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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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105 Squadron
28/29.11.1940 105 Squadron Blenheim IV T1893, Flt Lt. Cyril Douglas Swain MiD

Operation: Düsseldorf, Germany

Date: 28th/29th November 1940 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit No: 105 Squadron

Type: Blenheim IV

Serial: T1893

Code: GB:?

Base: RAF Swanton Morley

Location: Unknown

Pilot: Flt Lt. Cyril Douglas Swain MiD 37658 RAF Age 33. PoW No. 388 */Murdered (3)

Observer: Plt Off. Ernest John Clelland 78085 RAF Age 19. PoW No. 358 * (1)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Maurice John Cowley 611137 RAFVR Age 22. PoW No. 359 ** (2)

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).

** Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania).


T1893 took off at 17:28 hrs on the 28th November 1940 from RAF Swanton Morley and was one of seven aircraft detailed to join a force of 24 other Blenheims to bomb Düsseldorf and Antwerp.

Only two of the five Blenheims from 105 Squadron derailed to bomb Düsseldorf managed to reach the target. One turned back with engine problems, another because of the weather conditions and T1893 failed to return.

One uncorroborated report claimed that whilst searching for Düsseldorf T1893 was hit by electrical interference which affected the navigational equipment. After they dropped their bombs on what they thought was Düsseldorf, Plt Off. Clelland set a course of 291 degrees. The aircraft became unnavigable and eventually began circling over France but, probably through lack of petrol, the aircraft had to be abandoned. Sgt. Cowley was apprehended almost immediately in a French farmhouse. Flt Lt. Swain and Plt Off. Clelland were captured three days later.

Where the crew were captured and where T1893 crashed is unknown.

(1) Plt Off. Clelland was promoted to Fg Off on the 10th March 1941 and then to Flt Lt. on the 10th March 1942 whilst a PoW. He was reported have arrived at Marlag und Milan Nord, Westertimke, Lower Saxony after a forced march from Stalag Luft 3.

After the war he transferred to the Secretarial Branch on the 20th December 1948 retaining his rank of Flt Lt. He was promoted to Sqn Ldr. on the 1st January 1954.

On the 1st January 1957 he retired from the RAF as a Sqn Ldr. on account of medical unfitness for Air Force service.

(2) Sgt. Cowley was held at: Stalag 11b Fallingbostal, Schleswig; Stalag Luft 4 Groß-Tychow, Pomerania and Stalag 357, Thorn (Toruń) in Poland. On promotion to Warrant Officer (WO) he was transferred to Stalag Luft 6.

(3) After the prerequisite visit to Dulag Luft Flt Lt. Swain was sent to Stalag Luft 3.

Flt Lt. Swain earned himself for himself or was selected on and early position in the line of two hundred hoping to escape from the north compound of Stalag Luft 3.

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.

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”.

It is not known when Flt Lt. Swain exited the tunnel nor with whom he travelled, if at all. What is known from the trial transcript is that he was captured at or near Sagan and that he was one of a number of recaptured officers who were gathered together in Görlitz prison in Germany which was under the control of the Gestapo. Gradually the numbers of recaptured officers grew until thirty-five were held there.

On the 31st March two of the surviving officers witnessed a number of Gestapo agents collected the following ten officers and take them away; Flt Lt. C.P. Hall, Ft Lt. Birkland, Flt Lt. B. Evans, Flt Lt. G.E. McGill, 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.D. Kolanowski. None of these men were seen alive again.

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 selected prisoners.

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

No one was formally charged with the actual murder of Flt Lt. Swain or for the other fifteen officers killed by Lux and his death-squad. The bodies of this group were cremated at Liegnitz (Legnica) in Poland and their urns returned to Stalag Luft 3.

Burial Details

Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Courtesy: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)

Above: Grave marker for Flt Lt. Swain (Courtesy of TWGPP)

Flt Lt. Cyril Douglas Swain MiD. Poznań Old Garrison Cemetery 8.C.1. Born on the 15th December 1911 in Wem, Shropshire. Son of Percival and Beatrice (née Townsend) Swain of Web, Shropshire, England.

Flt Lt. Swain 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.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the VitzArchive.

Thanks to The War Graves Photographic Project (TWGPP) for their great work.

Other sources listed below:

RS & TV 15.08.2022 - Initial upload

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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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