Operation: Stuttgart, Germany
Date: 28th/29th July 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit No: 100 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Code: HW:W (Whisky)
Base: RAF Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England
Location: In the vicinity of Durmersheim and Oberweier, Germany
Pilot: Fg Off. Hewitt Harold Robinson Reid J26681 RCAF Age 25. KiA
Flt Eng: Sgt. Donald Judson 1594312 RAFVR Age 21. KiA
Nav: Fg Off. Wilfred James Smith J27489 RCAF Age 21. KiA
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. William Archibald Macdonald R176660 RCAF Age? PoW No. 603 (1)
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Ernest Nottage 1801172 RAFVR Age 21. KiA
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Stephen Lawrence Krawchuk R187263 RCAF Age 21. KiA
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Conrad William Martens R198883 RCAF Age 26. Murdered (2)
Left to Right: Fg Off. Reid (Credit Dave Hansen - FindAGrave); Fg Off. Smith (Credit Laurin Espie- FindAGrave)
Left to Right: Plt Off. Krawchuk; Plt Off. Martens (as a recruit)
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the night of the 28th July 1944 Lancaster III PB172 took off from RAF Grimsby along with 16 other Lancasters from 100 Sqn to bomb targets at Stuttgart, Germany. It was reported by returning crews that there was fighter activity over the target, but none reported any attacks. German documents record that the aircraft crashed on the 29th July 1944 at about 01:55 hrs near to Durmersheim and Oberweier, some 70 km west of Stuttgart. It was likely that the aircraft was hit by flak and disintegrated in mid-air. The aircraft wreckage fell to the ground within a radius of at least 8 km. Parts of the aircraft were found at the last inhabited house in Oberweier in the direction of Winkel, which is about 1½ km to the SSE.
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.
(1) Flt Sgt. Macdonald was the first to bail out of the aircraft and had no knowledge of the fate of the remainder of the crew. The circumstances leading to his capture have not been established but he was eventually incarcerated at Stalag Luft 7 located in Bankau, Silesia, Germany (now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland). It was opened on 6th June 1944, and by July held 230 RAF aircrew prisoners. They were joined by members of the Glider Pilot Regiment captured at the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. By the 1st January 1945, the camp held 1,578 British, American, Russian, Polish and Canadian personnel.
On the 19th January 1945, 1,500 prisoners were marched out of camp in the bitter cold. On the 21st January they crossed the river Oder and reached Goldberg on the 5th February where they were loaded onto a train. On the 8th February they reached Stalag 3A which was located about 32 miles south of Berlin near Luckenwalde. The camp already held 20,000 prisoners, consisting mainly of personnel from Britain, Canada, the US and Russia. The camp was liberated by elements of the Russian Army on the 22nd April 1945.
(2) The fate of Flt Sgt. Martens was unknown until a Canadian Military Court was convened at Aurich in Germany between the 15th and 25th March 1946.
A Canadian forces investigation team was made aware of the murder of an Allied airman which lead the team to discover the remains of an airman in the Oberweier cemetery. The remains were disinterred, and an autopsy carried out on the 30th July 1945. The results positively established that the remains were those of Flt Sgt. Martens and that he had suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head.
The court charged two German nationals of committing a war crime in that they at the village of Oberweier, Kreis (District) Rastatt, Germany, on or about the 20th July 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of Conrad William Martens, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, a PoW.
Those charged were Wilhelm Jung who was the former Burgomeister (Mayor) of Oberweier and also the Ortsgruppenleiter (Local group leader of the Nazi party), and Johann Georg Schumacher, who was a former Wehrmacht Gefreiter (equates to senior private) and a member of Landesschützen Batallion No. 404 (local defence forces) based at Rastatt. He was detailed to guard a group of French PoWs who worked on the local farms. He was also a Landwachtmann (Auxiliary policeman).
The court heard that Flt Sgt. Martens had successfully bailed out of the aircraft and landed close to Oberweier, which is to the south of Rastatt. He was captured by a Landwachtmann, named Johann Reiter, who handed him over to a Reinhard Strohm who was the local leader of the Landwacht (Auxiliary police). Shortly later a Landwachtmann, named Peter Scherer, appeared on the scene and Strohm handed over the custody of the airman to him. Scherer was to take the airman to the Rathaus (Town hall) and hand him over to Jung. Strohm then returned to the crash site to guard the wreckage until he was relieved by Wehrmacht personnel. En route to the Rathaus Scherer and Flt Sgt. Martens were joined by August Mack.
Testimonies from several witnesses describe differing versions of what transpired after the group arrived at the Rathaus. However, what is certain is that Flt Sgt. Martens was held in a cell and Jung was informed of the presence of the captured airman. Jung then telephoned the Kreisleiter (County leader, Nazi party) of Rastatt, a man named Heinrich Dieffenbacher, for instructions. It was reported that the Kreisleiter made it clear to Jung that the airman was to be shot. Schumacher suggested that the airman should be held overnight and then delivered to Rastatt the following morning. Jung however ordered Schumacher to shoot Flt Sgt. Martens although Schumacher was reluctant to carry out the order without the presence of someone else. An Oscar Anselm was ordered to accompany Schumacher.
Anselm and Schumacher marched Flt Sgt. Martens on the road from Oberweier to Muggensturm. En route Schumacher shot the airman once in the back and a second time in the head. Schumacher reported the shooting to his Company Commander who made a few notes after which Schumacher returned to his duties.
The airman was left at the side of the road until later that morning when Jung ordered that the body be brought back to Oberweier and buried in the local cemetery A witness placed the location of the shooting at about 150 metres from a crucifix which is standing outside of the village of Oberweier.
A local expert, Helmut Böttcher, who was a teacher and also a former Ortsvorsteher (village representative or spokesperson) believed, of the several crucifixes in the village area the only one that fitted the description of the witness was located on the spot where, on the road leaving Oberweier for Muggensturm, a small road called "Hintere Dollert" joins the "Karlsruher Straße" (This is also very close to the village border between Oberweier and Muggensturm). The crime scene would then have been a further 100 to 150 metres (110 to 165 yards) from this spot which would have been in Muggensturm territory.
Left: modern day map depicting the road "Hintere Dollert". Right: Believed to be the crucifix described by the witness (Credit N.N. - photographer wishing to remain anonymous)
In their testimonies to the court Schumacher admitted to the shooting, but Jung denied ordering Schumacher to shoot Flt Sgt. Martens. The court found both men guilty of the charge and sentenced them both to death. The sentences were carried out by firing squad on the morning of the 15th April 1946.
Anecdotal information received indicates that proceedings were started against Kreisleiter Heinrich Dieffenbacher by the Baden-Baden prosecutor in connection with Martens' death. However, it appears that Dieffenbacher was dead or declared dead in 1971, so the proceedings were halted.
Oscar Anselm could not be found and therefore any testimony by him could not be tested before the court.
Left to Right: combined marker, Fg Off. L.L. Pemberton and Fg Off. Reid; combined marker; Sgt. Judson and Plt Off. Krawchuk; Fg Off. Smith. (Credit: The War Graves Photographic Project)
(Note: Fg Off. Lloyd Lewis Pemberton 418170 RAAF, Pilot of 106 Sqn, Lancaster I, ME778. All the crew perished in the crash at 01:55 hrs near Durmersheim, 9km NNE of Rastatt and on the railway leading to Karlsruhe, Germany)
Fg Off. Hewitt Harold Robinson Reid. He was originally buried at the Oberweier Cemetery and reinterred at the Durnbach War Cemetery Column Plot 11. Row H. Grave 8-11 on the 3rd September 1948. Inscription reads “GOD TOOK HIM HOME IT WAS HIS WILL BUT IN OUR HEARTS HE LIVETH STILL”. Born on the 14th April 1919, son of Melvin and Ethel Reid from Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Fg Off. Wilfred James Smith. He was originally buried at the Oberweier Cemetery and reinterred at the Durnbach War Cemetery Column Plot 3. Row H. Grave 4 on 3rd September 1948. Inscription reads “ON EARTH HE NOBLY DID HIS BEST, GRANT HIM, JESUS, HEAVENLY REST”. Born on the 26th January 1923, son of George J. and Doris L. Smith of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Donald Judson. He was originally buried at the Muggensturm Cemetery and reinterred at the Durnbach War Cemetery Column Plot 11. Row H. Grave 8-11 on 9th July 1948. Inscription reads “REST IN PEACE”. Born on the 14th March 1923, son of Alfred and Amy Judson, of Sowerby, Yorkshire, England.
Plt Off. Stephen Lawrence Krawchuk. He was originally buried at the Muggensturm Cemetery and reinterred at the Durnbach War Cemetery Column Plot 11. Row H. Grave 8-11 on the 9th July 1948. Born in 1923, son of Nick and Mary Krawchuk, of Reno, Alberta, Canada.
Flt Sgt. Krawchuk was posthumously commissioned and promoted to J90763 Plt Off.
Left to Right: combined marker; Sgt. Nottage and Sgt. L. Peace; Plt Off. Martens. (Credit: The War Graves Photographic Project)
(Note: Sgt. Leslie Peace 524666 RAFVR, Flight Engineer of 106 Sqn, Lancaster I ME778. All the crew perished in the crash at 01:55 hrs near Durmersheim, 9km NNE of Rastatt and on the railway leading to Karlsruhe, Germany)
Sgt. Kenneth Ernest Nottage. He was originally buried at the Oberweier Cemetery and reinterred at the Durnbach War Cemetery Column Plot 11. Row H. Grave 8-11 on the 3rd September 1948. Inscription reads “GONE FROM US BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. NEVER SHALL THY MEMORY FADE”. Born in April 1923, son of Thomas and Ivy Doris Nottage of Barking, Essex, England.
Plt Off. Conrad William Martens. He was originally buried at the Oberweier Cemetery and reinterred at the Durnbach War Cemetery Plot 3. Row H. Grave 3 on 3rd September 1948. Born on the 8th July 1918, son of George and Doris Smith, of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Flt Sgt. Martens was posthumously commissioned and promoted to J90764 Plt Off.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Lauren Espie (FindaGrave) for the use the photograph of Fg.Off. Smith and to The War Graves Photograph Project (TWGPP) for the kind permission to use the images of the grave markers. Thanks also to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
Other sources listed below.
RS & TV 26.06.2020 - Correction to crash location for ME778
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