Operation: Düsseldorf, Germany
Date: 2nd/3rd November 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit No: 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Lancaster X
Base: RAF Middleton St. George, County Durham, North Yorkshire
Location: Berliner Straße at Solingen, Germany
Pilot: Fg Off. Jack Holtze J85593 RCAF Age 27. KiA
Flt Eng: Plt Off. Ernest Crossley 185784 RAFVR Age 22. Murdered (1)
Nav: Flt Sgt. Jack Lupinsky R164676 RCAF Age 23. Murdered (1)
Bomber Aimer: Flt Sgt. Allan Gilchrist Samuel R155128 RCAF Age 24. Murdered (1)
WOp/Air Gnr: WO1 Leslie John Ruhl R143101 RCAF Age 19. KiA
Air Gnr (MU): Sgt. Matthew Dorrell R147377 RCAF Age 21. Murdered (1)
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Joseph Ferdinand Jacques Bachant R164918 RCAF Age 23. KiA
Left to Right: Flt Sgt. Samuel, Sgt. Dorrell, Sgt. Bachant from their service records
REASON FOR LOSS:
Lancaster KB782 took off from RAF Middleton Saint George at 16:16 hrs on the evening of 2nd November 1944 on a mission to Düsseldorf, Germany.
Fg Off. Holtze, WO1. Ruhl and Sgt. Bachant were killed when their aircraft crashed at around 19:30 hrs in Solingen, Berliner Straße. The remaining four crew members were captured and taken to the local jail, situated in the Solingen town hall.
KB782 was claimed by Lt. Heinz-Joachim Schlage, his 1st Abschuss, from Stab IV./NJG1, over Dusseldorf at a height of 6.000 m at 19:13 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 October 1944 - 31 December 1944) Part 5 - Theo Boiten).
A message from the Armed Forces HQ Wuppertal to Wehrkreis VI/Air Defence dated 3rd November 1944 (in ULTRA, HW5, file 612), reported that at 19:12 hrs the aircraft crashed in Solingen at the corner of Franken and Beringstraße with 4 HE bombs aboard. It was reported that there were 11 dead, 31 injured and 10 buried including 5 dead. One large and two small fires with 10 houses completely destroyed, 12 moderately damaged and 30 slightly damaged. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 October 1944 - 31 December 1944) Part 5 - Theo Boiten).
(1) The circumstances leading to the deaths of Sgt. Crossley, Flt Sgt. Lupinsky, Flt Sgt. Samuel and Sgt. Dorrell were tried by a British Military Court from 22nd May to 30th May 1947 at Hamburg.
Four German nationals were before the court. They were Erich Wilinski, an SA-Sturmführer (2nd Lt), Hans Kühn, a Wehrmacht soldier and Solingen resident, on home furlough on the day in question, Peter Wahlen and Fritz Lomberg.
On the first charge, Wilinski, Kühn and Wahlen were charged with committing a war crime, in that (they) at Solingen, Germany, on or about the 5th November, 1944, were concerned in the killing of Pilot Officer E. Crossley, RAF, Flight Sergeant J. Lupinski, RCAF, Flight Sergeant A.G. Samuel, RCAF, and Sergeant M. Dorrell, RCAF, prisoners of war.
On the second charge, Peter Wahlen and Fritz Lomberg were charged with committing a war crime, in that (they), at Solingen, Germany, on or about the 5th November, 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the ill-treatment of Pilot Officer E. Crossley, RAF. Flight Sergeant L. Lupinksy, RCAF, Flight Sergeant A.G. Samuel, RCAF and Sergeant M. Dorrell, RCAF, prisoners of war.
After the charges were read the trial of Fritz Lomberg was separated from the trial of the three others, and he was removed from the court. His trial was held after the sentencing of the other three. The prosecutor did not offer any evidence, and Lomberg was acquitted.
The court heard that the city of Solingen suffered devastating air raids on 4th and 5th of November. After the raid on the 5th November, while some houses were still burning and rescue work was in progress, a Luftwaffe truck arrived to fetch the four prisoners for transport to Düsseldorf. The four prisoners were brought out of the town hall and were led to the waiting truck which was parked close by in Potsdamer Straße. When the people in the street noticed the prisoners being brought out, all hell broke lose. Insults were shouted and stones thrown. Some men drew their pistols and started to shoot. The Luftwaffe escort was powerless to prevent this. In the end, all four prisoners lay dead in the street.
The best available witness evidence points to the street corner between the slate-covered house with the sign "Nostalgie" and the white house. It was here that on the 75th anniversary of the crime (5th November 2019) a small group of men and women gathered. Among them were the Mayor of Solingen, two men representing the British Legion who laid a wreath, local TV, and Traugott Vitz, the author of this report, who was tasked with making a small speech of commemoration. (Credit Traugott Vitz)
It proved to be extremely difficult to find out with any degree of certainty who had done what in this melee, particularly since the witness evidence was contradictory on quite a number of points.
The pathologist who had carried out the post mortem testified that Dorrell had been killed by a shot to his head, Crossley had been shot by two different weapons, both projectiles passing though his chest from behind, Lupinsky had been killed by a small calibre bullet, entering his chest from the front, and Samuel had been hit by a bullet in the chest before being killed by a bullet to his head.
The court found Wilinski and Kühn guilty and Wahlen not guilty.
Wilinski was sentenced to be hanged, and Kühn to be imprisoned for 20 years. Wilinski was reprieved. His sentence was reduced to 20 years imprisonment of which he served about 10 years, being released in 1957 from the British Prison at Werl, Germany.
Hans Kühn managed to escape from a field labour gang on 26th August 1952 and to remain at large for several months. While he was on the loose, the German magazine “Stern” published an article protesting Kühn’s innocence. It is characteristic of the German public opinion of the time that this article spoke of “inhumanely harsh punishment”, of a guilty verdict “dictated not by Law but by the Power of the Victor”, and of “sentences of Hate”.
Kühn was finally rearrested and not set free until 24th June 1957, when he left Werl Prison when the last two British held war criminals were released before the British section of the prison was handed over to German control.
All seven crew members were initially buried in the Solingen Catholic Cemetery on Potsdamer Straße and on the 13th February 1946 transferred to the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
The CWGC decided to write the 2nd November as the death date on all of their headstones
Fg Off Jack Holtze. Reichswald. Forest War Cemetery Plot 1 Row F Grave 12. Inscription reads: “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS”. Born on the 12th June 1917 in Woodstock, Ontario. Son of Adolph and Ethel Ruby (née Holdsworth) Holtze from London Ontario, Canada.
Plt Off. Ernest Crossley. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 1 Row F Grave 13. Born in April 1912 in Durham, England. Son of James Castle and Ellen (née Platten) Crossley from Durham, England. Husband to Dorothy E. (née Ferguson) Crossley from South Shields, Durham, England.
Above Plt Off. Lupinsky and initial grave marker from his service record
Plt Off. Jack Lupinsky. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 1 Row F Grave 14. Inscription reads: “”MAY HIS SOUL BE BOUND UP IN THE BOND OF ETERNAL LIFE" HIS LOVING SISTERS”. Born on the 3rd March 1919 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Son of Myer and Shendall (née Hoffman) Lupinsky. Both of his parents predeceased him in April 1936 and March 1933 respectively. Brother to Mrs. Lillian Chechik from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J95174) with effect 1st November 1944.
Plt Off. Allan Gilchrist Samuel. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 1 Row F Grave 16. Born on the 9th June 1920 in Goodwater, Saskatchewan. Son of David and Florence Mabel (née Brown) Samuel from Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. His mother predeceased him in March 1944.
Commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J92425) with effect 1st November 1944.
Above Plt Off. Ruhl and initial grave marker from his service record
Plt Off. Leslie John Ruhl. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 1 Row F Grave 15. Born on the 27th August 1915 in Neustadt, Ontario. Son of Fred and Meleta Louise (née Wagner) Ruhl from Consort, Alberta, Canada.
Commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (J95441) with effect 1st November 1944.
Plt Off. Matthew Dorrell. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 1 Row F Grave 11. Inscription reads: “NOT JUST TODAY BUT EVERY DAY IN SILENCE WE REMEMBER”. Born on the 6th October 1923 in Bulyea, Saskatchewan. Son of Mathew and Annie Marshall (née Tompson) Dorrell from Bulyea, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (C90844) with effect 9th October 1944.
Sgt. Joseph Ferdinand Jacques Bachant. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 1 Row F Grave 10. Born on the 6th February 1921 in Montreal, Quebec. Son of Leon and Rose (née Carriere) Bachant from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Husband to Jean Olive (née Yeoman) Bachant from Tadworth, Surrey, England.
Commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. (C92467) with effect 9th October 1944.
Researched by Traugott Vitz and Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. With additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. German night-fighter claim added (Sep 2021)
TV & RS 14.09.2021 - Addition of German night fighter claim
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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