An Australian attack aircraft flies into a ship with guns blazing. Both crewmen are killed, but does anyone notice?
At the entrance to Orsta fjord, down an overgrown path, a granite stone stands on a rocky outcrop at the water’s edge. Roughly inscribed in English, it records the loss of two young Australians. The stone was erected in 1947 by parents grieving the loss of their son. Each year villagers of Orsta pay homage to the sacrifice of these two young Australians who died to restore their freedom. Beaufighter pilot James Hakewill and his navigator Fred Sides died on 5 December 1944 when their aircraft slammed into a German gunboat in a fjord in Norway. Official records contain no mention of the aircraft hitting the ship. No one in the squadron knew what had happened.
Neil Smith thought he had shot down his wingman.
Kurt Heinowitcz from Breslau shovelled coal for the German Navy – he was on the gunboat.
Fred’s mum believed her son had survived the crash and was lost in Russia.
James was nominated for the Victoria Cross.
Viking Boys tells their stories and reveals the experience of young Australians who fought and flew against German shipping in the fjords of Norway – and called themselves the Viking Boys.
About the Author
John Quaife grew up in Melbourne and as a kid just loved military aviation.
He lived the dream. John spent 28 years with Royal Australian Air Force as a fighter pilot. He is a graduate of the RAAF’s ‘top gun’ training course who went on to become one of Australia’s most senior military commanders. John continues to serve as an Air Vice-Marshal in the RAAF active reserve.
John is currently working on a companion history that covers RAAF and RNZAF experience as Coastal Command’s ANZAC Strike Wing.