KOSB tribute to dead in Sweden

Descendents of members of LJ899
Descendents of members of LJ899

Borders veterans travelled to the Swedish-Norwegian border earlier this month to pay tribute to soldiers killed the day after war ended.

One of the last operations of the Second World War involving troops from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers was the liberation of Norway after Victory in Europe Day.

Lake Rojden

Lake Rojden

On May 10, 1945, Operation Doomsday saw men from the British 1st Airborne Division – including soldiers from 7th Battalion, KOSB – set off to ensure the surrender of German forces in Norway was successful.

More than 100 troop transport planes in the shape of Short Stirling bombers, each carrying 20 troops and five aircrew, took off for Gardermoen airport near Oslo.

However, due to low cloud and bad weather, the mission was aborted. Most aircraft returned safely home, while several continued and landed at Gardermoen.

But, tragically, three Stirlings crashed. The pilot of one, which suffered engine failure, had skilfully put his stricken four-engined aircraft down on Lake Rojden, on the Swedish border.

Maj Busby together with Capt Herberts and Swales_Photo Johan Sundin

Maj Busby together with Capt Herberts and Swales_Photo Johan Sundin

But a wingtip caught a pine tree, causing the aircraft to spin and the fuselage broke apart. Most of the occupants survived, but four KOSB soldiers drowned.

The four bodies were taken to nearby Torsby in Sweden and buried with full military honours, in a service attended by half the local population.

In 1961, the bodies were reinterred in the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Gothenburg.

Earlier this month on the 69th anniversary of Operation Doomsday, 20 relatives of the dead men were at the crash site, where a new memorial has been erected, for a special service.

Joining them were former Borderers – Ed Swales, Berwick; Alistair Busby, Rutherford, near Kelso; Andrew Herberts, St Boswells, and Andrew Raiment, Sanquhar, currently serving as a piper with 1 SCOTS, Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The service was led by the Vicar of Torsby, Johan Bonander, and attended by the Canadian ambassador (many 7th KOSB officers were Canadian), the British defence attache and an honour guard from the Swedish Army’s Varmlands and Swedish Hussar (Airborne) Regiments.

Officials from the Torsby community, senior Swedish army officers, as well as around 300 local residents, were also present.

The final event was a visit to Gothenburg where relatives laid regimental poppy wreaths on the graves of their forebears.

The four Borderers killed at Lake Rojden were L/Sgt John Mulholland, 32; Cpl James McAra Davidson, 32; Cpl John Pearl, 31, and Pte Duncan Anthony Connolly, 19.

Capt (ret’d) Swales, KOSB regimental association secretary, told The Southern: “Sixty-nine years to the day, these men were honoured once again by their relatives alongside the residents of the local Torsby community.”