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A historically significant award doc

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Sometimes the ugliest bits of paper can have the greatest historical meaning behind them.

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I guess i ought to explain a little. This award doc for the Marine Artillerie Kriegsabzeichen is really quite significant historically. First off you'll notice the date, VE day, the day the Germans surrendered to the Western allies including Norway. That in itself is interesting as it would make this one of the very last awards of the war. Given the date it's not too surprising it's a rushed type written job, i'm sure they had other things on their minds on that day. Or perhaps it was typed up and signed later but back dated to the last day of the war? The signature is that of Erich Holtorf, See Kommandant Harstad in North Norway for Bruno Machens, Admiral of the Norwegian Polar Coast.

Now on to what makes this truly significant. The accompanying confirmation shows that he was awarded the badge for his part in shooting down 2 aircraft, thus gaining 4 points, during the attack at Kilbotn on the 4th May 1945. Whether or not he had previously gained 4 points or whether they simply waived the official requirement of 8 points as the war was over anyway i don't know.

So what about the attack of 4th May 1945? Well on that date 44 British Fleet Air Arm aircraft, 16 Grumann Avengers and the remainder Wildcats took off from their aircraft carriers and attacked the anchorage of Kilbotn near Harstad. There they found the U-boat depot ship "Black Watch" with the U-711 tied up alongside, in the space of a few short minutes the Black Watch was on the bottom of the sea, ripped appart by at least 7 hits from 500lb bombs taking with her several hundred men including most of the crew of U-711. Not that the U-boat escaped, she too went down although strangely the 12 man skeleton crew onboard her all survived. The price the airmen paid was 2 aircraft lost, one Avenger and one Wildcat. Not a good return for the Germans but for those brave flak gunners who at least didn't let the tommies go unpunished and who were as much targets as the ships themselves they received at least some recognition for their efforts.

Marine flakabteilung 709 was charged with the defence of the port of Harstad. It consisted of 8 batteries, 4 armed with 7.5cm guns (i think of Norwegian origin), 1 with 4cm guns (Flak 28 bofors) and searchlights, 1 with 2cm guns (flak 3038) and searchlights (this was the 7 batterie, the one our man served in) and the last was a pure searchlight battery.

An Avenger and Wildcat similar to those used on the attack.

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This operation, called 'Judgement' was the very last attack carried out by the Fleet Air Arm of World War Two in Europe and thus the last U-boat to be sunk by them (although some other boats were sunk by RAF aircraft out at see after this date) and the last FAA aircraft to be lost in combat in europe, I think it was also the last air attack in Norway and the last British aircraft to be shot down over Norway too. That's what makes these scraps of paper historically significant.

This attack has been well researched by a Norwegian diver, his website covers the attack in detail and although it's in Norwegian there are several photos taken during the attack and scans of the official reports made by the squadrons involved.


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