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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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1840 crest
24th August 1944 1840 Squadron Hellcat I JV203 Lt/Cdr. (A) Richardson MiD

Operation: Operation Goodwood

Date: 24th August 1944 (Thursday)

Unit: No. 1840 Squadron (motto: Motto: 'Allied and avenging')

Type: Hellcat I

Serial: JV203

Code: -

Base: HMS Indefatigable, Fleet Aircraft Carrier

Location: Sakkobadne mountain, Norway

Pilot: Lt/Cdr. (A) Archibald Ronald Richardson MiD. RNZNVR Age 27. Missing - believed killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

While conditions that day were initially foggy, the weather cleared enough in the afternoon to permit a strike against Kåfjord. The attacking force comprised 33 Barracudas carrying 1,600-pound armour-piecing bombs, 24 Corsairs (including 5 armed with a 1,000-pound, 10 Hellcats, 10 Fireflies and 8 Seafires. In an attempt to achieve surprise, the aircraft flew off from the carriers from a point further to the south of those used in previous raids. The strike aircraft then flew parallel to the coast, before making landfall and approaching Kåfjord from the south. A German radar station detected the force at 15:41 hrs, and immediately alerted Tirpitz.

The British attack began at 16:00 hrs. It was initiated with attacks on German gun positions by the Hellcats and Fireflies, which were flying five minutes ahead of the Barracudas and Corsairs. Tirpitz's protective smokescreen was not fully in place at the start of the raid, but by the time the Barracudas and Corsairs arrived she was completely covered by smoke. As a result, these aircraft had to blind bomb the ship, releasing their weapons from altitudes between 5,000 and 4,000 feet.

Only two bombs hit Tirpitz. The first was a 500-pound weapon dropped by a Hellcat that exploded on the roof of her 'Bruno' main gun turret. The explosion destroyed the quadruple 20-millimetre anti-aircraft gun mount located on top of the turret, but did not cause any significant damage to the turret itself.

The second bomb to strike the ship was a 1,600-pound armour-piercing weapon which penetrated through five decks, killed a sailor in a radio room and lodged near an electrical switch room. This bomb failed to explode, and German bomb disposal experts later determined that it had been only partially filled with explosives.

As part of a 77 strong strike force he led the squadron to the target 'Tirpitz' via Kvaenangen and Lang Fjord they climbed to 7000 ft on final approach. They were met with ferocious ant-aircraft fire and JT203 was last seen living on the ship from 3000 ft.

The wreck of the aircraft on Sakkobadne mountain, with shredded pieces of metal and engine, holed by flak or bullets, has long been believed by locals to be Acting Lieutenant Commander Richardson’s plane. It was recently visited (2018) by Richardson’s son, Alistair, and grandson, Royal Navy Commander Philip Richardson, who had made a trip to Norway, where a local historian guided them to the crash site above the fjord.

He was considered for a posthumous Victoria Cross but eventually received a Mention-in-Despatches. After the war, the fleet carrier visited New Zealand and made a special visit to Gisborne, where crew flew a large formation of Seafires, Fireflies and Avengers over the town in remembrance of their lost pilot.

Above 1840 squadron pilots with Lt/Cdr. (A) Archibald Ronald Richardson on extreme left

Burial details:

Lt/Cdr. (A) Archibald Ronald Richardson MiD. New Zealand Naval Memorial, Auckland. Panel 8. Born on the 20th March 1917 at Gisborne. Worked as an electrical engineer for A and T Burt Ltd prior to service. Served in the territorial army in the Motor Cycle Corps for a year prior to enlisting in the RN/FAA on the 14th September 1940 and embarked for England. Embarked for Canada in May 1941 for pilot training. Pilots badge and commission awarded on the 25th October 1941.Embarked for England on the 03rd November 1941 and attached to HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-Solent.

Right: with his wife, Sheila.

Uninjured during a forced landing after enemy fire whist serving with 791 squadron on the 06th April 1942. Uninjured in a flying accident on the 08th April 1942. Another accident when he was uninjured on the 17th August 1942 during landing. During a forced landing when hit by enemy fire on the 23rd October 1942, no injuries. Served in several squadrons as an instructor then joined 1840 squadron as commanding officer. Suffered a bullet wound to his right leg on the 10th April 1944. Son of William Elijah and Agnes Richardson (née Kiley), of Gisborne, Auckland. Husband of Sheila Margaret Richardson (née Howitt - later Thiomdson) father of one son, Alistair, of Ottery St. Mary, Devon, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 07-06-2021

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Acknowledgements
Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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