- Stalag21a during the Second World War -
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If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.
Those known to have served with
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Barton Arthur Leonard.
- Bates George Charles. Gnr.
- Bates George. Gunner
- Boulton Clifford. Fus.
- Chilvers Leslie Christopher. Pte
- Evans Robert. L/Cpl.
- Grimes William. Pte.
- Guijt .
- Helsby Stewart T..
- Jamieson James R.. Pte
- Lilley George Edward.
- Lonsdale Roy Alfred. Pte.
- Lucas William Henry.
- McCormick William. Sgt.
- Relf Frank Leslie.
- Rumsey Charles Herbert William. Pte.
- Skerritt Edgar Maitland. Dvr.
- Soul Cecil Bruce.
- Walker Ray.
- Wilson Fred.
- Wraxhall J. H.. L/Sgt.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Cecil Bruce Soul Kings Royal Rifles Corps (Queen Victoria Rifles)I am doing my family tree and have honoured a few of my family war dead including my uncle, Charles SOUL, signalman, who fell in War. I have just come across my relative in my family tree compiled by Brendon Soul of the Beeb. It says this: 'Cecil Bruce Soul b 29th Dec 1929. Son of George Herbert Soul( Banker) & Florence Emily Soul of 82 Carlton Rd. 1922-29 Wellborough School, Northants. 1937 Mercantile Bank of India Ltd., Calcutta. Taken prisoner Calais, serving with Queen Victoria's Rifles. Stalag XX1 A Germany. Later 1954 Folkestone Directory: 7 Westbourne Gardens, Westbourne Private Hotel and Mr and Mrs Bruce Soul Died 15th april 1991 Malaga Spain. Married Gwendoline Iris Slater - engagement party Ramsgate Theatre - can you tell me any more about my relative please?Hazel Selby-Miler
George Edward LilleyMy grandfather George Edward Lilley was in Stalag XXIA from 1942 to 1945. As he passed on in 1978 and I was only 12 at the time I have little infomation on his life as a prisoner of war, but I do have three years worth of Red Cross newspapers that were sent to my grandmother, while he was in the camp. These contain all sorts of information from the camps all over the Axis-held land, also details on what next of kin can send via the Red Cross (knitting patterns for gloves,hats,socks and scarfs) also recipes for cakes and other food stuffs and how to package and preserve them. Within the papers are also letters home from prisoners in the camps with photgraphs. If any one has any infomation on any one who was in Stalag XXIA with my grandfather it would be nice to share any infomation and photos.Neil Lilley
L/Cpl. Robert "Ianto" Evans 1st Btn. Royal Welch FusiliersFive Lost Years in Captivity
Service at Home and Abroad:
This account was patiently extracted from Robert Evans (Also known as Ianto 10 & Bob Shanghai) by his Brother-in-law, the late Bill Breese (RWF), and later edited and added to by Bob’s youngest Son Cyril Breeze Evans. By this time Bob had reached pensionable age and feelings had mellowed slightly towards his German captors and tormentors. Taking things very slowly, and never pushing the pace, Bill eventually managed to put together as accurate an account as possible of Bob’s experiences before and after what he considered to be his most humiliating surrender to the enemy.
- Home from 01/10/1930 to 08/10/1931
- Gibraltar from 09/10/1931 to 20/10/1934
- China (Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai) from 21/10/1934 to 17/03/1938
- Home from 18/03/1938 to 23/09/1939
- Belgium and France 24/09/1939 to 22/05/1940
- Appointed unpaid Lance Corporal in February1940
- Reported missing believed dead 25/05/1940 to 30/05/1940 Later confirmed as captured at St Omer, near Dunkirk, France 23/05/1940
- Prisoner of War 23/05/1940 to either late1944 or very early1945? Detained at various P.O.W. Camps in Germany and Poland, with the Red Cross Certificate of Detention Records obtained by Bob’s Son showing him to be at Stalag XX1B on 03/06/1940, before being transferred to Stalag XX1A on 20/08/1940
- Escaped during forced march from Poland (late1944 or very early1945?) to Michengrads, Czechoslovakia
- Repatriated Home from Prague 22/05/1945
- Home on Release Leave 02/11/1945 - Class ‘A’ Release 06/03/1946
When asked of his initial reaction to being taken prisoner, he quickly retorted “I cursed myself for falling into the enemy trap. There was I, a regular soldier, trained to fight during wars and with over ten years service, captured and unable to do anything to try and improve what was a very drastic situation. I did eventually however come to terms with my bad luck and realised that there was absolutely nothing I could have done about it”.
Unlike many of his fine comrades, Bob was not to fight with the 1st Battalion RWF during its last moments of heroic defensive action, which earned it the never-ending praise and glory that it deserved. Sporadic firing had brought home the realisation to high-ranking Officers that the 1st RWF had had given its all before fading out of existence at nightfall.
Bob & Ella’s Wedding 7th May 1940
He had been home on leave and got married to Ella when news filtered through of the Panzer blitzkrieg, and of the British and Allied Armies reeling backwards in pandemonium and disarray, their often out-dated arms were seemingly useless against the most modern and best equipped Army in the world.
Returning to France and unable to get to the remnants of his Battalion, he along with many others trying to get to their units, were duly formed into a mixed group of soldiers given the task of trying to halt the approaching Wehrmacht with their seemingly indestructible Tanks. The British Boyd Anti Tank Rifle did no damage to the Panzers, who tore away relentlessly in all directions to surround the more or less defenceless British and Allied soldiers.
Bob and his companions manned concrete bunkers at Saint Omer, near Dunkirk in the vain hope of turning back the determined foe, who pressed onwards regardless of all efforts. Having fought valiantly and with many badly wounded, they decided that to continue fighting from the bunkers would be suicidal for all. They withdrew and joined a convoy of civilian and military vehicles as well as those on foot, who were causing chaos and obstruction. French people were pushing handcarts and prams, or rode on horse-drawn carts with all they had left in the world piled up beside them, making the roads virtually impassable for artillery and supplies.
A British officer came to meet them in a jeep and stopped to question them of the situation up front, as he had to collect his heavy guns. They assured the officer that he may as well turn around for the fighting was dreadful and that he had no hope of retrieving the guns, he was however determined to proceed and drove on towards the front. He soon returned however admitting that it was a lost cause and offering to take three or four of the wounded with him.
One Fusilier with a severe head wound declined the offer deciding to remain with his mates on the march towards the nearest Channel Port. It was later realised that he had felt safer in the company of the two Battalion boxers, Bob and Bill Grimes.
Some time later a French Officer halted his jeep and offered to convey the three mates to the Port, and as they were now tiring and the wounded comrade’s condition gradually deteriorating, they were glad to accept the kind offer from an ally and climbed onto the jeep. Rounding a bend, and running straight into a road block, they were swiftly surrounded by German Soldiers branding revolvers, too late they realised that the French Officer had turned side so as to work as a collaborator for the enemy.
Bill Grimes’ remark of “look at that bastard going back to trap more Britishers” brought on a sickly kind of feeling. Their German captors walked laughingly into a French pub, taking their prisoners with them, but not for a drink! Getting noisier they were ordered outside by one of their Officers, leaving one of the soberer Jerry’s with a sub-machine gun in charge of the prisoners. Bill Grimes, fearless as ever, and ready to take a chance asked Bob which hand he hit the hardest with, and told him to stand on his strongest side, as he himself could hit equally as swift and hard with either hand. Just as they got into position to flatten the guard, they saw a crowd of enemy soldiers coming for them, it was just luck that they hadn’t lashed out, for they would surely have been shot without hesitation had they gone ahead with their plan to escape.
Marched in large columns, they were taken on a long, weary and agonising march to Luxembourg, halting only at night so as to be packed in tight groups into sheds or buildings whilst constantly and carefully guarded. During this march Bob met up again with some of his best Battalion pals such as Bill Jones & Dai Jenkins. Looking down from a hill on a massed crowd of prisoners below, he wondered who was left of the British and their Allies to stop the German war machine from conquering Britain, as they had Holland, Belgium and France.
During the long march, their captors encouraged children to run out and kick them hard in their in their legs or bodies as they trod their weary way. Despite the excruciating pain they refrained from retaliating for the German guards always had their loaded rifles and sub-machine guns at the ready to kill anyone who hit back. The Germans rejoiced in their victories and insisted that Britain would fall before Christmas.
To those taken prisoner during the 1944 and 1945 Second Front battles, and who say that they were treated fairly by old Jerry, Bob explained that the victorious Germans of 1940, who had no doubt whatsoever in their own brainwashed minds that they would conquer the World without any setbacks, were very different to those of 1944 and 1945 who feared that the Allies could eventually rule Germany should their Adolf fail them and the Fatherland. This of course was a thought that had never even entered their minds in the early years of WW2.
Stalag XXA – Unconfirmed, but possibly Bob Evans 3rd from left middle row and Bill Grimes far right back row
Moved from camp to camp and unsure of their eventual fate, they were often famined and miserable. The German Guards varied in their behaviour, some being fair whilst others enjoyed dishing out brutality and degradation, especially to the British ‘Sweinreg’ as they called them. One Guard in particular proved himself to be especially cruel, whom was referred to by Bob and his mates as ‘Old Hooknose’, whilst another Guard named Alfred was quite kind to prisoners, and often spoke to Bob (whom he addressed as Robert) of past times when Jews had mistreated Germans in pre-war days.
Bob being loyal and out spoken, only avoided being placed in detention during 1942, doing spells in the Lolsen (Posen?) Camp Link during all his other years of imprisonment. Taken from Lisa Camp to do detention, he recollects sitting on a narrow gage steam train with German Guards watching him throughout the journey that would end in punishment. Sitting there, he remembers thinking of days as a youngster when he travelled on the Abergynolwyn train in the company of his Father each Monday morning as they travelled to work at the Bryneglwys slate quarry.
Hearing the puffs of the German loco, he wondered what punishment was awaiting him that time. Placed in a cell, he peeped through a knothole and recognised Sergeant Randall in the neighbouring cell. The Sergeant gave him the sad news that a German had shot his mate Bill Grimes through his throat and that he was being treated by camp staff at a make-do camp hospital.
On being released following punishment, Bob slipped away to go and see his mate Bill who was lying in a make-do rough bed still covered in caked blood and unable to talk due to his serious throat wound. He managed to whisper to Bob “it was Old Hooknose that shot me Ianto”. The Germans claimed that God was with them, and had those words engraved on their belts. They taunted their prisoners saying that their intention was to castrate British males and arrange for their SS Soldiers to live with selected British girls, including prisoners wives, so as to bear their children so as to help produce the perfect race that Hitler craved for. They were also told that they would never return home, as they would be kept in Germany to provide free labour to rebuild the homes and other structures that had been devastated by the R.A.F. To be constantly taunted by such intentions was disheartening even to the strongest of heart, especially whilst being deprived of all comforts.
All outward signs seemed to be discouraging for it seemed that the War was turning heavily in favour of the enemy whichever way they cared to look at the situation. Red Cross parcels did not arrive in sufficient quantity so as to support them in their drastic want, neither did they know for some time whether or not their relatives had been informed of their whereabouts, as no mail was arriving at the camp. Some of the German Guards enjoyed throwing crusts of bread into canals or rivers so as to watch the starving prisoners jump into the water to try and retrieve them. They laughed as the hungry men splashed about and struggled, and even fought in the water in an effort to grab even the smallest potion so as to satisfy their craving stomachs.
Bob recalled Guards screaming ‘Rouse, Rouse’, whilst trying to load their prisoners into some lorries, and suddenly recognising the voice of a fellow soldier from his home village of Dinas Mawddwy. Jack, who had been a labourer on a farm called Tan-y- Bwlch, shouted to him “try and get on a lorry for ???? Camp, I hear that news is getting home from there of those who have been captured and still alive”. It is not known whether Bob managed to get to that camp or not, but he did meet up with another Dyfi Valley Soldier, a Welsh Guardsman by the name of John Jones from Maespoeth, Corris.
Later they were herded tightly into a cold and dirty unused factory building or warehouse, where the Guards seemed bent on dishing out more cruelty, and would burst into their midst and select a young soldier and force him to stand in the middle and make him stand to attention with arms above his head. Should his arms drop even a little then severe punishment followed to the sound of German laughter.
Bob remembers a typical occurrence when a poor young Fusilier named Owens, who was almost slumbering on his feet due to the fatigue of long marches, was selected for their cruel game, knowing full well that he didn’t have enough strength left to hold out for long. Another of their captor’s favourite games was to aggravate their prisoners by cupping their hands and shouting as high as they could into their ears. Under normal conditions, one could tolerate such abuse by regarding it as pure stupidity, but being a prisoner who dare not complain or retaliate was a different matter altogether, as the slightest show of resentment saw a loaded rifle being raised to the firing position.
The Welsh Guardsman from Corris, quite understandably, and like many others, was by now showing signs of low spirits and voiced his belief to Bob that neither of them would return to the Dyfi Valley. Bob always strove to say the right thing at the right time to cheer his mate up despite the gloomy outlook, as indeed he did with many other fellow prisoners. Managing to keep both his own and his comrade’s hopes and spirits up, he became known as ‘The Propaganda King’.
Working outside the camp area under the ever-watchful eyes of their Guards, Bob felt the shivering that usually precedes a heavy dose of influenza, and having been ordered to remove overcoats and place them on the fence nearby, he sought the permission of a German equivalent to his own rank of Lance Corporal to wear his due to being unwell. The German hailed his Sergeant Major so as to pass on Bob’s request. Walking over, the Sergeant Major stared at Bob and then hit him hard on the face and ordered him to continue working. Later on Bob asked the Lance Corporal to pass on a message to his Sergeant Major saying that he had initially respected him as someone who like himself was a regular soldier before the War, but said that he had now lost what little respect he had for him following his cowardly attack on a defenceless P.O.W, and furthermore, should he have the guts to get in the ring with him, then he’d get his deserved pasting. Strangely, there was no response from the German N.C.O. indeed he seemed to regret his actions that day and from then on offered Bob much fairer treatment whenever he was in his working party.
The situation improved with the regular arrival of nourishing Red Cross food and clothing parcels, whilst letters from home brought comfort and solace, as well as a greater determination to survive against all efforts to rob them of spirit and dignity. Soon, but not too soon, the noise and sight of passing bombers brought with them a message of hope and the realisation that the tide was turning. The German attitude was also different as the situation was changing in Allied favour, with the guards becoming more tolerant and showing a marked leniency, a sure sign of their growing uncertainty as to who would be victorious.
The guards began praising the accuracy of the British bombers in avoiding the unnecessary death of civilians whenever it was possible, but complained of the indiscriminate use of HE bombs by the Yanks on households and hospitals without an effort to avoid unnecessary loss of lives. Bob grabbed the opportunity to remind the enemy of their indiscriminate destruction of British town and cities such as Liverpool and Coventry, when they too robbed ordinary people of all their possessions as well as killing thousands of innocent civilians. Some prisoners were intentionally placed in compounds in the hope that this would discourage Allied bombing. Some P.O.W’s were indeed killed by British bombs, but this was a practice that was quickly discontinued as the long war drew towards it’s longed for conclusion.
Bob’s impatience, combined with defiance, as well as his readiness to accept any kind of challenge, brought on a decision to try and escape again, following several previous unsuccessful attempts, including one with his mate Bill Grimes. He decided that rather than stay the full course of imprisonment, and having discussed his plan with another old and trusted peacetime comrade; it was decided to make a break for it as soon as the opportunity came their way.
The pal had second thoughts however and decided to wait for release by the advancing Armies, and warned Bob of the grim consequences should they be re-captured. Once he’d made his mind up, Bob wasn’t one to cancel plans and clung on to his original decision to escape. Another prisoner, a sailor named Eric begged to go with him, and as the plan had always been for two to escape, Bob welcomed Eric’s offer of accompanying him.
The un-rewarded courage and kindness of Polish women who risked severe reprisals to push a bit of bread into the hands of the hungry prisoners as they wearily made their way on a long march that was to take them from Poland into Czechoslovakia will never be forgotten. They risked their lives so as to ease the tribulations of captured British soldiers who they never knew and would never meet again. Bob and Eric’s opportunity to escape arose whilst resting from marching; it was a cold and snowy night, with the guards being distracted on purpose by the noisy quarrelling of other prisoners. They failed to notice the two comrades making a careful but speedy getaway.
Creeping up quietly to farmhouse doors, in constant fear of the barking dogs, they listened and tried to decide whether it was the German or Slovak language that was being spoken inside. Deciding that the family in one house they had stopped at were indeed Slovakian, they knocked on the door anxious of their fate when the door eventually opened.
The farmer was understandably reluctant to offer hospitality, as he couldn’t understand their attempts to explain that they were British. Trying to use the word ‘Englander’, they were really struggling to make it understood who they were until Eric raised his sleeve and showed him a tattoo of the Union Jack saying ‘Englander, Englander’.
Michengrads – exact spot where Bob and Eric hid.
The farmer suddenly understood and sympathised with their plight and bid them both to enter his house and made them welcome by giving them food and warmth, whilst a hiding place was found for them. It was only later that the farmer was able to explain that he had originally feared they were escaped Russian P.O.W.’s, as some of his countrymen had helped some Russians before, only to be betrayed by them to the German’s when they were captured. Knowing who had sheltered the Russians, the Germans reacted sharply and violently against the Czechoslovakians and warned them of the consequences of any repetition.
Bob and Eric were taken very good care of and were even allowed inside for the occasional supper with the kind family, as well as the very risky treat of hearing the ‘Nine O’clock News’ and the chiming of Big Ben. The two men’s spirits were raised, as they were kept up to date of the ever-increasing British and Allied victories and of the retreating German Army. A frightening occurrence tested their nerve and reaction one night when a German patrol arrived out of the blue at the farmhouse and entered the house whilst Bob was having supper with the family. The stern German patrol leader asked who “The Master of the house” was, and then asking him to tell him of the family members. Pointing at them all in turn, he explained that Bob was a deaf and dumb living there, and then cunningly, so as to entice them to depart; he asked them if they would like some fresh eggs. The leader jumped at the chance and then ordered his men to leave as he bid goodnight.
It was decided that Bob should work in a Flour Grinding Mill amongst some local workers, and that he should carry on pretending to be deaf and dumb. He was to operate a machine on which a bell tinkled to denote the end of its cycle, but understanding the importance of playing the part of being deaf and dumb to the full, he was to ignore the tinkle and continuously watch the sliding movement of the machine as anyone who was deaf and dumb would have to do. The acting went on without a hitch until one day; familiarity bred the usual contempt, and Bob having turned away from the machine, heard the bell tinkle and immediately turned around to slide the beam backwards so as to reset it. A youth was seen to stop working and look very puzzled at the strange incident he had just witnessed of a deaf and dumb person reacting to the sound of a bell that he couldn’t hear! Others who knew what was going on decided that they couldn’t take any more chances, hence the decision that Bob should work elsewhere for both his and their safety.
He was to work transplanting cauliflower in a plot that bordered a German Army Barracks, and where enemy soldiers drilled close by, but as the Germans would hardly expect an escaped prisoner to be working next to their base, then it was felt to be as safe there as anywhere. He also worked at a cinema, where enemy soldiers came regularly to watch films during off duty hours. As the end of the war approached, a Village School Teacher took Bob and other escapees to a nearby forest, where a hut had been built. This was a comfortable hideout with a fireplace, but one look convinced Bob that it was not the place for him and against the advice of comrades and locals, walked away and decided to return to the kind hearted Joseph Ruta and his family, who welcomed him back, as did the Pravda family who also fed and looked after him. He remained with the Ruta family at Michengrads until the end of the war was announced, at which time he borrowed a bicycle and rode out on the rough track to the forest hideout where the others had remained, to inform them of the Armistice and duly brought back a comrade to the happy village on the bar of the bicycle, whilst the others walked and ran to the village where both villagers and escaped prisoners celebrated joyously together.
Prior to the end of the war Bob had noticed trainloads of German troops returning from the Russian Front, many suffering from frostbite as a result of the severe winter, as well as battle wounds. The reasonably able bodied soldiers who had up till then carried out camp guard duties were sent to the Russian Front, whilst the medically unfit men took over their duties at the P.O.W camps.
Taken up a hill by friends following the Armistice, he was shown columns of German soldiers being marched into captivity by Russian soldiers, and despite the rough treatment he had received; he felt pity for his old enemy, for he understood their feelings as they were urged on relentlessly by their captors. He knew of how they would be wondering what fate lay in store for them and the pain of thinking of their families back home as they plodded on towards an unknown destination and fate.
Instructions were soon issued for all escaped P.O.W.s to report to a given destination, and following considerable questioning, they were then taken to Prague from where they were flown home to Britain. Following kitting up and the issue of train warrants, they were finally on their way to their respective homes.
Arriving home to face other problems, Bob was given a hero’s welcome by the people of his home village of Dinas Mawddwy, from where he had gone to volunteer for Army Service back in 1930. Driven to Dinas Railway Station by a specially arranged car, he was to be towed past the Great War memorial to the village by a team of local men as a special honour. Fixing ropes to the car bumper he was hauled past the familiar faces of folk who had rejoiced in the knowledge that he was free and in fair condition considering his long imprisonment.
John, his Father was standing on the doorway of his home and Bob admitted to finding a tear trickling down his cheek on seeing him standing there to greet him home. Next he heard the voice of ex First World War veteran, Simon Jones address him with a well-meant welcome home speech on behalf of the local community. “I have been some kind of soldier myself during the last war” he said, “and I would like to think that I know what a good soldier should look like, and here in Bob we have a real soldier”. Returning to army life after leave, he was unable to settle down again to good soldiering with the Royal Welch Fusiliers as he had done at Wrexham, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai, as well as in Belgium and France prior to capture in 1940. Five years of P.O.W. life had taken its toll and altered his outlook on life. He found, much to his dismay that his staunch peacetime pals had altered considerably in their ways and attitude. Sent to 21 R.A.F. Holding Battalion at Newtown, Montgomeryshire, he met Andy Nolan, one of his finest peacetime friends. On addressing him as Andy, he was reminded that those times had passed them by, and pointing to his crowned sleeve told Bob that he was actually conversing with Company Sergeant Major Nolan, not Andy. Bob understood and respected his reason for saying this, but nevertheless felt saddened that those happy days before the war when they shared the same knife and spoon at mealtimes were seemingly gone and forgotten. A young Lance Corporal told him to tidy up his bed or he would place him on report to the Provost Sergeant. Told to do as he bloody well chose, the young Lance Corporal strode out to fetch the Provost, who duly marched in to arrest the stubborn culprit who refused to obey orders, the Provost came face to face with Bob, who he had known as Ianto 10 when soldiering in Gibraltar and China in the thirties, he ordered the inexperienced N.C.O. not to heed such minor matters, and then went on to enjoy reminiscing of the old days with Bob, his old comrade, before striding back to play hell with other defaulters inside the Guardroom. Ignoring the pleas of good old comrades like Griley, Tiger Watts, and others to re-join for a further six years so as to complete his 21 years (pontoon) in order to be eligible for long service pension, Bob chose to accept his release and become a council worker with Merionethshire County Council. The contact with his saviours in Czechoslovakia was maintained for a while with Bob sending parcels of food items, which were practically unobtainable there since the time of his release. Joseph Ruta and his good family voiced their fondness and great admiration for him in their letters, and mentioned the times when Bob was busy transplanting Caulis right by the German soldiers, and of when he went through the streets on a bike to fetch bread from some friends of theirs at the bakery who knew of his escape. Unfortunately, not being fluent in English, and even less so in written English, they sent letters in their own language.The then Liberal M.P. Emrys Roberts managed to find someone who was willing to translate the letters, and it was with much regret that Bob had to turn down Joseph’s kind invitation in one letter to return to Michengrads for his daughter’s wedding.
Most regrettably, the contact with this fine family was later broken, and whilst efforts were made in 1983 to re-establish contact with the Ruta family, these were unfortunately in vain. Joseph Ruta is surely reaping his heavenly rewards by now, but younger family members, possibly including his daughter Maluska Rutova, are somewhere to be found. The Pravda Family at Michengrads also helped save Bob and Eric’s lives by risking their own lives by feeding them whilst they hid from the enemy, and again they are owed a huge dept that can never be repaid.
If anyone knew my late father or indeed anyone else mentioned in this account and would like to receive copies of these photos and other Army photos from the early thirties onward, then please do contact me.Cyril Evans
Pte. William Grimes Royal Welch FusiliersBill Grimes was shot through the throat whilst trying to escape from a POW Camp.Cyril Evans
L/Sgt. J. H. Wraxhall Royal Army Service CorpsJ Wraxhall was captured and sent to Stalag XXIA then was moved in 1942 to Stalag XXID.2Josh
Fus. Clifford BoultonClifford was my mums cousin and was a pow in Stalag XXIA I have recently seen a postcard he sent to my Nan and Grandad on 7th June 1942. in it he thanks them for sending him woodbines and wishes uncle Joe and Winnie would start shaping up as he has been a guest of Adolf for long enough. Joe and Winnie are apparently Stalin and Churchill. My mum seems to remember that he tried to escape and was hanging under a bridge whilst the Germans were above treading on his hands. Does anyone know anything about Clifford and where he may have been sent when the camp closed in 1943?Phil Cross
Dvr. Edgar Maitland Skerritt Royal Army Service CorpsMy step father, Maitland Skerritt, was a POW in Stalag 21A near Schildberg. He would never talk about his experiences as I think they were pretty terrible. All I know about his experinces is a newspaper cutting from The Recorder on the 27th of April 1945 reporting his escape from a column of POW's who were being marched from a working camp as the Americans advanced. He and 2 others rolled down a slope & escaped into woods. After a 10 day trek they found the American lines.
He has been captured at St Valery in 1940 and marched 350 miles through France, Belgium and Holland evetually arriving in the camp in Poland. He spend 5 years in the POW camp & sadly the privations led to his early death aged 51. I do have a small address book of his which I think has names & addreses of some of his army mates.Jane Bowden
Arthur Leonard BartonMy Uncle Leon Barton was a prisoner in Stalag XXIA (Gefangennummer 3387) in Thorn, Poland in 1942 when he was repatriated. He was ill and, as far as I know, went into a mental hospital and it seems he was abandoned by the family. I would love to know if anyone knows what happened to him or can tell me what he was like and any stories. It seems awful to think how much he suffered and then the stigma of mental illness meant he was forgotten about. I hope that one day he got well and managed to find a new and happier life somewhere.
I have a postcard he sent to my mother on May 19th 1942 and a photo taken on repatriation with him being carried out of camp on a stretcher. His full name is Arthur Leonard Barton but he signed mum's postcard: L McLeon-Barton. Not sure why. I'd appreciate any help to find out more.Veronica George
Pte. Roy Alfred Lonsdale 1/7 Btn. Middlesex RegimentPrivate 6846521 - Roy Alfred Lonsdale served with the 1st Kensington's and was held as POW No 6199 in Stalag 8b, Stalag 21a & Stalag 21d. Dad never talked much about that part of his life spent as a POW in Poland. On the few occasions that he did it made him very upset and depressed. He died in 1996. After my mother died I found a number of items that related to my father’s time as a POW. These included various documents, photographs and his "Soldier's Service and Pay Book", along with a small list of names and addresses.
He was required to present himself for military training on Saturday the 15th July 1939 in Winchester. Since leaving school he had first been a pantry boy and then a steward on the railway, working on the "Coronation" from Kings Cross, London to Waverley, Edinburgh. He had obviously worked the return journey from Edinburgh on Friday 14th because we have a menu with that date. What the chain of events from that day are I do not know.
What I do know is that Dad was taken prisoner at St Valéry on June 12th 1940, but have no details about his capture. The "Register Form For Recovered Allied Prisoners Of War" states that he was evacuated by the Americans on the 29th April 1945. The document states last prison Stalag VIIIB how long 4 years 11 mths, previous camp Stalag XXID. What I am confused about is where he was and when he was there. The paperwork in my possession says that his last prison camp was "Stalag VIIIB" and that he was there for 4 years 11 months and that previous to that he had been at "Stalag XXlD" but he had photographs from "Stalag XXlA" he was obviously at Stalag XXIA on July 7th 1942 because a "Next of Kin parcel card" of that date which he has signed shows his camp address as Stalag XXIA Germany. Page 4 of his service book lists the places he was taken to from his capture at St Valéry on June 12th 1940 until his arrival at Shulin? Poland on July 8th. Then some movements up to January 29th 1941.
The details that I have seem to point to the fact that dad was in Stalag XXIA for some considerable time and Stalag VIIIB for a short period of time but there are also a few photographs that relate to Stalag XXID. I'm not certain when he was at Stalag XXID or how I would find out these details. I have an article dad sent to a local paper in Dec 1961 about how the Germans tricked them into working extra hours and days. If anybody can add any other information please contact me.Michael Lonsdale
Ray Walker Royal Army Medical Corps5th February 1945
At the time of writing this, I am listening to Artillery fire and bombing near this camp known as Stalag 344. About five thousand of us are awaiting our release by Russian troops. These are memories of my captivity. On May 29th 1940, we were in position near a river "somewhere north of Ypres". After a day of excitement and peril, beginning at approximately 7.00 a.m. with our billet, a barn, being set on fire by Jerry, I was captured. On our way back to German H.Q. we picked up three of our chaps who were wounded, and left then at a German R.A.P. After that, we who were fit marched back under guard to a house and stayed the night in the garden. It was cold and we were soon wet through with dew. Next day we moved on and at night reached Rosalere having covered about 45 kilometres. Our billet was a convent school. During the night the RAF bombed the town but missed us. From there we moved on another 38 kilos to a small place I do not know by name. Four days we stayed there in a small school playground. My 25th birthday was spent in this place. On June 4th we moved on another 41 kilos to Coudenarde. After being paraded round the town we were put in an old Belgian army barracks where we stopped for 3 days, most of the time queued up for food. There were thousands of British and French mixed, up. We were to curse the French fluently from then on. Whenever we moved from then on, the French were put in front. They carried so much kit - food and clothing - that they could not keep up with the British who had nothing. We saw these !*! sitting by the roadside eating while we starved and marched on. As the march progressed, the French straggled out more and more, so at each fresh start - mostly daily occurrences they were given longer starts on the British.
On June 7th, we left Coudenarde and marched 35 kilos to Edingem, where we arrived at 11 p.m. On the road jerry guards stopped the British for over two hours while the French straggled on ahead. Then, in threes we were told to march on. One of the Germans said "Sing Tommy", so we sang "Tipperary" and others of the old favourites. To show we weren't too down hearted we sang "Hang out our Washing on the Siegfried Line"; as we came to the field where we were to spend the next couple of days. The Germans here didn't see eye to eye with us and bashed into us with big sticks yelling and raving. Because we couldn't understand then, they got real mad. June 8th; word came out to us that we could write a letter from here - only a short one. This I believe got home. In a full view of a road, three of us had a rough strip-down wash in a pint and a half of water. It felt good.
Sunday June 9th: We left this spot and hiked onward. 40 Kilos we went that day to a place I haven't the name of. Somewhere I slipped up as I usually wrote the names and distances as a destination became apparent en route. At this place we were put into an old mill of some kind. Textile weaving I believe. In the yard we crowded, and at the end nearest the building were three field cookers, with Belgian Red Cross workers, issuing soup, not much, but it was good to our hungry bellies. We filed through and then on to the building to "grab" ourselves a spot on which to sleep. As we left here on June 10th, I wrote down what I thought was the name of the town from a railway signal box. Seeing it several times afterwards on other boxes I knew I was wrong. It may have meant north, South, East or West but it wasn't the name of town. 32 Kilos onward - not 'half-a-league' - we stopped at a town named WAVRE. On the way we passed through HAL and WATERLOO. Our route was skirting us round BRUSSELS. All this time we were living on what food we could get here and there from people in villages and towns we passed through. The Germans seemed to have no organisation to deal with P.O.W. As my fellow Stretcher-Bearer and myself [sic] were keeping with our Sgt. Major, who by this time was feeling "groggy", we didn't get much food. Those "froggies" in front didn't leave much for our boys either. The next place - Tienen, carried us towards Germany another 43 Kilos. At this place we all got some soup and rice as we went into field. It was midnight before I was "served'. This was June 11th. On the 12th we had the shortest march of the lot - 18 Kilos to St.Trudien. As we entered this place, people lined the streets to see us. Not to cheer but to sympathise - they were Belgians. We did manage to get a few lumps of sugar, two small bars of chocolate and a macaroon, which we shared. From here we went to Tongeren, 21 Kilos 'up the road'. All the places we passed showed signs of bombing or shelling. Some of the big towns were severely damaged.
June 14th, we left 'Tongeren and soon after crossed the Dutch border. About 2.00 p.m. we reached our camp on the outskirts of Maastricht, after a 30 Kilo march. 6.00 p.m. a 2/Lt came over and said all Medical Corps and S.B's were to keep separate, if the German doctor had time to see our pay books and pass us; there was a chance of us going home from there. Next morning we moved out with the rest and got 1/5 of a loaf and a piece of raw pork fat. Holland- the part we saw - greatly impressed us a clean, nice place after what we had seen in Belgium. On the 15th we marched our last 30 Kilos. Crossing through Heerlen, the Dutch Red Cross had tables in the street and as we went past, we got something from them. I got a small packet of sweets a slice of bread and a small bun. We were all grateful. The end of that march was a railway siding 2 Kilos in Germany at a small place named Palensberg. We knew we were in Germany alright, as every house was hung with a Swastika flag. On this siding, there were some German nurses who treated blistered feet and dressed one or two minor wounds. A German officer of some sort wanted the brass band harp badge I wore on my tunic sleeve. When it was explained - not truthfully I am afraid - that it was a souvenir from my dead comrade, he seemed pretty decent and told me to keep it, so I promptly took it down and put it away in an inside pocket. Out of sight out of mind.
Later we were put 50 in a cattle truck and taken away. All night we travelled and arrived next day at a place like a level crossing. From this point we marched on a very rough track about 3 miles to a camp, only British were on this party, as the French were separated at Palensberg - (loud cheers under breath). This camp proved to be only a transit camp, so, arriving on June 16th we left on the 19th. Three days on a train brought us to the place where this is being written - Lamsdorf in Upper Silesia. (Stalag VIII B) Friday June 21st was that fateful day. Here we were registered and given a German field card to send home the "glad" news, on this, the phrase "I am lightly wounded" did not get crossed out and caused mother a lot of unnecessary worry.
Now started a "grand" time for us. We were fed on very watery soup, with 3 or 4 potatoes separate, for dinner. About 5.00 p.m. we got 1/5 of a loaf of bread about 10 ozs - with a very, very small portion of margarine and jam. After this we had to do from 8.30 to 10.00 a.m. and 5.00 6.00 p.m. Physical Training. When not on this we were either hunting LICE or resting in any place we could outside. Every time you stood up, you suffered from a "black-out' and then "spots before the eyes". This state of affairs, together with dysentery lasted for a long time. That winter was very severe and we had no warm clothing, no great coats and only two blankets. They were black days. A weekly paper, in English was issued to us, telling us the news - German version. They had done everything to us. Sunk our Navy three times over and practically sunk England. Sane chaps took it to heart and got real down hearted. We started a choir and sang four-part harmony. One chap produced a Saxophone he had carried from France. With this going, we got an hours singing at night during the good weather, instead of P.T.. It was impossible to make anyone realise what really happened on that March and in the following years of captivity. Many times the Germans tried to break our spirits. In some individual cases they succeeded, but on the whole, they failed.
By Christmas 1940, with one or two piano accordions and several mouth organs, we raised an Orchestra and produced "Snow White and the Seven 'Twerps", There is no need to state where this was taken from. That Christmas seems to have been lucky as on December 24th we received our first Red Cross Food Parcel and on the 27th I had my first letter from England. It was from my mate and his wife. Mother’s first letter came about three weeks later.
I was recognised as a person protected by the Geneva Convention and on April 2nd, 1941 went to another camp, (Stalag XX1 A), at Schildberg, which was 18 Kilos over the Polish border, passing through Oppeen and Kreuzberg on the way. This camp seemed like heaven after the one we had left. Here the doctor would only accept R.A.M.C. men, as the job we went to take on was working in hospitals. So when the camp had a 'clear out' on April 10th, ten of our party of twenty six moved on. About 200 men were in this party, which went on to Woolstien (Stalag XXI C/H). This was a French camp and we seemed unwanted guests. We stayed here for eight days and the "protected" men had a hard job to keep out of going on the pleas-ant job of canal digging. This we managed at the last minute without the aid of the R.S.M. in charge. 120 men left us on the 17th and we other 80 or so, moved next day to Sudhof, (Stalag XXI C/Z later XXI E), which is 3 Kilos out-side Gratz. This had been a French camp but was being taken over by British P.O.W. Towards the end of May we had a lot of snow and bitterly cold weather. About this time the remaining French left us. The Medical Orderlies were good chaps and so were the two doctors and the dentist. Us chaps, who were taking over the hospital, got up a farewell party, which consisted of a feed and afterwards some singing. This was broken up by a German Corporal assisted by two guards with rifles and fixed bayonets. When he first came in - without guards - we took no notice but carried on singing. The second time he didn't argue. Late next day, we learned that the senior French doctor had been fined 50 Riechmarks £3-6-8 for some alleged offence. We knew it was in connection with our party, so we raised the money to repay him. He declined the money and told us it was well worth that amount for so enjoyable an evening, so everyone was satisfied and happy. In the meantime a Saxophone, Clarinet, Trumpet, String Bass, Trombone and Bass Drum had come to light. A piano was in a small concert hall, so our "Orchestra" was started. The Saxophonist and Clarinet player were Army Bandsmen and quite good. Our Trumpet player was fairly good, too, but the chap who took the Trombone Well! X?. Later, this was taken over by a chap who did know a little about it. The pianist played by ear and not music. For a Side Drum - the small one - we had a 2Olb jam tin turned upside down with a bunch of keys jangling on the bottom. The String Bass player was myself - least said soonest forgotten.
On June 22nd we heard Russia hail come in on our side. That morning I was told to report to the Commandants Office. Wondering what was wrong, I went. A new addition had arrived. An 80 Bass Accordion. He wanted to know if this was a good instrument and I played what I could remember of "Black Eyes" for him as a test. From then on I took the Accordion - not that I was good and another chap took the Bass. The Commandant was proud of the band, and thereafter, when anyone came to the camp, we were sent for post haste to play something. He got us music in the form of German dance arrangements.
In May, just before the French left, we put on our first Variety show and called it "Spring is in the Air" No.1, that afternoon it snowed. Soon after the French left two British Medical Officers arrived. We spent a' good summer in Sudhof camp. October brought rumours of our camp becoming Russian and the British were leaving. Hospital staff and doctors stopping. We were to stay until February 1942. However, they changed that and we left on November 2nd 1941 to return to Schildberg. I went practically straight into the Orchestra there, on a Baritone, playing bass parts. Soon after the New Year of 1942, a party of Repats - back from Rouen - joined our Stalag and I met many chaps I knew.
Whilst at Gratz, I had written for confirmation of my being a Stretcher Bearer protected under the Geneva Convention. In February the answer came that Records Office knew nothing of my being a S.B. Of course, I was promptly crossed off the rolls by the Germans. That made me elligible for work at anything, anywhere. Being in the orchestra saved me. I got a small job in the camp. A three valved Euphonium came soon after this, so I took that over in place of the Baritone. The orchestra had grown from 18 to 40 strong and it gave many concerts, which were greatly appreciated. Just before Christmas, we bought a String Bass and knowing something about it, I took that on. It was difficult at first, as I had only done dance work with the String Bass, but with plenty of practice, I made myself fairly good.
In March 1943, Stalag XXI A closed down. The fit men went on three working parties. My party was last to leave and went to Krotoschin and became No.14 attached to Stalag XXI D. This was the nearest I ever got to breaking my hope that I would never have to work for Germany. We went to Krotoschin on Monday 29th March 1943 and we were given a week to 'settle down'. On Thursday we were taken out to "view the job". It was "miles from anywhere". No house or person in sight. In places it was ankle deep with water - very marshy. The contractor and surveyor were rank jews. The former handed out shovels saying,' "Ein uhr schnell arbeit" meaning "One hours quick work". He got it - I don't think. Then a real heavy snow storm came on. What a day! April 1st. Friday 2nd was spent in thinking up ways of getting off the party and back to main camp. Mine came on Saturday the 3rd, in the form of a recognition paper, making me again a protected person. I stopped on the job as medical orderly and went out each day with the workers. My main job, other than first aid, was heating up the 9 a.m. drinks, which chaps took out in beer bottles.
In September thirteen unrecognised medicals were called in to join the Repats. For some reason they missed it but went in May 1944. My chum went on that. We had many disputes with the Germans over the amount of work that should be done. More often than not we got our own way. For three days we stayed out from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. They said we had to do 27 trains of earth, or stop there until we had. The lads did 12, which was 3 less than we had done before. They cut it to 18 - we still "kicked", 15 was our number. In the end, the guards "gave" us 1 and the foreman gave us 2 and we did our 15. Everyone was satisfied. This party was billeted beyond a German barracks, of which there were three in the town. On May 30th 1944 we moved into Stalag XXI D Posen. The camp there was an old fort, named Foert Rauch. The day before this the RAF had bombed Posen and there was plenty of damage to be seen. Within a week I got a job in the Medical Inspection Room doing dressings etc. Whilst in this camp I managed to do quite a bit of swimming.
Posen broke up on August 17th and we went to Tescgen (Stalag VIII B), but out of 890, they could only take 500, so, with the remainder, I travelled on and got back to Lamsdorf, (now STALAG 344) on August 20th 1944. This camp seemed to have got worse during my absence. Several days we saw our bombers go over to bomb Oppeln and Blechammer. They always used our camp as a turning point.
On Monday, 22nd January 1945 the evacuation of this camp began. My block was due to go on the 23rd. We did actually line up on the road, but the guards marched off without us. This was now February 10th, and we are hourly expecting Russian troops to arrive. For days we have listened to the gun fire, shelling and bombing, which is moving past us in the North West. We get the news twice a day from a set, somewhere in the camp. Now, like all the others I say "Come on Joe"! This is 4 years and 9 months after my capture. I hope to celebrate the fifth anniversary in England, if not at home.
Sunday 11th February 1945 Today things are quiet. There have been several "strafing" attacks on the aero-drome close by, by Russian fighters. Germans have declared this area to be in a state of siege.
Monday 12th February 1945 Early this morning, 8.00 a.m. a lone Russian bomber came over and bombed the aerodrome. The A. A. send plenty of stuff up, but did not seem to hit any planes. German fighters seem to be elsewhere when 'Joe's boys' came over. Fairly heavy artillery fire in W. & N.W.
Tuesday 13th February 1945 Bad weather. Slight snow. Not much sound of activity.
Wednesday 14th February 1945 Early this morning - approximately 4.30 a.m. Heavy artillery from N.W. and very close. Most probably German artillery shelling Russian bridge head over the River Oder. No further activity. Plenty of rumours regarding a move. Can't see where Germans can move us, as we are virtually surrounded. Thursday 15th February 1945
More heavy shelling heard again. Air attacks also continue on air-field, but no German aircraft to be seen.
Friday 16 February 1945 Early morning, a Russian tank came up to the camp perimeter and the commander spoke English. He said the Russians would rescue us in the next few days.
17th February 1945 Sounds of fighting now seem to be moving in a direction indicating the Germans are retreating.
Sunday 18th February 1945 We are expecting the Russian forces at any time now.
Completed From Memory 28/5/81: On 19th February 1945, German guards suddenly appeared in the camp and said we had one hour to pack our things to move. Everyone was astounded that they planned to move us. There was only a single line railway in the area so we thought it was madness to use this. However, we were taken to the local station, and put 53 to a cattle truck. Where we were off to no-one knew. Twelve days we spent on this journey. During this time we saw a great number of trains filled with German civilians just trying to get away from the fighting. On many occasions we were stopped for air-raids and had to sweat it out hoping that we weren't attacked. The guards always fled to a safe distance. Our luck held. . A train load of P.O.W. following us was shot up, having some killed and wounded. Anything on the railways was a fair target for the Allied Air Forces. Our "piece de resistance" while on the journey was going to bed. Starting at one end of the truck, one chap would lie down and wrap his blankets round him, then another chap would do the same, only in a head to toe position, number 3 would follow the same way as the first chap and number 4 the same as number 2 and so on. The whole 53 managed to fit in in this manner. Getting up was in the reverse order.
On 3rd March 1945 we arrived at a small place called Hammelburg. After we left the train, there was a hard march over a steep hill to a camp. After our lack of exercise many rests had to be made before we got to the camp. Hammelburg is not far from Sweinfurt. The air-raid warnings were almost continuous here.
It was whilst in this camp that one 'day we were startled to hear a commotion from a nearby officers POW camp. Later, some new American POW's were brought in and we learned that General George Patton had sent tanks some 50 miles forward, to rescue his son-in-law from the Oflag. The tanks had run short of petrol and so the petrol was siphoned from half of them to allow the others to escape. It was during our stay at this camp that the "great escape" took place. This came about in the following manner. One day word got round the camp that the Germans were going to take the British prisoners out, to march on the roads. This was a ploy to stop the Allies Air Forces from strafing the retreating columns using the roads.
Early the next morning, before the "round-up" was due, holes appeared in the barbed wire fences, and streams of men could be seen heading for nearby woods, carrying all their possessions in bundles. I and two others thought we had a good hide-out - in an empty sentry post on the perimeter of the camp. After about two hours, we had an awful fright when we saw a German N.C.O coming towards our hiding place. This is it, we thought. Fortunately - his attention was caught by one of the large holes, and he went through this, back into the camp. Another attempt was made later, and on this occasion, I managed to evade the guards by being hidden by Italian prisoners in their hut. When the guards came, all lights (home-made wicks in grease) were blown out and everyone pro-tested so hard that there were no British in the hut, that the guards were convinced and left.
The camp was eventually taken over by the U.S. forces on 11th April 1945. We were flown home on 14th April.Ray Walker
Stewart T. HelsbyMy cousin in the USA sent me a photo of Stewart T Helsby and friends taken in Stalag XX1A. The address on the photo is Oflag 64 Z Germany. This photo was sent to my cousin's mother Miss J Sherman, High St., Little Bedwyn, Marlborough, Wiltshire. We were wondering who this person was. Can anybody help?Doreen Molloy
Sgt. William McCormick Royal ArtilleryLooking through my late mother's letters, I found a few postcards sent to her from Stalag 383 and XXIA from her uncle, Sgt. William McCormick. The cards from XXIA are dated September 1941 to June 1942. The cards from 383 are dated August 1943 and November 1944. I know that Sgt. McCormick received a Gallantry Award, but I don't know which one.
2976691 Sgt William McCormick served with the Royal (Field) Artillery during WW2 and was a Prisoner of War for most of the war years. POW Numbers Stalag XXIA and Stalag 383 5209 (598)Hohenfels, Rhineland-Palatinate.Ian Forshaw
Gnr. George Charles Bates 2nd Search Light Regiment Royal ArtilleryMy father George Bates was captured near Frevent on 20th May 1940 as the German spearhead advanced towards the coast. He arrived at Stalag XXB via XXIA, XXIB and XXIC on 14th June 1941. Dad spent much of his time working on a farm at Workcamp 299 (later re-numbered Workcamp 34) at Wesseln, which I understand is now known as Lelkowo. I have a photo of dad with his fellow prisoners on the farm and another of the farm itself which was taken by a local Polish man.
Dad took part in the long march in the winter of 1945 and was eventually liberated by the Americans and flown home to England from Reims to Ford Aerodrome by Lancaster flown by a mixed English and Canadian aircrew on 10th May 1945. There is a photo of the Lancaster given to my dad by the crew and signed on the back. If anyone recognises any of the men in the photo and would like a copy or has any information about the farm please let me know.David Bates
Pte Leslie Christopher Chilvers East Surrey RegimentLeslie Chilvers, the son of Herbert George Chilvers and Anne Elizabeth Chilvers (nee Tindall), was born at Fulham, London, on 4th December 1918. He was baptised into the Roman Catholic faith, but did not follow it. His paternal grandparents came from Essex and his maternal grandfather was an Irish soldier. Leslie was the youngest of four children born at about five year intervals. The children were Herbert, Reginald, Ivy and Leslie.
Leslie was called up for military service in 1940 and was drafted into the East Surrey Regiment. After only three weeks training he was sent to France. Following the complete abandonment of a large area by French troops Leslie was almost immediately involved in fighting a rearguard action in company with a number of other young similarly semi-trained and poorly armed raw recruits from his regiment. Together with men of the 51st Highland Division these young soldiers with only their rifles, a few Bren guns and very little ammunition were ordered to hold the mighty German Army Group B.
Spearheaded by General Kleist’s Panzar Division, the German Army struck from the World War I battleground of the Somme. Smashing through the Tenth French Army the Germans reached the Seine River west of Paris on June 9 and then turned westward to pin the IX French Corps, the British 51st Highland Division and the men of the East Surreys against the sea at Valery-en-Caux. These two groups of soldiers constituted one of the few British Expeditionary Force elements still fighting in France. An attempt was made to evacuate them by sea from the port of St. Valery-en-Caux in a similar manner to the evacuation at Dunkirk only 12 days earlier. Unfortunately, this proved to be a very difficult task although 3000 men were taken off. After some very fierce fighting, the small remaining group of 251 men from the East Surreys were taken prisoner on the 12th June, 1940, together with over 5000 men from the 51st Highland Division.
It is interesting to note that in September 1944, the town of St. Valery where Leslie was taken prisoner, was liberated by members of the 51st Highland Division and years later a pipe band tune called “The Heroes of St. Valery” was written for the 51st Division Pipe Band to commemorate the stand taken by the soldiers in that area in June 1940. However, it is very doubtful whether Leslie was aware of this piece of music and even if he did know about it, he would not have considered himself a hero; although this may very well have been the case.
Following his capture at St. Valery Leslie spent the next four years in a prisoner of war camp (Stalag 21a) in Poland, but in 1944/45 he was force-marched ahead of the advancing allied forces over a mountain range for about one thousand miles. Many of Leslie’s comrades died during this march. Those who survived grubbed around in frozen fields for remnants of root crops and Leslie recalled eating a dog’s dinner found outside a farmhouse door because of starvation. For the rest of his life Leslie had scars on his fingers where tubes were inserted to draw off the fluid created by malnutrition in the prisoner of war camps.
Before being conscripted into the army Leslie had been employed as a trainee French Polisher with Lyons (the famous teashop company) but the position was not held open for him. Therefore, after his demobilisation he became a house painter and decorator. Due to the privations that he suffered during his period as a prisoner of war, Leslie had a very retiring personality and suffered from a considerable inferiority complex; both of which made it very difficult for him to mix with people. His wartime experiences also made it hard for Leslie to settle in one place for very long and it was only when he and his wife Penny moved to Poole that he became more contented. However, Leslie was quite a talented artist, both in oil paints and with pencil and during his period as a prisoner of war he earned extra cigarettes, etc., by producing illustrated cards for the other prisoners to send home. From about 1970, Leslie suffered a number of health problems including; coronary conditions, angina, vertigo and phlebitis and was eventually forced to retire from paid employment because of ill health. Although he was able to fill his first years of retirement with gardening, walking in the Dorset countryside etc, Leslie was later forced to curtail these pastimes because of his declining health. When a form of dementia was added to his problems causing him to become quite childlike and to become incontinent Leslie was admitted to Wareham Hospital where he passed away on 14th July 1995.Ron Penn
Frank Leslie Relf Royal FusiliersMy father Frank Relf served with the Royal Field Artillery in France and Salonica during WW1.
He signed on for WW2 at Mitcham Road Barracks, Croydon on 7th December 1939 and was drafted to Royal Fusiliers. He was captured at the defence of Calais in May 1940. He was interred at 1157 Stalag XX1B 7284 Stalag XX1A XX1D Stalag XX1C/H. His last camp was V111B before repatriation from Goteborg on the 16 October 1943. On arrival in the UK he was admitted to the Queen Alexander Hospital at Cosham Hampshire as a Tommy Blue for medical services. He died in 1971 aged 79.John David Relf
Fred "Tug" Wilson Inniskilling FusiliersMy grandfather, Fred Wilson fought at Dunkirk for the Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was captured and taken to Stallag XX1. At first, his family got the 'missing in action' telegram and rumours were abound that he had got away or been shot while crossing a river, but they later heard that he was a POW. After a couple of escape attempts, he was sent out to work on a farm. He enjoyed this work. He often recalled the horrific walk to Germany towards the end of the war and the time when he stopped to take the boots off a dead German because they were in better shape than his own and being threatened by a German soldier. I would love to hear from anyone who knew of him, he was a rogue with a great sense of humour.Joanna Fyffe
William Henry Lucas Cheshire Rgt.My father, William Henry Lucas, served in the Cheshire Regiment during WWII. He joined the Manchester Regiment in 1926, serving in Germany, India and Egypt before war broke out. He was taken prisoner at Boulogne on 24th May 1940. His POW number was 2539. The POW camps he was in were Stalag XXIb in 1940, Stalag XXIa in 1941, XXId in 1941, XXIc, XIIb and Stalag 344. My father returned home at the end of the war and was medically discharged after serving five years in the camps. Like lots of others, he would never talk about what it was like. He passed away in 1974.John B Lucas
Pte James R. Jamieson Royal ScotsMy grandfather was marched to Stalag 21A (Schildberg) after he was captured at Dunkirk. His POW number was 4282.Elliot Maison
GuijtMy grandfather was in Stalag XXIA. He survived the war and died in 1968.Ron Guijt
Gunner George Bates 2nd Searchlight Royal ArtilleryMy father, Gunner G C Bates, was captured near Frevent on 20th May 1940 as the German spearhead advanced towards the coast. He arrived at Stalag XXB via XXIA, XXIB AND XXIC on 14 June 1941.
Dad spent much of his time working on a farm at Workcamp 299/34(Old No/New No)at Wesseln, which I understand is in two possible locations, one near Elbing and the other near what is now Lelkowo. I have a photo of dad with his fellow prisoners on the farm and another of the farm itself which was taken by a local Polish man.
Dad took part in the Long March in the winter of 1945 and was eventually liberated by the Americans and flown home to England from Reims to Ford Aerodrome by Lancaster flown by a mixed English/Canadian aircrew on 10th May 1945. There is a photo of the Lancaster given to my dad by the crew and signed on the back. If anyone recognises any of the men in the photo and would like a copy or has any information about the farm please feel free to email me.David Bates
Pte. Charles Herbert William Rumsey Royal Sussex RegimentCharles Rumsey was wounded and captured in France. He was sent to Stalag XX1A in Schilberg, and moved to Oflag XX1D 64Z. He suffered physical and mental abuse which would effect his whole life. Charles died in St Charles Hospital, Westminster, with his brother Jack and niece Eithne by his side.Chris
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