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The Fifty - The Great Escape

The Great Escape, as it came to be known, was a mass escape attempt from the Prisoner of War camp Stalag Luft III located near the town of Sagan in Lower Silesia (now Żagan in Poland).

The purpose-built camp was opened in April 1942 and the Germans considered it to be practically escape-proof. Prisoners were fairly well treated and the Geneva Convention of 1929 regarding treatment of Prisoners of War was followed.

The camp housed mainly British and American airmen whose planes had crashed on Axis territory. The Germans generally captured prisoners with the words ‘For you the war is over.’ It is generally believed that it was the sworn duty of all captured military personnel to continue to fight the enemy by surviving, communicating information and escaping, but in fact for British forces no such duty existed. However, for US forces Article lll of the Military Code of Conduct states

'If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.'

Many of the prisoners at Sagan were re-captured escapees. The Germans believed that security at the new camp was so tight that it would be impossible for anyone to escape.

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.

Very soon after the escape became known, Hitler held a conference at the Berghof, at Obersalzberg near to Berchtesgaden in Germany, at which a decision was made to shoot more than half of the escapers from Stalag Luft 3. The decision was put into an order by Heinrich Himmler. The order was seen by a witness whose recollection was that it read as follows:

"The increase of escapes by officer prisoners-of-war is a menace to internal security. I am disappointed or indignant about the inefficient security measures. As a deterrent the Führer has ordered that more than half of the escaped officers are to be shot. Therefore I order that Amt V hand over for interrogation to Amt IV more than half of the recaptured officers. After interrogation the officers are to be returned to their original camp and to be shot en route. The shooting will be explained by the fact that the recaptured officers were shot whilst trying to escape or because they offered resistance, so that nothing can be proved later. Amt IV will report the shootings to Amt V giving this reason. In the event of future escapes, my decision will be awaited as to whether the same procedure is to be adopted. Prominent personalities will be excepted. Their names will be reported to me, and my decision will be awaited".

Amt V = Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) Department V = Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police);

Amt IV = RSHA Department IV = Gestapo.

As a result of this order, 50 of the 73 recaptured PoWs were murdered, 15 of those who were spared were returned to Stalag Luft 3, 6 were sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and 3 were sent to Stalag Luft I, Colditz. Of the 50 killed, 29 were killed in the Breslau Police area and 21 were killed in other places in Germany, in occupied France, in occupied Czechoslovakia and in Danzig.

The murder of the 50 officers who had escaped from Stalag Luft 3, Sagan was the subject matter of two British trials:

Case No: WO 235/425ff.

The first was the trial of Max Wielen and 17 others. The accused were charged on nine counts:

All of the accused were named on the first two counts. These were charges of conspiracy against the accused together with SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, Head of the Gestapo (Amt IV of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt) (believed to have been killed or committed suicide), SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, Head of the Kripo (Amt V of the RSHA) (Executed after the attempt on Hitler’s life) and Max Ernst Gustav Friedrich Wielen, the Kripo and Gestapo police chief of Breslau with the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer, in the participation of the killing of the 50 officers.

In counts three to nine, six groups of accused were each charged with the killing of one or several officers. Every accused with the exception of Max Wielen figures in one of the charges and no accused figures in more than one:

Emil Schulz and Walter Breithaupt, members of the Kaiserslautern Gestapo, were accused of killing Sqn Ldr. R.J. Bushell and Lt. B.W.M, Scheidhauer between Homburg and Kaiserslautern on or about the 29th March 1944;

Alfred Schimmel, the Chief of the Strasbourg Gestapo, was accused of killing Flt Lt. A.R.H. Hayter in the vicinity of Natzweiler, France on about the 6th April 1944;

Josef Albert Andreas Gmeiner, Walter Herberg, Otto Preiss and Heinrich Boschert, members of the Karlsruhe Gestapo, were accused of killing Fg Off. D.H. Cochran in the vicinity of Natzweiler on or about the 31st March 1944;

Emil Weil, Eduard Geith and Johann Schneider, members of the Munich Gestapo, were accused of killing Lt. H.J. Stevens and Lt. J.S. Gouws in the vicinity of Schweitenkirchen on or about the 29th March 1944;

Johannes Post, Hans Kähler and Artur Denkmann, members of the Kiel Gestapo, were accused of killing Sqn Ldr. Catanach DFC, Sgt. H. Espelid, Flt Lt. A.G. Christensen and Lt. N. Fuglesang in the vicinity of Roter Hahn on or about the 29th March 1944;

Oskar Schmidt, Walter Jacobs and Wilhelm Struve, members of the Kiel Gestapo, were accused of killing Sgt. H. Espelid, Flt Lt. A.G. Christensen and Lt. N. Fuglesang in the vicinity of Roter Hahn on or about the 29th March 1944;

Erich Hermann August Zacharias, a member of the Zlin Grenzpolizei, was accused of killing Fg Off. G.A. Kidder and Sqn Ldr. T.G. Kirby-Green in the vicinity of Mährisch Ostrau on or about 29th March 1944.

The court found Wielen guilty on the first two counts and the remaining accused not guilty on these two counts. The accused cited in counts three to nine were found guilty of their respective charges. The court passed the following sentences upon the accused:

Schulz, Schimmel, Gmeiner, Herberg, Preiss, Weil, Geith, Schneider, Post, Kähler, Schmidt, Jacobs and Zacharias were sentenced to death by hanging.

The executions were carried out by Albert Pierrepoint, assisted by RSM Richard A. O'Neill, on the 26th February 1948 at Hameln prison in six double and one single executions between 09:28 hrs and 12:08 hrs. He had started at 09:00 hrs with a double execution of two war criminals unrelated to Sagan and the murder of the 50 officers.

Boschert was sentenced to death which was commuted to life imprisonment. The final disposition of his sentence is unknown.

Wielen and Breithaupt were sentenced to life imprisonment and both were released on the 24th October 1952.

Denkmann and Struve were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The final disposition of their sentences is unknown.

Case No: WO 235/573ff.

The second was the trial of Erwin Wieczorek, Richard Max Hänsel and Reinhold Brüchardt. The three accused where charged on four counts:

On the first Wieczorek, who was a former member of the Breslau Gestapo, Brüchardt, who was a former member of the Danzig Gestapo, and Hänsel, who was a former member of the Görlitz Gestapo, where charged in that they together and with other persons were concerned in the participation of the killing of the 50 officers;

On the second count Wieczorek was accused of the killing Flt Lt. A. Kiewnarski, Flt Lt. K. Pawluk, Flt Lt. J.C. Wernham and Plt Off. S. Skantziklas;

On the third count Wieczorek and Hänsel were accused of the killing Sqn Ldr. I.K.P. Cross, Flt Lt. M.J. Casey, Flt Lt T.B. Leigh. Flt Lt. W.G. Wiley, WO. A.H. Hake and Fg Off. P.P. J. Pohe;

On the fourth count Brüchardt was accused of the killing of Flt Lt. H.A. Picard, Flt Lt. R. Marcinous, Flt Lt. Walenn and Flt Lt. E.G. Brettall.

The court found Wieczorek guilty on the first and third counts, Brüchardt guilty on the first and fourth counts. Hänsel was found not guilty and acquitted of the charges. The court passed the following sentences upon the accused:

Wieczorek and Brüchardt were sentenced to death by hanging.

Wieczorek’s sentence was quashed upon review.

Brüchardt’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment upon Britain’s temporary suspension of the death sentence. His prison term was reduced to 21 years and he was released in 1956.

No Trial

In the first trial twenty of the officers were named but no one was formally charged with their murder.

The twenty officers were captured in the Breslau area in a number of different places. The dates when they were last seen alive was established and it is known where they were cremated.

It was alleged that a Gestapo agent by the name of Lux selected and commanded the death-squad that carried out the order to execute sixteen of the twenty officers.

Believed to be Kriminalobersekretär (Chief Detective) Walter Lux who was reported to have been killed in the Siege of Breslau in 1945.

A number of other Gestapo field officers from the Breslau area were identified as suspects in their murders but could not be traced, were killed in the Siege of Breslau, committed suicide, were executed for other crimes, escaped from custody or sought refuge in the Soviet Zone.

The following officers were cremated in Liegnitz on the 31st March 1944:

Flt Lt. J.G. Stower, Fg Off. H.J. Birkland, Flt Lt. B.H. Evans, Flt Lt. G.E. McGill, Flt Lt. C.P. Hall, Flt Lt. E.S. Humphreys, Flt Lt. P.W. Langford, Flt Lt. C.D. Swain, Fg Off. R.C. Stewart, Flt Lt. E. Valenta and Fg Off. A.W. Kolandoski.

The following officers were cremated in Breslau on or about the 6th April 1944:

Flt Lt. A.D.M. Gunn, Flt Lt. W.J. Grisman, Lt. C.A.N. McCarr, Flt Lt. H.J. Milford, Fg Off. D.O. Street and Flt Lt. J.F. Williams.

The following officers were also cremated at Breslau, Fg Off. P. Tobolski on the 2nd April and the other two on the 12th April 1944.

Fg Off. S.Z. Krol, Flt Lt. J.L.R. Long and Fg Off. P. Tobolski.

The urns containing the ashes of the murdered officers from all over Germany were sent to Max Wielen’s office. From there they were forwarded to Stalag Luft 3 with the explanation that these prisoners had been attempted to escape. Wielen was thus covering up the actions of the Gestapo.

Fg Off. Henry Birkland MiD. J5233 RCAF Age 25. 72 Squadron. Pilot. Spitfire Vb W3367 on the 07th November 1941. PoW No: 689. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Canada) (Born 16 August 1917. Son of Kristian M. Birkland and Botilda Birkland, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.)

Plt Off. Edward Gordon Brettel DFC. MiD. 61053 RAFVR Age 29. 133 Squadron. Pilot. Spitfire IX BS313 on the 26th September 1942. PoW No: 760. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Britain) (Born 19 March 1915. Son of Vivian Brettell and of Eileen Isabella Brettell, of Farnham, Surrey, England)

Flt Lt. Leslie George Bull DFC, MiD. 43932 RAF Age 28. 109 Squadron. Pilot. Wellington Ic T2565 on 6th November 1941. PoW No: 667. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Britain) (Born 7 August 1916. From Highbury, London, England)

Sqn Ldr. Roger Joyce Bushell MiD. 90121 RAF (A) Age 33. 92 Squadron. Pilot. Spitfire I N3194 on 8th November 1941. PoW No: 621. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (South Africa) (Born 30 August 1910. Son of Benjamin Daniel and Dorothy Wingate Bushell, of Mossel River, Cape Province, South Africa)

Flt Lt. Michael James Casey MiD. 39024 RAF Age 26. 57 Squadron. Pilot. Blenheim I L1141 on 16th October 1939. PoW No: 24. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Britain) (Born 19 February 1918. Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India)

Sqn Ldr. James Catanach DFC, MiD. 400364 RAAF Age 22. 455 Squadron. Pilot. Hampden I AT109 on 5th September 1942. PoW No: 702. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Australia) (Bon 28 November 1921. Son of William Mercer Catanach and Ruby Catanach, of Malvern, Victoria, Australia)

Flt Lt. Arnold George Christensen MiD. 413380 RNZAF Age 21. 26 Squadron. Pilot. Mustang Ia AL977 on 19th August 1942. PoW No: 676. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (New Zealand) (Born 8 April 1922. Son of Mrs L. Christensen 813 Dufferin Street, Hastings, New Zealand)

Fg Off. Dennis Herbert Cochran MiD. 122441 RAFVR Age 23. 10 OTU. WOp. Whitley V AD671 on 8th October 1942. PoW No: 727. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Britain) (Born 13 August 1921. Son of Herbert William and Ethel G. L. Cochran, of Ilford, Essex, England)

Sqn Ldr. Ian Kingston Pembroke Cross DFC. MiD. 39305 RAF Age 25. 103 Squadron. Pilot. Wellington Ic Z8714 on 12th February 1942. PoW No: 2. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Britain) (Born 4 April 1918. Son of Pembroke H. C. Cross and Jeannie Cross, of Hayling Island, Hampshire, England)

Sgt. Halldor Espelid MiD. 378 RNorAF Age 23. 331 (Norwegian) Squadron Pilot. Spitfire Vb BL588 on 27th August 1942. PoW No: 634. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Norway) (Born 6 October 1920. Son of Ivar Espelid and Gudrid Eidnes of Askøy, Norway)

Flt Lt. Brian Herbert Evans MiD. 42745 RAF Age 24. 49 Squadron. Pilot. Hampden I P4404 on 27th December 1940. PoW No: 456. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Australia) (Born 14 February 1920. Son of Herbert and Dorothy May Evans, of Manly, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)

Lt. Nils Jørgen Fuglesang MiD. 742 RNorAF Age 26. 339 (Norwegian) Squadron. Pilot. Spitfire IX BS540 on 2nd May 1943. PoW No: 1264. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Norway) (Born 7 October 1918. From Rasvåg in Hidra, near Flekkefjord, Norway)

Lt. Johannes Stephanus Gouws MiD. 103275 SAAF Age 24. 40 Squadron. Pilot. Tomahawk IIb AN377 on 9th April 1940. PoW No: 116. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (South Africa) (Born 13th August 1919. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Gouws, of Bultfontein, Orange Free State)

Flt Lt. William Jack Grisman MiD. 45148 RAF Age 29. 109 Squadron. Observer. Wellington Ic T2565 on 5th November 1941. PoW No: 45148. Murdered on the 06th April 1944. (Britain) (Born 30 August 1914. Son of William Charles and Gertrude Ellen Grisman, of Hereford, England and husband of Marie M. Grisman)

Flt Lt. Alastair Donald Macintosh Gunn Twice MiD. 60340 RAFVR Age 24. 1 Photo reconnaissance Unit. Pilot. Spitfire IV AA810 on 5th March 1942. PoW No: 5. Murdered on the 6th April 1944. (Britain) (Born 27 September 1919. Son of James Turner Gunn, and Adelaide Lucy Frances Gunn, of Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland)

WO. Albert Horace Hake MiD 403218 RAAF Age 27. 72 Squadron. Pilot. Spitfire Vb AB258 on 4th April 1942. PoW No: 6. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Australia) (Born 30 June 1916. Son of George and Lillian Maud Hake, of Sydney, Australia and husband of Noela Aundree Lillian Hake, of Carlton, New South Wales, Australia)

Flt Lt. Charles Piers Egerton Hall MiD. 5096 RAF Age 26. 1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit (PRU). Pilot. Spitfire PR.IV AA804 on 28th December 1941. PoW No: 1423. Murdered on the 30th March 1944. (Britain) (Born 25 July 1918. Son of Aubrey and Marcella Egerton-Hall, of Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, England)

Flt Lt. Anthony Ross Henzell Hayter MiD. 42124 RAF Age 23. 148 Squadron. Pilot. Wellington Ic BB483 on 23rd April 1942. PoW No: 199. Murdered on the 6th April 1944. (Britain) (Born 20 May 1920. Son of Lt.-Col. Herbert Roche Hayter and Elsie Helen Evelyn Winterton Hayter, of Newbury, Berkshire, England)

Flt Lt. Edgar Spottiswoode Humphreys MiD. 44177 RAF Age 29. 107 Squadron. Pilot. Blenheim IV T1860 on 19th December 1940. PoW No: 406. Murdered on the 30th March 1944. (Britain) (Born 5 December 1914. Son of William Spottiswoode Humphreys and Lydia Humphreys and husband of Lilian Humphreys, of Oxford, England)

Fg Off. Gordon Arthur Kidder MiD. J10177 RCAF Age 29. 156 Squadron. Pilot. Wellington III BJ775 on 13th October 1942. PoW No: 116. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Canada) (Born 9 December 1914. Son of Arthur G. Kidder and Ethel M. Kidder, of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada)

Flt Lt. Reginald Victor Kierath MiD. 402364 RAAF Age 29. 450 Squadron. Pilot. Kittyhawk III on 23rd April 1943. PoW No: 128. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Australia) (Born 20 February 1915. Son of William and Ada Elise Kierath, of Narromine, New South Wales, Australia)

Flt Lt. Antoni Władyslaw Kiewnarski P-0109 PAF Age 44. 305 Squadron. Observer. Wellington I Z1245 on 27th August 1942. PoW No: 42801. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Poland) (Born 26 January 1899. From Moscow, Russia)

Sqn Ldr. Thomas Gresham Kirby-Green Twice MiD. 39103 RAFO Age 26. 40 Squadron. Pilot. Wellington Ic Z8862 on 16th October 1941. PoW No: 652. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Britain) (Born 27 February 1918. Son of Sir William Kirby-Green, Dowa, Nyasaland, Africa)

Fg Off. Adam Włodzimierz Kolanowski MiD P-0243 PAF Age 31. 301 Squadron. Observer. Wellington IV Z1277 on 7th November 1941. PoW No: 678. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Poland) (Born 11 August 1913. From Pawłowice, Leszno County, Poland)

Fg Off. Stanislaw Zygmunt Krol MiD P-0237 PAF Age 28. 74 Squadron. Pilot. Spitfire Vb W3263 on 2nd July 1941. PoW No: 1392. Murdered on the 12th April 1944. (Poland) (Born 22nd March 1916. From Zagorzyce, Kielce, Poland)

Flt Lt. Patrick Wilson Langford MiD. C1631 RCAF Age 24. 16 OTU. 2nd Pilot. Wellington Ic R1450 on 29th July 1942. PoW No: 710. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Canada) (Born 4 November 1919. Son of Richard Wilson Langford and Olive Mary Langford, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)

Flt Lt. Thomas Barker Leigh MiD. 46462 RAF Age 25. 76 Squadron. Air Gunner. Halifax I L9516 on 5th August 1941. PoW No: 63. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Australia) (Born 11 February 1919. Son of David and Constance Emily Carena Leigh, of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)

Flt Lt. James Leslie Robert Long MiD. 89375 RAFVR Age 29. 9 Squadron. Pilot. Wellington Ic R1335 on 27th March 1941. PoW No: 522. Murdered on the 13th April 1944. (Britain) (Born 21 February 1915. From Taunton, Somerset, England)

Lt. Clement Alwyn Neville McGarr MiD. 95691 SAAF Age 27. 2 Squadron. Pilot. Tomahawk P-40 on 10th October 1941. PoW No: 655. Murdered on the 6th April 1944. (South Africa) (Born 24 November 1917. From Johannesburg, South Africa)

Flt Lt. George Edward McGill MiD. J5312 RCAF Age 26. 103 Squadron. Observer. Wellington Ic Z1142 on 10th January 1942. PoW No: 1431. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Canada) (Born 14 April 1918. Son of George Wellington and Rita (née Strahmayer) McGill of Toronto, Ontario)

Flt Lt. Romas Marcinkus MiD. 89580 RAFVR Age 34. 1 Squadron. Pilot. Hurricane IIc BD949 on 12th February 1942. PoW No: 19. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Lithuania) (Born 22 July 1907. Son of Pranas Marcinkus and Honorata Kroazė-Marcinkienė of Jurbarkas, Lithuania)

Flt Lt. Harold John Milford MiD. 103586 RAFVR Age 30. 226 Squadron. Observer. Boston III AL743 on 22nd September 1942. PoW No: 715. Murdered on the 06th April 1944. (Britain) (Born 16 August 1914. Son of William John Milford and Ada Frances of Streatham, London, England)

Flt Lt. Jerzy Tomasz Mondschein MiD P-0913 PAF Age 35. 304 Squadron. Observer. Wellington Ic R1215 on 25th March 1944. PoW No: 680. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Poland) (Born 18 March 1909. From Warsaw, Poland)

Fg Off. Kazimierz Pawluk P-0740 PAF Age 38. 304 Squadron. Observer. Wellington Ic R1215 on 25th March 1944. PoW No: 23. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Poland) (Born 1 July 1906. From Warsaw, Poland)

Flt Lt. Henri Albert Picard 87693 RAFVR Age 28. 350 Squadron. Pilot. Spitfire Vb BM297 on 27th August 1942. PoW No: 685. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Belgium) (Born 17 April 1916. From Etterbeek, Brussels, Belgium)

Fg Off. Porokoru Patapu Pohe MiD. 402894 RNZAF Age 30. 51 Squadron. Pilot. Halifax II JN901 on 22nd September 1943. PoW No: 2433. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (New Zealand) (Born 10 December 1914. Son of Whatarangi Ropoama Pohe and Honoria Maraea Pohe, of Taihape, Auckland, New Zealand)

Lt. Bernard Scheidhauer 30649 FFAF Age 23. 131 Squadron. Pilot. Spitfire Vb EN830 on 18th November 1942. PoW No: 832. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (France) (Born on the 28 August 1921. Son of Michel Scheidhauer, originally from Landau, Germany)

Plt Off. Sotiras Skanzikas 213 RHAF Age 23. 336 Squadron. Pilot. Hurricane - further details sought. PoW No: 1822. Murdered on the 30th March 1944. (Greece)

Lt. Rupert John Stevens MiD. 47431 SAAF Age 25. 12 Squadron, SAAF. Pilot. Maryland AH297 on 14th November 1941. PoW No: 712. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (South Africa) (Born in London 1919. Son of Mr. and Mrs. G. R. Stevens, of Cape Town, South Africa)

Fg Off. Robert Campbell Stewart MiD.130452 RAFVR Age 33. 77 Squadron. Navigator. Halifax II DT796 on 27th April 1943. PoW No: 1279. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Britain) (Born 07 July 1911. Son of Alexander Campbell Stewart and Augusta Mary Campbell Stewart and husband of Doris Marjorie Campbell Stewart, of Golders Green, Middlesex, England)

Fg Off. John Gifford Stower MiD. 107520 RAFVR Age 28. 142 Squadron. Pilot. Wellington III BK278 on 17th November 1942. PoW No: 836. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Britain) (Born 15 September 1916. Son of the late Gifford Stower and Mrs. Euphemia Stower (née Moffatt) of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Also care of Mrs M.H. Dobson of 25 Walsingham Road, Hove, Sussex, England)

Fg Off. Denys Oliver Street MiD 123026 RAFVR Age 21. 207 Squadron. Pilot. Lancaster I W4931 on 30th March 1943. PoW No: 992. Murdered on the 6th April 1944. (Britain) (Born April 1923. Son of Sir Arthur William Street and Lady Street, of Mill Hill, Middlesex, England)

Flt Lt. Cyril Douglas Swain MiD. 37658 RAF Age 33. 105 Squadron. Pilot. Blenheim IV T1893 on 28th November 1940. PoW No: 388. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Britain) (Born 15 December 1911. Son of Percival and Beatrice (née Townsend) Swain, of Wem, Shropshire, England)

Fg Off. Pawel Wilhelm Tobolski MiD P-0375 PAF Age 38. 301 Squadron. Navigator. Wellington IV Z1479 on 26th June 1942. PoW No: 300. Murdered on the 2nd April 1944. (Poland) (Born 21 March 1906 of Bydgoszcz, Poland)

Flt Lt. Arnost Valenta 82532 MiD RAFVR Age 32. 311 (Czech) Squadron. Navigator. Wellington I L7842 which crashed on the 6th February 1941. PoW No: 415. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Czechoslovakia) (Born 25 October 1912. From Czechoslovakia)

Flt Lt. Gilbert William Walenn Twice MiD. 73022 RAFVR Age 28. 25 Operational Training Unit. Wellington Ic N2805 on 11th September 1941. PoW No: 3776. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (Britain) (Born 24 February 1916. Son of Gilbert and Aida Walenn, of Hampstead Garden Suburb, Middlesex, England)

Flt Lt. James Chrystall Wernham MiD. J6144 RCAF Age 27. 405 Squadron. Observer. Halifax II W7708 on 9th June 1942. PoW No: 564. Murdered on the 30th March 1944. (Canada) (Born 15 September 1917. Son of James C. Wernham and Flora Wernham, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)

Flt Lt. George William Wiley MiD. J7234 RCAF Age 22. 112 Squadron. Pilot. P-40 on 10th March 1943. PoW No: 930. Murdered on the 31st March 1944. (Canada) (Born 24 January 1922. Son of Morley Riley and Ethel May (née Root) Wiley of Windsor, Ontario, Canada)

Sqn Ldr. John Edwin Ashley Williams DFC. MiD. 40652 RNZAF Age 24. 450 Squadron. Pilot. Kittyhawk III FR270 on 31st October 1942. PoW No: 838. Murdered on the 29th March 1944. (New Zealand) (Born 6 May 1919. From Wellington, New Zealand)

Flt Lt. John Francis Williams MiD. 106173 RAFVR Age 26. 107 Squadron. Observer. Boston III Z2194 on 27th April 1942. PoW No: 992. Murdered on the 6th April 1944. (Britain) (Born 7 July 1917. Son of John and Bertha Ada Jane Williams, of Ewell, Surrey)

3 of the 76 however did manage to evade capture and return to England:

Flt Lt. Jens Einar Müller. MC. Pilot. Spitfire Vb AR298 on 19th June 1942. Passed away in 1999 age 81. (Norway) (Born 30 November 1917. Son of Einar Jønsberg Müller and Daisy Constance Russell of Aker, Norway)

Flt Lt. Peter Bergsland. MC. Pilot. Spitfire Vb AB269 on 19th August 1942. Passed away in 1992 age 74. (Norway) (Born 17 January 1918. From Ullernåsen, Norway)

Flt Lt. Bram Van der Stok. MBE Croix de Guerre. Pilot. Spitfire Vb BL595 on 12th April 1942. Passed away in Hawaii in 1993 age 77. (Netherlands) (Born 13 October 1915. Husband of Lucia Maria Beata Walter)

Of the remainder that were recaptured after getting clear of the camp the following 15 were returned to Stalag Luft 3.

Plt Off. Albert Armstrong 109946 RAFVR, PoW No 611;
Flt Lt. Richard Anthony Bethell 120413 RAFVR, PoW No. 858;
Flt Lt. Leslie Charles James Brodrick 122363 RAFVR, PoW No. 1219;
Fg Off. William James Cameron J6487 RCAF, PoW No. 2595;
Plt Off. Richard Sydney Albion ‘Dick’ Churchill 41255 RAFVR, PoW No. 243;
Flt Lt. Bernard Green 76904 RAF, PoW No. 121;
Plt Off. Alastair Thompson Macdonald 139399 RAFVR, PoW No. 16;
Flt Lt. Henry Cuthbert ‘Johnny’ Marshall 36103, RAFVR, PoW No. 461;
Lt. Alexander Desmond Neely FAA, PoW No. 420;
Flt Lt. Thomas Robert Nelson 70811 RAFVR, PoW No. 774;
Fg Off. Alfred Keith ‘Skeets’ Ogilvie 42872 RAF, PoW No. 1409;
Lt. Douglas Arthur Poynter FAA, PoW No. 1278;
Plt Off. Paul Gordon Royle 42152 RAAF, PoW No. 2269;
Flt Lt. Michael Moray Shand 391368 RNZAF, PoW No. 833;
Plt Off. Alfred Burke Thompson 39585 RAF, PoW No. 59.

The following eight were held under special orders from Himmler.

Five were sent to the Concentration camp at Sachsenhausen - Sonderlager A:

Wg Cdr. Harry Melville Arbuthnot 'Wings’ Day DSO, OBE(M) 05175, RAF, PoW No. 37;
Maj. John Bigelow Dodge DSO, DSC, MC 101106, British Army, Middlesex Regiment, PoW No. 285;
Flt Lt. Sydney Hastings Dowse MC 86685, RAF, PoW No. 39320;
Flt Lt. Bertram Arthur 'Jimmy’ James MC 42232, RAF, PoW No. 2263;
Flt Lt. Ray L.N. van Wymeersch 30268, FFAF, PoW No. 43010.

Three were initially sent to Stalag Luft I, Barth. Flt Lts. Dvorak and Tonder were then sent to Oflag IVc, Colditz castle, but were liberated before the threat of a death sentence could be carried out, whilst Flt Lt. Plunkett remained at Stalag Luft I:

Flt Lt. Bedrich Dvorak 82542 (Czech) RAF, PoW No. 39648;
Flt Lt. Ivo Tonder 83232 (Czech) RAF, PoW No. 561;
Flt Lt. Desmond Lancelot ‘Des’ Plunkett 78847 RAF, PoW No. 297.

Traugott Vitz and Ralph Snape have researched many war crimes committed on Allied airforce personnel and others.

Further details can be obtained within the Vitz Archive.

We of course welcome any new information. Credits will be placed as applicable.

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RS & TV 31.10.2022 - Completion of all 50 reports, new and updated

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon

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