Captain R.T. Partridge encounters the enemy up close

The Blackburn Skua: the Fleet Air Arm fighter that operated from HMS Ark Royal

Captain R.T Partridge (Royal Marines) was Squadron Leader with 800 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm. While based in the Orkneys he had led their attack on the Konigsberg. Now the Squadron was based on HMS Ark Royal, which reported the following incident:

On Saturday, 27th April, 1940, three SKUA aircraft of 800 Squadron took off at 1230 to provide fighter patrol over the ANDALSNES area, Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock formed the crew of the leading aircraft.

2. During this patrol a HEINKEL 111 bomber was sighted and attacked by all three aircraft. The attack was successful and the German machine was forced down on the side of a hill about twenty miles South East of AALESUND. The crew were seen to climb out of their wrecked aircraft.

3. Whilst following the HEINKEL down after the attack. Captain Partridge realised that his engine was failing and that he would he forced to land immediately. Selecting a frozen lake which appeared to have a road running beside it, he landed his machine successfully with the undercarriage up. A bent airscrew was the only damage and the machine came to rest alongside the road in about four feet of snow.

4. After destroying the R.1110 (homing beacon w/t receiver) and removing such gear as they thought necessary. Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock set alight to their machine by firing a few shots from a revolver into the petrol tanks and then a Very’s cartridge into the aircraft.

5. During their glide to earth, following the engine failure, the two officers had noticed a small hut at the top of a hill not far from where they eventually landed. Walking through the snow proved to be extremely hard going; the road was buried and snow came up to their knees most of the time. However the building was reached at last and they went inside to investigate.

6. A few minutes later they heard a whistle outside. On looking out of the window they saw three Germans armed with revolvers and knives. These were the crew of the HEINKEL, which had crashed on the other side of the hill on which the little building was situated.

7. The situation was awkward, but Captain Partridge rose to the occasion and ordered the three men to come inside. To his relief they obeyed meekly and Captain Partridge continued to take charge. Difference of language proved an obstacle, but by use of broken English and broken German the British officers discovered that the enemy consisted of one officer of Lieutenant’s rank (the pilot) and two N.C.O.s, one of whom was the navigator. It transpired that the rear gunner of the HEINKEL had been killed in the action with the SKUAS.

8. Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock, not wishing the Germans to realise that they were responsible for shooting them down managed to convey the impression that they were the crew of a British Wellington aircraft which had been forced to land nearby.

9. The Germans appeared convinced that they had been attacked and shot down by Spitfires.

10. By this time it was getting late, so it was decided to have another look round for more suitable shelter. The British officers saw a chalet at the foot of the hill. Captain Partridge therefore told the Germans that they were to sleep in the hut. The Germans made no objection, so Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock walked to the chalet. This turned out to be a small hotel which was shut up, but they entered and discovered food and bedding.

11. Early next morning the Germans appeared, still armed. There seemed no alternative but to offer them a share of the food, so all five breakfasted in company. Captain Partridge then announced that he intended to explore outside the hotel. One of the German N.C.O’s. went with him. Lieutenant Bostock remained inside with the other two.

12. A few minutes later Lieutenant Bostock heard a shot outside, and thinking that the German had shot Captain Partridge, hurried cut to look. On reaching the verandah, Lieutenant Bostock saw a Norwegian ski patrol four hundred yards away. This patrol had fired a warning shot; Captain Partridge had fallen flat on the ground as a precaution, and the German N.C.O. had placed his hands above his head.

13. The leading Norwegian covered the German with his Rifle. The latter called out “Ingleesh”, “Ingleesh” and, apparently satisfied, the Norwegian turned his attention to Captain Partridge. At this moment, as the Norwegian turned away, the German made a movement which Lieutenant Bostock considered to be an attempt to reach his revolver. Seeing this, another member of the ski patrol shot the German dead.

14. The Norwegians then proceeded to search Captain Partridge, Lieutenant Bostock, and the remaining two Germans for weapons. They did not at first believe that Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock were British, but the production of a half-Crown and the showing of a tailor’s label inside their uniform coats eventually convinced them. An amazing coincidence then occurred, as the English-speaking leader of the Norwegians chanced to be the brother-in-law of a close friend of Captain Partridge. On discovering this, the Norwegians became very friendly and most helpful.

15. It was decided to hand over the two Germans to the French Headquarters and they were marched away by the patrol.

16. The Norwegians suggested that Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock should join the British Forces at AALESUND.

17. Waiting till two o’clock.the next morning (29th April) when the snow was reasonably firm, the British officers set out to trudge the twenty-one miles to AALESUND. They arrived at last, extremely weary, and were met by a scene of utter desolation. The enemy were bombing the town continuously and it was completely wrecked. Major LUMLEY, Captain PITTS, and a hundred Royal Marines were in occupation.

18. Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock were told that a destroyer was arriving that night to evacuate the British force, hut it did not appear. After twenty-four hours, during which vain attempts had been made to communicate with ANDALSNES by telephone, it was decided that a message must be taken by hand.

19. Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock managed to commandeer a car and they set off on the twenty-five mile drive to ANDALSNES. The road was in many places made practically impassable by bomb craters, and on several occasions it became necessary to stop and take cover while German aircraft passed close overhead. ANDALSNES was reached eventually after crossing the fjord by car-ferry. On arrival H.M.S. CALCUTTA was seen to be in action with fifteen Heinkel bombers but no damage was observed.

20. ANDALSNES too, was a shambles, most of the town being on fire after continual heavy bombing. Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock reported the situation at AALESUND. A few hours later they embarked in H.M.S. MANCHESTER and were brought home to the United Kingdom.

See TNA ADM 199/479, also Major R.T. Partridge: Operation Skua.

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