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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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544 (PR) Sqn
18.09.1944 544 (PRU) Squadron Mosquito PR.IX MM231, Flt Lt. Geoffrey C.D. Hunter DFC

Operation: Photo Reconnaissance, Germany

Date: 18th September 1944 (Monday)

Unit No: 544 (PR) Squadron

Type: Mosquito PR.IX

Serial: MM231

Code: None allocated

Base: RAF Benson, Oxfordshire

Location: Between Holdorf and Meetzen, 4½ km NW of Gadebusch, Germany

Pilot: Flt Lt. Geoffrey Colin Devas Hunter DFC 126596 RAF Age 25. Murdered (1)

Navigator: Fg Off. John ‘Maxie’ Fielden DFC 141154 RAFVR Age 24. Murdered (1) (2)

Above: A Mosquito PR.IX. Mosquito MM230 was either with De Haviland or the RAF Fighter Interception Development Unit (FIDU) (Courtesy of World War Photos)

REASON FOR LOSS:

MM231 took off from RAF Benson at 11:55 hrs on the 18th September 1944 on a photo reconnaissance of targets at Hitzacker, Hamburg, Lübeck and Parchim in Germany. The aircraft failed to returned to base at the expected time.

The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) (German Air Force High Command) fighter claims for the Reich, West & Südfront, record a Mosquito shot down at 15:07 hrs on the 18th September 1944 between the villages of Holdorf and Meetzen, some 4½ km NW of Gadebusch.

This location is about 29½ km SE of Lübeck and about 61 km NW of Parchim, and is also on the route the Mosquito would probably have flown between Lübeck and Parchim.

Leutnant (Lt) Joachim Weber from EKdo (Erprobungskommando = Testing Command) 262 flying an Me-262 A-1a claimed a Mosquito on the 18th September 1944.

Ekdo 262 was formed in April 1944 to test the Me-262 at Lechfeld Fliegerhorst (airfield) and was disbanded on the 26th September 1944.

Note: From the available documentation there were three German claims for Mosquitos reported on the 18th September 1944. Two were at 22:10 and 22:16 hrs, and the third was at 15:07 hrs. The Me-262 did not fly as a night fighter until January 1945 so it is logical to assume that it was Lt. Weber that claimed MM231.

Lt. Weber was credited with the first confirmed destruction of an enemy aircraft for the Me-262 when he shot down 540 (PR) Sqn, Mosquito PR.IX, LR433 on the 8th August 1944. Pilot Flt Lt. Desmond L. Matthewman DFC and Bar, and Navigator Flt Sgt. William D. Stopford were KiA.

Lt. Weber, then with II./JG7, was flying Me-262 W.Nr. #110819 when he was shot down and KiA on the 21st March 1945. He was credited with 9 Abschüsse, all in the Me-262, 3 with EKdo 262 and 6 with III./JG7. (The Me 262 Stormbird - Colin D. Heaton and Anne-Marie Lewis).

(1) A letter sent to the War Crimes Group (North West Europe) dated 30th September 1946 reported the following:

‘According to report of investigation of the 95th Quartermaster (QM) Battalion (Bn), American Grave Registration Command (AGRC), on or about the 19th-21st September 1943 [sic], a two motored American ? [sic] plane crashed a short distance from the Bürgermeister’s house in Meetzen and burned. Two men parachuted to safety. They were held in the Bürgermeister’s house while the authorities of Gadebusch and Schwerin were notified. In Schwerin the word was given to shoot the flyers. Five SA men arrived from Gadebusch in a car and took the two flyers. About 100 yards out of town they stopped their car, shot the two flyers and left.

Note: SA = Sturmabteilung which was the Paramilitary arm of the Nazi party

When some of the towns people arrived, one flyer was still living, and a final bullet was put in him by a landowner named Wiencke. The two dead flyers were buried beside the road where they lay. On the 1st June 1945, the English authorities investigated this case completely. The two bodies were disinterred and reburied in the cemetery. The English took the identification tags of both men.

The above information was given to the 95th QM Bn by Paul Reiher, Bürgermeister of Meetzen, who was the only witness to the shooting. Both the Bürgermeister and a Wilhelm Ehmke of Meetzen buried the bodies.

Scheuer and Kroog of Lübsche Straße, Gadebusch and Kohlmorgen and Hoffmann of Steinstraße, Gadebusch and also Brusch of Gadebusch were all in the SA. (Brusch has since committed suicide by hanging [5th May 1945]).

The first five men were questioned and released by the British. According to reports, the four men left are now watched by the Russians.

On the 14th August 1946, the 1st Disinterring team of the 95th QM Bn went to Meetzen and found the above mentioned graves, marked with a wooden cross inscribed: “Here rest two American officers”. However, upon opening the graves the bodies were found to be wearing RAF uniforms. One had the insignia of a Flying Officer and both of them had several pieces of clothing cut off. The caretaker of the cemetery told the disinterring team that the “Americans” had been there before, had dug up the bodies and had taken parts of the clothing as well as one shoe from each body. The bodies were reinterred in the same grave.’

The known details of the five suspects are as follows:

Hans Kohlmorgen who was a former Zellenleiter (Nazi Cell Leader (in charge of 8 to 12 city blocks));

Karl-Heinz Ulrich Kroog who was a former member of the Jugendführer corps (Youth Leader);

Hermann Scheuer who was a former Zellenleiter;

Friedrich Hoffmann who was a former Zellenleiter;

Richard Julius Johannes Brusch was a former Ortsgruppenleiter (Local Group leader of the Nazi party) in Gadebusch;

Hans Christian Fritz Wiencke was a Nazi Party member. He was also a member of the Nazi Welfare Organisation (NSV), German Labour Front (DAF), the Ortsbauernführer (Local Farmer Leader) and an Auxiliary Policeman with the Landwacht (Country Guard).

A deposition by Wiencke claimed that the two airmen had been shot because they were attempting to escape. Furthermore when he had arrived at the scene, armed with a Dutch carbine, he came across Brusch wearing civilian clothes and unarmed standing in the path and who called out to him to shoot an escaping airman.

He looked towards an adjacent field and saw an airman lying on the ground and standing about 10 metres behind him were Scheuer, Kohlmorgen, Kroog and Hoffmann. They were all in civilian clothes with the first three each holding a pistol. He further claimed that a second airman was running in front of the four and a few metres beyond the airman on the ground. He then fired a single shot, from a distance of 30-50 metres, aimed at the centre of the body and saw the airman collapse.

He then claimed that one of the airmen had been shot through his head and several shots through the upper part of his body, the other airman had several shots through the upper part of his body.

Wiencke was considered to be an unreliable witness because his statements, given on different dates, were contradictory. His evidence was confused and contradicted that of other witnesses and also the findings of the pathologist. The pathologist determined that one airman had been killed by a single shot to the head, from behind. However, the cause of death of the second airman could not be determined but there was no evidence of any gunshot wounds to the torso. It was considered that the claim of a fusillade of shots was a ruse to support the story of escape.

As of the 23rd February 1948 the British investigation team had only secured Wiencke in custody. The German Kriminalpolizei (Kripo = Criminal police) at Braunschweig (Brunswick) reported that they could not find the other accused nor the witnesses.

It was believed that without the witnesses there would be no evidence against anyone. Also without the evidence of the witness Reiher there was not even a chain of evidence to prove that one or both of the bodies from the cemetery had been the victim of a crime. It may be that the British thought that it would be unfair to try Wiencke alone who in all probability was not the only culprit and perhaps not even the most guilty.

On the 5th July 1948 the War Crimes Group (North West Europe) dropped the case as all the other accused and witnesses resided in the Russian Zone of Germany and the Russian authorities had failed to cooperate in any way. The impending closure of all war crime investigations and trials was probably an additional reason to not pursue this case any further.

(2) On the 24th August 1942 at 10:30 hrs Sgt. Fielden 1052822, and his pilot Flt Lt. Gerald Ray Wooll 42734, took off from RAF Ford in 1 PRU Mosquito PR.IV, DK310, LY:G. The operation was a 1,600 mile round trip on a photo reconnaissance of the shipyards at Venice, Trieste, Pola and Fiume in Italy.

Although not officially permitted to overfly neutral Switzerland they did so, apparently to avoid the strong flak defences on the German shore of Lake Constance. At 12:27 hrs Sgt. Fielden noted that the Starboard engine overheated because of a malfunctioning glycol pump, so it was shut down. On a single engine the Mosquito could not cross the Alps and so they turned back. The Port engine also started to overheat due to an oil leak so the crew opted to try and land in Switzerland. They landed at 14:03 hrs on a grassy strip which turned out to be an airfield named Belpmoos where they were captured and interned. Both were released for repatriation on the 18th December 1942.

Flt Lt. Wooll remained in the RAF and flew a total of 85 operations. After the war he was seconded by the RAF to the De Havilland Aircraft Company as a test pilot on the Mosquito. He retired from the RAF as a Sqn Ldr.

Burial details:

Both airmen were eventually interred in a collective grave in the SE corner of the Meetzen Cemetery on the 20th September 1945. They were reinterred at the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery on the 7th August 1947.

Above left: Flt Lt. Hunter (Courtesy of Martin Carrack - Honour those who fell – FindAGrave) and right: grave marker (Courtesy of Uwe - FindAGrave)

Flt Lt. Geoffrey Colin Devas Hunter DFC. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery 6.H.27. Inscription: "THE ECHOES IN THE AIR ARE EMPTY HALLS THROUGH WHICH YOUR SHADOWS PASS". Born on the 17th March 1919 in Medway, Kent. Son of Lt Col. R. Devas Hunter, DSO, and Vixen (née Lomas) Hunter of Walmer, Deal, Kent, England.

His DFC was awarded whilst with 544 (PR) Sqn. London Gazette 15th September 1944.

Above: Fg Off. Fielden grave marker (Courtesy of Uwe - FindAGrave)

Fg Off. John ‘Maxie’ Fielden DFC. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery 6.H.28. Born on the 28th May 1920 in Wigan. Son of John (deceased, Dec 1940) and Rosetta (née Worthington) Fielden of Bigglestone, Wakefield, England.

1052822 Flt Sgt. Fielden was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off on the 4th February 1943 and then to Fg Off. on 4th August 1943.

His DFC was awarded whilst with 544 (PR) Sqn. London Gazette 15th September 1944.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive.

Other sources listed below:

RS & TV 21.12.2022 - 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', 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.
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