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No. 38 Squadron RAF
No. 38 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Thetford, Norfolk, April 1916 and almost immediately re-designated No.25 Reserve Squadron.
In September 1935, No. 38 was re-formed at Mildenhall as a night-bomber squadron. It had Wellingtons at the outbreak of the Second World War and flew its first bombing mission on 3rd December 1939, when three of its Wellingtons joined 21 similar aircraft from 115 and 149 Squadrons in a daylight raid against German warships in the Heligoland area. After further bombing operations in Northern Europe, including attacks on the invasion ports and Berlin, No. 38 moved to the Middle East in November 1940, and subsequently made its mark on Rhodes, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Crete, Syria, Sicily, Italy and much of North Africa. In July 1945 No. 38 moved to Malta and became operational with Warwicks on 23 August for air sea rescue duties.
Airfields flew from.
- RAF Marham, Norfolk. from 3rd Sept 1939 to Nov 1940
- Shallufa, Egypt, from 30th December 1941 to Nov 1942
- Gambut LG101, from Nov 1942
- Shallufa, February 1943
- Kalamaki, Egypt. from February 1943 to Dec 1944
- Grottaglie, Italy. from December 1944 to Feb 1945
- Foggia, Italy. from February to April 1945
- Falconara, Italy. from April to Jult 1945
- Luqa, Malta. from July 1945
List of those who served with No. 38 Squadron RAF during The Second World War
LAC John James Copley DFM 38 Squadron
My father, John James Copley DFM, was the first in WW2 to be awarded the DFM from RAF Marham. Last year my family and I were invited to the opening of a new barracks there, Copley Block, named after my father. I have information on being awarded the DFM in 1940, and information on the POW camps he was held in after being shot down and captured in 1941, including some information on the Long March and Run up the Road that he was part of. A friend and I visited Denmark this year and contacted an historian who has dived on the wreck of the aircraft my father was in, and I have held some of the parts of the aircraft that have been brought back from the sea.
Born in 1912 John entered the RAF in July 1935 as ACH/Mate, later in the year gaining the rank of AC2. He was trained firstly as Flight Rigger and was posted to 38 Squadron at Mildenhall 17th July 1936, becoming an AC1 31st December 1936. He arrived at the newly opened Marham Aerodrome with 38 Squadron on 5th May 1937. His personal diary for 1937 documents this event and gives some details of training and night flights. He became Flight Rigger Air Gunner on 19th July 1938, promoted to LAC 31st December 1938.
On the 3rd December 1939, 24 Wellington bombers from 38, 115 and 149 Squadrons attacked German warships off Heligoland, Germany. Hits were made on a cruiser and armed trawler during the raid. During the raid 38 Squadron Wellington captain, Pilot Officer E T Odore (later Group Captain DFC, AFC) strayed away from the main formation and was attacked by German fighters. Attacked from astern by an Me.109, LAC Copley, rear gunner, was able to fire two bursts at point blank range (200yards) and saw the fighter climb sharply and stall, falling out of control out of the sky into the sea. The Wellington was liberally peppered with bullets and cannon shells, some of which penetrated the port engine tank and cylinder. Unknown to the crew it slashed the port undercarriage. On landing back at base in RAF Marham, the aircraft ground looped due to the punctured port wheel. The rear turret wings were hanging in strips and there was a punctured petrol tank. All crew were evacuated quickly. When LAC Copley landed he found a German machine gun bullet lodged in the quick release box of his parachute buckle just touching his flesh. This he saved to remind him of how lucky he had been. It is now on show in the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, with his DFM and other items of interest.
The Distinguished Flying Medal citation appeared in the London Gazette of 2nd January 1940. The DFM was presented to him at RAF Feltwell on 20th March 1940. LAC J J Copley DFM is first on the Honours board in Marham today. To pay honour to their local hero the village people of South Hiendley, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, presented him with a gold inscribed pocket watch, presented by Mr A F C Assinder, New Monkton colliery manager, in Felkirk Church village hall. John had worked at New Monkton colliery before joining the RAF.
On 27th July 1940 Copley was posted to 15 OUT at Harwell, to 214 Squadron at Stradishall, from there to 7 Squadron at Oakington Cambridgshire, 30th October1940. He was promoted to Sergeant, 31st December 1940; 7th May 1941 he became Flight Engineer.
29th September 1941 at 18.50, Stirling Mk.I serial number W7441 coded MG-Y , MG indicating No. 7 Squadron RAF, Y radio code (the aircraft Copley was in), took off from Oakington air base, England to bomb Stettin near the Oder river to the east of Berlin. Since the aircraft was meant to lead the attack, it was loaded with flares and fire bombs (a total of 18 SBCs) to be dropped over the target so that the other aircraft would be able to aim their bombs as fires broke out. The outward journey over the North Sea and Denmark went according to plan. When W7441 reached the east coast of Jutland it was attacked by a Messerschmidt Bf 110 Night Fighter. The gunners were able to avert the attack, then a moment later, W7441 was again attacked by the Bf 110 (from 3/1/NJG 1-3 Staffel of the first group in Nachtjagdgeschwader 1). The attack was carried out by Lieutenant Schmitz. High from the right side, he set the Stirling’s right wing ablaze. It crashed in Lillebaelt South of Brandso at 22.47. It was Lieutenant Schmitz's third confirmed kill.
Interrogation Report of Sergeant John J. Copley (V G Nielson police constable L H Rasch, police sergeant) following capture at Trappendal in Hejls:
'REPORT Tuesday 30.9.1941. After giving name rank number, date of birth, etc. he explained that he had been on board an aircraft, a four engine bomber, with six other airmen, refusing to give precise departure details. They had flown across north Germany, following orders to drop bombs over Stettin. While they were on their way they were attacked by German aircraft presumably from Heligoland or Sild. They engaged combat and the person questioned said shot down German aircraft. They discovered that their aircraft was on fire. The fire spread quickly and orders were given to bale out. This person does not believe that the rest of the crew escaped.
According to Copley the aircraft exploded and crashed near to the coast. He was shown a map, and points out a location between Anslet and Brandso or Branso and Funen without venturing the precise location of aircraft.
He had landed safely in his parachute which he said he had left in a small forest, whereupon he headed North on foot. During the landing he had hurt his left knee which was very painful. Approximately 500 metres away from forest he hid his safety jacket in an hedge after which he continued walking until later that night came to an outbuilding where he slept for a couple of hours in a straw stack. He then proceeded to the farm from where the police picked him up, Copley knowing he could not go on for much longer owing to injured left leg.
A reconstruction was then conducted with him and in the place he had previously mentioned his safety jacket was found. He then pointed out the forest where his parachute supposedly was, but since he had great difficulty walking, and the forest was inaccessible by car, he could not point out precise location. Constable Hubsmann, Christiansfeld, promised to search for the parachute with his police dog. Furthermore, Hubsmann reported that the police at Haderslev had caught two airmen from the same aircraft, information that pleased the English man very much. The person in question was then taken to Dr Dolmer in Hejls who treated his injured knee. The person was then taken to the criminal investigation office, where he was handed over to Hauptmann Knock and Hauptmann Mahler.'
'W7441 were leading bomber force to its target at Stettin; load consisted of incendiaries and flares. Task was to light up the target for the main force. This was just prior to the introduction of the Pathfinder Force. We left Oakington, 29th Sep about 7pm, taking northerly route over North Sea and Denmark to hit Stettin from the Baltic. However while approaching we were attacked by two 110 German night fighters. The first attacked from underneath astern and damaged port wing. The rear gunner, Fulbeck immediately opened fire and reported he had scored hits. It was then a second 110 attacking from starboard, high astern, his shells caused severe damage, setting the Port wing ablaze knocking out the intercom. Fire broke out in the fuselage and the Captain gave orders to bale out, flying about 10.000 feet, but I estimate that by the time we baled out we were flying at 2000 feet. I only had time to open my parachute, saw I was over the mouth of a river. The aircraft dived down and crashed into the sea just off shore. The wind carried me inland a short distance and I landed in a ploughed field. Landing hurt my back and had difficulty walking. I wandered about, then took shelter in a farm. I found out this was the home of Hensen family which is about 20 mile South of Kolding. They took me into their home gave me food and then put me in one of their famous feather beds. Later I learned where I had landed from maps shown to me. Apparently they had intended to get me out of the country to Sweden, but a search was on for the crew and shortly afterwards two plain-clothed police officers arrived and I was handed over. The Wehrmacht took me to barracks, where I was joined by Captain Cobbold who had been captured earlier. Then a third member arrived, Copley.'
Cobbold, Donaldson, Copley were taken to the German airfield near Flensburge where they were given dinner in the Officer's Mess. Here they met Lieutenant Schmitz who had shot them down. Another member of the crew, Sergeant David Young Niel, navigator, landed near Hejelsminde. He remained missing until Wednesday 1st Oct, when he was arrested as he attempted to cross a bridge. He was handed over to German Wehrmacht in Haderslev. Niel met the other three in POW camp Stalag Luft 3, Sagan, southeast of Berlin.
Three other members of the crew were never found, believed to have gone down with the Sterling Aircraft W7441. We will remember them.
- 1109112 Sergeant Edward Donald V Tovey, 2nd pilot,
- 1325233 Sergeant Eric James Rogers, Air Gunner ( nose turret gunner)
- 618116 Sergeant Charles Waghorn Fulbeck Air Gunner (rear gunner)
My mum at home with her 2 year old twins, and 6 months pregnant, had received a telegram to inform her that her husband was missing, believed dead. Happily soon after she was notified that he had been captured and was in a POW camp. She now knew he was alive but where and for how long. Her third child, a boy was born on Pearl Harbour Day, 7th December 1941. He did not see his dad until after the war; contact was made with my dad but it was very limited.
During my research I was contacted by Rob Thomas, researching information about his uncle Alex Donaldson. Alex Donaldson was in 7 Squadron with my dad, they were friends and worked together and were in POW camp for 3 1/2 years.
Rob contacted my brother to find out if Dad was still alive, and did we have any information about his Uncle Alex? My brother remembered Alex as being a friend of Dad's from the RAF days. Knowing I was trying to piece together Dad's war history, he gave Rob my phone number and since then we have been in regular contact on the internet, and telephone. We met in July 2005, he and his family visited me and we had a great day swapping information and putting it together. Alex had started a project in 1974 to gather details of his account and trace surviving crew members but sadly died two years later in his mid 50s.
Rob s interest has focused on the Stirling aircraft that crashed into the sea in Denmark. He had details left by his Uncle Alex about a man he had met at Farnborough Air Show called Soren Flensted whose hobby was researching RAF losses over Denmark. Rob contacted Soren who had lot of information about the Stirling, and a letter ( dated 1970) written to him by Alex about that fateful night.
Rob went to Denmark with a friend Andy to trace the story. They found a campsite near the area where Sgt Donaldson had landed in his parachute. It turned out that the farm on the campsite was the first building Sgt Donaldson had come to, where he had knocked on the window. Arrangements had been made to meet the Henson family and Asta, the daughter of Johannes Hensen, who was just 10 years old when Sgt Donaldson stayed the night in 1941. In Sgt Donaldson's written account of that night 'there was a young daughter at this house, I later learned her name was Asta Hensen. She got maps out and showed me where I had landed. I had a limited conversation with Asta and then fell to sleep.'
Rob and Andy were given a great welcome. Asta took Rob and Andy to her home where Sgt Donaldson had spent the night in a chicken shed -- the shed is still there. Rob & Andy then took a ride to Germany and visited Stalag Luft III near Berlin. Dad and Alex were held there for 6 months, leaving just before the great escape took place. Returning to Denmark Rob & Andy were contacted by the local diving club, who had located the wreck of the Stirling aircraft. They had salvaged some parts of the aircraft for them to see. Rob & Andy came back home to Derby, and decided they needed to learn to dive. This they did and in 2005 returned to Denmark with their own diving equipment.
Rob and Andy met with Carlsten Jenson, a founder member of the Middelfart diving Club, and custodian of the Stirling wreckage. Jensen knew exactly where to dive and had even salvaged some pieces of the wreck on previous dives. Rob, Andy, Jenson and other diving colleagues, sailed out to the wreck, about two hour trip. They headed down to the depths, the water not too bad, visibility good, could see four to five metres in front of them. Rob was ecstatic, he could not have got any closer to the story, and how pleased his uncle, and my dad would have been. What greeted Rob was hardly recognisable as an aircraft-- just a collection of bent and twisted metal. The wreckage was strewn across the sea bed over an area about the size of a football pitch. The aircraft was probably travelling at about 200 miles an hour when it hit the water. As custodian of the wreck Jenson has a say over who can dive it, and who can take pieces away. He allowed Rob to remove some objects, because he knew about the family connection. Although the wreckage has spent more than 60 years in salt water, some of the pieces salvaged were in good condition. One of the most interesting to Rob was a tail wheel. Another unusual find was a piece of twisted plastic, which appears to be part of the cockpit window.
Rob & Andy both felt mindful of the three RAF crew that had lost their lives in the aircraft, and the wreck was effectively a war grave. They were careful not to cause too much disturbance. 'Out of the three, one of the bodies was found on the beach by a local. It is now thought to be that of C W Fulbeck, the rear gunner. However the front gunner and co-pilot never got out of the Stirling before it crashed, so their remains could be buried there'. Jenson says that the echo-sounder had picked up something buried deep in the mud, it is thought to be the front end of the Stirling.
Rob, on his visit to me in 2005, brought parts of the Stirling for me to see. He is keeping them in water to stop the oxidising, and intends to clean them up and seal with a mixture of linseed oil and paraffin. Parts of the Stirling W4771 aircraft, preserved and held in Denmark, include oxygen cylinders, machine gun propeller blades, escape hatch and engine cylinders.
I have been doing research into my father's WW2 history for 7 years now and have lots of information. I have started a web site dedicated to my father www.copeydfm.co.uk
Warrant Officer Trevor Nicholas Evans AFC. Wireless op air gunner. 210 Squadron
Memories of 210 squadron and other flying boats
I joined 210 squadron in June 1939 and was crewed on L2168, The skipper was Shorty Evison with second Dickie Pilot officer Kite. It was rather an awe inspiring event in my life. I was an AC1 W/OP, it took me quite a while to get used to all things on board, but I would not have changed one second of it.
We flew up to Garth Voe on the 2nd. of Sept 1939 and were based on the S.S.Manela. On the 3rd of Sept at the declaration, we were armed with DC's and ammunition and went on our first anti sub patrol on the 4th of Sept 1939. No sightings were made then on the 12th September 1939 we flew back to PD for camouflage etc. and made a further 5 operational sorties.
My memory is not so good so the only crew member names I can recall are Colin Churm known as "Ches" an old school chum of mine. He was a WEM. Nat Irwin (Scouser) The armourer and the rigger named Reynolds known as quackquack because of his high toned voice.
My service with 210 was a short one. In December 39 after a gunnery course at Warmwell I got my brass bullet, and was posted to Calshot to become a member of the crew on Empire class flying boat-Cabot. Her sister boat was the Caribou. There were 3 other RAF types in the crew who made up the four gunners. The Captain and remainder of the crew were seconded Imperial airways personnel. On completion of training we flew to Invergordon which became our base and after another 10 operations we flew to Bodo via the Lofotens. This was on the 4th May 1940.
Having landed at Bodo we moored up and got supplies and equipment ashore. With a ground wireless technician we erected an aerial and transmitter plus receiver and connected up a factual generator and make contact with the VR
We returned to the aircraft and started to make our dinner, but were rudely interrupted by sirens and a Heinkel 115. This aircraft attacked us while we were taxiing to avoid being hit, but unsuccessfully a number of crew were wounded but not before we shot down the 115. We beached the Bothe aircraft and swam ashore with guns ammo and wounded. Both aircraft were attacked and bombed again, the rest you can guess.
The Norwegians were good to us and we were given beds,food and dry clothes and remained in the hotel until we were rescued by HMS Vansitart. The Vansitart took us to the Lofotens then on to HMS Zulu to Cripple Creek as it was called because Navy ships, British and Polish were damaged and anchored there. From there we were taken up the fiord, picking up several army personnel and thence to Greenock in Scotland. With our wounded we were billeted at Abbotsmith for a few days then back to Invergordon.
After this we were sent to Rochester to collect 3"G" boats bigger than Sunderlands or "C" class, they were the Golden Horn, Golden Hind and Golden Fleece. After some time on ops. with these boats, and having lost the Fleece they were retired to Imperial airways. I was then posted back to Invegordon as an instructor and remained there until November 1942.
(M/SIG) T.N.Evans AFC
This letter is a copy of my brothers recollections of his time in the forces up until 1942. He was finally discharged in March 1968. His log books medals etc. were left to my son along with this recollection. My brother was 16 years my senior so I was too young to know much about the war, but am trying to piece together all the things that happened to him.
L. I. Hughes 38 Sqd
My Uncle tells me he joined the RAF at Uxbridge then trained as a fitter's mate at Marham. In Nov 1940 he was put in a Navy ship, possibly Southampton, with a hundred or so other RAF personnel. They entered the Mediterranean. They were all told to go below while the ship engaged with the Italian fleet (at what came to be known as Spartivento), with an Italian ship that had bigger guns, (16"?). They could hear the shells overhead. His chums took a dim view of this it seems. Eventually, he tells me, he spent 4 yrs in Egypt as a mechanic and refuelling on different planes. He has endless stories and I'd like to give him some news of his old outfit.
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