29.12.1944 3 (Fighter) Squadron Tempest Mk.V JN803 Fg.Off. Kenneth G. Slade-Betts DFC
Operation: Armed reconnaissance mission, Rheine and Dümmersee
Date: 29th December 1944 (Friday)
Unit: 3 (Fighter) Squadron (RAF)
Type: Tempest Mk. V (Series 2)
Base: B.60 Grimbergen, The Netherlands
Location: Rheine airfield, Westphalia, Germany
Pilot: Fg.Off. Kenneth Gordon Slade-Betts DFC 175509 RAFVR Age 21. Survived (1)
3 Sqn. pilots in front of the operations hut at Oak Farm, Newchurch. (Courtesy: Newchurch Village Website)
Back Row: Fg.Off. Kenneth Slade-Betts, Flt.Lt. Ted Sparrow (B Flt Cdr), Flt.Lt. Spike Umbers (A Flt Cdr), Fg.Off. Clap Clapperton, Fg.Off. Don Butcher; Front Row: Fg.Off. Tom McCullogh, WO Frank Reid, Flt.Sgt. Johnnie Foster, Rocky the Dog (Bob Barcklay's dog)
Identification of the pilots in the photograph:
Fg.Off. Slade-Betts DFC. V1 Diver victories - 19+1 shared.
Flt.Lt. Edward Michael ‘Ted’ Sparrow DFC 124661 RAFVR - (18th Feb 1922 - 13th Apr 2016).
DFC gazetted on the 9th February 1945, AFC gazetted on the 25th May 1952. Retired from the RAF as a Wg.Cdr. on the 18th February 1969.Sqn.Ldr. Arthur Ernest ‘Spike’ Umbers DFC & Bar 404003. OC of 486 (NZ) Sqn. Flying Tempest V EJ577 SA-F Shot down by friendly fire - Survived. 486 (NZ) Sqn. Flying Tempest V NV715 SA-? Shot down by ground fire and crashed on the 14th February 1945. Munster Heath War Cemetery, 1.D.21. V1 Diver victories - 28; Aerial victories - 4+1 shared; Ground victories - 1+1 shared; Probable - 2+1 shared
DFC gazetted on the 3rd September 1943. Citation reads: 'This officer has taken part in a very large number of varied operations. In operations against shipping he has always pressed home his attacks with great vigour and has obtained several hits. In air combat, Flight Lieutenant Umbers has displayed great keenness and determination, setting a fine example. He has shared in the destruction of an enemy bomber'.
Bar to DFC gazetted on the 21st July 1944. Citation reads :’This officer has led his flight on very many sorties during which military transport, railway communications, ammunition dumps and other targets on the ground have been attacked with excellent results; on one occasion 8 locomotives were destroyed. By his great skill and unbeatable determination, Flight Lieutenant Umbers has played a worthy part in the successes achieved. He is a most inspiring leader’.Fg.Off. Raymond Hedley ‘Clap’ Clapperton DFC 151700 RAFVR. No further details: V1 Diver victories - 24.
DFC gazetted on the 31st October 1944. Citation reads: ' This officer has completed a large number of sorties, including several attacks on shipping. His successes. which include the destruction of 2x flying bombs, are a fine tribute to his skill and determination'.Flt.Lt. Donald James Butcher 149597 RAFVR (24th May 1921-30th July 2015). No further details
Fg.Off. ‘Tom’ McCullogh. No further details
WO. Francis McGuire 'Frank' Reid AFM 740703 RAFVR. 3 Sqn. Flying Tempest V JN812 JF-M - Encountered flak and crashed east of Volkel on 1st October 1944. Venray War Cemetery, VIII.D.7
Flt.Sgt John 'Johnnie' Kenneth Foster 1399786 RAFVR . V1 Diver Victories - 4+2 shared; Aerial victories; Probable - 1.
Promoted to Plt.Off (186755), gazetted on the 8th December 1944, Promoted to Fg.Off, gazetted on the 18th May 1945.
Fg.Off. Robert Edward 'Bob' Barckley 138650 DFC. No further details: V1 Diver Victories - 12+1 shared
DFC gazetted 31st October 1944. Citation reads: 'Flying Officer Barckley has completed very many sorties including successful attacks on enemy shipping and rail and road communications. In other sorties he has destroyed 12 flying bombs. He has invariably displayed a high degree of courage and his devotion to duty has been unfailing’.
Images and stories for some of the above mentioned pilots are told on the page Pilots who flew from Newchurch posted on the Newchurch village website.
REASON FOR LOSS:
At 11:00 hours on the 29th December 1944 JN803 took off with three other aircraft from 3 Sqn. on an armed reconnaissance mission over Rheine and the Dümmersee. Whilst flying north of Rheine at 8000 feet a gaggle of 20 plus aircraft were seen up sun about 1500 feet above. The unidentified aircraft jettisoned their long range tanks and broke down towards the four Tempests. They were subsequently identified as Bf-109 and Fw-190 fighters. The four Tempests broke into the enemy formation after which another group of German fighters came out of the sun. In the ensuing engagement two Tempests evaded the German fighters and returned to base.
Fg.Off. Slade-Betts and Flt.Lt. Edwards failed to return to base and neither were seen after the second engagement with the German fighters. It is believed that both aircraft were shot down north of Rheine by Bf-109s of Jagdgeschwader (Fighter Sqn) 27 (JG 27). Fg.Off. Slade-Betts’ Typhoon crashed at the Rheine airbase.
The second aircraft lost from 3 Sqn. was Tempest Mk V, EJ803, JF-V, flown by Flt.Lt. Malcolm Finney ‘Eddie’ Edwards 133358. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery 14.A.13. He was initially buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Spelle, some 5½ miles north of Rheine.
(1) The fate of Fg.Off. Slade-Betts was unknown until a Military Court was held at the Garrison Theater, Osnabrück, Germany from 7th March to the 1st May 1947. In total six German nationals were before the court on ten separate charges.
The ninth of the charges accused two German nationals of committing a war crime in that they, at or near the Rheine airfield in Germany on or about the 31st December 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of Fg.Off. Slade-Betts DFC, Royal Air Force, PoW.
The two accused were August Hackethal who was a former Luftwaffe Feldwebel (Sgt.) and clerk at the Kommandantur (Airfield headquarters), and Karl Henkelhausen a former Luftwaffe Maj. who was the second in command to Franz Schmitt, a former Luftwaffe Major (Maj.) and the Commanding Officer of the Rheine airfield. They were all stationed at the Rheine airfield located 2½ miles NW of the town of Rheine in the province of Westphalia.
The court heard several witness statements that were contradictory and could not be reconciled against the medical evidence. The possibility exists that the Allied airman that the witnesses described was a hitherto unidentified victim or more probably they confused this airman with another already identified victim.
Firstly, testimony from a Franz Teppe, who was a former Unteroffizier (Cpl.) in the Luftwaffe 234/4 Company of the Landesschützen (Security and guard force). He was one of several guard commanders with a squad of men from the Company that was stationed at the Rheine airfield and operated out of the airfield’s main guardroom. Teppe claimed that an Allied airman was handed over to the guardroom with his right arm in a splint on New Year’s Eve 1944/45.
The circumstances as to how, and by whom, this airman was removed from the guardroom were not established.
Another witness named Hans Clasen, a former Luftwaffe Kanonier (Gunner/Private), and a guard at the Rheine airfield, testified that on the 1st January 1945 he had relieved a guard in the Muniwald and was then told that an Allied airman was lying there shot dead. He testified that the airman had been shot in the back of the neck and thought that his right forearm had been bandaged.
Lastly, the testimony from a former Luftwaffe Stabsfeldwebel (M/Sgt.) named Walter August Roehe recalled that on the 2nd January 1945 he was ordered to collect a body from the Muniwald. The body showed signs of being shot in the head and had no other injuries.
The evidence presented on this particular charge was so contradictory that the Prosecutor in his opening address indicated that it would hardly be possible to solve it.
The pathological evidence showed a discrepancy which was difficult to reconcile, in that the body identified as Fg.Off. Slade-Betts had his right arm fractured in a similar manner to that on the body seen by the witnesses and that it was in fact in a splint. However, the body examined by Maj. Mant, RAMC, showed signs of severe burns which in his opinion were the direct cause of death and there were no signs of gunshot wounds. Also he was not convinced that the burns were typical of those that would have been inflicted in an aircraft on fire.
This discrepancy together with the fact that there was no testimony that explained the lack of a parachute being found with the airman were never addressed by the court. As a result the court considered that the case against the accused was not proven and as a consequence they were found not guilty of the charge.
Fg.Off. Kenneth Gordon Slade-Betts DFC. He was initially buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery Königsesch and later reinterred at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery 24.B.18. Born in 1923 in London. Son to Slade Lindzey and Alice Rose (née Tinsley) Slade-Betts from Bromley, Kent, England.
(Courtesy Mitch Buiting)
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the VitzArchive database. Thanks also to the Newchurch Village web site for the use of the aircrew photograph