About Charles Parish    by Helge Christiansen.                På dansk                Updated:  12 DEC 2010

Charles Woodbine Parish was the Pilot of the plane that crashed near Kongsmark during World War II.
On 8-9 September 1940 he performed a feat that resulted in his being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Royal Air Force.

At that time he was the Second Pilot of a Wellington plane based on the Mildenhall Airfield in Suffolk, England, and they were to bomb Boulogne in the north of France.
A total of 133 planes of the types Blenheim, Hampden, Whitley and Wellington targeted Hamburg, Bremen, Emden, Ostende and Boulogne. The biggest unit was 49 Hampdens that were to bomb the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg. 8 planes were lost: 3 Blenheims on the Ostende raid, 2 Blenheims and 2 Wellingtons on the Boulogne raid and 1 Hampden on the Hamburg raid. 26 airmen were killed and 4 became Prisoners of War, while 1 survived a crash in a remarkable way.

The following story appeared in the Daily Mail on 21 September 1940:



"Here is one of the most amazing stories of the war. It was told to me yesterday by a young Pilot Officer, sole survivor of the crew of a heavy bomber that crashed
into the Channel when returning from a raid on Germany last week.

The machine was struck by lightning, one engine caught fire and the other failed. The pilot officer saved himself by swimming seven miles in darkness, in his "Mae
West" flying jacket, to the English coast. This is his story in his own words:

"We were flying at 6,000 feet when we ran into a storm, thunder and lightning. We went up to 9,000 feet and turned on the de-icers.

Suddenly there was a terrific clap of thunder right over us, and for a few seconds we were completely out of control.

The aircraft was badly iced up, and we began losing height at the rate of 2,000 feet a minute, though the nose was up.

Because of the thickness of the ice on the windscreen we were flying blind, and just as we turned course to head for home, the port engine packed up. We tried
the de-icers, but without effect. The rear gunner then reported that the engine was on fire,

but this did not worry us much, and we went on until we saw searchlights, which meant the coast of England.

At this moment the other engine conked out. We were flying at 7,000 feet. The Captain decided we'd get over the coast and then jump.

Soon, he asked the rear gunner if he thought we were over land and both the rear gunner and the navigator agreed we were, though we were still flying blind.

The Captain then ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft.

The Captain and I went on. We were now down to 4,000 feet. The

ice had gone and I saw searchlights about five to ten miles away on the starboard side. The compass was quite hopeless and no earthly use. I thought we were flying south along the coast.

The Captain ordered me to jump. We wished each other "Good Luck" and just before I jumped I yelled to him, "Turn Right". The parachute opened alright and going
down I could see the searchlights about seven miles away.

When I landed in the sea I must have gone down a pretty good depth, and came up with a terrific rush. In fact, I practically "took off", as my parachute dragged me
along at a terrific speed.

I lay flat on my tummy and "planed" across the rough water. I jettisoned the chute and flying boots and began to swim.

The searchlights had gone out, so I tried to guide myself by the North Star. I kept it on my right, and swam towards the coast. My "Mae West" was very useful.

After about an hour the searchlights came on again, and I swam towards them. I swam for a long time. Twice I almost gave up but something kept me going.

When dawn came I saw that I was about three-quarters of a mile from shore. I took off my trousers and made a last effort, as I was about all in. I reached the shore opposite a pillbox.

I was too weak to pull myself out of the water and was rolling about half in and half out of the sea.

I shouted several times, and at last some soldiers rushed out of the pillbox and picked me up.

The soldiers were very good to me. I am sorry to say my five colleagues were lost."

That is the end of his account to The Daily Mail.


The 5 other airmen are presumed to have drowned and apart from Sergeant Brown they are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Parish reached land at Clacton on Sea in Essex, about 20 km south of Harwich, so even if The Daily Mail writes that it was in the Channel, it is better to say that it
was in the sourthernmost part of the North Sea.


After a short leave, Charles was back flying with a new crew to bomb Berlin on the 23rd of September. On his thirtieth raid he was frostbitten in one foot, and had to
spend some time in the R.A.F. Hospital at Ely. Having finished one tour, Charles was posted to an Operational Training Unit in Suffolk.

In the autumn of 1942, Charles requested to be posted to an operational squadron. Then he joined 75 Squadron in Mildenhall and completed 5 more operations in Wellingtons. On 11-12 October 1942 he flew Wellington BK206 over Danish waters to lay mines. In late October he was posted to RAF Newmarket to convert to
Stirlings. On 21 October he started some familiarization flying in the new Stirlings which had just been delivered.


After 11 hours and 15 minutes of flying by day and 4 hours and 5 minutes by night he was sent on his first bombing raid in the new Stirling, a 9 hour trip to Turin,
followed by 18 more to such targets as Berlin, Stuttgart, St. Lorient, Hamburg, Wilhemshaven, Cologne, Munich, Frankfurt, Mannheim and Stettin.

On raid on Stettin on 20.-21.  April 20 1943 Parish flew as the Captain of Stirling R9267, 7 Squadron. He was the leader of the Pathfinders and he and Navigator Vance were the most experienced airmen in the Pathfinder squadron. Their mission was to mark the target with flares 30 seconds before the first bomb run, circle and make
a second pass to drop high explosive bombs, again to mark the target for the subsequent bombers.


However, when they approached the target on the second bomb run one of the starboard engines was hit by flak, so they headed for their base in England. They
dropped their bombs on an airfield in North Germany. Over West Zealand they were attacked by 2 German night fighters and at 02.00 hours the Pilot of 7/NJG3 in his Me110 shot them down near Kongsmark. 

Charles Parish and 6 other crew members perished. It was Parish’s 54th bombing raid, and he had only 6 raids left before he could have left operational flying for the second time.

Only Donald Smith bailed out in time.

In 1993 the crew of the plane that was shot down was commemorated with a memorial stone.