Airwar over Denmark

Airwar over Denmark

 By Søren C. Flensted

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Hampden I P1341 crashed Nordenskov 15/1-1942.


The aircraft belonged to RAF 106 Sqn. and was coded ZN-?
T/O 17:10 Coningsham. OP: Hamburg.


On Thursday 15/1 1942 at 106 Squadron at Conningsby Airbase in Lincolnshire in East England, 11 bombers were planned to participate in an attack on Hamburg along with 84 bombers from other squadrons.
Take-off was planned to take place between 16:35 and 17:30. However, some problems arose when two bombers were unable to start due to technical difficulties. In addition to this, a bomber crashed during take-off and two bombers returned after less than an hour’s flight because of problems with the engines.
At 17:10 Sgt William Storrier Dashwood took off in Hampden P1341.
Besides Dashwood who came from the New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), the crew consisted of the navigator Sgt Roger O. R. Rousseau of the Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the wireless operator/gunner Sgt Arthur W. Horsemann and the gunner Sgt Ernie A. Moore – both of the British Air Force (RAF).
 


                                                        (Dashwood)

Moore, Horsemann, Dashwood and Rousseau


It was an experienced crew that was leaving on its 22nd operational sortie. The average within the squadron was 4-5 campaigns due to great losses.
The squadron experimented with dropping target indicators for others to aim at when bombing. This later led to the establishment of the so-called Pathfinders.
On this campaign, Dashwood’s bomber was 1 out of 3 that had to drop target indicators approximately 10-12 minutes prior to the arrival of the rest of the bombers.
The target indicators consisted of 4 containers – each weighing 500 pounds – with incendiaries, which the plane carried in the bomb compartment. In addition, the plane carried a 250-pound bomb under each wing.
The intention was that the 3 bombers dropped the target indicators in a triangle round the target, so that the other bombers could drop their load consisting of bombs in the middle of these.

The approach to Germany/Hamburg would take place north of Wilhelmshaven. From there they had to cross the mouth of the river Weser and then keep to the left of Bremerhafen and south of Cuxhaven.
Shortly before reaching Wilhelmshafen the bomber was hit by flak in the starboard engine which burst into flames and had to be stopped. The plane started to lose altitude and it was clear that they were unable to make their way back across the North Sea to England. The crew decided to try to reach Sweden and the course was set north towards Denmark. The bomb cargo was dropped and the bomber was lightened of ammunition, machine guns, radios, and everything else they were able to drop.
After having crossed the Danish border the crew realised that the plane was not going to stay in the air much longer, and near Nordenskov they jumped out in their parachutes.

Moore jumped first, then Horseman, and finally Rousseau and Dashwood. Horseman landed on a property belonging to Villads Pedersen in Heager. Rousseau landed on a field belonging to Rasmus Rahbæk of Oved, and at once he saw Dashwood descend in his parachute onto the same field clearly illuminated by the burning plane. Moore’s landing site is uncertain, but since the police on 20/1 found the bomber’s emergency hatch at Plyhøj near vester Åstrup, it must be assumed that Moore, as the first to jump from the plane, landed somewhere nearby.
The bomber crashed at 21:50 on the property called Nørregård owned by farmer Johannes Lauridsen in Hostrup east of Nordenskov. The bomber burnt at the crash and was completely destroyed.
In the meanwhile heavy anti-aircraft fire was shot from Esbjerg against other planes, and the Germans wrongfully attributed the kill at Hostrup to the Flak of Femhøje near Esbjerg.

When landing on the frozen ploughed field Horseman had hurt his shoulder and sprained his foot. At about 23:00 he knocked on the door at farmer Kristen Kristiansen in Bolhede not far from the landing site. He was invited in, and because no one in the family spoke English the daughter Tora was sent for the married couple who taught at Hostrup School. They were not at home as they were invited to a party at Aage Larsen who was a neighbour to the property on which the bomber had crashed. Tora went there on her bicycle and told the party about the English flyer. He was shortly afterwards arrested by the Danish police who handed him over to the German Wehrmacht.

When Dashwood and Rousseau had landed, they left their parachutes at Rahbæk’s field and went north. At about 22:25 they came to Jens Nielsen’s farm in Oved. They wanted to know where they were, and he showed them a map which they later brought with them. When Jensen an hour later went to fetch the police, the flyers left the property heading north east.
In the course of Friday 16/1 they must have visited a property where they were given a packed lunches. They were still carrying these when they shortly before midnight came to the house of Johannes Laursen, Sønderby, Grindsted. Here they were given blankets and shown to the barn where they went to sleep. Later in the night Laursen went on his bike to Grindsted, where he at 03:20 woke up Village Constable Willer in order to report the incident.
Since Willer did not speak English, he sent for rentier Hans Lundsgård who had been on active service with the Canadians during World War I. Together with Constable Villadsen they went to Sønderby and picked up the two flyers that were weak from exposure. The flyers’ maps and packed lunches were left in the barn.
The British men were taken to Willer’s house on Vestergade 5 where they were placed in the detention in the basement. At Willer’s they were given a bath and a meal. Willer’s son Heine took the opportunity in the morning to show them his toy aeroplanes.
Around 8:00 Saturday morning Willer informed the Varde police station that he had arrested the two flyers, and he was ordered to bring them there late in the morning. Before the flyers left Grindsted they gave Willer some of their escape money which was French notes. On one of the notes they wrote their names.


                         (Billund Museum)


The flyers were brought to the police station in Varde. They were taken into custody and stayed for some days. Here the citizens of Varde treated them to food and cigarettes. Especially Kristian Pedersen from the Hotel opposite the prison was a great help.
 


                                     (Jørn Junker)

Dashwood and Rousseau at Varde Police station
 


Meanwhile the police unsuccessfully continued the search for the last flyer.

On Wednesday 21/1 at 20:30 Moore knocked on the door at farmer Peter Petersen in Farup north of Ribe. When Petersen opened the door, Moore was lying on the ground weak from exposure and starvation. He was helped into the warm house, had some coffee and something to eat. A message was carried to the Parish Executive Officer who in turn contacted the police in Ribe. A car was sent and at 21:30 the police reached the Peterson property where they found Moore in the kitchen with the family. He was barefoot as Mrs. Petersen was mending his socks. After being informed that he was now a Danish prisoner, he was questioned. He refused to give any information about the rest of the crew, but did tell that he had crashed six days ago. In the daytime he had slept in bushes or similar places and during the night he had traveled by foot. He had been living of snow and a small emergency ration of Cadbury chocolate - only two oz. He believed that he had walked a good 150 kilometres, but had no idea about his whereabouts. Moore was brought to Ribe Prison. When the news about his capture reached Varde police, they requested that he be brought to Varde Prison.
 


                                                                    (Kelvin Moore)
Moore in flying gear

Prior to this Dashwood and Rousseau had been transferred to the German airfield near Esbjerg, where they spent three days and were well treated. They ate in the same mess as the German flyers, and during the day they were able to walk about the airfield along with their English-speaking guard. Dashwood got the opportunity to sit in a Messerschmidt 110 fighter. The British men were locked in only between 21:00 and 8:00. After their stay at Esbjerg Airfield Dashwood and Rousseau were transferred to Dulag Luft in Oberursel near Frankfurt am Main in Germany for questioning.
Shortly after their departure Moore was transferred from Varde to Esbjerg Airfield and from there to Dulag Luft.
In Nordenskov Rasmus Rahbæk was facing problems. His neighbour farmer Niels Ladefoged had given him a parachute which he had found hanging from a barbed-wire fence while he was making his daily trip to the dairy with milk.
Rahbæk declared that he was going to keep it and would not turn it in. He later found another canopy which he hid in a burrow. The first one he brought inside and hid behind a bed in a small room.
A team of Danes headed by a police constable were searching for the English flyers. When they reached farmer Jens Andersen, Oved, he informed Agerbo that Rahbæk was in possession of a parachute.
Agerbo, his search party and a German lieutenant paid Rahbæk a visit and demanded that the parachute be handed over. Rahbæk denied all knowledge of the matter.
After a while Rahbæk however admitted to be in possession of the canopy and showed the way to the small room in which it was hid behind the bed.
The German lieutenant took the parachute with him, and Rahbæk was charged with larceny and later sentenced for this.
The parachute that he had hid in the burrow stayed there until the war had ended. It was then sold to Mrs. Laursen, Sønderskovvej 10, Nordenskov, who made the material into both some net curtains and a child’s shirt. The latter of which is still in the family’s possession today.

At the arrival to Dulag Luft the Flyers were placed in isolation for about a week while the interrogations were going on. After the interrogations the four flyers saw each other once again. The crew was transferred from Dulag Luft to a camp for French prisoners of war in Stalag VIIA in Moosburg near Munich.
The camp contained 26-27000 French soldiers and a small number of other nationalities. It had forced labour, and during the winter groups of prisoners were daily sent to clear the area outside the camp of snow.
This provided the prisoners with the opportunity of finding frozen potatoes and the likes. If the guards discovered this the prisoners were hit with a rifle butt. A bright spot in the prisoners’ everyday life was the frequent arrivals of Red Cross parcels.

In July Moore took place in an attempted escape through the camp’s sewers. After a very long crawl through a sewer 60-cm in diameter, Moore was caught as French informers had reported them to the Germans. That cost Moore a severe beating with riffle butts before he was placed in isolation for 28 days with nothing to eat but bread and water. Every third day he only got watered-down soup. He was in isolation from 30/7 to 27/8. The French informers were eliminated shortly after their treason.
On 6/8 Dashwood’s 21st birthday was celebrated in the camp. His friends had traded the German guards their cigarettes from the Red Cross parcels for an extra loaf of bread and two bottles of schnapps.
The crew stayed in this camp until 15/9 1942 where they were moved to the prison camp Stalag 383 in Hohenfels.


                                                                   (Dashwood)
Stalag 383


Rousseau had to stay, though, as the Germans used him as an interpreter in English/French/German. He was later to be transferred to Stalag Luft III Sagan, to Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug and Stalag Luft IV Gross Tychow.


                                                                  (Dashwood)

Dashwood with friends in Hohenfels  November 1942

In Hohenfels lived about 5000 prisoners from all areas of the British Empire. Just under 100 of these were flyers. Here too, the prisoners were given Red Cross parcels, without which a large part of the prisoners most likely would not have been alive by the end of the war, seeing that the German food rations were both small and poor. In the camp, time was spent taking lessons in all kinds of different subjects as well as participating in various kinds of sports.


                                                                 (Dashwood)

Queue at the kitchen barrack


In July 1942 the RAF personnel consisting of 92 men were moved to Stalag Luft VII in Bankaw on the Polish frontier to which they arrived 27/7.
The prisoners were transported in a train with three wagons. They were reasonably happy with this since the average otherwise would be 40 persons per wagon.
In January 1945 the German forces had been driven so far east by the Russians that the camp had to be evacuated.
On 17/1 at 11:00 the prisoners had one hour to collect all their items. By a Feldwebel Frank they were informed that if one man escaped five men would be killed. Apparently something did not go according to plan and the prisoners did not leave until 19/1at 03:30.
About 1550 men were hurried along on a march westwards in the cold winter without food or proper clothes. Only 720 made it to the prison camp Stalag Luft IIIA in Luckenwalde south of Berlin. The remainder passed away due to the cold, poor provisioning and fatigue.
 


                                                              (Dashwood)

Dashwood's personalkarte Stalag VII


In Luckenwalde around the 24/4 the prisoners were liberated by a division of the 711th Hussar Regiment of the Russian Tank Corps. In the middle of May the Americans transported the prisoners westwards and home to Britain.
In the course of 1945 and 1946 the crew were sent home.
To Ernest Moore it happened on 14/4 1946. Prior to that he had got married on 29/9 1945. Moore died from a heart attack in 1969.
Dashwood got married in to Eileen in Britain with Arthur Horseman as his best man. Dashwood and Eileen moved to New Zealand where he got a job in a bank. He retired from his job as head of the branch and lives today (1999) in Mt. Maunganui in New Zealand.
Arthur Horseman died from a heart attack in about 1960.
Roger Rousseau returned to Canada where he worked for the Foreign Ministry. Following some stationing in different parts of the world, he was given the opportunity of organising the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Having finished this, he returned to the Foreign Ministry and was in 1982 appointed Commissioner in New Zealand. Here he died of cancer in 1985.




Sources: William (Bill) S. Dashwood, OLCB, AS 63-52, Esbjerg police report, LBUK, KT, AIR 27/832, RL 19/453, Ernest Moore Posthumous notes via Kelvin Moore. Letters from Dashwood and Horseman, about 1950, Letters from Viller. The Occupational Collection (Besættelsestidssamling) Grindsted.

 

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