21.06.1944 83 Squadron Lancaster B Mk III ND551 Flt.Lt. Ronald A. Walker DFC
Operation: Wesseling, Germany
Date: 21st June 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit: No. 83 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, England
Location: South of Valkenswaard (Noord-Brabant), Holland
Pilot: Flt.Lt. Ronald Arthur Walker DFC, MiD, 149550 RAFVR Age 21. Survived (1)
Flt/Eng: Flt.Sgt. Harold Edward Houldsworth DFM, 1580028 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: Flt.Lt. Norman James Cornell DFC, 168812 RAFVR Age 33. Killed
Bomb/Aim: Flt.Lt. John Hall Wells DFC, 137551 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Reginald Charles Bailey DFM, 1297999 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Charles Robert Taylor DFM, 1811247 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: WO. David Richard Kelly DFM, 1586432 RAFVR Age? Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
ND551 was one of ten aircraft from 83 Sqn that took off from RAF Coningsby commencing at 2318 hours. This was the crew’s 45th Pathfinder mission and were assigned to mark targets at Wesseling, Germany.
After mission reports described that the Sqn’s aircraft were attacked by German night fighters after crossing the Dutch coast en route to the target and again from about 10 minutes after leaving the target area to beyond the enemy coastline.
ND551 was intercepted by a German night fighter and as a result of the attack exploded in mid-air. Flt.Lt. Walker was thrown clear but his crew perished in the explosion. The wreckage was reported to have fallen in open countryside about 2 miles south of Valkenswaard (Noord-Brabant) which is about 6 miles south of Eindhoven in Holland.
ND551 was one of two losses suffered by 83 Sqn on this mission. The other was Lancaster JB180 OL-T flown by Sqn.Ldr. A.R. Dunn DFC. He and his crew perished after being shot down by a German night fighter over the target. They are all buried at the Rheinberg War Cemetery.
(1) The fate of Flt.Lt. Walker was unknown until a British Military Court was convened in Essen during the period 11th to 26th June 1946.
One Austrian and nine German nationals were charged with committing a war crime, in that they, at Tilburg, on the 9th July 1944, in violations of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of Flight Lieutenant R.A. Walker DFC, RAF, Flying Officer J.S. Nott, RAAF and Flying Officer R.E. Carter, RCAF .
Those charged were:
Franz Schonfeld who was a former Kriminalobersekretär (Criminal Secretary) holding the equivalent rank of SS-Untersturmführer (2nd.Lt.) and a member of the Nazi party;
Albert Erich Ernst Rösener who was a former Kriminalassistent (Criminal Assistant) holding the equivalent rank of SS-Oberscharführer (S/Sgt.) and a member of the Nazi party;
Karl Paul Schwanz who was a former vehicle driver for the police and a member of the Nazi party;
Karl Hermann Otto Klingbeil who was a former Kriminalassistent holding the equivalent rank of SS-Oberscharführer and a member of the Nazi party;
Michael Rotschopf (Austrian national) who was a former secretary in the offices of the security police;
Karl Johannes Brendle who was a former Kriminalassistent holding the equivalent rank of SS-Oberscharführer and vehicle driver for the police
Hans Ernst Harders who was a former Kriminalrat (Senior Criminal Detective) holding the equivalent rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt.) and the chief of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security police) and the SD (Sicherheitsdienst = security service of the SS (Schutzstaffel)).
Eugen Emil Rafflenbeul who was a former SS-Rottenführer (Cpl), vehicle driver for the police and a member of the Nazi party;
Karl Cremer who was a former Kriminalassistent holding the equivalent rank of SS-Oberscharführer and a member of the Nazi party;
Werner Koeny, whose position and affiliation was not established.
The ten accused were all members of the Sicherheitspolizei based in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Holland.
The court heard that on the 1st July 1944 two members of the Dutch underground brought Roy Carter and an American named G.B. Lloyd§ who had been hiding for some time with a farmer in Valbrough ((sic ) – could be Valberg)) to the Van Harssel family home at 59 Heuvel in Tilburg. The two airmen had been evading German forces for some time after parachuting from their crashing aircraft.
§ No information regarding an Allied airman named G.B. Lloyd or his fate has been found.
The Van Harssels arranged for Carter to be kept in hiding with their immediate neighbour named Wellekens. Shortly after this Leoni van Harssel received a secret telephone call informing her that more airmen, possibly four, would be brought along later in the week.
On the night of the 8th July 1944 two Dutch policemen, members of the underground movement, arrived at the Van Harssel house with Stewart Nott and a Ronnie Norton ((sic) – this must have been Ronald Walker)). It had been arranged that a lady named Miss Jacoba Maria Pulskens who lived at 49 Diepenstraat in Tilburg would hide these airmen until their escape could be arranged. Miss Pulskens was also known as “Aunt Coba” and was largely instrumental in returning 21 Allied airmen to England.
When Nott and Walker arrived at 59 Heuvel, Carter asked if he could go along with them to the new location. This was agreed and the car in which they and the two Dutch policemen travelled was lead to 49 Diepenstraat by Leoni and Elizabeth van Harssel who were riding bicycles. En route they came across a car with Gestapo occupants who were stopping cars but theirs was not as it was marked as a police vehicle. After they arrived at 49 Diepenstraat the three airmen were handed over into the safekeeping of Miss Pulskens.
Earlier on the 8th July, a car driven by Dutch underground members and carrying two other Allied airmen (believed to be Canadian but their names are unknown) was stopped by the Gestapo and the occupants arrested. It was speculated that the location of Walker, Nott and Carter may have being obtained through interrogation of the arrested individuals.
The next morning on the orders of Harders two cars were dispatched from the Sicherheitspolizei headquarters in ‘s-Hertogenbosch to raid 49 Diepenstraat. The cars arrived near to the address at about 1100 hrs and the occupants were detailed to surround 49 Diepenstraat to ensure no one escaped during the raid.
Cremer and Rösener were detailed by Hardegen§ who was the leader of the raiding party, to go through the house to the left of 49 Diepenstraat and Hardegan went to 47 Diepenstraat; the other accused were detailed to take up various positions in the vicinity to guard against any possible routes of escape and in order to prevent the inhabitants of Tilburg from approaching 49 Diepenstraat.
§ This may have been Paul Hardegen, an SS-Untersturmführer (Lt.) who, whilst at the Gestapo offices in Almelo, was implicated during the trial concerning the death of Fg.Off. Gerald Hood but was not before that court. It is not known why he was not before the court for this trial, however, testimony established that Hardegen was the deputy to Harders and still held the rank of SS-Untersturmführer.
Rotschopf and Schwanz went to 49 Diepenstraat and when Miss Pulskens opened the door Schwanz detained her whilst Rotschopf, with some sort of machine carbine in his hand, went through the house to the living room where the airmen were eating a meal.
Witnesses related that Miss Pulskens saw that the airmen offered no resistance and had raised their hands above their heads in surrender. With Rotschopf’s weapon trained on them they were backed up through the living room, through the kitchen and out towards the yard or garden (Platz) where without warning he fired his weapon at the airmen. Evidence was presented that Rotschopf was shouting with rage whilst he continued to fire his weapon into the bodies of two of the airmen as they lay dying on the ground.
Subsequent to the shooting, according to Rotschopf’s own statement, he was joined in the Platz by Hardegen and Cremer and that Cremer, after he had a discussion with Hardegen, shot each of the airmen in the head with his pistol.
Following the shooting Miss Leoni van Harssel, Miss Pulskens, Mr. Josephus L.M. van Eerdewyk, from 47 Diepenstraat, along with 5 men of the Dutch resistance were arrested.
They were taken to the police station at Tilburg, interrogated and deemed to be criminals. The fate of the 5 men from the resistance is unknown. The others were sent to Mariënhof and then to the Herzogenbusch concentration camp. Miss Pulskens was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp were she was reported to have voluntarily taken the place of another woman who had children and died in the gas chambers during March 1945. Miss Leoni van Harssel was sent to Ravensbrück and then to Dachau. She was then evacuated to Waltershausen in Germany and was about to be killed but was saved when Waltershausen was liberated by US Forces.
The bodies of the airmen were covered with a Dutch flag supplied by Miss Pulskens. Prior to being taken away in ambulances to the local hospital an Inspector in the Ordnungspolizei (civil police), a Mr. J. Stevens photographed them and found identification details for Carter and Nott. He kept the negatives, which were used in the trial, but handed over the photographs to Hardegen. Subsequently their bodies were placed in coffins and taken to the Herzogenbusch concentration camp at Vught near ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The man who transported the bodies stated that he had waited there and that he left the camp with the empty coffins.
There are no known graves for the three airmen so it was assumed that their remains were cremated at the concentration camp.
Statements made by the accused claimed that the airmen had been shot because they had tried to escape. The court rejected this version of events and sentenced Rösener, Schwanz, Rotschopf and Cremer to death by hanging. All four were hanged on the 26th June 1947 at Hameln (Hamelin), three in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Schonfeld, Klingbeil, Brendle, Harders, Rafflenbeul and Koeny were acquitted of the charge. Koeny was mistakenly identified as being present during the raid at 49 Diepenstraat but it was established that he was on convalescent leave leading up to and on the day in question
Flt.Sgts. Houldsworth, Bailey, Taylor and WO. Kelly had their DFMs awards Gazetted on the 25th January 1946 pages 653 & 654.
Flt.Lt. Ronald Arthur Walker DFC, MiD. Runnymede Memorial Panel 203. Born in 1923, Son of Horace Thomas and Ethel Walker of Wigan, Lancashire, England.
Flt.Sgt. Harold Edward Houldsworth DFM. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Plot KK. Grave 92. Born on the 28th September 1923. Inscription: "DUTY NOBLY DONE. WE WHO LOVED YOU WILL NEVER FORGET". Son of Harold and Constance Pearl (née Harper) Houldsworth, of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.
(Left) Flt.Lt. Norman James Cornell DFC. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Plot KK. Grave 80. Born on the 22nd November 1910. Son of Richard Walter and Elizabeth Emily (née Sherman) Cornell who both predeceased him.
(Courtesy: Des Phillppet, FindAGrave)
Flt.Lt. John Hall Wells DFC. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Plot KK. Grave 79. Born on the 18th November 1922. Inscription: "UNTIL THE DAY BREAK AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY". Son of Thomas Hepple and Mary Lizzie (née Allison) Wells, of Stanley, Co. Durham, England.
(Right) Flt.Sgt. Reginald Charles Bailey DFM. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Plot KK. Grave 77. Born in 1922. Inscription: "YOU WILL BE FOREVER IN OUR MEMORY TILL THE END OF TIME. YOUR WIFE AND SON". Son of Charles and Rose Bailey; husband of Hilda Constance Bailey, of North Woolwich, London, England.
(Courtesy: Des Phillppet, FindAGrave)
Flt.Sgt. Charles Robert Taylor DFM. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Plot KK. Grave 78. Born on the 7th December 1923. Adopted son of Mr. and Mrs. P. A. Taylor, of South Norwood Hill, Surrey, England.
WO. David Richard Kelly DFM. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Plot KK. Grave 81. DoB and NoK details unknown
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’