Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Alexander Campbell - Behind the name

If you've seen the film The Heroes of Telemark with Kirk Douglas, about the attack on the Vemork Norsk Hydro Heavy Water Plant; you'll perhaps remember that in one scene an aircraft full of British troops crashes into a Norwegian hillside. The film is based on fact and two Horsa gliders full of Airborne Royal Engineers, and one Halifax bomber tug, did crash in Norway on the night of 19-20th November 1942.

The aircraft had flown from RAF Wick as part of Operation 'Freshman' and a memorial cairn commemorates all the soldiers and airmen who died on that mission.

There were a few Scotsmen on the raid and one is listed on the Grangemouth War Memorial.

The Alexander Campbell listed on the memorial in Zetland Park is this man:

Initials: A
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Lance Corporal
Regiment/Service: Royal Engineers
Unit Text: 261 (Airborne) Field Park Coy.
Age: 24
Date of Death: between 19/11/1942 and 20/11/1942
Service No: 1923037
Additional information: Son of Alexander and Catherine E. Campbell, of Grangemouth, Stirlingshire.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Z. 2.

And this is what the Commonwealth War Graves Commission say about Eigans Churchyard in Stavanger

In November 1942, an attempt was made to destroy the hydroelectric power station at Vermork, in Telemark, where heavy water was produced for German atomic research. Two gliders and an aircraft engaged in the raid crashed in southern Norway. All those aboard, Royal Engineers of the 1st Airborne Division and members of the Commonwealth air forces, were either killed in the crash or died later, at the hands of their German captors. The heavy water plant was eventually destroyed by a party of six Norwegians dropped by parachute in 1943. Stavanger (Eiganes) Churchyard contains the graves of 25 servicemen who died in the raid.

Lance Corporal Campbell was one of those who "died later at the hands of their German captors". He and thirteen others had been captured and taken to Slettebø Camp, Egersund where they were all interrogated and executed. One month before on 18th October 1942, Hitler had issued his Commando Order which stated that all Allied commandos encountered by German forces in Europe and Africa should be killed immediately even if they had surrendered. Alexander Campbell was a victim of that order.

At the time the Commando-trained Engineers were buried in unmarked graves at Slettebø by the Germans but after the liberation of Norway in 1945 the bodies were exhumed and reburied in Eignes Churchyard in Stavanger.

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