Sigfred Johannes Christophersen (1914 – 1943)
Sigfred Johannes Christophersen was the son of market gardener Johannes Ruder Christophersen and Ane Cathrine Christophersen (née Paaskesen), born in Denmark.
He joined the Danish Royal Guards in 1935, but is accepted for flying training at the Army Flying School from 1 April 1937.
He was discharged in September 1938 and was unemployed for six months. He then spent some time working in Germany as a gardener.
In January 1940 he volunteered to become a pilot in the Finno-Russian Winter War, but it is not clear if he actually was engaged in operational duties before the end of hostilities in March 1940. He returned to Denmark and worked for a while at the German occupied Værløse Air Station.
He left Denmark at the end of 1940 accompanied by Jørgen Thalbitzer, who is later to become a fighter pilot killed in 1943, while in Royal Air Force service.
They travelled to Istanbul, Turkey, and from there to Cyprus, Suez, and Cape Town to London. They arrive in London in April 1941.
Christophersen and Thalbitzer volunteer for the Royal Air Force at the British Air Attaché in Istanbul. In London Christophersen accepted an offer by British Intelligence to be trained in radio-telegraphy. Without knowing it at the time he has been enrolled in the Special Intelligence Service (SIS).
He is coupled with Lieutenant Thomas Christian Sneum to be sent to Denmark as British agents.
In September 1941 at 1946 hours, a Whitley of No. 138 Squadron captained by F/Sgt A.W. Reimer (R.61467) took off from Newmarket bound for Denmark. On board are Sneum and Christophersen also known as Esmond and Columbus. The aircraft crossed the Danish coast near Esbjerg, and flak is encountered.
There target is reached and the two agents are successfully dropped near Holbæk. An attempt to drop the agents the night before had been aborted due to clouds and heavy rain.
Sneum and Christophersen never succeed together as agents, since they never really get to trust each other. According to different sources Christophersen seems to be the one to blame. In the end of February 1942 Christophersen is so compromised that he is ordered to leave the country by Sneum.
On a night in March 1942, Christophersen attempted to cross the ice covered waters between Stevns in Denmark and the peninsular Falsterbo in Sweden. He is accompanied by his brother Thorbjørn Christophersen and another member of the resistance Kaj Oxlund. Due to bad weather Sigfred is the only one to barely survive the crossing being picked up by Swedish fishermen.
He is imprisoned in Malmø, Sweden, and interrogated by the authorities. During the interrogation he reveals many details on his whereabouts and activities in Denmark. This combined with the fact that Kaj Oxlund’s name is revealed by his death compromises Sneum who is still on the ground in Denmark. Both agents had used Oxlund’s flat as hideout. Sneums flees Denmark in the end of March 1942.
In mid-June 1942 Christophersen, Helvard and Sneum are transferred to England via Bromma and Leuchars in a Lockheed Hudson. They are imprisoned in the Brixton Prison at the arrival.
On release, Christophersen begins pilot training in the Royal Air Force.
On 10 August 1943, he was killed in a training accident. On a night exercise, he is the pilot of Blenheim Mk. I (K7050) from No. 12 (P) Advanced Flying Unit. Loosing sight of the flair path for the aerodrome he tries to land at a Q site, but cannot control the aircraft that crashed and burned out completely near Buttesford.. The crew of three was killed.
All the evidence available led investigators to determine that he had lost sight of Bottesford Airfield, where he was supposed to land, and attempted to put down at one of the decoy sites instead. It was a moonlit night, so visibility should not have been a factor. But, for all his flying experience in his homeland, Canada and the UK, he had only spent one hour of night flying in the Blenheim.
Pilot Officer Sigfred Johannes Christophersen is buried at Grantham Cemetery. He married Mary Anita Blackford Wood a short time before his death. She remarried in 1962
Compiled with the assistance of Shaun Noble