Airwar over Denmark

Airwar over Denmark

 By Søren C. Flensted


1939-1940 Updated 12/2-23
1941 Updated 28/4-22
1942 Updated 17/8-23
1943 Updated 18/8-23
1944 Updated 24/11-23
1945 Updated 4/12-22

1940 New 30/11-23
1941 New 23/7-21
1942 Updated 27/10-23
1943 Updated 28/1-23
1944 Updated 23/7-23
1945 Updated 16/7-23

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Halifax VII NA672 “landed” Ringkøbing Fjord near Skaven 27/4 1945.

The aircraft belonged to RAF 644 Sqn. 36 Group Fighter Command and was coded 2P-L.
T/o 20:18 Tarrant-Rushton. Op: SOE to Tablejam 353.

Tablejam 353 was located on position 54`50`00N 11`18`30E which is north northeast of Søllestedgård farm on the island of Lolland with the Dansih code name “Orla”.

The crew of NA672 were Pilot W/o Henry "Harry" James Christian RNZAF, Navigator W/O Mervyn Albert Roberts RNZAF, Bombardier W/O ”Paddy” Raymond Edward Hay RNZAF, W/Op Sgt James Southworth, Flt. Engr. F/Sgt W. T. Roberts and Rear gunner Pilot Officer Robert ”Bob” L. MacDougall RCAF

                                                  (Doug Drake)

Southworth, Christian, MacDougall, Mervyn Roberts, Roberts, Paddy Hay


The trip across the North Sea was uneventful and the peninsula of Jylland was approached at Ringkøbing Fjord after which the course was set towards southeast. After having crossed the east coast of Jylland the Halifax flew very low over the sea until they approached the island of Langeland where they had to climb a little to pass over it.
They found the Nakskov Fjord and started the approach of Søllested Gård farm where they would have to make to approaches. The first approach was to drop 24 containers and the second to drop two parcels. After having succeeded, the Halifax returned low level towards Ringkøbing Fjord where it would leave Denmark again.

At the fjord quite a bit of flak was fired and while trying to avoid it the Halifax came down a bit too low. Suddenly the rear gunner MacDougal called on the intercom and said “It is raining back here”.
Next, the Halifax “landed” in 1½ metre of water in the southerly end of Ringkøbing Fjord, 400 metres north of Skaven. The time was 01:15 hours.

                             (Andersen via A. Hansen)

Inside the Halifax

When the Halifax laid still Paddy Hay and Mervyn Roberts found them submerged until they left their seats and stood up. That left their heads free of the water.
The emergency exit was stuck closed and Paddy kicked a hole in the Perspex panes and got out that way. The crew of six were more or less unhurt, apart from brushes
The aircraft’s dinghy was found inflated next to the Halifax and the crew entered it, apart from Mervyn who returned to the Halifax to detonate charges that would destroy the radio and navigation equipment.
The buttons needed to detonate the charges was however to deep under the water for him to reach and when he smelled petrol he gave up the project and joined his comrades in the dinghy.

                                  (Hans Frahm)

The Halifax

On land farmhand Niels Jørgen Jespersen, Vostrup was on his way back home with 2-3 friends after having attended a lecture at the village hall in Vostrup. The aircraft came low over them and they heard it ditch in the fjord.
Niels Jørgen went to fisherman Kristian Olsen and in his boat they set out to help the flyers. When they found the dinghy, the flyers were transferred to the fishing boat and the dinghy was punctured. Kristian set course for his home north of Skaven between Høje Sande and Vostrup.
Neither Niels Jørgen nor Kristian had any English and they all walked over to Valdemar Brun who lived nearby. He had lived in the USA and had learned the language. At Valdemars place the flyers teamed up and started walking away from the crash area.

Henry "Harry" Christian and James Southworth headed in a south-easterly direction while Paddy Hay and Mervyn Roberts teamed up and headed more southerly. “Bob” MacDougal chose to stay at Valdemars place for the night while W. T. Roberts started out on his own.

MacDougal left in the morning intending to get to Sweden. He did not get very far as he was captured by the Wehrmacht when crossing a bridge over a stream. He was taken to Fliegerhorst (Airfield) Vandel where he was placed in the jail on Farm no. 5. Here he met with W. T. Roberts who had been captured earlier.
On 6/5 the Ninth Company of the Danish Resistance Movement arrived at Fliegerhorst Vandel and took charge of the base.

                                             (Vejle Byarkiv)

Roberts (rear) and MacDougal being celebrated in Vejle.


Roberts and MacDougal were released from jail and taken to Vejle where they were celebrated together with the crew of Stirling LK567 that had come down at Plovslund on 27/4.
During the time then spent in Vejle the flyers were quartered at “Store Grundet”. Somewhere around 15/5 the flyers were driven to København where they met with the rest of the crew, and shortly after they were all flown back to England.

                                               (Frank Fuller)

Roberts and MacDougall in Vejle with members of the crew of Stirling LK567

Roberts, Day, Tate, Jones
Fuller, Dax, MacDougall

Henry "Harry" Christian and James Southworth reached the village of Strellev late in the afternoon of 27/4 and knocked on the door at the farm of Farmer Niels Kærsgård Larsen. He hid them until the evening of 4/5 when they were taken to the home of Doctor Øllgaard in Ølgod.

                                  (Ølgod lokalarkiv)

Christian and Southworth (front left and right) with members of the resistance in Ølgod.
Picture taken during the night of 4/5 May 1945


From the guestbook of Ølgaard

Here they spend the night of the liberation of Denmark together with local members of the underground movement. On Saturday 5/5 they were cheered in the streets of Ølgod.

                        (Via Greg Drake)

Pilot W/o Henry "Harry" James Christian RNZAF

On Thursday 10/5 they were found at Horne cemetery where they together with members of the resistance movement attended the funeral of Flying Officer Smale who had been wounded when his Stirling aircraft had crashed on Tipperne on 27/4. Smale had been taken to the German lazaret in Horne where he had died on 8/5.

                                  (V. Andersen)

Christian and Southworth outside Ølgaards house


 (Martin Tonks)


 (Martin Tonks)


 (Martin Tonks)


 (Martin Tonks)


 (Martin Tonks)


 (Martin Tonks)

Roberts and Hay walked until morning when it started to rain. Their clothes had dried during the night but now it was soaking wet again. When light came, they hid in a small wood for the day. When darkness fell, they started walking again, and saw only a few people. They were tired and hungry and started looking for a farm where they could ask for help. When they reached the smallholding of Jens Beck in Fjerbæk, Mervyn Roberts knocked on the door while Hay stood back a little.
Jens Beck opened the door and he and Mervyn stood looking at each other in silence for a while. When Mervyn told him that they were from Royal Air Force, Jens took Mervyn by the arm and pulled him inside the house. Mervyn now called for Hay to come inside the house. Beck did not speak English so the communication was by means of signs.

                      (Via Greg Drake)

Navigator W/O Mervyn Albert Roberts RNZAF

Roberts had brushed his forehead during the landing and one side of his head was red form blood. Beck cleaned the wound and when the water in a bucked was all red he sent his wife Alma out to fetch more water. She only made it to the scullery before she passed out, probably due to the excitement.
The flyers were given food, and afterwards they were shown to the barn to sleep. The combination of tiredness and a filled stomach made them sleep like rocks.
On the next day, 28/4, they were awakened by Jens Beck who said: “I have a friend who will help you”. It was clear that someone had taught him the sentence.
As it was all he knew in English, he gestured that they should come with him to the house. They were however afraid to leave the barn while it was light and indicated that they would wait in the barn until darkness.
At noon Beck returned with a pot of Irish stew that they eat with great appetite. When darkness fell they followed Beck to the house. After dinner when Beck learned that they were from New Zealand he showed them that he was radio amateur and before the war had contact with an amateur from Timaru in New Zealand.

                                      (Jens Bech)

Roberts, Alma Bech and daughter Dora, Hay at Bech farm

Later in the evening Vicar Anders Bork Hansen of Lønborg arrived with two members of the underground to question the flyers to make sure that they were not German agents. Apparently the answers were not satisfying as the same thing happened on the two following nights.
Another problem had come up, as the eight year old son of Beck, Gunner, had seen the flyers in the barn.
In the barn was a rope hanging from the roof used by the kids to swing by. When Gunner was swinging by the rope and jumped down in the hay, he landed on top of the flyers. This was bad luck as Gunner was attending school, and as a kid could not be relayed on not to tell about the flyers.
Jens Beck who was also a keen photographer took pictures of the flyers with his family and also a couple of pictures that should be used for false ID cards.
On 1/5 blacksmith Øllegaard and other members of the resistance arrived with civilian clothes for the flyers as well as false ID cards.

                           (Via Greg Drake)

Roberts ID-card

Roberts was now Farmer Kristian Jensen of Boel while Hay was now a travelling salesman. Roberts was told that he looked just like his new identity, but he was not sure if it was a compliment.
They were then taken by foot across the moor to the Forester farm in Lønborggård Skov forest where they were billeted in the barn. The Danes left after having told the flyers that they would be picked up the next morning.

The next morning the flyers were awakened by five men who brought them breakfast. Among them were Vicar Bork Hansen and Doctor Reinholt Nielsen of Tarm who attended to Roberts scratched forehead and also to Hay who apparently suffered from the landing.
After breakfast they were driven to Tjørring near Herning by Arvid Højfeldt and Aage Mortensen who had borrowed a petrol driven car from Arvid`s fathers company.
In Tjørring they were billeted in a room in the attic in a house belonging to Manufacturer Michael Hansen.
Teacher Laurits Nielsen tried to make conversation with the flyers but did not have much luck as they were nervous because they did not know what lay ahead of them.
Thursday 3/5 they were moved to Holstebro where they were housed by Cigar Manufacturer Erik Færck in Skovlund near Holstebro. They were given room at the top floor at the villa, and were for god measure given a couple of Browning automatic rifles to keep under their beds.
They were given the full treatment. They started with cocktails followed by a four course dinner with wine.

After dinner Roberts felt a little dizzy and believed that he had a little too much wine. Færck however insisted to have a doctor attend to him, and it was found that Roberts suffered from a concussion from the hard landing in the Fjord. The doctor did not find it necessary to treat Roberts as it would go away in due time. Later the same night Færck took the flyers for an evening stroll in the park.
On the next day, 4/5 they were taken another walk in the park when they heard several shots being fired and hurried back to the house where they were told that the was over. This was celebrated with the Færck family and Færck`s brother who lived nearby.

                           (Via Greg Drake)

Bombardier W/O ”Paddy” Raymond Edward Hay RNZAF

The next day a man arrived and told the flyers that they should contact The Red Cross organization. They followed him and suddenly found themselves as the main attraction in a victory parade in Holstebro. They were taken to the mayor office where they found their uniforms. Properly dressed, Roberts was persuaded to give a speech, and next they were carried around town on the shoulders of happy Danes. Not until late in the evening were they “released” and could return to the Færck home.
After a couple of days they drove south towards their landing place with Captain lt. Lunddorff who had lived underground in Holstebro due to his involvement in the resistance movement.
On the evening they took part in a celebration in the Lønborg vicarage together with Vicar Anders Bork Hansen, Henry "Harry" Christian and James Southworth and several local people.

The songbook of Harald Damborg with signatures of the Flyers

The next morning Roberts and Hay followed Lundorff towards Varde. In Tarm the word had spread that they would pass through the town and a gate of honour was erected on the road to Varde. They were greeted by about 1000 people. Speeches were given by reverend Gadegaard and Schoolmaster Larsen who had just returned from the camp “Frøslev”. The Danish and the English national hymn were sung as well as “Tipperary”. Finally cheers were given for the Danish and the English Royalty.
This resulted in a late arrival in Varde where they were celebrated on the city square after a short stop at the Varde Hotel.

What happened during the next days is not clear. It is however believed that some at the time was spend in Lønborg visiting Jens Beck and Bork Hansen.

On 14/5 Southworth, Christian and probably Hay and Roberts were driven by car to København where the resistance movement had rooms for them at the Hotel Cosmopolite.
They met with MacDougal and W. T. Roberts as well as the crew members of the other two aircrafts that had come down in Denmark on 27/4 1945. The next days was spent sightseeing and visiting to Tivoli in København.

                              (Roberts, Jones)

The crew in København with Danes and the crew of Stirling IV LK567

Dane, Dax, Hay, Jones, Dane, Dane, Dane, Fuller, Dane, Mervyn Roberts, Roberts, Dane

On 18/5 a British Colonell saw them in their hotel and told them that they on the next day would be picked up by a taxi and taken to Kastrup airfield from where they would be flown back to England.
They were flown back in a C 47 Dakota that flew low over Hamburg to let the flyers have a look at the destruction of the city.
After arrival in England they were questioned by the MI 5 to make sure that they were actually English flyers.
Next they were sent by bus to Air base Tarrant-Rushton. After arrival their first priority was to send telegrams back home to tell their family that all was well.

Skaven after the “landing”
On the morning of 27/4 the Halifax had been examined by an expert from the Civil Air Defence who had made certain that there were no explosives apart from some 8 mm ammunition onboard the aircraft. A guard of soldiers from Hungary was established. They however cooperated with the local people who were busy clearing the Halifax of petrol, oil and other things of interest. This happened before any German found their way to the area. One of those who took part was Hans Hansen who was busy taking the good stuff by horse drawn carriage to Lønborg electricity works where the oil came in handy while some of the petrol was given to the underground movement.
As a result of the cooperation by the Hungary troops, Vicar Anders Bork Hansen arranged for the Resistance movement to allow the soldiers to have a “regulated travel” back to Hungary when the war was over. Money was collected to buy train tickets for the soldiers, but the trip was not yet arranged when the order came for the troops to leave Denmark. Instead bicycles were bought for the Hungary troops and certificated of ownership were issued to allow them to take the bicycles out of Denmark. On 20/5 the Hungary soldiers started on the way back home.

The Halifax was left in the Fjord after the war and was a much used place to go on the Sunday afternoon trip. If you did not have a small boat yourself, you could rent one nearby the wreck.

On this arial photo from 1946 the aircraft is seen in the red circle.


                       (Andersen via A. Hansen)

                         (Andersen via A. Hansen)

                            (Andersen via A. Hansen)


                                      (Hans Frahm)


                    (Hans Frahm)


In October 1948 was Engineer Vagn Jacobsen, Skjern, Auto mechanic Hans Frahm, Skjern og Falck manager Uhre permitted to recover the wreck and sell the alloy. During the summer of 1949 they spent the weekends taking it apart together with Butcher Skovby Holm of Skjern.
The aircraft had sunk down in the mud and was quite difficult to recover. At first they tried to take it apart by means of a cutting torch, but it soon proved that an axe and Skovby Holm`s butchers saw did a much better job. They finished the job on 10/9 1949.


                                     (Hans Frahm)

                                 (Hans Frahm)

                                   (Hans Frahm)


                                 (Hans Frahm)

It seems as if quite a few parts had been removed from the Halifax in the periode of 1945-48. The tail wheel and the compass from the Halifax can today be seen at the “KZ og Veteran Fly Museet” museum in Stauning.

After the war:
Christian, Hay and Mervyn Roberts returned to New Zealand, but kept in touch with the Beck family over the years.
All three of them settled in Timaru.

Mervyn Roberts started farming and after a while he ran the family farm of 500 acres at Sutherlands about 30 miles from Timaru. He farmed until 1979 when he handed it over to his son Geoffrey and moved to Timaru. Mervyn Roberts died on 21/10 1994 aged 79.

Paddy Hays farmed in Rosewill near Timaru. When he retired he moved to Timaru where he died in 1993.

Henry "Harry" Christian returned to 59 Wilson Street Timaru. He worked as an engineer until retirement. He too has passed away.

MacDougal returned to Canada where he became a Jesuit priest. He visited Denmark in 1989. He is believed to have passed away.

James Southworth got married to Margaret Parkinson in July 1947 and they moved to South Africa shortly thereafter and had two Daughters. He worked for the Cape Town City Council involved in building (He was a draughtsman) and worked on the initial housing projects in the townships. Hi died from cancer in August 1977.

What happened to W. T. Roberts is not known.


The Fjord where the Halifax crashed

Sources: AIR 27/2159, K/O 208/3227,”Drop Zone” by M. Roberts, Dansk Minekontrol 359/1948, LBUK, Doug Drake, Pam Bartrum, Betty Smith. Gordon Maudsley. Newspapers: Ringkøbing Amts Dagblad, Vestkysten.


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