28/29.07.1942 16 Operational Training Unit (OTU) Wellington Ic R1450, Plt Off. Francis Lowe
Operation: Hamburg, Germany
Date: 28th/29th July 1942 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit No: 16 Operational Training Unit (OTU), 92 Group
Type: Wellington Ic
Base: RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire
Location: Brunsbüttel, Germany
Pilot: Plt Off. Francis Lowe DFM 118019 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 600 * (1)
2nd Pilot: Flt Lt. Patrick Wilson ‘Pat’ Langford MiD C1631 RCAF Age 24. PoW No. 710 */ Murdered (3)
Observer: Plt Off. Arthur Ferdinand 'Ferdie’ Litzow 121572 RAFVR Age 33. KiA
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. William John Atchison 1028991 RAFVR Age 31. KiA
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Trevor Haughton Cray 411066 RNZAF Age 21. KiA
Air Gnr: Sgt. William White 1252067 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 27046 ** (2)
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
** Stalag 8b, in 1943 renamed Stalag 344, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia, Lamsdorf (now called Łambinowice) in Silesia.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 28th July 1942 at 22:14 hrs R1450 took off to join a force of 256 aircraft on a mission to bomb targets in Hamburg. The weather outbound and over the English bases worsened and as a consequence the OTU aircraft were recalled. However, a number of OTU aircraft including R1450 did not receive the recall and went on to bomb Hamburg. Many more aircraft turned back because of the worsening weather and only 68 arrived over the target.
Hamburg sustained minimum damage and overall casualties were light. However, Bomber Command lost 33 aircraft, which included R1450 as one of the 4 OTU Wellingtons lost. The other were:
16 OTU Wellington Ic L7894 XG:U2. The five crew were KiA, four of whom were from the RCAF;
22 OTU Wellington Ic X3201 DD:O bar. Two of the RCAF crew were KiA and three became PoWs;
22 OTU Wellington Ic X9696 DD:Z. The five RCAF crew were KiA.
R1450 was claimed by Oblt. Günther Köberich his 1st Abschuss and first of two this night, from Stab II./NJG3 over Brunsbüttel at 1.600 m. at 00:16 hrs.
He had been scrambled from Schleswig in Bf110 D5+BC at 23:42 hrs. His Bordfunker Uffz. Heidenrich recorded the following in his Leistungsbuch. "The victories were scored on a Bf 110 E. (1st Victory) Two attacks climbing from below: Enemy aircraft burned immediately. Light return fire. Crash not observed, probable victory, attack had to be broken off at 1.600 meters altitude due to heavy Flak over Brunsbüttel . Victory confirmed later. (2nd victory) Heavy return fire, the crash of the enemy aircraft was observed. Landed smoothly at 01:42 at Schleswig , although both motors had been put out of action by enemy fire". (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten).
Oblt. Köberich was reported to have been killed on the 8th April 1944 during an American raid on Quackenbrück airfield. He had 7 confirmed and 1 unconfirmed victories. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 2).
The aircraft crashed near Brunsbüttel. Three of the crew survived and became PoWs.
(1) 742478 Sgt. Lowe was awarded the DFM whilst with 49 Squadron, London Gazette 23rd September 1941.
On the 9th March 1942 WO. Lowe was granted a commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. He ended up at the Milan-Marlag Nord PoW camp after a forced march from Stalag Luft 3.
Milan = Marinelager (naval prisoner of war camp) and Milag = Marine-Internierten-Lager (naval internment camp), Nord (North). Located at a former Luftwaffe (German Air Force) barracks near Westertimke NE of Bremen in Germany
(2) Sgt. White was promoted to Warrant Officer (WO) whilst a PoW and was transferred to Stalag 3a.
(3) Flt Lt. Langford was eventually sent to Stalag Luft 3. In September 1944 he was on the Working Committee who was responsible for the trap door of ‘Harry’. (Ref 1. p.115).
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”.
It is not known where and when Flt Lt. Langford was captured but he and a number of other recaptured officers were gathered together in Görlitz prison in Germany which was under the control of the Gestapo. Gradually the numbers of recaptured officers grew until thirty-five were held there.
On the 31st March two of the surviving officers witnessed a number of Gestapo agents collected the following ten officers and take them away; Flt Lt. C.P. Hall, Ft Lt. Birkland, Flt Lt. B. Evans, Flt Lt. G.E. McGill, Flt Lt. E.S. Humphreys, Flt Lt. P.W. Langford, Flt Lt. C.D. Swain, Fg Off. R.C. Stewart, Flt Lt. E. Valenta and Fg Off. A.D. Kolanowski. None of these men were seen alive again.
It was alleged that a Gestapo agent by the name of Lux selected and commanded the death-squad that carried out the order to execute selected prisoners.
Believed to be Kriminalobersekretär (Chief Detective) Walter Lux who was reported to have been killed in the Siege of Breslau in 1945.
No one was formally charged with the actual murder of Flt Lt. Langford or for the other fifteen officers killed by Lux and his death-squad. The bodies of this group were cremated at Liegnitz (Legnica) in Poland and their urns returned to Stalag Luft 3.
Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Courtesy: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)
Above left: Flt Lt. Langford (Courtesy Canadian Virtual War Memorial) and right grave marker (Courtesy: TWGPP)
Flt Lt. Patrick Wilson Langford MiD. Poznań Old Garrison Cemetery 7.C.7. Grave inscription: "REST IN PEACE".Born on the 4th November 1919 in Edmonton, Alberta. Son of Capt. Richard Wilson and Olive Mary (née Stevens) Langford of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
His father was a Capt. in the 19th Company Canadian Forestry Corps. He was formerly in the Canadian Army overseas but returned to Canada.
Flt Lt. Langford 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.
Above: Grave marker for Plt Off. Litzow (Courtesy: TWGPP)
Plt Off. Arthur Ferdinand Litzow. Kiel War Cemetery 2.H.20. Born on the 13th October 1908 in Tooting. Son of Hans Georg (deceased) and Eleanor ’Nelly’ (née Hine) Litzow. Husband to Philomena Mary (née O’Reilly) Litzow of Streatham, London, England.
Above: Grave marker for Sgt. Atchison (Courtesy: TWGPP)
Sgt. William John Atchison. Kiel War Cemetery 2.H.21. Grave inscription: "HIS NAME LIVETH FOR EVER MORE". Born on the 6th July 1911 in Hoxton, London. Son of William James and Charlotte Alice (née Alexander) Atchison; husband of Helen Brown Atchison (née Lyall), of Chelsea, London, England.
Above: Grave marker for Sgt. Cray (Courtesy: TWGPP)
Sgt. Trevor Haughton Cray. Kiel War Cemetery 2.H.19. Born on the 23rd October 1920. Son of Frederick Alfred and Eileen Mildred (née Haughton) Cray of Napier, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.
His brother Plt Off. Geoffrey Haughton Cray MiD, RNZAF was KiA on the 17th April 1944 in operations over the South Pacific as the Pilot of SBD-5 Dauntless NZ5050, 25 Sqn RNZAF.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Update to narrative and links. (Aug 2022).
Thanks to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project’ (TWGPP) for their great work.
Other sources below:
1. The Great Escape - Anton Gill - ISBN: 978-1-7201-5488-4.