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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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156 squadron crest
13/14.10.1942 156 Squadron Wellington III BJ775 Flt Sgt. Jack Taylor

Operation: Kiel, Germany

Date: 13th/14th October 1942 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: 156 Squadron

Type: Wellington III

Serial: BJ775

Code: GT:?

Base: RAF Warboys, Cambridgeshire

Location: North Sea

Pilot: Flt Sgt. Jack Taylor 656277 RAF Age 22. Killed

Obs: Fg Off. Gordon Arthur Kidder MiD J10177 RCAF Age 29. PoW No. 42822 * / Murdered (1)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Edward Earl MacDonald R65412 RCAF Age 26. PoW No. 837 ** (2)

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. William Wesley Lott R99690 RCAF Age 25. Killed

Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Donald Willard Congdon R88022 RCAF Age 20. Killed

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).

** Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania).

Above: L to R: Flt Lt. Kidder MiD. (Courtesy Canadian Museum of Civilisation Corporation CMCC), Flt Sgt. Lott (from his service file) and Flt Sgt. Congdon

REASON FOR LOSS

BJ775 took off from RAF Warboys with seven other aircraft from the Squadron as part of a force of 288 bombers targeting the German naval base at Kiel. As a strategic sea port and shipbuilding centre, it was heavily defended by flak and searchlight batteries.

According to the two survivors, the aircraft was coned by searchlights and hit by flak over Kiel and crashed in the North Sea on the return flight.

BJ775 was also claimed as a probable by Oblt. Ludwig Becker, his 39th Abschuss and second of the night, from 12./NJG1 over the North Sea 30 km NW Vlieland at 2.700m at 00:20 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten).

Turning for home the damaged aircraft soon lost altitude and crashed into the North Sea off of the German coast. The next day the two survivors of the crash and the bodies of two dead crew members were recovered by a German naval vessel. The body of Flt Sgt. Jack Taylor was not found.

Flt Sgt. Lott and Flt Sgt. Condon were initially buried in the Brockeswalde cemetery at Cuxhaven.

(1) After spending some time in hospital recovering from injuries sustained in the crash Fg Off. Kidder was eventually sent to Stalag Luft 3.

The escape committee at the camp compiled a list of the men who they felt had the best chance to evade recapture. Fg Off. Kidder’s language background and thorough knowledge of German made him an ideal candidate and was part of Flt Lt. Valenta’s Military affairs and Czechoslovakia intelligence section. (Ref 1.)

82532 Flt Lt. Arnost Valenta RAFVR PoW No. 415, was the Navigator aboard 311 (Czech) Squadron Wellington I L7842 which crashed on the 6th February 1941. He was one of ‘The Fifty’ murdered airmen of the ‘Great Escape’.

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”. (Insert Link)

Fg Off. Kidder and 39193 Sqn Ldr. Thomas Gresham Kirby-Green, RAFO were paired for the escape and they were the 20th and 21st out of the tunnel. They made their way to Sagan railway station where a number of other escapees where also awaiting a train. They were part of a group that embarked a Breslau bound train which left at 03:30hrs.

They arrived at Breslau and made a connection with a train bound for Czechoslovakia but were arrested at Hodonin in southern Moravia on the 28th March and taken to the prison at Zlín.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Fg Off. Kidder were established during the first of two British Military Courts which was convened at the Curiohaus, Hamburg between the 1st July and 3rd September 1947. This was the trial of Max Wielen and 17 others where they were charged on nine counts.

All of the accused were named on the first two counts. These were charges of conspiracy against the accused together with SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, Head of the Gestapo (Amt IV of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt) (believed to have been killed or committed suicide), SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, Head of the Kripo (Amt V of the RSHA) (Executed after the attempt on Hitler’s life) and Max Ernst Gustav Friedrich Wielen, the Kripo and Gestapo police chief of Breslau with the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer, in the participation of the killing of the 50 officers.

In counts three to nine, six groups of accused were each charged with the killing of one or several officers. Every accused with the exception of Max Wielen figures in one of these charges and no accused figures in more than one.

Specifically on the 9th count, Erich Hermann August Zacharias, a former member of the Zlín Grenzpolizei (Frontier Police), was concerned in the killing Fg Off. G.A. Kidder, RCAF and Sqn Ldr. T.G. Kirby-Green RAFO, in the vicinity of Mährisch Ostrau on or about 29th March 1944.

Mährisch Ostrau is now Moravská Osytava in the Czech Republic.

The court heard that Hans Ziegler, the Commanding Officer (CO) of the Zlín Grenzpolizei summoned Zacharias and an Adolf Knippelberg to his office on 29th March 1944, and told them that two British officers had been caught in the neighbourhood.

The evidence by Zacharias differs from the evidence for the prosecution. The prosecution relied on a deposition made by Zacharias and on an affidavit sworn by a man named Friedrich Kiowsky, who was their driver, according to which Ziegler told Zacharias and Knippelberg that the two prisoners were British officers and PoWs and were to be shot on orders from Berlin, and that Knippelberg and his driver were to take one prisoner out in their car, and Zacharias and his driver Kiowsky were to take the other prisoner in their car and that both prisoners were to be shot.

The defence maintained that Zacharias’ deposition was not a voluntary statement, but was made under duress and that Kiowsky’s affidavit could not be relied upon as he was really an accomplice who had been charged with murder and tried by the Czech Government. The court should therefore rely on Zacharias’ evidence in the witness box, which was to the effect that the CO told them that the two officers were saboteurs and spies, and had to be shot on orders from Berlin, and that, however, they did not have to carry out this order since the two officers made a determined attempt to escape, so that he and Kiowsky had to shoot them in carrying out their duty as a military escort.

The court found Zacharias guilty of the charge and he was sentenced to death by hanging.

Hans Ziegler committed suicide on 3rd February 1948;

Friedrich Kiowsky was executed in Czechoslovakia in 1947 after being convicted of murder;

Adolf Knippelberg was prematurely released from a Red Army PoW camp in 1945 and disappeared.

Zacharias was executed on 26th February 1948 at 10:50 hrs at Hameln prison. Albert Pierrepoint, assisted by RSM Richard A. O’Neill, had started at 09:00 hrs with the double execution of two war criminals unrelated to the Sagan Case of the Fifty Officers. Between 09:28 hrs and 12:08 hrs this was followed by the execution, in six doubles and one single, of those condemned for the murder of the Sagan escapees.

(2) Sgt. MacDonald was imprisoned at Stalag Luft 6 for the duration of the war and whilst there he was promoted to WO2.

Josh MacDonald, the grandson of WO2. MacDonald, informed us that his grandfather survived the ‘death marches’. He returned to his hometown of Pictou, Nova Scotia where he married Ruth Gwendolyn Smith on the 28th Jun 1946 and they had three children; two sons William and Gordon, and daughter Joanne.

He had one of his boots bronzed and it resides at the home of Josh’s father.

Edward Earl MacDonald was born on the 4th October 1916 in Pictou, Nova Scotia. He passed away aged 78 on the 22nd January 1944 in Pictou, Nova Scotia. He was survived by Ruth, who passed away in 2005, and his children.

Burial Details:

Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Credit: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)

Flt Sgt. Jack Taylor. Runnymede Memorial Panel 76. Born on the 16th July 1920 in Wrexham, Merionethshire. Son of John and Cordelia (née Reynolds) Taylor, of Brynteg, Denbighshire, Wales.

Flt Lt. Gordon Arthur Kidder MiD. Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery Grave 8.D. 5. Born on the 9th December 1914 in St. Catharines, Ontario. Son of Arthur Garfield and Ethel May (née Smith) Kidder, of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

Gordon Arthur Kidder was an honour student in high school and won a scholarship in modern languages at the University of Toronto where he completed his BA degree prior to enlisting in the RCAF in 1941.

Fg Off. Kidder was a 1942 graduate of No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School at Jarvis in Ontario.

He was posthumously promoted to Flt Lt. and was also posthumously MiD which was promulgated in the London Gazette on the 8th June 1944.

Kidder Lake in North West Territories is named after Flt Lt. Kidder.




Flt Sgt. William Wesley Lott. Becklingen War Cemetery Grave 27.B.10. Grave inscription reads: "BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD". Born on the 9th May 1917 in London, Ontario. Son of William Henry and Frances Alda (née (Linkens) Lott, of London, Ontario, Canada. His father predeceased him. His mother remarried to a Richard Gallager.

Flt Sgt. Donald Willard Congdon. Sage War Cemetery Grave 13. C. 3. Grave inscription reads. "IN THE HOPE OF A GLORIOUS RESURRECTION WILL THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY". Born on the 8th April 1922 in Great Village, Nova Scotia. Son of James Dynham and Elizabeth May (née Johnson) Congdon, of Great Village, Colchester Co., Nova Scotia, Canada.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. Acknowledgments: Canadian Virtual War Memorial VAC, Canadian Museum of Civilisation Corporation CMCC., 156 Squadron website. Reviewed and updated by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ (Insert link) (Dec 2021). Thanks to Josh MacDonald for the additional information regarding his Grandfather, Edward Earl MacDonald (Dec 2021).

References

1. The Great Escape: The full dramatic story with contributions from survivors and their families - Anton Gill - ISBN: 978-0755310371






RS & TV 04.12.2021 - Correction to Sgt. MacDonald’s NoK details

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Acknowledgements
Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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