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Wings Over Wick Index

"Operation Freshman" 60th Anniversary Ceremony
Skitten, Near Wick, Caithness -  Wednesday 20 November 2002

A surprisingly large crowd turned out for the 60th anniversary of "Operation Freshman" on a very cold, windy and wet day.  The Norwegian Consul had come up from Edinburgh and representatives of the various section of the armed forces were represented.  Some of the Norwegian delegation could not get to Caithness as they were held up at Heathrow due to bad weather.

There was a fly past of a Nimrod and a Tornado jet fighter at different times and they made spectacular appearances out of the low clouds which several people thought would mean that would be cancelled.  Despite the very bad weather the pilots made their entrance timed to perfection as the ceremony progressed.  A helicopter also came in and hovered before departing in the poor visibility. 

A tribute was paid to the men who gave their lives by the Lord Lieutenant Graham Dunnet, prayers were said and wreaths were laid by the armed forces and representatives of organisations and families.  It was memorable tribute to those who had died in the attempt to prevent the production of heavy water and the progress of the German Atomic Bomb.  The Norwegians were later to be more successful but at the lunch held in Wick Assembly Rooms the Norwegian Consul again thanked the people who gave their lives.  Other speakers thanked the organisers of the day and for reminding everyone of the great price paid by a generation to ensure victory.

Video Of The Day
A Video Presentation of The Ceremonies at Skitten and The speeches In Wick etc (Cost 15 plus postage) will be available from Classic Videos, Tannadice, Canisbay, Caithness, KW1 4YD  Tel 01955 611469

Organising The Event
The Aircrew Association & the Royal British Legion are supporting the "Skitten Project 2002 Committee" organisers of the 60th anniversary Ceremony commemorating "Operation Freshman".

Plans are well in hand for the ceremony to run from 10.30 to 12.00hrs at the Skitten Memorial on 20 November 2002.  The ceremony will include a "Fly Past " by Nimrod aircraft from RAF Kinloss and will be supported by a Civic Hospitality Reception for participants and guests hosted by Highland Council in Wick

The committee for the group are actively fund raising to cover the costs of staging the event and donations can be sent to the project treasurer -
L G "Mac" Steven, "Toravaig", Loan Eckheim, Kiltarlity, Beauly, Inverness-shire, IV4 7JQ. Tel 01463 741231
Cheques should be made out to "The Skitten Project 2002 Committee"

More information can be obtained from -
D. J Owens, The Hon Secretary, The Penthouse, 13 Herraghty Lodge, Dores Road, Inverness, IV2 4BG
Tel 01463 223479
Fund Raiser and PRO -  Don Mason, 25 Oldfield Terrace, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 8NH  Tel 01847 893313

Donations have already been received from a number of organisations in Caithness including UKAEA, HMS Vulcan, Thurso Round Table and St Peters Masonic Lodge.  More funding is required to cover the cost of staging the events, providing accommodation for a visitong party from "Lingeklubben" organisation in Norway - an organisation of former WW11 Norwegian Resistance Fighters and Next of Kin of Army & RAF personnel involved in the operation, who living more than 150 miles away from Skitten may require accommodation or assistance towards it.

Operation Freshman
Operation Freshman was the original Special Operations Executives (SOE) attempt to put out of action the Heavy Water Plant at Vermark, Norway, which was vital to the development of an Atomic Bomb by the Nazi's.  Were it not for the supreme sacrifice of those who gave their lives to this operation, the outcome of World War 11 may have been very different.
This and subsequent S.O.E. operations were the basis of the film "Heroes of Telemark"

Highland branch members of the Aircrew Association are organising the memorial service at former RAF Skitten airfield. in Caithness.

On 19 November 1942 two Horsa gliders towed by two four-engined Halifax bombers took off from Skitten four miles north-west of Wick.  The gliders were piloted by a two man crew, three from the army's recently-formed Glider Pilot Regiment and the fourth a pilot  from the Royal Australian Air Force.

Each glider carried 16 commando-trained volunteers from the royal Engineers, all highly skilled technicians with much knowledge of explosives, electronics and fuses.

A medical officer from RAF Skitten also went with them.

Norwegian agents organised the one-way trip with a landing site near Lake Mosvatn in the Telemark area.

The engineers were to locate and destroy the German controlled hydro-electric plant at Vermork, 60 miles west of Oslo.  The plant was producing heavy water for the early atomic weapons programme set up by Hitler.

The operation went wrong and 40 servicemen died.

A Halifax and its Horsa glider crashed into a mountain - there were 10 survivors.  They put up a brief fight before being captured by the Germans who had also captured the other glider's passengers.

Earlier instruction from Hitler were to shoot all commandoes and take no prisoners.  Only Rommel apparently disobeyed this order.

After questioning by the Gestapo they were poisoned in Stavanger Hospital.  Others were murdered at Slettebo and buried at Brusand.

Other prisoners were taken to Grini near Oslo and shot on 18 January 1943

A month later a group of Norwegian saboteurs trained by the British army parachuted into Norway and blew up the plant although they suffered many casualties.

The raids were the basis of the film starring Kirk Douglas - "The Heroes of Telemark"

The ceremony at Skitten was carried out successfully in terrible weather.  The balance of the funds was paid to the local branch of The Royal British Legion in order to maintain the monument in perpetuity.

Operation Freshman Links
Steven Stratford Web Site

The execution of Freshman raid members was the basis of several charges of war crimes.

Operation Freshman - Norway

The Kilfinnan Commandoes

Remembrance Service Skitten November 2001

Skitten in Caithness.org A - Z

Planes That Flew From Skitten

Glider Pilot Regiment 1942 - 1945

The Skitten Memorial was set up at Skitten in 1992 and unveiled by Councillor Anderson Murray a wartime Lancaster bomber navigator and member of the Aircrew Association's Highland Branch

Memorial At Skitten

Memorial At Skitten

Don Owens is secretary of the Aircrew Association - Highland Branch and was secretary of the Skitten Project 2002 Committee.  He was a Halifax bomber flight engineer who flew operations with 415 RCAF Squadron and was transferred to 420 RCAF squadron just before the end of war.

Don Mason  (DSO and Bar, DFC) also a meber of the Aircrew Association was the fundraiser for the memorial day. 

Note from Caithness.org
We will add any further information or updates that anyone wishes to send us un connection with the event or about the raids in Norway