05.03.1942 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU), Spitfire PR.IV AA810, Plt Off. Alistair D.M. Gunn Twice MiD
Operation: Photographic Reconnaissance, Trondheim, Norway
Date: 5th March 1942 (Thursday)
Unit No: 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU), 16 Group, RAF Coastal Command
Type: Spitfire PR.IV
Serial No: AA810
Location: Surnadal Mountains, Norway
Base: RAF Wick, Scotland
Pilot: Fg Off. Alastair Donald Mackintosh ‘Sandy’ Gunn Twice MiD 60340 RAFVR Age 24. PoW No. 5 * /Murdered
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
Note: In conformity with the normal practice of these units the aircraft carried no individual identification letter.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 5th March 1942 Fg Off. Gunn took off in Spitfire PR.IV AA810 from RAF Wick at 08:07 hrs on a photographic reconnaissance mission to the naval anchorages on the Norwegian coastline near Trondheim in Norway
The only claim for a Spitfire this day was by Fw. Dieter Gerhard, his 1st Abschuss, from 3./JG 1 over Trondheim at 12:20 hrs. (The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) (German Air Force High Command) fighter claims for the Reich, West & Südfront).
On the 18th March 1943 in combat with B-24s in the Heligoland area his Bf109 was shot down and he bailed out into the sea. He was rescued but was gravely wounded and died later that day. Lt. Gerhardt had 5 confirmed Abschüsse. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 2).
Flt Lt. Gunn earned for himself or was selected on an early position in the line of two hundred hoping to escape from the north compound of Stalag Luft 3.
Above: Preparing fresh straw for mattresses (known as Palliasses). Flt Lt. Gunn on the right.
On the night of the 24th-25th March 1944, 76 officers escaped from the north compound of Stalag Luft 3 which, at that time, held between 1000 and 1500 RAF PoWs. The escape was made by the means of a tunnel. 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”.
It is not known when Flt Lt. Gunn exited the tunnel nor with whom he travelled, if at all. What is known from the trial transcript is that he was captured at or near Sagan and that he was one of a number of recaptured officers who were killed by persons unknown some time after the 4th April 1944 and cremated in Breslau. The other officers were:
Plt Off. W.J. Grisman, Lt. C.A.N. McGarr, Flt Lt. H.J. Milford, Fg Off. D.O. Street and Flt Lt. J.F. Williams.
No one was formally charged with the actual murder of Flt Lt. Gunn or the other five officers. The bodies of this group were cremated at Breslau and their urns returned to Stalag Luft 3.
Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Courtesy: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)
Above grave marker for Flt Lt. Gunn MiD (Courtesy of TWGPP)
Flt Lt. Alastair Donald Macintosh Gunn MiD. Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, 8.D.7. Grave inscription: "MAY HE REST IN THY PEACE IN THEY PEACE AND AWAKE TO A JOYFUL RESURRECTION". Born on the 27th September 1917 at Auchterarder, Perthshire. Son of James Turner Gunn, FRCS, MB, ChB and Adelaide Lucy Frances Gunn of Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland.
Plt Off. Gunn was promoted to Fg Off. on the 25th January 1942. London Gazette 24th February 1942;
Fg Off. Gunn was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) on the 11th June 1942;
Fg Off. Gunn was promoted to Flt Lt. on the 19th January 1943. London Gazette 14th May 1943;
Flt Lt. Gunn was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) for a second time 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 on the 8th June 1944.
Originally researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot (Dec 2019). Video added by Stefan Youngs (Jan 2022). Reviewed and updated by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ (Aug 2022).
Other sources listed below:
Thanks to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project’ for their great work.
In 2018 this Spitfire was recovered from a bog and efforts are being made to restore it. Please visit Spitfire AA810 to find out more, follow the progress and perhaps offer your support.