A few years ago i carried out some research into my great uncle who was killed in WW2. During that I stumbled across another RAF Sgt, with a very similar name, who suffered a fairly terrible fate: His name was John Barton and when I looked into his story I found a remarkable tale.
218 Sqn 1622233 Sgt. John BARTON. Navigator/Bombardier:
Airframe NG330 Callsign HA-M, flown by F/O. Robert H. Kench R.A.A.F
They took off at 11.15hrs on New Year’s Eve 1944, from Chedburgh on the crew’s first operation in a
new aircraft, to destroy the railway shunting yard at Vohwinkel near Wuppertal. It is believed that
the crew got lost and were off-loading their bombs when a stray bomb from another aircraft hit
them, causing them to crash by the town of Leichlingen.
The only survivor, Sergeant John Barton was passed on to the Wermacht, but firstly to Polizeimeister
(Police Constable) Karl Bertram who was ordered to take him to the mayor’s office in Leichlingen.
Instead, on the way, Karl Bertram shot him twice in the back and at his post war trial said that the
prisoner was trying to escape. When asked why he did not shoot the prisoner in the legs, Bertram
replied that it was difficult in the dark to be so accurate when a person was running away. Although
it was considered beyond credibility that a man who had just scrambled free from a crashed aircraft
would be in any fit state to attempt an escape Bertram was acquitted of the war crime charge.
John is buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery, Grave 11.D.18.
About 10 days ago I found out that a NATO RAF colleague was going to be in Rheinberg CWG yesterday for the memorial service and sent him this little tale. Today, he sent me a mail to tell me that he and his wife had searched out Sgt Barton's grave and paid their respects, him reading this account to her as they stood there. They were kind enough to take a picture of the gravestone for me. A very touching way to close the loop.
That, Sir, the whole story, is a monument to the difference between a coward, no matter what nationality and what war, and a hero. There will always be shifty, useless creatures everywhere and the good, though abused by them will, inevitably, prevail. Thank you so much for that post.