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The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III, 1944

South African Air Force Prisoner of War Executed by Gestapo after the Mass Escape at Stalag Luft Three at Sagan, 23/24 March 1944

Allied aircrew members who were shot down and subsequently captured during World War Two were first interrogated before being incarcerated in Air Force Prisoner of War Camps run and administered by the Luftwaffe. These camps were called Stalag Luft, short for Stammlager Luft. Unlike their army counterparts who had separate camps for officers (Oflag, short for Offizier Lager) and NCO’s (Stalag, short for Stammlager),

the Luftwaffe appeared to have their own nomenclature and in many cases, Air Force officers and NCO’s were held in different compounds in the same Camp. Stalag Luft III was an officer only camp and was situated in Sagan, 100 miles south east of Berlin in Upper Silesia, German occupied Poland.

The Camp was opened in 1942 and was just one of seven Air Force only Prisoner of War (POW) camps. The first Allied aircrew prisoners began arriving in this camp in April 1942 and during the war, several major expansions took place. Stalag Luft III eventually covered an area of 59 acres, was equipped with 5 miles of perimeter fencing and held 10 000 Air Force POW’s.

CAMP CONDITIONS
The Luftwaffe were ultimately responsible for the general welfare of all Air Force POW’s and maintained a degree of professional respect for fellow flyers. The general attitude of the camp security officers towards POW’s was cordial and should not be confused with the treatment POW’s received at the hands of the S.S. or Gestapo.

Generally, the POW’s in Stalag Luft III were treated well and were handled quite fairly within the Geneva Convention, despite an erratic and inconsistent supply of food. The Kommandant of the Camp was Oberst (Colonel) Friedrich-Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau, a professional, capable and well educated man who was wounded three times in WW 1, winning two Iron Cross awards. He spoke good English and won the respect of the senior POW’s.

FOOD AND RED CROSS PARCELS
Any POW will verify that had it not been for the food parcels sent via the International Red Cross (who also made inspection visits), food would have been a very serious problem in all POW Camps. Prisoners received little more that starvation rations from the Authorities and food parcels sent to individuals by relatives, or by the International Red Cross, were usually pooled and the contents of these parcels distributed equally. The internal official method of payment and bargaining, as in all other POW Camps, were cigarettes. It was strictly forbidden to be in possession of real German currency, a vital escape aid.

The recommended intake of food for a normal healthy and active man was 3 000 calories. German issued rations worked out to approximately between 1 500 and 1 900 calories. It was therefore the case of officially issued German rations, providing prolonged and unpleasant starvation and it was only the arrival of the Red Cross food parcels that saved the day. On average, one Red Cross parcel per week per man was provided. It must also be borne in mind that the German soldiers and camp guards were not much better off than the POW’s in terms of food.

This aspect was exploited fully by POW’s who often bribed camp guards with contents of Red Cross parcels in exchange for items needed for escape attempts etc. Once a guard had been bribed, there was no going back as the German Soldiers were strictly forbidden to take bribes from POW’s. A surprising number of camp guards proved co-operative in supplying railway timetables, maps and the bewildering number of official papers required for escapers. This problem was further complicated because the German Authorities constantly changed official stamps and the appearance of the various identification papers and other official documents. If caught aiding a POW, a German guard or soldier would face an immediate Court-Marshal and be executed by firing squad.

LETTERS
Letters were censored both at the sending, as well as at the receiving end. POW’s could receive unlimited quantities of post, but were only permitted to send three letters and four postcards every month. Letters took an average of five to six weeks to reach a POW.
Several POW’s established means of exchanging coded messages with their relatives via the Red Cross mail system. Such letters, which were heavily censored by the German Authorities, were invariably in transit for months, but provided a valuable source of information to the War Office. This coding was usually a pre-arranged method agreed between an airman and his wife, girlfriend or relative, such as taking every 9th word, or similar method.

POW IDENTIFICATION
All POW’s had to ensure that their rank and flying badges were kept in a secret place whilst escaping, in order to prove that they were not spies. Being able to produce evidence of being an escaped POW was essential and the German Authorities issued each captive with an official POW Identity Disc which could also be used to establish a man’s genuine identity. The Geneva Convention also dictated that a serviceman should always wear a uniform or risk being shot as a spy. (Many South African escapers, especially in Italy and other German Occupied Territories, were executed by German firing squads as saboteurs or spies because they were either wearing civilian clothing or were involved with Partisan activities when recaptured).

New POW’s arriving at the camp had to be personally vouched for by two existing POW’s who knew them by sight. This was essential as the German Authorities introduced infiltrators, known as “stool pigeons” into the camps in an attempt to spy on camp operations and escape attempts. Any newly arrived POW who could not summon two men who knew him, suffered heavy interrogation by senior officer POW’s. He was also assigned a rota of men, who escorted him at all times, until he was deemed to be genuine. Any stool pigeons were quickly discovered and no evidence suggests that any infiltrators ever operated successfully at Stalag Luft III.

THE POW ESCAPE COMMITTEE
Some of the finest escape artists arrived at Stalag Luft III. The Senior British Officer (SBO) was Group Captain “Wings” Day of the Royal Air Force. He was later sent to Oflag XXIB and was replace by Group Captain Herbert Massey, Royal Air Force. One of the most prolific escapers was South African, Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, Royal Air Force (Auxiliary Air Force). He had successfully escaped on a number of occasions, the last, before arrival at Stalag Luft III was in Czechoslovakia. He had been hiding in Prague and was caught in the aftermath of the Heydrich assassination. The family that was hiding him, were all executed by the Gestapo and Jack Zafouk, his Czech co-escaper, was purged to Colditz Castle POW Camp.

South African Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, later known as the Big “X” masterminded the Stalag Luft III escape organisation together with an executive committee consisting of Flying Officer Wally Floody, Royal Canadian Air Force, Peter Fanshawe, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm and Flight Lieutenant George Harsh Royal Air Force.

Bushell assembled the most skilled forgers, tailors, tunnel engineers and surveillance experts and announced his intention to put 250 men outside the wire. This would cause a huge logistical problem for the German Authorities, who would have to divert men and resources to round up the escapees. His idea was not so much as to return all the escapers to England, but mainly to keep the German Administration occupied. He went about his task with a typical determinedness, despite having been officially warned that his next escape and recapture would result in him being shot.

CAMP GUARDS, “GOONS” AND “FERRETS”
German POW camp guards were universally known as a “Goon”. This term supposedly stood for “German Officer or Non-Comm”. The sentry towers mounted with searchlights and machine-guns were known as “Goon Boxes” and the general harassment and annoying of camp guards was known as “Goon Baiting”. The guards at Stalag Luft III were not the cream of the Luftwaffe and they unhesitatingly shot first and asked questions later when any prisoner was rash enough to stray over the knee-high warning wire and then fail to surrender if challenged.

German guards specialising in escape detection were known as “Ferrets”. They would enter a compound at any time and search any hut without warning. Equipped with metal probes, they also searched for the bright yellow sand, which indicated that a tunnel was in progress. The most active, unpredictable and generally dangerous “Ferret” was Gefreiter (Corporal) Greise, known as “Rubberneck”. His superior was Oberfeldwebel (Warrant Officer) Hermann Glemnitz. Gefreiter Greise had a good sense of humour and was both feared and respected by the POW’s as a discoverer of escape plots. (After the war, he was flown to the POW reunion in Ohio in 1965 and again to Toronto in 1970).

THE TUNNELS
Three tunnels named, “Tom”, “Dick” and “Harry” were started simultaneously. As “Tom” neared completion in the summer of 1943, a “Ferret” discovered the entrance and the Germans destroyed it completely. “Dick” had to be abandoned when the area, in which it was to have surfaced, was suddenly cleared of trees and a new extension to the compound built there. Concentration switched to “Harry” which by March 1944 had reached the length of 336 feet.

To give and idea of the magnitude of the logistical problems involved in the building of these tunnels, the following is a list taken from the German account of items that went missing after being issued to POW’s.
4 000 bed boards; 90 double tier bunks; 1 212 bed bolsters; 1 370 beading battens; 635 palliases; 34 chairs; 52 x 20-man tables; 10 single tables; 76 benches; 246 water cans; 1 219 knives; 582 forks; 478 spoons; 1 699 blankets, 161 pillow cases; 192 bed covers; 3 424 towels; 30 shovels; 1 000 feet of electric wire; 600 feet of rope and 69 lamps.

THE GREAT ESCAPE
The would-be escapers were divided into two groups, those German-speakers and experienced escapers who stood a good chance of making a “home run” to England and those who made the greatest contribution to the construction of the tunnel. These men were given the priority with forged papers, “civilian” clothes and a higher place in the exit order. The remainder of the places were filled by the “hard arses”, the men who knew that their chances of successful escape, especially in winter, were very slim. These men were prepared to lie up by day and foot-slog by night over hundreds of miles of enemy territory with the most rudimentary false papers and identities.

On the night of 24/25 March 1944, 220 men were prepared to go. Problems were encountered throughout the escape with POW’s trying to evade guards while exiting the tunnel. The tunnel exit was eventually discovered but by this time, 80 POW’s had managed to get out.

THE GESTAPO REPRISALS
A Grossfahndung (National Alert) was ordered with German Waffen S.S. together with local troops, police, Gestapo and Landwacht (Home Guard) being alerted. Hitler, incensed with this flagrant escape attempt ordered that all those recaptured were to be shot, a view opposed by Goering, Feldmarschall Keitel, Major General Graevenitz and Major General Westhoff, who tried to persuade Hitler to see sense. Eventually Hitler calmed down and decreed that “more than half are to be shot and cremated”. This Directive was teleprinted to Gestapo Headquarters under Himmler’s order, and General Nebe and Dr Hans Merton drew up a list of the 50.
One by one, the escapers were recaptured and on Himmler’s orders, handed over to the Gestapo which was not the normal practice. Usually, recaptured POW’s were handed over to the local police. Singly, or in small groups, the recaptured POW’s were taken from civilian or military prisons, driven to remote locations by Gestapo Agents and shot whilst offered the chance to relieve themselves. The Gestapo groups submitted almost identical reports stating that the POW’s were “shot while attempting to escape from custody”.
On 6 May 1944, the Senior British Officer (SBO) Group Captain Massey, was called into the Camp Kommandant’s office and informed that forty-one of the escaped officers had been shot. This list was updated later to contain 47 names and a few days later, three more were added. The morning after hearing that the escaping officers had been shot, every POW appeared on parade with a black diamond sewn onto his clothing, some using their last pair of socks. A local memorial was later built at the camp where the urns containing the ashes of the fifty were interned. After the war, these ashes were removed to the Poznan Old Garrison War Cemetery, Poland.

THE FIFTY POW’S EXECUTED

  • Birkland Henry J5233 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Canadian 72 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 07 November 1941 in Spitfire Vb, Registration W3367. Recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive on 31 March 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Brettell Edward Gordon DFC 61053 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 133 (Eagle) Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 26 September 1942 in Spitfire IX. Recaptured at Scheidemuhl and murdered by Gestapo Agent Bruchardt on 29 March 1944. Cremated at Danzig.
  • Bull Leslie George DFC 43932 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 109 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 5/6 November 1941 in Wellington IC, Registration T2565. Recaptured near Reichenburg, murdered by unknown Gestapo Agent on 29 March 1944. Cremated at Brux.
  • Bushell Roger Joyce MID 90120 Squadron Leader (Pilot) South African Officer Commanding 92 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 23 May 1940 during the Battle of France in a Spitfire Mk I, Registration N3194. Recaptured at Saarbrucken and murdered by Gestapo Agents Schulz and Breithaupt on 29 March 1944. Cremated at Saarbrucken.
  • Casey Michael James 39024 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 57 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 16 October 1939 in a Blenheim Mk I, Registration L1141. Recaptured near Gorlitz and murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel on 31 March 1944. Cremated at Gorlitz.
  • Catanach James 400364 Squadron Leader (Pilot) Australian 455 Squadron Royal Air Force. Crash landed in Norway with Hampden Mk 1, Registration AT109 on 06 September 1942. Recaptured at Flensburg and murdered on 29 March 1944 by Gestapo Agent Post. Cremated at Kiel.
  • Christiansen Arnold George 413380 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) New Zealander 26 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 20 August 1942 in Mustang, Registration AL977. Recaptured at Flensburg and murdered on 29 March 1944 by Gestapo Agent Post. Cremated at Kiel.
  • Cochran Dennis Herbert 122441 Flying Officer (Wireless Operator / Air Gunner) British 10 Operational Training Unit Royal Air Force. Shot down on 09 November 1942. Recaptured at Lorrach and murdered on 31 March 1944 by Gestapo Agents Preiss and Herberg. Cremated at Natzweiller.
  • Cross Ian Kingston Pembroke DFC 39305 Squadron Leader (Observer) British 103 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 12 February 1942 in Wellington Mk IC, Registration Z8714 PM:N. Recaptured near Gorlitz and murdered on 31 March 1944 by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Gorlitz.
  • Espelid Halldor 378 Lieutenant (Pilot) Norwegian 331 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Spitfire Mk Vb, Registration FN:A east of Dunkirk on 27 August 1942. Recaptured at Flensburg and murdered on 29 March 1944 by Gestapo Agent Post. Cremated at Kiel.
  • Evans Brian Henry 42745 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 49 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 06 December 1940 in Hampden Mk I, Registration P4404 EA:R. Recaptured at Halbau. Last seen alive on 31 March 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Fugelsang Nils 742 Lieutenant Norwegian (Pilot) 339 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 02 May 1943 and belly-landed in Holland in Spitfire Mk IX, Registration AH:E. Recaptured at Flensburg and murdered on 29 March 1944 by Gestapo Agent Post. Cremated at Kiel.
  • Gouws Johannes Stephanus MID 103275 Lieutenant (Pilot) South African 40 Squadron South African Air Force. Shot down near Derna, Libya in Tomahawk, Registration AN337 on 09 April 1942. Recaptured at Lindau and murdered by Gestapo Agents Schneider, Weil and Geith at Lindau on 29 March 1944. Cremated at Munich.
  • Grisman William J. 45148 Flight Lieutenant British 109 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 05/06 November 1941 in Wellington Mk IC, Registration T2565. Recaptured near Gorlitz and last seen alive on 06 April 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agent Lux. Cremated at Breslau.
  • Gunn Alastair D.M. 60340 Flight Lieutenant British 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit Royal Air Force. Shot down in Spitfire PR.IV, Registration AA810 on 05 March 1942. Recaptured near Gorlitz and last seen alive on 06 April 1944. Murdered by unknown Gestapo Agent on this date. Cremated at Breslau.
  • Hake Albert H. 403281 Flight Lieutenant Australian 72 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 28 December 1941 in Spitfire Mk Vb, Registration AB258. Recaptured near Gorlitz and murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel on 31 March 1944. Cremated at Gorlitz.
  • Hall Charles P. 50896 Flight Lieutenant British 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit Royal Air Force. Shot down on 28 December 1941 in Spitfire PR.IV, Registration AA804. Recaptured near Sagan and murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel on 30 March 1944. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Hayter Anthony Ross Henzell 42124 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 148 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Wellington Mk IC, Registration BB483 on 24 April 1942. Recaptured near Mulhouse on 06 April 1944 and murdered by Gestapo Agent Schimmel the same day. Cremated at Natzweiller.
  • Humphreys Edgar Spottiswood 44177 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 107 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Blenheim Mk IV, Registration T21860 on 19 December 1940. Recaptured near Sagan and last seen alive on 31 March 1944. Murdered the same day by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Kidder Gordon Arthur. MID J10177 Flight Lieutenant (Observer) Canadian 156 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Wellington Mk III, Registration BJ775 on the night of 13/14 October 1942. Recaptured near Zlin and murdered on 29 March 1944 at Zlin by Gestapo Agents Zacharias and Knippelberg, with drivers Kiowsky and Schwartzer. Cremated at Mahrisch Ostrau.
  • Kierath Reginald Victor MID 402364 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Australian 450 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Kittyhawk Mk III, Registration FR477 on 23 April 1943. Recaptured near Reichenburg and murdered on 29 March 1944 by unknown Gestapo Agents. Cremated at Brux.
  • Kiewnarski Antoni P0109 Major (Pilot) Polish 305 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Wellington Mk X, Registration Z1245 on 28 August 1942. Recaptured at Hirschberg and murdered there on 31 March 1944 by Gestapo Agent Lux. Location of Cremation unknown.
  • Kirby-Green Thomas Gresham 39103 Squadron Leader (Pilot) British 40 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 16/17 October 1941 in Wellington Mk IC, Registration Z8862 BL:B. Recaptured near Zlin and murdered on 29 March 1944 at Zlin by Gestapo Agents Zacharias and Knippelberg, with drivers Kiowsky and Schwartzer. Cremated at Mahrisch Ostrau.
  • Kolanowski Wlodzimierz P0243 Flying Officer (Pilot) Polish 301 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 08 November 1942 in Wellington Mk IV, Registration Z1277 GR:Z. Recaptured near Sagan and shot at Liegnitz on 31 March 1944 by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Krol Stanislaw Z. P0237 Flying Officer (Pilot) Polish 74 squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 02 July 1941 in Spitfire Mk Vb, Registration W3263. Recaptured at Oels and shot at Breslau on 14 April 1944 by Gestapo Agent Lux. Cremated at Breslau.
  • Langford Patrick Wilson J1631 Flight Lieutenant (Observer) Canadian 16 Operational Training Unit Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 28/29 July 1942 in Wellington Mk IC, Registration R1450. Recaptured near Gorlitz and last seen alive on 31 March 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Leigh Thomas Barker 46462 Flight Lieutenant (Air Gunner) Australian 76 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 05/06 August 1941 in Halifax Mk I, Registration L9516. Recaptured in the Sagan area and last seen alive on 12 April 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Breslau.
  • Long James Leslie Robert 89375 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 9 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 27 March 1941 in Wellington Mk IA, Registration R1335 WS:K. Recaptured near Sagan and last seen alive on 12 April 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agent Lux. Cremated at Breslau.
  • Marcinkus Romas 89580 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Lithuanian 1 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Hurricane Mk IIC, Registration BD949 JX:J. Recaptured at Scheidemuhl and murdered by Gestapo Agent Bruchardt on 29 March 1944. Cremated at Danzig.
  • McGarr Clement Aldwin Neville MID 95691 Lieutenant (Pilot) South African 2 Squadron South African Air Force. Shot down in Tomahawk, Registration AN251 near Sidi Omar on 06 October 1941. Recaptured near Sagan and last seen alive on 06 April 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agent Lux on 06 April 1944. Cremated at Breslau.
  • McGill George Edward J5312 Flight Lieutenant (Observer) Canadian 103 Squadron Royal Air Force. Baled out of flak-damaged Wellington, Registration R1192 with three other crewmembers during an operation over Wilhelmshaven. The Wellington managed to limp back to Base at Elsham Wolds. Recaptured in Sagan area and last seen alive on 31 March 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Milford Harold John 103586 Flight Lieutenant (Observer) British 226 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Boston, Registration AL743 on 22 September 1942. Recaptured near Sagan and last seen alive on 06 April 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agent Lux on 06 April 1944. Cremated at Breslau.
  • Mondschein Jerzy Tomasc P0913 Flying Officer (Pilot) Polish 304 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 08 November 1941 in Wellington Mk IC, Registration R1215. Recaptured in the Reichenburg area. Murdered by unknown Gestapo Agents at Brux on 29 March 1944. Cremated at Brux.
  • Pawluk Kazimierz P0740 Flying Officer (Pilot) Polish 305 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 08 November 1941 in Wellington Mk II, Registration W5567 SM:M. Recaptured at Hirschberg and shot there by Gestapo Agent Lux. Place of Cremation unknown.
  • Picard Henri Albert Croix de Guerre 87693 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Belgian 350 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Spitfire, Registration BM297 on 02 September 1942. Recaptured at Scheidemuhl and murdered by Gestapo Agent Bruchardt on 29 March 1944. Cremated at Danzig.
  • Pohe Porokoru Patapu MID 402894 Flying Officer (Pilot) New Zealander 51 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 22/23 September 1941 in Halifax Mk II, Registration JN901. Recaptured near Gorlitz and murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel on 31 March 1944. Cremated at Gorlitz. (Also known as John).
  • Scheidhauer Bernard W.M. 2/Lieutenant (Pilot) French 131 Squadron Royal Air Force. Ran low on fuel and landed in error on the German occupied Island of Jersey in Spitfire Mk Vb, Registration EN830 NX:X. Recaptured at Saarbrucken on 29 March 1944 and murdered the same day by Gestapo Agent Spann. Cremated at Saarbrucken.
  • Skanzikas Sotiris 213 Pilot Officer (Pilot) Greek 336 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Hurricane Mk IIC, Registration HW250. Recaptured at Hirschberg and murdered by Gestapo Agent Schneider on 30 March 1944. Cremated at Munich.
  • Stevens Rupert John MID 47341 Lieutenant (Pilot) South African 12 Squadron South African Air Force. Shot down in Maryland, Registration AH287 in the Bardia area, Libya on 14 November 1941. Recaptured at Rosenheim and murdered on 29 March 1944 by Gestapo Agents Schneider, Weil and Geith at Lindau. Cremated at Munich.
  • Stewart Robert Campbell MID 130452 Flying Officer (Observer) British 77 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 26/27 April 1943 in Halifax Mk II, Registration DT796. Recaptured near Sagan and last seen alive on 31 March 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Stower John Gifford 107520 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 142 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 16/17 November 1942 in Wellington Mk III, Registration BK278 QT:C. Recaptured near Reichenburg and murdered by unknown Gestapo Agents on 31 March 1944. Place of Cremation unknown.
  • Street Denys O. 123026 Flight Lieutenant British 207 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 29/30 March 1943 in Lancaster I, Registration EM:O. Recaptured near Sagan and last seen alive on 06 April 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agent Lux. Cremated at Breslau.
  • Swain Cyril Douglas 37658 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) British 105 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 28 November 1940 in Blenheim IV, Registration T1893. Recaptured near Gorlitz and last seen alive on 31 March 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel on the same day. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Tobolski Pawel Whilem P0735 Flying Officer (Pilot) Polish 301 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 25/26 June 1942 in Wellington Mk IV, Registration GR:A. Recaptured at Stettin and shot by Gestapo Agent Lux at Breslau on 02 April 1944. Cremated at Breslau.
  • Valenta Ernst 82532 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Czechoslovakian 311 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 06 February 1941 in Wellington Mk IC, Registration L7482 KX:T. Recaptured near Gorlitz and last seen alive on 31 March 1944. Murdered by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel on the same day. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Walenn Gilbert W. 73022 Flight Lieutenant British 25 Operational Training Unit Royal Air Force. Shot down in Wellington Mk IC, Registration N2805 on 11 September 1941. Recaptured at Scheidemuhl and murdered by Gestapo Agent Bruchardt on 29 March 1944. Cremated at Danzig.
  • Wernham James C. J6144 Flight Lieutenant Canadian 405 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on the night of 08/09 June 1942 in Halifax Mk II, Registration W7708 LQ:H. Recaptured at Hirschberg and murdered by Gestapo Agent Lux on 31 March 1944. Location of Cremation unknown.
  • Wiley George W. J7234 Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Canadian 112 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down in Kittyhawk Mk III, Registration 245788 on 12 March 1943. Recaptured near Gorlitz and murdered on 31 March 1944 by Gestapo Agents Lux and Scharpwinkel. Cremated at Liegnitz.
  • Williams John E.A. DFC 40652 Squadron Leader (Pilot) Australian 450 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 31 October 1942 in Kittyhawk Mk III, Registration FR270. Recaptured near Reichenburg and murdered on 29 March 1944 by Gestapo Agent Lux. Cremated at Brux.
  • Williams John F. 106173 Flight Lieutenant British 107 Squadron Royal Air Force. Shot down on 27 April 1942 in Boston Mk III, Registration Z2194. Recaptured near Sagan and last seen alive on 06 April 1944. Murdered by unknown Gestapo Agents. Cremated at Breslau.

THE SURVIVING ESCAPERS
Three airmen successfully evaded capture and managed to reach England, 2 via Sweden and 1 via Spain. Of the recaptured POW’s, 19 were returned to Stalag Luft III at Sagan, 3 were initially interned at Sachsenhausen where 1 successfully escaped and reached freedom, the other 2 were returned to Stalag Luft III. 2 POW’s were sent to Oflag IVC at Colditz Castle and the German Authorities released 1 POW into Switzerland who was apparently related to Winston Churchill, in an unsuccessful attempt to sue for peace.

FATE OF THE GESTAPO MURDERERS

The Breslau Gestapo
Of the Breslau Gestapo, the Standartenfuhrer Seetzen was arrested in Hamburg on 28 September 1945. He bit on a cyanide capsule and died within minutes. Max Wielen, the Breslau Gestapo Chief was sentenced to life imprisonment on 03 September 1947 but only served a few years before being released.

Gestapo Chief Dr Wilhelm Scharpwinkel was seen being removed by Russian Officers at gunpoint at Breslau and taken to Moscow. The Russian Authorities refused to co-operate during the murder enquiries and although he was reported dead by the Russians on 17 October 1947, it is believed that Scharpwinkel received a high position somewhere in the Soviet Administration although this was never confirmed.
Gestapo Agent Lux, with at least 27 POW murders on his soul, including that of South African POW Clement McGarr, died in the fighting around Breslau towards the end of the war. Gestapo Agents Kiske, Knappe, Kuhnel, Pattke and Lang were also killed in fighting in the Breslau area.

The Brno/Zlin Gestapo
Of the Brno/Zlin Gestapo, the Brno Gestapo Chief Hugo Romer, believed to have given instructions to have two of the POW’s executed, disappeared. Hans Ziegler committed suicide on 03 February 1948. Erich Zacharias was hanged at Hamelin on 27 February 1948 while Schwarzer, Kiowski and Koslowsky were executed by the Czechs in Prague in 1947.
Reinholt Bruchardt was traced and captured in 1948 and sentenced to death. This sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment which in Germany, meant 21 years.

The Karlsruhe Gestapo
Josef Gmeiner, Walter Herberg and Preiss were all hanged at Hamelin on 27 February 1948. Otto Gannicher committed suicide on 26 April 1946. Magnus Wochner was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

The Kiel Gestapo
Gestapo Agents Post, Oskar Schmidt, Kaehler and Walter Jacobs were hanged at Hamelin on 27 February 1948. Drivers Arthur Denkman and Wilhelm were each sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Franz Schmidt committed suicide on 27 October 1946.

The Munich Gestapo
The Gestapo agents Johan Schneider, Emil Weil and Eduard Geith who shot POW’s Gouws and Stevens were all hanged at Hamelin on 27 February 1948. Martin Schermer committed suicide on 25 March 1945.

The Reichenburg Gestapo
Gestapo Chief Bernhard Baatz was captured by the Russians but was later released and disappeared. Robert Weyland continued living in the Russian zone and apparently escaped any kind of prosecution. The French captured Robert Weissman but his ultimate fate remains unknown.

The Saarbrucken Gestapo
Dr Leopold Spann was killed on 25 April 1945 during an Allied Air Raid on Linz. Emil Schulz was arrested in Saarbrucken under a false identity while Walter Breithaupt was arrested in Frankfurt. These two were responsible for the death of South African POW Roger Bushell. Schulz was hanged in Hamelin on 27 February 1948 while Breithaupt was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Strasbourg Gestapo
Alfred Schimmel was hanged in Hamelin on 27 February 1948. Max Dissner committed suicide on 11 May 1945 while Erich Isslhorst was executed for other crimes. Heinrich Hilker was acquitted.

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