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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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Squadron Crest
16.09.1944 80 (Fighter) Squadron Tempest V EJ662 Plt Off. William Maloney

Operation: Armed reconnaissance mission, Arnhem, Holland

Date: 16th September 1944 (Saturday)

Unit: 80 (Fighter) Squadron (RAF)

Type: Tempest V (Series 2)

Serial: EJ662

Code: W2:?

Base: RAF Manston, England

Location: Elten, district of Emmerich, Germany

Pilot: Plt Off. William ‘Spike’ Edmund Maloney 414715 RAAF Age 22. Murdered (1)


On the 16th September 1944 at 10:30 hrs Plt Off. Maloney took off from RAF Manston with seven other aircraft from 80 Squadron to conduct an armed reconnaissance mission on sites and motor transport north of the line Hague to Arnhem in Holland.

Sqn Ldr. Bob Spurdle flying EJ687 recorded that they were strafing a train in Holland, near the German frontier when Plt Off. ‘Spike’ Maloney had to crash-land his aircraft with a dead engine after being hit by flak in the vicinity of Arnhem, glycol coolant had been seen streaming from the engine. Plt Off. Maloney put his aircraft down at about 11:45 hrs in a field near the spot where the railway crossed a road close to Elten in Germany. His fellow pilots orbited the crash site for about 15 minutes and witnessed that Plt.Off. Maloney appeared to be unharmed.

(1) Johann Bosmann, a local farmer and a member of the Landwacht, told Canadian investigators in July 1945 that he had witnessed the crash and thought that no one could have survived the complete flip-over the aircraft did before coming to rest in a cloud of dust.

Bosmann described how he had set out toward the crash site with the intent of arresting the pilot but before arriving a car pulled up at the scene and five men exited the vehicle. Three of them were in field grey uniforms and the other two in Nazi brown Sturmabteilung (SA) uniforms. As he neared the crash site he witnessed a struggle and that the airman was being beaten with rifle butts. When he arrived on the scene he saw that the airman had suffered a grievous head injury and was covered in blood, but four of the men continued to assault him until one, a Hans Renoth stepped back and shot the airman twice with his rifle.

When Allied forces occupied the region, Bosmann, Hubert Franken another farmer who was a witness, along with others came forward to inform the War Crimes Investigation teams of the murder. German records established that the downed aircraft was the one flown by Plt Off. Maloney. It was also established that the Nordfriedhof in Düsseldorf recorded that an unidentified airman was buried in Field 111c Grave 544 late on the night of the 16th September 1944.

On the 23rd July 1945, the remains of the airman were exhumed, and a post mortem performed. The pathologist’s report did not positively establish the identity of the airman but concluded that the victim had suffered a grievous head injury consistent with being struck with a blunt instrument. It was also not possible to establish if the victim had suffered gunshot wounds. However, evidence uncovered at the aircraft crash site contributed to positively identifying the remains as Plt Off. Maloney. He was reinterred at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery on the 19th October 1946.

The investigation established that in addition to Hans Renoth, a gamekeeper and police officer of the Gendarmerie reserve, three of the other four perpetrators were Hans Pelgrim a policeman, Friedrich Wilhelm Grabowski and Paul Hermann Nieke both customs officers. The fourth and fifth individuals from the car could not be identified.

A British Military Court was convened at the Bahnhofshotel in Elten during the 8th -10th January 1945. The trial established that after emerging unhurt from his crashed aircraft, Plt Off. Maloney was arrested by Renoth who then together with Pelgrim, Grabowski and Nieke assaulted him using their fists and rifle butts. It was established that Renoth fired the fatal shots that killed Plt Off. Maloney. The court found the four guilty of the murder of Plt Off. Maloney. Renoth was sentenced to death by hanging which was carried out on 8th March 1946 at Hameln prison in Germany. Pelgrim, Grabowski and Nieke were given jail terms of 15, 10 and 10 years respectively. Grabowski and Nieke were released upon remission in 1952 and Pelgrim in 1953.

Burial details:

Above: (Credit: Traugott Vitz and Paul Ten Broeke)

Plt Off. William Edmund Maloney. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany in Plot 7. Row F. Grave 18. Headstone inscription reads “MY JESUS, MERCY”. Born on the 25th July 1921, the son of Maurice Patrick and Gertrude Josephine Maloney of Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.

Researched by Ralph Snape and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the VitzArchive database, and for material from the book Hangman at War by Richard Clark and Traugott Vitz.

RS 27.06.2019 - Editorial updates

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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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