RAF bomber forced to land on mountain Tsatsa in sept. 1942  

The Mountain of Tsatsa
Photo: K Laurimaa




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Why not found earlier?
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Handley-Page Hampden AE436 PL:J

A Handley-Page Hampden

NOTE: The picture is of same plane type, Handley-Page Hampden (not the actual plane)

Background

There seems to be some confusion about the RAF-plane (Handley-Page Hampden AE436 PL:J) that crashed on the Swedish mountain Tsatsa in September 1942.
Why was it flying over Sweden? Why over the part where the highest mountains are situated?
The purpose of the flight explains that. This was a transit flight from Shetland Islands to Murmansk, Russia. If you draw a line between these points on a map it nearby passes just the Sarek mountains and Tsatsa is one of those. So they were to fly over Tsatsa.
Why was they headed to Russia? The answer is to be found in the situation of the war. Germans had occupied Norway and they wanted to control the Arctic Ocean. In order to strengthen the position of Russians against Germany, England tried to ship help in form of ammo and other material to the all-year open harbor in Murmansk by convoys of ships and they had to go through the Arctic Ocean. That is why England decided to send these 39 planes to Murmansk to help the russians to protect the arctic convoys between the British Isles and the russian harbor in Murmansk.

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The Wartime Records Top

It looks like there was some confusion in this matter already during the war. The reason seems to be the fact that there was two planes from the same flight that crashed in the Swedish mountains the same night. These two occasions has been mixed up and the crash site on mountain Tsatsa was never examined for that reason.

The newspaper-reports during the war seems very confused, they describe the crash of another plane in Arvasfjällen, in Tarfek, and state that there was two men surviving from that crash. Those were apparently the two men surviving from the Tsatsa-crash instead.

In the official report from year 1942 there is a statement that says in a footnote that this flight accident is not included in the registration of flight accidents during the wartime. Further, the footnote describes the location of the crash as

"Tarfak-fjället" = Tarfek = sydöstra toppen i fjällgruppen "Arvastuottar" (Arvasfjällen), invid polcirkeln, c:a 60 km NNO Arjeplog, Lappland.

  Enl pressuppg (Sv D och DP m fl tidn 10, 11, 17 o 19/9 1942) torde fpl ha varit det brittiska tbfpl. som "i början av sept" nedsköts av ett förföljande tyskt jfpl över Arvastuottar. Två män (båda ff) räddade sig gn en ansträngande 5 dygns terrängmarsch till Kvikkjokk. Fyra män omkom. Fpl totalhavererade mot fjällväggen (brann upp).
This is from a report from Krigsarkivet, Stockholm.

In translation this will mean that a british bomber was shoot down by a german fighter plane at Tarfak in Arvasmountains, 60 km NNE from Arjeplog in Lappland. According to the press two men was rescued by a walk of five days to Kvikkjokk. Four men was killed. The plane was totally wrecked against the mountain wall (burned up).

Now afterwards we know that the four men that was killed was on the plane that crashed in Tarfek, but the two surviving men did belong to the plane that crashed on Tsatsa, the Handley-Page Hampden AE436 PL:J. There was no survivors from the Tarfek-plane, and it seems actually that there was five men killed on that crash as one body was found some days later. At Tsatsa there was three men killed in the crash that was not reported at all in 1942, and these above mentioned two survivors.

 
 
Current information Top

On the Internet site with the title "RAF Bomber Command 1939-1945 : Rob Davis" we can read:

"There are various parts of a single Hampden which crash landed in Russia and which are in the hands of the Imperial War Museum at Lambeth, London, or its "operational" site at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. This does find its way onto a static display from time to time. Also, the Lincolnshire Air Museum at East Kirkby is restoring Hampden AE436 PL:J of No 455 Squadron, recovered from a force landing at Tsatsa, Sweden, on 5-Sep-1942, during a transit flight to Afrikanda, 111 miles south of Murmansk. This aircraft is on display in a disassembled state and when I last saw it in October 1998, the cockpit section was being actively restored on blocks in one of the workshops. There are photos of this aircraft in various books, Bomber Group At War (Chaz Bowyer) p41, The Hampden File p164/4. FlyPast magazine featured it in the Nov 97 issue."
 

Looks like the "Canadian Museum of Flight" has the same information as they write on their web site:

"Up to 1985, there was no Hampden's preserved for future generations to see. Now, not only has CMF nearly completed the cosmetic restoration of one, but also in mid-1991 a second airframe in reasonable condition, was recovered from a crash site in Russia, and returned to the U.K. for restoration"

It is possible that they refer to the same plane, the one they are restoring at Lincolnshire Air Museum. Of course it can be the one from Duxford, Cambridgeshire.

 

Anyhow, the Tsatsa mountain is located in the northern parts of Sweden, in the Sarek National Park. The long lost plane from September 1942 was found nearby the top of the 1852 meters high mountain "Tsatsa" in August 1976, thirty-four years after the crash. See map below.

And there seems to be some problems still. At the time when the plane was found (1976), following information could be read in the Swedish press (DN, translation by me):

The plane started from Sumburgh, Shetland Islands, on September 4th 1942, at 8.30 pm. It was destinated to the airport in Afrikande, 120 km southwest of Murmansk in Russia. When the squadrons (No 455 Squadron of Royal Australian Air Force and No 144 Squadron of Royal Canadian Air Force) flew over the swedish mountains, this plane arrived from the west, lost height and crash-landed on the eastern side of the mountain at the height level of 1700 meters. The newspapers furthermore state that six of the total of 32 planes were from RCAF and that the actual plane was one of them. Nine of the planes disappeared. Three crew members were found dead at the crash site (in 1976). The two surviving crew members got a hard walk down to the Kvikkjokk-village where they arrived five days later, the September 9th 1942. The people who first met them told that the men had told that they were from Canada and they had been followed by German fighters, tried to come away in the fog, lost too much height and crashed on the mountain.

The two surviving members of the flight crew were identified by names and transported to a interim camp in southern Sweden soon afterwards.

Questions arise: Are these men still around somewhere? The newspapers gave two likely names: lt D I Evans (acccording to Rob Davis the pilot was "Evans, Pilot Officer") and sg B J Sowerby. Is there anyone who knows anything about them? According to informatione from Norrlands Historiska Sällskap the pilot, Evans, has not been found but sg Sowerby has been contacted and he did visit the crash site in late seventies.

Other questions arise: Which information is correct? Rob Davis states that the plane did belong to the No 455 Squadron, which is RAAF, Australian. What was the Canadian connection? It also seems that the statement in the newspaper that No 144 Squadron was of Royal Canadian Air Force -- that seems to be incorrect. Was the survivors unwilling to reveal the right position for the crash and also to reveal their identity? (Remember that in 1942 the newspaper reports told us that they first pointed out a site in Sarek-district, but then changed their story and said that it must been further to the west, maybe on the Norwegian side of the border. Why?) Or - was the newspapers misinformed again as they was in 1942? I'll be back soon with update on this part ...

 

 Map and location info Top 
Map over the location were the plane was forced to land Map Overview map  
The rescue party in August 1976 The plane is found

 

 

According to the swedish newspapers the rescue party found the remnants of the bodies of three members of the crew at the crash site. They were buried in Kviberg (near Gothenburg, Sweden). The two surviving members of the flight crew arrived to the nearest village in Jokkmokk-county, the Kvikkjokk-village, five days after the crash, that will be the September 9, 1942. They were identified by names and transported to an interim camp in southern Sweden soon afterwards.

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Why was the plane not found earlier?

One reason was of course that nobody knew that there was a missing plane. As the wartime records did not report this plane crash, nobody was looking for it.

Another reason why it wasn't found must be the nature of the landing site. We talk here of the last wilderness in Europe. There is no roads, no hotels, not even a hut were a visitor can spend the night. The only way to visit the place is by trekking, with a backpacker and carrying a tent and all the equipment you need - there is no place to buy any food or other supplies. (Of course one can reach the site in one day from Tarraluoppal-cabins, see map above. But then you have to get there first ...)

In addition the weather conditions are not easy to master. The top of the mountain is covered by snow and ice even in the summer. I have been on the top of it in August sometime in the eighties and then the top was surrounded with clouds and covered with snow. The explanation to why the plane was spotted in the summer of 1976 seems to be that the summer was unusually warm and the snow melted away so that what was remaining of the plane became visible.

There was also a missing part of the plane that was found 1989, the engine. According to the press there is now a plan to rescue the engine also and to transport it to England, to East Kirkby for restoration. This was planned to take place in August 2000 but is now postponed.

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Links
RAF Museum
Canadian Museum of Flight
RAAF Museum (Australian)
RAF Commands/Ross McNeill
RAF Coastal Command/Ross McNeill
Wikipedia RAF 151 Wing at Murmansk
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Your comments, please! 
For any kind of additional information or corrections, and all kind of comments of course, please send me an e-mail to: info (at) kalevikonsult.com




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About the author of this page:
Name: Kalevi Laurimaa, born in Helsinki 1944.
My interest in this matter was aroused when I found out that I actually had been quite near the place where the plane crashed in 1942, without knowing of it while I was on the top of Tsatsa in the beginning of the eighties. I have been trekking in the Sarek-area about fifteen times during the past twentyfive years and the mountains are my primary interest. I mean that I am interested in the crash of the plane just because it happened in the Sarek-area. I also like to point out that the information that I present here about the crashed plane is reliable only as far as I have been able to verify it. As you see it contains plenty of question marks. There is this history society in Sweden, Norrlands Historiska Sällskap, that can provide you with more information.






 Last update: 2012-01-20