Flt/Lt Sidney Clayden Matthews DFC MiD
Flt/Lt Sidney Clayden Matthews DFC MiD, Non Com 1375209 Com 142217,
Rear Gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Nationality : United Kingdom,
KIA 17 March 1945, Aged 25, Date taken POW 15 March 1945, POW number None
SEE CREWS AND LOSSES for Flying Fortress Mark III HB779 BU-K
Named on the following Memorial : Huchenfeld Church, SW Germany
Named on the following Memorial : Llanbedr Church, North Wales
Named on the following Memorial : No. 100 Group Bomber Command Roll of Honour in the RAF Window in Ely Cathedral.
Named on the following Memorial : RAFA Ely Cambs Branch Memorial Rose Garden
The RAFA Ely Cambs Branch Memorial Rose Garden is situated at what used to be the RAF Hospital, which is now the NHS Princess of Wales Hospital. Tom Tate attended the dedication ceremony which was held in 1999.
Born 15 November 1920
Buried in DURNBACH WAR CEMETERY. Reference : 9.H.3.
Son of Alfred James Matthews and Maud Louise Matthews; husband of Iris Matthews, of Canons Park, Edgware, Middlesex.
SEE PRISONERS OF WAR
He lived at 26 Crawford Avenue Wembley before his marriage.
Sidney was a former pupil of Wembley Hill School and assisted his father in business at Harlesden until 1940 when he joined the RAF. A Boy Scout and avid swimmer, he held several medals and certificates for swimming.
He was made a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) from 6 February 1943, recorded in the London Gazette on 27 April 1943.
He was then promoted to Flying Officer on probation from 6 August 1943, recorded in the London Gazette on 27 August 1943.
Married on 10 October 1943, at St Lawrence Church, Whitchurch Lane, Canons Park, Edgware, Middlesex, he was the husband of Mrs Iris Minnie Blanche Matthews (Farr) residing at 12 Cornbury Road, Edgware, Canons Park UK.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 5 September 1944, which was recorded in the London Gazette on 15 September 1944. He was serving with 9 Squadron at that time.
By the time he won his DFC at the young age of 23, he had already flown an incredible 57 Operations, which included several over the heaviest defended target in the heart of Germany, Berlin. Among others were attacks on two of Germanys greatest battleships, the Scharnhorst and the Geneisenau at Brest.
(Note the Scharnhorst was sunk on 26 December 1943 in the Polar Sea in battle with British naval forces. Of the more than 2,000 men aboard only 36 survived. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/scharnhorst_01.shtml for the full story)
All of this was while serving with 9 Squadron.
Sidney with unknown crew
During the later part of World War 2 he was an Air Gunner in a B17 Flying Fortress HB779 BU-K as part of 214 Squadron based at RAF Oulton, nr Aylesham, Norfolk.
On 6 February 1945 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. This was recorded in the London Gazette on 2 March 1945.
He had it all, honour, rank, one of the highest awards an airman can receive, and a wife waiting at home. Truly a son any parent would be fiercely proud of.
Given the number of operations and that many were essentially suicide missions from which most never returned, it is inconceivable how Flt/Lt Matthews could have survived as long as he did. It makes one wonder why the hand of fate kept him safe despite insurmountable odds, only to steal his life in "the last months of the war" in such a cruel and senseless manner.
On 16 March 1945 his wife, Iris, received a telegram saying he was reported missing as a result of air operations on the night of 14/15 March 1945. He was known to have abandoned the aircraft overland but his whereabouts were unknown.
After baling out of the aircraft he was kept in Buhl prison before being transferred by foot into Luftwaffe custody on 17 March 1945. Upon reaching Huchenfeld he was locked into the boiler room of the Neuen Schule (New School) along with 6 others of his crew. A crowd of civilians demanded access to the 7 men, demanding revenge , and dragged them outside. 3 escaped to be recaptured. Matthews and four others were taken to the cemetery and shot.
On 25 March 1945, Iris received a letter from the pilot of the plane (Johnny Wynne) from the Officers Mess, RAF Station, Oulton, nr Norwich, Norfolk, explaining what had happened on that night.
On 26 March 1945 a letter was received from the Air Ministry confirming him missing as result of air operations.
On 7 January 1946 a letter was received from the Air Ministry confirming the discovery of five graves at Huchenfeld, Pforzheim, Germany and requesting help with identification of the bodies by laundry marks on their clothing. Iris wrote back to confirm these details on 8 January 1946.
On 18 January 1946 the Air Ministry wrote to express their great regret at the loss of his life whilst in enemy hands.
On 24 January 1946 the Air Ministry wrote to confirm that laundry marks below a collar band of a shirt worn by an officer in grave number three had matched the laundry markings that Iris had provided. They also confirmed that Mrs Frost, another of the widows had also been able to confirm laundry markings.
On 17 February 1946 another letter was received from Johnny Wynne now stationed at RAF Digby, Lincoln.
Mentioned in Despatches recorded in the London Gazette Issue 37598 published on the 4 June 1946. Page 63 of 68.
In July 1946 there were several newspaper articles clarifying what had happened.
On 20 September 1946 Iris was requested to go to Buckingham Palace on 29 October 1946 to collect Sidney's Distinguished Flying Cross. She went with Sidney's mother Maud Louise Matthews and her own father William Baden Farr.
On 30 September 1946 the Air Ministry wrote with the results of the trial, heard at Essen between 14 August 1946 and 3 September 1946. 22 accused were tried, of which 5 were acquitted, 3 were sentenced to death by hanging, 1 to life imprisonment and the rest had sentences varying from two to fifteen years. There were 5 more to be apprehended and brought to trial.
Iris was sent a photograph of the five graves at Huchenfeld. After the war the bodies were exhumed and buried at the Durnbach War Cemetery in Southern Germany.
The graves at Huchenfield Germany. Flt/Lt Sidney C Matthews DFC., Fg/Off James Vinall, Fg/Off Harold Frost, Fg/Off Gordon Hall, FS Edward Percival
The French soldiers who had been the first of General Patten's army to enter the area had Inscribed each cross with simple but telling words: 'British airman, assassinated by the SA, 17/18 March 1945.'
On 25 November 1992 an article appeared in the Daily Mirror telling this story because the people of Huchenfeld wished to bury its Nazi ghost. Mrs Frost (now Mrs Taylor) attended the unveiling of a plaque in the village, in memory of the five who were killed. After seeing Sidney's name on the plaque John Edwards contacted the Daily Mirror. The reporter sent copies of photographs taken at the unveiling, Mrs Taylor's address and the proofs of the original story that he had filed, including an interview with the pilot Johnny Wynne who is still alive and living in Wales.
Mrs Taylor (Frost) was sent a copy of the letter sent to the Daily Mirror by John Edwards and she rang as soon as she received it on 4 March 1993. Copies of the letters from the pilot, Johnny Wynne were sent to her on 9 March 1993.
On 24 May 1998 John and Carol Edwards visited Durnbach War cemetery and took photos of the gravestones of all 5 crew members of HB779 BU-K who were buried there.
On 25 May 1998 John and Carol Edwards visited Huchenfeld Village where Sidney and the other four crew members were murdered. They visited the local church where the plaque is hung and also visited the grave of the Mayor of Huchenfeld who they understood had instigated the killings.
On 21 August 2009 John & Carol Edwards visited Ely Cathedral to see Sydney's name in the memorial book for 100 Bomber Group. Unfortunately his record was incorrect as the book states that he died in 1944 when it was actually 1945.
Source : John and Carol Edwards, family connection to Flt/Lt Sidney C Matthews and CWGC and London Gazette and Reg Kemp (nephew of Harold Frost)
Date record last updated : 27 October 2009