• Sweden edition
 
British flyer finds lost WWII plane on The Local

British flyer finds lost WWII plane on The Local

Published: 01 Jun 2012 14:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Jun 2012 14:56 GMT+02:00

“I googled ‘Halifax’, ‘Sweden’ and ‘Crash’ and then I stumbled upon the article in The Local – and I thought, this is very special," UK doctor and WWII enthusiast Jeroen Pinto told The Local.

Pinto's discovery came after he'd heard a story from a World War II veteran who had parachuted out of his Halifax bomber after bad weather forced him and the other crew members to abandon the aircraft over Swedish waters.

The veteran, 90-year-old John Alwyn Phillips, had been introduced to Pinto by one of his patients with whom Pinto had shared his interest in World War II.

Upon reading the article published on The Local about the discovery of the wreckage of a Halifax bomber near Sweden's coast, Pinto realized that plane may very well be the one from which Phillips had baled on that stormy night nearly seventy years ago.

"And no one in the UK knew really, Mr Phillips certainly didn't know. And I got to be the one to tell him," Pinto said.

Pinto contacted the reporter, and then hurried over to tell his friend about the discovery as soon as he got a chance.

“I was very surprised to hear that the wreckage found off the coast by some divers could possibly be that of my aircraft which came down 69 years ago,” Phillips told The Local.

The Halifax’s crash in Sweden still lives very vivid in Phillips’ memory.

According to him, the night between the 2nd and 3rd of August 1943 will long be remembered as the ”Night of the Great Storm” because the bomber crews encountered such fierce thunderstorms on their way to Germany.

Taking off from a British airfield, one of 740 aircrafts, the Hamburg-bound Pathfinder Halifax was met with dense clouds over the German coast.

“As I flew further along our track, clouds thickened and we had extremely heavy icing on our aircraft wings, great flashes of light lit up this dense mass of cloud and the air became very turbulent,” Phillips told The Local.

Phillips found it almost impossible to control the by now bucking aircraft but continued on its way.

Sometime after 2am there was a bright flash of light, blinding all the crew in the forward section.

“There was no flak about at that time, so obviously our aircraft seemed to have been struck by lightning,” he said.

The aircraft went out of control and Phillips realized when he recovered his sight that the engines were damaged and the plane's radio and intercom systems were out of commission.

Having lost both speed and time, the chance of dropping the plane's cargo of green bomb targeting flares was completely lost.

“Flak now became rather heavy and the aircraft became increasingly difficult to control, still flying blindly in very thick clouds with flashing lightning and static electricity running along the wings,” Phillips said.

Having jettisoned the bomb load, Phillips decided to head north and after the flight engineer had assessed their chances of getting back to base as nil, they needed to think of an alternative.

“The prospect of ditching in the North Sea or being attacked by a night fighter were not worth considering, being unable to avoid with any evasive action," Phillips explained.

"So with varying degrees of enthusiasm it was generally decided to at least make an attempt at reaching Sweden.”

Reaching the Swedish coast, Phillips gave the order that the crew bale. After trimming the craft to nose down, Phillips then baled himself from a mere 900 metres.

“I made a dive through a gaping escape hatch and landed fairly quickly in a field but not before hitting an animal, which I later found out to be a cow.”

Phillips, who had landed near Esarp in Skåne County, gathered up his parachute and soon ran into a milk truck. He managed to talk the driver into taking him to Malmö, where he was handed over to police.

The farmer who owned the cow, which died after impact with the British airman, was upset and there was some discussion of who should reimburse him for his loss.

The rest of the crew had also managed to land safely and were all brought to the police for questioning.

According to aviation historian Bo Widfeldt, the police noted that the crew was unwilling to disclose much information, most likely due to RAF regulations.

However, Phillips could account for the reason they had to bale in Sweden and after the interrogation, the whole crew was sent to Falun in central Sweden to be interned.

They were subsequently repatriated in January 1944.

Phillips intention had always been to get the plane to ditch in the Baltic Sea, thus avoiding crashing into either property or people. As nothing else was heard of it, it was presumed that this is what happened to the craft.

Nearly 70 years later, however, the aircraft was discovered last summer during a routine scan of the sea bed for training purposes, carried out by the Swedish Coast Guard.

The sonar scan was part of Lund University outreach project "Havsresan" (“The Sea Trip”) - a university-funded cross-disciplinary expedition to explore the ocean environment in the region.

The coast guard registered objects on the seabed some 10 kilometres outside the Kämpinge Bay.

When the divers went in for a closer look, they discovered metal scrap parts spread over a 100-metre radius.

Not only did the researchers fear that amateur divers might tamper with the historical remains, but the site was also deemed potentially dangerous until the Swedish military has destroyed any live ammunition still contained in the plane.

The wreck was classified as a large WWII plane, most likely a Halifax.

The parts that the researchers could see were determined to be in good condition although the aircraft has broken up in several parts across the seabed.

While the aircraft has not yet been identified with 100 percent certainty, the researchers are fairly confident it is indeed Phillips' lost Halifax they have found.

“I eagerly wait for some confirmation when they bring the wreckage ashore,” Phillips told The Local.

When Pinto and Phillips found out about the discovery they soon contacted the researchers featured in The Local's article, including Peter Jonsson, a researcher in underwater technology at Lund University.

According to Jonsson, Phillips’ recollections about the night of the crash have been very helpful, as he has been able to provide them with some answers as to the bombs carried by the craft.

“Both Phillips’ account and the previous knowledge we had on what happened that night point to the bomb loads being empty when the plane crashed. Of course you can’t be 100 percent certain that it worked, but what we do know is that they did all that they could to make sure they were jettisoned,” Jonsson told The Local.

According to Jonsson, the researchers are now waiting for the Swedish navy mine clearance divers to give them the all clear to investigate the wreck.

So far, the divers have found parts of the engine, the rear wheel and parts of the tail. There is also a lot of ammunition scattered about on the seabed.

The next step, according to Jonsson, is to salvage some other parts of the debris, in order to finally identify the aircraft as that of the Halifax.

“We can do that through looking at the engine serial number, the shape of the tail and specific construction details,” Jonsson told The Local.

According to Pinto, another interesting question that may be answered when the wreckage is salvaged is if the craft is a Halifax Mark II, which the records claim, or a Mark III, which its pilot Phillips says.

“It will certainly be interesting to see who is right,” Pinto said.

Henrik Roosberg of the Swedish Coast Guard told The Local that the area is very rich in wrecks.

“We suspect it is the right plane, but just this week we found another aircraft very close by, a German plane which crashed at the end of the war,” he said.

Despite a few lingering questions about the plane, Pinto’s gut-feeling tells him that it is the Halifax that is resting on the Swedish seabed.

And the discovery, whether it turns out to be the right aircraft or not, has already begun a process of bringing people together.

Despite many years passing since the war, Phillips stayed in contact with the other members of his crew, until recently, when he found himself being the last one left.

Through the investigation sparked by the Swedish discovery, Phillips has been in contact with the daughter of one of his crew members.

“Of course there is always a possibility that it isn’t the right plane, but even if that would be the case it has already brought people together, so it’s already enough, it’s already worth it,” Pinto told The Local.

Rebecca Martin

Follow Rebecca on Twitter here.

Your comments about this article

16:38 June 1, 2012 by builder
Its a pity that the airplane can't be recovered
19:55 June 1, 2012 by dizzymoe33
Great story! I wondered who ended up paying for the cow though?
20:17 June 1, 2012 by jack sprat
Sounds like a bit of a cock and bull story to me.

The guy landed on a cow killing it ??? then ran over to the milk truck ???

Pull the other one it's got bells on.

Somebody telling porkies and my moneys on the farmer.
12:51 June 4, 2012 by karex
#3 He baled at 900 m meaning he was probably coming down fast and hard. If he hit the poor animal feet first on its head or neck I expect that might be enough to kill it.

Lovely story.
Today's headlines
Ebola crisis
Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund
Photo: TT

Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund

Sweden has offered a new sizeable contribution to the fund set up by UN chief Ban K-moon to fight the Ebola outbreak. READ  

Society
'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme
Photo: Lars-Göran Thuresson/Älgriket

'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme

The Swedish hunting association runs a project to encourage young asylum-seekers to learn about hunting, a move which has proved controversial among some far right groups. READ  

Business & Money
American sales squeeze Ericsson profits
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg presents the third-quarter earnings report at the company's headquarters in Kista. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

American sales squeeze Ericsson profits

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson reported a decline in net profit in the third quarter despite an increase in sales, boosted by business in emerging markets. READ  

Interview
'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar

'Too many concerts feel the same'

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden calls off suspect submarine search
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden calls off suspect submarine search

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. The armed forces said they remained convinced foreign underwater activity had taken place but had not identified an intruder. READ  

Business & Money
US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks
Ed Carbaugh prepares to install parts on a truck engine on an assembly line at Volvo Trucks' powertrain manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2014. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, said Friday it saw a spike in profits in the third quarter, boosted by thriving sales in the US and Japanese markets. READ  

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery
Cigarettes and beer photo: Shutterstock

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery

Inspectors who were sent to shut down a doctor’s surgery in Gothenburg were physically attacked and fled the premises to get help from the police. READ  

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water
A Swede loads a car with alcohol in northern Germany. File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water

Swedish police say they will pay a man 16,000 kronor ($2,200) in damages after much of the alcohol they confiscated from him was stolen, while many of the bottles they returned were filled with water. READ  

Diplomacy
US to get first female ambassador in Sweden
File photo: Athena Center for Leadership Studies

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced it was nominating the Iranian-American ex-investment banker Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

Neo-Nazi attacks
Neo-Nazis cleared of knife attack on Nigerian
Police intervene after neo-Nazis attack an anti-Nazi rally in Kärrtorp, December 2013. Photo: Hampus Andersson/TT

Neo-Nazis cleared of knife attack on Nigerian

A Stockholm court has cleared three neo-Nazis of stabbing a Nigerian man in an unprovoked attack. But two of the men will face jail after they were convicted of racial agitation at a riot. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
Blog updates

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 

24 October

Is darkness weather? (Blogweiser) »

"I try very hard not to talk about the weather. This has come after a decade..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

985
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN