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15 October 2014
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Flight over Kattegaticon for Recommended story

by culture_durham

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Flight Sergeant John Edwin Lake
Location of story: 
Over Denmark
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 June 2005

My memories of the end of the War in Europe come before V.E. Day, in fact it was May 5th the day of the armistice in North West Europe, when hostilities were to stop at 08.00 G.M. T. As the navigator of a Coastal Command Liberator crew we were called to make a flight to the Kattegat, where our operation was to observe the action of German Naval Vessels who had been ordered to return to the nearest ports.
To reach the Kattegat on previous operations meant a trip around the north of Denmark, but in view of the armistice we could go direct across the country. We left our base in North East Scotland at a time that would get us to the Danish coast by a little after 08.00. We crossed the coast at our normal operating height of 500 feet about 15 miles from the coast. we passed over Holsterbro where we saw German army loading rail wagons, a further 15 miles brought us to Grove an airfield where the sound of our. aircraft brought airmen rushing from their huts, on the air field we saw our first jet aircraft. Our flight across Denmark came to Aarhus, a port with small naval vessels docked. In crossing the 70 miles of Denmark we saw examples of all the German armed forces.
Crossing Denmark we were surprised to see so many Danish flags flying from houses and farms, they had all been prepared and made ready for erecting that morning or probable the night before. In the countryside we saw many people who waved to us, we replied with a wing wave. I remember one gentleman who had dismounted from his cycle, he was waving both arms and on his cycle he had flags on his handlebars. Arriving at Aarhus, as we were early for our patrol in the Kattegat I suggested to the Captain that we fly around the town as we had seen many people in the streets, we thought it would give the people a "kick" to see the R.A.F. This we did taking photographs.
Proceeding to our assigned patrol in the Kattegat, within a few minutes we saw a U-boat apparently aground on rocks, we observed if for a few minutes, it appeared that the crew were being taken off in small boats. Later in the patrol we saw another U-boat on the surface, as we approached it submerged, as it appeared to be going in the direction of Aarhus we did not interfere.
As no further naval activity was seen, our time on patrol was ended and we returned to base via Aarhus. We passed the U-boat we had seen at the start of the patrol, it appeared to have been abandoned.
The return journey across Denmark was a repeat of the outward with many people waving to us. Returning to base we felt that we had done something for the people of that country. For as far as we knew, we were the first allied plane to cross the country.
Back at base, a visit to the photographic and intelligence sections to look at the photography, resulted in a copy of one showing a view of a railway bridge. Then it was on a second trip round the town, the first time the people were all in queues at what were food shops. You can see many people waving hands and hats.
This photograph gave us all a great "kick" and for me it is a great memory of "V.E."

Flight Sergeant John Edwin Lake (Eddie) of Ferryhill was stationed with the RAF Coastal Command at Tain in the North of Scotland. Story submitted by his daughter Ann Lake.

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Royal Air Force Category
End of War 1945 Category
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