Despite a “comfortable” descent, Copier hurt his leg when he landed and before he could bury his parachute an elderly Belgian civilian approached. The agent had been briefed to shoot anyone who interfered and reached for his pistol but underwent a change of heart and asked to be taken to the nearest British or American unit. Later he told his interrogators that he would have pursued his mission had he been able to find his luggage. He seems to have landed near Edegem (Antwerp) but this part of the M.I.5 file is not easily legible.
Copier was taken to the Belgian’s house and on the way noticed several onlookers. He used the walk to dispose of his ammunition and to tear up his coding instructions but retained his pistol, saying later that he did not want a child to find it. He was given a cup of coffee at the old man’s house, then the police arrived to take him away. They in turn handed him over to the US 66th AAA Brigade where he was first interrogated.
Somerville and Hardy’s combat report gave no reason to suppose that any of the Ju 188's crew might have survived but in fact all four parachuted successfully. While three of them were quickly rounded up, Hauck apparently remained at large until the 27th. In what may be a reference to their capture, Fred Hislop (then serving with an RAF Repair and Salvage Unit) wrote:
Although Diest was some way back from the front line, it was not always quiet... One night we heard what we thought was a Mosquito night-fighter, with several bursts of firing. We later heard that a German aircraft had been shot down, the crew escaping by parachute. They were captured and kept temporarily in the local prison.
News that the four had been taken unhurt was teleprinted to London from HQ 2nd Tactical Air Force on the evening of the 28th and, with two short follow-ups, covered most of the essentials: aircraft type, unit and markings; unit strength, base, time of departure and mission; crew ranks, names and roles; how they were shot down; and their Kommandoführer’s name. A three-page preliminary interrogation report was completed next day by Squadron Leader Guy Jepson, amongst its conclusions:
The morale of the crew was not high, possibly through their former association with that rather dreary Geschwader KG 2. As was to be expected, however, their initial security was exceptional.
In England by 7 February, Hauck, Wuttge and Großmann were telling their stories to fellow prisoners — and the concealed microphones of the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre.
Hauck’s Ju 188 came down at 19.45 GMT on 23 January 1945, just east of Badstraat, a lane on the south eastern outskirts of Diest, Belgium. Second Tactical Air Force’s Air Technical Intelligence personnel were on site by 12.45 next afternoon to examine the wreckage.
There was little to see. The aircraft had dived at high speed into waterlogged ground, forming a crater which filled with water. No operational markings could be ascertained, the only things visible were the outer wing sections and “other minor portions.” Camouflage was described as:
Upper surfaces mottled, light green predominant on faint background of light blue/grey/mauve. Undersurfaces spray painted black.
This sounds like typical German night bomber camouflage for the late war period. Two other 4./KG 200 Ju 188s, photographed at the end of the war, had meander patterns on their upper surfaces and the undersides of one of them show a black meander over a pale background.
Evidence was found of one ETC 1000 and one ETC 500 bomb rack; the ventral MG 81Z was discovered and a single MG 131 was lying loose along with some of its ammunition; parts of the dorsal turret were also seen.
As for electronic equipment, there were pieces of a FuG 10P, the FuG 101A radio altimeter and wiring in the wings though to be for tail-warning antennae. In the crushed part of the wreckage were two snap hooks with a length of mine parachute shroud. Nothing was salvageable, so the wreck was abandoned.
On 26 January Copier’s controllers expressed regret over the loss of the “gallant crew” of his aircraft and their “hope that dropping of CORNELIUS was effected.” They were not expecting him to start transmitting before 15 February and so on the 5th and 9th they were still discussing procedures and frequencies. It is not known when they finally gave up hope but Copier was returned to the custody of the Dutch authorities (via Croydon Airport and Belgium) on 29 April 1945. His spectacles, which had been undergoing repair, followed on 15 May.
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