Here is an interesting post of Flight Sergeant W L Sheppard's accounts from Some of Our Victories,
posted in "The Aviation Forum
". It describes the flight in which Copping's P-40 became lost.
"Chapter: Ops At Last, with 260"
"On 28th June, 1942 Flight Sergeant Copping and myself were detailed to take the two aircraft that had been shot up to the RSU at LG100, back on the Cairo-Alexandria road, and to collect two replacement aircraft. We were to fly the replacement aircraft to the squadron’s rear landing ground at LG085, before returning to the operational landing ground at LG09.
"The aircraft I was flying had been badly damaged in the wings, having been shot up in a fight with the Hun that morning. The holes on the leading edge of the wings were now filled with sandbags and pasted over with canvas to give the aircraft some stability. Copping's aircraft had something or other wrong with it that could not be repaired on the Squadron, including the fact that the undercarriage could not be retracted, so off we went in the early afternoon. The flight was expected to be 30-40 minutes at the very most.
"Copping was flight leader, having been the squadron very much longer than me, with me flying on the right wing. We had been in the air for about 20 minutes after taking off on a south westerly heading, and as Copping had made no attempt to turn eastwards, we were still heading south-west. I assumed he would though south after take off to avoid enemy aircraft or flying over enemy positions, because neither of us could use the guns, but having checked the course several times, I began to get worried. I broke radio silence but received no reply so I closed in on him and tried endeavored to signal the easterly direction. I tried all ways to get him to change course, signaling straight ahead and washing it out, pointed at the compass then the sun and my watch, but he did no budge. We must have been 30-35 minutes out and should be at the RSU, so surely he would realize we were off course but, no, he kept on with the original heading. At that point I had to make a decision. I was right and he was wrong, so I flew in close to him, waggled my wings and pointed eastwards. I turned under him and flew away, hoping he would follow. I returned and tried to attract his attention again, but he would not budge so I turned eastwards again on my own. I checked my compass by the sun and also set the gyro compass and held the course for some 30 to 35 minutes, but all I had seen up to then was sand, more sand and desert, and even more sand and desert. My courage was beginning to fail me a bit then, but I reasoned that by flying with the sun on my right and behind me, I had to be flying eastwards, and so I reset my course to the north east knowing that sooner of later I must come to the coast. One hoped sooner rather then later. Then I saw, to the south and away on my right, the Quattara Depression
, and knew that I had done the right thing in breaking away and using my own judgment....
"...Whilst writing this, I have remembered that reason I was able to fly away from Copping and then catch him up on the return was because of the fault on the undercarriage of his aircraft and he was flying with the undercarriage locked down.
"I adjusted my course to the north and, shortly afterwards, saw the River Nile. I made another adjustment of course to that I hoped would be LG100/53 RSU. In actual fact, I hit the road taken 1hr and 50mins for the half hour trip! The first question asked was why there was only one aircraft when two should have arrived and hour ago.
"I explained exactly what had happened and it was suggested that I wait and see if Copping turned up. I went for tea in the ops tent and met the doctor who, strange to relate, was from my home town. After and hour, it was decided that Copping was not going to show and must have used all his fuel, pranged somewhere in the desert. I was instructed to collect the new aircraft and fly to LG85, reporting to Base CO for further orders.
"Arriving there, I found the Base CO was F/L Wilmot who had been my Flight Commander on joining the squadron. Once again, I had to go through exactly what happened and he thought it hilarious, saying Copping would enjoy that walk back. It was too late to fly up to the operation LG that night and there was always a spare tent and bed, so being keen and enthusiastic, I expected to rush off first thing next morning. However, later in the evening we received instructions to prepare for the reception of all the Squadron. We really were in retreat, and Copping was temporarily forgotten."