In 1942 Sydney and Adelaide Copping of Southend UK received a telegram saying their son was missing in action. For decades, until their own death, the couple believed their beloved son had perished in an aircraft crash in North Africa.
After the discovery of the aircraft wreck deep in the Egyptian Sahara by a Polish oil exploration team in May, plans are under way to search for the remains of 24-year-old Flight Sergeant Denis Copping. From photos of the wreck scene, it is clear Copping made a forced landing on the hard rocks and sand, damaging his aircraft. Other evidence suggests he survived the crash, probably uninjured, and attempted to contact help by removing the radio. The survival kit has also been removed.
On June 28 1942, Copping and another airman of the RAF's 260 Squadron were ordered to fly two damaged Kittyhawks from a British airbase in northern Egypt for repair, but it seems he lost his bearings and was never seen again. The crash site is 200 miles from the nearest town and Copping appears to have set off from the site after remaining there for an unknown period of time. A parachute appears to have been used to construct a makeshift shelter.
William Pryor-Bennett, Flight Sergeant Denis Copping’s nephew who runs a cafe in Kinsale, County Cork, said in a report in the UK Mail Online
that 'The discovery of my uncle's plane has been more of a shock than I thought it would be after all this time.' Mr Pryor-Bennett, 62, is the son of Edna, Flt Sgt Copping's sister.
Captain Paul Collins, British defence attaché to Egypt, confirmed a search would be mounted for Copping’s remains but admitted it was ‘extremely unlikely’ to be successful.
Most likely the spot will be marked as a war grave after the aircraft is recovered by RAF Museum at Hendon, hopefully before looters get there first.