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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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130 Squadron Crest
08.12.1944 130 Squadron Spitfire XIV RM749 Flt Lt. Wilson

Operation: Armed Recce

Date: 8th December 1944 (Friday)

Unit: 130 (Punjab) Sqn. (motto: 'Strong to serve')

Type: Spitfire XIV

Serial: RM749

Code: AP:?

Base: B.64 Diest / Schaffen, Belgium

Location: Burgsteinfurt, Germany

Pilot: Flt Lt. Donald John 'Willie' Wilson 414286 RAAF Age 23. Survived (1)

REASON FOR LOSS:

The flight took off at 14:30 hrs on the 8th December 1944 to take part in an armed reconnaissance and fighter sweep in the Münster area. Whilst attacking a train approximately 20 enemy Bf109 and Fw190 aircraft were sighted. During the ensuing engagement Flt Lt. Wilson was heard to call over the radio that his aircraft had been hit. He asked for a course back to base, which was provided, but a few minutes later at 15:30 hrs he was again heard on the radio that he was badly hit and was going down. His position at the time was NW of Burgsteinfurt. Nothing more was heard or seen of Flt Lt. Wilson or his aircraft by other members of the flight.

Hptm. Herbert Rehfeld (Bf109G) and Gefr. Breiter (Bf109G) of 8./JG 27 each claimed a Spitfire in the region of south Rheine on this day at 15:00 hrs & 14:57 hrs respectively. (OKL Reich, West & Südfront Aug-Dec 1944)

The second loss was Flg.Off. W.J. Simpson from 416 RCAF Sqn., Spitfire IX, MK417. PoW


Notes on group photograph:

Fg Off. Keith McKenzie Lowe 409420 RAAF - Born on the 6th August 1922 at Prahran, Victoria and resided at 73 Darling Road, East Malvern, Melbourne, Australia. Shot down flying Spitfire RM815, force landed behind allied line. Survived the war.
Fg Off. Trevor Lambert Trevorrow 409776 RAAF - Born on the 15th September 1921 at Murreembeena, Victoria and resided at 40 Rossela Street, Murrumbeena, Australia. Baled out of Spitfire RM713. Survived the war.
Fg Off. Frederick Edward Fitzgerald Edwards DFC 420460 RAAF - Born on the 4th June 1922 at Adelaide and resided at 42 The Avenue, Randwick, Sydney, Australia. Survived the war.
Plt Off. Fred C. Riley 431897 RAAF from Sydney, Australia. Shot down by friendly fire on the 22nd December 1944 in Spitfire RM711. Survived with broken back - left the service in November 1945 as Fg.Off.
Flt Lt. Donald Wilson - this page.
Plt Off. Kevin Francis Riordan 409947 - Born on the 10th November 1921 at Shepparton - resided at 101 Knight Street, Shepparton, Australia. Survived the war.
WO. David Hamilton White 414179 - Born on the 23rd November 1921 at Killarney, Queensland, Australia. Survived the war.

(1) The fate of Flt Lt. Wilson was unknown until a Military Court was held at the Garrison theatre, Osnabrück, Germany from 7th March to the 1st May 1947. In total six German nationals were before the court on ten separate charges.

The eighth of the charges accused three German nationals of committing a war crime in that they, at or near the Rheine airfield in Germany on or about the 9th or 10th December 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned with the killing of Flight Lieutenant D.J. Wilson, Royal Australian Air Force, PoW.

The three accused were Heinz Stellpflug, a former Luftwaffe Stabsfeldwebel (M/Sgt.) and chief clerk responsible to Franz Schmitt a former Luftwaffe Major (Maj.) and Commanding Officer of the Rheine airfield; Karl Henkelhausen a former Luftwaffe Major (Maj.) who was Schmitt’s second in command; Walter Klöpzig, a former Luftwaffe Maj. and one time adjutant to Henkelhausen. They were all stationed at the Rheine airfield located 4km NW of the town of Rheine in the province of Westphalia.

In the course of the trial proceedings it was established that a Fritz Bollenrath, a former SA (Sturmabteilung = Paramilitary arm of the Nazi party)-Standartenführer (equates to Col.) and official in charge of the Rheine outpost of the SD (Sicherheitsdienst of the SS) at Rheine, systematically shot a number of Allied airmen who were delivered into his hands. The prosecution maintained that the three accused aided and abetted Bollenrath in the killing of Flt Lt. Wilson. Bollenrath had committed suicide on the 5th December 1945 shortly after his arrest.

The court heard that during an inspection of the damage sustained to an air-raid shelter, where unfortunately ten German civilians lost their lives, a former Wehrmacht District Forester named Heinrich Brinkmann found the body of Flt Lt. Wilson about 100 metres from the air-raid shelter and near the bank of the Ems river. The river is about 2 km in a north-easterly direction from the Rheine airfield.

Testimony from the former Luftwaffe Stabsfeldwebel (M/Sgt.), named Roehe and his Company Commander, Hauptmann (Capt.) Wierlemann expressed an opinion that Flt Lt. Wilson appeared to have gunshot wounds to his body. Brinkmann testified that he noticed that the face of the victim was covered in blood, which tallies with Wierlemann’s testimony that he saw dried blood around the mouth. Additionally Roehe stated that Stellpflug, when asked about the incident merely said "I killed him" and not that he had shot him.

Maj. Kant, RAMC, identified the exhumed remains as those of Flt Lt. Wilson by the marking of his name and service number on the collar of his shirt and from Flt Lt. rank badges. His Pathological report recorded that Flt Lt. Wilson had suffered a fracture of the right upper jaw. This was the only injury found and was, in Maj. Kant’s opinion, extensive enough to have caused unconsciousness. He found that the lungs of the deceased were extremely bulky and full of blood. He speculated that there was the possibility that Flt Lt. Wilsonwas knocked unconscious and then suffocated or buried alive. He believed that the injury to the jaw would not in itself have caused death.

At the end of the case for the prosecution it was decided that there was no evidence against Klöpzig and he was therefore released. The court could not establish how Flt Lt. Wilson sustained the fractured jaw and there was no evidence presented that was sufficient to convict the two remaining accused and therefore on this specific charge Stellpflug and Henkelhausen were found not guilty.

However, Stellpflug was found guilty on two of the other charges and was sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out on the 5th September 1947 in Hameln (Hamelin) prison.

Flt Lt. Wilson was initially buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery Königsesch, Rheine. A British war crimes team disinterred a number of bodies from the cemetery after the war and discovered that of the eight American servicemen buried there, five including that of Flt.Lt. Wilson looked like they were victims of war crimes.


Burial details:

Flt Lt. Donald John Wilson. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 23.C.1. Born on the 16th October 1921 at Townsville, the son of Philip Vaughan Wilson and Hylda Mary Wilson, of Cooladdi, Queensland, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "LOVED, HONORED, REMEMBERED, LONGED FOR ALWAYS. GOOD NIGHT, MY SON'".

Researched for relatives of this pilot with thanks to Traugott Vitz with his work on the Vitz Archive, Mitch Buiting for grave photograph - March 2019. 'Footsteps on the sands of time' by Oliver Glutton Brock. Also to Australian National Archives. For further details our thanks to the following sources.

RS 09.05.2019 - Update to include details of the War Crimes Trial

Acknowledgements: 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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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