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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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460 Squadron
03/04.07.1942 460 Squadron, RAAF, Wellington IV Z1381, Flt Sgt. Arthur M. Johnston

Operation: Bremen, Germany

Date: 3rd/4th July 1942 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit No: 460 Squadron, RAAF

Type: Wellington IV

Serial No: Z1381

Code: UV:H

Location: Hoogstede, Germany

Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire, England.

Pilot: Flt Sgt. Arthur Maxwell Johnston 404784 RAAF Age 27. Killed

2nd Pilot: Sgt. Darryl Downing 407709 RAAF Age 21. Killed

Observer: Sgt. Maxwell Joseph Andrew Wyllie, MiD 405001 RAAF Age 27. PoW No. 24985 * (1)

Wireless Op/Air Gnr: Sgt. David August Radke 405139 RAAF Age 23. PoW No. 24980 * (2)

Wireless Op/Air Gnr: Sgt. William James Taylor 407775 RAAF Age 18. Killed

Air Gunner: Sgt. William Gerald Reed, DCM 402479 RAAF Age 23. PoW No. 24979 * (3)

* Stalag 8b, in 1943 renamed Stalag 344, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia.


Wellington IV Z1381 along with seventeen other Wellingtons from the Squadron departed RAF Breighton commencing at 23:16 hrs to bomb Bremen. Z1381 was one of two aircraft that failed to return from this mission.

Unteroffizier (Cpl) Rudolf Frank from 1./NJG3 claimed Wellington IV Z1381 as his 6th victory in the early morning of the 3rd July 1942 at 02:13 hrs local some 20km SW of Vechta. (NachtJagd - Combat Archive - 30th May - 31st December 1942, The Early Years: Dr. Theo Boiten)

The second aircraft lost from from the Squadron was:

Wellington IV, Z1470, UV:R which crashed into the sea. Four of the crew perished after being trapped in the sinking wreckage. They are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. Fg Off. C.E. Lark 413409, RAAF survived but was badly injured.

Oberleutnant (1st Lt) Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld from 5./NJG2 whilst flying Bf110 F-4 W.Nr.4620, claimed two aircraft in the early morning of the 3rd July 1942. The second of these, and his 32nd claim, was Wellington IV Z1470 at 01:09 hrs local. The aircraft crashed in the IJsselmeer, North of the island of Urk, The Netherlands. (NachtJagd - Combat Archive - 30th May - 31st December 1942, The Early Years: Dr. Theo Boiten)

Wellington Z1381 crashed at Hoogstede in Germany (Ref 1, p. 188f)

(1) Sgt. Wyllie arrived at Dulag Luft on the 13th July and was eventually transported to Stalag 8b/Stalag 344.

Some time at the end of March 1943 he exchanged identities with a Mordechai Melzer and joined a working party to Tarnowitz. There he met up with Joseph Terry a British Army Private (Pte) aka Flt Sgt. D. Scott. The pair made plans to escape together.

Tarnowitz/Tarnowskie Góry was listed as work-camp No. E479 which was some 90 kms from Lamsdorf and featured huge marshalling yards.

On the 20th April 1943 at about 10:30 hrs they just walked away and kept on the move all day and most of the night. They rested in the woods during the next day and started walking again at dusk.

At about 02:00 hrs on the 22nd April they were walking along a railway line in the direction of Kraków, which was about 25 km away and came to a level crossing. A policeman and a civilian appeared from behind a small shed and the policeman called for them to halt,

They stopped and were approached by the policeman who asked them for their passports. Flt Sgt. Scott told the policeman that they were British PoWs to which the he became very excited and began shouting. He pulled out his revolver and continued shouting.

Flt Sgt. Scott and Sgt. Wyllie stood still the whole time and without any warning the policeman shot Sgt. Wyllie in the groin, who spun around on his feet and stumbled away from the policeman as he fell. The policeman then shot him in the back and he dropped on his face. He then turned to Flt Sgt. Scott and gestured for him to run but he stood still and the policeman eventually calmed down.

The policeman then ordered the civilian to search Flt Sgt. Scott and take him to the shed. He was not permitted to go near Sgt. Wyllie. The civilian then marched Flt Sgt. Scott back to Kressendorf (Krzeszowice) about 4 km away where he was placed in the civilian goal. He did not see Sgt. Wyllie again.

The Swiss protecting power was provided with the statements from the German Chief Patrol Leader named Alfred Gebauer, the Polish railway watchmen named Stanislaw Krakjowski and the then identified Pte Joseph Terry aka Flt Sgt. D. Scott.

It appeared that the German authorities conducted an investigation in the agreed manner for the cases of violent deaths of PoWs. However, the British authorities were concerned with the conflicting evidence furnished by the respective witnesses. The statements made by German and the Pole differed so much from that made by the then identified Pte Joseph Terry, aka Flt Sgt. D. Scott, that the British authorities were inclined to believe that there had been collusion. If Pte Terry’s, aka Flt Sgt. D. Scott, statement was to be accepted it would appear that Sgt. Wyllie was shot in cold blood by an over-enthusiastic and existed German policeman. However, it was concluded that a case would be difficult to prove taking the word of a PoW against the German and Pole who were backed by their superiors.

Sgt. Wyllie was initially buried at the Kressendorf cemetery, Section 1, A/21 Catholic. The grave was tended by local citizens until he was exhumed on the 13th July 1948 and reinterred at the Krakow British Military Cemetery in Poland.

(2) In his PoW report WO. Radke described the circumstances of the aircraft loss:

“Near the Dutch border returning from the target while at about 13,000 feet, the FG (Front Gunner) reported "Two gun flashes in front and directly in line with us", and then almost immediately we received a hit on the port motor or nacelle. Pilot (AM Johnston) ordered me to open front turret my first attempt at which was unsuccessful. The plane was diving all the time, seemingly uncontrollable and unresponsive to movement of control column. Handed the pilot his 'chute turned to see the FG getting out of turret. Ordered by the Pilot to abandon which was done in this order from the port hatch: myself, front gunner, observer. 2nd pilot still by the main spar when observer left and the Pilot still at controls. About 9000 feet when I left. Aircraft still in dive and burning from port nacelle or wing. RG baled out independently. 2nd Skipper jumped too late (at about 50 ft) and Skipper was still at controls when crash occurred.”

WO. Radke goes on to describe the fate of other members of the crew:

“Saw no 'chutes in the air. Made no contact until 5 hours after capture (5 am) with surviving members Sgt. M.J. Wyllie, Obs. RAAF and R. Gunner Sgt. W.G. Reed RAAF. Germans showed us the other three members personal kit and told us – Sgt. A.M. Johnston (Skipper) killed when plane crashed. Sgt. D. Dowling (2nd pilot) killed when 'chute failed at low altitude. Sgt. W. Taylor (F.G.) caught in H.T. wires while landing by parachute.”

WO. Radke injured his left foot on landing and was captured near Rheine in Germany on the 3rd July 1942. He was initially held at Dulag Luft, Oberursel from the 4th July to 20th July 1942. Then at Stalag 8b (344), Lamsdorf from the 22nd July 1942 to 22nd January 1945. Then at Stalag 8a, Görlitz, Lower Silesia from the 8th February to 10th February 1945 and finally at Stalag 9a, Trutzhain in the territory of Ziegenhain. The camp was liberated by Gen. Patton’s 3rd Army on the 30th March 1945.

(3) In his PoW report WO. Reed (promoted to Warrant Officer whilst a PoW) described that the aircraft was shot down at 02:35 hrs over Rheine returning from the target at Bremen. He bailed out at about 8000 ft and suffered a dislocated shoulder when his parachute opened. He confirmed that Flt Sgt. Johnston perished in the aircraft crash and was found in the aircraft wreckage, Sgt. Downing died when he bailed out at low height, his parachute was seen to be unopened, and Sgt. Taylor was killed after parachuting into high tension electricity cables.

Above: Sgt. William Gerald Reed from his Service Record

Sgt. Reed, Sgt. Wyllie and Sgt. Radke were captured and initially taken to Dulag Luft Oberursel (Frankfurt am Maine) for interrogation. The three were then moved to Stalag VIIIb (Stalag 344), Lamsdorf, Upper Silesia.

WO. Reed was a prolific and persistent escaper and was the first RAAF airman to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his many escape attempts culminating in his success on the 11th July 1944. A chronology of his escape attempts are described below and form the basis of the citation for his DCM.

His first attempt from Stalag 344, Lamsdorf was on the 20th September 1942, which was assisted by a British RSM in charge of the escape committee, but was unsuccessful;

For his second attempt he exchanged identities with an Army Gunner Harold Bagshaw (822259 Royal Artillery: PoW No. 13884) on the 7th April 1943 so that he could join an arbeits kommando (work party). He was sent to a stone quarry near Glatz (Kłodzko), Lower Silesia from where he escaped with a fellow PoW on the 17th April 1943. They boarded a train at Neurode (Nowa Ruda) and travelled via Glatz, Breslau (Wrocław), Frankfurt-Oder, Eberswalde to Stettin (Szczecin), Poland ,arriving on the 20th April 1943. An RAF raid during the night disrupted all light, power etc., and they could not procure food. They stowed away on a Swedish coaler "Arabort" out of Stockholm, on the 22nd April but were captured by a German search patrol on the 24th April;

They were handed over to the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo) and confined until the 2nd May 1943 during which they were badly treated. They were then moved to a Wehrmacht Army prison where they received better treatment. They were returned, under guard, to Stalag 344 via Berlin on the 11th May 1943. Upon arrival they were ‘awarded’ seven days solitary confinement;

For his third attempt he again exchanged identities on the 1st July 1943, this time with a J. Minsky (Unidentified), a Palestinian PoW. He was then sent with the arbeits kommando to E62 Gleiwitz-Steigern (Gliwice) Upper Silesia on a railway maintenance detail. After securing clothes and money by selling Red Cross food and cigarettes to fellow workers he escaped on the 27th July 1943 travelling by schnellzug (express train) from Beuthen (Bytom) via Hindenburg (Zabrze) to Breslau (Wrocław). After one day in Breslau he continued by train to Berlin via Frankfurt-Oder. He remained in Berlin for a day assessing damage to the city and then continued on to Stettin (Szczecin), Poland arriving there on the 1st August 1943;

After being on three Swedish boats the 1st Mate of the Swedish steamer "Hanna" out of Stockholm turn him into the German authorities. He was apprehended in west Stettin (Szczecin) on the 5th August 1943. He was taken to Gestapo headquarters were he was recognised from his earlier escape attempt. He spent 17 days in solitary confinement after which he was returned to Stalag VIIIb (Stalag 344) where he was admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition. After his release he took up work on the escape committee with Sgt. Laurens K. Pals (H16444, Canadian Intelligence Corps), and RSM G. Pearce, (5173473, 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment);

His fourth attempt was on the 9th May 1944 but the tunnel was discovered before he could escape;

His fifth and successful escape commenced the next day, on the 10th May 1944, when he again exchanged identities this time with Army Private E. Wald (Unidentified: PoW No. 4647). He then joined the E72 Beuthen (Bytom) arbeits kommando at the Hohenzollern coalmine. This was run by the Nazi party and the conditions were very bad. Whilst he was there two men were shot and killed whilst attempting an escape on the 12th May 1944;

He finally escaped on the 11th July 1944 in company of Army Private H. Tock (Unidentified). They had procured the usual travelling papers, identifying them as Czech workers, money, clothing etc. They caught a tram in Beuthen (Bytom) to Kattowitz (Katowice) then doubled back on a train through Beuthen (Bytom) to Breslau (Wrocław) with the aim to get to Stettin (Szczecin). They could not travel through Berlin because of the damage to the city infrastructure. They had to board a new train service from Breslau (Wrocław) which was routed through Frankfurt to Stettin (Szczecin). They arrived on the 13th July 1944 and stowed away aboard the Swedish coaler "Ludwig". The ship arrived in Sölvesborg in Sweden on the 17th The ship arrived in Sölvesborg in Sweden on the 17th Jul 1944 and from there they travelled to Malmo and reported to the British Consul, free at last.

He was repatriated to the UK on the 10th August 1944 and returned to Australia on the 31st January 1945 arriving at Brisbane on the 26th March 1945. He was appointed to a commission on the 13th April 1945 and transferred to Administrative and Special Duties Branch on the 4th October 1945 and demobilised as a Fg Off. on the 17th October 1946.

William Gerald Reed was born on the 15th June 1920 in Sydney and was tragically killed in a motor cycle accident on the 20th January 1954 aged 33.

Burial Details

The three that died in the aircraft crash were initially buried in the Neuer Friedhof at Lingen-Ems.

Flt Sgt. Arthur Maxwell Johnston. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 15 Row B Collective Grave 9-18. Born on the 9th March 1915 in Mt. Molloy, QLD, Australia. Son of John Michael and Annie Jane Johnston, of Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Sgt. Darryl Downing. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 15 Row B Collective Grave 9-18. Born on the 2nd March 1922 in Adelaide, SA, Australia, Son of Reginald Wilbert Pearce Downing and Pamela Downing, of Lameroo, South Australia.

Sgt. Maxwell Joseph Andrew Wyllie. Krakow British Military Cemetery, Poland, Plot 1 Row C, Grave 13. Born on the 10th November 1915 in Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Son of William Gerrard Wyllie and Ellen Wyllie, of New Farm, Queensland, Australia.

Sgt. Wyllie was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD), promulgated in the London Gazette on 8th August 1944.

Sgt. William James Taylor. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Plot 15 Row C Grave 14. Born on the 20th November 1914 in Port Pirie, SA, Australia. Son of Percival Howard Taylor and Ellen Elizabeth Taylor, of Richmond, South Australia.

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’.


1. Heimatverein Hoogstede e.V. (ed.), Hoogstede. Chronik eines Dorfes und seiner Ortsteile, Hoogstede 2009.

RS 18.05.2022 – Review and update to the death of Sgt. Wyllie and story of Sgt. Reed

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