AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.
Our only wish is to honour and respect sacrifices made and to record historical facts: but if in so doing any of our content is inadvertently inappropriate, please contact us via Helpdesk and we will correct the matter.

51 Squadron Crest
21.03.1945 51 Squadron Halifax III MZ348 MH-D Fg.Off. John E. Paradise

Operation: Rheine, Westphalia, Germany

Date: 21st March 1945 (Wednesday)

Unit: 51 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: MZ348

Code: MH-D

Base: RAF Snaith, Pollington, Yorkshire

Location: Bevergern, Westphalia, Germany

Pilot: Fg.Off. John Edwin Paradise 426148 RAAF Age 22. Survived (1)

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Richard Francis Gunn 1721922 RAFVR Age 19. Survived (1)

Nav: Plt.Off. Bruce Frederick Greenwood 424584 RAAF Age 22. Survived (1)

Air/Bmr: Flt.Sgt Alexander Armstrong 1567638 RAFVR Age 22. Survived (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fg.Off. Keith William Berick 424950 RAAF Age 25. Survived (1), PoW No. 108751 *

Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt Leslie Hart 1594114 RAFVR Age? PoW **

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Walter Hood 1592286 RAFVR Age? PoW **

* Stalag 10b Sandbostel, Schleswig

** Stalag Barth, Vogelsang, Prussia now Poland

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the 21st Mar 1945, nineteen aircraft from 51 Squadron were tasked with a bombing mission over Rheine in Westphalia, Germany.

It has been variously reported that MZ348, after leaving the target area at 10,000 ft, was either hit by flak or struck by bombs from a higher-flying aircraft. As a consequence the aircraft suffered damage to the port wing just aft of an engine nacelle and the port vertical fin became detached, severing the rudder controls. This caused the aircraft to rapidly lose height and crash near the village of Bevergern at 1630 hrs. All seven of the crew successfully bailed out at about 9,000 ft.

(1) Fg.Off. Berwick, Flt.Sgt Armstrong, Plt.Off. Greenwood and Sgt. Gunn were captured and taken to the Bürgermeister in Bevergern, a village to the east of Rheine. The four were subsequently marched to the Dreierwalde Aerodrome, Hopsten and held there together with Fg.Off. Paradise who had been captured at another location. The other two crew members, Flt.Sgt. Hart and Sgt. Hood were captured and held at a different location and became PoW's.

On the evening of the 22nd March 1945, Oberfeldwebel (T/Sgt.) Amberger and two other Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), Feldwebel (S/Sgt.) Theo Meier and Hauptfeldwebel (Company Sgt.) Herbert Krawald, set off ostensibly to march the five PoW’s to a railway station for transfer to a PoW Camp or Interrogation Centre. After going about a mile and a half the party turned on to a track leading into a wood where, without any warning, Amberger, Meier and Krawald opened fire on the PoWs. All five airmen were shot but Fg.Off. Berwick, who had suffered two gunshot wounds to the leg, escaped into the woods and eventually made his way to Holland where he was subsequently recaptured on 1st April 1945 and remained a PoW until liberated on 29th April 1945. His affidavit on the shooting described how after he was no longer pursued he heard additional shots being fired from the direction of the original shootings.

Above memorial at Pollington Airfield Memorial Gardens (courtesy 51 Squadron History Society)

After the war Amberger was located, arrested and charged with War crimes. It proved impossible to locate Meier and Krawald. Amberger's defence was that the PoWs were attempting to escape. However, a pathologist’s report concluded that the four airmen had been shot several times including through the head and that some of the wounds could not have been inflicted whilst the deceased were standing. The court rejected his defence and he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

Seven others previously stationed at the Dreierwalde Aerodrome were also charged with War crimes in a separate trial relating to the murder of the four crew members of MZ348 and eight other captured airmen. All were sentenced to death by hanging for their complicity and culpability in the murders. The former Commandant, Maj. Karl Rauer, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment on review. The sentences for all the accused were carried out on the 15th May 1946.

Burial details:

The four crew members were originally buried at the Dreierwalde Cemetery and reinterred at the CWGC Cemetery on 15th May 1947.

Fg.Off. John Edward Paradise. Reichswald Forest Cemetery. Grave 13.B.5. Born on the 20th November 1922 at Brisbane, the son of George Edwin and Ida Marion Paradise, of Indooroopilly, Queensland, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "HIS DUTY FEARLESSLY AND NOBLY DONE. EVER REMEMBERED".

Sgt. Richard Francis Gunn. Reichswald Forest Cemetery. Grave 13.B.3. Son of Frank and Blanche Emma Gunn, of South Common, Sussex, England.

Plt.Off. Bruce Frederick Greenwood. Reichswald Forest Cemetery. Grave 13.B.4. Born on the 28th June 1922 at Bexley, NSW, the son of Fredrick Clarence and Gladys Greenwood, of Eastwood, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "INTO THE MOSAIC OF VICTORY WE LAY THIS PRECIOUS PIECE, OUR SON".

Flt.Sgt Alexander Armstrong. Reichswald Forest Cemetery. Grave 13.B.6. Born on 26th August 1922. Son of Alexander and Alice Mary (née Pilgrim) Armstrong, of Linthorpe, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "IN HEAVENLY LOVE ABIDING".

Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the database. Also Law-Reports of Trials of War Criminals, The United Nations War Crimes Commission, Volume I and IV, London, HMSO, 1947. National Archives of Australia.

RS 27.01.2020 - Replacement map

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2021
Last Modified: 27 January 2020, 12:48

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor