06.12.1944 57 Squadron Lancaster I PD264 Fg Off. William Riddell
Operation: Gießen, Germany
Date: 6th December 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit No: 57 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire
Location: Erdhausen, Germany
Pilot: Fg Off. William Riddell 185681 RAFVR Age 22. KiA
Flt Eng: Sgt. John Scott 644319 RAF Age 24. Murdered (1)
Nav: Flt Sgt. Peter Douglas Mann 1601233 RAFVR Age 23. KiA
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Neil Francis Dallaway McGladrigan 426895 RAAF Age 22. Murdered (1)
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Frank Alexander Black 429371 RAAF Age 31. KiA
Air Gnr: Sgt. Robert Shaw McKillop 1826753 RAFVR Age 20. KiA
Air Gnr: Sgt. John Forward 1666426 RAFVR PoW No. 1279 *
* Stalag Luft 7, Bankau near Kreuzberg, Silesia, Germany. (Now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland).
REASON FOR LOSS:
Lancaster PD264 took off from RAF East Kirkby at 16:39hrs and joined a force of 254 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitoes from 5 Group for a raid on Gießen. There were two targets for this night’s mission, the town centre and the railway yards.
PD264 was claimed by two German night-fighter pilots:
Fw. Günter Liersch, who claimed two Lancasters, his 4th and 5th of three Abschüsse that night, from 11./NJG6. The two claims were for either PD264 or 57 Sqn Lancaster NG199. The first over the NW districts of Gießen at 3.000 m at 20:19 hrs and the second NW of Gießen at 2.800 m at 20:32 hrs;
Ofw. Peter Tiedemann, who claimed a Lancaster, his 2nd Abschuss, from 10./NJG6, 20-30 km north of Gießen at 2.500 m at 20:23 hrs. The claim was for either PD264, 57 Sqn Lancaster NG199 or 61 Sqn Lancaster ME725 . (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 October 1944 - 31 December 1944) Part 5 - Theo Boiten)
Three of the crew managed to bail out and were seen to land safely.
Above: Photograph of LAC William Riddell whilst under training as aircrew (Credit: Alan Ramsay)
Flt Sgt. McGladrigan (Courtesy of Australian National Archives) and Sgt.McKillop (Courtesy Sheila Brown)
Sgt. Scott and Sgt. Forward (Courtesy Amy Hirons)
Lancaster Mk 1s awaiting for take off. Aerial view of Gießen after a night bombing raid (Courtesy of the Australian War Museum)
Sgt. Forward was taken prisoner and was processed through normal military channels and remained a PoW and was repatriated after hostilities had ceased. After he had been released WO. Forward reported that Flt Sgt. McGladrigan and Sgt. Scott had bailed out of the aircraft before he did.
A team from the RAF Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (MREU) reported that four members of the crew killed in the German fighter attack or the crash were buried in the cemetery at the village of Erdhausen near the scene of the crash.
(1) On the 18th August 1945 one of the US War Crimes Investigation teams exhumed, examined and identified the body of an Allied airman that had been buried in a wood near the village of Gladenbach. A very detailed pathologist’s report determined that this body had two gun shot wounds to the head, one of which would have caused death. The investigating officer, from laundry marks, badges of rank and other items found on the body, identified the body as that of Flt Sgt. McGladrigan.
During further inquiries it became apparent that another member of the crew had been killed in somewhat similar circumstances. The MREU report determined that the second person killed was Sgt. Scott. A British War Crime Investigation team then took over the enquiries into both cases, and the two investigation into the killings were incorporated into one.
On completion of the enquiries a Military Court was convened at HQ 5 Division in Brunswick, Germany from 22nd May to 30th May 1947.
From the 22nd May to the 29th May the court heard two charges against four German nationals. On the first charge all four were charged with committing a war crime, in that, they in the vicinity of Gladenbach, Germany on or about the 10th of December 1944, were concerned jointly with a Karl Menge in the killing of Flt Sgt. N.F.D. McGladrigan, RAAF, a PoW.
On the second charge only one of the four was charged with committing a war crime in that, he in the vicinity of Weidenhausen, Germany on or about the 7th of December 1944, were concerned jointly with a Karl Menge in the killing of Sgt. J. Scott, RAAF, a PoW.
Karl Menge was a Leutnant (2nd Lt) der Polizei who commanded the police posts in the area. He had not been apprehended and was not before the court.
According to research by Herr Robert Steiner, Karl Friedrich Menge was the District Leader of the Gendarmerie (rural police) in the Kreis Biedenkopf in Hesse with the rank of Bezirks-Leutnant der Gendarmerie (District Lieutenant), and it appears that this is the man to whom the witness evidence refers. During the last days of the war, he disappeared together with his wife. In 1947, British investigators believed him to be dead, albeit without proof. According to recently found documents, he lived in Mühlhausen/Thuringia (then Soviet Occupied Zone of Germany) from 1945, and in 1953 returned to Western Germany, taking residence in Cologne where he died on 2nd August 1967. No indication has been found that he was ever brought to trial by either an Allied or a German court.
The four accused were a Konrad Mangold, who was before the court on both charges, and who was a former Gendarmerie (Rural police) Bezirks-Oberwachtmeister (S/Sgt), stationed in the village of Erdhausen. The following three were before the court on the first charge only; Ludwig Will who was a former member of the Landwacht (Auxiliary Police) from Erdhausen, Karl Schmidt who was a former Gendarmerie Meister (equates to M/Sgt) stationed in the village of Erdhausen and Otto Koch who was a former conscripted member of the Gendarmerie from Bekelshausen.
From the 28th May to the 30th May 1947 the court heard a further two charges against one German national.
Ludwig Michel, who was the former Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Weidenhausen, was before the court to face two charges in committing a war crime, in that, he in the vicinity of Weidenhausen, Germany, on or about the 7th December 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war was firstly concerned in the killing and secondly with the ill-treatment of Sgt. J. Scott, RAAF, a PoW.
The court heard that after the aircraft was shot down the Landwacht were turned out to search for members of the crew who had parachuted from the aircraft. The day after the crash, in the afternoon of the 7th December it was reported to Mangold that an airman had been captured near Wommelshausen, he in turn reported this to Menge who ordered Mangold to collect the prisoner. Menge and Schmidt met Mangold and the prisoner on the road from Wommelshausen to Weidenhausen. Menge told Mangold to shoot the prisoner there and then.
Mangold refused to do so after which Menge told him to take the prisoner away and interrogate him. The prisoner was taken to the office of Ludwig Michel, the Bürgermeister of Weidenhausen.
The court heard that after Mangold had arrived with the prisoner at Michel’s office at Weidenhausen an attempt was made to interrogate the airman without receiving any reply. As Mangold was under orders to report to Menge at a nearby inn the airman was incarcerated in the village community cell.
Whilst there it was claimed that the airman knocked on the door and called out. A crowd of people standing around outside drew this to the attention of Michel who arrived and opened the cell door, beckoned the airman to him and asked what he wanted. Michel was then seen to bludgeon him with a truncheon or a small whip. The airmen fell to the ground and Michel struck him a few more times before leaving.
When Mangold returned he told Michel that the airman was to be shot and that he was to help by arranging for a grave to be prepared. Michel directed a Heinrich Thomas, a witness for the prosecution, to make ready a grave in a hole known to exist in some ground just outside the village. Later that evening Michel and Mangold took the airman to the prepared grave where Mangold shot and killed him. The two of them and Thomas buried the airman in the grave.
In 1945 Sgt. Scott’s remains were exhumed and reinterred in the Gladenbach Cemetery.
The court heard that a second member of the crew had been captured near the village of Mornshausen an der Dautphe, south of Dautphetal on the 7th December. The capture was reported to Koch who collected the airman, however, as there was no gaol available Koch took the airman to the office of the Mornshausen Bürgermeister and spent the night there. It appears that Koch treated the airman well. The next day Koch reported the capture of the airman to Menge and then took the airman the Landratsamt (District administrative office) so that he could be interrogated. However, as there was no one available to undertake the interrogation Koch took the airman to the gaol in Biedenkopf.
The next day, on the 9th December, Koch was to have taken the airman by train to Dulag Luft, Wetzlar to be processed through normal military channels as a PoW. However, events conspired against them and they missed the train so the airman was returned to the gaol at Biedenkopf after which Koch reported to Menge that they had missed the train.
Later that day Menge went to the Landratsamt and telephoned Mangold, who was at Biedenkopf and gave orders to be passed on to Schmidt which in effect was that the airman in the custody of Koch was to be shot. Schmidt was to prepare a grave in a convenient place and also to accompany Mangold and assist in the shooting. Koch was to take the airman somewhere near Gladenbach on the boundary of their respective districts.
As Schmidt could not be contacted by telephone Mangold personally went to him the next morning, on the 10th December, and passed on the orders from Menge. Schmidt told Mangold that Will would assist him and that he was to go to Will’s home to tell him of Schmidt’s orders. During that afternoon Will dug a grave in the woods outside of Gladenbach.
Menge ordered Koch to take the airman, under cover of darkness, from Biedenkopf along the road to Gladenbach to meet Mangold at the boundary of their respective police districts and hand over the airman to him. However, when Koch and the airman arrived at the location there was no one waiting so they continued on toward Gladenbach. Sometime between 21:30 and 22:00 hrs they where stopped by Mangold and Will. The group continued on for just over ¾ km and about 2¾ km north of Gladenbach they turned off the road into the woods. The exact events that transpired next were unclear but what was not in dispute was that someway into the woods the airman was stopped and shot in the head by Mangold which appeared not to have been fatal and a second shot was fired killing the airman. What was not clear is who fired the second shot but the prosecution alleged that this was fired by Will. The murdered airman’s property was taken, his body carried to the grave which had been prepared that afternoon and buried there.
In 1945 Flt Sgt. McGladrigan’s remains were exhumed from this grave and reinterred in the Gladenbach Cemetery.
Mangold was found guilty on both charges and sentenced to death by shooting which was later commuted to 20 years imprisonment and he was released in 1953. Will was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Schmidt was found guilty of complicity in the crime and was sentenced to 1 year imprisonment. The final disposition of the sentences for Will and Schmidt are unknown. Koch was found not guilty.
The court found Michel guilty of the charges. After considering the alleged mistreatment of the airman and his role at the shooting of the airman Michel was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. He was released in July 1953 on the expiration of his remission for good conduct and in consideration of the time he had been held before his trial.
Initial Grave marker for Flt Sgt. McGladrigan; Hanover War Cemetery; Sgt. McKillop on the family Headstone at the Ballengeich Cemetery.
Memorial plaque at East Kirby for Flt Sgt. McGladrigan (Courtesy Sheila Brown) and Sgt. Scott at Lossiemouth War Memorial (Courtesy Kate Tame).
Fg Off. William Riddell. Reinterred in Hanover War Cemetery, Collective grave 11.E.1-4. Grave inscription: "AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER HIM". Born on the 9th May 1922 in Fintray, Aberdeenshire. Son of William and Mary Riddell of Kemnay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
After a period of time at Inverurie school, William studied as an engineer at Aberdeen University before entered the RAF in 1942. He is remembered on the Aberdeen University Roll of Honour.
Sgt. John (Speedie) Scott. Reinterred in Hanover War Cemetery, Grave 11.E.5. Grave inscription: "HE GAVE HIS ALL, THE COST WAS DEAR AND THOSE HE LOVED LOVE HIM DEARER STILL". Son of John and Jessie Scott of Lossiemouth, Morayshire, Scotland.
Flt Sgt. Peter Douglas Mann. Reinterred in Hanover War Cemetery. Collective grave 11.E.1-4. Grave inscription: "IN MEMORY OF A BELOVED SON AND BROTHER. UNTO THY NAME O LORD, BE GLORY GIVEN". Son of Arthur Douglas Mann and Elsie Mann of Wimbledon Park, Surrey, England. At the time of his death Peter's address was Kingstone Camelsdate, Haslemere, Surrey, England.
Flt Sgt. Neil Francis Dallaway McGladrigan. Reinterred at the Hanover War Cemetery, Grave 11.E.6. Grave inscription: "DEARLY LOVED AND SADLY MISSED BY DAD, MUM AND BROTHER ROB". Born on the 8th December 1922, Brisbane, Queensland. Son of William Patrick and Doris Vida May McGladrigan of Kallangur, Queensland, Australia.
Neil had enlisted on the 15th August 1942 and is remembered on the St. Joseph's Nudge College roll of Honour.
Flt Sgt. Frank Alexander Black. Reinterred at the Hanover War Cemetery, Collective grave 11.E.1-4. Born on the 19th March 1913 in Brisbane. Son of Walter Samuel and Florence Elsie Black of East Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Sgt. Robert Shaw McKillop. Reinterred in Hanover War Cemetery, Collective grave 11.E.1-4. Son of William and Martha McKillop of Stirling.
Robert is also remembered on the family headstone in Ballengeich Cemetery, Stirling, Scotland and on the Holy Trinity Scottish Episcopal Church War Memorial in Stirling. Robert joined the RAF in 1942.
Initially researched by Kate Tame for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Reviewed and updated by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
With special thanks to Donald Stewart - Lossiemouth Book of Remembrance, Sheila Brown - Holy Trinity Scottish Episcopal Church Stirling, Trove Digitised Newspapers, Aberdeen University, Imperial War Museum, Scottish War Graves Project, St. Joseph's Nudge College Brisbane. Thanks to Amy Hirons, the granddaughter of Sgt. Forward, for his photograph (May 2020). Update to night fighter claim (Sep 2021). Thanks to Alan Ramsay for the photograph of William Riddell (Jan 2022). Thanks to Matthias Koch for the correction to place of Flt Sgt. McGladrigan’s capture (Feb 2022). Thanks to Traugott Vitz for the Karl Menge information (Apr 2022).
Other sources listed below: