09.02.1945 No. 144 Squadron Beaufighter TF Mk.X PL-Y P/O. Percival C. Smith DFC
Operation: Shipping strike
Date: 09th February 1945 (‘Black Friday’)
Unit: 144 Squadron (Coastal Command)
Type: Bristol Beaufighter TF Mk.X
Base: RAF Dalachy, Scotland
Location: Hoydalsfjord, Norway
Pilot: P/O. Percival Charles Smith DFC 185435 RAFVR Age 27. PoW. Bergen
Nav: F/O. ‘Spike’ Frederick Stanley Holly 187116 RAFVR Age ? Injured PoW. Bergen
The family of the pilot F/O. Percival C. Smith would very much like to make contact with his navigator or family - please contact us, we will forward your details.
Update November 2015 - friends of Navigator contacted us - placed in contact with other relatives.
REASON FOR LOSS:
We would like to draw the attention to the credits at the end of this page of remembrance, where a great deal of information was gained.
February 9th 1945 - later to be know as ‘Black Friday’ due to the huge losses suffered during this operation.
At 13:30 hrs on 9 February, Milson led 31 Beaufighters into the air from RAF Dallachy. The strike force was joined by P-51 Mustang fighters from No. 65 Squadron RAF and two Warwick air-sea rescue aircraft from No. 279 Squadron RAF carrying life rafts to help any aircrew forced to ditch. All four of the Dallachy Wing's squadrons contributed aircraft to the force. The No. 404 and No. 455 Squadron Beaufighters were armed with "60lb" rockets while the aircraft from No. 144 Squadron and the single No. 489 Squadron Beaufighter dispatched were armed only with their four 20 mm cannon and six machine guns.
After the attackers crossed the Norwegian coastline at 15:40 hrs, two Beaufighters from No. 144 and No. 489 Squadrons detached themselves from the main force and pressed ahead as outriders. The two 'outriders' crossed Førde Fjord near where the German ships had been sighted that morning. At 15:50 hrs they sent Milson a radio message stating that they could not see the ships. The 'outriders' then turned to the east and overflew the town of Førde before searching the next fjord to the north; during their flight near Førde Fjord they did not spot the German warships in their new position. Meanwhile the Ninth and Twelfth Squadrons of JG5 were scrambled from Herdla at 15:50 hrs and ordered to attack the Dallachy Wing and its escorts.
Several minutes later, the main body of the raid reached the southern shore of Førde Fjord travelling north.
To their surprise, the Allied planes passed directly over the German ships and came under intense attack from anti-aircraft guns, though no aircraft were hit. In response, Milson wheeled his force to the right in an attempt to attack the ships from east to west as planned. The steep walls of the fjord protected Z33 from attack from this direction, however as a result, Milson led the force west to near the mouth of the fjord and ordered the Beaufighters to attack in relays from west to east. This required the aircraft to fly into the face of alerted German defences and then escape over steep mountains The narrow confines of the fjord also meant that the Beaufighters had to attack individually from a single direction and would not be able to swamp the German defences as they normally sought to do.
Left: P/O. Percival Charles Smith DFC (courtesy Pam McKie)
Milson led the first group of Beaufighters into Førde Fjord at about 16:10 hrs. His aircraft escaped undamaged after attacking a flak ship and other Beaufighters followed him into the fjord. At about this time 12 x Fw190s arrived at Førde Fjord and flew through German flak to intercept the Beaufighters that were waiting their turn to attack. The British Mustangs were taken by surprise, but dived to intercept the German fighters. This led to an intense air battle, with over 50 aircraft either engaged in dogfights or diving to attack the German ships; it was the largest aerial conflict ever fought over Norway.
By 16.10 another factor is about to be brought into the battle. Beaufighter PL-Y of 144. Sqdn. piloted by P/O Smith and P/O "Spike" Holly acting as navigator, was one of the first into the attack. This crew was amongst the most experienced of the squadron, having more than 35 operations behind them. This was going to be their last, they reckoned, though it happened not they way they had imagined! As they dived into the fjord, Smith noticed about 8 small planes coming from the south-west. "Mustangs?", he wondered before he concentrated on his attack again. Having successfully attacked and evaded the enemy ships, they headed up the valley of Naustdal barely 50 m over the landscape. Holly photographed the chaotic scene behind him and as he looked over the tail, he saw a fighter a couple of hundred yards behind them. He also wondered if this was a Mustang, but his hopes were shattered as he noticed the characteristic broad cowling of a radial-engined Focke-Wulf.
It was a Focke-Wulf! A quick message to Smith over the intercom, and then things happened frightfully quickly. The German fighter attacked and he and Holly fired almost simultaneously. A cannon shell exploded near Holly, and splinters wounded him in the belly, knocking him unconscious. The cockpit and port Hercules was also hit, destroying the intercom and any hopes of regaining base. At very low level they cut off some treetops and headed west, just north of Fordefjord. Smith had trouble controlling the Beau' and understood that a crash-landing was the only option. But where? This part of Norway is not noted for its flat areas. PL-Y continued to fly some time westwards, and Smith managed to effect a crash-landing on the sea in Hoydalsfjord. Here they were rescued by civilians, but as Holly's wound needed professional attention, the Norwegians had no option but to contact a doctor. That was equal to contacting the Germans. Smith and Holly were thus captured later that evening, and eventually transported to Bergen
The fighting continued until 16:25 hrs. By that time the German ships had shot down seven Beaufighters. Fw190s had claimed another two Beaufighters and a Mustang. The Allied losses included six of the eleven No. 404 Squadron aircraft involved in the attack. Overall, the Germans killed 14 Allied airmen and took four prisoner of war.
Above photographs kindly supplied by Mr. Phil Le Brocq who had visited many of the surviving crew from 144 Squadron and attended many of their reunions.
The Allies damaged Z33 and several of the other German ships and shot down either four or five Fw 190s. Rudi Linz and another German pilot Otto Leibfried, were killed. German Navy fatalities included four sailors on Z33 and three on the converted trawler VP6808; both of these ships were damaged during the attack. There may also have been fatalities on the other German ships.
The losses suffered by the Dallachy Wing on 9 February were the highest any of Coastal Command's strike wings sustained in a single operation during the war.
None - both survived.
P/O. later F/O, Percival C. Smith DFC died on the 1st December 1996. Age 78. F/O. Frederick S. Holly passed away in 2005.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the family of Pam McKie (relatives of P/O. Percival C. Smith), Col Bruggy of 12 O’clock High. Wikipedia, Special Interest Group Luftwaffe in Norway. Also in November 2015 Mr. Phil Le Brocq contacted us - he had met the navigator before and gained further information. Mr. Le Brocq lost his Uncle - also with 144 Squadron - details here.