21/22.02.1945 No. 158 Squadron Halifax III MZ351 NP-X Fl/Sgt. Alan C. Widdowson
Date: 21/22nd February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 158 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Lissett, Yorkshire
Location: Dirmstein, 11km South West of Worms.
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Alan Charles Widdowson 1881231 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frederick “Freddie” J. Fox PoW No further details available
Nav: P/O. Terence Dillon 18980 RAFVR PoW No further details available (1)
Air/Bmr: P/O. John McFarlane Scott 189567 RAFVR PoW No further details available (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Michael Edward Jordan AUS/428884 RAAF Age 24. No further details available (3)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Cyril “Lofty” William Sibley 1898606 RAF Age 22. Murdered (5)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Francis Leslie Charles Mewis 2220229 RAFVR PoW No further details available (4)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 17:27 hrs from RAF Lissett. Outbound, crashed at Dirmstein, 11 km. S.W. of Worms.
Sergeant Mewis reported that they knew that a night fighter was after them and the pilot Fl/Sgt. Widdowson corkscrewed the plane, but saw a Halifax in their path. The night fighter came underneath them hitting them in the bomb bay.
Most of the crew after baling out, landed in open fields away from residential areas, they were captured and made PoW.
The pilot Fl/Sgt. Widdowson had also tried to bale out, but witnesses (15 year old Arthur Maurer and his friend Hans Landin) state that he was found next to the aircraft with the parachute caught in one of the engines.
After baling out from the stricken Halifax, Sergeant Sibleys parachute got caught in the branches of a tree in the garden of a Maria Gessner at Friedhofstrasse 18, Dirmstein. Maria treated his cuts and abrasions as best she could before the town Gruppenleiter, Adolf Wolfert a local leader of the "Peoples Army" appeared on the scene, and bellowed “What kind of German do you think you are?” A good German!” she replied. Wolfert departed, but soon returned with two policemen - Georg Hartleb and Heinrich Kress (also a member of the "Peoples Army' and a local teacher) - Sibley was marched away. Wolfert himself described what followed:
“We took the airman behind the railway station. He did not say anything and we did not speak to him. Hartleb took him with his left hand, turned him around and held his revolver close to his face. I then took my revolver and shot the airman from a distance of about two meters, once in the head and once in the chest. The airman fell down, and Hartleb fired one more shot after he had fallen down”.
Frau Gessner heard three shots. Next morning, 22nd February, she saw the bodies of two airmen on a handcart, and recognised one as Sibley. Later that day he was buried with seven other airmen in Dirmstein cemetery. (5) Later in April 1948 the bodies were re-interred at Rheinberg War cemetery.
158 Squadron lost two other aircraft during this operation:
Halifax III MZ813 NP-Y Flown by F/O. Hampshire crashed on return with the loss of 4 crew, with 3 others injured.
Halifax III NR177 NP-W Flown by F/O. Hackman crashing at Odenbach with all crew taken PoW.
(1) P/O. Dillon came from Colwyn Bay, Wales and replaced their regular navigator Les Toogood. (from Oxshott, Surrey)
(2) P/O. John Scott replaced Jan Adam Balawajder P-2866 PAF who had been wounded in a previous raid.
(3) Fl/Sgt. Michael Jordan from North Sydney, Australia. Born on 21st July 1924 at Islington, New South Wales, Australia.
(4) Sgt. Francis Mewis Born on Sunday,15th March 1925 in Burton on Trent. He worked as an apprentice plumber before enlisting in the air force where he was known as “Nipper”. Resuming his job on returning home, he married his wife, Jean in 1947 with a son Michael being born four years later. He was a prisoner of war for a short time and the camp was liberated by the arrival of General Patton.
(5) The two airmen who were killed rest in Rheinberg War Cemetery, having been brought here from Dirmstein. It has been established that the pilot, Fl/Sgt. Widdowson was buried with 6 of the crew of a 432 Squadron Halifax VII RG451 QO-D. Flown by Fl/Lt. Edward S. Maguire. 1 crew member from this aircraft was taken pow. The body of Sgt. Sibley was also placed in the same grave, on top, without a coffin. American instigators exhumed the body on Monday, 6th August 1945 and identified the airman, recording the injuries for evidence at the War Crimes trials. Adolf Wolfert and Georg Hartleb were hanged half an hour apart on Friday,11th October 1946. Heinrich Kress was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Understood to have been released early.
Fl/Sgt. Alan Charles Widdowson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Joint Grave 20.B. 26-27. Alan Widdowson had been commissioned, but was later posted back to ranks. No further details - are you able to assist?
The Stolperstein for Sgt. Sibley next to the old Town Hall in Dirmstein
The small copper plaques (Stolpersteine), in the pavement in front of houses of which the (mostly Jewish) residents were murdered by the Nazis, mention the name, date of birth and place (mostly a concentration camp) and date of death. This one was revealed on 27th March 2009.
In many other cities, mainly in Germany, the memorials also can be found. There are already many thousands of these plaques, and their number is still counting. Almost all Stolpersteine are laid by the German artist himself, Gunter Demnig. There have been over 20,000 Stolpersteine laid in several countries in Europe, making the project the world's largest memorial.
Sgt. Cyril “Lofty” William Sibley. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 20.B.20. Born on Wednesday, 10th October 1923 at Merthyr Tydvil, Wales. Son of Cyril V.W. Sibley and Rhoda B. Sibley (née Jenkins). In 1943 he married Florence S.J. Rogers at Peterborough.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered volunteer, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Special thanks for information and photographs of Sergeant Mewis to Michael Mewis, son. Thanks to Oliver Clutton-Brock for the details on Sergeant Sibley from “Footprints on the Sands of Time”. Also to the German publication "Dirmstein remembers" for further details on the Sgt. Sibley murder. Gunter Demnig for his work with the Stolpersteine. For further details on Sgt. Sibley thanks to Roy Wilcock of Aircrew Remembered.