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Flt Sgt Copping's P-40 From The Egyptian Desert

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  • Bruce
    Independent analyst
    • Jan 2000
    • 10226

    We can't know - there were at least three proposals to repatriate the aircraft, and for whatever reason a particular route was chosen. The fundamental problem was the Arab Spring, which led to a change of government, and a change of approach in the country. None of us could have foreseen it. I think its fairly obvious now that the aeroplane will stay where it is, whatever we think about it. A missed opportunity - but perhaps one that was never going to materialise, whatever happened.

    Comment

    • QldSpitty
      Rank 5 Registered User
      • Apr 2006
      • 2628

      Is it me or does every recovery from a third world country end this way..
      "If the C.O. ask's you to be Tail End Charlie...just shoot him!!!....A Piece of Cake.
      http://spitfirea58-27.blogspot.com.au/

      Comment

      • Fournier Boy
        Rank 5 Registered User
        • Mar 2007
        • 1047

        Very well said Bruce

        FB

        Comment

        • TonyL1962
          Rank 5 Registered User
          • Mar 2014
          • 84

          The aircraft is where it should be - on display in Egypt, at a museum in the area of the conflict in which it participated (even if the 'restoration' leaves much to be desired). It seems rather presumptuous to assume that in the 21st century a western country can just remove historic artifacts from someone else's sovereign territory. The official Egyptian policy is no removal of historic artefacts - and it would have been an international scandal of note if the RAFM had removed the aircraft from the country illegally. That surely was completely foreseen and I find it shocking the number of people on this forum who seem to think it would have been alright to have the aircraft spirited away to the UK - it's abandoned in someone else's country, the days of taking stuff we want are long past!

          If the aircraft had remained much longer at the crash site it would have been looted either for illegally-saleable artefacts or for scrap - later photos show some significant damage in the cockpit. So leaving it there was rapidly becoming not an option, and the RAFM funded a recovery and took what was in reality a very long shot on the possibility of obtaining the aircraft - well done to them, it got recovered, but it's a pity that they (or other people) provided no advice on the restoration/conservation of the airframe if it stayed at El Alamein.

          What seems to be forgotten is that WW2 in North Africa was not an Egyptian war, it was a war between the then superpowers who romped back and forth along the north African coastal plain causing absolute chaos for the local populations. From an Egyptian point of view this is not a war that they take much 'ownership' over or can be expected to expend much effort over commemorating or preserving - it's interest to them is in the attraction to foreign tourists from the nations who participated in the war, who are in a minority to those interested in the ancient Egyptian relics which are also the more historically important relics from the perspective of the evolution of human society (so that's where both Egyptian and most foreign funding go). There's a limited museum at El Alamein and to do better requires better funding - I would suggest that this should be funded from the nations whose participation in the war it commemorates, and who have greater investment in remembering the conflict. This development of local museums would be far more worthy than taking artifacts off for display in London, or wherever.

          Comment

          • Propstrike
            Rank 5 Registered User
            • Mar 2004
            • 4010

            That is a pretty good summary.

            Comment

            • RAFRochford
              Rank 5 Registered User
              • Feb 2006
              • 916

              TonyL1962;

              That's probably the most balanced and sensible comment I've read so far on this entire thread. There isn't really any part of your summary that can be disagreed with. Understandably, this saga has seen many emotions and opinions expressed. Your words, for me at least, has put it all in perspective. Maybe the RAFM could fund a new information board for the exhibit explaining Flt Lt Copping's connection to the airframe, and gift it to the museum. Just a thought.

              Best regards;
              Steve
              (Grandson of a Desert Rat and ex LRDG...who once told me that the "other side" used hapless locals as range finders on their positions in North Africa. As you rightly said, it wasn't even their war!)
              Last edited by RAFRochford; 1st January 2018, 09:39.

              Comment

              • David Burke
                Rank 5 Registered User
                • Jan 2000
                • 10031

                I think there is some kind of perception that Egypt has no money ! Reality is a bit different ! They have a massive fleet of F-16s and AH-64s . All of which will be supported by FMS from the U.S government. The easiest solution would be for a US company to sponsor the museum - have a purpose built building made to house the Spitfire and P-40.
                The P-40 could be brought to the U.K -'unrestored' commercially and returned to be displayed in the new building.

                Comment

                • stuart gowans
                  Not a real Spitfire
                  • Dec 2005
                  • 2005

                  Even in this country finding an RAF A/C on your land doesn't convey right of ownership, SOC or not, so why would that be any different for another country?

                  Personally I would have thought that pre hostilities (of a more recent time) the RAFM would have made arrangement with the Egyptian government before sanctioning a recovery, had they not as you suggest, then clearly more heads needed to roll, but we will probably never know.

                  I don't believe that the primary reason for the "restoration" of ww2 artifacts (or indeed those from any other era) should be the encouragement of tourism, and clearly they have no interest in the history of this particular A/C, other wise they might have placed a notice board nearby themselves; did they ask for help in the restoration process, again we will probably never know, personally I doubt it.

                  Is it displayed in the correct place, well that is subjective, like many I believe it should have been conserved, and displayed as found, not just as a memorial to Sgt Copping, but to a wider conflict ; it must have taken courage to fight in such an inhospitable environment.
                  Why be your own worse critic, that's what the forum is for.

                  Comment

                  • mmitch
                    Member
                    • Mar 2003
                    • 1753

                    Meanwhile Sgt. Copping's bones lie in the desert uncared for and unburied by either government....
                    mmitch

                    Comment

                    • jack windsor
                      Rank 5 Registered User
                      • Dec 2008
                      • 924

                      First a happy and peaceful New Year, and to save a trawl thru this topic, can anyone explain what did we exchange the Spitfire for? also how long did the P.40 belong to us after the crash landing, before we lost control of it?

                      regards,
                      jack...


                      this post may contain grammatical errors...

                      Comment

                      • Bruce
                        Independent analyst
                        • Jan 2000
                        • 10226

                        Tony,

                        I think the presumption that the RAFM were seeking to 'spirit the aircraft away' is also a bit off. I can assure you that was not the case. My information is that they continued to work towards a diplomatic agreement up until very recently. There is a lot of opinion in this thread, but facts are quite hard to come by.

                        Jack, as I said only in the past couple of days - the Spitfire was passed to the third party organisation in payment for the dismantling and moving of the P40 from its crash location to a site of secure storage in Egypt, which completed the professionally drawn up contract. The monetary value of the aircraft was arrived at by reference to an expert in the field.

                        I quite agree with Tony that the recovery of the aircraft by the RAFM was the right course of action, and whilst I would prefer it if it had been conserved better, it has guaranteed its survival and its display - in the short term at least.

                        Comment

                        • l.garey
                          Rank 5 Registered User
                          • Feb 2006
                          • 1954

                          mmitch: Sadly we don't know whether his bones are still in the desert. At various times since 2012 we have been told the bones found by ARIDO were collected by the Egyptians and tested for DNA, and that none was found due to the age of the bones and their situation, that DNA testing WAS done but we never saw the results, that a second set of bones was found, but this was later denied. You can find all these data in the thread, but basically the information comes from ARIDO, the Defence Attache in Cairo, and (indirectly) from the Cairo pathologists. I offered to get the bones DNA tested here, but there was no follow-up, and I believed that testing would be done in Cairo, but the whole business was shrouded in mystery and we are none the wiser today. So the bones in the desert, if there are any, might not be those of Flight Sergeant Copping.
                          Laurence

                          Comment

                          • David Burke
                            Rank 5 Registered User
                            • Jan 2000
                            • 10031

                            Clearly in the preservation of anything there is always going to be a degree of commercial activity. The museum has restored the P-40 in the aim of both preserving it and encouraging visitors.

                            As has been seen over the years -no visitors means the artifacts dont get preserved and museums fail. The numbers of museums in the US and UK
                            that have failed is shocking - the Egyptian museum whatever you think about it will get more visitors and that means the staff get paid and maybe eventually the P-40 can be 'restored' again!

                            Comment

                            • Guest's Avatar
                              Guest

                              Both TonyL1962 and Bruce make good points.

                              It is true to say that the artefact was always in the 'title', as it were, of the Egyptian authorities. And it is also true to say that whichever of the three options were taken then there could have been no guarantee of the outcome, as Bruce points out.

                              However, and whilst hindsight is a truly wonderful thing, we all now know that the chosen route was not, perhaps, the wisest route. There are also questions as to due diligence, etc. Other options were on the table and viable - and almost 'ready to go'. No, they had no guaranteed outcomes either - but they 'involved' RAFM and with the possibility that the aircraft could be recovered and returned to the UK under a negotiated agreement. The worst case scenario, under that option, was that the aircraft ended up in El Alamein and, at least, safe from vandalism. On the plus side of that scenario, there would have been no cost or risk to RAFM.

                              Yes, the Arab Spring was a game changer. Especially as the Egyptian Head of Antiquities was (I think) suddenly imprisoned. But, it wasn't 'game over' if, in my view, the game had been played differently and as a long game.

                              Certainly, there is much to this story which has yet to emerge. The pile of papers on my desk attest to that. However, it is all now entirely academic and, unfortunately, the fate of the aircraft seems to have taken much greater priority than that of the fate of Flt Sgt Copping. I'm afraid that part of the story is clouded by much obfuscation, confusion and rather shamefully misleading statements, counter-statements, denials and a plain refusal to come clean about certain facts which the family rightly sought but were consistently denied.

                              There is no merit, really, in such angst over the fate of the aircraft, now. What is done is done. And I'm afraid, as well, that we are probably never likely to get answers about Flt Sgt Copping.

                              It is all very sad and unfortunate, on lots of levels. But it cannot be undone.

                              Comment

                              • J Boyle
                                With malice towards none
                                • Oct 2004
                                • 9811

                                DavidBurke

                                Your idea about having American defense contractors fund a museum in Egypt is a bit puzzling.
                                Exactly why should they? They have no more of an obligation than any other firm doing business in Egypt.
                                Using your logic why not Land Rover, Airbus, or Westland Agusta..all of which do business in the country.
                                Or perhaps the UK should fund it to make amends for prior removal of artifacts now in UK museums.
                                There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.

                                Comment

                                • TonyL1962
                                  Rank 5 Registered User
                                  • Mar 2014
                                  • 84

                                  Hi Bruce,

                                  I was in no way trying to intimate that the RAFM were really seeking to spirit the aircraft off, or attempting to try an underhand or illegal way of obtaining it. As a national museum I am absolutely certain that everything done was completely honest and above board and through correct official channels. As I see it, someone had to do something to shift the aircraft from the crash site before it was lost and the RAFM stepped up and organised a recovery to Alamein - it has been reported that there were several ways of doing this and they have been criticised for the option that they picked. Personally, I think they achieved a primary objective - the aircraft has been preserved, and not either stripped, vandalised or recovered illegally for sale to a private collector/restorer, which would have been the other likely outcomes.

                                  And other posters:

                                  That the RAFM did not finally manage to obtain the aircraft is disappointing - but really it can be placed in contest so much better at El Alamein where a visitor can look round appreciate the scale of the desert and the climate than it could ever be in a diorama in the UK. The photo of the notice board posted earlier suggests that there is further information and items recovered from the site displayed inside the museum and it might be useful to know what these are before criticising them too harshly about the inadequacy of the information. I've been to a number of UK museums where the standard of information can also be termed as poor!
                                  Last edited by TonyL1962; 1st January 2018, 17:50. Reason: add text

                                  Comment

                                  • David Burke
                                    Rank 5 Registered User
                                    • Jan 2000
                                    • 10031

                                    J Boyle

                                    Traditionally defence companies have supported projects which further relationships with clients and countries . Clearly the P-40 has a relevance both in RAF and American hands in the North Africa theatre - therefore a tiny amount of money would get it displayed better and further relations with visitors from many nations. So yes it could be a US company just as easily a UK company . Which company or what country they come from is irrelevant - however there is clearly a straightforward line from a Curtiss built American fighter aircraft to a modern Lockheed F-16 which have been a massive part of the EAF for years.

                                    In a similar vein Boeing sponsored a CH-47 Chinook exhibit in the RAFM and there is a Lockheed Martin F-35 FSM also on display . Whilst I applaud the generosity of both companies in doing so -it doesn't harm either companies reputation with the public to be seen to be supplying aircraft to the RAF when their taxes ultimately pay for them and fund jobs for US workers.

                                    As to your last statement -perhaps best if I don't engage in a discussion about people taking artifacts and indeed land from its original owners as I feel the UK and US have both got issues.
                                    Last edited by David Burke; 1st January 2018, 19:02.

                                    Comment

                                    • Rob68
                                      Rank 5 Registered User
                                      • Mar 2006
                                      • 792

                                      Qldspitty, what P40 in Malta, have I missed something? ��

                                      Comment

                                      • J Boyle
                                        With malice towards none
                                        • Oct 2004
                                        • 9811

                                        Leave the Americans out of it, after all they paid for and gave (if it was a Lend Lease aircraft and not one of the direct purchases) the UK the aeroplane in the first place.
                                        There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.

                                        Comment

                                        • Meddle
                                          Rank Bajin.
                                          • Sep 2014
                                          • 1628

                                          The worst thing that happened to that P-40 was its discovery in the first place.

                                          Comment

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