To drop their torpedo they had to reduce speed and descend to about 40ft above the sea. Doing so made them ‘sitting ducks’ as it was a clear day.

Birch feathered the propeller (rotating the blades to reduce drag and improve gliding ability) on the damaged engine, dropped his torpedo and managed to turn the plane towards the sea. At this point they were forced to belly land in the water a few hundred yards from Prinz Eugen.

The landing was very successful and the four crew members clambered onto a wing with Bill returning to release two homing pigeons which were part of their distress aid package.
Goldfish Club Badge
Membership only on Ditching in Water

The emergency life-raft would not release and they could not reach the life-jackets. Sid, who could not swim a stroke, walked calmly off the end of the wing and the others followed him. As the air attack went on Bill, with Birchs help, kepSid afloat as they watched their plane sink nose first after only minutes. At that time of year  the water temperature near Lista is less than 10oC so hypothermia would have set in very quickly.

A German Flying Boat flew over them so they ducked, expecting a machine gun volley.

They would learn later that he was identifying their position for the German destroyer to pick them up.

With the RAF attack and German defence still carrying on above and around them – a newspaper article at the time quoted a pilot involved as saying that the British and German aircraft presence was swarming "like flies around a jam pot" – they remained in the water for about a quarter of an hour until the destroyer took them on board. A sailor threw down a rope which was attacheto Sids waist and hwas hauled up. No more than seconds had passed following the removal of the rope, when he overbalanced and fell back into the water. Bill, who was both freezing and exhausted himself, had to swim to where his best buddy was floundering and once again attach the rope to his waist so he could be hauled, this time successfully (with the aid of a boat hook), onto the deck.

The others held onto boat hooks and were pulled up as they were too fatigued to climb the ladder that was lowered for them.

They were the first prisoners the ship had taken and so were regarded as quite a novelty. The

ships crew stole souvenirs, such as uniform badges, but generally treated them well, providing

Schnapps and German bread. After a very thorough stripped medical examination by a doctor

who had trained at Cambridge University, they were led to a warm room where they were first

wrapped in blankets and then left alone for some time to give them a chance to recover from their

ordeal. Sid later recalled to his son that once dried off, warmed up and re-clothed, the German crew

kept offering fruit from a bowl. They waived this away as they were intent on talking over the events

but the Germans couldnt understand the refusal.

This was the first wartime propaganda they were to encounter; their captors had been convinced that Britain was on its knees and that fresh fruit was a rare luxury.

The destroyer took the captured crew to Christiansands where, after one night, they were

sent to Oslo by train and then flown to Berlin. From there they were sent by train to a transit camp for captured RAF personnel within the Prisoner of War camp Stalag Luft III at Sagan in Eastern Germany (now Żagań in Poland), 100 miles south-east of Berlin. Arriving on 25th May, 11 days after being shot down, Bill became Luft PoW number 792.

Cutting from the Derbyshiire Advertiser
19 June 1942