21/22.02.1945 158 Squadron Halifax III MZ351 NP:X Flt Sgt. Alan C. Widdowson
Operation: Worms, Germany
Date: 21st/22nd February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit No: 158 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Lissett, Yorkshire
Location: Dirmstein, 11 km (7 mls) SW of Worms.
Pilot: Flt Sgt. Alan Charles Widdowson 1881231 RAFVR Age 24. KiA
Flt Eng: Sgt. Frederick 'Freddie' J. Fox 1867100 RAFVR Age? PoW *
Nav: Plt Off. Terence Dillon 189805 RAFVR Age 27. PoW * (1)
Bomb Aimer: Plt Off. John McFarlane Scott 189567 RAFVR Age 23. PoW * (2)
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Michael Edward Jordan 428884 RAAF Age 24. PoW * (3)
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. Cyril 'Lofty' William Sibley 1898606 RAF Age 22. Murdered (5)
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Francis Leslie Charles Mewis 222029 RAFVR Age 19. PoW * (4)
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
REASON FOR LOSS:
MZ351 took off at 17:27 hrs from RAF Lissett. Outbound, crashed at Dirmstein, 11 km (7 mls) SW of Worms.
Sergeant Mewis reported that they knew that a night fighter was after them and the pilot Flt Sgt. Widdowson corkscrewed the plane, but saw a Halifax in their path. The night fighter came underneath them hitting them in the bomb bay.
The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) (German Air Force High Command) listed 11 claims for Halifaxes SW of Worms by five German night fighter pilots:
Ofw. Günther Bahr from 1./NJG6 who claimed 5 Halifax Bombers;
Ofw. Heinrich Schmidt from 2./NJG6 who claimed 3 Halifax Bombers;
Oblt. Wilhelm Engel from 3./NJG6 who claimed 1 Halifax Bomber;
Hptm. Martin Becker from Stab IV./NJG6 who claimed 1 Halifax Bomber;
Maj. Herbert Lütje from Stab NJG6 who claim 1 Halifax Bomber.
It has not been possible to attribute the loss of MZ351 to any particular German pilot. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January 1945 - 3 May 1945) Part 6 - Theo Boiten)
Most of the crew, after baling out, landed in open fields away from residential areas, they were captured and became PoWs. Flt Sgt. Widdowson had also tried to bale out, but witnesses (15-year-old Arthur Maurer and his friend Hans Landin) state that he was found next to the aircraft with the parachute caught in one of the engines.
158 Squadron lost two other aircraft during this operation:
Halifax III MZ813 NP:Y flown by Fg Off. Hampshire crashed on return with the loss of 4 crew, with 3 others injured;
Halifax III NR177 NP:W flown by Fg Off. Hackman crashing at Odenbach with all crew taken PoW.
(1) Plt Off. Dillon came from Colwyn Bay, Wales and replaced their regular navigator Les Toogood. (from Oxshott, Surrey)
He was captured approximately 19½ km (12 mls) SW of Mannheim on the 24th February 1945. He was held at Dulag Luft, Oberursel and interrogated which was interspersed with periods of solitary confinement. He was then transferred to Stalag 13D, Nuremberg, arriving there on the 10th March 1945.
On the 4th April 1945 he was amongst the large numbers of PoWs that were force-marched to to Stalag 7A, Moosburg arriving there on the on the 18th April 1945. The camp was liberated on the 29th April 1945 by elements of the US 14th Armoured Division. He was interviewed on the 12th May 1945.
Prior to enlisting in the RAFVR he was employed in the Plastics industry in Manchester.
(2) Plt Off. John Scott replaced Jan Adam Balawajder P.2866 PAF who had been wounded in a previous raid.
Plt Off. Scott was captured in the vicinity of Worms on the 22nd February 1945. He was held at Dulag Luft, Oberursel for 13 days and interrogated which was interspersed with periods of solitary confinement. He was then transferred to Stalag 13D, Nuremberg, arriving there on the 20th March 1945.
On the 4th April 1945 he was amongst the large numbers of PoWs that were force-marched to to Stalag 7A, Moosburg arriving there on the on the 20th April 1945. The camp was liberated on the 29th April 1945 by elements of the US 14th Armoured Division. He was interviewed on the 11th May 1945.
Prior to enlisting in the RAFVR on the 6th October 1941 he was an Insurance Clerk in Glasgow.
(3) Flt Sgt. Michael Jordan from North Sydney, Australia. Born on 21st July 1924 at Islington, New South Wales, Australia. Promoted to Plt Off. whilst a PoW on the 29th January 1945. Discharged from the RAAF on the 31st October 1945 as a Fg Off.
The PoW report by Plt Off. Jordon described:
"The aircraft was set on fire by a German nighter-fighter when firing from below and apparently hit the incendiaries The blaze seemed to be in the rear position. The pilot gave the order to bale out by "Emergency, Jump, Jump, Jump". I heard nothing from the M.U. Gunner but the rest of the crew all gave some acknowledgement. I know of no injuries suffered by anybody due to the bullets or Flak".
(4) Sgt. Francis Mewis. Born on Sunday,15th March 1925 in Burton on Trent. He worked as an apprentice plumber before enlisting in the air force where he was known as 'Nipper'. Resuming his job on returning home, he married his wife, Jean in 1947 with a son Michael being born four years later. He was a PoW for a short time and the camp was liberated by the arrival of General Patton.
(5) After baling out from the stricken Halifax, Sergeant Sibley's parachute got caught in the branches of a tree in the garden of a Maria Gessner at Friedhofstrasse 18, Dirmstein. Maria treated his cuts and abrasions as best she could before the town Gruppenleiter, Adolf Wolfert a local leader of the 'Peoples Army' appeared on the scene, and bellowed 'What kind of German do you think you are?' 'A good German!' she replied. Wolfert departed, but soon returned with two policemen - Georg Hartleb and Heinrich Kress (also a member of the 'Peoples Army' and a local teacher) - Sibley was marched away. Wolfert himself described what followed:
"We took the airman behind the railway station. He did not say anything and we did not speak to him. Hartleb took him with his left hand, turned him around and held his revolver close to his face. I then took my revolver and shot the airman from a distance of about two meters, once in the head and once in the chest. The airman fell down, and Hartleb fired one more shot after he had fallen down".
Frau Gessner heard three shots. Next morning, 22nd February, she saw the bodies of two airmen on a handcart, and recognised one as Sibley. Later that day he was buried with seven other airmen in Dirmstein cemetery. In April 1948 the bodies were finally laid to rest at the Rheinberg War cemetery.
The two airmen who were recovered from Dirmstein. It has been established that the pilot, Flt Sgt. Widdowson was buried with 6 of the crew of a 432 Squadron Halifax VII RG451 QO:D which was flown by Flt Lt. Edward S. Maguire. One crew member from this aircraft became a PoW.
The body of Sgt. Sibley was also placed in the same grave, on top, without a coffin. American instigators exhumed the body on Monday, 6th August 1945 and identified the airman, recording the injuries for evidence at the War Crimes trials. Adolf Wolfert and Georg Hartleb were hanged half an hour apart on Friday,11th October 1946. Heinrich Kress was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Understood to have been released early.
Above: Grave marker for Flt Sgt. Widdowson (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)
Flt Sgt. Alan Charles Widdowson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Joint Grave 20.B. 26-27. Born in the 2nd Qtr of 1920 in Nottingham. Son of Robert and Cladys May (née Wakley) Winnowson. Husband to May (née Whitebread) Widdowson of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England.
Originally it was reported that Flt Sgt. Alan Charles Widdowson was commissioned and then was demoted. However, research has determined that the Alan Charles Widdowson that was granted a commission had a completely different Service Number.
Above: Grave marker for Sgt. Sibley (Courtesy of Des Philippet - FindAGrave)
Sgt. Cyril 'Lofty' William Sibley. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 20.B.20. Born on Wednesday, 10th October 1923 at Merthyr Tydvil, Wales. Son of Cyril V.W. and Rhoda B. (née Jenkins) Sibley. In 1943 he was married to Florence S.J. Rogers at Peterborough.
Above the Stolperstein for Sgt. Sibley next to the old Town Hall in Dirmstein
The small copper plaques (Stolpersteine), laid in the pavement at the individual's last known place of freely chosen residence or work of the (mostly Jewish) residents who were murdered by the Nazis, mention the name, date of birth and place (mostly a concentration camp) and date of death.
Sgt. Sibley's stone, revealed on the 27th March 2009, is an exception insofar as the stone is not set near his residence but near the place of his murder hence the inscription "IN DIRMSTEIN ERMORDET" (MURDERED IN DIRMSTEIN).
In many other cities, mainly in Germany, memorials also can be found. There are already many thousands of these plaques, and their number is still counting. Almost all Stolpersteine are laid by the German artist himself, Gunter Demnig. As per May 2023, 100,000 Stolpersteine have been laid in 29 European countries.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered volunteer, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Special thanks for information and photographs of Sergeant Mewis to Michael Mewis, son. Thanks to Oliver Clutton-Brock for the details on Sgt Sibley from 'Footprints on the Sands of Time'. Also to the German publication 'Dirmstein remembers' for further details on the Sgt. Sibley murder. And to Gunter Demnig for his work with the Stolpersteine. For further details on Sgt. Sibley thanks to Roy Wilcock of Aircrew Remembered. Reviewed and updated by Traugott Vitz and Ralph Snape (Jul 2023). Updated PoW information and clarification of the Stolperstein for Sgt. Sibley (Sept 2023).
Other sources listed below: