07/08.11.1941 304 (Silesian) Squadron, Polish, Wellington Ic R1215 Plt Off. Tadusz Blicharz
Operation: Mannheim, Germany
Date: 7th/8th November 1941 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit No: 304 (Silesian) Squadron, Polish, Bomber Command
Type: Wellington Ic
Serial No: R1215
Base: RAF Lindholme, Yorkshire
Location: Saint-Trond, Belgium
Pilot: Plt Off. Tadusz Blicharz P.1361 PAF Age 26. PoW No. 666 * (1)
2nd Pilot: Plt Off. Wacław Rekszczyc P.0348 PAF Age 24. PoW No. 681 * (1)
Obs: Fg Off. Jerzy Tomasz Mondschein P.0913 PAF Age 32. PoW No. 680 */Murdered (5)
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Jósef ‘ Rogers’ Jaworosiuk 793800 PAF Age 24. PoW No. 24433 ** (2)
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Marian Antoni 'Elson’ Lewandowski 781493 PAF Age 21. PoW No. 24434 *** (3)
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Stanisław Krzawiecki 781176 PAF Age 22. PoW No. 24432 ** (4)
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
** Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
*** Stalag 357, Thorn (Toruń) in Poland. Moved in September 1944 to the loosely named Stalag 357 Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony, Germany. Officially the designation was Stalag 357 (Oerbke).
REASON FOR LOSS:
R1215 was one of three Wellingtons from the Sqn that took off from RAF Lindholme at 18:03 hrs on the 8th November 1941 tasked on a bombing mission to Mannheim in Germany.
The last communication with the aircraft was at 20:55 hrs which reported that the target had been bombed. It was later established that due to strong headwinds R1216 used up too much petrol and the Captain decided to land the Wellington at an illuminated airfield, which he mistakenly thought was in England.
They had actually landed at Saint-Trond in Belgium which at that time was an unknown German night-fighter base. Realising their mistake they quickly destroyed all their papers, and anything that might be useful to the Germans and set the aircraft ablaze before being captured.
Saint-Trond airfield was in east Belgium, some 4½ km NW of Liège and about 2½ km SSE of the town of Saint Trond itself.
The primary night-fighter unit at Saint-Trond during this time was II./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (II./NJG1) equipped with the Ju-88 and Do-17 Z-10.
(1) Plt Off. Blicharz and Plt Off. Rekszczyc were both promoted to Flt Lt. whilst being held as PoWs.
Tadusz Blicharz was born on the 1st February 1915 in Kraków – No further information
Wacław Rekszczyc was born on the 4th December 1916 in Kowno-Lithuania and passed away on the 30th July 2000 in Loughton, Essex aged 83.
(2) Sgt. Jaworosiuk was transferred from Stalag 357 to Stalag Luft 1 on promotion to Warrant Officer (WO).
Jósef ‘Rogers’ Jaworosiuk was born on the 26th November 1916 in Warszawa. Last known to be living in Bradford, Yorks.
(3) Sgt. Lewandowski was transferred from Stalag 4b to Stalag 357 where he was promoted to WO.
Marian Antoni 'Elson’ Lewandowski was born on the 20th November 1919 in Wilno, Lithuania. Last known to be living in Tollerton, Nottinghamshire.
(4) Sgt. Krzawiecki was transferred from Stalag 357 to Stalag 9b and then to Stalag Luft 4 and finally to Stalag Luft 1 on promotion to WO.
Stanisław Krzawiecki was born on the 3rd November 1919. No further information
(5) At Stalag Luft 3 Flt Lt. Mondschein as a German speaker read all of the German newspapers that came into the camp from cover to cover. Every detail that could possibly be of any use was noted, from names of officials and their appointments to opening of factories or changes to the transport systems. Before joining the Polish Air Force Mondschein was a skilled tailor, had experience in the building trade and was an expert in casting concrete. (Ref 1, p. 92)
Because of his expertise he and three other Polish officers took charge of the construction of “Tom’s” entry trap which was under the foundation of the Kitchen stove in block 123. (Ref 1, p. 112).
On the night of the 24th-25th March 1944, 76 officers escaped from the north compound of Stalag Luft 3 which, at that time, held between 1000 and 1500 RAF PoWs. The escape was made by the means of a tunnel. At about 05:00 hrs on the 25th March the 77th PoW was spotted by guards as he emerged from the tunnel.
An overview of the German response to the escape and the subsequent British prosecution of those responsible for the murder of fifty of the escapees is summarised in the report entitled “The Fifty - The Great Escape”.
On the morning of the escape at about 01:30 hrs Flt Lt. Mondschein led a group of twelve out of the tunnel. They were posing as local workers on holiday and made their way to the railway station in Tschiebsdorf (Trzebów, Poland), a short distance to the SE of the camp. Here they caught a train to Boberröhrsdorf (Siedlęcin, Poland), on the Czech border near Hirschberg. They had to wait for the train which then left at 06:00 hrs and the three-hour journey was uneventful. At Boberröhrsdorf they split up and went their separate ways. (Ref 1, pp. 193 - 194).
The circumstances of Fg Off. Mondschein’s capture are unknown, however, he and most of his group of twelve were initially held in the jail at Hirschberg. After lengthy interrogations he and a number of others were transferred to the civilian prison at Reichenberg (Liberec, Czechia).
He was last seen alive by Flt Lt. Tonder who witnessed him, Sqn Ldr. Williams, Flt Lt. Bull and Flt Lt. Kierath being removed from the civilian prison at Reichenberg (Liberec, Czechia) on the 29th March (Ref 2, p. 212).
There is no record of where he was murdered but his remains were cremated in Brüx, his ashes placed in an urn, which was returned to Stalag Luft 3.
Flt Lt. Mondschein was one of four PoWs who were cremated in Brüx, the other three being Flt Lt. Leslie George Bull DFC RAF, Sqn Ldr. John Edwin Ashley Williams RAF and and Flt Lt. Reginald V. Kierath RAAF.
After Flt Lt. Ivo Tonder PoW No. 561, was recaptured he was one of three that were sent to Stalag Luft 1. The other two were Flt Lt. Bedrich Dvorak PoW No. 39648 and Flt Lt. Desmond Lancelot Plunkett, PoW No. 297. Flt Lt. Tonder and Flt Lt. Dvorak were then sent to Oflag IVc, Colditz castle, whilst Flt Lt. Plunkett remained at Stalag Luft 1.
These three airmen were part of the group of eight that were held under special orders from Himmler. The two at Colditz castle were apparently under the threat of execution but were liberated before this could be carried out.
Investigations post-war did not identify those directly responsible for the murders of Flt Lt. Mondschein and the other three officers.
Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Courtesy: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)
Above left Fg Off. Mondschein (Courtesy Aircrew Remembered) right Grave marker (Courtesy of (TWGPP))
Fg Off. Jerzy Tomasz Mondschein MiD. Poznań Old Garrison Cemetery Grave 8.D.2. Born on the 18th March 1909 from Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland. No further information.
He was a married man with at least one child (a daughter) and, at age 35, he was the oldest of the group of Polish officers who set off for Czechoslovakia. He was in the Polish Air Force before the war and escaped, via Romania, on 17th September 1939. At some point, he was awarded the Cross of Valour.
Fg Off. Mondschein was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) recognizing his conspicuous bravery as a PoW because none of the other relevant decorations then available could be awarded posthumously. Promulgated in the London Gazette on the 8th June 1944.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.
Thanks to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project (TWGPP)’ for their great work.
Other sources quoted below:
1. The Great Escape - Anton Gill - ISBN: 978-1-7201-5488-4.
2. Stalag Luft III - An official history of the “Great Escape’ PoW Camp - Published by Frontline Books - ISBN: 978-1-47388-305-5.