24/25.03.1945 150 Squadron Lancaster I PB853 Fg.Off. Morris
Operation: Dortmund-Harpenerweg, Germany
Date: 24th/25th March 1945 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: 150 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire, England
Location: Witten-Herbede, Germany
Pilot: Fg.Off. Philip Henry Morris 423161 RAAF Age 23. Survived (1)
Flt.Eng: Flt.Sgt. John Clement Davis 1814561 RAFVR Age? Survived (2)
Nav: Flt.Sgt. Kevin Anthony Kee 430174 RAAF Age 20. Survived (1)
Bom Aimer: Flt.Sgt. James Henry Gillies 433557 RAAF Age 21. PoW camp not listed (3)
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Robert Lockyer Masters 422681 RAAF Age 24. Survived (1)
Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Harvey Hayward Bawden 419835 RAAF Age 21. PoW camp not listed (4)
Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. James Noel Griffin 435186 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Crew Group portrait of Lancaster I PB853:
L to R: Flt.Sgt. J. C. Davis; Flt.Sgt. R.L. Masters; Flt.Sgt. K.A. Kee; Fg.Off. P.H. (Phil) Morris; Flt.Sgt. H.H. Bawden; Flt.Sgt. J.N. Griffin; Flt.Sgt. J.H (Jim) Gillies. (Credit: The Australian War Memorial archives)
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 24th March 1945 at 13:00 hrs PB853 and ten other aircraft from the Squadron departed from RAF Hemswell on a daylight mission to bomb the Robert Müser Benzol plant (Happener Bergbau A.G.) east of Bochum. Four of the Squadron’s aircraft sustained flak damage but all, except for PB853, landed safely back at base.
It was reported that PB853 was hit by flak and crashed near to Witten-Herbede in Germany. Six of the crew successfully bailed out of the aircraft but Flt.Sgt. Griffin's body was discovered in the wreckage.
(1) The events surrounding the deaths of Fg.Off. Morris, Flt.Sgt. Kee and Flt.Sgt. Masters after they had parachuted from the aircraft have not been officially established. However, a Military court trial was held at the Bochum Police Headquarters starting on the 17th September 1946 which concerned the killing of three unidentified British airmen.
The German civilians, Heinrich Ide (also reported as Ihde) who was a former Ortsgruppenenleiter (Local Nazi group leader), Heinrich Reinmüller, Karl Erlenhöfer, Heinrich Kohls and Alfons König a former Hauptmann (Captain) and the Commander of a Landesschützen (Local defence force) Company were charged on two counts.
All of the accused were charged on the first count that at Bochum-Laer or near Bochum-Laer on the 24th March 1944 they were involved in the ill-treatment and killing of an unidentified British airman, a PoW, who was believed to be an Australian. Ihde, Reinmüller and König were also charged on the second count that they, at Bochum-Laer or near Bochum-Laer on the 24th March 1944, were involved in the killing of two unidentified British airmen, PoWs, who were believed to be Australians. The location and timing makes it possible that the unidentified airmen could have been Fg.Off. Morris, Flt.Sgt. Kee and Flt.Sgt. Masters.
The court proceedings were reported and published in three editions of local newspapers and what follows is a summary of what was written.
The first of three airmen reached the ground at about 16:00 hrs in the vicinity of the Dannenbaum labour camp, which housed Russian PoWs. He surrendered to an Unteroffizier (Cpl) from the camp guard. Ide arrived and demanded to take custody of the airman. Ide had been previously instructed to deliver the airman to the nearby police station, however, en route the airman was assaulted by a large mob of people which culminated in Ide shooting and severely wounding him. Kohls then shot and killed the airman with his rifle.
At approximately 20:30 hrs two further airmen were delivered by truck to the Russian PoW camp. Ide then appeared again, this time with a mob of people and took the two airmen away. The events surrounding the killing of the two airmen were not clearly established. However, a pathologist’s autopsy report for the three airmen and a fourth airman, see (2), established all had suffered catastrophic head injuries either from heavy blows or from being shot.
The court found Ide guilty on both charges and sentenced him to death. He was executed by firing squad at Werl on the 6th January 1947 at 08:30 hrs. Kohls was found guilty on the first charge and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Erlenhöfer was found guilty on the first charge for mistreating the airman and was sentenced to 1 year imprisonment. Reinmüller and König were acquitted of both charges .
(2) The events surrounding the death of Flt.Sgt. Davis after he parachuted from the aircraft have not been officially established. However, a Military court trial held at Bochum on the 22th August 1946 concerned the ill-treatment and killing of an unidentified British airman, who was a PoW and who had bailed out of an aircraft at Bochum Altenbochum or near Bochum Altenbochum on the 24th March 1944. The location and timing makes it possible that the unidentified airman could have been Flt.Sgt. Davis.
The German civilians Stefan Weiss, Friedrich Heinrich Fischer, Gerhard Koester, Walter Willich, Karl Galka and Heinrich Volkmer were charged with the killing of the airman.
A report of the trial recorded that the unidentified airman had bailed out of an aircraft during the afternoon of the 24th March 1945 and landed near Stefan Weiss’s farm. It appears that the airman was injured either before leaving the aircraft or from a heavy landing. Fischer decided to kill the airman and obtained a hammer with which he struck the prone airman a heavy blow to the head. Weiss then snatched a rifle from a nearby soldier and attempted to fire the weapon at the airman. When it failed to fire he grabbed the hammer and struck the airman for the second time, killing him.
The court found Fischer, Weiss, Koester and Willich guilty of the charge. Fischer was sentenced to death and was executed by hanging on the 11th October 1946. Weiss was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Koester and Willich were each sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for their physical abuse of the airman. Galka and Volkmer were acquitted by the court.
(3) Flt.Sgt. Gilles bailed out of the aircraft at about 16:00 hrs and landed by the railway embankment close to the Rüsingschule in Bochum. He threw away his sidearm and surrendered to a Paul Goerdt. On their way to the Organisation Todt (A civil and military engineering group) on Rüsingstraße in Bochum Flt.Sgt. Gilles was attacked by an enraged mob who kicked and beat him, but he was rescued by an employee of the Organisation Todt.
He was reunited with Flt.Sgt. Bawden, it is assumed at Dulag Luft Oberursel, for interrogation. He was subsequently moved to an unidentified Luftwaffe fighter airfield and was then moved by train and truck through Germany, ending up at Stalag 9b in Fallingbostel. The camp was liberated by British Forces on or around the 16th April 1945.
(4) Flt.Sgt. Bawden suffered a fractured femur while extricating himself from his turret but managed to bail out from the aircraft and landed safely. He was moved to Oberursel where he was reunited with Flt.Sgt. Gilles and then on to the same unidentified fighter airfield.
Flt.Sgt. Bawden was transferred to the Kirchlinde Hospital in Dortmund for treatment to his injured leg. He received poor medical attention as most of the hospital staff had disappeared because the airfield, where the hospital was located, came under sustained air attacks. He remained in the hospital for some weeks until the surrounding area was occupied by elements of the US Army on the 11th April 1945.
He started his repatriation journey to England and ultimately to RAF Hospital Wroughton near Swindon, on a stretcher strapped to the bonnet of a US Army jeep. He was subsequently repatriated to Australia and received treatment at the RAAF Hospital at Heidelberg in Melbourne. He was discharged from the RAAF as a Warrant Officer on the 18th March 1946.
Fg.Off. Morris, Flt.Sgt. Davis, Flt.Sgt. Kee and Flt.Sgt. Masters were initially interred at the Bochum Main Cemetery on the 24th March 1945.
Grave images (Credit: Mitch Buiting)
Fg.Off. Philip Henry Morris. Reinterred at the Reichswald Forest British Military Cemetery on the 9th June 1947, Plot 33, Row C, Grave 4. The inscription reads “HIS DUTY FEARLESSLY AND NOBLY DONE. EVER REMEMBERED”. Born on the 10th May 1921. Son to Frank Arthur William and Elfride Bertha Morris, of Maroubra, New South Wales, Australia.
Flt.Sgt. John Clement Davis. Reinterred at the Reichswald Forest British Military Cemetery on the 9th June 1947. Plot 33. Row C. Grave 1.
Flt.Sgt. Kevin Anthony Kee. Reinterred at the Reichswald Forest British Military Cemetery on the 9th June 1947, Plot 33, Row C, Grave 3. The inscription reads “LOVED SON OF MRS. E. M. KEE, OF MELBOURNE, VICTORIA R.I.P.” Born on 1st November 1924. Son of James Chin and Ethel Ellen Kee, of West Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.
Flt.Sgt. Robert Lockyer Masters. Reinterred at the Reichswald Forest British Military Cemetery on the 9th June 1947, Plot 33, Row C, Grave 5. The inscription reads, “BELOVED SON OF MR. AND MRS. G. MASTERS, OF TUMUT, N.S.W., AUSTRALIA. R.I.P.”. Born on the 5th March 1921. Son of George James and Emma May Masters, of Tumut, New South Wales, Australia.
Flt.Sgt. James Noel Griffin. Initially interred at the Herbede Military Cemetery on 24th March 1945 and reinterred at the Reichswald Forest British Military Cemetery on the 20th June 1947, Plot 25, Row E, Grave 10. The inscription reads, “HIS DUTY FEARLESSLY AND NOBLY DONE. MAY HE REST IN PEACE”. Born on the 15th December 1924. Son of James John and Catherin Griffin, of South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ and for his valued research and advice in compiling this report.