World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Donald JR Wilson 

Friendly Fire 1945

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Donald J.R. Wilson
Location of story: Malag & Milag Nord, about twelve miles East of Bremen
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 

Friendly Fire 1945

By
Donald J.R. Wilson

On the 4th February, 1945, we arrived at Malag & Milag Nord, about twelve miles East of Bremen, having had a most uncomfortable hike in deep snow from Luft 3, in order to avoid failing into the hands of the advancing Russians. They were already attacking Breslau and the Luftwaffe guards were ordered to hasten the evacuation to Spremberg. We could hear the thunder of the AA rail junction, where cattle trucks awaited to take us to Bremen. The journey took us through the southern outskirts of Berlin at a time when Bomber Command was in the process of converting the city to rubble.

The guards and other railway employees, hastily abandoned us to seek shelter from the dropping bombs, but escape - though possible - would have been futile. Eventually the AA Fire gradually subsided, so we assumed that the Lancs and Halifaxes had headed for their home bases. The engine drivers returned, and to our great relief we moved out of the city and headed north west.

Life at Malag Nord was comparatively pleasant in spite of hunger, because we witnessed daily sweeps by the "Typhoons" of the tactical air force seeking out any moving transport, which they always left in flames. The 20mm cannon and the 601b rockets were effectively devastating. The day to day scenes rarely changed, but just before we were forced to flee from the Camp by the advancing British and Canadian armies, we again had a further encounter with the visiting RAF.

Most of us were outside the huts investigating the sound of approaching aircraft. Accompanying the sound of engines was the bark of gunfire, and very shortly after, a Mosquito appeared, closely followed by a German fighter which was attempting to get a "bead" on the bomber, but every time it opened fire, the Mosquito side-slipped and managed to avoid the cannon shells. A second Mosquito was on the tail of the German fighter and the group continued to circle the camp, firing bursts from time to time. Eventually the fighter managed to escape, probably having run out of ammunition, and the Mosquitos continued to circle the camp.

We thought that they would have been informed of the positions of British POW Camps, but alas, we were wrong. The skirmishing took place at such a low level, that one could see the crews, however they obviously did not recognise RAF Prisoners of War, because, without warning, the leading aircraft dived down with canons blazing, and made a pass at the main gate of the Camp. Everyone "hit the deck", and I was lucky enough to be standing against a concrete wall, enclosing large dust bins and I responded with alacrity, hugging the ground as closely as I could.

When the sound of the Merlins and the cannons receded into the distance, the clouds of dust settled to disclose what was originally a Luftwaffe wagon, loaded with our bread rations for a week, and was now a smouldering wreck containing toasted black bread. It was a miracle that nobody was killed or injured, considering the scene of devastation left by the "Friendly Fire"!!!


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Attack on Alborg Aerodrome

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Donald J.R. Wilson
Location of story: Alborg Aerodrome
Unit name: 51 Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 

Attack on Alborg Aerodrome
by N1408, B Flight 51 Squadron on 23124th Apri1,1940

By
Donald J.R. Wilson

N1408 crossed the East Coast as usual at Flamborough Head, and headed on course for Alborg. Looking back at the beautiful setting sun, created a false impression of peace and well-being, whereas reality, soon to be experienced, proved to be an unforgettable nightmare. We headed roughly ENE (east-north-east) and didn't have to alter course once during the outward leg. Usually we made use of the lighted beacon on Terschelling Island (Holland), to check our position, but we were too far to the North to make use of this navigational aid.

It was not long before we had positive proof that we were "dead!" on the correct track, as about fifty miles short of the target, we were given the most vivid display of lethal pyrotechnics seen since our first incursions into enemy territory. The entire sky was brilliantly lit up by exploding shells. Searchlights and tracer intermingled to form what appeared to be an impenetrable curtain of fire. So much so that the Captain exclaimed, "We will never get through that ---- lot! What on earth can we do!?" Receiving no useful suggestion from any of his crew, he further pondered the situation, and finally explained his method of approach.

He decided to attack from a less obvious direction, so we altered course in the direction of Christiansund, on the South Coast of Norway. He gained altitude en route, then headed South from the Norwegian town until the Airport of Alborg was within sight. The Germans had been using the aerodrome as a staging post for the invasion of Norway, and it was effectively defended by a ring of A.A. guns on the perimeter.

We cut our engines in an attempt to avoid detection. But as the first bombs dropped, all hell let loose. Tracers were coming up from all directions converging on MH K. The second pilot screamed down the intercom, "Dive, for Christ's sake, dive!" Down went the nose and the rapid increase in speed caused the wings and fuselage to tremble, seemingly to a point of disintegration. The skipper, with Herculean efforts, managed to control the dive and leveled out at ground level. We screamed across the 'drome' with lines of tracer weaving above the cabin and I'm sure we all waited for the crash, which fortunately did not happen.

When we were out of range of the guns, I heard the quite, controlled voice of the captain enquiring, "Navigator, what is the course home?" Apart from the final flight of N1408 this was the occasion which most nearly ended in disaster.

Donald J.R. Wilson, formerly 580878 Air/Obs., B Flight, 51 Squadron, 4 Group,
Bomber Command.


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First Operational Flights

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Donald J.R. Wilson
Location of story: Linton-on-Ouse
Unit name: A Flight, 51 Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command.
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 

First Operational Flights

By
Donald J.R. Wilson

First Operational Flights by 51 Squadron from RAF Linton-on-Ouse, September 1939. The first pre-operational briefing was obviously a major milestone of the War years. Seven crews from 58 Squadron and three from 51 Squadron, foregathered in Station Headquarter, Linton-on-Ouse to learn that they were to transport and distribute 5.4 million leaflets to enlighten German citizens of some Ruhr towns, my destination however was Frankfurt-on-Maine.

The atmosphere was tense, and excitement tempered with anxiety, showed on the faces of the assembled crews. This was a great adventure, the first incursion into enemy territory with the probability of a hostile reception across the frontier.

Being a married man of some two days standing, with no honeymoon or reception, motivation was the strongest for a speedy and safe return from this first operational sortie. The round trip was sufficiently lengthy to necessitate a refuelling stop at the French Air Force Base at Villeneuve. The British Air Force component of the expeditionary force had not as yet been sent to France.

Weather conditions were good, and map reading down the pre-arranged corridor to the South Coast was relatively easy. An alteration of course, took us to the point of entry at Le Treport, where we circled a hilltop fortress, awaiting permission to proceed to Villeneuve. The passage to Rhiems was made easy for the Navigator by a string of flashing beacons, and on landing, refuelling commenced.
Aerodrome defence, like all the other services provided, was antiquated, and first War Hodgkiss machine guns were installed in perimeter gun pits.

As darkness approached, the ten aircraft took off for their respective dropping zones, and the leaflet bundles, secured by elastic bands, were prepared for launching down the parachute flare chutes.

The border between Holland and Germany was clearly defined- Holland was a blaze of lights whereas Germany was in complete darkness. Opposition was very light, the searchlights causing more anxiety than the distant gunfire.

Having completed the task of distributing what was described as-free toilet paper, we set course from Frankfurt to the Cherbourg Peninsula. The coastline was bathed in bright
moonlight with sparkling sea and silver sand. We had just altered course over the Channel, heading for Shoreham, when the tranquility of the scene was rudely disturbed by a frantic voice shouting over the intercom, yelling, "Christ we are out of fuel!"

The Whitley banked sharply, turning through 180 degrees and made for the French Coast. The port engine was already spluttering when we scraped over a high sand dune, with the undercarriage down, we made a remarkably good landing between high and low water lines.

Within minutes, the aircraft was surrounded by French Marines, who, when they had established that we were not members of the Luftwaffe, conducted us through a gap in the sand dunes to a fisherman's hut serving as a Guard Room.
With uncharacteristic haste, they arranged for a caterpillar tractor to retrieve the Whitley from the incoming tide. While this was being accomplished, we had a visit from a local farmer carrying a small barrel.
He dispensed unpleasant and very dry cider in badly stained coffee mugs, but our crew was fortunately able to hide their true feelings about this kind, if unappreciated gesture.

The arrival of another dawn initiated great local activity; inhabitants with horses and tractors paraded on the foreshore, and as the tide receded, all manpower (and women) was engaged in removing rocks, stones and other obstacles to construct a makeshift runway.

The French Naval Air Service arrived from the Naval Base at Cherbourg with supplies of aviation fuel in dozens of small containers. Sufficient fuel for take-off and a flight to Cherbourg Base was transferred, and in a storm of flying sand, the Whitley took to the air. Having completed the refuelling, we had an uneventful flight back to Linton. Subsequently we found that three out of the ten aircraft taking part in the operation had to make unscheduled stops in France during the return journey. Was it due to inefficient ground servicing, or could it have been failure to carry out pre-flight cockpit checks?

Undoubtedly great pilot skill ensured a successful emergency landing without damage, but avoidance of so many rocks, boulders and debris was nothing short of a miracle. However an enquiry and reprimand was not avoided.

D.J.R.Wilson, formerly Sgt.Air Observer, A Flight, 51 Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command.


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Free Meat

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Donald J.R. Wilson
Location of story: Stalag VIIIB
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 

Free Meat

By
Donald J.R. Wilson
P.O.W. No. 13042 Stalag VIIIB formally 580878 R.A.F.

It was one of the strangest feelings, to have to flee from the friendly forces of the 1st British Army, knowing that they would eventually liberate us after five years captivity in prison camps. The anticipation of having a proper meal after years of semi-starvation, made the mouth positively water. It was exhilarating to hear the continual drone of aircraft engines, knowing that they were all allied types with no opposition from the Luftwaffe. We always knew that it was our pals imposing terrible retribution for past misdeeds. We started out from Termstadt near Bremen, keeping well in advance of the fighting in the West, between a Regiment of courageous brainwashed Hitler Youth, and a Scottish Armoured formation. It was later reported that they refused to surrender and had been wiped out by a Squadron of Tanks.

We proceeded along the road to Lubeck via Hamburg and stayed for a night in barns in the village of Ellenbeck. The local population kept well away from the prisoners but I noticed a young girl asking for chocolate (without success). Early next morning, having had a "cat lick", I was walking along the main road, which had thick and very old trees on a steep banking bordering the highway, when I heard and saw a flight of four Typhoons circling above the village. A very old lady with a walking stick was hobbling along the pavement beside me, apparently voicing her contempt for the English and their air gangsters.

I looked up into the sky just in time to see the leader of the section "sideslip" from the formation, closely followed by the other three Typhoons. They were diving in our direction, so I unceremoniously grabbed the old lady, throwing her somewhat roughly to the ground behind a very large tree, and laid on top of her. She did not appreciate my handling of the situation and continued to rant about the English devils. I was amazed that she could even think of her feelings, as 20mm cannon shells were stripping the branches from the tree above our heads and dropping them all around.

The attack was over in the space of a few minutes and peace returned to the village once more. Having recovered from the shock of the event, I assisted the old lady to her feet, but she was still cursing us as we looked around us. I saw that the target of the aircraft was a Luftwaffe staff car and a service wagon, both of which now resembled a heap of smoking scrap metal. Fortuitously for the crews of the vehicles, they had anticipated the attack and had abandoned their vehicles for the safety of the nearby ditches and trees. All were safe and unwounded, however also hit and destroyed, was a large farm cart hauled by two draught horses which had courageously died for their Fuhrer and Fatherland. The bloody scene was cleaned up with remarkable haste, as the local inhabitants descended on the site, armed with knives and saws, availing themselves probably of the first meat meal for several years. By courtesy of the Tactical AIR Force, RAF.


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Memories of a Telegraph Boy in May 1940

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Donald J.R. Wilson, S\Ldr. Nigel Turner
Location of story: Dishforth Aerodrome
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 

Memories of a Telegraph Boy in May 1940

By
Donald J.R. Wilson

The door bell rang and all sitting at the dining room table, looked uneasily at each other and towards the hall door. Alas it was a telegraph boy holding the small envelope which foretold unpleasant things to come. Past experience had shown that it was the harbinger of bad tidings, and as I had just arrived home with my little wife to leave her in caring hands, till she had given birth to our first child, I read the brief order, "Rejoin squadron immediately!"

My heart sank as I knew that I was going back to the battle of all battles, a vain attempt to stop the overwhelming forces of the invading Germans with their vast superiority of men, equipment and aircraft.

Vera, for the very first time, polished the buttons on my tunic, cap and greatcoat and declared that I had always been the smartest flyer in the Squadron - no doubt a little biased.

Now came the moment which I will never forget till my dying day, the final time of departure!! I kissed my Mother goodbye, then Aunty, and last, Vera. I was filled with sadness and bitterness at the prospect of holding her for the last time. Why in God's name should it happen to us when we had everything to live for, and to have to give it all up for a power-crazed animal called Hitler.

We parted, fighting to keep back the tears, and when we reached the end of our road, I threw my cap in the air in a false sense of bravado. Then we were gone to the station to meet what? I had an inflated sense of patriotism and devotion to duty, and took the first train south as far as Darlington, not York!

I managed a lift as far as Catterick, and was fortunate to be offered a lift from a gentleman as far as Dishforth Aerodrome, my home base. I broke through a thick hedge on the perimeter, and raced across the grass field without being challenged - security was lacking! I made my way to the Station Guardroom and booked in. Next day I discovered that the rest of my crew stayed another night at home, and joined the squadron a day later. They obviously took a more liberal view of sense of duty!!

The fighting at this period was fast and furious, and of course we failed to stop the Hun. They captured land faster than we could move to counter it. Finally, it was decided to target oil refineries to cut their fuel supplies, but again we were unsuccessful, and the Squadron lost some of its finest young lads. I was more fortunate(??) and managed to bale out of my aircraft before it crashed, and I spent the next five years on a semi-starvation diet in a German POW Camp. (Experiences recorded elsewhere!)

Immediately prior to this episode, I was outside the C.O's (S\Ldr. Nigel Turner) Office door and he came to me, and said, "Jock, don't you think it is time that you took your wife home to Scotland? After all I know you would want your child to be truly Scottish, and as things are going to be sticky soon, get yourself a leave pass and I will sign it so that you can go home right away".

With all the necessary haste, I completed the formalities and dashed home to help Vera to pack her belongings and make for York Station. I felt lighthearted and relieved to think Vera would be safe and well-cared for until our baby was born!. It was wonderful to see my parents and Aunty, but little did 1 know that it couldn't last.

However I must take this opportunity to record my thanks to my skipper who has always been good and understanding. I am grateful that such a good relationship existed between us, a Squadron Leader and his Sergeant, both on the ground and in the air. I am proud to say that our friendship continued long after leaving the Air Force, until he died.

I had every confidence in him and knew from experience that he was an excellent pilot. I cannot think of any other person I would have accompanied in action and under extreme tension. He appeared calm as all times, even under heavy shell fire.


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Stolen Aircraft Prints

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Donald J.R.Wilson, Charlie Saunter, Emil Glaiser,
Location of story: Stalag Luft 111 in Sagan, Silesia.
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 

Stolen Aircraft Prints

by
Donald J.R.Wilson
Renewed interest in the "Great Escape" has been generated by the showing of a documentary on the History Channel, of Sky Television, of Stalag Luft 111 in Sagan, Silesia.

I had the misfortune to be in the first batch of Air Force prisoners to occupy this prison camp, and was one of the last to be evacuated in February 1945. Naturally I was resident during the preparations of the tunnel and the final escape.
I only played a very minor part in one of the many tasks undertaken before the event. Anyone travelling through Germany in Wartime had to carry identity papers, travel warrants etc., so it was necessary for potential escapees to have the essential papers. The only means of supply was to steal wallets from German staff entering the compounds on camp business. My friend and colleague, Charlie Saunter had been interested, and was involved in a small way with some members of the Escape Committee, so he asked me if I would assist him in stealing papers from the German Sergeant who was in charge of the prison cook house in North Camp.

We noted Emil Glaiser's routine behaviour on entering the cook house, and established that he removed his uniform tunic and carefully hung it on the back of his chair. We also discovered that he left the button of his pocket open, presumably after showing his pass to the guards at the entrance to our Compound. It was therefore relatively easy to "pick pocket".
We agreed that I should engage Glaiser in conversation and show him some family photographs to distract him, while Charlie moved behind his chair, relieving him of his wallet. He then took it quickly to the "X" Committee, where an excellent forger photographed it. I have since learned that Sgt. Glaiser brought in this camera and film after being successfully blackmailed by members of the organisation. Charlie returned the wallet to me and I in turn replaced it in Glaiser's uniform. Having completed the task, I noticed two prints of German aircraft decorating the office wall, so promptly stole them and secreted them inside my own jacket. I am pleased to say that I brought them home with me as Souvenirs at the end of the War.
580878. W/O Air/Obs. D.J.R.Wilson,

Prisoner Number 13042, Stalag VIII B, Lamsdorf, Breslau.
May, 1940 Dulag Luft, Frankfurt-on-Maine - June, 1940 Stalag Xll/A, Limberg
July 1940 Stalag Luft I-II.
April 1942 Stalag Luft III, Sagan, Silesia.
Feb 1945 Malag & Milag Nord, Tarmstadt, Bremen.


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N1408 and the Attack on Oil Refineries at Hanover, 18/19th May1940

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Sgt. Donald J.R. Wilson, S/Ldr. W. H. N. Turner, DFC, F/O. C. Peach, L.A.C. D. Edmondson, AC2 G. Smith
Location of story: Oil refineries at Hanover
Unit name: 51 Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 N1408 MH K B Flight 51 Squadron, 4 Group. Crew:- Skipper:-S/Ldr. W. H. N. Turner, DFC 2nd \pilot:- F/O. C. Peach A/Obs. Sgt. D. J. R. Wilson W/Op L.A.C. D. Edmondson A/G AC2 G. Smith. Aircraft shot down after bombing Hanover on 18/19th May, 1940.

 

N1408 and the attack on oil refineries at Hanover, 18/19th May1940

By
Donald J.R. Wilson

After breakfast, we all wandered down to the "Flights" and made our way to the Fight notice board where our superiors would inform us of the tasks we had to carry out on that particular day. It was with some excitement and anxiety that the crews of the aircraft (including N 1408) were instructed to assemble at the Station Operations Room at 11.30hrs, for a briefing on the night's operation. Flying personnel were not permitted to leave the station prior to any incursion over enemy territory. Nor could they telephone or communicate in any way with the outside world, not even with next of kin. Security was very necessary, as any leakage could jeopardise the whole operation, and forewarn the enemy of our intentions.

The usual information at the briefing was distributed to flying personnel. The Met. Officer advised us of probable wind speed and direction, over the entire course, while the Operations Officer would suggest best possible tracks in order to avoid "Flak belts" defending such towns as Bremen and South of Hamburg. Between the briefing and time of "take off", air crews could choose how to spend the time writing letters, reading, sleeping etc.

N1408 took off at 20.20hrs and headed for Flamborough Head where we altered course for the target area. We observed the usual ritual of looking back at the beautiful sight of the setting sun, slowly disappearing over the horizon, doubtless wondering if we would see the friendly coast again in a few hours time.

The target was approximately five hundred miles from base, so we had to replace two of the 500lb bombs with an additional fuel tank. We therefore carried two 500 pounders and six 250lb bombs. Fortunately for me, the Air/Observer had most to do during the flight, which successfully prevented thoughts of the coming battle, and possible consequences. Before darkness fell I dropped an aluminium sea marker, a box of aluminium powder, which spread over the waves on contact with the sea. I then checked the aircrafts drift with the tail drift sight, to calculate the wind speed and direction. It is of course an absolute necessity in successful air navigation. We had a further two checks to ensure we were flying on the correct course. After dark we dropped a flame float and again checked the drift. The flashing beacon was on.

Terschelling Island was a more efficient method of calculating our position, and it was comforting to see it on the starboard side.

After crossing the North German Coast, I am sure everyone felt the tension as the odd searchlight swept across the dark evening skies, vainly trying to pin point us for the local AA Flak batteries. We reached the Hanover area a little after ETA, probably due to a change in wind speed. Hanover was clearly recognisable but it was much more difficult to find the target. I confess we spent at least ten minutes circling the town trying to locate the oil refineries, with its roadway, railway lines and canal.

Much to our astonishment, we had so far encountered only minimal opposition, and were able to position ourselves for a bombing run. Having completed the drill and released the cargo, I did not experience the usual buffeting which happens when the heavy bombs leave the aircraft. I personally did not see any bombs dropping, nor did the tail gunner see any explosions. I was assured by other members of the crew that the task was completed, and we set course for Dishforth.

I still worried about the possibility of landing with bombs aboard and asked the Captain if I could test the bomb compartments to ensure that all had gone. The result of the tests was devastating, as all the bombs were still in place. It was then that we discovered a fault in the bomb release mechanism but we were able to repair it on the spot. The Captain decided that we had enough time and fuel to return for a second attack and safely make our way home, having completed the task and set course for base. As we left the target, the RA Flak defences opened up and we received the first hit while the second pilot and I were in the well of the aircraft. The shell ruptured the oil pipeline carrying power from the port Merlin to the front gun turret, showering us with oil. This was warm and of the consistency of blood, and as the blast had propelled us with some force against the fuselage, it was only too easy to believe that we had sustained some injury. Having cleaned our faces with the silk inner lining of our flying gloves, we were very relieved to find oil, not blood.

We returned to our respective crew positions and almost immediately we sustained further, and much more serious hits which, as before, threw us violently against the side of the aircraft. We were somewhat dazed, but when we recovered and looked across the cabin, I saw this pale face with a silly grin, looking past a pile of shredded metal, which had been our transmitting and receiving sets. Shrapnel also destroyed part of my navigation table, and two slits on the outside of my Irvine trousers and a small cut on my neck showed just how close I was to meeting the man with the scythe. The Merlin engines appeared to have escaped serious damage, but the aircraft was almost impossible to hold on course because of damage. The Captain warned us that he couldn't carry on much longer, and ordered us to don our parachutes.

Soon after he told us to abandon the aircraft. I reached the trapdoor first, but stood aside to let the second pilot get out, but he said I should "jump". A few seconds later, the skipper smartly disappeared through the escape hatch, and I quickly followed him. As soon as I was clear, I pulled the ripcord and my parachute opened instantly. My descent now seemed painfully slow, especially as the AA fire continued to spiral upwards towards us. The shells came up in groups of five, indicating that they were probably 30 or 40mm calibre. I was completely unprepared for a landing and, on hitting the ground, my knees buckled and hit my chest so violently, that I temporarily lost consciousness. I awakened, gasping for breath, not understanding what had happened. My parachute and harness were pulling at my body, so I quickly pressed the release disk and gathered together the folds of the parachute. I remembered emergency instructions to hide the equipment if possible, and get as far away as possible from the crash site, the area where the Germans would search for survivors. Having deposited my equipment in a ditch at the edge of the field, I ran away until I collapsed, exhausted behind a hedge.

It was only then that I checked direction, to discover that I was running eastwards into Germany. It was indeed fortunate that I retraced my steps to where I had landed, because on the ground was a bright red notebook containing codes for the day and other secret information. I really felt physically sick, knowing that, had the Germans recovered it, they would have been able to intercept and decipher all radio communications for the following twelve hours. I sat down and tore every page into pieces smaller than postage stamps and threw them into the wind. I then started the impossible task of trying to reach friendly forces, which unfortunately were several hundred miles to the West. I felt alarmed but somewhat proud of myself in successfully evading an army group in "skirmishing order", accompanied by dogs, obviously looking for me. This was however only a temporary success, because I was discovered and captured by troops of a local AA battery.

I could readily understand that I would not be the most popular person in the region;
as of course, we were always accused of bombing civilians. Rough handling by my captors was luckily avoided by the swift intervention of a Luftwaffe Officer who was driving past in a Volkswagen. He searched me for weapons and ordered me into his car. He explained that according to the News, the raid in which I took part had allegedly killed a hundred civilian workpeople in the adjoining village, hence the hostile reception!

This lieutenant drove me to the Artillery Headquarters and took me to the forces' kitchen, where he spread black bread with margarine and blood sausage. He also handed me the remainder of the loaf, saying that it might be a long time before I got anything to eat - his assumption was correct.

I arrived by train at Frankfurt-on-Maine railway station guarded by four Luftwaffe soldiers and a sergeant. Crossing the railway square, a crowd of women had gathered who proceeded to spit at me and call me rude names. I was more than grateful to have five guards to keep me from harm. Some of my comrades who were shot down in the Ruhr towns were unfortunate enough to be caught by lynching mobs and left hanging from streetlights.

Dulag Luft was the reception Centre for all Air Force Prisoners of War, and initially we were housed in prison cells with only a small window out of reach from the floor. Accommodation was warm enough, but the wooden bench on which we slept was hard and uncomfortable. Food was inadequate but much better than what we were given later in permanent camps. I was interrogated every day and told that if I didn't give the information they wanted, they would not inform my wife that I was still alive. I carried on giving only name, rank and number, until one wonderful day, a Swiss Doctor from the International Red Cross, Geneva saw me as he passed my cell door, and asked the Commandant for permission to interview me. That was granted, and I told him of the "blackmail" my interrogators were employing. He asked the Commandant if he could photograph me in the prison yard. Subsequently the Doctor kindly sent a copy to my wife to prove that I was still alive.

DJR Wilson, 580878. Air/Ops. A & B Flights, 51 Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command.


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Victims of German Atrocities

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Donald J.R.Wilson, S/Ldr. I. Cross, F1Lt. M. Casey, W/O A.. Hake (RAAF) FILL T. . Leigh, F/Lt G. Witey, (RCAF) and FIO P. Pohe (RNZAF), Sergeant Major Kar1 Ambeger, F/0 J. Paradise, (RAAF), F/O Berwick, (RAAF), P/O Greenwood, F/Sgt Armstrong (RAF) and F/Sgt Gunn, (RAF)
Location of story: Drierwalde
Unit name: B Flight, 51 Sqdn., 4 Group, Bomber Command
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 

Victims of German Atrocities,

By
Donald J.R.Wilson
(51 Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command)
The Great Escape of March 1944 is well documented but, apart from the book of the History of the Squadron, "Swift and Sure", it is not widely known that six members were among those executed by the Gestapo. Although I did not personally meet any of those of the squadron who had been murdered, I regret that I did not have the privilege of getting to know them.
They were S/Ldr. I. Cross, F1Lt. M. Casey, W/O A. Hake (RAAF) FILL T. Leigh, F/Lt G. Witey, (RCAF) and FIO P. Pohe (RNZAF)
It is of little satisfaction that, after the War 18 members of the Gestapo were on trial for war crimes, and 14 were sentenced to death, two to life imprisonment, and two drivers were sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Other members of the Squadron was murdered by the Germans. One closely involved in such an episode was Sergeant Major Kar1 Ambeger, an enemy who had been shot down over England and had received excellent treatment in a British P.O.W. Camp, and in hospital. He was repatriated on humanitarian grounds.

The Squadron aircraft, MH D was badly damaged by Flak during a daylight raid and all seven members of the crew managed to escape by parachute and landed safely. However two of the crew were soon apprehended and were fortunate enough to be taken to prison camp and safety- t The other five members of the crew,- F/0 J. Paradise, (RAAF), F/O Berwick, (RAAF), P/O Greenwood, F/Sgt Armstrong (RAF) and F/Sgt Gunn, (RAF) were all captured in a village near an aerodrome, Drierwalde.
Bombs from the raid had killed forty workers so they were very roughly handled. The local Sergeant-major was Ambeger who, with two of his men, acted as escort to take them to the Railway Station. A short distance away they left the main road adjacent to woods. The prisoners were made to walk abreast and the Germans opened fire with automatic weapons. Four of the men were killed instantly and the fifth(F/O Berwick) had two bullets in his thigh, but managed to escape into the woods. For two days he was on the run but surrendered to a group of Germans who were hunting him with dogs. He now received fair treatment and survived. After the war, Ambeger in turn was hunted down, captured, and identified by Berwicic. He was tried for war crimes, found guilty, and hanged at Hamelin Prison.

D.J.R.Wilson, formerly Sgt. ,Air\Obs. B Flight, 51 Sqdn., 4 Group, Bomber Command.


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