Stirling III EH952 ditched in the North Sea 24/8 1943.
The aircraft belonged to RAF 196 Sqn Bomber Command and was coded ZO-A
T/O 12:47 24/8 Witchford. OP: Air Sea Rescue.
Four Stirlings from 196 Sqn were detailed for a ASR operation searching for
ditched aircrafts from a raid on Berlin.
Stirling EH952 ZO-A which was carrying a Lindholme Gear* and Stirling EF469
ZO-B would search the area 5456N-0425E-5456N-0530E-5564N-0530E-5504N-0425E while
ZO-X and ZO-Z would search the area within
After having crossed the North Sea and having entered the search area "A"
sighted some fishing smacks which the two Stirlings investigated. "B" then saw
another boat some distance away and went to investigate.
While "B" was away Pilot Sgt
P.W. Brett was forced to ditch EH952 approx. 65 nautical miles (approx. 117
kilometers) south west of Barren
(Barren is the location where a German Vorpostboot guarded the entrance to
Esbjerg harbor) due to the loss of the two starboard engines at approx. 17:15
The tail struck first and broke
away leaving a gaping whole where the tail plane had been. As the front end
dipped into the sea, the crew clambered up to the opening, which was a two step
forward, one step backwards exercise as the oil and the hydraulic fluid made it
a difficult uphill climb.
The whole crew got out and eventually entered the aircrafts dinghy which had
been released automatically. After having floated around for a period of time
they spotted a fishing boat heading towards them.
It was E 403 “Conni” of Esbjerg. Skipper Hans Kromack Christensen had seen the
aircraft ditch and had set course for the dinghy. The crew was taken onboard and
given what dry clothes could be found and the dinghy was taken in tow. The
fishing boat had been at sea for six days but now wanted to return to the
fishing ground to finish fishing before they set course for Esbjerg. The
Englishmen wanted the fishing boat to take them to Sweden but due to lack of
fuel that was not a possibility. On the next morning when E 403 “Conny” had set
course for Esbjerg a German Ju 88 flew over the fishing boat and when “Conni”
met with the most westerly German Vorpostboot by Skallingen, the Germans set a
guard of two marines onboard the fishing boat, and ordered it to sail direct to
the traffic harbour.
Here they arrived at 18:30 hours. Under German guard the airmen were taken to
Küstenüberwachungsstelle and handed over to Kapitän Bösch. They were placed
under guard in a nearby schoolhouse.
When interrogated by the Danish police, Skipper Christensen told them that he
had sighted the aircraft ditch at 07:00 hours on the same morning, thus hiding
that he had actually picked the crew up the day before but had continued fishing
The crew were: Pilot Sgt Percy William Brett, Navigator Sgt Eric Walter John
Kerr, Air Bomber Sgt Douglas Henry Canning, W/Op-Air Gnr. Sgt Louis Henry
Huggins, Flt. Engr. Sgt Raymond Albert Treadwell, Air Gnr. Sgt D.F. Moore and
Air Gnr. Sgt Edward Lawton.
From Esbjerg they were placed in a railway freight wagon and sent via Hamburg to Dulag Luft at Oberursel near Frankfurt for
interrogation. They arrived in Oberursel and stayed for a bit more than a week.
They were then sent to Stalag IVB Mühlberg a.d.Elbe where they stayed until the
end of war. They were released on 23/4 1945.
Air Bomber Sgt Douglas Henry Canning
Air Bomber Sgt Douglas Henry Canning
Air Gnr. Sgt Edward Lawton
Pilot Sgt Percy William Brett
When Stirling "B" returned to base at 18:24 hrs it reported
that "A" had last been sighted at 5458N 0525E which is approx. 97
nautical miles (180 kilometers)
south west of Esbjerg.
* Lindholme gear (Also known as Air Sea rescue Apparatus Mk
4) was a British air-dropped rescue equipment designed during the Second World
War to aid survivors in the water and was still used in the twenty-first
The Lindholme Gear was developed at RAF Lindholme during the
1940s to provide a simpler rescue system than the air-dropped life boats then in
use. The Lindholme Gear is a five cylinder-shaped containers joined together by
lengths of floating rope. The centre container would house a nine-man
inflatable dinghy with the other containers housing survival such as emergency
rations and clothing. The Gear would be carried in the weapons bay of the
aircraft and dropped in a long line up-wind of the survivors. The dinghy would
inflate on impact and then drift towards the survivors. The survivors can then
use the dinghy and haul in the containers of equipment and await rescue.
Sources: UA, Report Esbjerg Police, AS 64-855, AIR 27/1166, OLCB, Trevor
Huggins, Douglas H. Canning via Andy Canning, Info from Kew incl. ORB Waterbeach
AIR 14/2410 via Andy Canning.
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