LANCASTER ND351 OF-P
22 March 1944, crashed near Hannover. All the crew survived to become PoWs except for the rear gunner Ronald Hinde
Pilot: P/O R E Cooper
Flight Engineer: Sgt F S Witcher
Navigator: F/Sgt Alexander McFadyen
Bomb Aimer: Sgt H Lunt
W/Op: Sgt H A Smith
M/U Gunner: Sgt P J Copus
Rear Gunner: Ronald Hinde
From the ORB
22.3.44 Some training was carried out in the morning and 14 Lancasters were detailed for operations tonight. Frankfurt was the target and the attack opened on time at 21.45. A fair concentration was achieved, timing was good, and marking was well maintained. Large fires were seen around aiming point and fires quickly extended with smoke rising to 10,000′ and fires were visible 200 miles away. There was slight H/F, searchlights numerous but ineffective. Enemy fighter activity below normal. P/O Cooper and crew failed to return, no news having since been received. F/O Moroney and crew also failed to return, the last message heard was at 20.38 hours, position given as 53.21N 03.45E baling out.
ND351P P/O R.E.Cooper, Sgt F.S.Witcher, F/Sgt McFadyen, Sgts H.Lunt, H.A.Smith, P.Copus, R.R.Hinde. Up 1850 – aircraft missing ( 4 x TI, 1 x 4000lb, 2 x 1000lb, 600 x 4lb incs, 40 x 4lb incs).
Extract from Bomber Command Losses – 22/23.3.44
Lancaster III ND351 OF – P. Op Frankfurt. T/O 1850 Bourn. Crashed in wooded and hilly countryside in the general vicinity of Hannover where F/S Hinde is buried in the local war cemetery, known locally as the Limmer Friedhof.
P/O R.E.Cooper(pow), Sgt F.Witcher(pow), F/S A.McFadyen(pow), F/S A.Lunt(pow), Sgt N.A.Smith(pow), Sgt P.J.Copus(pow), F/S R.Hinde(+).
R E Cooper, F S Witcher, A McFadyen, H Lunt, H A Smith, P J Copus, Ronald Hinde
Working in conjunction with Jim Copus, Graham Read has written an account of Jim’s experiences, both of being shot down and of being a prisoner of war. The following extract tells of Jim’s initial experiences as a prisoner of war, which are a reminder of the violent hostility that aircrew faced if they survived being shot down over Germany.The extract begins just after Jim has landed, unhurt, in a snowy ploughed field.A PRISONER OF WAR
The field in which I had landed was only yards away from a row of houses. Their occupants were on me immediately I landed and I was dragged into one of the houses amid much shouting and bravado. It was widely known that German civilians were not exactly welcoming towards aircrew who fell into their hands and I was very nervous about the whole situation. They shoved me into one corner of a room. My ‘chute had been gathered into an untidy bundle and was dumped beside me. In the other corner were grouped a cross-section of the neighbourhood. They were gesticulating and shouting at me in unintelligible German. Some of the shouting, however, needed no translation! In the circumstances I did not feel at all like a “Terrorflieger” as the Nazis called R.A.F. bomber crews. Some young wide-eyed children were among the crowd. As a gesture of goodwill I took some chocolate from my flying-suit pocket and offered it to them. They recoiled hastily, either not knowing what it was or suspecting it was poisoned perhaps. To prove it was safe I ate a little myself and returned the rest to my pocket but the atmosphere was tense and I hoped that some sort of authority had been alerted and would remove me before something unpleasant happened.
Fortunately, the civil police (they were referred to as ‘gendarmes’) arrived promptly and I was hauled off on foot to the local police station where I was thrown unceremoniously, without food or water, into a damp cell in which the only piece of furniture was a bed. There was not even a blanket. I attempted to sleep but it was extremely cold. In an attempt to keep my feet from freezing I managed to squeeze both into one flying boot.
At some point during the night I was dragged out of the cell and upstairs to an office where I was confronted by the local Bürgermeister (Mayor). There were, he told me, the bodies of several aircrew in the mortuary. If I would tell him the names of my crew he would let me know if any of them were among the dead. I felt unable to cooperate in this ‘kind offer’ which was, of course, a fairly transparent ruse to get more information out of me. My response was perhaps equally transparent but served well enough to show that I knew what he was up to. The crew I had been flying with, I told him, were completely unknown to me. My presence on the aircraft had been a last minute arrangement as a substitute. However, I added helpfully, I would be prepared to go to the mortuary and point out anyone I recognised. This offer was refused and I was returned promptly to my cell.
In the morning, after an extremely uncomfortable night, I was brought a cup of ersatz coffee and something unidentifiable to eat. Shortly afterwards I was dragged out of the cell and outside where a horse and cart was waiting. Surprisingly my ‘chute was returned to me and as I flung it into the cart saw Lund, the bomb -aimer, already aboard. He had a leg wound. As I started to climb up into the cart with him, I was pulled back and told that I must walk along behind thus presenting the entire populace who had turned out to watch, with another opportunity to shout and scream abuse as we plodded slowly through the town.
Below: 1944, after capture by the Germans
With many thanks to Jim Copus and Graham Read for the pictures and the text.