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Lancaster I W4782 crashed near Esbjerg on 8/12-1942.
The aircraft belonged to RAF 101 Sqn. Bomber Command and was coded SR-J.
T/O 17:30 Holme-on-Spalding Moor. OP: Gardening in the southern entrance of
The all Sergeant crew consisted of Francis Paul D. Quinn no.R/82607 RCAF from
Canada, Flt. Engr. Douglas Arthur Milligan no. 14818 RAAF fra Australien,
Bombardier and nose turret gunner Ernest Caldwell McLean no. R/93450 RCAF, from
Canada, Navigator Walter Currier no.R 73251 RCAF from USA, Wop Donald F.
MacDonald no.R 109064 RCAF from Canada, Mug Robert (Bob) F. Johncock no. 1335623
RNZAF, from New Zealand and finally Paul Lucas no. 1200586 RAF from England.
The outbound flight over the North Sea and the Jylland peninsula was uneventful.
The course was then set to the south east heading for the island of Langeland
after which the six mines were dropped in the area Langelandsbæltet – Kiel Bay.
The area was covered with low clouds which made it relatively safe to operate
there. On the return flight across Jylland, which was flown in clouds at 300-350
metres altitude they were to southerly and reached the Danish west coast just to
the south of Esbjerg. Here the night sky was cloudless.
J for Johnnie was coned
by searchlights and the flak from both Luftwaffe and Marine started firing. The
Lancaster was hit several times. One of the first rounds killed the front gunner
Ernest McLean and wounded the pilot Francis Quinn seriously.
(RM 45 III/314 via Carsten Petersen)
The rear gunner and
the mid upper gunner tried to turn the searchlights off with their machine guns,
but the distance was to long for their small calibres guns. Soon after the two
outboard engines stopped, then one of the inboard stopped and a fire started.
They were now down to 500-600 feet and the pilot ordered the crew to bail out.
Due to his wounds he was himself not able to do so and would try to crash land
The Flt. Engr Milligan who was unwounded refused to leave Quinn
and stayed to help him land the aircraft.
Mid upper gunner Bob Johncock left his
position to pick up his parachute and was shocked to see that the fuselage was
full of shell splinters and full of smoke. Luckily the parachute was not
damaged. He put it on and went to the rear exit where the rear gunner Lucas was
standing hesitating. Bob used his boot to get Lucas out and then left J for
Johnnie. Third to leave was MacDonald, and last was Currier.
The burning aircraft circled the area east of Esbjerg until it at 20:44 hours
suddenly dived vertically to the ground. It crashed in a field in Novrup
belonging to Farmer Hans Magnus Nielsen killing those onboard.
Ernest Caldwell McLean
Paul Lucas landed in his parachute on the German airfield and became
prisoner of war instantly.
Bob Johncock pulled the ripcord handle of his parachute as soon as he was
free of the Lancasters tail. The parachute deployed with a jerk and within a
couple of seconds Bob made a heavy landing in a ploughed field to west of the
main road going from Jerne to Andrup near the village of Tovrup. He quickly
collected his chute and hid it under some bushes and entered a nearby road from
where he could see people standing in the doorways of some scattered houses not
far away. Apparently they did not want to get involved. He could now hear voices
coming from several directions and had no doubt that patrols were out looking
for survivors from the Lancaster.
He started walking and after a while he came
across a ditch and a concrete culvert and decided to hide there. When he after a
while left his hiding place a patrols dog spotted him and started barking and
within a minute Bob was looking down the barrels of three Luftwaffe riffles. A
civilian then told him in good English that “For you the war is over”. Bob was
then searched for weapons and marched off to the German airfield where he was
given bread, cheese, pickles and a beer. He was then interrogated by two
Luftwaffe officers and asked to fill in what they claimed was a Red Cross form.
He denied that knowing it was a bogus form and was placed in a cell in the
Walter Currier landed north of the German airfield in a field near
Brøndumdam belonging to Jens Maltersen Hansen. He left his chute and started
walking towards the north. After having walked about 1½ kilometre he reached the
farm of Søren Brodersen near Tarp and entered the barn. The family dog started
barking and a quick search by the Brodersen family discovered Currier in the
barn. Because of his uniform they realised that he was not German and invited
him to the house. Since no one of the family had any English they asked Bent
Schmidt who lived in the neighbourhood to come over and translate. They then
made plans for Courriers escape. Not to be recognised as an Englishman he was
given on of Søren Brodersens jackets, and left his own flying jacket for
Brodersens son Ejnar. A lunch packet was made for Currier and he then followed
Bent Schmidt into the night. Schmidt indented to guide Courrier out of the area
towards the east. At 23:30 a police patrol of one Sergeant and two constables,
driving a police car known as “Vupti Gine” due to the lack of suspension which
made it jump violent when hitting a hump, was sent out looking for those flyers
who had been seen descending in parachutes. At 01:35 hours just outside Vester
Nebel they noticed a man walking on the road between Vester Nebel and Bryndum.
They approached him and asked where he was going but received no answer. He just
mumbled and made gestures indicating that he was numb. The constables then asked
for his ID card, and not being showed any they decided to bring him back to the
police station in Esbjerg. Before being put in the car they searched him and
found that he was wearing the uniform of an English flyer underneath the
civilian jacket. When Currier realised that he was unveiled he told the
constables that he was an Canadian flyer.
Courrier was then taken to the police
station where he had his picture taken. Off the record one of the constables
asked Courrier about his home address, and after a while Courriers mother
received a copy of the picture and a reassuring letter. After a short while
Courrier was picked up by personnel from the German Luftwaffe and taken to
Esbjerg air field and placed in solitary confinement as his fellow flyers.
After acouple of days of enterrogation the three prisoners were in the evening
of Tuesday 10/12 sent by train with guards thru Germany to Dulag Luft at
Oberursel. When they arrived at Köln it was time for some food. Here they meet a
couple of German “Colleagues” who were a Bf 110 crew. They spoke well English
and quite a few stories were exchanged. The train ride continued to Frankfurt,
where they changed to a tram heading for Oberursel. Here they were upon arrival
on 13/12 placed in solitary confinement while being interrogated.
Donald J. MacDonald landed in his parachute in a field
belonging to Farmer Jacob Riber of Hygum near Vester Nebel. He started walking
in an easterly direction eventually reaching the town of Bramming where he made
contact to a male who gave him a map of Denmark. After having waded thru a bog
he got lost and walked to the north instead of east. He followed the railroad
line between Bramminge and Grindsted and reached at 02:00 hours on the night
between Thursday and Freiday a farm called “Bakkegården” in Aastrup belonging to
Michael Gejl. MacDonald entered the barn and laid down to sleep in the hay. Late
in the morning a farmhand smelled tobacco smoke and found MacDonald in the barn.
The farmhand took MacDonald to the kitchen, but since none of those living and
working on the farm had any English the farmwife Tinne Gejl called for Reverend
Knud Høgsbro Østergård to com and translate. When the Reverend arrived MacDonald
was having dinner and in between chewing he gave the Reverent and account of
what had happened. During the escape MacDonalds cloth had be badly torn and he
was offered civilian clothes, but declined the offer. MacDonald then spent the
afternoon sleeping in the barn.
When darkness came he left the farm and followed
the railroad to the north towards Grindsted. Late in the night he reached the
area to the south of Stenderup and entered a farm belonging to Svend and Edith
Sørensen on what is today known as “Bimsigvej” road number 16. He dug into the
hay on the loft of the barn and fell to sleep. At seven o’clock on Saturday
morning Svend and Edith had finished milking their cows. Svend then crawled the
latter to the hayloft to fetch hay for the horses and was somehow surprised to
see a pair of boots extruding from the hay. He awoke the flyer and took him to
the kitchen where Edith offered him coffee and food. MacDonald recognised the
word Coffee and repeated it several times. Neither Svend nor Edith had any
English so Svend fetched the neighbour Sigvald Jensen who had spent some of his
younger years in Canada and thus spoke the language. Sigvald and MacDonald spent
quite of bit of time discussing and looking at the map MacDonald had been given
in Bramminge. At the end of the discussion Sigvald told Svend and Edith that the
flyer relished that he could not make it to Sweden and wanted to turn himself in
and had asked them to call for someone to come and pick him up. Svend then left
to call the police, and before noon the flyer was collected by the village
constable of Ølgod. On the police station MacDonald asked for his mother, Mrs.
D.R.MacDonald, 124-7th Ave. N.W. Calgary, Alberta, Canada to be notified that he
was alive. The constable notified the Superintendent who in turn notified the
Ministry of Foreign of Affairs.
Mrs. MacDonald received the message thru the Swedish Red Cross.
After a while MacDonald was collected by Luftwaffe personnel and taken to
Esbjerg air field. From Esbjerg he was sent to Dulag Luft at Oberursel where he
was reunited with his friends.
On 22/12-1942 they were all sent to Stalag Luft I at Barth where Currier was
given POW number 919, MacDonald 940, Johncock 933 and Lucas 937. They arrived to
Barth on 24/12 and stayed there until 30/10-1943.
A couple of month before, namely on 15/8-1943 the Germans had realised that
Currier was an American citizen and transferred him with seven more POW`s to a
POW camp for Americans in Bayern, called Stalag VIIA Moosburg. One of the German
guards on the transport, Alfred Vees, had lived in the US of A and vere friendly
to the prisoners, and on the march from the railway station to the camp he
looked in another direction when they hid some escape equipment underneath their
clothes. Upon arrival at the camp Vees declared to the guards that he had
searched the prisoners. Next the prisoners were informed that they would be
passed on to another camp since they were not “real Americans”, but belonged to
RCAF. On the same night they started to cut their way thru the wire fence, but
the attempt was discovered. On 22/8 the eight of them were sent on to Stalag IVB
Mühlberg where they arrived after a two day journey. On 15/10 1943 Currier
escaped again. This time together with P/O W.G.Pickens RCAF and a Czeck flyer
named Parah. They walked out of the camps main gate together with a French POW
detachment who were to attend to a ceremony at a nearby cemetery. The three
managed to get away and headed south towards Dresden. After having walked for
two days Currier suffered from a bad heel which prevented him from walking on,
while his two comrades continued to Wienna where they were arrested and returned
Currier made contact to a German in a village approx. 5 kilometres north of
Meissen, who gave him food, money and treated his foot. Currier then boarded a
night train for Dresden but draw the attention of a German soldier who arrested
him. Currier was then handed over to the Gestapo who kept him for two days
before handing him over to the Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht transferred him to the
hospital at Stalag IVG at Oschatz where he remained for six weeks before being
returned to Stalag IVB. Here he was given 21 days in solitary confinement in the
cooler for his escape. On 12/4 1945 Currier was liberated from Mühlberg by the
advancing Russian troops and after a couple of weeks moved to Reisa at the Elbe.
Late May he walked 60 kilometres to make contact with American forces that sent
him to England by air.
Johncock and MacDonald were on 30/10-1943 sent to Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug. Due
to the Russian advance MacDonald were on 16/7-1944 moved to Stalag Luft IV Gross
Tychow while Johncock was sent to Stalag 357 Thorn and on 9/8 to Stalag 357
Fallingbostel. On 6/4-1945 the prisoners of Falingbostel were sent on a march
which lasted until 3/5-1945 when they were liberated by the Royal Dragoons of
the XI Army at Sterley near Lübeck. They were then returned to England.
On the morning of 9/12 Jens Malthesen Hansen found Courriers parachute in a
field 200-300 metres east of the farm. He called The Parish Executive Officer
Hans Lund Sørensen and together they decided for the chute to be used for
clothing. Sons of both had windbreakers made from the fabric. At noon on 9/12
the Marinestation Esbjerg declared to the Ortskommandantur Esbjerg that there
were found no bombs in the wreck of the Lancaster and a German recovery group
from Fliegerhorst Grove started removing the remains.
On 17/12 MacDonalds parachute was found in a field belonging to Farmer Jacob
Riber, Hygum, Vester Nebel.
The Lancaster was claimed by 2.lei. Flakabt.844 and 4.lei.Flakabt.985 of the
Luftwaffe. On this evening between 18:38 and 21:10 hours the German flak based
around Esbjerg spent 155 pieces of 10,5 centimetre grenades, 371 pieces of 4
centimetres grenades, 4224 pieces of 2 centimetres grenades and 230 pieces of
1,5 centimetres grenades as well as 2311 rounds of machinegun ammunition.
In the same period of time 12 allied aircrafts crossed the Esbjerg area.
The three perished crew members were laid to rest in Fovrfelt cemetery in
Esbjerg on 12/12-1942. They were placed in A III row 8. Ernest McLean in grave
no.7, Douglas Milligan in no. 8 and Francis Quinn in no. 9.
Sources: Jonhcock, Courrier, AIR 27/802, 40/263-276-264, WO208/3335. LBUK, AS
64-496, UA, Records from Varde Police: B 411 1887/619-620, RL 19/454+455+472,
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