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31st October 1944

October 31, 2010

The entry from the Pilot’s Flying Log Book of Flight Lieutenant W C Henderson  (of 464 Squadron RAAF) for the above date, under the section Duty (Including Results and Remarks), reads:

DAY OPS  –  GESTAPO HDQ AT AARHUSPA – DENMARK  – REFUELLED AT SWANTON MORLEY BEFORE & AFTER. LIGHT & MEDIUM FLAK D.C.O.

That doesn’t really tell the whole story.

From New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force- Forward to the Rhine  (Chapter 12):

News had been received in London that the Resistance Movement in Jutland was seriously threatened by the activities of the Gestapo and the destruction of enemy records housed in two college buildings of Aarhus University was essential if the movement was to continue its work. Twenty-five Mosquitos from No. 140 Wing, No. 2 Group, including nine from No. 487 Squadron, were selected for this difficult task, which involved a round trip of 1235 miles, more than half of it over the sea. Escorted by eight Mustangs of No. 12 Group, they set course for Denmark on the morning of 31 October. Squadron Leader Denton, Flight Lieutenants Thorpe, Kemp, and Anderson1 each piloted Mosquitos of the New Zealand squadron and Flying Officer Coe2 flew as navigator; Flight Lieutenant Henderson3 and Warrant Officer Hawke4 formed a crew with No. 464 Australian Squadron and Flight Sergeant Morrison5 navigated another aircraft from this unit. A two-hour flight across the North Sea brought the force to Aarhus shortly before noon, and as they swept in at tree-top height crews found the area covered by low cloud. Visibility was so poor that many lights were on in the town. The attack achieved complete surprise and it was some time before anti-aircraft guns in the harbour area burst into life. In eleven minutes the two buildings were destroyed, along with the Gestapo records. Nearby barracks were also hit and more than one hundred Germans were reported killed, among them the Gestapo chief of Jutland. This brilliant operation was completed for the loss of one Mosquito from No. 487 Squadron; damaged by bomb bursts, this aircraft force-landed in Sweden but the crew were later flown back to England. Several other aircraft were damaged by flak, and Denton went in so low that his machine hit one of the buildings and lost its tail wheel and the port half of the tail plane. Nevertheless, he flew back and landed safely.

[Flight Lieutenant Henderson was awarded a DFC (with the investiture at Buckingham Palace in May 1945) and was also presented with a pair of cufflinks from a representative of the Danish Resistance for his part in this raid.]

Dfc

Distinguished Flying Cross (dated 1944).

Wh2-2raf028ah280_aarhus

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