27/28.08.1942 305 (Ziemia Wielkopolska) Squadron, Wellington IV Z1245, Sgt. Jan Pytlak
Operation: Kassel, Germany
Date: 27th/28th August 1942 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 305 (Ziemia Wielkopolska) Squadron
Type: Wellington IV
Serial No: Z1245
Location: Eindhoven, Holland
Base: RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire
Pilot: Sgt. Jan Pytlak P780702 PAF Age 24. Killed
Obs: Flt Lt. Antoni Władysław Kiewnarski MiD P0109 PAF Age 45. PoW No. 42801 * / Murdered (1)
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Feliks Gawlak P781591 PAF Age 28. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Tadeusz Jan Frankowski P782235 PAF Age 22. Evaded (2)
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Józef Janik 781970 PAF Age 28. Killed
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
Above L-R: Sgt. Jan Pytlak, Flt Lt. Antoni Kiewnarski, Sgt. Feliks Gawlak, Sgt. Tadeusz Frankowski and Flt Sgt. Józef Janik.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Z1245 took off from RAF Hemswell on the 27th August 1942 at 20:45 hrs as one of ten aircraft from the Squadron detailed to join a force of 306 aircraft on a mission to bomb Kassel .
There was only a little cloud over Kassel and the Pathfinders were able to illuminate the area well and widespread damage was inflicted including to several military establishments. All three Henschel aircraft factories were also severely damaged.
Many of the bomber losses were attributed to night-fighter action.
Z1245 was claimed by Hptm. Siegfried Wandam, his 5th Abschuss, from 3./NJG1 near Eindhoven at 4.600 metres at 00:30 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten)
Hptm. Wandam was transferred to 1./NJG5 as its Kommandeur on the 30th September 1942. On the night of the 3rd/4th July 1943 he was credited with destroying an unidentified Wellington and Halifax HR673 from 35 Sqn. However, he and his Bordfunker Fw. Alfred Schöpke, who were temporarily seconded to the St. Trond based Gruppe, had the left engine of their Bf110 G-4 C9+AB knocked out by return fire. They tried to make it back to St. Trond on one engine but crashed on final approach at the Houpertingen airbase killed both crew. He was credited with 14 Abschüsse. He was buried at Lommel. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 June - 22 September) 1943 Part 2 - Theo Boiten)
In his evader report Sgt. Frankowski reported that the aircraft did not reach the target and was forced to turn back over Munster, Germany. After being attacked by the German night-fighter three of the crew manged to bail out. Sgt. Pytlak, Sgt. Gawlak and Flt Sgt. Janik were killed.
(1) Flt Lt. Kiewnarski is not named as being involved in the Escape Organisation and there is no record that describes his role in assisting in the execution of the plan. However, six hundred PoWs had been engaged on work connected with the tunnel and two hundred of them were chosen to escape so it is safe to assume that he was involved in some capacity.
On the night of the 24th-25th March 1944, 76 officers escaped from the north compound of Stalag Luft 3 which, at that time, held between 1000 and 1500 RAF PoWs. The escape was made by the means of a tunnel. At about 05:00 hrs on the 25th March the 77th PoW was spotted by guards as he emerged from the tunnel.
Flt Lt. Kiewnarski was one of a party of twelve that set out in a southerly direction through some woods to a small railway station. The party boarded a train at 05:00 hrs which arrived at Ober-Rohrsdorf at about 11:00 hrs without incident. Here the party split up into smaller groups. It is not known who Flt Lt. Kiewnarski teamed up with nor are the circumstances of his capture. (Ref 1).
He was next seen by Maj. Dodge on the 26th March at the Criminal Police Headquarters in Hirschberg. After being interrogated Flt Lt. Kiewnarski was the taken to the Civil Prison in Hirschberg and was last seen on the 29th March by Maj. Dodge before he himself was sent to the Concentration camp at Sachsenhausen - Sonderlager A. (Ref 1).
Major John ‘Johnnie’ Bigelow Dodge, 101106 of The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own). Maj. Dodge survived his incarceration and was liberated by Allied forces.
Flt Lt. James witnessed Flt Lt. Wernham, Flt Lt. Kiewnarski, Flt Lt. Pawluk and Plt Off. Skantziklas being taken from the Civil Prison in Hirschberg to an unknown destination on the 30th March 1944. (Ref 1).
Flt Lt. Bertram Arthur James, 42232, Observer from 9 Sqn Wellington Ia P9232, lost on a mission to Duisburg, Germany on the 5th/6th June 1940. After his capture he was sent to the Concentration Camp at Sachsenhausen - Sonderlager A on the 6th April 1944. Flt Lt. James survived his incarceration and was liberated by Allied forces.
An overview of the German response to the escape and the subsequent British prosecution of those responsible for the murder of fifty of the escapees is summarised in the report entitled “The Fifty - The Great Escape”.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Flt Lt. Kiewnarski were established during the second of two trials which was convened at the Curiohaus, Hamburg on the 28th August 1948.
Of the four charges heard by the court the 2nd related to one German national who was charged with committing a war crime in that he in the vicinity of Hirschberg, Germany, on or about the 29th March 1944, when a member of the Breslau Gestapo in violation of the laws and usages of War, was concerned in the killing of Flt Lt. A. Kiewnarski, Flt Lt. K. Pawluk, Flt Lt. J.C. Wernham and Plt Off. S. Skantzikas who were all PoWs.
The accused was:
Erwin Wieczorek who was a former Kriminalrat (Detective Director), held the rank of SS- Sturmbannführer (Maj) and was a senior official in the Breslau Gestapo office.
After the reading of the charges the court was adjourned until the 4th October and reconvened on the 11th October 1948 and sat for twelve days.
The court heard that the four officers were held at Criminal Police Headquarters in Hirschberg awaiting the arrival of the head of the Gestapo office at Breslau, a Dr. Scharpwinkel, and a squad of Breslau officials.
Dr. Wilhelm Scharpwinkel was the former head of the Gestapo office at Breslau ranking as Oberregierungsrat (German Civil service rank). He also held the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt Col).
After the war Scharpwinkel was masquerading as a Lt. Hagemann at the No. 6 Hospital at Breslau from where Russian officers removed him at gunpoint. During the enquiry into the murders, the Russians refused to co-operate with the Allied investigation, although after much prodding they allowed Scharpwinkel to make a statement, in Moscow, during August and September 1946. Soon afterwards, Scharpwinkel disappeared and it was reported that he had died in a Soviet prison on the 17th October 1947.
Scharpwinkel carried out the interrogations and when they were concluded he told Wieczorek that the four officers were to be shot and told him to detail two officials for escort duty and that Wieczorek was to join them. Wieczorek claimed that he sought to excuse himself from that duty.
The officers were taken in a convoy of four cars in the direction of Sagan. Wieczorek and another Breslau official travelled with one of the four officers on that journey. The convoy drove for about 30 minutes and a suitable place by the roadside the four cars drew up. This was early evening possibly about 18:00 hrs and it was already dark. The four officers were given the opportunity to relieve themselves at the. side of the road. As they stood between the second and third cars they were shot and killed.
Wieczorek claimed that he was standing by the first car and was not involved in the shooting but that Scharpwinkel was present and was in charge of the operation.
The duty of arranging the cremations was left to the head of the Hirschberg office. Wieczorek and Scharpwinkel drove back to the Hirschberg office where Scharpwinkel completed a report to be sent to Amt IV which recorded that the officers were shot whilst attempting to escape.
Amt IV = RSHA Department IV = Gestapo.
Wieczorek was the sole representative of that relatively small group of men who carried out the shootings of the twenty-nine prisoners in the Breslau area. Scharpwinkel was dead, some of the other suspects were also dead, the rest of them were not in custody, so that the only one that could be brought before the Court on this charge was Wieczorek.
Erwin Wieczorek was found guilty on this charge and the first charge. He was sentenced to death by hanging but his sentence was quashed upon review.
(2) Sgt. Frankowski was injured but managed to escape from the hospital and evade capture arriving back in England via Gibraltar on the 25th October 1942.
He was accompanied by Sgt. William Randle the pilot from 150 Sqn Wellington, BJ877 JN:Z shot down on the 17th April 1942 on a mission to Essen, Germany.
Surviving the war 'Franks' Frankowski passed away on the 13th February 1996 age 76.
Above: Graves for Sgt. Pylak, Sgt. Galway and Flt Sgt. Janik at the Eindhoven General Cemetery
Sgt. Jan Pytlak. Endhoven General Cemetery (Woensel). Plot JJ. Joint Grave 118-119. Born on the 16th January 1918 in Szamotuły, Poland. No further details.
Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Credit: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)
Above grave marker for Flt Lt. Kiewnarski
Flt Lt. Antoni Władysław Kiewnarski MiD. Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, Poland. Plot 9, Row A, Collective Grave. PAF Memorial, Northolt. Born on the 26th January 1899. From Moscow, Russia. No further details.
Flt Lt. Kiewnarski was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) recognizing his conspicuous bravery as a PoW because none of the other relevant decorations then available could be awarded posthumously. Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 8th June 1944.
Sgt. Feliks Gawlak. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery. Plot JJ. Joint Grave 118-119. Born on the 14th May 1914 in Kaczanowo, Poland. No further details.
Flt Sgt. Józef Janik. Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Plot JJ Grave 117. Born on the 6th January 1914 in Brzostek, Dębica, Poland. No further details.
Originally researched for Martika Gaul, relative of the pilot, Sgt. Jan Pytlak and Louise Janik Thompson, relative of Flt Sgt. Józef Janik for photographs and information. For further details our thanks to Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii'. Researched and updated by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ (Nov 2021).
1. Stalag Luft III - An official history of the “Great Escape’ PoW Camp - Published by Frontline Books - ISBN: 978-1-47388-305-5