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Lt(A) Norman Sailes
Fijord attack

On this day 4 May 1945

Published: 04 May 2014

On this day 4 May 1945 Last strike of WWII by the Home Fleet - Kilbotn anchorage

Out of the clear blue sky at 17.00 on the afternoon of May 4, 1945 forty-four Avenger and Wildcat aircraft of 846, 853 and 882 Naval Air Squadrons flying from the escort carriers Trumpeter, Queen and Searcher dived on the German U-boat base at Kilbotn in fjords of Arctic Norway fjords, five miles south Harstad. The base consisted of the former Fred Olsen line North Sea passenger ferry Black Watch, converted to a depot ship, and three heavily armed flak-ships, surrounded by numerous anti-aircraft guns on the hills around the fjord.

Lt (A) Norman Sailes was senior pilot of 853 squadron who had helped to plan and lead the attack. Taken by surprise, Black Watch received seven direct hits and blew up, and U-boat U-711, which was alongside the depot ship, was damaged by two near misses and drifted off into the fjord. There, despite the efforts of a skeleton crew, it sank a few hours later.

The attack lasted seven minutes and no Norwegians in the village of Kilbotn, a mile away, were injured during the attack.

Two British aircraft and their crews were lost. However, though Sailes’ plane was hit by shellfire and one of his crew was wounded, he nursed the aircraft back to the carrier, where it was discovered that six of the seven strands of the Avenger’s rudder cable had been shot through and that the wings were badly damaged by shrapnel.

He was awarded the DSC for “gallantry, skill and devotion to duty” during the raid. (London Gazette 7 August 1945)

The attack on Kilbotn was the last British air-raid of the Second World War and the last naval offensive in Europe, and U-711 was the last U-boat to be sunk by the Fleet Air Arm. Over 1,100 U-boats had been sunk from all causes in the war and a further 15 were to be sunk from 5 May 1945 to VE-Day.


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