The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. P Copeland
Percy Copeland was born on 20th July 1917 in Morden, Surrey and was a civil servant at the Air Ministry when he joined the RAFVR about July 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot.
Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his training and joined 616 Squadron at Leconfield in early 1940.
Over Dunkirk on 1st June he damaged a He111. On 26th August he was shot down in a surprise attack by a Me109. He made a forced-landing in Spitfire K9827 and it burned out at Crundale House Farm, Wye. Copeland was wounded and admitted to Ashford Hospital.
On 27th September he claimed a Me109 probably destroyed and two others damaged. On 14th October 1940 he was posted to 66 Squadron at West Malling, moving ten days later to 73 Squadron at Castle Camps.
He married Elsie Broomhall in October 1940.
Copeland joined 151 Squadron at Digby on 7th November. On the 9th he and F/O KH Blair intercepted a Do17 on a pre-dawn sortie over the east coast, off Skegness.
Although they claimed it as destroyed, it reached Gilze-Rijen with two of the crew wounded.
On the night of 10th/11th May 1941 Copeland destroyed a He111 in a Defiant of 151 Squadron. The enemy aircraft crashed at Upchurch, Kent.
Commissioned in November 1941, Copeland was posted to the Middle East in early 1942 and he served with 250 Squadron from 8th April 1942 as a Flight Commander.
On 15th May Copeland’s aircraft was damaged by flak and he was obliged to make a forced-landing in the desert. He rejoined the squadron next day. On 15th June he destroyed two SM79s 130 miles north of Gambut. They were attacking a convoy that was en route to Malta.
On 26th June he was flying one of three Kittyhawks of the squadron, as part of an escort for Bostons west of Mersa Matruh. The Kittyhawks were attacked by Mc202s. Copeland failed to return from this operation. He was then a Flight Lieutenant.
He was 25 and is remembered on the Alamein Memorial.
He was awarded the DFC
(gazetted 27th July 1943) backdated to the day of his loss.
Photographs courtesy of Colonel C R Romberg RA, British Embassy Cairo