Stirling W7441 crashed in Lille Bælt on 29/9-1941.
The aircraft belonged to RAF 7 Sqn. Bomber Command and was coded MG-Y.
T/O Oakington 18:50. OP: Stettin.
Since the aircraft was meant to lead the attack, it was loaded with flares and
fire bombs, a total of 18 SBCs which would be dropped over the target so that
the other aircrafts would be able to aim their bombs at the fires that broke
The outward journey over the North Sea and Denmark went according to plan
until W7441 reached the east coast of Jutland where it was attacked by a
Messerschmidt Bf 110 night-fighter. The gunners, however, were able to avert the
attack. A moment later, W7441 was again attacked by the Bf 110. The Bf 110
belonged to 3/I/NJG and was piloted by Lieutenant Schmitz with Obergefreiter
Werner Vonjahr as bordward.
Neil ? / Donaldsen / Cobbold / ? / ? /
Copley / ?
During an attack carried out by Schmitz high from the right side, he set the
Stirling’s right wing ablaze.
When the Stirling was in 700 metres height and it became clear that it could not
be saved, the crew members still alive left the aircraft in parachutes.
Three men went down with the aircraft and were never found; Sergeant Edward V.
Tovey, 2nd pilot, Eric J. Rodger, nose turret gunner, and Sergeant Charles W
Fulbeck, rear gunner. They have no known graves and are commemorated on the
The aircraft crashed in Lille Bælt south of the island of Brandso at 22:47.
It was Lieutenant Schmitz’ third confirmed kill.
The survivors were the pilot Sergeant Cyril James Cobbold, the navigator
Sergeant David Neil, the wireless operator Sergeant Alec Donaldson and the
engineer Sergeant John James Copley.
Cobbold landed on the shore near St. Anslet. Being somewhat worn out he sought
refuge with Carl Babiel near Anslet Strand. In the morning, he was picked up by
the Danish police and brought to Haderslev police station. Shortly after the
Wehrmacht brought him to their garrison in Kolding.
While Donaldson hung from his parachute, he watched the aircraft crash into the
water close to the coast. He landed in a ploughed field near Sandersvig approx.
11 km east of Christiansfeldt. During the landing, he hurt his back which made
After an hour or so of walking he knocked on the farmer Peter Holst’s window in
Knud, but the farm hands who heard him were too afraid to open the window, and
so he took shelter in a shed on a small property belonging to farmer Johannes
The next morning he was found by Hansen who put him in a bed where he quickly
fell asleep. When he woke up, quite a lot of Danes were standing around the bed
telling him that they would try to get him to Sweden but this did not happen.
Shortly after, two policemen in plain clothes arrived from Haderslev Police to
take him to the county medical officer Lauridsen for an examination. After that
he was brought to Haderslev police station, where he was well taken care of
until the Germans picked him up. The Germans brought him to the German garrison
in Kolding where he met Cobbold, who had been captured earlier.
Copley landed near Hejlsminde. During his landing, he injured his knee. He hid
his parachute in a small wood and then headed north.
Some time during the night he came to the farm Trappendal in Hejls, where he
went to sleep in a stack of hay in an outbuilding.
At day-break he entered the farm where he asked the residents to call the
authorities, because he had realised that he would not get far on account of his
Later that morning he was picked up by two men from the Kolding criminal police
who took him to the doctor Dolmer in Hejls who treated his dislocated knee. He
was then transported to the criminal police’s office in Kolding. From here he
was taken by Hauptmann Kock and Hauptmann Mahler of the German Wehrmacht to the
German garrison in town where he met Cobbold and Donaldson.
John Copley and german police soldier in front of Kolding courthouse.
John James Copley DFM
Niel landed near Hejlsminde. He remained uncaught until Wednesday 1/10 at
approx. 02:00, when he was arrested near Hejlsminde as he attempted to cross a
bridge. He was then handed over to the German Wehrmacht in Haderslev. Neil met
with the other three crew members in the P.O.W. camp Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf.
Cobbold, Donaldson and Copley were on the night of the 30/9 taken to the
German airfield near Flensburg where they were given dinner in the officers’
Here they met Lieutenant Schmitz who had shot them down.
After having been interrogated, they were sent to Dulag Luft near Oberursel
north west of Frankfurt for further questioning. While they were here, they were
told that their aircraft had been located. From Oberursel they were sent to
Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf. After a while Neil and Donaldson were sent to Stalag Luft
III Sagan while Copley and Cobbold were sent to Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug. Later
Neil and Donaldson also arrived at that camp. When the end of the war drew
nearer Neil and Cobbold were moved to Stalag 357 Fallingbostel while Donaldson
and Copley were sent to Stalag Luft IV Gross Tychow.
In Lille Bælt on 30/9-41, the Germans began attempting to salvage the
aircraft, which according to “Admiral Dänemark” crashed at 55’19’3 N, 9’41’0 E
in 5-6 metres of water. There are no records stating how much the Germans were
able to salvage, but from Danish reports it appears that already on 29/9 rubber
tanks drifted ashore. Since these were inside the aircraft’s wings, clearly the
crash shattered it completely.
In the summer of 2001 the scattered wreckage was located by divers from
Middelfart and a couple of machine guns and engine cylinders were brought
At Stalag Luft III
In September 2012 a memorial was inaugurated near Avne
Sources: T 501, AD, Donaldson, LBUK, RL 19/453, UA, OLCB.
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