12/13.12.1944 582 Squadron Lancaster III PB554 60:M Fg Off. Kinman
Date: 12th/13th December 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit No: 582 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Little Staughton, Cambridgeshire
Location: Over Mülheim, Germany
Pilot: Fg Off. Jack Kinman 150440 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Flt Eng: Sgt. Harry Mawson 1591864 RAFVR Age 23. Survived/ Murdered (1)
Nav: Fg Off. Michael Gisby 153015 RAFVR Age 22. Survived/ Murdered (1)
Nav 2: Flt Sgt. Albert Leslie Plimmer DFM. 1620607 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Patrick Anthony Hughes DFM. 175594 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Ernest Edward Evans 1800212 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Stanley John Wright 1896094 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Sidney Charles Trevis 1584991 RAFVR Age? Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 17:17 hrs from RAF Little Staughton in Cambridgeshire to bomb Essen - the last major raid on the city. 512 Lancasters and Halifaxes together with 28 Mosquitoes. The attack taking place between 18:15 hrs and 19:55 hrs.
The bombers crossed France and then turned North East towards Deelen - when there they turned South East to Essen climbing to commence their bombing run. Due to the Mandrel screening and the radio signals silence the Luftwaffe were fooled as to the target. Even with that the very poor light with visibility spoilt by cloud up to 6,000 mtrs. the Luftwaffe failed to intercept the stream until they reached the target.
During post war interrogation of Albert Speer he commented that this operation was the most accurate of the war against the Krupp works. Reports state that some 696 houses were destroyed. 1,370 others suffering serious damage. A total of 463 people were killed on the ground - made up of 160 German civilians, 89 PoW’s, 13 foreign workers and a further 201 prisoners when the City prison was hit - 309 others classed as missing.
PB554 was hit by Flak of Flakgruppe Esen and exploded over Mülheim, time unknown. Note: PB554 was also claimed by Kommodore of Stab NJG4 Maj. Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, his 105th Abschuss, flying in Bf110 G-4 G9+EF, who reported a Lancaster Abschuss in Grid Squares M0-L0, or the area of Düsseldorf-Mülheim. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 October 1944 - 31 December 1944) Part 5 - Theo Boiten).
Two of the crew, Sgt. Harry Mawson and Fg Off. Michael Gisby are understood to have managed to either bale out or were blown out during the explosion - both survived the fall and were arrested by the Germans.
(1) What happened next was to bring about a war crime with 7 accused standing trial over 5 days in December 1945. The accused, Erich Heyer, Peter Koenen, Johann Braschoß, Karl Käufer, Franz Hartung, Hugo Boddenberg and Erich Sambol faced the charge that on the 13th December 1944 in violation of the laws and usages of war they and other persons unknown were concerned in the killing of 3 'unidentified' British airmen who were prisoners of war.
Note: Fg Off. Leon Milner was not a member of this crew but of Lancaster III PB542 AR:D2
The 140 page report of the trial is held by Aircrew Remembered but of course too large to place on the website. Comprehensive additional details of the death of these three aircrew are available by purchasing a new publication (2018) 'Missing Presumed Murdered' by the authors Sean Feast and Marc Hall.
Briefly the 3 airmen were in custody of the German police and the they were to be escorted under guard to an airfield to be handed over to the Luftwaffe. Word had spread quickly this was to happen to the residents of Essen. Hptm. Heyer (Wehrmacht) instructed the escort also from the Wehrmacht to take them on a roundabout route but made it clear to the crowds that this would happen. Heyer instructed the guard that at no time were they to interfere with the crowd if they should molest the PoW's.
Left: Wickenburg bridge (courtesy Traugott Vitz)
When they reached a bridge the crowd then set upon the 3 airman, beating them, the guard did not prevent this and simply covered the airmen with rifles should they attempt escape. One of the airmen was thrown from the 40 ft. high bridge into fast flowing water below, followed quickly by a second airman. The third ran across the bridge but was quickly captured and holding up a photo of his wife and child begged the pursuers for his life. This had no effect and he was also thrown over the bridge. One of the airman was killed by the fall, but the other two were still alive when they landed. Shots were then fired and finding one was still alive they beat him to death, stripped and robbed the bodies and dumped them into the stream.
At the trial end - Erich Heyer, Peter Koenen, Johann Braschoß, Karl Käufer and Hugo Boddenberg were found guilty of the charges. Franz Hartung and Erich Sambol were found to be not guilty.
Peter Koenen was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, Hugo Boddenberg sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, Karl Käufer was given a life sentence. Erich Heyer and Johann Braschoß were both sentenced to death.
On Friday the 08th March 1946 the death sentence was duly carried out at Hamelin Prison. Erich Heyer and Johann Braschos were both hanged at 16:10 hrs by Albert Pierrepoint assisted by RSM. Richard Anthony O'Neill. (6 others suffering the same fate on this day)
There was a second trial (WO 235/86; 1st to 3rd April 1946) in which Franz Kircher who had not been found previously was found guilty of having participated in the crime. He, too, was sentenced to hang, and was executed on the same gallows by the same executioners on Wednesday 15th May 1946 at 17:30 hrs.
We are indebted to Marc Hall for images of Sgt. Harry Mawson, Fg Off. Michael Gisby, Fg Off. Leon Milner and to Traugott Vitz and the Vitz Archive - now on this website.
'Missing - Presumed Killed': 240 pages Published by Fighting High Publishing (1 Sept. 2018) ISBN-13: 978-1-9998128-5-0. Purchase via this link.
'Operation Hurricane': 256 pages Published by Fighting High Publishing (19 Jan. 2013) ISBN-13: 978-0957116337. Purchase via this link.
Marc Hall developed an interest in aviation at an early age, and gained a commercial pilots licence. Marc's research in to RAF Bomber Command is ongoing and his first book 'Bomber Command Operation Hurricane' met with critical acclaim. Sean Feast started a career in journalism in 1985, concurrently training at the London College of Printing and later joining Maxwell Business Communications. He has written or co-written more than a dozen books.
Fg Off. Jack Kinman. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.G.8. Grave inscription: "THERE'S SOME CORNER OF A FOREIGN FIELD THAT IS FOR EVER ENGLAND". Son of Thomas Hilary Kinman and Ella Attewell Kinman, of Bilton, Warwickshire, England.
Sgt. Harry Mawson. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.E.13. Grave inscription: "GOD BE WITH YOU TILL WE MEET AGAIN". Son of Thomas and Sarah J. A. Mawson, of Stockton-on-Tees, Co. Durham, England.
Fg Off. Michael Gisby. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 206. Birth registered 3rd Qtr of 1922 at Croydon. Son of Herbert Arthur and Ida Mary (née Beecher) Gisby.
Flt Sgt. Albert Leslie Plimmer DFM. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.G.5. Grave inscription: "IN LOVING MEMORY OF LES. YEARS GO BY, MEMORIES STAY AS DEAR AND NEW AS YESTERDAY". Son of Albert and Ethel Plimmer; husband of Gladys Sarah Plimmer (nee Wood), of Armthorpe, Yorkshire, England.
Flt Sgt. Plimmer was awarded the DFM whilst with 101 Squadron Promulgated in the London Gazette 17th October 1944. Citation: "Flt Sgt. Albert Leslie Plimmer has participated in many sorties as air bomber. On a recent operation he was detailed for a daylight attack on an enemy airfield. On the outward flight, the aircraft was hit by enemy fire from the ground defences and this airman was wounded in the right arm. Despite this, with exceptional coolness and determination, he successfully directed his captain to the target and by skilful use of his bomb sight made an accurate bombing attack. His courage and determination to press home his attack are worthy of the highest praise".
Fg Off. Patrick Anthony Hughes. DFM. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.G.7. Grave inscription: "FOR HOW CAN MAN DIE BETTER THAN FACING FEARFUL ODDS. R.I.P". Son of James and Florence Hughes, of Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex, England.
DFM was awarded to 1267383 Flt Sgt. Hughes whilst with 51 Sqn. Promulgated in the London Gazette 27th June 1944.
Flt Sgt. Ernest Edward Evans. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.G.6. Grave inscription: "WE SHALL ALWAYS HEAR YOUR VOICE AND FEEL YOU EVER NEAR. ELSIE AND GLADYS". Son of Ernest Edward and Florence M Evans.
Flt Sgt. Stanley John Wright. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.G.3. Grave inscription: "THERE IS A VICTORY IN DYING WELL FOR FREEDOM; IT HAS NOT BEEN IN VAIN". Son of Stanley John Wright, and of Hilda Gertrude Wright, of Wallington, Surrey, England.
Flt Sgt. Sidney Charles Trevis. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 13.G.4. Uncorroborated NoK details: Birth registered in 3rd Qtr of 1924 in Bromsgrove and his Mother's maiden name was Taylor. A Charles E. Trevis married a Rebecca Taylor in 3rd Qtr of 1920 in Bromsgrove, England.
Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Web master) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Marc Hall, Sean Feast and Traugott Vitz for information and photographs (Sep 2018). Thanks to John Jones for NoK details (Apr 2022). Update to Loss information by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2022).
Other sources as quoted below.