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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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100 Squadron
12/13.08.1944 100 Squadron Lancaster III LM658 Flt Lt. Harold Paston-William

Operation: Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany

Date: 12th/13th August 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit No: 100 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: LM658

Code: HW:W

Base: RAF Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England

Location: Between Bergentheim and Hardenberg in Holland

Pilot: Flt Lt. Harold “Bill” Paston-Williams 83930 RAF Age 33. Evaded (1)

Co-Pilot: Flt Lt. Christopher Holland 115325 RAFVR Age 21. KiA

Flt Eng: Sgt. John A. Downie 1367061 RAFVR Age 31. Evaded (1)

Navigator: Fg Off. Gerald Hood 178869 RAFVR Age 23. Murdered (2)

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off. Benjamin Ramsden 55792 RAF Age 31. KiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Laurence Roy Watts 1316752 RAFVR Age 23. KiA

Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Robert Stanley Williams 1502966 RAFVR Age 25. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Fg Off. Bruce Arnold David J26845 RCAF Age 23. PoW No. 5280 * (3)

* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.

RAF Grimsby - The existing airfield on this site was taken under Air Ministry control in July 1939 and then by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in May 1940. The airfield officially opened, after it was upgraded, during November 1941 and was initially used as a satellite airfield to nearby RAF Binbrook. Although the airfield was officially designated as RAF Grimsby it was known as RAF Waltham by both the local residents and service personnel on the base. This misnomer caused some confusion as there was an active airfield at RAF White Waltham near Maidenhead in Berkshire.


LM658 was one of seven 100 Sqn aircraft that took off from RAF Grimsby commencing at 21:30 hrs on the 12th August 1944 tasked with bombing targets in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany. The attack was planned to just use H2S, without any target marking. It was reported that the target area was covered in cloud and that the bombing appeared to be somewhat scattered, although numerous fires were observed. LM658 was the only aircraft that failed to return to base.

LM658 was claimed by Fw. Robert Koch, his 5th Abschuss, from 6./NJG1 north of Enschede at 5.000m at 01:05 hrs.

Note: The aircraft was also claimed by light Flak of 4./lei. Flak Abt. 762. 1./lei. Flak Abt. 887, 2. & 3./lei. Flak Abt. 747 (‘Lancaster Bergentheim Gemeinde Hardenberg 01:20 hrs’), Flak claim confirmed on the 10.10.1944, victory for Fw. Kock confirmed on the 28.11.1944. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (24 July 1944 - 15 October 1944) Part 4 - Theo Boiten).

The aircraft was reported to have crashed between Bergentheim in the Dutch province of Overijssel and Hardenberg. The three crew members that perished in the crash were buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Hardenberg.

(1) Interview of Flt Lt. Parton-Williams by IS9 on the the 31st July 1945:

“I was the pilot of a Lancaster aircraft sent to bomb Brunswick on the 12th August 1944. I completed my mission and on the return journey the aircraft caught fire from flak and we were attacked by Me 410s and the whole aircraft blew up.

I ‘came to’ on descent and opened my parachute just in time. I landed alone about 15 km due west of Bergenthem on the Dutch/German border. I hid my parachute and walked due west until 04:00 hrs on the 15th August 1944. I then burrowed under a haystack and rested.

About 05:00 hrs I discovered that I could not walk, my knees had gone completely. Before resting I ascertained that I was in a lonely part of the country and that the nearby farm was completely isolated. I crawled to the farm and they took me in after they had satisfied themselves of my identity. They fetched a doctor and for the next four weeks I was looked after by members of the Underground in the vicinity.

On the 17th August 1944 Sgt. Downie J. my Flight Engineer was brought to the village.

I think my hosts were anticipating trouble and it was arranged that we should move suddenly about the morning of 3rd September 1944. It was arranged for me to meet Sgt. Downie on a certain road and we continued to walk until we were picked up by a biscuit van and taken to Hengelo where we remained for a day and two nights with a man and his wife.

We eventually arrived at Hengelo on the 5th September 1944 where we remained until the district was overrun by the British Forces on 3rd April 1945, I remained in contact with Sgt. Downie throughout.

About the beginning of March the leader of the Underground asked me to instruct members in the use of small arms and bazooka which I did. I tried to get across the Rhine on two occasions, but it was not considered advisable to go”.

They were flown back to the UK on 9th April 1945 by RAF Dakota.

(2) The fate of Fg Off. Hood was unknown until a British Military Court was convened in Almelo in Holland on the 24th, 25th and 26th November 1945.

Four German nationals were charged on two counts with committing a war crime in that they at Almelo in Holland on the 21st and the 25th March 1945, in violation of the laws and usages of war, did kill Pilot Officer Gerald Hood, a British PoW and Bote van der Wal, a Dutch civilian.

The accused were George Otto Sandrock, a former Oberfeldwebel (Wehrmacht T/Sgt); Ludwig Schweinberger a former Obergefreiter (Wehrmacht Junior Cpl); Franz Joseph Hegemann a former SS-Oberscharführer (Sgt) and Helmut Wiegner who was a former Feldwebel (Wehrmacht S/Sgt). Sandrock, Schweinberger and Wiegner were attached to the Geheime Feldpolizei (Secret field police). All four accused were part of a special service detachment known as ZBV Kommando 22 which was based in Almelo. Sandrock and Schweinberger were implicated in both charges, Hegemann only on the first and Wiegner only on the second.

The court heard that on the 13th August 1944 a member of the Dutch underground brought Plt Off. Hood to a house at Nyverdal where the widow Mrs. van der Wal lived. Her unmarried daughter and her son Bote van der Wal were also living at this address. Bote was hiding from the Germans to avoid Arbeitseinsatz (compulsory labour service in Germany) and was not an actual member of the Dutch underground.

Plt Off. Hood was wearing civilian cloths but retained his RAF boots, under garments, his ‘dog tags’ and his service watch. After bailing out of LM658 the previous evening he had hidden his uniform and obtained his civilian clothes from a farmer. After a few days with the van der Wal’s he was moved to another house in the neighbourhood where he remained until the New Year. On the 2nd January 1945 he returned to the van der Wal’s and lived there until the 13th March 1945.

On the night of the 13th March 1945 the Dutch Nazi police, accompanied by the SS, came to the house searching for Bote and in the course of the search they eventually discovered both Bote and Plt Off. Hood. They were both taken to Almelo prison where they were interrogated by Sandrock over a number of days. Plt Off. Hood gave up no information other than what he was obligated to provide and in order to protect those that assisted him he gave a misleading date of his aircraft’s crash.

Sandrock warned Plt Off. Hood that unless he could produce his uniform and parachute he would be liable to be shot as a spy. Plt Off. Hood maintained that as he had landed in the dark and had hidden the items he would not be able to find the location again. A week later, on the 21st March 1944 SS-Untersturmführer (2nd Lt) Paul Hardegen told Sandrock the British airman had been condemned to death and two men must be detailed to accompany Sandrock that evening to a wood on the outskirts of Almelo, where Plt Off. Hood was to be shot. Hardegen handed Sandrock a loaded 9mm pistol.

SS-Untersturmführer and Kriminalkommissar (Detective Superintendent which equates to Capt) Paul Hardegen was the officer in charge but was not before the court. He was also implicated in the deaths of Flt Lt. R.A. Walker, Fg Off. J.S. Nott and Fg Off. R.E. Carter.

Some time after 1930 hrs Sandrock gave Schweinberger and Hegemann their orders and handed the pistol to Schweinberger. After night had fallen the three drove Plt Off. Hood to a location that Sandrock had previously reconnoitred. There Plt Off. Hood was ordered out of the car and Sandrock told him he had been condemned to death. After a few paces Schweinberger shot him in the head from behind at a distance of about one yard. Whilst Sandrock dug a grave Schweinberger removed clothing from the body and stole his wristwatch. They then buried Plt Off. Hood. Hegemann had remained with the car throughout what had transpired.

Three days later on the 24th March almost the same procedure was followed for the murder of Bote van der Wal, except that Wiegner replaced Hegemann. Once again it was Schweinberger that carried out the shooting. The young Dutchman was buried close to Plt Off. Hood’s grave site.

On the 31st July 1945 after Holland was liberated Bote van der Wal’s remains were recovered and eventually identified. On the 4th August Schweinberger was taken to the location and Plt Off. Hood’s grave was found and exhumed in the presence of Canadian and Dutch military officials. He was reinterred on the 8th August 1945 with full military honours in the Almelo cemetery.

The court rejected the defence of “superior orders” by the accused and found Sandrock and Schweinberger guilty on both charges and sentenced them to death. Sandrock and Schweinberger were hanged at Hameln (Hamelin) by Albert Pierrepoint on the 13th December 1945.

Hegemann and Wiegner were found guilty on their respective charges and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. The final disposition of their sentences are unknown.

(3) Fg Off. David was captured near Grenze on the 13th August 1944 and transported to Dulag Luft, Wetzlar.

After about 3 weeks he was transported to Stalag Luft 1, Barth-Vogelsang arriving there on the 6th September 1944. Prior to him arriving escape attempts were forbidden by the Senior officers.

On the 30th April 1945, the prisoners were ordered to evacuate the camp in the face of the advancing Soviet Red Army, but the Senior American Officer, Col. Hubert Zemke, refused to give the order. After negotiations between Zemke and Commandant Oberst (Col) Gustav Warnstedt, it was agreed that to avoid useless bloodshed the guards would go, leaving the PoWs behind. The next day, the first Soviet troops arrived and liberated the camp. Fg Off. David was interviewed on the 11th May 1945.

Prior to enlisting in the RCAF on the 31st July 1942 he was working in the transport industry in Ontario, Canada

Burial details:

Flt Lt. Christopher Holland. Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery, Row A. Grave 3. Inscription: “TO THE WORLD HE WAS BUT A PART, TO US HE WAS ALL THE WORLD, GH & VH”. Born in the 4th Qtr of 1922 in Chelsea, Greater London. Son of Godfrey and Violet Houssemayne (née Du Boulay) Holland, of Horsham, Sussex, England.

Fg Off. Gerald Hood. Almelo General Cemetery Grave 1. Born on the 25th February 1922 in Lewisham, London. Son of Robert Washington and Emily Ellen (née Bacon) Hood of Lewisham, London, England. Both his parents predeceased him in August 1929 and April 1932 respectively.

His early life is chronicled in The Story of Avro Lancaster LM658.

Plt Off. Benjamin Ramsden. Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery, Row A. Grave 2. Born on the 4th August 1913 in Wyke, Yorkshire. Son of Leonard and Annie (née Priestley) Ramsden, of Bradford, Yorkshire; husband of Marjorie (née Coates) Ramsden, of Bradford, England.

Flt Sgt. Laurence Roy Watts. Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery, Row A. Grave 1. Inscription: “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS.” Born on the 29th September 1917 in Poplar, Greater London. Son of Herbert Mark Watts, and of Florence (née Rand) Watts, of Fawler, Oxfordshire, England.

Flt Sgt. Robert Stanley Williams. Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery, Row A. Grave 1. Inscription: “GOD’S GREATEST GIFT, REMEMBRANCE, YOUR LOVING MOTHER.” Son of Mary Ethel Williams, of Queensferry, Flintshire, Scotland.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. With thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Update to narrative for Flt Lt. Paston-Williams (Jan 2023).

Special thanks to Alan J. Barrow for his dedicated research over many years to bring to life the story of LM658 and her crew.

Other sources listed below:

RS & TV 13.10.2023 - Reviewed and updated with PoW information

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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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