Driver George Simkins was the son of George and Alice Simkins, and husband of Bessie Simkins, of Romford, Essex. He served with 261st Field Park Company (Airborne) Royal Engineers and took part in the ill-fated Op Freshman mission to sabotage the German development of an atomic bomb at the Vermock Heavy Water plant in Norway.
Piloted by Sgt Doig and S/Sgt Strathdee in Airspeed Horsa Glider Serial number DP-349 and towed by Halifax tugs from 38 Group RAF, the mission flew from RAF Skitten, a Coastal Command Airfield four miles North-west of Wick, Scotland. Onboard were men from 9th Field Coy (Airborne) RE and 261 Field Park Coy (Airborne) RE, under command of Lt Methven, who had volunteered for the operation.
Taking off at 1745hrs on 19 November 1942, the mission soon became hampered by severe weather conditions. As the aircraft neared their intended targets the glider and tug encountered dense fog northwest of Rjukan which they were unable to emerge from. Fuel was getting low and as both tug plane and glider started to collect ice, they rapidly lost altitude. The glider released but crash-landed at Fylgjesdalen, north of Stavanger, killing the two pilots and six of the Airborne Engineers onboard. The remaining passengers, some of whom were severely injured were later captured and killed by the Gestapo.
Driver Simkins died on 19-20 November 1942, aged 30 years old. The two pilots, and the Royal Engineer casualties including Driver Simkins were initially buried in the hills near the crash-site, before being reinterred later at the Eiganes Churchyard in Stavanger, Norway
Compiled with assistance from Phil JennettRead More