12.08.1944 100 Squadron Lancaster B Mk III LM658 Flt.Lt. Harold Paston-William
Operation: Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany
Date: 12th August 1944 (Saturday)
Unit: 100 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England *
Location: Between Bergentheim and Hardenberg in Holland
Pilot: Flt.Lt. Harold “Bill” Paston-Williams 83930 RAF Age 33. Evaded (1)
Co-Pilot: Flt.Lt. Christopher Holland 115325 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Flt/Eng: Sgt. John A. Downie 1367061 RAFVR Age 31. Evaded (1)
Nav: Fg.Off. Gerald Hood 178869 RAFVR Age 23. Survived (3)
Bomb/Aim: Plt.Off. Benjamin Ramsden 55792 RAF Age 31. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Laurence Roy Watts 1316752 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Robert Stanley Williams 1502966 RAFVR Age 25. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fg.Off. Bruce Arnold David J/26845 RCAF Age 23. PoW No. 5280 **
* The existing airfield on this site was taken under Air Ministry control in July 1939 and then by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in May 1940. The airfield officially opened, after it was upgraded, during November 1941 and was initially used as a satellite airfield to nearby RAF Binbrook. Although the airfield was officially designated as RAF Grimsby it was known as RAF Waltham by both the local residents and service personnel on the base. This misnomer caused some confusion as there was an active airfield at RAF White Waltham near Maidenhead in Berkshire.
** Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia now Poland
REASON FOR LOSS:
LM658 was one of seven 100 Sqn aircraft that took off from RAF Grimsby commencing at 2130 hours on the 12th August 1944 tasked with bombing targets in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany. The attack was planned to just use H2S§, without any target marking. It was reported that the target area was covered in cloud and that the bombing appeared to be somewhat scattered, although numerous fires were observed. LM658 was the only aircraft that failed to return to base.
§H2S was the first airborne, ground mapping radar system that identified targets on the ground for night and all-weather bombing. Its capability also provided a long range method of navigation by identifying landmarks.
The aircraft was reported to have crashed between Bergentheim in the Dutch province of Overijssel and Hardenberg. The three crew members that perished in the crash were buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Hardenberg.
The complete story of the fate of LM658 and her crew can be read here. This report seeks to add specific detail of the circumstances leading to the deaths of Fg.Off. Hood and the young Dutchman Bote van der Wal.
(1) The details of Flt.Lt. Paston-Williams’ and Sgt. Downie’s evasion can be read here. In summary, they bailed out of the aircraft and eventually met up and remained hidden in Holland with the assistance of the Dutch resistance. They were liberated by British forces on the 3rd April 1945 and flown back to the UK by RAF Dakota on the 10th April 1945.
(2) The fate of Fg.Off. Hood was unknown until a British Military Court was convened in Almelo in Holland on the 24th, 25th and 26th November 1945.
Four German nationals were charged on two counts with committing a war crime in that they at Almelo in Holland on the 21st and the 25th March 1945, in violation of the laws and usages of war, did kill Pilot Officer Gerald Hood, a British PoW and Bote van der Wal, a Dutch civilian.
The accused were George Otto Sandrock, a former Oberfeldwebel (Wehrmacht T/Sgt); Ludwig Schweinberger a former Obergefreiter (Wehrmacht Junior Cpl); Franz Joseph Hegemann a former SS-Oberscharführer (Sgt) and Helmut Wiegner who was a former Feldwebel (Wehrmacht S/Sgt). Sandrock, Schweinberger and Wiegner were attached to the Geheime Feldpolizei (Secret field police). All four accused were part of a special service detachment known as ZBV Kommando 22 which was based in Almelo. Sandrock and Schweinberger were implicated in both charges, Hegemann only on the first and Wiegner only on the second.
The court heard that on the 13th August 1944 a member of the Dutch underground brought Plt.Off. Hood to a house at Nyverdal where the widow Mrs. van der Wal lived. Her unmarried daughter and her son Bote van der Wal were also living at this address. Bote was hiding from the Germans to avoid Arbeitseinsatz (compulsory labour service in Germany) and was not an actual member of the Dutch underground.
Plt.Off. Hood was wearing civilian cloths but retained his RAF boots, under garments, his ‘dog tags’ and his service watch. After bailing out of LM658 the previous evening he had hidden his uniform and obtained his civilian clothes from a farmer. After a few days with the van der Wal’s he was moved to another house in the neighbourhood where he remained until the New Year. On the 2nd January 1945 he returned to the van der Wal’s and lived there until the 13th March 1945.
On the night of the 13th March 1945 the Dutch Nazi police, accompanied by the SS, came to the house searching for Bote and in the course of the search they eventually discovered both Bote and Plt.Off. Hood. They were both taken to Almelo prison where they were interrogated by Sandrock over a number of days. Plt.Off. Hood gave up no information other than what he was obligated to provide and in order to protect those that assisted him he gave a misleading date of his aircraft’s crash.
Sandrock warned Plt.Off. Hood that unless he could produce his uniform and parachute he would be liable to be shot as a spy. Plt.Off. Hood maintained that as he had landed in the dark and had hidden the items he would not be able to find the location again. A week later, on the 21st March 1944 SS-Untersturmführer (2nd.Lt) Paul Hardegen told Sandrock the British airman had been condemned to death and two men must be detailed to accompany Sandrock that evening to a wood on the outskirts of Almelo, where Plt.Off. Hood was to be shot. Hardegen handed Sandrock a loaded 9mm pistol.
SS-Untersturmführer and Kriminalkommissar (Detective Superintendent which equates to Capt) Paul Hardegen was the officer in charge but was not before the court. He was also implicated in the deaths of Flt.Lt. R.A Walker, Fg.Off. J.S. Nott and Fg.Off. R.E. Carter.
Some time after 1930 hours Sandrock gave Schweinberger and Hegemann their orders and handed the pistol to Schweinberger. After night had fallen the three drove Plt.Off. Hood to a location that Sandrock had previously reconnoitred. There Plt.Off. Hood was ordered out of the car and Sandrock told him he had been condemned to death. After a few paces Schweinberger shot him in the head from behind at a distance of about one yard. Whilst Sandrock dug a grave Schweinberger removed clothing from the body and stole his wristwatch. They then buried Plt.Off. Hood. Hegemann had remained with the car throughout what had transpired.
Three days later on the 24th March almost the same procedure was followed for the murder of Bote van der Wal, except that Wiegner replaced Hegemann. Once again it was Schweinberger that carried out the shooting. The young Dutchman was buried close to Plt.Off. Hood’s grave site.
On the 31st July 1945 after Holland was liberated Bote van der Wal’s remains were recovered and eventually identified. On the 4th August Schweinberger was taken to the location and Plt.Off. Hood’s grave was found and exhumed in the presence of Canadian and Dutch military officials. He was reinterred on the 8th August 1945 with full military honours in the Almelo cemetery.
The court rejected the defence of “superior orders” by the accused and found Sandrock and Schweinberger guilty on both charges and sentenced them to death. Sandrock and Schweinberger were hanged at Hameln (Hamelin) by Albert Pierrepoint on the 13th December 1945.
Hegemann and Wiegner were found guilty on their respective charges and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. The final disposition of their sentences are unknown.
Flt.Lt. Christopher Holland. Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery, Row A. Grave 3. Inscription: “TO THE WORLD HE WAS BUT A PART, TO US HE WAS ALL THE WORLD, GH & VH”. Son of Godfrey and Violet Houssemayne Holland, of Horsham, Sussex, England.
Fg.Off Gerald Hood. Almelo General Cemetery Grave 1. His NoK details are not readily available but can be found here.
Plt.Off Benjamin Ramsden. Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery, Row A. Grave 2. Son of Leonard and Annie Ramsden, of Bradford, Yorkshire; husband of Marjorie Ramsden, of Bradford, England.
Flt.Sgt. Laurence Roy Watts. Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery, Row A. Grave 1. Inscription: “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS.” Son of Herbert Mark Watts, and of Florence Watts, of Fawler, Oxfordshire, England.
Flt.Sgt. Robert Stanley Williams. Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery, Row A. Grave 1. Inscription: “GOD’S GREATEST GIFT, REMEMBRANCE, YOUR LOVING MOTHER.” Son of Mary Ethel Williams, of Queensferry, Flintshire, Scotland.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. With thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’
Special thanks to Alan J. Barrow for his dedicated research over many years to bring to life the story of LM658 and her crew.