08/09.10.1942 10 OTU, Whitley V AD671, WO. Clifford N. Ellis
Operation: Anti-Submarine patrol, Bay of Biscay
Date: 8th/9th October 1942 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 10 Operational Training Unit (OTU), Detachment, Coastal Command
Type: Whitley V
Serial No: AD671
Location: Bay of Biscay, France
Base: RAF St. Eval, Cornwall
Pilot: WO. Clifford Niles Ellis 1115200 RAFVR Age 27. PoW No. 27187 * (2)
2nd Pilot: WO2. William Arthur Gammon R90421 RCAF Age 21. PoW No. 27194 * (3)
Obs: WO. Leslie Herbert Dean 1336968 RAFVR Age 30. PoW No. 27193 *
WOp/Air Gnr: WO. Francis Desmond Garrett 1337659 RAFVR Age 21. PoW No. 27216 *
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Dennis Herbert Cochran MiD, 122441 RAFVR Age 23. PoW No. 727**/Murdered (1)
Air Gnr: WO2 Ward Chapman ‘Bud’ Roach R83351 RCAF Age 20. PoW No. 27232 * (4)
* Stalag 344, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia
** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)
REASON FOR LOSS:
AD671 took off from RAF St. Eval in Cornwall on an anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay to hunt German U-Boats making their way to and from their home ports and the North Atlantic.
The Whitley was intercepted by a Ju88c flown by Leutnant (Lt) Dieter Meister from 13./KG40 over the Bay of Biscay at 16:00 hrs. This was to be his 1st confirmed Abschuss.
Lt. Meister was shot down and killed on the 21st November 1944. His Fw190 was claimed as a probable by a Lt. J. Tillett Jr. from the 12th Rec Sqn. Lt. Meister had at least 8 Abschüsse in the west to his credit.
Tillett is believed to be 1st Lt. John Tillett Jr. O-669525, from the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Sqn, 10th Photographic Group, 9th Air Force.
It is believed that after the Whitley was damaged during the attack it ditched in the Bay of Biscay. The crew survived and made it ashore somewhere on the west coast of France where WO. Ellis, WO2. Gammon, WO. Dean, WO. Garrett and WO2. Roach were immediately captured.
According to German PoW records Plt Off. Cochran successfully evaded the Germans but was captured a month later on the 9th November 1942 and was eventually incarcerated at Stalag Luft 3.
(1) At Stalag Luft 3 Fg Off. Cochran was one of the primary tunnellers. This coupled with his command of the German language gave him the position of number 16 out of the tunnel.
Sqn Ldr. Bushell was made the head of the Escape Committee and he was known as "Big X". His plan was to cause the maximum amount of disruption to the Germans in organising a breakout by 200 PoWs. His plan was to commence digging three tunnels which were named "Tom", "Dick" and "Harry" under the premise that should one of the three be discovered the Germans would unlikely think that another was being dug let alone two.
Some 600 PoWs were involved in the planning, preparation of escape materials and construction of the tunnels. On the 8th September 1943 “Tom” was discovered and activity on the other two tunnels was shut down for two months to eliminate the risk of being discovered. When work was to recommence “Dick” was shut down because of the clearance for a new compound made unlikely that this tunnel would ever be completed and all efforts were redirected into completing “Harry”.
On the night of the 24th-25th March 1944, 76 officers escaped via “Harry” from the north compound which, at that time, held between 1000 and 1500 RAF PoWs. At about 05:00 hrs on the 25th March the 77th PoW was spotted by guards as he emerged from the tunnel.
An overview of the German response to the escape and the subsequent British prosecution of those responsible for the murder of fifty of the escapees is summarised in the report entitled “The Fifty - The Great Escape”.
Fg Off. Cochran along with a number of other escapees who were gathered at the Sagan railway station managed to embark on a Breslau destined train which departed at 01:00 hrs on the 25th March. Plt Off. Cochran who was travelling alone was captured only 7km from the Swiss border on the 30th March and was taken to the prison at Ettlingen.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Fg Off. Cochran were established during the first of two British Military Courts which was convened at the Curiohaus, Hamburg between the 1st July and 3rd September 1947. This was the trial of Max Wielen and 17 others where they were charged on nine counts.
All of the accused were named on the first two counts. These counts were charges of conspiracy against Max Ernst Gustav Friedrich Wielen, the Kripo and Gestapo police chief of Breslau with the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer, together with SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, Head of the Gestapo (Amt IV of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA)) (believed to have been killed or committed suicide) and SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, Head of the Kripo (Amt V of the RSHA) (Executed after the attempt on Hitler’s life) in the participation of the killing of the 50 officers.
Kripo = Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police).
In counts three to nine, six groups of accused were each charged with the killing of one or several officers. Every accused with the exception of Max Wielen figures in one of these counts and no accused figures in more than one.
On the fifth count four members of the Karlsruhe Gestapo were accused of committing a war crime in that they in the vicinity of Natzweiler in France, on or about 31st March 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of Fg Off. D.H. Cochran, RAF a PoW.
The accused were:
Josef Albert Andreas Gmeiner who was a former Oberregierung- und Kriminalrat (Senior Government official and Chief Detective) and held the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt Col);
Walter Herberg who was a former Kriminalkommissar (Detective Superintendent) and held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt);
Otto Preiss who was a former Kriminalsekretär (Detective Inspector) and held the rank of SS-Sturmscharführer (Sgt Maj);
The rank and position of Heinrich Boschert remains unknown.
The court heard that Gmeiner was the Commanding Officer at regional headquarters of the Gestapo at Karlsruhe. On or about the 31st March 1944, he received a teleprint from SS-Gruppenführer Müller his superior at Amt IV, instructing him that the British airman held by the Karlsruhe Kripo was to be shot. The teleprint gave the essential points of the Hitler order.
Gmeiner then ordered the three men whom he had chosen to carry out the order to his office and delegated them to specific tasks. Herberg was made responsible for carrying out the shooting and to organise the death certificate and crematorium orders. Preiss was delegated as the executioner and Boschert the driver. He then pledged all present to secrecy with handshakes.
The following morning Fg Off. Cochran was collected, handcuffed and put in the back of a car. Herberg told him that he was being taken to a transit camp. Near the Natzweiler concentration camp the car was halted on the side of the road.
Herberg claimed he needed to relieve himself and invited Fg Off. Cochran to do the same after which they all exited the car. Boschert testified that he could not watch what was about to transpire and turned his back and walked some distance along the road. Shortly thereafter he heard a shot followed by a second. When he returned to the car Fg Off. Cochran was dead lying face down on the ground.
The court found the accused guilty of the charge for which they were sentenced to death. Boschert’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment presumably because at a review it was considered that his culpability did not warrant the death sentence. The final disposition of his sentence is unknown.
Gmeiner, Herberg and Preiss were executed at Hameln prison by Albert Pierrepoint, assisted by RSM Richard A. O'Neill, on the 26th February 1948.
(2) WO. Ellis as a 2nd. Pilot had already experienced a close shave serving with the detachment on the 27th September 1942 when Whitley V, AD708 returning from an anti-submarine patrol landed on the short runway at RAF St. Eval and swung out of control, the undercarriage giving way in the process. The aircraft caught fire but the crew managed to scramble clear without injury. This was WO2. Denison Hilton Thompson’s, the pilot, second serious accident. He was posted to 428 (Ghost) Sqn, RCAF and was declared missing, along with his crew, on the 27th/28th May 1943 raid on Essen aboard Wellington X, HZ485 NA:G.
(3) WO2. Gammon’s brother, Flt Sgt. Rex Thomas Gammon R90157 RCAF, was KiA on the 28th July 1942 on a mission to Hamburg aboard 22 OTU, Wellington Ic X3201. He is interred at the Hamburg Cemetery in Grave 4A.E.14. Son of James and Rhoda Gammon of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.
(4) After the war WO2 ‘Bud’ Roach was one of the founding members of the PoW Association of Canada and a past President of the Royal Canadian Legion branch 84 in Lemington. Ward Chapman ‘Bud’ Roach passed away on the 29th October 2012.
Courtesy of The Windsor Star, dated Wednesday October 31st, 2012
Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Courtesy: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)
Grave marker for Fg Off. Cochran MiD (Courtesy of TWGPP)
Fg Off. Dennis Herbert Cochran MiD. Poznań Old Garrison Cemetery Coll. Grave 9.A. Inscription: "OF WHOM MAY WE SEEK FOR SUCCOUR, O LORD, WHO FOR OUR SINS ART JUSTLY DISPLEASED". Born on the 13th August 1921 in Hackney, London. Son of Herbert William and Ethel Grace Lilian (née Heinlee) Cochran of Leyton, Essex, England. His mother predeceased him in July 1943.
Plt Off. Cochran was promoted to Fg Off. whilst a PoW with effect 30th November 1942. Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 8th January 1943.
Fg Off. Cochran was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) recognizing his conspicuous bravery as a PoW because none of the other relevant decorations then available could be awarded posthumously. Promulgated in the London Gazette 8th June 1944.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
Thanks to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project (TWGPP)’ for their great work.
Other sources as quoted below: