Airwar over Denmark

Airwar over Denmark

 By Søren C. Flensted


1939-1940 Updated 21/7-20
1941 Updated 7/6-19
1942 Updated 27/7-21
1943 Updated 22/7-21
1944 Updated 27/7-21
1945 Updated 16/8-21

1940 New 22/7-21
1941 New 23/7-21
1942 Updated 10/5-18
1943 Updated 2/7-21
1944 Updated 16/8-21
1945 Updated 16/8-21

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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 out.

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.

                                     (Rob Thomas)

 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 Donald Tovey (Don), 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 Runnymede Memorial.
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 walking difficult.
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 Hansen.
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 injured leg.
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.


  (Søren Madsen)

John Copley and german police soldier in front of Kolding courthouse.


                (Kath Phillips)

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.

                                   (Rob Thomas)


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’ mess.
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 ashore.


                                      (Rob Thomas)

At Stalag Luft III


                        (Leif Thomsen)


                           (Leif Thomsen)

In September 2012 a memorial was inaugurated  near Avne



Sources: T 501, AD, Donaldson, LBUK, RL 19/453, UA, OLCB.


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