Stirling W7531 LS-F (for Freddie)
The second MacRobert's Reply was another Stirling, this time W7531, and it carried its famous name until it was shot down over Middelfart, Denmark on 18th May 1942.
On the night of May 17th, 1942, MacRobert's Reply was one of approximately 60 bombers that took off from many different RAF bases to take part in mine laying operations in the Danish Sound. The code name for the operation was 'Gardening', and the area for the W7531 to target was the 'Daffodil' region (the southerly entrance to Øresund). It flew over the Norwegian coastline and from there in a clockwise circle via Malmo towards Øresund and then, while reducing height to just 200ft for the bomb run, it was lit up by searchlights from the mighty German cruiser (Prinz Eugen) which was on its way from Norway to Kiel through the Great Belt, and not identified by intelligence reports prior to the mission.
The Stirling was first damaged by anti-aircraft fire from the Prinz Eugen and then sustained additional damage from anti-aircraft guns on board other smaller ships in the Sound alerted to the aircraft's presence. Logger ‘Hagen’ from HSFL Kopenhagen fired rounds with a machine gun, while Logger ‘Königsberg’ from the same unit fired rounds of 2cm anti-aircraft shells and rounds with a machine gun. Further rounds of 7.5cm and rounds of 2cm were fired from shore positions as well. MacRobert's Reply was hit multiple times.
On fire and with few controls working, the pilot Squadron Ldr. John Hall DFC headed due west and tried desperately to reach the North Sea and the British rescue services, while the crew fought the on-board fires. W7531 flew towards the Danish Jutland peninsula and, with a few miles left to go to safety, was fatally hit by anti-aircraft fire from batteries on the Little Belt bridge separating Jutland from the island of Funen. On the 1Km long bridge over the Little Belt, the Germans had stationed light flak (3./lei Flak Abt. 844) and that actual gun battery is shown above standing on the same bridge; they were credited in bringing down the mighty bomber. Much more on this episode will be in the book
The aircraft containing those brave young crew members crashed into Gals Klint forest near the town of Middelfart in Denmark at 02.10am on that fateful morning killing all on board except for the wireless operator who was miraculously thrown clear still strapped into his steel chair. He was suffering burns and other injuries and was in a very poor way until help arrived from local townspeople sympathetic to the allies to whom we owe enormous gratitude as they risked their lives by hiding him from the German army and treating his wounds. (Much more covered in the book....)
The people of Middelfart have never forgotten those brave young men fighting for the liberation of Denmark as you will see on the next page.
See the next page for more about the crash of MacRoberts Reply W7531.
Please visit the Facebook page below for an overview of the MacRobert's Reply story and my father's involvement.