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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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115 squadron crest
03/04.06.1942 115 Squadron Wellington III X3635 KO:J Fg Off. Thomas R.W. Wood DFC

Operation: Bremen, Germany

Date: 3rd/4th June 1942 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit No: 115 Squadron, 3 Group, Bomber Command

Type: Wellington III

Serial: X3635

Code: KO:J

Base: RAF Marham, Norfolk.

Location: 1 km south of Adelheide (Delmenhorst), Germany

Pilot: Fg Off. Thomas Reader Russell Wood DFC. 67642 RAFVR Age 21. KiA (1)

2nd Pilot: Sgt. John Wynne Chapman 41978 RNZAF Age 27. MiA (2)

Nav: Sgt. Leonard John Howe 137584 RAFVR Age 28. MiA

Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Maurice John Morris Davies 905368 RAFVR Age 21. MiA

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Horace Basil Pearce 106036 RAFVR Age 22. PoW No: 556 * (3)

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Benjamin Francis Wischhusen 751991 RAFVR Age 27. MiA (4)

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland

Above: Fg Off. Thomas Reader Russell Wood DFC (Courtesy of Bernard Peter Wood)


Took off at 23.00 hrs. from RAF Marham, Norfolk, at first it was thought that they had been shot down at 04:06 hrs. by Ofw. Georg Klever, flying Bf110 Nightfighter. He was part of 1./NJG3 based at Laon/Athies airfield in Northern France. That Wellington returned damaged.

Ofw. Georg Klever was killed on the night of 9th/10th April 1945 in a crash near Neuhausen-ob-Eck during a Nachtschlacht sortie due to engine failure. He was credited with 3 confirmed day abschüsse with one to be confirmed. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive - Biographies - Theo Boiten).

X3635 was hit by Flak from 1.-3./Res. Flak Abt. 265. The aircraft came down 1 km south of Adelheide (Delmenhorst) at 01:30 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten).

It is believed that the Wellington had a full bomb load at the time. Four of those who died are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial whilst Sgt. Wood is buried in Becklingen War Cemetery.

(1) Plt Off. Wood was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for service with 115 Sqn. Awarded with effect from the 3rd June 1942. London Gazette 27th July 1943.

His brother, Bernard, was also born India in 1924. Their sister Elizabeth was born in British Guiana in 1930. Their father who was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1890, came to the UK in 1904 where he attended Tonbridge School.

He subsequently attended Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, receiving his BA in 1912 . He received his diploma in forestry in 1914 and was hired by the Indian Forest Service where he remained until 1925. In 1925, the family moved to British Guiana where he was employed as Conservator of Forests, a position which would lead to a CBE being awarded in 1946 upon his retirement.

We would like to appeal for any further information on Fg Off. Wood on behalf of Hans Klootwijk.

(2) John Wynne Chapman excelled at Scots College, Wellington where he was also the Senior swimming champion. Before the war he attended Auckland University's School of Architecture where he was an architectural assistant.

He enlisted in the RNZAF earning his Pilot's wings 14 June 1941. Promoted to Sgt. on the 26th July 1941 he embarked for the UK on the 14th August 1941 arriving at No.3 PRC, Bournemouth on the 28th September 1941. He attended 20 Operational Training Unit (OTU) on the 20th October 1941 and was posted to 115 Squadron on the 20th May 1942. This was his first operational mission. (info courtesy Errol Martyn - via Dave Champion)

(3) After baling out Fg Off. Pearce was captured about 5 mls NE of Bremen that day he was transferred to Dulag Luft , Oberursel arriving there on the 7th June 42. He was then transferred to Stalag Luft 3, Sagan on the 17th June 1942.

Whilst at Stalag Luft 3 he made several attempts to escape. The first from the East Compound using a tunnel which was discovered before an attempt was made in September 1942. He was employed many time on tunnels in various escape schemes. Tunnels were discovered on all three attempts before an escape could be made.

He was promoted to Flt Lt. with effect 18th August 1943. London Gazette10th September 1943.

Another two attempts were made from the North Compound in August 1943 and the other made on the 24th March 1944 ‘The Great Escape’. He was to be the 157th out of the tunnel had it not been discovered half-way through the break out.

In 2008 he recounts in a letter to the Daily Mail of his attempt to escape from the camp:

“I was shot down on my 26th bombing operation and was the sole survivor. I was waiting in the block near the tunnel entrance ready to escape when the outside exit was discovered. I had arranged to accompany one of my fellow officers and had drawn a higher number than his for the escape. He was waiting outside in the woods for me and was one of those ruthlessly murdered on Hitler’s orders. I ended up spending three years in the prison camp.”

On the night of the 27th January 1945, with Soviet troops only 26 km (16 mls) away, orders were received to evacuate the PoWs to Spremberg which is to the West in Germany. The PoW’s were informed of the evacuation, which was on foot, at about 22:00 hrs the same night and were given 30 mins to pack and prepare everything for the March. The weather conditions were very difficult, with freezing temperatures, and it was snowing accompanied by strong winds. There was 15 cm (6 in) of snow and 2000 PoWs were assigned to clear the road ahead of the main groups.

After a 55 km (34 mls) march, the PoWs arrived in Bad Muskau where they rested for 30 hours. The PoWs were then marched the remaining 26 km (16 mls) to Spremberg where they were housed in empty garages, storerooms and in military barracks. There they were provided with warm soup and bread.

During next days, PoWs were divided up according to Compounds, and they were led to railway sidings and loaded into tightly packed carriages. Flt Lt. Pearce was amongst the North, East and remaining West compound PoWs that were sent on the 2nd February or Marlag und Milag Nord at Westertimke.

Marlag is an acronym for Marinelager (naval prisoner of war camp), Milag is short for Marine-Internierten-Lager(naval internment camp), and Nord is German for ‘north’.

On the 2nd April 1945 the Commandant announced that he had received orders to leave the camp with most of his guards, leaving only a small detachment behind to hand over the camp to Allied forces, who were already in Bremen.

However, that afternoon a detachment of over a hundred SS-Feldgendarmerie entered the camp, mustered over 3,000 men including Flt Lt. Pearce and marched them out, heading east.

The next day, at around at 10:00 hrs the column was strafed by RAF aircraft, and two PoWs were killed. Over the next few days the column was attacked from the air several times. Finally the Senior British Naval Officer (SBNO), who was later killed in a strafing attack by RAF aircraft, offered the Germans the PoW’s parole, in return for being allowed to rest during the day and march at night. The Germans agreed.

On the 9th April 1945 the guards at Marlag-Milag moved out and were replaced by older men, presumably local Volkssturm. Meanwhile, the column slowly headed east, finally crossing the River Elbe, north of Hamburg, on the 18th April 1945.

On the 27th April the camps were liberated by elements of the British Guards Armoured Division. The next day, the 28th April, the column finally arrived at Lübeck on the Baltic coast. He was amongst those who were liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division on the 1st May 1945.

Horace Basil Pearce was born on the 7th November 1919 in Edmonton, Essex. He was an assistant to a Quantity Surveyor in London prior to enlisting in the RAFVR on about the 25th April 1940.

(4) The Wischhusen family originated from Bremen, in Germany, (close to where the (Wellington was to drop it’s bombs) but moved to London in the 1790’s. Born in 1915 in Bethnal Green, London. Benjamin, known as Ben, had an older brother Leslie John Wischhusen who was born in Petchefstrom, South Africa in 1913.

After living in the East End of London, Ben’s father served in the 1st Dragoons (Royals) reaching the rank of squadron Sergeant Major, being Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD) and gaining the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM). After leaving the army and with the death of his wife in 1923, he moved the family out to Blandford, Dorset and re married Amy Hilda Seaviour and had another son, John.

Both of the older Wischhausen brothers worked at Lee Motors, a large transport garage where Ben was employed as a coach painter and Les as a metalworker. Ben married May Smith at St. Andrews Church, Boscombe and they moved to Shellbourne Road, Boscombe, their daughter Elizabeth was born in 1941 in Boscombe. When Ben was posted to his squadron his wife May and their baby moved in with her sister Lily and her husband Les (Leslie Eric Orchard Frost) in Enfield, staying with them after Ben’s death in 1942.

Burial details:

Above: The Becklingen War Cemetery (Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

Fg Off. Thomas Reader Russell Wood DFC. Becklingen War Cemetery Grave 26.G.12. Born in India in 1921. He was the oldest child of Bernard Reader and Rachael Clarissa (née Russell) Wood of British Guiana.

Above: The Runnymede Memorial (Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

Flt Sgt. John Wynne Chapman. Runnymede Memorial Panel 117. Born on the 17 thMay 1915 at Mt. Grey Downs, Balcairn, New Zealand. Son of John and Gwendolyne Rubina (née Curlett) Chapman and was married to Phyllis May (née McColl) Chapman of Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

Sgt. Leonard John Howe. Runnymede Memorial Panel 86. Born on the 4th October 1913 in St. Pancras, Cammden. Son of John and Ellen Louise (née Smith) Howe of Lower Edmonton, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. Maurice John Morris Davies. Runnymede Memorial Panel 81. Born on the 23rd February 1921. Son of Thomas Morris and Catherine Anne Davies of Barnes, Surrey, England.

Sgt. Benjamin Francis Wischhusen. Runnymede Memorial Panel 97. Born on the 8th January 1915 in Poplar, London. Son of Mr Benjamin John and Francis Ellen (née Ellam) Wischhusen of Boscombe, Hampshire, England. Husband of May (née Smith) Wischhusen.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Thanks to Michael Wischhusen, nephew of Sgt. Wischhusen with thanks also to Hans Klootwijk of the Caribbean Aircrew site for extra info on Flying Officer Wood. With thanks also to Jon Pinkham who advised us of a correction with details of Sgt. Wischhusen (Feb 2016). Thanks to Dave Champion for additional details (Jul 2018). Thanks to Bernard Peter Wood for the image of Fg Off. Wood DFC (Jul 2024).

Other sources listed below:

RS 18.07.2024 - Image of Fg Off. Wood DFC added to updated report

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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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