AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
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.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

150 Squadron
24/25.03.1945 150 Squadron Lancaster I PB853 Fg Off. Philip H. Morris

Operation: Dortmund-Harpenerweg, Germany

Date: 24th/25th March 1945 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit No: 150 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: PB853

Code: IQ:P

Base: RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire, England

Location: Vormholz wood, near Witten-Herbede, Germany

Pilot: Fg Off. Philip Henry Morris 423161 RAAF Age 23. Murdered (1)

Flt Eng: Flt Sgt. John Clement Davis 1814561 RAFVR Age? Murdered (2)

Nav: Flt Sgt. Kevin Anthony Kee 430174 RAAF Age 20. Murdered (1)

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. James Henry Gillies 433557 RAAF Age 21. PoW No. 201934 * (3)

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Robert Lockyer Masters 432681 RAAF Age 24. Murdered (1)

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Harvey Hayward Bawden 419835 RAAF Age 21. PoW * (4)

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. James Noel Griffin 435186 RAAF Age 20. KiA

* Stalag 11b Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony, Germany

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)


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 (Harpener 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.

PB853 was flying at 18,000 ft on its bomb run when it was hit by flak. The starboard inner engine was set ablaze and a rudder shot away or was jammed, resulting in the aircraft diving to starboard. The bombs were jettisoned but control of the aircraft became increasingly unmanageable and the order was given to abandon the aircraft. All of the crew acknowledged the order.

Flt Sgt. Gillies baled out at 16,500 ft with the aircraft losing height rapidly and turning to starboard still on fire. He counted four other parachutes in the air.

The aircraft was reported by a number of German sources to have crashed in a wood named Vormholz. Witnesses living near the scene of the crash saw that the aircraft was burning in the air and broke up over Herbede before crashing into the wood. Flt Sgt. Griffin's body was discovered near the wreckage and had apparently been thrown clear when the aircraft crashed.

(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 following five German national were charged on two counts:

Heinrich Ide (also reported as Ihde) who was a former Ortsgruppenenleiter (Local Nazi group leader);

Heinrich Reinmüller;

Karl Erlenhöfer;

Heinrich Kohls;

Alfons König who was a former Hauptmann (Capt) and the Commander of a Landesschützen (Local defence force) Company.

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. Ide, 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, timing and exhumation reports confirm that these unidentified airman were 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. He had been previously instructed that the airman should be delivered 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 of 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 an unidentified airman were determined by a Military court trial held at Bochum between the 26th and 29th June 1946.

The location, timing, a witness statement providing a description of the unidentified airman and an exhumation report confirms that this airman was Flt Sgt. Davis.

The following six German nationals were charged jointly with committing a war crime in that they in the neighbourhood of Bochum on the 24th March 1945, in violation of the laws and usages of war were concerns in the ill-treatment and killing of an unknown British airmen.

Stefan Weiss who was a former Obergefreiter (Pvt 1st Class) seriously wounded on the eastern front near Stalingrad in 1942;

Friedrich Heinrich Fischer who was a member of the Volkssturm (Militia=Home Guard) and a member of the Nazi party;

Gerhard Johann Köster who was a former member of the Wehrmacht, discharged after being wounded, and was miner by profession;

Walter Willich;

Karl Galka;

Heinrich Volkmer who was a former member of the police force.

The court heard that on the afternoon of 24th March 1945 a British aircraft was disabled and five members of its crew baled out by parachute. One of these, an unidentified airman, landed on the farm of one Weissman near Bochum-Altenbochum, where a crowd of people was assembling by the time he reached the ground. The airman had been wounded and his face was covered with blood.

One of the few people from the crowd who made any attempt to assist the airman was a Franz Brening, a WW1 veteran. He helped him get out of his parachute harness and laid him on the ground. He tried to save the airman from the crowd which was showing various signs of hostility. Fischer was the ringleader and was prominent amongst those shouting for the airman’s death.

The airman had raised his hands in surrender, and some civilians wearing Nazi party emblems searched him, found him to be unarmed, and took away his papers.

Shortly thereafter an Oberwachtmeister (M/Sgt) from a nearby Flak unit, who was known but not traced, was said to have struck the airman with his carbine using it as a club. The blow knocked the airman to the ground.

Someone, it may have been Köster then suggested taking the injured man to hospital and began to drag him along the ground. Franz Brening spoke up and told Fischer, Witlich and Weiss to carry him instead, in order to cause him less pain. As the airmen could not stand he was pushed, dragged and carried along with Fischer cursing and shouting.

By the time they reached Weissman’s farm the airman had completely collapsed on the ground. When someone from the following crowd shouted that the airman should be killed Weiss seized the carbine from the Oberwachtmeister and tried to shoot the airman. He tried three times but the carbine did not fire. At that moment Galka appeared on the scene with a revolver which he aimed at the airmen but did not fire it. Weiss snatched it away but again it failed to fire.

Fischer then ordered a young man to fetch him a hammer but when he returned he refused to hand it over to Fischer. The farmer Wiessman also urged him not to hand it over to Fischer. Wiessman also told the crowd that they were not going to kill anyone on his farm, whereupon some of the accused dragged the airman back toward the place where he was first found.

Fischer took the hammer from the young man and savagely struck the airman on the back of the head twice. Weiss also struck the airman in the same place. A witness claimed that Willich was the third and last person to strike the unfortunate airman. At that time Köster, who was standing by the feet of the victim did nothing to prevent the attacks.

They then dragged the airman back towards the Weissman farm and then stopped nearby and covered the airman with straw. Franz Brening went from the farm to where the airman lay and found that although there was a hideous wounded he was still alive. He died a half hour later.

The next day Fischer was overheard to boast of his prowess as a butcher and how he had killed the airman. He was reproached by his neighbours and in return, he denounced them to the Nazi party as having been on the side of the airman. When the American Forces advanced, Fischer went in to hiding.

The court found Fischer, Weiss, Köster and Willich guilty of the charge. Galka and Volkmer were acquitted by the court.

Fischer was sentenced to death and was executed by hanging at 10:59 hrs on the 11th October 1946 at Hameln prison by Albert Pierrepoint, RSM O’Neill assisting;

Weiss was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment;

Köster and Willich were each sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for their physical abuse of the airman.

(3) Flt Sgt. Gillies 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.

In a trial held at Bochum between the 15th and 17th July 1946, the following four German Nationals were charged with the ill-treatment of a British PoW. This trial is believed to be the one concerning the ill-treatment of Flt Sgt. Gillies.

Karl Gerk;

August Schluetter;

Friedrich Werner;

Friedrich Spanel.

The first three were each sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and Spanel to 2 years imprisonment.

Flt Sgt. Gillies was reunited with Flt Sgt. Bawden, it is assumed at Dulag Luft Oberursel, for interrogation. He was subsequently moved to an unidentified Luftwaffe camp approximately 6 km north of Dortmund and was then by train and truck through Germany, ending up at Stalag 11b in Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony. The camp was liberated by British troops from the 11th and 8th Hussars on the 8th April 1945.

(4) Flt Sgt. Bawden went out of the rear door and struck the tailplane and did not regain consciousness until close to the ground but landed safely. He suffered a fractured femur when he struck the tailplane. He was moved to Oberursel where he was reunited with Flt Sgt. Gilles and then on to the same unidentified Luftwaffe camp as Flt Sgt. Gillies.

He 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 in Heidelberg, Melbourne. He was discharged from the RAAF as a Warrant Officer (WO) on the 18th March 1946.

Burial details:

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. Flt Sgt. Griffin was initially interred, mistakenly as a Canadian airmen, at the Herbede Military Cemetery on 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. Born in 1920. No Further details.

He enlisted in the RAF at Euston, London after December 1941. Records show that a John C. Davis aged 22, was one of 12 “Tourists” whose last address was the Air Ministry in London. They departed from Liverpool on the 20th March 1942 bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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. Reviewed and updated by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz (Mar 2023).

Other sources listed below:

RS & TV 01.03.2023 - Update to narrative

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2023
Last Modified: 01 March 2023, 08:41

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor