View Full Version : Louis ZALSBERG, DFM - killed in crash that also claimed General Sikorski

22nd January 2022, 21:52
More from Spink Catalogue of 20 November 2010.

ZALSBERG, Louis “Label”, Warrant Officer (755970 - No.10 Squadron - Distinguished Flying Medal - awarded as per London Gazette dated 23 September 1941. born of the Jewish faith, Stepney, London, 1920, winning a number of scholarships, he was educated at Cowper Street Central School; joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve prior to the outbreak of the Second World War and after initial training was posted Sergeant (Observer) for operational service with 10 Squadron (Whitleys), Leeming, Yorkshire; flew in 29 operational sorties with the squadron including between 14.3.1941-19.7.1941: Rotterdam, Kiel, Brest, Bremen, Cologne, Mannheim, Dusseldorf, Dortmund, Duisberg, Essen, Munster, Hamm and on the Scharnhorst at La Pallice; on one occasion ‘while on operational duties, the aeroplane he was in was shot at and disabled, and the crew made a landing on the sea, whence they were later rescued’ (The Jewish Chronicle, 31.10.1941, refers); with his first tour of operations completed, Zalsberg transferred to Transport Command with 511 Squadron (Liberators) and was employed mainly on the Lyncham- Gibraltar-Cairo West run; he completed 31 flights with his pilot being Flight Lieutenant F.M. Prchal (a Czech), the flights combined a mixture of freight and V.I.P. passengers, including carrying Winston Churchill from Cairo to Tripoli when he visited the Middle East, and later carrying General Sikorski. Note that his medals were sold with a silver (Egyptian standard marks) cigarette case, believed to have been presented to Zalsberg by General Sikorski. DFM recommendation states:

A first class Observer who, throughout his operational career, has never slackened his keenness and efficiency. His cheerful enthusiasm has been an inspiration to all who have worked with him and his courage and determination in the face of strong enemy opposition has contributed largely to the success of the crews with whom he has operated.

The Sikorski Air Crash

General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Premier of the Polish Government in exile and Commander-in-Chief of the Free Polish Forces from 1939 was the only Polish leader who had sufficient stature and skill to secure the confidence of his people and to achieve the close relations with Churchill and Stalin necessary to maintain a united and effective Polish government with a substantial influence in Allied planning. The Polish leader. after a tour of the Middle East which included his review of the Polish troops in that theatre, was advised to relax for a few days, and on 29th June was invited to the excavations at Luxor and Aswan; however, the invitation was not taken up as a telegram from Churchill the following day was interpreted as a recall to London.

General Sikorski had previously asked through the Polish Consul that the R.A.F. pilot (Flight Lieutenant E.M. Prchal) that had flown him out from England be allowed to fly him back as he was greatly impressed with his skill and experience. His request was granted – Prchal and his crew (Squadron Leader W.S. Herring, D.S.O., D.F.M., W/O L. Zalsberg, D.F.M.’; Sergeant F.S. Kelly and Flight Sergeants Gerrie, D.F.M., and Hunter) had arrived in Cairo on the 28th June.

Zalsberg and crew were in place for the final act of the tragedy as the Squadron Record Book shows: 1.7.1943 ‘Liberator AL 523: departed from Cairo West to Gibraltar 0406 hrs – General Sikorski, his staff and daughter on board (12) passengers, - arrived 1437 hrs’ (Squadron Record book refers). 4.7.1943 ‘Liberator AL 523: ‘Took off from Gibraltar and crashed into the sea, the crew (except F/L Prchal) and the passengers, including General Sikorski were killed’.

The Liberator had taken off at 2307 hrs, and as Prchal had pushed the control forward at 130 mph to gather speed to 165 mph, he tried to pull the column back but it locked. The aircraft hit the sea and sank within minutes, in five fathoms of water. Prchal, who suffered a fractured ankle, lacerations and shock, was the only survivor. He was picked up within six minutes of the crash. All but three of the bodies were recovered, those of Zalsberg and Kelly being found the following day. The aircraft was later raised and the cause of the accident was found to be jamming of the elevator controls shortly after take-off.

Zalsberg was buried in the North Front Jewish Cemetery, Gibraltar.

In his book The Death of General Sikorski, David Irving states “To mark his esteem of Prchal, General Sikorski procured a silver cigarette case in Cairo and had it inscribed and presented to the officer: it seems more likely that Sikorski presented each member of the crew with a similar mark of esteem – Zalsberg’s gift is a case in point.

23rd January 2022, 09:00

Re: Zalsberg's ditching:

From W R Chorley's Bomber Command Losses Vol.7, page 30:

1 Oct 1940
10 OTU B Flight
Anson I R3304

T/o 0950 Abingdon for a combined air firing and navigation exercise; Base - Beaumaris-Aberystwyth-Base; the air firing phase to take place over Cardigan Bay. Reported ditched at circa 1450 in the Irish Sea. Unconfirmed reports indicate one member of the crew was killed and one was injured.

Sgt C F Gibbons.

ADDENDUM. (p.369).

Page 30.

10 OTU
Anson I R3304

Omitted from unit records, further details of this loss have been discovered which identifies the crew as:

Sgt C F Gibbons
Sgt F H Abbott
Sgt Zalsberg
Sgt A White
Sgt R H White

Sgt A White was the sole fatality. Hailing from Heanor, in Derbyshire, he rests in Northern Ireland at Newtownards (Movilla) Cemetery. The rest of the crew escaped unharmed, all being picked up by His Majesty's Yacht "Virginia".

BCL7/Chorley/Midland Publishing,2002/pp.30 & 369.

Avro Anson I R3304 - 10 OTU - Ditched in Irish Sea 1.10.40.

See also:
The Anson File/Sturtivant/A-B, 1988/p.61.


24th January 2022, 16:05
Many thanks for this; I have added it to the data base entry for Zalsberg.