Able Seaman 

Robert Paul 

 "Bob" 

EVANS, 

MiD

Royal Navy

Died On:
Aged:
19 January 1943

21

PKT3282 - 232696 HUMAN TORPEDOS Views of the Human Torpedos under way.
Charioteers, like AB Evans

Robert Evans was born on 14 January 1922, the son of Ralph George and Rose Catherine Evans, of Brixton, London.

In June 1941, nineteen year old Robert ‘Bob’ Evans was working on a stud farm in Wokingham, Berkshire, from where he went to HMS ST VINCENT to enlist in the Fleet Air Arm. He was rated Naval Aircraftsman 2nd class, and put on the reserve list.

He was called up on 26 September 1941, attached to HMS DAEDALUS. After time in HMS ST VINCENT, DRAKE and RALEIGH he was in HMS DOLPHIN in April 1942 when he responded to a call for volunteers for ‘dangerous and hazardous missions.’ This led to his attachment to the submarine depot ship HMS TITANIA and the start of his training as a diver for the two-man torpedoes (chariots) being developed at that time.

Two RN commanders, ‘Slash’ Sladen and ‘Tiny’ Fell, themselves former submarine commanding officers, set up a rigorous training and development programme. From Fort Blockhouse the training continued in the almost inaccessible lochs on the West coast of Scotland before ending up on Shetland. There, at Scalloway, was the centre of the ‘Shetland Bus’ operation, a clandestine ferry service run by Norwegian sailors and fishermen, using traditional fishing boats, to carry SOE agents and their equipment outwards and refugees homeward from Nazi occupied Norway.

It was decided that an attack should be launched against the battleship TIRPITZ which was threatening Arctic convoys, using two chariots which were to be carried from Shetland to Trondheim Fjord aboard the Norwegian fishing vessel, Arthur, with Norwegian Leif Larsen as skipper, plus a crew of three. The passengers were six charioteers under Sub Lieutenant ‘Jock’ Brewster.

Once inside the fjord the chariots were lifted off Arthur’s deck, lowered into the water and secured to cables beneath the hull so as to avoid detection by German patrol boats. Unfortunately, Arthur was hit by two rogue waves when almost in sight of the target. The severe motion caused the shackles linking the chariots to the cables to part, with the loss of the chariots and the unfortunate abandonment of the mission.

It was now impossible to return due to serious engine problems so, after scuttling Arthur, the men came ashore, split into two teams and made their way on foot across Norway, suffering badly due to Winter conditions before reaching the comparative safety of neutral Sweden. Bob’s party, led by Larsen, ran into a frontier patrol not far from the border and in a shoot-out, Bob was injured and had to be left to the mercy of the Germans in the expectation he would be treated as a prisoner of war under the terms of the Geneva Convention. He was reported as ‘missing’, his parents being informed of this, and for two years great efforts were made by the authorities to establish his whereabouts but without success.

In fact he was taken to a local hospital where his wounds were treated. He was interrogated by the Gestapo then sent to Grini detention centre in Oslo. It was there he met up with five Royal Engineers, survivors of the unsuccessful glider-borne attempt (Operation Freshman) to put the Vemork heavy water plant out of action. After three weeks there they were told they were to be taken before a higher German authority and for the journey they would have to be blindfolded and their hands tied behind their back. They were taken a two hour lorry journey to Trandum forest where they were lined up before a firing squad, executed and buried in a hastily dug shallow grave.

It was not until the German forces in Norway capitulated in the Spring of 1945 that the graves were found, the bodies exhumed and identified and the men’s remains given a decent burial in Oslo Western Civil Cemetery (Grave 1.8.7).

Bob’s parents finally learned of their son’s death in a letter from the Admiralty dated 8 September 1945.

Bob’s execution was a direct result of Hitler’s Commando Order of 18 October 1941. Enraged by the commando raid (Operation Basalt) on the German occupied Channel Island of Sark and the shooting of a few soldiers, Hitler ordered that any Allied commando captured should be shot immediately

See also a photograph of his grave here.

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