10.03.1943 112 (Fighter) Squadron, P-40K 245798, Plt Off. George William Wiley MiD
Operation: Fighter Escort
Date: 10th March 1943 (Wednesday)
Unit: 112 (Fighter) Squadron, RAF
Serial No: 245798 *
Location: Foum Tatahouine in Southern Tunisia
Base: Neffatia, Tunisia
Pilot: Plt Off. George William Wiley MiD J7234 RCAF Age 21. PoW No. 930 **/Murdered
* From the available records this Curtis P-40K Warhawk, US Serial No. 42-45798, appears to be an airframe from a batch that was destined for Russia in June of 1942.
** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
On a previous mission on the 7th October 1942 at 09:00 hrs Plt Off. Wiley force-landed his Kittyhawk I, ET919 GA:C, at El Imayid after it was damaged by flak. He suffered contusions and a fractured left ankle when his aircraft hit a land mine. He was evacuated and recovered from his injuries at the RAF Hospital in Egypt and re-joined his unit on the 13th January 1942.
REASON FOR LOSS:
P-40K 245798 and eleven other aircraft from 112 Sqn took off from Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), Neffatia, Tunisia at 15:45 hrs on the 10th March 1943. They were detailed to operate as top cover for aircraft from 250 Sqn and 260 Sqn tasked with attacking enemy transport and armoured vehicles 40 miles NW of Foum Tatahouine in Southern Tunisia.
When the aircraft from 250 Sqn and 260 Sqn started their attack the top cover sighted 12-15 Ju87s (Stuka) and 20-30 Bf109s. A dog-fight ensued and six of the Sqns pilot’s including Plt Off. Wiley failed to return.
After mission reports credited the Sqn with destroying two Bf109s and one Ju87 (Stuka), and damaging one Bf109.
Plt Off. Wiley’s P-40K was claimed by Maj. Joachim Müncheberg, his 134th Abschuss, from Stab./JG77, over Foum Tatahouine in Southern Tunisia at 16:48 hrs.
Maj. Müncheberg was the Kommodore of JG77 and a holder of the Oak Leaves with Swords to the Knights Cross. On his 500th sortie on the 23rd March 1943 his Bf109G-2 (WNr. 16381) was either hit by debris or collided with Capt. Theodore Sweetland’s (52FG,2FS, USAAF) Spitfire V. Both he and Capt. Sweetland were killed in the encounter. Maj. Müncheberg amassed a total of 135 Abschüsse with 33 of the total in Russia.
The other pilots missing from the Squadron were:
Flt Lt. Robert Rutherford Smith J40952 RCAF DFC - Kittyhawk III, FR325, GA:V - PoW No. 935, Stalag Luft 3;
Fg Off. David Alistair Bruce 80213 RAF - Kittyhawk III, FR295, GA:G - KiA;
Plt Off. Rudolph Charles Carlyle Smith J16175 RCAF - Kittyhawk III, FR131, GA:? - KiA;
WO2. Henry John Oliver R84086 RCAF - Kittyhawk III, FR361, GA:? - KiA;
WO2. Richard De Bourke R79049 RCAF - Kittyhawk III, FR292, GA:? - KiA.
Plt Off. Wiley successfully abandoned his aircraft and landed safely in the desert. He wandered around the desert for two days and nights before being picked up by an enemy patrol and taken to Italy. He was transferred to Dulag Luft on the 22nd March 1943 and then to Stalag Luft 3 on the 4th April 1943.
He applied for membership to the Caterpillar Club in February 1944 and had requested that the Pin be sent to a Mrs. Phillips of Hounslow. However, being aware of his death the Club requested Flt Lt. Wiley’s NoK details in order to forward his Pin to his family.
Flt Lt. Wiley is not named as being involved in the Escape Organisation and there is no record that describes his role in assisting in the execution of the plan. However, six-hundred PoWs had been engaged on work connected with the tunnel and two-hundred of them were chosen to escape so it is safe to assume that he was involved in some capacity.
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”.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Flt Lt. Wiley were established during the second of two trials which was convened at the Curiohaus, Hamburg on the 28th August 1948.
Of the four charges heard by the court the third related to two German nationals who were charged together with committing a war crime in that they in the vicinity of Halbau, near Görlitz, Germany, on or about the 30th March 1944, when members respectively of the Breslau Gestapo and the Görlitz Gestapo, in violation of the laws and usages of War, were concerned in the killing of Sqn Ldr. I.K.P. Cross, Flt Lts. M.J. Casey and T.B. Leigh, all of the Royal Air Force, Flt Lt. W.G. Wiley, Royal Canadian Air Force, Flt Lt. A.H. Hake, Royal Australian Air Force and Fg Off. P.P.J. Pohe, Royal New Zealand Air Force, who were all PoWs.
The two accused were:
Erwin Wieczorek who was a former Kriminalrat (Detective Director), held the rank of SS- Sturmbannführer (Maj) and was a senior official in the Breslau Gestapo office.
Richard Max Hänsel who was a former Kriminalinspektor (Detective Inspector), held the rank of SS-Obersturmführer (1st Lt) and was based in the Gestapo sub-office at Görlitz.
After the reading of the charges the court was adjourned until the 4th October and reconvened on the 11th October 1948 and sat for twelve days.
The six officers were taken from their prison to the Görlitz Gestapo sub-office awaiting the arrival of the head of the Gestapo office at Breslau, a Dr. Scharpwinkel, and a squad of Breslau officials.
Dr. Wilhelm Scharpwinkel was the former head of the Gestapo office at Breslau ranking as Oberregierungsrat (German Civil service rank). He also held the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt Col).
After the war Scharpwinkel was masquerading as a Lt. Hagemann at the No. 6 Hospital at Breslau from where Russian officers removed him at gunpoint. During the enquiry into the murders, the Russians refused to co-operate with the Allied investigation, although after much prodding they allowed Scharpwinkel to make a statement, in Moscow, during August and September 1946. Soon afterwards, Scharpwinkel disappeared and it was reported that he had died in Soviet prison on the 17th October 1947.
Scharpwinkel carried out the interrogations and when they were concluded he told Hänsel what was going to happen to the officers. He informed Hänsel that he did not have enough transport and told him to find another vehicle. Hänsel detailed the truck assigned to the Görlitz office and brought up the rear of the convoy with two of the prisoners as they drove off in the direction of Sagan. They passed through a place named Halbau which is some 48 km from Görlitz.
In the late afternoon they stopped by the roadside and the prisoners were marshalled by a squad of officials at the front of the convoy. Hänsel claimed that he sent his two prisoners to join the others. He also claimed that he did not go to the front of the convoy but took the opportunity to stay with his truck and eat his lunch. As soon as the shooting was over, he went to the spot where the officers had been shot which was some little way off the road in a wood, where he saw the bodies sprawling there on the ground, On Scharpwinkel's orders he then took charge of the cremation arrangements, and some days later recovered the urns and took them to Scharpwinkel.
The evidence in the case of Hänsel rests on his own statement and that of Scharpwinkel taken in Moscow. The evidence against Wieczorek is also based upon Scharpwinkel’s statement in which he claimed that Wieczorek was there although he does not say specifically that Wieczorek was present at the shooting. The prosecution maintained that Wieczorek was there as Scharpwinkel's deputy to see that that order was carried out.
Wieczorek and Hänsel were the sole representatives of that relatively small group of men who carried out the shootings of the twenty-nine prisoners in the Breslau area. Scharpwinkel was dead, some of the other suspects were also dead, the rest of them were not in custody, so that the only two that could be brought before the Court on this charge were Wieczorek and Hänsel.
Erwin Wieczorek was found not guilty on this charge. However, he was found guilty of the first and second charges.
Richard Max Hänsel was found not guilty of this charge and the first charge.
Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Credit: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)
Above Flt Lt. Wiley from his PoW Card and Grave marker (Credit: The TWGPP)
Flt Lt. George William Wiley MiD, Poznań Old Garrison Cemetery Grave 7.D.2. Born 24th January 1922 in London, Ontario. Son of Morley Riley and Ethel May (née Root) Wiley of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Fg Off. Wiley was promoted to Flt Lt. whilst a PoW with effect 1st March 1943.
Flt Lt. Wiley 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.