Open main menu

Operation Carthage, on 21 March 1945, was a British air raid on Copenhagen, Denmark during the Second World War which caused significant collateral damage. The target of the raid was the Shellhus, used as Gestapo headquarters in the city centre. It was used for the storage of dossiers and the torture of Danish citizens during interrogations. The Danish Resistance had long asked the British to conduct a raid against the site. The building was destroyed, 18 prisoners were freed and anti-resistance Nazi activities were disrupted. Part of the raid was mistakenly directed against a nearby school; the raid caused 125 civilian deaths (including 86 schoolchildren and 18 adults at the school). A similar raid against the Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, on 31 October 1944, had succeeded.

Operation Carthage
Part of the Second World War
Shellhuset12.jpg
The air raid on the Shellhus
Date21 March 1945
Location
Result British victory
Belligerents
Australia RAAF
United Kingdom Royal Air Force
New Zealand RNZAF
Flag of the German Reich (1935–1945).svg Gestapo
War ensign of Germany (1938–1945).svg Kriegsmarine
Strength
20 bombers, 30 fighters Various antiaircraft defences
Casualties and losses
6 aircraft destroyed
9 aircrew killed
1 aircrew captured
The Danish headquarters of the Gestapo destroyed
55 German soldiers and 47 Danish employees of the Gestapo killed
125 Danish civilians killed, including 86 schoolchildren
8 Danish prisoners of the Gestapo killed

Contents

BackgroundEdit

 
Shell House before the bombing. At the time of the bombing it was painted in camouflage colours
 
Institut Jeanne d'Arc, a Roman Catholic girl school in Frederiksberg Allé, Frederiksberg, Copenhagen. Established in 1924, bombed by accident by the RAF 21 March 1945 and demolished.

The raid was requested by members of the Danish resistance movement to free imprisoned members and to destroy the records of the Gestapo, to disrupt their operations. The RAF initially turned down the request as too risky, due to the location in a crowded city centre and the need for low-level bombing but they approved the raid in early 1945 after repeated requests. Once approval had been given, planning for the raid took several weeks; scale models of the target building and the surrounding city were built for use by pilots and gunners in preparation for a very low-level attack.

RaidEdit

The attacking force consisted of Royal Air Force de Havilland Mosquito F.B.VI fighter-bombers of No. 140 Wing RAF, comprising No. 21 Squadron RAF, No. 464 Squadron RAAF, and No. 487 Squadron RNZAF. The aircraft flew in three waves of six aircraft, with two reconnaissance Mosquito B.IVs from the Royal Air Force Film Production Unit to record the results of the attack. Thirty RAF Mustang fighters gave air cover from German aircraft and these also attacked anti-aircraft guns during the raid.

The force left RAF Fersfield in the morning and it reached Copenhagen after 11:00. The raid was carried out at rooftop level and during the first attack, a Mosquito hit a lamp post, damaging its wing and the aircraft crashed into the Jeanne d'Arc School, about 1.5 km (0.93 mi) from the target, setting it on fire. Several bombers in the second and third wave attacked the school, mistaking it for their target.[1]

 
The Gestapo headquarters in the Shellhus, Copenhagen, in March 1945 during Operation Carthage. A Mosquito pulling away from its bombing run is visible on the extreme left, centre.

ResultsEdit

 
Memorial at the site of the Jeanne d'Arc School with flowers and wreaths including one from the RAF laid down on 21 March 2015
 
Shell House burning after the bombing raid

On the following day, a reconnaissance plane surveyed the target to assess the results. The damage was severe, with the west wing of the six-storey building reduced nearly to ground level. The Danish underground supplied a photograph showing the building burning from end to end.

The raid had destroyed the Gestapo headquarters and records, severely disrupting Gestapo operations in Denmark, as well as allowing the escape of 18 prisoners. Fifty-five German soldiers, 47 Danish employees of the Gestapo and eight prisoners died in the headquarters building. Four Mosquito bombers and two Mustang fighters were lost and nine airmen died on the Allied side. At the Jeanne d'Arc School were 86 schoolchildren and 18 adults were killed, many of them nuns.[1]

On 14 July 1945, remains of an unidentified male casualty were recovered from the ruins of the Shellhus and transferred to the Department of Forensic Medicine of the university of Copenhagen. This happened again four days later and the two casualties were buried in Bispebjerg Cemetery on 4 and 21 September, respectively.[2]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Notes
  1. ^ a b Rasmussen, Anita Brask (21 March 2012). "Bombningen af Den Franske Skole blev redigeret ud af erindringen" [The bombing of the French School was edited out of the remembrance] (in Danish). Dagbladet Information. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  2. ^ "Døde Mandkøn" [Deceased Males]. Kirkebog [Parish Register]. 1930-1946 (in Danish). Skt. Johannes. 1945. p. 372. Ukendt Mand. (Ligrester). Fundet død i Shellhusets Ruiner. Ført til Retsmedicinsk Institut
Bibliography

External linksEdit

  • (DK in English) On the entire event [1]
  • (DK in Danish, encyclopaedic) On the French School (encyclopedic) [2]
  • (DK in Danish, encylopedic) On the Shell office building (encyclopedic) [3]
  • (DK in Danish) On the bombing of the French School [4]

Coordinates: 55°40′40″N 12°33′42″E / 55.6778°N 12.5617°E / 55.6778; 12.5617