Ted Sismore: RAF veteran of daring low-level air raids

 

Ted Sismore planned and navigated Second World War RAF low-level
daylight raids which were the most precisely timed, the
deepest-penetrating, and the most appreciated by those for whom
they were targeted. His skill freed prisoners and destroyed papers
held by the Gestapo, preventing many executions and hundreds of
arrests, with the minimum of civilian damage. The raids were made
in answer to requests by the French and Danish resistance
movements. "The difficulty was to achieve this kind of success
without killing a lot of people," he wrote. "It was a very
difficult decision of what to drop and how much to drop."

One person who survived to expostulate against Sismore's brilliance was Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe. Goering had stepped up to make a radio broadcast on Sunday 31 January 1943 duringa weekend of celebrations of Hitler's accession to power 10 years earlier. Hitler had cried off with a sore throat hours before, so to Goering fell the task, at 11am, of telling Germans whattowering achievements the Reichhad made.

Flags flew, soldiers gathered to listen, as ordered, communally, and over the airwaves from the headquarters of Grossdeutscher Rundfunk, the state radio station, in Berlin's Wilhelmstrasse sounded a fanfare of trumpets. They had not reckoned on Sismore, painstakingly plotting his course with a primitive tin-box calculator several times bigger than a present-day mobile phone, a ruler, a map, dividers, and a mental picture in his head of landmarks as seen from a Mosquito aircraft flying at wave-top and then at tree-top height to avoid detection. The aircraft was in constant danger not only from anti-aircraft fire but from bird-strikes.

Sismore and his pilot, Squadron Leader Reggie Reynolds, were that morning leading three of the De Havilland plywood planes that had been introduced into the RAF little over a year before. Sismore picked up landmarks easily and half way through the five-hour round trip emerged on course over the Berlin lakes, guiding Reynolds to arrive over Wilhelmstrasse dead on 11am. As the trumpets faded the Mosquitos dropped their 500lb bombs close to the radio building. The explosions were heard across Germany and by monitors in Britain, and caused the speech to be delayed for an hour.

Much more poignant, and a triumph on a different scale, was Sismore's raid as master navigator with Wing Commander RN Bateson as pilot leading the first six Mosquitos of three waves, totalling 18, carrying 11-second-delay bombs, to destroy the Gestapo HQ in Copenhagen. For this raid, on 20 March 1945, which saved the Danish Resistance, Sismore was made a Knight of the Danish Order of Dannebrog.

Film footage shows a ball of flame erupting from the side of the art deco Shell House, on the corner of Kampmannsgade and Nyropsgade, which the Gestapo had taken over and camouflaged with green and brown paint.

Witnesses said the British seemedto be trying to skim the bombs to hitthe building sideways. Sismore explained in an interview: "The problem of course was that we were told about the Danes up in the attic." The local Gestapo chief, Dr Karl Hoffman, had made sure it was known there were cells for Resistance prisoners on the building's sixth floor.

But the saddest pictures of the aftermath are of a nun in a starched white cap comforting a bereaved mother. One of the first wave of Mosquitos struck a power cable and came down in Fredericksberg district close to the French school, and the following wave, mistaking the conflagration for the Shell House, dropped their bombs there. Eighty-six schoolchildren died, together with 18 adults, including many nuns, making a total of 124 Danish civilians killed, with 156 wounded.

Sismore and Air Vice Marshal Basil Embry, Air Officer Commanding No 2 Group, travelled to Denmark immediately after the war to visit the school and Danish Resistance survivors.

The raid, codenamed Operation Carthage, had nevertheless magnificently achieved its objective. The Shell House collapsed and 110 people inside were killed, including eight in the attic. Four Mosquitos were lost and two of their Mustang fighter escort, with nine airmen killed.

Sismore's precision navigation also stopped the work of the Gestapo in targeted buildings in Aarhus (October 1944) and Odense (April 1945).

In France his planning made possible the breach by Mosquito bombers of a towering wall at Amiens prison in February 1944, through which more than 200 prisoners of the 700 held there escaped. Sismore and Embry were forbidden to fly in case of capture, and the raid was led by Group Captain Percy Pickard, who was killed moments after it succeeded.

Sismore, who won a Distinguished Flying Cross for the Berlin raid, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for an attack four months later on 27 May 1943 on the Schott glassworks and Zeiss optical instrument factory at Jena. This sortie, led by Reynolds as pilot, was the deepest penetration hitherto overland in enemy territory. Low cloud and industrial haze kept the target invisible until tall chimneys were seen at 1,000 yards. Three aircraft failed to return and two crashed on landing.

Edward Barnes Sismore was educated at Kettering county school and joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve at 18. Promotion followed to flight sergeant, with an emergency commission in 1942. He survived night-flying operations with 110 Squadron in slow and vulnerable Blenheims, before joining 105 Squadron with Mosquitos.

For the three Danish raids he was given two Bars to his DFC, and won the Air Efficiency Award. He remainedin the RAF, retrained as a pilot, and in the late Fifties was planning Middle East operations before being promoted to Group Captain in 1962 and commanding RAF Bruggen. He was made Air Commodore in 1971, Commandant of the Royal Observer Corps, and Director of the Air Defence Team. He retired in 1976 and worked for Marconi as an adviser.

Edward Barnes Sismore, RAF navigator and pilot: born Kettering, Northamptonshire 23 June 1921; married 1946 Rita (one son, one daughter); died Chelmsford, Essex 22 March 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all