It is a story that has all of the elements that could make it the stuff of military folklore.  A tragic tale of how, after many months of continuous training, the men of No.6 Commando had been allotted the envious task of conducting a major assault on the Norwegian coastline. A chronology of events that, when set in motion, hurtled the Commando towards disaster.

To some it would rob them of their hard won chance to hit back at the scourge of Nazi Germany.  To others it would cost them their lives.

In modern times it could - I suppose - be paralleled to the catastrophic collapse of the US Special Forces attempts to rescue the Iranian Hostages in 1980.  However, the tragic events aboard the Prince Charles at anchor in Scapa Flow were somewhat over-shadowed by the fact that on that same day - 9th December 1941– the US had just declared War on Japan following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour two days earlier.

If you have read any of the few short stories about No.6 Commando that are available then you may well already know some details of the accidental explosion that occurred whilst men of the unit were being filmed, for propaganda reasons, arming boxes of  hand grenades.

The unit had been selected, along with half of No.12 Commando, to assault the Norwegian port of Florø, just North of Bergen. However, following a stormy crossing from the West coast of Scotland to Scapa Flow, and with the Prince Charles in need of some urgent repair, an opportunity was taken to conduct last minute training ashore. This decision left an already tired and somewhat sea sick group of soldiers and cinematographers to film the routine arming of the grenades aboard ship.

Whether the men were too weary to perform their allotted tasks, or whether an over-zealous cameraman did mix up armed and unarmed grenades we shall probably never know. But what we do know is that three men were killed instantly when a live grenade exploded, three more would later die of their wounds and sixteen more men received a variety of less severe shrapnel wounds.

Now - at last - we can reveal the names of the two brave Free Norwegian troops that had sacrificed their own lives valiantly trying to protect the rest of their comrades.  Seeing the panic set in amongst the gathered Commandos, Cpl. Karl Bråthen had lunged forward and picked up the fizzing grenade. Dashing towards an open hatchway he attempted to throw the grenade through it, only to see it ricochet of the edge of the hatchway and back into the mess hall. Seconds before it detonated, Cpl Rolf Dreng picked up the grenade to try again, when it finally detonated killing both men and L/Cpl. Horace Cartlidge (SNo. 4542130) instantly.  

Cpl. Karl Otto Braaten

Prt. Rolf Dreng

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