CHF Engineers Repair their Aircraft in Hangar Built by Concentration Camp Inmates
Whilst sheltering from the freezing conditions of Northern Norway, CHF engineers had to carry out a gear box change from one of the Sea Kings that has been taking part in Ex Clockwork.
The difficult task took place inside the austere surroundings of what is known as a ‘Rock Hangar’ located inside one of the granite hills that surrounds the RNoAF base Bardufoss. The Rock Hangar was carved into the hills by prisoners from a concentration camp at Bardufoss during the Second World War. The hangar was designed so that aircraft could enter directly from the runway through an enormous armour-plated door into a horse-shoe shaped tunnel, which was specifically arranged so that aircraft could be re-fuelled, re-armed and repaired in one of the many servicing bays along the infamous tunnel. Once the aircraft had been repaired or re-armed they would depart directly onto the runway via another massive door.
It was the Nazi authorities that established the concentration camp in the small town of Bardufoss, as an annex to the Grini concentration camp. It opened in March 1944 to alleviate overflowing in other camps, particularly the Falstad concentration camp. Situated in such an extremely cold environment, Bardufoss concentration camp was notorious for its hard work regime, sparse rations, and inadequate shelter. It is estimated that some 800 prisoners passed through the camp, and when liberated about 550 were incarcerated.
Notes: A History of Aviation Training in the Arctic
In 1968, following a winter in Norway where the limitations of HMS Bulwark’s (a Commando Aircraft Carrier) Air group were keenly exposed, Flag officer Naval Flying Training, ordered 846 NAS to conduct trials and training in an Arctic environment in order to improve the aviation combat support provided to 3 Cdo Bde RM. The NATO Northern Flank reinforcement plans, in which 3 Cdo Bde played an essential part, identified the RNoAF at Bardufoss as a key area, and it was here that the arctic training came to be centred. 3 Cdo Bde RM and its naval helicopter support squadrons became, and remain to this day, the UK’s Mountain and Cold Weather Warfare specialists. To ensure CHF personnel are trained for all environments, it has conducted Arctic Flying Training and supported Royal Marines on exercises in Norway for 44 years.