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Escape From Denmarkicon for Recommended story

by PowerFamily

Contributed by 
PowerFamily
People in story: 
Bill Andrews Power
Location of story: 
Nazi Occupied Denmark
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2326547
Contributed on: 
21 February 2004

FLYING 0FFICER
WILLIAM ANDREWS POWER
ROYAL AIR FORCE NO. 1061443

WIRELESS OPERATOR/AIR GUNNER
NOs. 40, 24 AND 77 SQUADRONS

William Andrews Power was born in Newry in County Down on the 23rd January 1919 and was educated at the Newry Model and Newry Technical College where he obtained a junior certificate. Bill joined the Royal Air Force in late 1939 as Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, but it wasn't until the 28th August 1940 that he was posted to Blackpool to start his initial training.

On the 23rd November Aircraftsman William Power was posted to the No 2 Signals & Wireless School at Yatesbury where he was to embark on his wireless career in the RAF. The school was equipped with Dominie and Percival Proctors. His first flight was on the 1st January 1941 in a Dominie Mk1 R9548 that was captained by a 'Mr Taylor'. The types of exercises that he carried out during the course were, Harwell boxes, off loop, daily inspections, fault finding, signals and code tuning and cross country flying. He successfully completed the course by the end of August 1941. Bill was then posted to No 2 Air Gunnery School at Dalcross on the 29th August to commence his air gunnery training on Boulton Paul Defiants. He finished the course at the end of August with a pass mark of 69% and was assessed as an 'average Gunner' by the school's Chief Instructor (Wing Commander Lewis). After have passed both the radio and gunnery courses AC2 William Andrews Power received his Wireless Operator/Air Gunners Brevet and was promoted to Sergeant. Having now completed all his training Bill was posted to No 15 OTU at Harwell where he commenced operational flying training on Wellingtons and Avro Ansons. The course commenced on the 22nd October 1941 and finished five months later on the 31st March 1942.

On the 22nd March Bill and his crew were told to report the Overseas Aircraft Delivery Unit at Harwell where they were informed that they were being posted overseas to join No 2 Mets and Middle East Forces at Shaloufa in the Middle East. They were to flight test a Wellington Code Z 8513 at the OADU and deliver it to a squadron in Malta on their way to the Middle East. The flight-testing lasted for five days and consisted of fuel consumption tests, guns and turret tests and A & E Tests and was soon ready for its trip to Gibraltar. The Wellington Z8513, captained by Pilot Officer Smith and his crew took off from Harwell on the morning of 28th March and landed two hours later at Portreath in Cornwall. Bill's logbook shows that they stayed in Portreath until the 2nd April when they took off and set a course for Gibraltar arriving there eight hours later. They stayed in Malta until the 4th April when they took off once more arriving in Malta 5hrs.30mins later. On the 6th April they left Malta in another Wellington DV505 and headed for El- Lyum.

On the 27th April Bills log shows that he and the crew had their first flight at No 2 Multi Engine Training Squadron on the morning of 27th April in Wellington Z8765 which was captained by a new Pilot Sergeant Shard. They flew three training exercises between Shalufa to Lydda, Lydda to Habbaniya, Habbaniya to Lydda and Lydda to Shaloufa. Bill and Sergeant Shard were then posted to commence operations with No 40 Squadron at Shaloufa. No 40 Squadron was RFC was formed at Gosport in Hampshire on the 26th February 1916, and from August 1916 until the Armistice served on the Western Front as a Fighter Squadron. It was disbanded in 1919 and reformed as a bomber squadron in 1931 and during the Second World War was equipped with Blenheims and Wellingtons operating from bases in England, The Middle East, bombing targets in North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, Rhodes, Crete, Greece, Pantellaria, Lampedusa, Italy and the Balkans with Liberators. The squadron also took part in the Berlin Air Lift in 1947. Bill completed his first operation with the squadron to Benghazi on the 24th June 1942 with Sergeant Shard and the crew. Their flying time for this operation was 7hrs.50mins.

Field Marshall Rommel had launched his offensive in North Africa on the 26th May 1942 which totally surprised the Allies, but more than one third of the German tanks were lost on that first day. By the 1st June Allied Air Forces began to bomb Rommel's beleaguered Afrika Corps. The rest of June Bill and the crew spent bombing and strafing enemy transports, landing grounds and mechanised units in Abar-El-Sakkuti, Charring Cross, Fuka and El-Daba. By the middle of June Rommel's army had captured Tobruk. Bill's log entries for July shows that the squadron concentrated all their efforts on Tobruk, bombing its harbour, shipping and petrol installations on the 11th, 13th, 15th, 18th, 25th, 29th and 31st July. By the middle of July Rommel's advance had been halted at El Alamein and Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery had taken over command of the British Eighth Army.

August: There was to be no let up for Rommel and his Afika Corps as Bill and the crew again bombed Tobruk on the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 29th and 31st August. September: Again they bombed and laid mines in Tobruk Harbour on the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 10th, 18th, 21st, 24th and 27th September. Towards the end of September 1942 Monty had launched his offensive against Rommel and the Afrika Corps and by November 3rd they were in retreat. Tobruk and El Alamein fell in November. The operation on the 29th September which was to lay mines in Tobruk Harbour was to be Bill's last with the squadron. By the end of September 1942 Bill had completed 39 operations with 40 Squadron (in all but two of these ops he was the Front Air Gunner) and it was now time for a break for him and the crew. He was posted back to the UK on the 5th October 1942 and was given some well-earned home leave. After returning from leave in February 1943 Bill was posted to No 19 OTU that was based at Kinloss in Scotland where he became a Wireless Operator Instructor, instructing on Whitley's and Avro Anson's. At the end of December 1942 Bill had had enough of instructing and requested to be allowed back onto operations. His request was granted and at the beginning of February 1943 he was posted to 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit at Rufforth where he completed a six week conversion course onto Halifax V's and met his new captain (Flight Sergeant Sykes) and crew. Bill joined 77 Squadron at Elvington near the end of February 1943. The squadron was formed at Edinburgh in October 1916 and it's role was defending the city against enemy airships, working along side the Forth Garrison batteries in case of enemy landings. The squadron was disbanded in 1919 and reformed again in June 1937 at Finningley in Yorkshire as a Bomber Unit. At the outbreak of war it was equipped with Whitleys, later becoming equipped with Handley Page Halifax B 11. One of its better known operations of the war was in September/October 1944 when it helped to fly half a million gallons of much needed petrol to an airfield in Brussels for the Second Army which then was so desperately short of fuel for its lorries and tanks. In May 1945 the squadron was transferred to Transport Command where it took part in the Berlin Air Lift and was subsequently disbanded in 1963.

Bill made his first X-country flight with Flight Sergeant Sykes on the 31st March at 1900 hrs in Halifax KN-X. His first operational flight was on night of the 9th April 1944. They took off at 2100 hrs in Halifax KN-A to bomb the Lille-Delivrance goods station. 239 aircraft took part in that raid from various squadrons and only one Lancaster was lost. Their next raid was on the following night, again take off time was 2100 hrs and the target was the railway yards at Tergnier. 157 Halifaxes of 4 Group and 10 Pathfinder Mosquitoes took part in this raid. 10 Halifaxes failed to return. They laid mines off Heliogoland on the 12th April, and off Malmo on the 18th. They bombed the marshalling yards at Ottignies on the 20th April (196 Aircraft took part on this raid and all returned safely) and bombed the railway yards at Laon on the 22nd.

Bill's luck was about to change
On the night of the 23rd April Bill and the crew took off from Elvington at 2105 hrs in Halifax KN-P LW270 on a mine laying operation and set a course for the coast of Denmark. The aircraft was carrying four mines and the target was 540 48'N/12042'E and KN-P had flown 133 hours. While over Denmark they were attacked by Fowke Wulf 190s at 13,500ft. Their port engine and wing caught fire and they were loo sing height rapidly. The Captain, Flight Sergeant Sykes gave the order to bale out of the crippled Halifax. One chute failed to open. Four of the crew managed to escape back to Sweden, sadly three were killed. KN-G crashed at Hjaelm which is about six miles North West of Nykobing in Denmark.

The names of the Crew are as follows:

Flight Sergeant PDSykes

Pilot. Killed. Buried in Svino Cemetery. Navigator. Escaped.
Air Bomber. Escaped. Wireless Op/Air
Gunner. Escaped.
Flight Engineer. Killed. Buried in Svino Cemetery. Mid Upper Gunner. Killed. Buried in Svino Cemetery. Rear Air Gunner. Escaped.

Flying Officer JH Murray

Sergeant F. Haynes

Flight Sergeant WA Power.

Sergeant G Jones

Sergeant WH Loverock

Sergeant JJ Harrison

Bill's Escape Story

Bill had landed safely on a deserted beach and it wasn't long before he met one of the local residents. Bill explained who he was and showed him his silk escape map and asked where he was, by this time he was feeling pretty miserable and wondering about what had happened to the rest of his crew. He had just sat down on the sand to gather his wits about him when suddenly a German fighter appeared out of nowhere and flew low up the beach towards him and flew low right over his head. Just as he was about to head inland the local whom he had just met returned and now realising that Bill was British eagerly embraced him and told him to hide in a haystack. He returned after darkness with beer and some bread. The next night under the cover of darkness Bill was taken to a Doctor l.E. Hansons house. On entering he was delighted to see his Navigator was alive and well. It was not long before a meeting was set up with the local Resistance who were to provide them with bicycles and money for their escape home. Another one of Bill's crew arrived at Dr Hanson's that evening. They stayed at Dr Hanson's for four nights, being well fed and able to take a bath. Under the circumstances they were treated very well. Soon they were informed by the local Resistance that they were to cycle to the local railway station where they were to board a train that would take them to Copenhagen and that they would be accompanied by one of their members for the entire journey. They had just boarded the train at Copenhagen when a troop of German Soldiers who were going on leave got on. The Resistance chap thought it would be a good idea if they all split up and were given Danish newspapers to read. By the time they arrived at Copenhagen, they were all very tired and frightened. They left the train and were taken to a flat that was above a stationary shop. Here they were met by a Danish Fireman in uniform, who gave them all a terrible fright as they thought it was an SS officer waiting to arrest them. Bill and the other two-crew members stayed at the flat for about four days, cooking their own meals and talking to no one. Soon they were taken down to the docks under the cover of darkness by taxi to a club. There they met some more escapees, "Jewish people who had fled Germany."

Sometime later they were taken down to a small harbour where they boarded a barge, unfortunately the local resistance people had been tipped off that night that the Germans were searching all barges leaving the harbour. So it was decided to wait until the following night and they hid between the docks until it was safe to carry on with their journey to Malmo in Sweden. On their arrival in Sweden they were immediately arrested by the Swedish Police (this was the first time that Bill had ever seen the inside of a prison cell). Bill was interrogated by the police but only gave his name, rank and serial number and demanded to see the British Consul who duly arrived and had them released into his custody. They were taken to his residence and given some money to buy some new clothes (the old ones were sent back through channels to the Danish Resistance to help future escapees).

They left Malmo by train for Stockholm and on their arrival were taken to a large shop to buy some proper clothes. As Bill was an extremely big man he found it
difficult to find an overcoat that would fit him and had to settle for a Swedish Air Force officers great coat. Two days later on the 8th May 1944 they were taken to the airport and to Bill's surprise he spotted four Mosquito's sitting on the Tarmac. They all belonged to the British Overseas Airways Corporation (another story) and who had the contract to bring ball bearings out of Sweden to help the war effort. Bill and the crew were told to climb into the bomb bays of the Mosquito's and hold on. The registration of Bill's particular aircraft was G-CGGC and was piloted by a Captain Brown. The flight time from Stockholm to Leuchars in Scotland was 2hrs.55mins.

Bill wrote an entry in his flying log that reads, "Fastest time to date for escape from Denmark. Thanks to Doctor I Hanson and the numerous friends in the Danish underground movement who helped at great danger to their own lives."
On his arrival back in the UK Bill was taken down to London where he was debriefed and sent home on leave for six weeks. On his return from leave in August 1944 Bill was posted to 24 Squadron at Hendon for VIP duties, flying in Avro Anson, Flamingo, Domine and Dakota's as a Wireless Operator. The squadrons had become a Short Range VIP unit, returning many important people and Royalty to their liberated countries. In October 1945 the squadron was occupied ferrying important dignitaries back and forward to the Nuremburg Trials.

One of Bill's more famous trips was Operation Arganaut on the 18th January 1945 when he escorted 'The Big Three' (Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin) where they all met at Satchi for a conference on board Bill's Dakota FL584. Bills logbook shows that Operation Arganaut to Russia started on the 19th January 1945 and finished on the 1st February 1945. The total flying time for this operation was 39hrs.O5mins.
Bill remarked to me that he remembers the trips to Satchi very well, "It was a terrible place and you were always up to your knees in mud."

Some of his other VIP Duties were:
Bringing the King and Queen to Long Kesh (not long ago was the notorious Maze Prison) on the 17th July 1945 onboard Dakota KG770. Bill told me that when they arrived overhead Long Kesh the pilot told him that he may have some bother landing due to cross winds. The Queen Mother noticing this left her seat and asked the Captain, "Which bounce do you think we will land on."

Bill flew Sir Hartley Shawcross who was a senior Judge at the Neremburg War Trials on the 9th July 1945 and again on the 28th July in Dakota KN282. Bill was also personal Wireless Operator to Lieutenant General Sir Titchard McCreery who was General Officer Commanding the British Forces in Austria. On one such trip while taking the General back to Vienna they broke the Hendon to Vienna record taking a total 3hrs.25mins. Some of Bill's VIP duties took him to France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Austria, Reykjavik, Capodichino, Malta, North Mrica and Greece. In April 1947 Bill was posted to an Air Sea Rescue flight at Kinloss in Scotland as a Wireless Operator in Ansons. On one of his more memorable trips his Pilot flew so low over the sea, he actually bounced the Anson over the waves causing damage to the aircraft including losing Bill's trailing aerial who injured himself on the 1154 and 1155 radio sets.

When he completed he last trip with the RAF in 1947 he had accumulated 1881hrs.30mins in Domine, Anson, Halifax, Lancaster, Proctor, Wellington, Flamingo, Martinet, Defiant, Whitley and Dakota's.
Bill was released from the RAF in 1947 and returned home to take up civilian employment. He is a member of the Air Crew Association Northern Ireland Branch, The Royal Air Force Association and the Royal British Legion. Bill died on 20th of July 2003 and his remains were buried in Belfast.

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Message 1 - Escape From Denmark

Posted on: 01 March 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

This is a fine contribution and a joy to read. What an adventurous life!

Many thanks,

Peter

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