#85: Impossible to Imitate
Howard died in 1943 when he was flying to Bristol, U.K., from Lisbon, Portugal, on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines/BOAC Flight 777. The aircraft, a Douglas DC-3, was shot down by a Nazi German Junkers Ju 88 aircraft over the Bay of Biscay.
Although they have been discredited, there were rumours that the Germans believed the U.K. Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who had been in Algiers, Algeria, to be on board. Howard’s manager, Alfred Chenhalls, physically resembled Churchill, while Howard was tall and thin, like Churchill’s bodyguard, Walter H. Thompson. Churchill himself seems to have been to blame for the spread of it; in his autobiography, he expresses sorry that a mistake about his activities might have cost Howard his life.
Several exhaustively detailed books such as Bloody Biscay: The Story of Luftwaffe’s Only Long Range Maritime Fighter Unit, V Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 40, and Its Adversaries 1942-1944 (2001 by Chris Goss) by (which comes to a slightly different conclusion), Flight 777 (1957 by Ian Colvin), and In Search of My Father: A Portrait of Leslie Howard (1984 by Ronald Howard, Leslie’s son), conclude that the Germans were almost certainly out to shoot down the plan in order to kill Howard himself. (Read more…)