1939-08-15

Crash site Vordingborg, Denmark
Airline British Airways
Aircraft Lockheed 10A Electra – G-AESY
Route London/Heston – Hamburg – Copenhagen – Stockholm
Crew 2 – 1 survivor
Passengers 4 – 0 survivors

 

The crash

The plane left Heston airport on schedule at 09:00. While nearing Copenhagen a fire broke out and soon the cabin was full of smoke. The pilot decided to make a forced landing in the strait between Falster and Zealand south of Vordingborg and close to the Storström bridge. The plane hit the water between 13:20 and 13:30. A cockpit window was broken and the captain was able to crawl out of the cabin. He tried to open the passenger door, but the plane sank rapidly in 17 m of water. Rescue boats soon arrived at the crash site, but the wreck was difficult to locate. It was found later in the evening. The wreck was raised the next day.
The crash report concluded that the fire was caused by leakage of gasoline from the overflow tanks, which in turn must have resulted from the overfilling of its fuel tanks. The cause of the ignition of the fuel could not be determined.

 

The mail

On board the plane was a large load of mail destined for Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The majority came from Great Britain. Mail from other countries is rare.

Number of items in my records:

  From France From Germany From Great Britain
Denmark 1 0 26
Finland 0 1 0
Norway 0 0 8
Sweden 0 0 39

Vogt mentions that a cover from Ireland might exist in a British collection.
At an older Swedish auction I noted a lot with “airmail cover from China in glassine cover from the air crash at Vordinborg 1939”.
Who are the lucky owners of these two covers?

 

All the mail was salvaged, but a large part was in very watersoaked condition and stamps are often missing.
Around 12.000 items destined for Sweden were sent to the Swedish Southern Postal District in Malmö where it was sorted out and forwarded.
A variety of Nordic crash markings are known. The Norwegian and the Swedish Post both produced special labels which explained about the crash. The Danish Post forwarded the mail without any notice at all, which led to criticism from the public.

 

A.
Many of the larger post offices in Denmark had a handstamp to be used on mail where the stamp for some reason was missing. The most common text was Indgaaet med mangel af Frimærke = Arrived with lack of stamp. Another variation has the text Frimærket gaaet tabt = Stamp lost. These handstamps can sometimes be found on mail from this crash. A few examples are shown here. You can see more below under Examples of mail.

19390815 A-a 19390815 A-b 19390815 A-c
Odense Post Office Valby Post Office Nørrebro Post Office

 

B.19390815 B-a
Danish handstamp.
Violet.
Size: 64 x 7 mm.
Text translation:
Arrived damaged.
Sorting Post Office / 19

 

C.19390815 C-a
Danish resealing label.
Type A. 61 (3-36).
Red printing on transparent paper.
Size: 40 x 45 mm.
Text translation:
Closed by the Postal Service.

 

 

 

 

D.
The general public in Denmark was unsatisfied with the fact that the mail from the crash was forwarded without any explanation from the Danish Post. No Danish labels have been recorded until recently when I was very lucky to find a cover with the label illustrated below.
Translation of text: The enclosed cover is damaged in the crash of the English airplane at the Storström bridge on 15. this month. Return mail Office / 1939. Manuscript date and signature.

 

19390815 D

Size textblock: 152 x 20 mm.

 

 

 

 

 

E.19390815 E-a
Norwegian label.
Size textblock: 174 x 42 mm.

 

 

 

F.
The Swedish Southern Postal District in Malmö produced labels to be used with mail that was forwarded to the recipients. The text was in Swedish language and can be translated to “Malmö in August 1939. Enclosed item has arrived in Sweden among mail recovered from the English airplane G-AESY which crashed on 15 this month near Vordingborg, Denmark. The Postal Direction in Southern District.”. The size of the labels vary as they were printed on large size paper and later cut from the sheets. Even if the text is the same I have recorded 5 variations in the arrangement of the text:

 

F-a.19390815 F-a
Size textblock: 86 x 42 mm.
Point after first line is above the
first l in till.

 

 

 

 

 

F-b.19390815 F-b
Size textblock: 86 x 42 mm.
Point after first line is above
the second l in till.

 

 

 

 

 

 

F-c.19390815 F-c
Size textblock: 108 x 30 mm.
Straight left margin.
No point after Distriktet

I have only seen one example
of this type.

 

 

 

F-d.19390815 F-d
Size textblock: 110 x 42 mm.
G – AESY with space on
both sides of the hyphen.
This type is illustrated by
Nierinck (reconstructed)
Not seen.

 

 

 

 

G-a.19390815 G-a
Only five textlines.
Size textblock: 154 x 42 mm.

 

 

 

 

Service Covers
The use of service covers has been recorded on Danish, Norwegian and Swedish mail. A detailed study is under way.

Denmark – Rarely used. Only one example recorded.

Norway – Very often used. Many different types (at least 4 different).

Sweden – Two different types were in use.

 

 

 

Examples of mail

19390815 001a 19390815 001c

Cover from France postmarked HOSSEGOR LANDES 13 3 39 to Copenhagen, Denmark. Due to water damage it is impossible to read the addresses of the sender or the recipient. The cover is accompanied by the rare Danish label typ D.
This is the only recorded item sent from France, and also the only known example of the use of label D.
Thiesen Collection.

19390815 037a 19390815 033a

A typhical example of mail from Great Britain to Denmark. British postmark dated 14 AUG, stamp has fallen off and no Danish crash markings.
Thiesen Collection.

Another cover from Great Britain to Denmark. The stamp is still on the cover. The manuscript note at the bottom was written by the recipient and explain about the crash.
Thiesen Collection.

19390815 035a 19390815 029a
Cover from England postmarked BRADFORD 14 AUG 1939 to Copenhagen with handstamp type A used at Copenhagen Østerbro Post Office.
Thiesen Collection.
Cover from England postmarked ROCHDALE LANCS to Odense with handstamp type A used at Odense Post Office.
Thiesen Collection.
19390815 003a 19390815 003b
Cover from England postmarked HACKNEY 11 AUG 1939 to Copenhagen with handstamp type A used at Valby Post Office and resealing label type C on the back.
Thiesen Collection.
19390815 004a 19390815 004b
Registered cover from England with parts of oval postmarks REGISTERED DOCK E SOUTHAMPTON AU 39 and addressed to Copenhagen. The cover has Danish markings type A (Nørrebro Post Office), B and on the back the resealing labels type C. This is the only known registered cover from this crash.
The sender was a Danish seaman on board the ship M/S America lying in the harbour of Southampton.
Thiesen Collection.
19390815 050a 19390815 050b
Cover from Germany postmarked HAMBURG 1 14.8.39 addressed to Helsingfors, Finland with Swedish label type F-a. This is the only recorded item sent from Germany, and also the only one sent to Finland.
John Godfrey Collection (spotted at NORDIA 2013). Better photo needed.
19390815 005a 19390815 005b

Cover from England postmarked UXBRIDGE 14 AUG 1939 to Oslo, Norway with the Norwegian label type E.
Thiesen Collection.

19390815 081a 19390815 081c

Cover from England postmarked LONDON 14 AUG 1939 to Oslo, Norway with the Norwegian label type E.
Schøyen Collection.

19390815 087a 19390815 087b

Cover from England postmarked LONDON 14 AUG 1939 to Oslo, Norway with the Norwegian label type E. The cover was forwarded in a glassine service cover type Nr. 16.
Slettebø Collection.

19390815 085a 19390815 085c

Cover from England postmarked ILKLEY YORKSHIRE 14 AUG 1939 to Bergen, Norway without the Norwegian label. The cover was forwarded in a glassine service cover type Nr. 16 (different).  On the back is an arrival postmark BERGEN 19.8.39. The cover was later forwarded to Gothenburg, Sweden.
Thiesen Collection.

19390815 086a 19390815 086c

Cover from England postmarked NORTH SHIELDS to Arendal, Norway without the Norwegian label. The cover was forwarded in a glassine service cover type Nr. 16 (different).
Slettebø Collection.

19390815 014a 19390815 014b
Picture postcard written in Paris, France 9 August 1939, but mailed in London postmark LONDON 14 AUG 1939. The postcard is addressed to Sweden and was forwarded with label type F-a.
Thiesen Collection.
19390815 012a 19390815 012b

Cover from England with illegible postmark as stamp has fallen off. The cover was forwarded to the recipient in Stockholm, Sweden with label type F-b.
Thiesen Collection.

19390815 016a 19390815 016b

Cover from England postmarked NOTTINGHAM 14 AUG 1939 to Gothenburg, Sweden with label type F-b.
Thiesen Collection.

19390815 177a 19390815 177b

Cover from England postmarked LONDON 14 AUG 1939 to Stockholm, Sweden. The cover was forwarded in a Swedish service cover together with label type F-a.
Slettebø Collection.

19390815 017a 19390815 017b
Cover from England postmarked LONDON S.W.1 14 AUG 1939 addressed to Stockholm, Sweden with the unusual label type F-c (only 1 example known).
Thiesen Collection.
19390815 010a 19390815 010b
Cover from England postmarked Upper Holloway N.19 14 AUG 1939 to Lidingö, Sweden with label type G-a.
Thiesen Collection.
19390815 009a 19390815 009b
Cover from England postmarked LONDON E.C. 14 AUG 1939 to Sundsvall, Sweden with label type G-a.
Thiesen Collection.