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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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74 crest
16.08.1944 74 (Trinidad) Squadron, Spitfire LF.IXe NH374, WO. Dennis C. Burman

Operation: “Ramrod” Cambrai-Laon area, France

Date: 16th August 1944 (Wednesday)

Unit No: 74 (Trinidad) Squadron, 145 Wing, 2nd Tactical Air Force

Type: Spitfire LF.IXe

Serial No: NH374

Code: 4D:R

Location: Rœux about 8 km (5 mls) ENE of Arras, France

Base: RAF Tangmere, Sussex, England

Pilot: WO. Dennis Cecil Burman, 404889 RNZAF Age 23. Murdered

Above: WO. Burman as an LAC under aircrew training (Courtesy of the AVMM)

Sgt. Burman claimed a Bf109 damaged on the 5th July 1942 whilst with 145 Sqn flying Spitfire Vb BP959 ZX:D;
As a Flt Sgt. he claimed a Fieseler Fi156 ‘Storch’ destroyed on the 5th November 1942 whilst with 274 Sqn flying Hurricane IIb HL795 'V'.

Above a colour depiction of Flt Sgt. Burman’s Hurricane IIb HL795. (Unknown authenticity and attribution)

REASON FOR LOSS:

WO. Burman took off, on his 24th or 25th sortie, at 07:15 hrs with eleven others from the Squadron accompanied by Spitfires from 329 Sqn, on a ‘Ramrod’ mission in the Cambrai-Laon area, France.

Intense light accurate flak was encountered south of Douai which resulted in WO. Burman’s Spitfire being shot down. He was seen to bale out and apparently land safely in the village of Rœux about 8 km (5 mls) NE of Arras in France.

An investigation into the death of WO. Burman determined that:

On the day in question an air battle took place over Rœux and an Allied plane was hit by Flak from a train at the station which crashed about 1 km from the spot where the pilot baled out and landed.

The pilot, who was later identified as WO. Burman, abandoned his aircraft in the neighbourhood of Rœux and it was claimed that he had been shot at by German soldiers while descending by parachute. One French witness stated that he had seen a German officer kicking the pilot and firing his pistol into the airman’s mouth after he had landed.

His body was taken to Biache-St. Vaast for burial and the grave was marked by a plain wooden cross. The Mayor of Biache-St. Vaast was ordered to arrange for the burial of the body but the Mayor was unable to obtain a coffin sufficiently quickly and the Germans apparently acquired one from Vitry-en-Artois, about 3 km (1¾ mls) to the NE.

They placed the body in the coffin themselves so that no one at Biache-St. Vaast knew whose body it contained, the manner or cause of death. Three Frenchmen together with the Mayor filled in the grave which was at the centre of the cemetery and in the third grave in an area reserved for Allied soldiers.

A British pathologist was instructed to exhume the body of airman in the Biache-St. Vaast cemetery and to establish firstly, the presence of bullet wounds in his body which he sustained while descending by parachute and secondly, the wound which it was reported to have been caused by him having been shot in the mouth.

The pathologist found that the injuries were confined to the chest. The chest showed evidence of four bullet holes with the most extensive wound through the left shoulder and occurred whilst the arms were raised above the level of the shoulder as would be expected if in surrender. Due to the extent of the injuries resulting from this bullet it was the opinion of the pathologist that they were inflicted by a round fired from a rifle or other high velocity weapon of a smaller calibre fired from a horizontal direction. The other three wounds were found in the upper back and appeared to have been fired in a downward direction from a small calibre weapon.

The statement given by the French witness who had claimed that a German officer had kicked the pilot and shot him in the mouth with a pistol after he had landed was brought into question as no injury on the body could be found which could confirm his claim.

The investigation found that the only person known to have been at Rœux where the claimed murder had taken place was a Leutnant (2nd Lt) Erwin Kopp of Marschbataillon V/165 who at that time was being held at PoW Camp 184 in Llanmartin, near Newport in Wales.

Note: Marschbataillons were temporary units made up of assorted replacement personnel destined for regular battalions of an infantry regiment or brigade. In the later stages of the war they became improvised combat units often with only small arms and machine guns.

In his deposition he described that on the day in question he was aboard a Flak train stopped at a small railway station which he thought was at Rœux. He went on to describe that the station and train was attacked by British fighters and one of them was shot down. He saw the airman descending by parachute and that he had landed about 500 m. from his train. He ran to the spot together with many soldiers to where the airman had landed and when he arrived he saw the airman lying on his parachute and that he was dead. The front of his uniform was soaked in blood and from that he assumed that he had been shot in the chest. In his opinion the pilot must have been mortally wounded either in the aircraft or in the air whilst parachuting. Soldiers and civilians stood around the body but he did not see any personnel from the SS and did not hear anyone claiming that the pilot had been shot after he had landed nor did he hear any shooting whilst he was running toward the location.

On the 21st July 1947 no progress on finding further witnesses had been made and it was recommended that the investigation be closed.

Burial details:

Above the only three Commonwealth Graves in this cemetery (Courtesy of the AVMM)

Left to right: Unknown British Solider from the Royal Armoured Corps who died in May 1940; Flt Lt. I.S. Soden DSO; WO. D.C. Burman. Note: Flt Lt. Ian Scovil Soden DSO, 33289 RAF from 56 Sqn. His Hurricane I N2437 was shot down by an Me110 on the 18th May 1940.

WO. Dennis Cecil Burman. Biache-St. Vaast Communal Cemetery Grave 3. Born on the 7th October 1920 in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England. Son of Cecil Richard and Nellie (née Gardiner) Burman, of Invercargill, New Zealand.

He was a clerk for the State Advances Corporation and enlisted on the 1st December 1940 at Levin.

He served with 145, 274 and 92 Squadrons in the Middle East theatre of operations. Completed 96 operations with 573 hrs logged.

Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire (Feb 2021). Thanks also to Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, AWMM, Weekly News of New Zealand. Reviewed and updated by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ (Sep 2023)

Other sources listed below:

RS & TV 01.09.2023 - Reviewed and updated

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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', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. 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.
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