

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    287
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default Liberator AM924 27/28 May 1942

    A terrific story!

    A 120 Sqn Liberator (they only lost one to enemy action around this date) was credited to Oblt. Werner Gutowski of 9./JG1 on 28 May 1942 over the North Sea, it has always puzzled me as the unit was based at Kjevik, Kiristiansand, southern Norway, a long way from the Lofotens. Maybe he was part of a detachment sent to the North to protect the Tirpitz? There are also references to his abschuss being near Borkum, which is in the Leer district of Germany, near the Dutch border...even further from the Lofoten.
    Anyone got any bright ideas?

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •