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Those who Served
Dorothy Cooper . Women's Land Army Barnsdale Hall, Oakham, Rutland, Leicestershire
My Mum, Dorothy Cooper, who died over 25 years ago, worked as a Land Army Girl at Barnsdale Hall, Oakham, Rutland, Leicestershire. She was there with her sister Kathleen Cooper and I know they were friends with a lady called Anne.
I am just wondering and hoping if there are any records, details or any information about her time there. My Mum, if she were alive, would now be 87, but I am wondering if there is anyone alive who was with her at Barnsdale Hall, or who might remember her?
Earnest Cooper . Army Leicestershire Regiment
My late father; Earnest Cooper, 4868237, Leicestershire Regt was captured in North Africa after the Battle of Kasserine (1943) and was first imprisoned in PG66 at Capua, then transferred to Stalag XVIIB following the Italian armistice.
Sgt. Eric Harold Cooper . British Army 214 Sqd. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (d.24th Jul 1942)
Eric Cooper answered his country's call and joined the RAF and became a rear gunner in 214 Sqn RAF flying Stirling bombers. His aircraft was shot down over Holland on the night of 24th July 1942, Eric along with all but one of the crew perished. Eric Harold Cooper was 21 years old. He is buried alongside his comrades in arms at Werkendam CWG cemetery in Noord-Brabant.
Francis Henry Cooper . British Army Royal Corps of Signals
Fred Cooper . British Army from Heckmondwike)
My Grandfather Fred Cooper was in the army in WW2 he was a prisoner of war and he did show us a picture once of him rather emaciated after being starved to almost death, but since he passed away I have no idea where the photos or documents are, as none of the family have them or know where they are. I am trying to research my Cooper heritage but keep coming to dead ends my aunts and uncles don't know much information the eldest being 67 and the youngest my father 53. The family lost my grandmother Grace Goldthorpe when my father was only 9 years old to hyperthermic pneumonia and when she passed away my grandfather Fred Cooper raised the 5 children or more to the point they were to help raise each other because he never spent much time with them or even talked to them about what he did in the war and whether he had any close comrades from the war. All I know are things he started to tell us as he got to his 70's, so if anyone could possibly fill some blanks it would be greatly appreciated
Pte Gordon Michael "Michael" Cooper . British Army Beds & Herts Regiment from Southampton, England)
Gordon Michael Cooper, but known as Michael, was born in Southampton 15th December 1924. He was conscripted in 1942/43 into the Infantry (possibly the Beds & Herts Regiment) His unit was sent up to Arnhem in September 1944 to relieve the paratroops. He was captured by the Germans and taken to Stalag IVB at Mulhberg-Elbe. He features in a published photograph of the camp's 'Empire Theatre' which was sent to the Southampton Daily Echo by Sgt Albert Reith sometime in 1945. Michael was taken out of Stalag IVB and put to work in a coalmine. On one occasion a roof collapse trapped him and a fellow prisoner underground. No rescue was forthcoming so they dug their own way out to safety. Towards the end of the war the German guards deserted their prisoners when they heard the distant sound of Russian gunfire. More afraid of the Russians than the Germans, Michael and a colleague escaped the camp and walked towards the American lines, hiding by day and travelling at night. He survived on stealing turnips and carrots from the fields. After the war, Michael suffered bouts of mental illness; he emigrated to New Zealand in April 1951 to work in the NZ Forest Service, but returned to the UK some months later will the ill health continued. Nowadays we would recognise his symptoms as a severe case of post-traumatic stress. He lived a reclusive life, looked after variously by the NHS, his mother and his older brother, Dennis. He died of dehydration, in hospital, 9th February 1986.
F/O John Arkell Cooper . Royal Air Force 99 Squadron from 4 Mansfield Road, Reading, Berks)
(d.14th Dec 1939)
John Cooper was my uncle. He died before I was born and I know virtually nothing more about him, but noticed on this website the name of a Sergeant Richard Brace of 99 Squadron RAF who died on the same day, presumably in the same aircraft or raid, so I felt it would be good to have his name also included. My own father, W/C Charles Stanley Cooper, 254 Squadron RAF, was killed on 25 September 1943. Both are named on the Runnymede Memorial
Joyce Cooper . Land Army
W/O Ken Cooper . Royal Air Force Air Gunnery Instructor 12 Operational Training Unit
My name is Margaret (Micky nee McKeevor) Teleprinter Operator, Signals Section, 12 OTU, later married W/O Ken Cooper (later commissioned to P/O). I would be delighted to hear from any ex serving personnel either Waaf or RAF who were based at Chipping Warden in 1943/44.
Flight Sergeant N A Cooper . RAAF 59 Squadron
Temp Paymstr. Peter E. Cooper . Royal Naval Reserve HMS Forfar
Peter Cooper survived the sinking of HMS Forfar, he was one of the Merchant Navy officers who had remained with the ship when she was commandeered, signing the T124x agreement to remain under his current pay and terms, but subject to Royal Naval disipline.
Richard Michael "Paddy" Cooper . Royal Navy from 33 Annis Street, Preston)
I am searching for my Uncle Richard Cooper. He was in the Navy, born in Preston and married a Scot called Agnes Begg. He moved to Edinburgh for many years. He left the family home suddenly and returned to Preston. He was known as Paddy to his friends. He was born in 1924. He is still alive and would be 87 now. His Aunt also lived in Annis street. He had a brother who has died. I would like to find him before it is too late.
Robert Cooper . British Army Black Watch
I am trying to find information in respect of my step brother, Robert Cooper of the Black Watch, who died in the Second World War. Up till now I am unable to find out where he died or where he has been laid to rest, please any help would be welcome.
Capt. Stanley Donald Cooper . British Army Norfolk Regiment
My husband and I have recently inherited some albums that his Dad, Captain Stanley Donald Cooper, put together after the Second World War. I hope to be able to put all the photos on here as soon as possible but I have noted the information given in each of the albums in case anyone is interested. Some of the photos are of good quality [given their age]some not so, also some are just of countryside and places visited during the war. I believe my father-in-law was a keen photographer. I am hoping others might be able to give me some information regarding some of the inscriptions and would be very grateful for this. Stan died over 30yrs ago before we became interested in what had happened and had a chance to ask questions.
First Album: Grantham 1940. Friends mentioned Dick Kendall,Johnnie Walker,Laurie Whiting,Mike Mitchell,’Pint’ Aldridge,Fred Crossley and Culley? Feltwell 1940 – Dick Burton in photo, Cairo 1941, Kulgaachia Mar 1941 mentions Snipe Shooting, Queenie Site Bauria Feb-Mar 1942 Photos mention F Troop Camp, 189th H.A.A.Bty R.A. Subaltern Officers Bob,Pryce, Bill,Dick,Pat and Harry, Budge Mar- April 1942. ‘Nuts’ site swimming baths, Officers Mess, F Troop 189 SGT Felvus,SGT Brough,SGT Coleman,SGT Dyson,SGT Kay and SGT Mills, 3.7.1942 Cease Firing Asansol, June 1942 Asansol no 2 site and Ushergram School, More of Asansol SGT Felvus.F Troop Football Team, Assorted photos Damodar River Baradanga Village taken during Monsoon. Western Ghats between Pasna and Bombay. Snaps taken from train between Poona and Bombay Poona Sept 1942.
Another album has the following: Nov 1942 Villages Punolia and Ranchi near Damodar, Jan 1943 No 8 Site Ninga – Bill Catchside, Nov 1942 Ranchi, Bihar – Bill Crouch, Christmas Day 1942 Asansol- Bill Catchside, Jan 1943 Winching, Jamshedpur and Haludpukkar, Calcutta - Chowringhee/The Maiden, Jun 1943 Boat Club Karachi – Fitz, Peter and Jimmy, Apr 1943 - Manipur Road Asssan, June 1943 Boat Club Karachi – Jimmie Best,Peter Brown 66th Hy A.A.Regt, Peter Brown. July 1943 Malir Sind, Sept 1943 Malir Village Largest Oasis in the Desert, Oct 1943 Malir Sind – Ernie Pearce 95th Hy A.A.Regt. Nov 1943 - Malir Dougie Platt and wife.SGT Watson,SGT Goodfellow,SGT McPake,R.S.M.Smith, Eric ADJT.
Another album: Jenanairls Tomb[last of the Mogul Emperors ]Lahore 1943, 1943 Karachi Sind –Bradley, Coe,Anderson,Clive Shalimar Gardens Lahore, July-Aug 1944 [on leave]Kalimpong Eastern Himalays Foothills N. Bengal Himalyan Hotel Kalimpong, 1942 Sept Bombay
I also have a 6 Troop Dinner Menu dated April 5th 1941 Golf House Llandrindod Wells Signed by many of the people attending the names on the back are
Our guests –
- Cooper, S.D
- Hastings, D.G
- Le Mesureier,G.G.
- Phelps, A,S
- Major E Banfield,
- Major H.D.Stephens-Clarkson R.A,
- Capt E.N. Butler-Cole R.A.
- [crossed out are the names Lt A Adams R.A and 2nd Lt R.S.Gardner R.A.]
- Lt J.E.Burke R.A.
I also have some other documents.
Sgt. William James Cooper . Royal Air Force 101 Squadron from Rotherhithe, London)
(d.21st July 1944)
My brother, Jim Cooper became an ABC operator perhaps because he could speak German among other languages and, by all accounts, volunteered to do an extra flight which resulted in his death. He is buried in the cemetery in Woensel- part of Eindhoven Holland. Another crew member was named Sime.
William Cooper . Air Raid Protection from Bethnal Green )
(d.8th Sep 1940)
Air raid wardens William Cooper of Bethnal Green died in bombing of Columbia Rd Market, London on the 8th of September 1940.
Cpl. William R. Cooper . United States Army from Montgomeryville, PA)
William R. Cooper II was inducted into the Army on February 22, 1943, and served in Northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes and central Europe. He was awarded the Service Medal for the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater with four bronze stars, and discharged with the rank of corporal on January 9, 1946
Rfm. Leslie William Henry George Coote . British Army 2nd Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps from Wandsworth)
(d.26th May 1940)
Leslie Coote is my grand father who died in action during the defence of Calais, 26th May 1940. He died of his wounds on board the trawler Botanic on his way back to England, aged 28yrs. He was buried in the St James Cemetery, Dover.
Sgt. Benjamin C. Cope . United States Marine Corps from Elizabethtown, PA)
Benjamin Cope enlisted in the Marine Corps in February 1942. He was stationed in Hawaii and based on his watchmaking experience, was assigned to repair aircraft instruments. In 1946 he was discharged with the rank of master technical sergeant.
Flt Sgt. Eric Cope . Royal Air Force 51 Sqd
My neighbour, Eric Cope, flew from Snaith from 1943 onwards till demob. He flew in Halifax MK2, M-HC Champagne Charlie on numerous missions he was the wireless operator.
Gnr. Robert Alfred Cope . British Army 68th Med Regt Royal Artillery from Chelmsford, Essex)
My Dad Bob Cope was one of the prisoners held at Stalag IVb. He was held there from June 1942 till May 1945, although he never spoke of his time there or indeed the war. He died in 1986 and I have been doing what research I can online, I found many old photos in his old box one of which was a membership card (attached) to what I believe was the forerunner to the Flywheel club it was called the Auto club with a no7 in flying wings esb 1942 his membership no was 79 and it was signed by the sec T Swallow, who later on formed the Flywheel club I think between 1944-1945 and who after the war wrote the book "Memories of the open road", which I have.
Walter John Cope .
I am trying to find out anything about my father Walter John Cope who I know nothing about. I do not even know what he looked like. I would like any information. The little I do know is he was a Desert Rat. I believe he was wounded and only had a few years to live after the war. I am sixty two years old and would like to know what my dad looked like before I die. Thanking you
Chief Officer Barney Copeland . Merchant Navy SS. Athenia
Edward Copeman . British Army 22nd Btn. Cheshire Regiment
A few years ago we found an unfinished handwritten account of my grandfather’s time as a Prisoner of War. I thought I’d share some of it here, if anyone can fill in any blanks for me it would be much appreciated, and maybe it will help others too. Apologies if any place names are spelled incorrectly, I’ve just copied what it looked like and haven’t checked them.
My grandfather’s name was Edward Copeman, and he was in the 22nd Cheshire Regiment. I think his account begins in 1942, and he refers to the desert, so he may have been in Egypt at the time (we do have a lot of photos from Egypt). The truck he was in ran over a landmine; he got some shrapnel in his leg, and another man, Mick Parker, was badly injured. He mentions a Sgt. Lord, who went to get help, but never came back as he was taken prisoner; there were two other men with them – Tug Wilson and Joe Gill. They were stuck in the middle of all these landmines, and survived by drinking water from the radiator of a German MK 3 tank. On the third day they flagged down a passing British truck, but it was driven by Germans who captured them and handed them over to the Italians “as all prisoners taken on the desert were handed over to the Italians”.
Mick Parker was taken to one hospital, my granddad to another, and he says he never saw any of the lads again. He was then taken to a transit hospital, and then another hospital beginning with a B (sorry, couldn’t read the name). After two weeks he went to another hospital, then after a while to another beginning with T, then he was moved again to an Italian Hospital Ship. He says after 10 days of moving about they landed at Naples, where he was taken to a civilian hospital.
After being in hospital for 5 months he was moved again to a transit camp at Benivento (sp?), then after a week the whole camp was moved by goods train to PG52 in Italy. When the Italians stopped fighting, the Sgt Major who ran the camp said he’d open the gates and let everyone go, but the next morning they were surrounded by Germans who told them they were now Prisoners Of War.
After a week there were 4 train loads of PoW’s, about 17 in each truck, being moved to Germany. My granddad was in the second to last truck. As they approached a long tunnel, the Brenner Pass(?) between Italy and Austria, there was an air raid by British Bombers. His train was in the tunnel, but another train did get hit. When they arrived at the next station there was no one in the end truck as they’d cut a hole in the wooden floor and escaped while they were in the tunnel.
After 5 days they arrived at Stalag VIII-B, it was now 1943. Someone had a wireless, and the guards could never find it, no matter how hard they searched for it. My granddad says he and his mate Alec Sherriff put their names down for a working party, but you had to be a Cpl or a Sgt. Alec was a L/Cpl but put another stripe on, but he was found out and sent back to the camp.
The working party went by train to Poland, there were about 78 of them in a small camp near Krakow, and they worked in a paper mill. They were there for two weeks but then had to start walking, my granddad says it was 18th of Janury 1943. They stopped at Breslan, and Dresden, and then a bit later he says it was March 1944 and they were in Plzeň. So I think one of the dates is wrong, he probably meant March 1943. They walked from Dresden to Leipzig to Rochlitz; the Russians were close by this point.
Their guards changed into civilian clothes and basically left them on their own. Most of the lads made off, but my granddad and two others went in search of food. The next morning they walked into the village and came face to face with one of their German guards, wheeling a bike. They took it off him and told him to walk like they’d been doing since January, it was now April. They found the Mayor’s house where they were given food and drink, and they were visited by a Russian officer who said he’d come back on Sunday, but on Sunday morning the three of them left with the bike and some food and carried on walking. They rested overnight and then the next day came to a station. There was no one about, so they went to look in the Booking Office...
unfortunately that is where my grandfather’s account ends, just like that, mid-sentence. So I’ve no way of knowing what happened to them in the short-term, although he did eventually come back home and lived to 82, so in that respect, it was a happy ending. As I said, if anyone can fill in any blanks for me, that would be great.
I also have a handkerchief, in the middle of which my granddad had embroidered the Cheshire Regiment emblem, and around this are the names of fellow prisoners of war, dated 3/9/43, so I wonder if he was recaptured (unless it means 9th March rather than 3rd September)? Not all the names are legible now, but some are, and if anyone wants me to check for a name, I can.
Eric James Alfred Copeman . Navy HMS Nelson
My dad, Eric James Alfred Copeman, served on HMS Nelson during the 2nd World War. He was leading torpedoman on the ship. If anybody has any knowledge, or remembers serving with him we would be grateful for contact, as he passed away 12 years ago aged 73.
Drummer Thomas Aitken Copland . British Army 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders
My uncle Tom Copland was captured along with the rest of his comrades at St Valery. He, like many others, spoke little of his time in the camps but he has spoken to a cousin and as soon as I get more tales I shall add them.
The one story I am aware of was of him sitting in a car many years post war. I don't know where they were or what the circumstances were but Tom was sitting in front. All at once a man sitting in the back announced that he would know that voice anywhere. He had been in a punishment pit in the camp, and Tom had risked his own life to drop bits of bread down to him so that he would have something to eat. Neither man had ever seen the other face to face, but Tom's voice and strong Aberdeenshire accent was truly the voice of an angel to his comrade.
Tom returned home to Aberdeenshire after the war and was, in the words of his sister, a puir sowel when he got home. Dreadfully thin. He went on to be a Deputy Firemaster, continuing to fight to save lives.
LAC John James Copley DFM. RAF 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
Flt Sgt William Salway Copp DFM.. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Navigator 83 Sqd. from Tiverton, Devon)
William Copp was my uncle, and he was the inspiration for my career in the aviation industry. I believe uncle Bill was on the Dresden raid, and his DFM was listed in Flight 16 Mar 1944. I will most appreciate it if further details of his service history are available.
Warrant Officer Class 2 C L Copping . RCAF 59 Squadron
Pte. Clifford Frederick Lewis Copping . British Army Royal Sussex Regiment from Tooting London)
In April 1940, my father Clifford Frederick Lewis Copping of Southcroft Rd Tooting, South London lied about his age to join the army and enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was just 17 and had become Private 6405092 Copping. He spent the first few weeks training (I think) near Wincanton and then six weeks guarding a railway tunnel and had a short spell in Northern Ireland.
One incident that happened during this period was when a barrack bully kept picking on someone for no reason and my dad didn't like the way it was going, so he floored the guy with one punch. Just as the guy hit the floor the Regimental Sergeant Major happened to pass by and asked who was responsible for the blow. My Dad owned up and was immediately placed on the regimental boxing team! A few days later he found himself in the ring sitting opposite someone by the name (I think) of Tonner - who happened to be from a family of very good amateur boxers on civvy street. All my Dad can remember is the bell sounding for the first round and then the lights suddenly went out! His budding army boxing career had sadly been terminated.
Back to the war his unit was posted to HMS Peregrine RNAS Ford Aerodrome in Sussex. Here he was stationed in an anti-aircraft gun pit and assigned the job of radio operator. Whilst at Ford - he volunteered to undertake "Glider Pilot Training" which I understand went on near High Wycombe. Had he been accepted and completed the training he would almost certainly seen action in both Normandy and Arneham.
During the Battle of Britain, on 18th August at about 4.30 pm the airfield was attacked by a squadron of Junkers 87B "Stuka" divebombers. The Germans had mistakenly thought it to be an operational base rather than the training station it was. One of the Stukas attacked his gun pit and dropped its bomb just short of its target. The explosion killed the British officer in charge of my father's pit instantly and when the rescue party arrived they found my Dad buried up to his neck in sand from the punctured sandbags surrounding him. He recalled them saying "Here's Copping's head -where's the rest of him?" After digging him out he was found to have numerous shrapnel wounds all over his body and some burns to his back. As he lay on a stretcher waiting for transportation to hospital he heard the "last rights" being read out and thought he was going to die - only to realise that it was in fact some poor devil next to him instead. Altogether 18 people were killed in this air raid and there were a number of casualties. He later found out that the pilot of the Stuka was killed in action whilst flying on the Russian Front.
He spent the next 11 months in hospital at Chichester (where unbeknown to him at the same time his future wife Mavis was evacuated in a house whose garden backed onto the hospital). During his time in hospital he was given a lot of quinine which rotted his teeth and caused him to be toothless by the time he was 21! Having also been burned he also received treatment at the famous burns centre at East Grinstead and received pigskin grafts pioneered by the famous Dr McEndoe.
At the end of his hospitalisation he was deemed "unfit for service" on health grounds and honourably discharged. He spent the rest of war working for the London County Council LCC driving bombed out families and their possessions to safer parts of the country.
In 1948 he married my mother Mavis Woodard, also of Tooting and they had three children. He worked for both Martin's and Barclays Banks and retired early to care for my mother who had MS. He died in June 2000.
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