Eric Cooper: Crash site information


Many thanks to Kitty Hallam who in a flash translated from the Dutch part of a remarkable document describing all aircraft crashes during WW2 around the Werkendam area of Holland.

Now that I have studied the information available - It seems that Eric’s body was not recovered until the 5th August (12 days after the crash) I can imagine access to the crash site would have been difficult for all but Germans (too many weapons and such like for recycling by the Resistance). I suspect that it was only during the short night that the Resistance had opportunity to search for the crew and equipments or tragically the accidental discovery of crew remains during the normal working day of the farmers. Certainly on the night of the crash the Resistance would be busy trying to save the life of the wireless operator - the only survivor. I would imagine too that some of the crew may well have been thrown out on impact and that the aircraft may well have broken apart with the tail section separating from the main fuselage. There were 6 KIA in total that night. It took until the 25th March 1943 some 7 months later to account for the nearly the whole crew. No mention of finding the body of the flight engineer Frank Dobson?
The crew were

Sgt Eric Harold Cooper, 1223659, Rear Gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Nationality : United Kingdom, KIA 24 July 1942, Aged 21
Sgt Denis Frank Dobson, 539408, Flight Engineer, Royal Air Force, Nationality : United Kingdom, KIA 24 July 1942
Sgt H C Fairhall, POW 23 July 1942
Sgt John Brown Fleming, R/123282, Air Gunner, Royal Canadian Air Force, Nationality : Canadian, KIA 24 July 1942, Aged 21
Plt/Off Jack Dempsey Peel, 115123, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Nationality : United Kingdom, KIA 24 July 1942
Sgt Frederick Arthur William Thorne, 550874, Royal Air Force, Nationality : United Kingdom, KIA 24 July 1942, Aged 22
FS Peter John Withers, 924720, Observer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Nationality : United Kingdom, KIA 24 July 1942, Aged 20
4720, Observer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Nationality : United Kingdom, KIA 24 July 1942, Aged 20
The following translation by Kitty will help to bring it all together-;

The Dutch -


6) 24 juni 1942- Short Stirling. W7567, 214 squ

Crash op de polder van landbouwer Salomon Glerum. In de nacht van 23 op 24 juli 1942, om 02.00 uur stortte een Brits vliegtuig neer nabij de boerderij van Sal Gle­rum nabij de polder Kroon en Zalm. Alleen de gewonde marconist Chyriel Fairhall overleefde de crash en kreeg medische hulp van dokter Schols in Werkendam. Daarna werd hij gevangen genomen door de Duitsers. De piloot zat verkoold in het wrak. E.H. Cooper (1223659) werd 5 augustus 1942 door Maarten van Elzelingen, die aan de Loze Stoep woonde, gevonden. Drie weken later vond Maarten het volgende, onbekende stoffelijk overschot. Bij het lichaam werd alleen een sigarettenkoker met de inscriptie F.A.W.T. gevonden. Als onbekende Engelse mili­tair werd het stoffelijk overschot begraven op 29 augus­tus. Gezien de initialen F.A.W. T. Thorne, was men toch vrijwel zeker dat het hier ging om een Stirling beman­ningslid. 25 februari 1943 werd opnieuw een stoffelijk overschot gevonden door Salomon Glerum. Het was J.B. Flemins (1123282). Op 25 maart 1943 werd het laatste bemanningslid bij het riet snijden gevon­den. De ‘Dog tag’ wordt op het stoffelijk overschot van ‘924720 C.E.P.J. Withers RAF gevonden. Zij zijn begraven in rij 8/2 tot en met 8/7 op de algemene begraafplaats Werkendam.


 The English -

Crash on the polders of farmer Salomon Glerum.  During the night of the 23rd to the 24th of July 1942 at 2 AN a british aircraft crashed near the farm of Sal Glerum near the polder Kroon and Zalm (crown and salmon).

Only the injured marconist (wireless operator)Chyriel Fairhall survived the crash and received medical attention from doctor Schols in Werkendam.

Afterwards he was taken prisoner by the Germans.  The charred remains of the pilot were in the wreckE.H> Cooper (1223659) was found on the 5th August 1942 by  Maarten van Elzelingen, who lived at the Loze Stoep.

Three weeks later, Maarten found the next, unknown body.   The only thing found with the body was a sigarette case with the inscription F.A.W.T.   The remains were buried as an unknown English soldier on the 29th August.

Given the initials F.A.W.T Thorne, they were relatively certain that the body was that of a Stirling crew member.

On the 25th February 1943 another body was found by Salomon Glerum. It was J.B. Flemins (1123282). On March 25th, 1943 the last crewmember was found during the cutting of the reeds. 

The dog tag was found on the remains of ‘ 924720 C.E.P.J. Withers RAF.

They were buried in row 8/2 to and including 8/7 on the general cemetery of Werkendam.

Richard Hallam's research concludes:
Attached map says it all:
The Stirling could make about 250MPH / 400KPH
The bomb loading for the survivor aircraft was some had incendiaries others had High Explosive.
It would make sense for B-US to turn back to base having been crippled by the night fighter.
Many thanks to 'Dick' Richard Hallam, nephew of Sgt Eric Cooper who has spent many hours researching this subject.

The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book



Hi Dick,
Many thanks for contacting me, I,m always willing to help people or relative how lost a soldier in WWII,
Sgt. Eric Harold Cooper, was the reargunner on Striling W7567  214 Squadron who lost on July 24th 1942.

The plane crashed at 2.21 Hrs (pm) on a Polder of the S. Glerum  at Werkendam  Holland.

The plane was shot down by a nightfighter, Hptm. Herbert Bönsch  stab III./NJG2  is was his 11th victory...

Hauptmann Herbert Bonsch of III./NJG 2, On the night of 31 Jul/1 Aug he was patrolling in his 'personal' JU-88, with two ME-109s of his squadron.

They spotted a lone Halifax bomber making landfall over the Dutch coast.

One of the ME-109s stood off whilst the other two aircraft attacked. The Halifax was raked stern to nose and wingtip to wingtip; the mid-upper gun turret took a direct hit, killing gunner Mac McAuley. The rear gunner, US citizen PO Sam Glasgow of Wallace NC shouted for the pilot, PO Ron Waite to dive to port - who responded sufficiently quickly for the JU-88, attacking from the rear, to enter his field range. Glasgow scored a direct hit on Hauptmann Bonsch's aircraft which was seen to plunge to earth. The attacking ME-109 was damaged by Mac McAuley before he died. This aircraft returned to base and reported the circumstances of the death of Hauptmann's crew at the hands of a Halifax rear gunner. They believed the Halifax sufficiently damaged to have crashed into the North Sea - but although all instruments (inc. the ASI) were lost, and flying controls badly damaged, the Halifax remained airborne and the surviving crew returned to England and baled out successfully. Navigator Canadian Bob Poole had been injured in the battle - shrapnel had opened his wrist to the bone; he rejected morphine so that he could better plot a dead-reckoned route back across the North Sea. At debrief, their story was treated with incredulity - RAF intelligence at the time was that Luftwaffe fighter pilots were forbidden to attack lone aircraft in pairs or more. It beggars belief that despite their incredulity, the debriefing hierachy released the story to the press - and all daily papers & the radio carried the story the next day. Eventually, in 1981, Dutch author/historian Hans Onderwater, reconciled the crew's version of the events with the Luftwaffe's record of the battle.

Later, in the last week of 1994, Hauptmann Bonsch, his crew and aircraft were discovered in new building foundation excavations (this, despite German authorities in 1942, telling the crew's families that the bodies had been recovered from the aircraft and buried).

This story was widely covered in the British National Press on New Year's Eve, 1994.