South East Wales

Dambusters war hero Paddy Gingles tourist mix-up

David Wilson and his wife Deborah made the local newspaper in Norway
Image caption David Wilson and his wife Deborah made the local newspaper in Norway

A holidaymaker on a trip to Norway received full VIP and a civic reception after being mistaken for a World War II Dambusters hero.

David Wilson, 47, had flown to Tromso to find out more about his great-uncle Capt Paddy Gingles, who bombed a Nazi warship off Norway in 1944.

But the museum he contacted ahead of his trip thought he was Capt Gingles.

"We were given a full welcoming party - it was all a bit embarrassing really," said Mr Wilson, from Penarth.

He had to explain he is Capt Gingles' great-nephew - and had never actually met his flying ace uncle before he died more than 20 years ago.

"When we arrived, we met a real old war hero, a Norweigian army soldier who showed us around the museum and another man who had seen the Lancasters coming in to bomb the Tirpitz that day," said Mr Wilson, who went with his wife Deborah.

"Then suddenly someone came from behind us, it was the press - a cameraman came and started taking photographs of me with this old war veteran.

Image caption The Mohne Dam in 1943 after being bombed by the No 617 Squadron of the RAF, known as the Dambusters

"I think they thought the old guy was Paddy Gingles and I was the son of the pilot coming back to see the damage they'd done on that day."

RAF officer Gingles was part of 617 squadron, known as the Dambusters, for their notorious bombing raid on German dams in World War II.

He also helped to sink the German battleship the Tirpitz, the sister ship of the Bismark, off the Norwegian coast in November 1944.

Capt Gingles, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, retired to the Algarve, Portugal, and died in 1988.

Tromso museum set up a permanent exhibition to the Tirpitz in 1993 and the people of the town never forgot the brave airmen's heroic deeds.

"After the war museum we went off to the mayor's office... We ended up having coffee and cakes with the lord mayor and his people," said Mr Wilson.

He added: "I tried to explain but it took a while before things were straightened out."

The mayor and other civic leaders realised the mistake and thought it was a great joke.

The civic reception of tea and cakes went ahead and the the mix-up made the front page of the Tromso newspaper.

Mayor Jens Joah Hjort said: "This has been fun and misunderstandings happen.

"The Wilsons were sorry for the mix up but it was not their fault. They went back to Wales as great ambassadors for Tromso."

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