The tragedy
A small spot on a great ocean. North 64 50, East 07 40.  Or - Well 6407 / 6, as it is called in the oil termology.
Until some few years ago only fishermen were interested in this spot - but now the oil companies are there - and they have found oil and gas down in the deep.
And such is the situation this day in October 1985 - the drilling rig "West Vanguard" is situated  precisely over Well 6407 / 6. Everything is normal onboard, the sea is rough as usual - and time is about 0900 am. The drilling crown is turning around through the layers under the seabed, and at 263 metres it suddenly hits a shallow gas filled formation. This formation was not discovered during the site investigations earlier, but everybody knew that they might happen to drill into such formations.
Onboard the "West Vanguard" the usual precautions for such cases are put to work, the gas that suddenly blows into the well is circulated out - and the drilling continues. Procedure now says that a BOP, a Blow Out Preventer shall be mounted, but at this stage the bit depth is too shallow. The gas pressure is now increasing - all too fast. Gas, sand and other solid particles streams through the gas depressurizing equipment onboard the rig, when suddenly this equipment fails.
The gas flows free out on the deck of the rig - explodes, and the rig is made into an inferno of flames.
One of the crew is killed instantly, and the tragedy is a fact.

The search

Jan Finne is a ROV pilot, or a mini submarine pilot, and is seated in front of a video screen in the control room onboard the M/V "Arctic Surveyor". The screen gives him a sharp and clear picture of the seabed around Well 6407 / 6, the blow out well. At the same time he listens to the sound of the side scanning sonar in the loudspeaker system. A high frequent sound difference will tell him if there is metal down there. And that is the sound he is listening for.

Bergen Underwater Services, with their special ROV vessel M/V "Arctic Surveyor" is working in order to locate the 8 large anchors from "West Vanguard". The very same anchors that the crew onboard the fatal rig had to cut - to get the doomed rig away from the blow-out well. Till now BUS has found 7 of the anchors, and is now searching for the last. Pilot Jan Finne is operating the ROV, type "Scorpio", sn. 52 - which is now his eyes and ears down in the deep at 220 metres, only about 600 metres from the blow out well still belching gas. On his screen Jan can see that the seabed mainly consists of mud, now and then interrupted by a fish staring into the camera with big and surprised eyes - but outside "Scorpio"`s search light range there is only solid darkness.

Suddenly Jan register another type of sonar sound, and he quickly reduces the scanning towards the area to pinpoint the difference. And now the loudspeaker suddenly screams out the highfrequent sound they all have been waiting for.
"Dammit!" Jan cries out, "here is something - something real big !" He easily steers "Scorpio" towards the spot - and out of the darkness comes shapes and contours that he has seen before. "Feller`s - it's a crashed aircraft, it's a large aircraft laying down here!" "Scorpio" moves gently closer, the wings and fuselage of an aircraft comes out of the darkness - clearly visible on the screen. "And it has to be from the war, look at those crosses - must be German, well you can even read the register number, - - - - - it reads "S4 + EH" !

The drawing shows the Heinkel as it was found in 1985. 
It was cut in two by one of the anchors of "West Vanguard"
Drawing by Kurt Monsen, based on drawings by S. O. Agdstein.

Trondheim - and Haltenbanken,  9 June, 1940

The early morning sun shines in the blue grey paint on the floatplane "S4 + EH" anchored in the harbour of Trondheim, Norway. It is a twin engined reconnaissance, bomb and torpedoplane, a Heinkel He 115. The lettercode just ahead of the "Balkenkreutz", - "S4", tells us that it belongs to the "Küstenflieger Gruppe 506", the "E" behind the cross is the radiocall letter for this particular plane, and the "H" means it is from the first "Staffel" of the "Gruppe". The "Balkenkreutz", the lettercode and the swastika on the fin leaves no doubt it is a plane from the feared "Luftwaffe".

He-115 from Kustenfliegergruppe 506 in the harbour of Trondheim.

This sunny day Leutnant zur See Rembert van Delden, observer and commanding officer of "S4 + EH" is sitting outside the Hotel Britannia with his morning coffee - listening to a military band playing. Right there and then the war seems  far away - but the peace should not last for long. Leutnant van Delden observes a soldier bicycling towards him as if he should have stolen the bicycle - he recognises him as an orderly from his own unit. "Herr Leutnant, sofort Alarmstart ! You have orders to take off immediately to reconnoitre the sea Southwest of Narvik, our planes have discovered a large British naval force !" Immediately after this van Delden and his crew, as well as other crews, are gathered for instructions. The German Intelligence are very well informed, telling about large ship movements in the area they are ordered to search. van Delden and his crew enters their plane - and after two hours airborne they observes many small enemy naval units heading southwest. "S4 + EH" goes on further north, the pilot Feldwebel Augustat follows the orders given by van Delden, and the radiooperator Willi Schönfelder transmits their observations back to the base in Trondheim. After another hour airborne they suddenly observes a real "fat" target - a British battleship. It is HMS "Valiant" and some destroyers - earlier the same day they had discovered that they were shadowed by German planes. So they had asked for air cover from the aircraft carrier HMS "Ark Royal" not far away.

               Onboard the "Ark Royal" there is a somewhat confused atmosphere among the air crews - "Dammit, did`nt we have a victory at that place Narvik ? And now we are withdrawing ?" Pilot and Midshipman Kearsley and Airman Eccleshall in their Skua fighter have been airborne for some time when they suddenly discover a Heinkel 115 flying in and out of the clouds over "Valiant". 

Pilot and Midshipman Kearsley and Airman Eccleshall in their Skua fighter have been airborne for some time when they suddenly discover a Heinkel 115 flying in and out of the clouds over "Valiant". Robert Kearsley bites his teeth together, gives full throttle and arms the 303. machine guns. "Well", he thinks, "if we only had another and a faster aircraft !This thing fly's like a sluggish wheat bag !" But they are fast approaching the Heinkel - and from about 300 yards Kearsley has the enemy plane neat and precise in his gun sight - and he presses the trigger.

Robert Kearsley

Onboard "S4+EH" unfortunately everybody have their eyes fixed at the "Valiant", just as the battleship launches her own aircraft from the catapult. Suddenly Schönfelder discovers the Skua closing in from behind.
To operate his radioequipment undisturbed he has closed his canopy - to operate his machine gun he has to open it again. As he is struggling with that he can see the Skua open fire - he is only able to fire a short burst, then he can see the tracers hurrying towards him. Then he can feel a severe blow in his left shoulder and arm, realising he is hit. 
                Leutnant van Delden experiences the fire from the Skua as a rainshower hitting the plane - and the rainshower of bullets makes havoc in Schönfelders radio compartment, also the starboard wing way out to the engine. All this have happened in a matter of seconds - the cry from Schönfelder in the intercom, "Achtung, achtung, feindflug von hinten !" still rings in their ears. Schönfelder has his eyes fixed on the Skua as it passes close by, looking directly into the goggles of Robert Kearsley - he also registers that a engine panel on one of their engines fly off. Then Schönfelder can feel the pain and shock from his wounds and nearly faints.
Pilot Augustat undertakes evasive action - reaching a cloud. Van Delden moves through the plane back to Schönfelder, who unbelievably has regained from the shock and now is sending a distress signal back to base. Van Delden gives first aid - just as the Skua once again  pops out of a sky, firing at them. Augustat repeats an evasive action and once again reaches a sky while van Delden is hurled from side to side in the Heinkel.

Midshipman Kearsley and Airman Eccleshall swear - "Where the hell did that bandit disappear ?" The Skua hunts in the vicinity of "Valiant" for a while - until the fuel gauge tells them to return to "Ark Royal". The sea is very rough and Kearsley has to be very accurate in his approach - to land on the deck and not into the enormous hull of "Ark Royal". Well down Kearsley makes a note in his logbook ; "Skua a/c no. L 3024, 6Q, 800. Sqdn., patrolling "Valiant", at 2000`discovered Heinkel 115 shadowing the ship, opened fire at 300 yards, saw panel fall off, tailgunner ceasing fire, total time airborne 4 hours" That's it - no serious damage done ! As both Kearsley and Eccleshall believed.

Onboard "S4+EH" van Delden has bandaged Schönfelder as best he can, and though wounded he is transmitting. Pilot Augustat peeps worried out on the starboard engine - which seems to have a life of its own, Augustat can not control it and supposes the controls are shot off. 

Leutnant zur See, Rembert Van Delden to the right. 
Even his compass works more like a rev. counter - so Augustat trusts Van Delden being a naval officer knows how to handle a sextant. They makes a course for Trondheim - but after 1 hour with reduced power they are almost out of fuel. They can all se the rough sea beneath them, with waves up to 4 metres - knowing the starboard engine out of control all onboard know Augustat will have to perform a most difficult landing. Augustat fights the controls as they approach - "Festhalten" he cries out - and they are down, ripping the starboard float off. But nevertheless, the "S4+EH" is floating steadily. According to the "book" Schönfelder dismantles the clock, and burns secret papers and maps. They also inflates the dinghy hoping that help is not far away. Fortunately Schönfelder`s shot up and bloody radio has done it's duty - and after a while they can hear the distinct sound of the BMW's of another 115 from their own unit. 
They gaze at it, recognising the plane of pilot Oberleutnant "Pitt" Midderhof - a very experienced pilot, and specialist in "pick up" operations under difficult conditions. And "Pitt" Midderhof does the impossible once again - after dropping some fuel and his armed bombs, in a distance. (He later remarked - "Why not see if they worked, as I  had to drop them anyway ?) Midderhof cleverly puts his 115 down, nicely along a long rolling wave. In their dinghy the crew of "S4+EH" now struggles to reach the other Heinkel, it is not easy in the rough sea. 
           Also Midderhof has a problem, his 115 is bouncing in and out of the waves, sometimes completely covered by water. He looks at his propellers - they are both badly bent from hitting the sea time after time.Tough, in his normal manner Midderhof does not mind such bagatelles - and with the rescued crew onboard he waits for the right wave - then he pushes the throttles all the way, and they are airborne.

Midderhofs He-115 after the rescue operation. 
The propellers are bent out of shape!
 Then Oberleutnant Midderhof makes a steep turn - and sinks the "S4+EH" with machinegunfire, according to regulations. And the tenacious of life "S4+EH" slowly sinks deep down to the seabed - to its resting place only some hundred metres away from where the drilling rig "West Vanguard" 45 years later is going to drill its fatal well.
Today the wreck of Heinkel He 115 S4 + EH still rests on the seabed at Haltenbanken. The Norwegian Defence Museum was for a time interested in a salvage operation, but the cost connected to such a task was far too high. 
Later in the war Rembert van Delden changed his operational career from Luftwaffe to Kriegsmarine, was sunk with a submarine, survived and ended the war as PoW in Canada. Willi Schönfelder survived the war, as did Robert Kearsley.

A part of the cockpit 
on the S4+EH
Pict.: Bergen Underwater Services
Airman P/O Eccleshall, Oberleutnant "Pitt" Midderhof and Feldwebel Augustat were not heard of after the war. The research behind this story resulted in personal contact between the participants. Rembert van Delden, now a pensioned director of his family`sTextile Factory in Ahaus, Germany, each year meets with Robert Kearsley, pensioned Royal Navy officer,  to carry out a sailing voyage in the Channel as they both have sailing as a hobby. Willi Schönfelder, living in Zeven, has retired from a long life in politics.

Once they tried to kill each other - today they are the best of friends.

Text and research,

Halvor Sperbund,
Bergen, 1988

Sources ;

Correspondence with :
Rembert van Delden
Willi Schönfelder
Robert W. Kearsley
Richard Chapman
Ray Sturtivant
William Berge
Bjørn Olsen
PRO, London
Halvor Sperbund
Other information ;
Bergen Underwater Services
Jan Finne
Rune Breivik
Jan Ove Lidal
Statoil, ved Willy Olsen
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