23.07.1942 No. 234 Squadron Spitfire Vb AB864 P/O. Thalbitzer
Date: 23rd July 1942 (Thursday)
Unit: No. 234 Squadron (10 Group)
Type: Spitfire Vb
Base: RAF Portreath, Cornwall
Location: Near Plouescat, France
Pilot: P/O. Jorgen Billy Thalbitzer 110594 RAFVR Age 22. Evaded
REASON FOR LOSS:
Adopted the name of John Thompson during his service as his family were still in occupied Denmark.
Taking off at 15:20 hrs for a sweep between Plousecat and Guissény the unit encountered flak and light machine gun fire near Landerneau as well as encountering enemy aircraft.
The squadron lost four pilots during this operation, apart from P/O. Thalbitzer who crashed into high tension cables near Plouescat, France. P/O. Thalbitzer manage to eade capture for some 14 days. Then taken PoW and initially sent to Stalag Luft Sagan where he worked with Lt/Cdr. James Brian Buckley DSC (a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot) who was organising escapes from the camp. They were both sent to Oflag XXI-B in Poland.
On the 05th March 1943 he escaped along with Buckley in a mass escape through a tunnel.
They first travelled to Stettin hoping to find a Danish or Swedish ship which might be able to take them to neutral Sweden. However they were unable to locate any suitable ships, and after narrowly avoiding recapture, they 'jumped' onto a train bound for Rostock. Here they also found no suitable ships.
From Rostock they decided to head for Copenhagen and reached the city after passing through numerous identity checks using forged papers created in the PoW camp. In Copenhagen, Thalbitzer contacted his father, Billy, and through the Danish underground forces, it was arranged for Thalbitzer and Buckley to make the crossing to Sweden using a canoe.
They departed the Danish coast at 22:00 hrs on the 28th March 1943, but were never seen alive again. Thalbitzer's body was later recovered, but Buckley's was never found.
Thalbitzer was first buried on the 7th July 1943 at Tibirke churchyard, however after his body was identified, by means of his ring with the family coat-of-arms, his urn was interred on the 31st July 1943 at Vestre Cemetery.
He is also commemorated on the Maidenhead Register, a memorial for non-Commonwealth nationals killed on British Military Service during World War II.
The others lost from the Squadron:
Spitfire Vb AD454 Flown by Sgt. W.H.T. Farmer 570023 RAFVR Taken PoW No: 25657 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf (344)
Spitfire Vb AD541 Flown by Sgt. David Gordon Fuggle 1333176 RAFVR - Missing - believed killed.
Spitfire Vb AR285 Flown by P/O. John Dorset Webster NZ/405351 RNZAF - Missing - believed killed.
P/O. Jorgen Billy Thalbitzer. Copenhagen Western Cemetery (Vestre). Area 5. Row 27. Grave 12. Next of kin details not available, are you able to assist?
Sgt. David Gordon Fuggle. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 83. No further details on next of kin - are you able to assist?
P/O. John Dorset Webster. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 117. The son of Lewis Dorset Webster and of Adele Marie Webster (née Avery), of New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand. 406 Flying hours logged and on his 91st operation.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Wikipedia and also the research by Errol Martyn wth his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Cenotaph, Weekly News of New Zealand, Wikipedia, other sources as quoted below:
Right: Several publication that mention this Danish pilot, one that we know of dedicated to him, written by Jorgen Thalbitzer