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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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130 Squadron Crest
08.12.1944 130 Squadron Spitfire XIV RM749 Flt Lt. Wilson

Operation: Armed Reconnaissance

Date: 8th December 1944 (Friday)

Unit: 130 (Punjab) Sqn. (motto: 'Strong to serve'), 2nd Tactical Air Force

Type: Spitfire XIV

Serial: RM749

Code: AP:?

Base: B.64 Diest / Schaffen, Belgium

Location: Burgsteinfurt, Germany

Pilot: Flt Lt. Donald John 'Willie' Wilson 414286 RAAF Age 23. Survived/Killed (1)

REASON FOR LOSS:

The flight took off at 14:30 hrs on the 8th December 1944 to take part in an armed reconnaissance and fighter sweep in the Münster area. Whilst attacking a train approximately 20 enemy Bf109 and Fw190 aircraft were sighted. During the ensuing engagement Flt Lt. Wilson was heard to call over the radio that his aircraft had been hit. He asked for a course back to base, which was provided, but a few minutes later at 15:30 hrs he was again heard on the radio that he was badly hit and was going down. His position at the time was NW of Burgsteinfurt. Nothing more was heard or seen of Flt Lt. Wilson or his aircraft by other members of the flight.

Hptm. Herbert Rehfeld (Bf109G) and Gefr. Breiter (Bf109G) of 8./JG 27 each claimed a Spitfire in the region of south Rheine on this day at 15:00 hrs & 14:57 hrs respectively. (OKL Reich, West & Südfront Aug-Dec 1944)

The second loss was Flg.Off. W.J. Simpson from 416 RCAF Sqn., Spitfire IX, MK417. PoW

Notes on group photograph:

Fg Off. Keith McKenzie Lowe 409420 RAAF. Born on the 6th August 1922 at Prahran, Victoria. Resided at 73 Darling Road, East Malvern, Melbourne, Australia. Shot down on the 16th January 1945, flying Spitfire RM815, wounded in the leg, force landed behind allied lines. Survived the war. Transferred to the RAAF Reserve at own request to Join the Australian National Airline on 10th November 1944. Keith McKenzie Lowe passed away on the 18th March 2011;

Fg Off
. Trevor Lambert Trevorrow 409776 RAAF. Born on the 15th September 1921 at Murreembeena, Victoria. Resided at 40 Rossela Street, Murrumbeena, Australia. Baled out of Spitfire RM713 on 30th March 1945 after hitting trees near Münster. Survived the war. Discharged from the RAAF on the 19th March 1946. Trevor Lambert Trevorrow passed away on the 2nd July 1992;

Fg Off
. Frederick Edward Fitzgerald Edwards DFC 420460 RAAF. Born on the 4th June 1922 at Adelaide and resided at 42 The Avenue, Randwick, Sydney, Australia. Survived the war. Discharged from the RAAF on the 11th February 1946. Frederick Edward Fitzgerald Edwards passed away on the 20th May 1968. DFC awarded whilst with 130 Sqn, London Gazette 24th July 1945. DFC Citation: "Flying Office Edwards has achieved fine results during a large number of operational missions on many occasions he has been first to sight enemy aircraft and has led the rest of his formation into attack. Flying Office Edwards has himself destroyed four enemy aircraft, much enemy transport and has set a fine example to his fellow pilots.";

Plt Off
. Frederick Cecil Riley 413897 RAAF. Born on the 20th February 1919 in Lanarck, Scotland from Sydney, Australia. Injured on the 22nd December 1944 when his Spitfire XIV RM795 was hit by Allied AA in the Liège area. He forced landed but suffered a fractured skull and compression fracture of the spine. He was declared AtBt (Temporarily unfit for flying and ground duty) and repatriated to Australia on medical grounds. Discharged from the RAAF on demobilisation on the 2nd October 1945
;

Flt Lt. Donald Wilson - this page;

Plt Off. Kevin Francis Riordan 409947 RAAF. Born on the 10th November 1921 at Shepparton, Victoria. Resided at 101 Knight Street, Shepparton, Australia. Survived the war. Retired from the RAAF at own request on the 2nd August 1945. Kevin Francis Riordan passed away on the 3rd June 2002;

WO. David Hamilton White 414179 RAAF. Born on the 23rd November 1921 at Killarney, Queensland, Australia. Survived the war. Discharged from the RAAF on the 7th December 1945 on demobilisation.

(1) The fate of Flt Lt. Wilson was unknown until a Military Court was held at the Garrison theatre, Osnabrück, Germany from 7th March to the 1st May 1947. In total six German nationals were before the court on ten separate charges.

The eighth of the charges accused three German nationals of committing a war crime in that they, at or near the Rheine airfield in Germany on or about the 9th or 10th December 1944, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned with the killing of Flight Lieutenant D.J. Wilson, Royal Australian Air Force, PoW.

The three accused were Heinz Stellpflug, a former Luftwaffe Stabsfeldwebel (M/Sgt.) and chief clerk responsible to Franz Schmitt a former Luftwaffe Major (Maj.) and Commanding Officer of the Rheine airfield; Karl Henkelhausen a former Luftwaffe Major (Maj.) who was Schmitt’s second in command; Walter Klöpzig, a former Luftwaffe Maj. and one time adjutant to Henkelhausen. They were all stationed at the Rheine airfield located 4km NW of the town of Rheine in the province of Westphalia.

In the course of the trial proceedings it was established that a Fritz Bollenrath, a former SA (Sturmabteilung = Paramilitary arm of the Nazi party)-Standartenführer (equates to Col.) and official in charge of the Rheine outpost of the SD (Sicherheitsdienst of the SS) at Rheine, systematically shot a number of Allied airmen who were delivered into his hands. The prosecution maintained that the three accused aided and abetted Bollenrath in the killing of Flt Lt. Wilson. Bollenrath had committed suicide on the 5th December 1945 shortly after his arrest.

The court heard that during an inspection of the damage sustained to an air-raid shelter, where unfortunately ten German civilians lost their lives, a former Wehrmacht District Forester named Heinrich Brinkmann found the body of Flt Lt. Wilson about 100 metres from the air-raid shelter and near the bank of the Ems river. The river is about 2 km in a north-easterly direction from the Rheine airfield.

Testimony from the former Luftwaffe Stabsfeldwebel (M/Sgt.), named Roehe and his Company Commander, Hauptmann (Capt.) Wierlemann expressed an opinion that Flt Lt. Wilson appeared to have gunshot wounds to his body. Brinkmann testified that he noticed that the face of the victim was covered in blood, which tallies with Wierlemann’s testimony that he saw dried blood around the mouth. Additionally Roehe stated that Stellpflug, when asked about the incident merely said "I killed him" and not that he had shot him.

Maj. Kant, RAMC, identified the exhumed remains as those of Flt Lt. Wilson by the marking of his name and service number on the collar of his shirt and from Flt Lt. rank badges. His Pathological report recorded that Flt Lt. Wilson had suffered a fracture of the right upper jaw. This was the only injury found and was, in Maj. Kant’s opinion, extensive enough to have caused unconsciousness. He found that the lungs of the deceased were extremely bulky and full of blood. He speculated that there was the possibility that Flt Lt. Wilson was knocked unconscious and then suffocated or buried alive. He believed that the injury to the jaw would not in itself have caused death.

At the end of the case for the prosecution it was decided that there was no evidence against Klöpzig and he was therefore released. The court could not establish how Flt Lt. Wilson sustained the fractured jaw and there was no evidence presented that was sufficient to convict the two remaining accused and therefore on this specific charge Stellpflug and Henkelhausen were found not guilty.

However, Stellpflug was found guilty on two of the other charges and was sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out on the 5th September 1947 in Hameln (Hamelin) prison.

Flt Lt. Wilson was initially buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery Königsesch, Rheine. A British war crimes team disinterred a number of bodies from the cemetery after the war and discovered that of the eight American servicemen buried there, five including that of Flt Lt. Wilson looked like they were victims of war crimes.

Burial details:

Flt Lt. Donald John Wilson. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 23.C.1. Grave inscription reads: "LOVED, HONORED, REMEMBERED, LONGED FOR ALWAYS. GOOD NIGHT, MY SON'". Born on the 16th October 1921 at Townsville, the son of Philip Vaughan Wilson and Hylda Mary Wilson, of Cooladdi, Queensland, Australia.

Researched for relatives of this pilot with thanks to Traugott Vitz with his work on the Vitz Archive, Mitch Buiting for grave photograph (Mar 2019). Also to Australian National Archives. Update to war crime by Ralph Snape (May 2019). Update to Bios for listed pilots by Ralph Snape (Feb 2022). Thanks to Joseph Mack for his assistance with Fg Off. Riley's bio (Feb 2022). For further details our thanks to the following sources.

RS 01.02.2022 - Update to Bios for listed pilots

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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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