herald

Saturday 23 August 2014

Family hunts for body of WW2 pilot after his plane found crashed in Egyptian desert

THE Irish-based family of a World War II RAF pilot whose plane was found in an Egyptian desert are to launch a search for his remains.

A Polish oil worker made the astonishing discovery last month of Flt Sgt Denis Copping's crashed Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk fighter, which was so well preserved that experts were able to confirm that the pilot survived the crash and tried to walk to safety across the desert.

The pilot's nephew, William Pryor-Bennett (62), runs a cafe in Kinsale, Co Cork. He said the family are now hoping that the plane is brought to a UK museum and that the pilot's long-lost body is finally recovered.



markings

"We were absolutely astonished when we heard the details of the discovery," William told the Herald. "The condition of the plane is absolutely remarkable."

The plane's RAF markings and its desert camouflage scheme are all perfectly preserved, as was Flt Sgt Copping's parachute, which was draped near the cockpit as a make-shift shelter.

The plane's engine number plate is intact -- and the fuselage even displays where previous flak damage had been repaired.

Experts believe that, after the crash landing, the young pilot tried to walk to safety.

However, the crash site is more than 200 miles from where the Allied front line was in 1942 and, without water or supplies, it is believed he would only have covered 20-40 miles.

Now, William's son, John (30), is hoping to travel to Egypt to see if he can organise a search of the area around the crash site in an attempt to locate his great-uncle's body.

"We believe that the body must lie within a certain radius of the plane. He was a very smart young man and we believe that he would probably have rested up during the heat of the day and tried to use the stars to navigate as he walked by night," William said.

The Pryor-Bennett family relocated from Southend to Ireland more than 20 years ago and William has been running the popular Mother Hubbard Cafe in Kinsale for the past 19 years.

He is now hoping that the Egyptian authorities will give the go-ahead for his uncle's crashed plane to be salvaged.

hnews@herald.ie

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