The Murder of Five Captured RAF Officers. Warning: Graphic Images

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Drew5233, Feb 2, 2011.

  1. Pollux5

    Pollux5 Senior Member

  2. Bob Bradley

    Bob Bradley Junior Member


    My name is Bob Bradley and I am the son of Norman 'Jack' Bradley. My nephew Matt Boucher (my half sister's son) has contacted me and pointed me to the forum. After many years of searching, Heinemann-Gruder and his Nailcross group, together with Tom Tate, found my father and persuaded him to return to Huchenfeld as part of John Wynne's reconciliation project. I travelled with him to Huchenfeld and met with the Nailcross Group and visited the cellar where he was held and spoke with Emilie Bohnhofer (excuse the spelling) who helped my father escape. We also visited the Durnbach cemetary and paid our respects to the crewmen who were murdered. I have many pictures of this visit. I also have photos and some interesting information about my father, which I am happy to share with Matt and you. I always believed that this story would make a great film and book - I did think that one of the Nailcross Group (he owns a Harley Davidson like me if that helps identify him) was writing a book...? Do you have the details of the Nailcross Group members? I can send you them if not. There is much to discuss and I am in contact with Matt Boucher on a daily basis now and we hope to fill in many missing gaps. Please feel free to contact me on any time, and maybe Matt and I should come to Huchenfeld again in March?

    I have committed to find all the information I have and send it to Matt. I am sure he will share with you too.

    Much more to talk about when the shock of this story being investigated so thoroughly has worn off a bit...

    Best regards,

    Bob Bradley
  3. Roxy

    Roxy Senior Member


    Welcome aboard!

  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Bob and welcome to the forum. :)
  5. M@Bou

    M@Bou Junior Member

    I wondered if anyone has listed to Tom Tate's recordings on the events, which are held by the Imperial War Museum?

    recording | Imperial War Museums

    Unfortunately they are unavailable online at the moment due to some technical hitch.

    Hi Bob, welcome to the forum.
  6. At Home Dad (Returning)

    At Home Dad (Returning) Well-Known Member

    WHAT a find! Well done, Sir!

    sadly I cant see any description of length
    but it appears to be on two cassettes, he
    could be talking for more than two hours
    on the subject.

    there's also this:
    IWM interview | Imperial War Museums

    "use of Boeing B17 Flying Fortress in radar jamming role; hits on aircraft and attempt to establish location; bailing out of burning aircraft. Aspects of period a POW in Germany, 3/1945-5/1945: capture on top of building; reuniting with wireless operator Tom Tate and hearing of murder of other crew members by Hitler Youth."

    A Rocking Horse Called Hope | Imperial War Museums
    "BBC Radio 4 programme entitled 'A Rocking Horse Called Hope'. In March 1945 the German town of Pforzheim was destroyed by the RAF. A few weeks later five of the crew of a B17 bomber from 214 Sqdn RAF were lynched in a nearby village in reprisal. Chris Bowlby hears how British and German survivors of the incident now meet regularly to confront the past and attempt reconciliation"

    I dont know how out of date I am...

    may be of interest:
    Help with 214 Flying Fortress - Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums

    "The new book is primarily about 223 Squadron, but 214 Squadron (and others) gets a lot of mention, including this particular event. We have a lot of information about 214 and have contacted many squadron veterans. I am in touch with the brother (also RAF aircrew) of one of the murdered crew." (Steve Bond)

    Isn't it bloody astounding what the internet
    delivers these days....!

    and a warm welcome to you, Bob!
  7. M@Bou

    M@Bou Junior Member

    Good catch on the Dudley Heal tape, I missed that one!

    For all you who are not aware Dudley was also one of the 617 Squadron "Dambusters" before arriving at 214 Squadron. He was the Navigator on ED918 AJ-F "Freddie", in the third wave which attacked the Sorpe Dam, scoring a direct hit.

    As for the "Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums" link...

    That was one I posted up myself some time back. The Lancaster boys had been very helpful when I wanted to know about my Grandfather's first tour with 166 Squadron so I thought I'd ask about 214 Squadron as well, unfortunately it was not as successful.
  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I am wondering if anything was published in your local paper - and also how your writing is progressing?
  9. Pollux5

    Pollux5 Senior Member

  10. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    Thanks for the update. It's been such an interesting thread and I have wondered from time to time how you were getting on with this. Good luck with the thesis and book.
  11. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Thanks for continuing your account of these events which were all too common from people who were enticed into criminal acts by the party machine.

    As an aside,the detail from Pierrepoint's diary,an operation log if you wish, reflects his deep reported study of his profession.He always studied the physical aspects of the condemned and from these statistics,calculated the drop required for instant death.Other executioners were not so humane due to lack of this expertise and death occurred due to strangulation.
  12. Sejny

    Sejny Left WW2Talk

    Too graphic..
  13. pondfield

    pondfield Junior Member

    ....... But I started to write a book and I want to let it translate into english language too. It will be finished this autumn.
    All the people who helped me will get of course a free pdf version of it.
    I have only just found this thread and wonder if you could let me know when the book is published and how I can obtain a copy.

  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I believe it has now been published (he sent me a digital copy sometime ago) but its in German.
  15. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    I have only just found this thread and wonder if you could let me know when the book is published and how I can obtain a copy.


    For me as well please.
  16. At Home Dad (Returning)

    At Home Dad (Returning) Well-Known Member

    I believe it has now been published (he sent me a digital copy sometime ago) but its in German.

    great stuff, good to hear!
  17. Michael Mensah

    Michael Mensah Junior Member

    That was really unfortunate.
    Only God knows the total number of innocent souls which were lost in that war.
  18. Pollux5

    Pollux5 Senior Member

    Yes...the killing of airmen is a subject the people in the relevant villages don´t want to talk to.
    But I found a few more cases...

    I was in the village where Köchlin, he was the one who ordered the Hitler youths to the airmen shooting, was born and talked to a 92 year old lady about Köchlin and his familyaffairs. Next to us was sitting a pastor. During our conversation which took place in the communityhouse an old man in the background tidied up some bookshelfs. After some time he came over and started to talk in a very colloquial language:

    "I heard you are talking about killed airmen and Max Köchlin...but there must be a mistake. Because when I was a boy of 13 years and saw "de Griener" (colloquial for Grüner, familyname) shooting down the english airmen at the rhine river Köchlin was not here...he was training the hitler youth in Pforzheim."

    I was a bit stunned...then wanted to ask him more about what he has seen. But he refused a further konversation.
    When I was back home, I started a research and found out, that in November 1944 the NSDAP Ortsgruppenleiter of Rheinweiler, named Grüner, gunned down 4 british airmen and threw them into the rhine river...this case was shortly named in the Nürnberg trials.

    And I found a case where one of my familymembers, a very far related familymember, the cousin of my grandmother, was eyewhitness of a probable murder on a canadian airman.
    In Sommer 1944 in Oberweier which is next to Pforzheim and Karlsruhe, the cousin of my grandmother told me he is sure that he and his friends talked to an imprisoned canadian airman in the policestation of oberweier. And he still knows how frightend the airman was. He was sitting in his cell and prayed and begged the people not to harm him because the grown ups talked about killing him. At night he only knew that the airman was led to the cornfields and that the grown ups returned without him.

    Another case was told me by the english Author of the book "Flying for freedom" Tony Redding who told me that probably an airman had been stabbed to death after the Pforzheim airraid. But he is not sure of this. I knew something happened in Neuhausen to airmen because a friend of mine, Roland Watzl who discovers shot down planes, has an eyewhitnessreport from 1992 of a girl who saw the plane crashing in Neuhausen and that the surviving airmen where held in school and the people talked about killing them. Maybe there is another case.

    When i was in the archive in Karlsruhe studying the denazificationfiles of the Pforzheim airmen killers, a visitor told me, after we talked about my researches, that he is sure that another old man once told him that in the shootingrange in the Hardtwald (Hardtforrest) od Karlsruhe in 1944 he saw Gestapomembers in their leather coats gunning down english speaking women.
    Could that be possible? I haven´t found anything.

    My grandmother also told me that in these former times in 1945 she has heard from her schoolmates that english airmen had been killed in Ettlingen. Unfortunately I haven´t found anything about this case yet.

    We have a holidayhouse in the Elsaß in France. It is next to the german border in Lembach Wissembourg. And I talked to some hobbyhistorians. Our mainsubject were the sandstonecastles..we talked about medieval times and stuff like that...after they asked what I´m doing else and I told them that i´m researching in killings of bailed out airmen...and suddenly they said...that happened here also. Next to Seebach a british bombercrew had been killed by some faschist french people. Unfortunately i haven´t found anything about yet.

    These are new cases...probably.

    There are two other cases in Durlach next to Karlsruhe and Bruchsal next to Karlsruhe where american pilots had been killed.

    This all happened in a circle of 50 km around Karlsruhe where Gauleiter Robert Wagner had his residence.

    I reckon that this is only the top of the iceberg as we would say in Germany. Maybe in every Gau in Germany the people behaved like this and there are hundreds of undsicovered and undiscussed murders on airmen or it depended on the fanatical Gauleiter Robert Wagner.
    I also found new german documents by some local police officers, about the Kreisleiter Knab who told the people in Eutingen, Huchenfeld and Dillweißenstein to kill the airmen, that everywhere in his Kreis where a plane came down he quickly appeared at the crashside ond told the local NSDAP People not to deliver captured airmen to the Wehrmacht but to kill them or to arouse peoples fury aigainst the captured persons.
    Rich Payne likes this.
  19. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Fascinating. I wonder if there are any statistics which show differing survival rates between aircraft shot down over Germany and those over occupied countries with a population that could be expected to be friendlier ?

    This certainly goes some way to shedding light on the low survival rate of shot-down crews and the assumption at home at the time would have been that they were lost with their aircraft.
  20. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    As regards justice,it is interesting to note that Robert Wagner,the Gauleiter of Baden and Alsace was tried by the French Permanent Military Tributional; at Strasbourg in 1946 and sentenced to death for the murder of Allied airman and other war crimes.....which would cover.the murder of Allied airmen occurred in Alsace which was internationally recognised as French territory. .... the French took the responsibility to charge him with war crimes committed by him and his organisation within their territory.

    The referenced Gruner was a subordinate of Wagner's who carried out his instruction to the letter.He came across a group of four RAF airmen who had just been pulled out of the Rhine by members of the Wehrmacht who refused to take responsibility for them.Gruner promptly shot them in the back using a tommy gun and had their bodies thrown back into the Rhine.It occurred on 7 October 1944 when a No 617 Squadron aircraft out of Woodhall Spa,on a daylight raid to the Kembe Dam, skippered by S/L D.R.C Wyness, was hit by light flak while flying low over the target,losing two engines and on fire.Exiting the target area,S/Ldr Wyness set a northly course and put the aircraft down in the Rhine river between Chalampe (Haut Rhin department,Alsace.) on the west bank and Neuenburg on the east bank.

    It is thought that the crew survived the ditching and all may have been murdered in the afternoon after capture.S/Lr Wyness and his Wireless Operator,F/O Hosie RNAF have known graves, resting some way away at Choloy War Cemetery.France..this cemetery was created in 1950 so these two crewmen must have been interred locally until then.Similarly the Navigator,F/L R N Williams and the Bomb Aimer,F/O H W Honig have known graves at Durnbach in Bavaria,another post war consolidated war cemetery and must have been initially interred evidence as I see, of how three of the crew lost their lives on that fateful afternoon.

    Rear Gunner F/O G E Cansell,Flight Engineer, F/S T J Hurdiss and the Mid Upper,F/S T Horrocks are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

    Gruner admitted his deed to a US War Crimes investigator..must have been called to book but fate unknown.

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