Operation Carthage

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Operation Carthage
Part of World War II
The air raid on the Shellhus
Date 21 March 1945
Location Copenhagen, Denmark
Result British victory
Australia RAAF
United Kingdom Royal Air Force
New Zealand RNZAF
Flag of the German Reich (1935–1945).svg Gestapo
War Ensign of Germany (1938-1945).svg Kriegsmarine
20 bombers, 30 fighters Various antiaircraft defences
Casualties and losses
Six aircraft destroyed
Nine crew members killed, One taken prisoner
The Danish headquarters of the Gestapo destroyed
55 German soldiers and 47 Danish employees of the Gestapo killed
125 Danish civilians killed, including 86 schoolchildren
Eight Danish prisoners of the Gestapo killed

Operation Carthage, on 21 March 1945, was a British World War II air raid on Copenhagen, Denmark, which incurred significant collateral damage. The target of the raid was the Shellhus, used as Gestapo headquarters in the city centre. It was used for the storage of dossiers and the torture of Danish citizens during interrogations. The Danish Resistance had long asked the British to conduct a raid against this site. As a result, the building was destroyed, 18 prisoners were freed, and anti-resistance Nazi activities were disrupted. But, part of the raid was mistakenly directed against a nearby boarding school; it resulted in a total of 125 civilian deaths (including 86 schoolchildren and 18 adults at the school). A similar raid against the Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, on 31 October 1944, had been successful.


Shell House before the bombing. At the time of the bombing it was painted in camouflage colours

The raid was requested by members of the Danish resistance movement in the hope of freeing imprisoned members, and destroying the records of the Gestapo to disrupt their operations. The RAF initially turned down the request as too risky, due to the location in a crowded city centre and the need for low-level bombing, but they approved the raid in early 1945 after repeated requests.

Institut Jeanne d'Arc, a Roman Catholic school in Frederiksberg Allé, Frederiksberg, Copenhagen. Established in 1924, bombed by accident by the RAF 21 March 1945 and demolished.

Once approval had been given, planning for the raid took several weeks. This included making scale models of the target building and the surrounding city, for use by pilots and gunners in preparation for a very low-level attack.


The attacking force consisted of Royal Air Force de Havilland Mosquito F.B.VI fighter-bombers of No. 21 Squadron RAF, No. 464 Squadron RAAF, and No. 487 Squadron RNZAF, from the No. 140 Wing RAF. These were organised in three waves of six aircraft, with two reconnaissance Mosquito B.IVs from the Royal Air Force Film Production Unit to record the results of the attack. Thirty RAF North American Mustang fighters gave air cover from German aircraft, and these also attacked anti-aircraft guns during the raid.

The force left RAF Fersfield in the morning and it reached Copenhagen after 11:00. The raid was carried out at rooftop level. In the course of the initial attack, a Mosquito hit a lamp post, damaging its wing, and the plane crashed into the Jeanne d'Arc School, about 1.5 km (0.93 mi) from the target. Several bombers in the second and third wave attacked the burning school, mistaking it for their target.[1]

The Gestapo headquarters in the Shellhus, Copenhagen, in March 1945 during Operation Carthage. A Mosquito pulling away from its bombing run is visible on the extreme left, centre.


Memorial at the site of the Jeanne d'Arc School with flowers and wreaths including one from the RAF laid down on 21 March 2015
Shell House burning after the bombing raid

On the following day, a reconnaissance plane surveyed the target to assess the results. The damage was heavy, with the west wing of the six-story building reduced nearly to ground level. The Danish underground supplied a photograph showing the building burning from end to end.

The raid had succeeded in destroying Gestapo headquarters and records, severely disrupting Gestapo operations in Denmark, as well as allowing the escape of 18 prisoners of the Gestapo. Fifty-five German soldiers, 47 Danish employees of the Gestapo, and eight prisoners died in the headquarters building. Four Mosquito bombers and two Mustang fighters were lost, and nine airmen died on the Allied side.

The fatalities at the Jeanne d'Arc School were 86 schoolchildren and 18 adults, many of which were nuns.[1]

On 14 July 1945 parts of the remains of an unidentified male casualty were recovered from the ruins of the Shellhus and transferred to the Department of Forensic Medicine of the university of Copenhagen. This happened again four days later. The two casualties were buried in Bispebjerg Cemetery on 4 and 21 September, respectively.[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Rasmussen, Anita Brask (21 March 2012). "Bombningen af Den Franske Skole blev redigeret ud af erindringen" (in Danish). Dagbladet Information. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Døde Mandkøn". Kirkebog. 1930-1946 (in Danish). Skt. Johannes. 1945. p. 372. Ukendt Mand. (Ligrester). Fundet død i Shellhusets Ruiner. Ført til Retsmedicinsk Institut Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |trans_chapter= ignored (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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