Roadside grave in northern France of Uffz. Wilhelm Ross shot in cold blood after jumping clear of his stricken III./ZG 26 Bf 110 on May 20, 1940.
left; Gefr Alfred Wetzel, a witness at the Luchy trial during September 1940
Wetzel went into captivity and was released after the fall of France. Ross was briefly buried by the roadside for a while. With the end of hostilities on the continent, an investigation was conducted by the German authorities.
Ross was not of course the only German airman murdered by military or civilian personnel on the basis of a foolish and criminal order promulgated by the French military authorities according to which any 'paratrooper' had to be shot. The order in question was 'reviewed' on or around May 20 after several French and British airmen were killed by 'friendly' fire. Despite the repeated occurrence of these gratuitous crimes, the German authorities apparently had little desire to make publicity out of them, possibly to avoid memories of those few snipers of August 1914 whose disordered actions had led to bloody uncontrolled and disproportionate reprisals in Belgium as well as in northern France.
Somewhat unusually the 'Luchy case' resulted in a 'show trial' that would attract media attention.
Brought back to Beauvais, he was put on trial in a very theatrical manner on September 12 in the village square of Luchy itself. Photos taken at this "trial" were widely published in the press. Although Bordfunker Wetzel, a witness at the 'hearing', stated that he did not recognise Mullot, the farmer was nonetheless sentenced to death. However, his sentence was soon commuted to five years in prison. After a year and a half in the Reich, he was sent back to Luchy (where he died in 1980). Mullot's release demonstrated that, in the end, no one had seriously considered him to be the killer and that the 'Luchy trial' was something of a farce.
(Farmer Mullot accused of murdering III./ ZG 26 pilot Uffz. Wilhelm Ross on May 20, 1940 at his 'trial' - the newspaper caption read " I was only following the orders of the Prefecture"...)
However, his release raised a number of questions. Why did the German authorities expend so much unnecessary energy on this 'show' trial when a simple examination of Ross' remains would have revealed that he was killed by a bullet fired by a soldier and not by Alfred Mullot's shotgun? Why even use such publicity to condemn an innocent man (even if, according to how events could have played out, Mullot might well have acted in the manner of a 'franc-tireur'). After all, far less coverage was given to the four civilians sentenced to death and executed after the murder of a KG 54 crew at Vimy on 18 May 1940. Was the Luchy trial the 'unfortunate' initiative of a local German official... the answer to this and other questions will probably never be known.
Extracted with permission from Jean-Louis Roba's new history of III./ZG 26 published by Lela Presse. Free shipping on this title up to 10 January 2020. Go to the Lela Presse website for pdf extracts and ordering info.
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