GALLERY: Danish WWII fighter pilot buried in his beloved Upwell
DANISH World War II fighter pilot Jens Ipsen’s dying wish was to be buried in his beloved Upwell where he crashed his Hurricane during training 70 years ago.
On Wednesday his sons John and Alan fulfilled this last request by carrying his ashes 450 miles from Denmark to be buried at the Parish Church of Upwell Saint Peter.
The service, led by Reverend Alan Jesson, was attended by the Danish embassy, a wing commander from RAF Marham, the vicar of Sutton Bridge and standard bearers from the Royal British Legion.
Jens’ remarkable story began 72 years ago, on April 9 1940, when he was stationed in the Syrian desert with the French Foreign Legion.
On that day Germany invaded Denmark and Jens’ only thought was how to get to England to fight the invading Nazis.
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He slipped away from the legion and walked to Palestine for two days without food or water, narrowly escaping a Bedouin tribe in scenes reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia.
In Palestine he hitched a ride with a troop transport to England where he signed up with the RAF and learnt to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes at RAF Sutton Bridge.
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During a low-flying training exercise over Lakes End, Jens’ Hurricane hit a tree and his plane crashed into a field.
He survived but spent six weeks in hospital at RAF Ely.
Jens then went on to fly 109 defence and patrol missions from the south coast of England in Mark V and Mark VI Spitfires, and then went on to fly attack sorties, convoy defence patrols and bomber escort missions from Malta, Sicily and Corsica.
But the experience of the crash, and the people of Upwell and Ely, never left Jens.
His final instructions to his sons John and Alan were to find the 70-year-old crash site at Lakes End and bury his ashes close by.
Son John Ipsen, 52, said: “My father felt a real connection to this area. He just felt more relaxed and much more at home here than in Denmark.
“He was the best father you could wish for; the most decent, caring, honourable man I’ve ever known.
“He always put his family first. He was like a rock. He would have been proud and moved by the service but he wouldn’t have asked for it.
“He was very British that way. He always said, ‘this is how we do things in England’. He liked the British way, the modest, quiet way of doing things without promoting oneself.”
Wing Commander Neil Tomlin from RAF Marham volunteered to attend the service as a mark of respect for Jens after he heard the Danish pilot’s story.
He said: “Jens led an eventful life filled with excitement and adventure.
“I spent a lot of time in Denmark and almost went to live there so when I heard his story I was very keen to represent the station.
“As a service we want to pay our respects to people who flew in the war, particularly when it’s someone from another country.
Jens died of natural causes on June 26 this year aged 98.