Interview with Hugh Rogers


Interview with Hugh Rogers


Hugh Rogers was a cameraman during the war and remembers filming the sinking of the Tirpitz in November 1944. Gives a vivid and detailed account of the operation, describing the briefing, the technical modifications to the aircraft and the unfolding of the events.




Temporal Coverage




00:13:45 audio recording


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AP: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Andrew Panton. The interviewee is Hugh Rogers. Mr. Rogers was one of the film cameramen on board a specially modified Lancaster from 463 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force that filmed the sinking of the Tirpitz on November the 12th 1944. The interview is taking place at [file missing], Bristol on the 9th of April 2015.
HR: I recall two memorable days seventy years ago, the eleventh and the twelfth of November 1944. On the morning of the eleventh I was instructed to report to headquarters at Bomber Command at High Wycombe. That surprised me because people like me didn’t go to the headquarters at Bomber Command and also I’d only recently been posted to the film production unit which I now served. In the event two cameramen reported at headquarters, the first Flight Lieutenant Loftus as a Canadian Airforce and secondly myself Flying Officer Rogers RAF of the film unit. We were briefed standing at a small, very small table in a very large room. We were both members of the number one film production unit RAF at that time. We were told at this briefing that we were to bomb the giant German battleship Tirpitz moored in the Arctic and that we were to join the main force of Lancasters at the RAF base in Lossiemouth, Scotland. We were briefed on the very precise route to be taken to reach the Arctic base of the Tirpitz. It was explained to us that following the bombing, the main force would fly west and return to Scotland. The camera Lancaster, which we should be flying, would fly south and return directly to Waddington. So the film could be transported to London by road, processed and as soon as possible, the pictures distributed. The propaganda value was important to the Allies and it was thought would be devastating to the German population morale. Late on the ninth or the eleventh, our Australian pilot, Flight Lieutenant Buckham completed the first part of the operation, flying Lancaster HD399 to RAF Lossiemouth, which is near Inverness, Scotland. HD399 was a Lancaster of the Australian Squadron 463 manned by an all-Australian crew and [unclear] us two cameramen. The aircraft had been modified for our special requirement, the first turret had, the front turret had the guns removed which were replaced with a mounted IMO 200-foot camera. In the fuselage area the mid upper turret with guns had been removed and the fuselage repaired so that the two areas in the fuselage were then available for the second cameraman. The opened panel at the rear of the bomb bay gave a vertical sighting and the second sight on the door edge to the starboard side of the fuselage, the top half of which opened at the time of filming hence required an electrical heated inner suit, I learned that the temperature at my station was minus nineteen ten Centigrade and confirmed my view that I had drawn the short straw. To sustain our fifteen hour flight we did not have a Tallboy bomb loaded but there was a large red fuel tank fitted in the space above the bomb bay. It contained about eighty tons of fuel which I rested on during the flight, my abiding [unclear] memory of the short time in Lossiemouth was to, was being in a badly-lit barnlike room with Wing Commander Tait giving his last remarks to the nineteen pilots on 617 Squadron. We were all standing in the group around Tait, I was standing at the back, he emphasized the importance of the prescribed course which had been designed to avoid detection by the enemy. Over the North Sea the course was to be at fifteen hundred feet and this was to be maintained until the Norwegian coast was approached. So in the early hours of Sunday the eleventh of November, there was a shattering noise as the engine started up in preparation for the three [unclear] take off. The course was to be across, north-east across the North Sea. Round about seven o’clock in the morning we changed course directly east, when we approached the snow covered mountains of Norway. We had been flying at about eight, fifteen hundred feet across the North Sea but the height was then maintained to cover the mountains and we flew direct west into Sweden. Where we turned north so that we could follow the boundary between Norway and Sweden at an altitude which would not expose us to the German radar. We, once we had crossed the mountains, we then reduced the altitude to a reasonably low level. We then had to fly north all along the route between Norway and Sweden until we reached the assembly point at Lake Tornea Trask east of Narvik, some one hundred miles from Tromso. In those Northern latitudes the daylight comes late and I remember, as it got daylight, climbing over the central spire of the aircraft and going into the cockpit. Now, I was very impressed looking out of the cockpit but even at that early hour I could see the path that we were to take, all the lakes were covered by small, lenticular clouds, these saucer like clouds could have been used by the observer to mark his route north to Narvik, that was another of my abiding memories, when all the aircraft had reached the lake Tait fired vary lights at which point all the aircraft then assembled into a battle station and followed Tait on the route to Tromso. As all the aircraft were assembling into position over the lake, we had all gained height to twelve thousand feet, at this height we were able to cross the mountain into the fjord where the Tirpitz was moored. Now, as we crossed the mountain, we were some twenty miles from the Tirpitz, it was a mere small speck at that distance, and of course it was in reverse, we were small specks to the Tirpitz. Now, we know later that it caused consternation on the Tirpitz, not expecting us they suddenly realised that they should call for help and this they immediately did apparently, so I learned later but there was no response to their call, to the call for help from the Messerschmitts. Soon after we were spotted by the Tirpitz they assembled their gun positions and their enormous guns, fifteen inch guns which fired shells of one ton, took a few seconds to get to elevation but in that time they realised that we were too high for the big guns firing one ton shells could reach us but the shells were fall exploding ahead of us and slightly below us. Now in our film Lancaster they were close enough to cause some vibration and movement to the plane, now we had to hold the camera steady in spite of that movement, I think we achieved this, as we got closer to the Tirpitz the ack-ack, small ack-ack guns started and actually it got presumed, because of the panic on board the ship they were not too accurate. As the operation developed John Loftus, lucky chap, was in the front turret and he was able from the front turret to swing the turret round and track the first Tallboys being delivered, being dropped from the aircraft. I couldn’t see that but I was able then to go from the side position and film the first, first few bombs exploding around the ship. As I was working through that open space over the door, I could feel myself getting colder but I wasn’t distracted from what I was doing but I could see the ship being hit, I could see the steam and the smoke coming up and I could see especially I remember at the time it impressed me, that what had happened to the guns on the island when Tallboy landed on the island on the starboard side of the operation. After the last aircraft had gone, I remember walking up or crawling up to the cockpit and looking out of the cockpit and the pilot had dived to the starboard to the right and he was about five thousand feet at the time he’d finished and we could see all the smoke and steam and then he immediately turned on a course which we left because we were going back to Waddington and the rest of the force had gone west of Scotland, but much to our surprise, as we started our course to Waddington, the rear gunner shouted out to the skipper, that he could see the Tirpitz turning over so we turned, the skipper, the pilot turned the aircraft to the starboard so we could see but the pilot was on the other side, sitting on the other side, he couldn’t see it so in order to see it, he dipped the starboard wing and again lowered his altitude and we could see in the distance that by that time [unclear] the smoke and the steam seemed to have gone or there was a haze over the aircraft and you could see that it was upside down. Now, I can’t remember how quickly it was done but the pilot knew that as a squadron Messerschmitts we didn’t know the Germans had been informed by radar but it was time to get out so from that time on we kept on our course back to Waddington. So after that unforgettable operation we headed south across the seas, Norwegian sea, The North Sea and down to Waddington. After a flight of close on fifteen hours where we were met by General [unclear] who collected the film as soon as possible but he was taking it to London to be processed and that was on the Prime Minister, I believe on the Prime Minister’s instruction to get the film out developed as soon as possible for propaganda reasons and also he thought the Prime Minister expected it to devastate the morale of the German people because Hitler had always told them that the Tirpitz was unsinkable. And once again 617 Squadron and 9 Squadron had proved Hitler wrong.



Andrew Panton, “Interview with Hugh Rogers,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 21, 2024,

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