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.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

442 Squadron Crest
28.10.1944 422 Squadron, RCAF, Spitfire LF.IX PL207, Fg Off. George A. Costello

Operation: Dive bombing operation, Germany

Date: 28th October 1944 (Saturday)

Unit No: 422 Squadron, RCAF, 126 Wing, 2nd Tactical Air Force

Type: Spitfire LF.IX

Serial No: PL207

Code: Y2:?

Base: B80 airfield, Volkel, Netherlands

Location: North of Haltern, Germany

Pilot: Fg Off. George Arnold ‘Pug’ Costello J39820 RCAF Age 21. Murdered

Above: Fg Off. George Arnold ‘Pug’ Costello from his service record


The circumstantial report from the Officer Commanding (OC) of 442 Sqn, RCAF describes the operation and its outcome:

On the 28th October 1944 at 14:00 hrs Fg Off. Costello took off from B80 airfield, Volkel, Netherlands with a section of four aircraft to dive bomb a level crossing north of Dulmen. The section was led by Flt Lt. M.E. Jowsey DFC.

One direct hit was scored cutting the rails. A train was then attacked and damaged in the same vicinity. This train was made up of 15 freight cars with the two cars next to the locomotive being flak cars carrying 20 and 40 mm guns. Fg Off. Costello’s Spitfire was hit by flak whilst making his first attack on the train.

He reported on the R/T that his engine had been hit and was starting for base. Flt Lt. Jowsey gave him a course for home with Fg Off. Lumsden as escort. They climbed to 4000 ft towards base.

When north of Haltern Fg Off. Costello’s engine quit all-together and was burning on the port side. He glided straight ahead to about 1000 ft where he baled out. His parachute opened at about 500 ft and he landed on the edge of a small woods very close to Lavesum in Germany, after which he was seen to run and disappear into the woods.

Lavesum is some 40¼ km (25 mls) north of Essen Germany.

As a result of this action Fg Off. Costello was listed by the unit as “Missing on Operations in the Haltern Area, Germany”.

The circumstances leading to the death of Fg Off. Costello were determined by a General Military Court convened at the Curio House in Hamburg from the 22nd May 1947 until the 2nd June 1947.

One German national was charged with committing a war crime in that he at Helenenhöhe, Germany, on or about 28 October 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, killed Fg Off. George Arnold Costello, RAF, a prisoner of war.

The accused was a Johann Wilhelm Lütfring who was the "Party District Admin Chief" in charge of "M" Department (Responsible for bomb damage assessment and reports) at the Command post at Helenenhöhe.

From the number of witnesses and depositions the court was presented with the following description of events:

August Hermann Schwake, a baker by trade, described that at the end of October 1944, when he and Hermann Schaefner, a Politischer Leiter (Political leader in the Nazi party), had just left the command post at Helenenhöhe in his car he saw a low flying enemy aircraft crashing and a pilot baling out by parachute.

Lütfring approached them and directed them to drive him to the crash site. When they arrived Schwake saw approximately 10 civilians standing around the pilot. He was sure that the pilot was wearing flying boots, leather flying helmet and yellow scarf around his neck.

They collected the pilot and drove back to the command post at Helenenhöhe. Arriving there they all of them exited the car and while Lütfring and Schaefner entered the command post, Schwake remained near to his car or in the post office nearby and the pilot remained in the same place near the car. 5 or 6 mins later Schwake saw Lütfring leave the command post armed with a pistol holstered on a belt on his waist. He had been ordered by his superior to transfer the pilot to the local police or local garrison at Haltern.

Lütfring ordered the pilot to accompany him and they both set off on foot down a path leading from Helenenhöhe to the main road of Laversumer Straße. Schwake had the impression that the pilot was rather distrustful of Lütfring and was hesitant to go with him. He saw them walk down the hill with the pilot watching him warily. About 5 or 6 mins after the two had left Schwake heard at least two shots, possibly more, fired at an interval of 8-10 seconds.

When Schaefner returned from what he was doing he got into the car and they drove down the road from Helenenhöhe. After about 30 m (95 ft) they saw Lütfring coming towards them. Schwake did not did not stop his car, however, when passing Lütfring he appeared make a sign which he interpreted to mean that the pilot had been 'finished off'. After driving about another 120 m (390 ft). they saw the pilot lying 2-3 m. (6½ -10ft) off the side of the road but they drove on without stopping.

Willhelm Neufeld, a Polizeimeister (SNCO in the police) based at Haltern received a phone message about the pilot and cycled along the Haltern - Lavesum road (Laversumer Straße). He arrived at the junction of the lane leading to Helenenhöhe when he saw the normal two SA guards. They pointed out where the pilot was lying in some small bushes. He was about 2-3 m. (6½ -10ft) from the main road. He went to the pilot and saw his open eyes had life in them and heard him groan. He opened his flying suit and saw a lot of blood. He then cycled towards Haltern to find a car in which to transport the pilot to help. After about 100 m. (320 ft) he stopped an ambulance on the road, but on reaching the pilot it was found that he had died. The body was loaded into the ambulance and Neufeld sent it to the mortuary at Haltern. He had taken the pilot’s papers and established that the pilot’s name was Costello, he was Canadian and that he was a Lt.

The following day Lütfring told Schwake that the pilot was distrustful of him and that in order for him to cock his pistol he feigned the need to relive himself at the side of the road and left the pilot in the middle of the road. He hid the cocked pistol behind his back and upon returning to the road ordered the pilot to move on. He then shot the pilot immediately from behind followed by a second shot. Lütfring told him that he shot him this way in order to claim that the pilot had attempted to escape.

Lütfring apparently was of the opinion that if enemy airmen were permitted to kill defenceless farmers in the fields, it would only be just to shoot a defenceless enemy pilot. He also told Schwake that he had reported the incident to his superior and was severely reprimanded for his actions.

The autopsy of Fg Off. Costello revealed two distinct small calibre gunshot wounds to the chest. Both had entered the body from the rear. One entrance and exit was level slightly right to left. The second, the lower of the two which exited level with the heart was at a distinct angle from right to left. In the pathologist’s opinion the first shot was fired at close range of not more than 3 or 4 ft and was not immediately fatal. The second shot would have been fatal although the victim might have lived a short time, a minute or so at a maximum. In his opinion the second wound was caused by a shot fired from not more that 10 to 15 yards.

In his testimony Lütfring claimed that the pilot was attempting to escape and that he was justified in shooting him. The court rejected his defence and found him guilty of the charge. He was sentence to death by hanging.

Lütfring was executed at 14:42 hrs on the 5th September 1947 at Hamelin Prison by Albert Pierrepoint assisted by RSM. Richard Anthony O'Neill and Edwin James Roper.

Burial details:

Fg Off. Costello was initially buried on the 31st October 1944 at the Sythen Ehrenfriedhof in grave 43 and was exhumed on the 26th August 1946 for concentration to the Reichswald Forest British Cemetery.

Above: Fg Off. George A. Costello and Grave marker (Courtesy of Marc Hall)

Fg Off. George Arnold ‘Pug’ Costello. Reichswald Forest British Cemetery, Plot 1, Row F, Grave 17. Inscription: SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS’. Born on the 12th February 1923 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Son of Valentine deLacy and Elina Marie Josephine (née Todd) Costello of Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada. Fiancée of Mary Jepsom of Toronto, Canada.

His brother Fg Off. James Gordon Costello also served in the RCAF.

His flying career did not start on a successful note. On the 11th January 1943 whilst a Sgt. with 133 (F) Sqn at RCAF Station Boundary Bay in British Columbia, he allowed his Hurricane XII 5386, to swing off the runway whilst taxiing causing the aircraft to tip up onto its nose resulting in considerable damage to the airscrew and port oleo leg.

On the 10th December 1943 R116052 WO2 Costello was granted a commission and promoted to Plt Off after which he was posted to the UK embarking from Halifax on the 20th January 1944. He joined 442 Sqn on the 13th February 1944.

At RAF Funtington at 12:45 hrs on the 8th May 1944, Plt Off. Costello was taxiing back to the dispersal after a sortie in Spitfire LF.IX MK181 Y2:B and following the Spitfire LF.IX MK149 of Fg Off. L.E Cochand J13478. Spitfire LF.IX MJ967 Y2:X flown by Flt Lt. Stiles veered off the landing strip crashing into Fg Off. Cochand’s aircraft and then further colliding practically head on to Fg Off. Costello’s Spitfire. Plt Off. Costello suffered minor injuries and his aircraft was written off.

On the 30th June at 17:30 hrs Plt Off. Costello flying Spitfire LF.IX Y2:B claimed a Bf109 destroyed west of Falaise in Germany.

On the 7th October 1944 at about 16:35 Fg Off. Costello flying Spitfire PL436 claimed a Fw190 damaged which was not confirmed by the 2nd Tactical Air Force.

In 1986 Costello Island in Big Sand Lake, Manitoba was named after him. Fg Off. 'Frosty' Young visited his family at the end of the war and remained in close contact via the reunions at Comox.

Initially researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) with thanks to Marc Hall. Sean Feast and Traugott Vitz for war crime information (Sep 2018). Reviewed and rewritten by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ (Apr 2023.)

RS & TV 04.04.2023 - Reviewed and updated

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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.
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 - 2024
Last Modified: 04 April 2023, 14:12

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