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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.
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148 squadron
23/24.04.1942 148 Squadron, Wellington Ic BB483, Flt Lt. Anthony R.H. Hayter, Twice MiD

Operation: Comiso airfield, Sicily, Italy

Date: 23rd/24th April 1942 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 148 Squadron, Middle East Command

Type: Wellington Ic

Serial No: BB483

Code: FS:Q

Location: Acate, 9 km NE of Vittoria in Sicily

Base: RAF Luqa, Malta

Pilot: Flt Lt. Anthony Ross Henzell Hayter, Twice MiD 42124 RAFO Age 23. PoW No. 199 */Murdered

2nd Pilot: Sgt. Douglas Clarence King 1162476 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Maurice William Buckley 1380001 RAFVR Age 31. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. George William Tull 1283886 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Edward Henry March 1183970 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. James Bernard Kehoe 1289922 RAFVR Age? Killed

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)

Above: Sgt. King (Courtesy of Michel Beckers)

REASON FOR LOSS:

148 Sqn was on detachment to Luqa, Malta from the 5th April to 28th April 1942. The 23rd April 1942 was the third consecutive night that the airfield at Comiso in Sicily was attacked by the Sqn. A total of five Wellington were available for the eight sorties that night. Three of the sorties were flown by a single aircraft, a further two by a single aircraft and each of the remaining sorties by three aircraft.

Comiso airfield was located 6 km east of the town of Vittoria and 5¼ km north of the village of Comiso.

BB483 took off from RAF Luqa at 20:45 hrs along with two other Wellingtons from the Sqn.

Although a few bombs fell near Vittoria railway station, none hit Comiso airfield despite the eight sorties flown. BB483 and a second Wellington were lost on this night.

The second loss was Wellington DV573 FS:O, which crashed at Vittoria: 402442 Fg Off Roderick Macmillan Harper RAAF, 933276 Sgt. George Henry King RAFVR, 999231 Sgt. Eric Frederick Wear RAFVR, 926519 Sgt. Thomas Pellew Hosking RAFVR, 1167487 Sgt. Raymond Tucker Perrin RAFVR and 1378440 Sgt. Herbert Charles Powell RAFVR were all KiA.

Flt Lt. Hayter bailed out before his aircraft crashed at Acate, 9 km NE of Vittoria in Sicily. He was the only survivor from his crew. Three months later he was incarcerated at Stalag Luft 3.

At Stalag Luft 3 Flt Lt. Hayter was one of a number of mapmakers working under the direction of Flt Lt. Plunkett who was the chief mapmaker.

Flt Lt. Desmond Lancelot Plunkett, PoW No. 297, was the 13th out of the tunnel. After he was recaptured he was one of three that were sent to Stalag Luft I where he remained until liberated. The other two, Flt Lt. Bedrich Dvorak PoW No. 39648 and Flt Lt. Ivo Tonder PoW No. 561, were sent to Oflag IVc, Colditz castle. These three airmen were part of the group of eight that were held under special orders from Himmler. The two at Oflag IVc were apparently under the threat of execution but were liberated before their executions could be carried out.

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”.

Flt Lt. Hayter was arrested on the 4th April in Mulhouse in France just across the border from Basel in Switzerland.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Flt Lt. Hayter 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 fourth count Alfred Schimmel, the Chief of the Strasbourg Gestapo, was accused of killing Flt Lt. A.R.H. Hayter in the vicinity of Natzweiler, France on about the 6th April 1944.

Schimmel was a former Oberregierungs- und Kriminalrat (Senior Government official and Chief Detective), and held the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt Col).

The court heard that on or about the 6th April 1944, some officers of the local Kripo brought a British officer, a PoW, to his office to hand him over into the custody of the Gestapo. Later in the day Schimmel received a teleprint from SS-Gruppenführer Müller, his superior at Amt IV, instructing him that the British PoW in his custody was to be shot. The teleprint gave the essentials of the Hitler order.

Schimmel telephoned Müller and remonstrated with him, but when the latter threatened him with an SS court martial, Schimmel relented. He then detailed two of his officials, Dissner and Hilker, to take Flt Lt. Hayter out in the direction of Natzweiler and shoot him.

Heinrich Hilker was a former Kriminalsekretär (Detective Inspector) holding the rank of SS-Sturmscharführer (Sgt Maj). Max Dissner’s position and rank have not been determined.

The two removed Flt Lt. Hayter from the Strasburg jail on the 6th April 1944 and in area of Natzweiler they shot him. The next morning they reported the execution of the order and Schimmel sent a teleprint to Müller to inform him accordingly.

A few weeks later the report had to be re-written on Müller’s orders, to make it "more realistic” in case there should be an enquiry by the Protecting Power (Switzerland). Schimmel had the report re-written and sent Hilker to Amt IV to deliver the report personally.

Dissner and Hilker were not before the court. Dissner hanged himself in his cell on the 11th May 1948. It has been reported that Hilker had been prematurely released from French custody in 1946. Hilker was eventually arrested in West Germany and charged but the case was dismissed on the 23rd December 1966. He died on the 11th April 1968.

Schimmel was found guilty of the charge and sentenced to death. He was executed at Hameln prison by Albert Pierrepoint, assisted by RSM Richard A. O'Neill, on the 26th February 1948 at 09:28 hrs.

Burial details:

Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Courtesy: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)

Above grave marker for Flt Lt. Hayter (Courtesy of the TWGPP)

Flt Lt. Anthony Ross Henzell Hayter, Twice MiD. Poznań Old Garrison Cemetery Coll. Grave 9.A. Inscription: "AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM." Born on the 20th May 1920 in Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire. Son of Lt Col. Herbert Roche Hayter, DSO, and Elsie Helen Evelyn Winterton (née Pidcock-Henzell) Hayter of Newbury, Berkshire, England

Plt Off. Hayter was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) on the 1st January 1941;

Flt Lt. Hayter was 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 8th June 1944.

Sgt. Douglas Clarence King. Catania War Cemetery, Sicily Coll. Grave IV.L.24. Son of Alfred Archibald Frederick Clarence and Gwendoline Victoria King; husband of Joan Winifred Mary King, of Banstead, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Maurice William Buckley. Catania War Cemetery, Sicily Coll. Grave IV.L.24. Born on the 11th January 1911 in Dover, Kent. Son of Joseph William and Lilian Elizabeth Major (née Drake) Buckley. Husband to Joan Marguerite (née Woolhouse) Buckley of Southampton, Hampshire, England.

Sgt. George William Tull. Catania War Cemetery, Sicily IV.L.21. Born on the 17th July 1920 in St. Olave, Greater London. Son of George John Daniel and Ethel (née Wood) Tull, of Northwood, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. Edward Henry March. Catania War Cemetery, Sicily Coll. Grave IV.L.24. Inscription: "IN THOUGHTS STILL WITH US." Born on the 16th July 1920 in Epping, Essex. Son of Edward George and Dorothy Irene (née Potter) March, of Higham's Park, Essex, England.

Sgt. James Bernard Kehoe. Catania War Cemetery, Sicily Coll. Grave IV.L.24. No further information.

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:

RS & TV 30.03.2022 - Initial upload

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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', 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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