- Royal Warwickshire Regiment during the Second World War -
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Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Royal Warwickshire Regiment 1st Btn
- Royal Warwickshire Regiment 2nd
- Royal Warwickshire Regiment 7th Btn
- Royal Warwickshire Regiment 8th Btn
- Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 13th Btn
- Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 70th Btn
- Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 2/7th Btn
12th Jun 1940 Massacre
1st Jun 1940 In Action
10th May 1942 Training
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
Royal Warwickshire Regiment
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Adams R A. Sgt. (d.9th May 1945)
- Astbury Harold. L/Cpl.
- Bailey Edward. Sgt.
- Bengough Norman John. Pte.
- Edwards Ron.
- Goodliffe Michael. 2nd Lt.
- Holmes K.G..
- Jones Leslie William.
- Kendrick John.
- Leighfield James Lewis. Pte.
- Medley-Smith Bernard Ewart. Pte.
- Palmer Derek Stephen. Pte.
- Pickering Gilbert. Pte.
- Smith George Charles. Cpl.
- Wright Rupert Ainsley. Pte.
- Wright Rupert Aynsley.
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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There are 4 pages in our library tagged Royal Warwickshire Regiment These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.
K.G. Holmes H.M.S. WarwickThese are memories of Ord Telegraphist K.G.Holmes, D/JX 340570, aged 20 years, on board H.M.S.Warwick on Sunday 20th February 1944. I was in my mess at about 11:45 am when an explosion shook the ship violently and a cloud of dust fell from the overhead pipes that ran through the mess. My first thoughts were to get my lifebelt and head for the upper deck. My lifebelt, which was the type that had to be blown up like a car innertube, was rolled up and hung on a hammock hook near the door. I grabbed the lifebelt and headed for the door. The mess was on the starboard side of the ship. The only access to it was by a ladder that led upwards to a hatch which opened out onto the upperdeck aft of the forward superstructure. This ladder also served the ERA's mess which was on the port side of the ship. I was first to the doorway of my mess but was beaten to the ladder by one of the ERA's. On looking up I could see some burning wreckage across the hatch top. The ERA.(I don't know his name) went ahead of me and either he or someone on the upperdeck cleared the wreckage away. I proceeded on to the upperdeck to find oil, some of it burning, on the deck and seemingly spurting up somewhere near the funnel.The wireless office was at the rear of the forward superstructure. As I came on to the upperdeck I saw the P.O.Tel,who was my boss,shouting for people to go to their action stations. My action station was in the HF/DF office in the stern of the ship,and when I looked in that direction I could see that the stern was no longer there. I was actually standing on the port side of the ship by the whaler and efforts were being made to lower it. Unfortunately burning oil had dropped into it, and it was obvious that it would not float when it got into the water. I had by this time donned my lifebelt and was in the process of blowing it up when seeing that the whaler was useless, I moved over to the starboard side where efforts were being made to lower the motor-boat. This was also proving to be fruitless as it appeared that the lowering gear was jammed. I was standing next to a P.O. who said, if I remember correctly, that it was the third time this had happened to him! As he said this the ship heeled over to port and I grabbed for the wire handrail that went round the ship. I was fortunate as I got hold of it but some of the others waiting by the rail didn't, and they slid down the oily deck out of my sight. I climbed over the rail and onto the side of the ship which was now almost level,slid down it, and jumped off the the bottom of the ship into the water. I was fully dressed in overalls and boots, but my lifebelt was inflated. I remembered that during my training I had been told that if such an emergency happened to me, I should hold my lifebelt down to prevent it striking me under the chin as I hit the water. This I did and I arrived in the water amid a flurry of arms and legs belonging to the others who had jumped with me. The water was icy cold and came as a bit of a shock, but my first thoughts were to swim away from the ship before she sank and pulled me down with the suction. There was a heavy swell on the sea. I found that I would go up on one rise and then down, but I didn't come up quick enough before the next rise and consequently that one came over my head. So half the time I was in the water, I seemed to be underwater as well. The oil which covered the top of the water was also a problem because I had to make sure that it didn't get into my eyes. At first I could hear men shouting, but from the time I jumped into the water I never saw another soul. For all I knew I could have been the only survivor. Having swam away from the ship as far as I thought safe, I turned to look behind me. The bows of the Warwick were still above water and I could see a man sitting on the capstan on the forecastle. Who he was I didn't know. I was treading water or doing a bit of breast stroke whilst I looked around to see if any help was in view, and I saw a destroyer heading our way. I began swimming towards it and I could see some of the crew lowering scrambling nets down the side. Then, just when I thought I was going to be saved, the destroyer sped away from me. To make matters worse, a few minutes later she started dropping depth charges. Although I was a good distance from her, as each one exploded, it was like being punched in the stomach. I swam away to increase my distance from the explosions. After some time(I don't know how long),still not having seen any other person in the water or the Carley floats which I later found had been launched, I sighted, on one of my upliftings on the swell, what appeared to be three boats heading in my direction. I started to swim towards them. At first I thought I had done too well as it appeared that I was going to be run down by one of them, but I adjusted my direction and found myself alongside one of them. I raised myself up in the water and shouted. There seemed to be no one on deck, but as I shouted, a man came out of the deckhouse. How he saw me I don't know as the water was covered with oil and so was I. He did see me though and he threw me a rope. I grabbed it gratefully and was dismayed to find that because of the oil it was sliding out of my hands. I promptly took a turn around my wrists and hung on. My saviour must have been a very strong man because he hauled me up the side of the ship with no help from me and threw me on to the deck. He said something to me in a language that I didn't understand and for a few moments I thought I was going to end up in a prison camp! He realised that I didn't understand and then in English told me to go down below.I went down into a cabin with a roaring stove blazing in it and began stripping of my clothes.I couldn't do anything with my boots which were of course wet through, so a man came down and cut them off for me. At that time there was no one else in the cabin and I stood over the blazing stove and was unable to feel the heat.I felt so exhausted that I got into a bunk and must have blacked out because I don't remember anything more until I was awakened by another survivor getting into the bunk still in his wet and cold clothes! This was quite a shock as I was in the nude and had just started to get warm. I looked around and saw that there were a number of the Warwick's crew aboard but they were unrecognisable to me as they were covered in oil. I understand that by this time we were on our way to Padstow, but I had lost all track of time and I have no idea how long it took us. On arriving at Padstow a member of the fishing vessel's crew gave me a pair of old trousers and an old blanket to go ashore in. I climbed up the ladder onto dry land and then realised how lucky I had been to still be alive. I owed grateful thanks to the man who had hauled me up the side of his ship. It appeared that most of the survivors had been landed by this time,and we were directed to get into a lorry which was standing by and were transported to the R.N.A.S. at St.Merryn. We were greeted by a P.O. with a basin full of navy rum and given a cup full! It was only after that when I began to feel human again! We were fed, kitted out in battledress, and given a bed for the night before being transported to the R.N.B. at Plymouth. There we went through the joining routine,were issued with a new kit and eventually sent on survivors leave.K.G. Holmes
Leslie William " " Jones 8th Btn. Royal Warwickshire RegimentMy father, Leslie Jones, joined the Territorial Army, served with the 8th Battalion, Royal Warwicks and was held as a prisoner of war.Graham Paul Jones
Pte. Rupert Ainsley Wright 2nd Btn. Royal Warwickshire RegimentI joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and was called up on September 3rd 1939 in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in Coventry. I was sent to Swindon for basic training and then we were shipped to France via Le Havre at Christmas. We were stationed near Lille in Northern France with the BEF.
Infantry training continued until May 1940 when we were sent to Belgium to try to hold the German attack on France. We also experienced action in Holland. I was taken prisoner at Houthem, near Ypres.
We were marched with thousands of other British and French troops through Rotterdam in Holland and then crammed into coal barges and taken up the Rhine to Germany. The Dutch were the only people who tried to give us food. I remember I was given a very old Blue & Red coat to wear with a brown blood stain on the front. I imagined this was possibly from the Franco Prussian war of 1871.
We were then herded into cattle wagons with (70 men to a wagon) on a German railway, and then taken to a siding at a station in Berlin where trestle tables had been set up with food on the platform. Red Cross nurses stood by with baskets of bread and one wagon was opened to allow men to stand by for food. German propaganda camera teams took photographs. The prisoners were then returned to the wagons having not been allowed to eat any of the food.
The train continued on to Poland and East Prussia and arrived at Marienburg. There were 10,000 men in camp with a 20ft barbed wire fence all around. This was Stalag XXA. I was later at Stalag XXB.
Our food consisted of one litre of watery potato soup per day with black bread or a handful of dog biscuits. Pea soup was boiled in huge cauldrons still in the sacks and meat was almost non-existent. One day a man sitting next to me received an entire horse’s hoof complete with nails in it. The public latrine consisted of a large pit in the ground approximately 20ft long and 6ft wide and 6ft deep.
I had a small understanding of the German language learnt at school which I improved on and I became on of the interpreters who were in short supply. I volunteered for farm work and was sent to a work camp in East Prussia with others who worked on the land. Red Cross parcels began to arrive which helped the food situation a little. We even received some basic German medical care. Dental care in my case, as I was unfortunate to be standing behind another POW who answered back a German Guard and instead of him receiving the end of a rifle butt (he ducked down) I received it on my jaw, knocking out some front teeth.
We made several attempts to contact “underground” with escape in mind but were always told that RAF crews were given priority because of bomber losses over Germany. Aircrew were more expensive to train. I was involved in an escape plan but decided the night before not to go. Those that did were found the following morning. They had all been shot.
I remember on another occasion we had heard that there was a coal miners strike in Britain. There was a petition drawn up that everyone signed to say that we would gladly swap places with the miners and we would work the mines instead. This was apparently sent to Winston Churchill. We never got a reply.
I have another memory that many prisoners took up smoking, I mean those who never had back home, and cigarettes being scarce, people experimented with oak gall. This being poisonous, the guards threatened to shoot anyone caught smoking it in the future.
Another memory I have is how some of the men would receive letters from their wives to say that they couldn’t wait any longer and that they had found themselves new partners. The men would publicly display the letters for the other men to read.
In 1944, American planes began bombing which was always in daylight.
Christmas 1945, heavy artillery was heard coming from the east. The Russian army was getting closer and soon all allied prisoners were force to march westward into Germany. British, American, French and thousands of inmates from the death-camps were herded away from the battlefront. As a result we received no more Red-Cross parcels.
We marched along the Baltic coast in the snow and on Easter Sunday we arrived on the River Elbe at Wittenberg. There were rumours from Polish slave workers that the American army was just across the river, which was about a quarter of a mile wide. We were then moved northwards to the Hamburg area. RAF Typhoons now started to visit us, everyday they would fly about 20ft overhead up and down the long column of prisoners with an occasional waggle of wings to give us a sign of recognition, to much waving and cheering. The terrified guards would leap into the adjacent ditches on the roadside. I remember the joy of seeing the red, white and blue spandrels on their wings instead of the usual black crosses.
American tanks caught up on May 2nd 1945 to liberate us. One American officer (who had been drinking) asked the prisoners if anyone (meaning our guards) “had given us grief?” whilst offering us his machine gun. Nobody took him up on the offer. We were then taken by troop carriers to British headquarters in Lunaberg. We had marched well over 1,000 miles and had our first hot bath in years. We had said at one point to our liberators not to get close as we all had lice. We were told by one soldier that they had had them for months too.
An opportunity arose to meet Field Marshall Mongomery who asked us if there were any “Royal Warwicks” amongst us, that being his old regiment. We were then taken to Lubeck on the Baltic and flown home in a Lancaster bomber with 25 men in the bomb bay. On arrival we learnt that the plane behind us had crashed in France and all were killed.
After 6 weeks leave at home, the army selection panel offered me a temporary commission as an interpreter in Germany if I signed on for a further two years. I declined the offer. I was posted instead to Oxford Ordinance HQ and de-mobbed in 1946.
Like many other POW’s, I brought back a German steel helmet, epaulettes and a Luger as souvenirs.Peter Wright
Pte. Norman John Bengough 13th Btn. Warwickshire RegimentNorman John Bengough was my uncle. He was born in Birmingham and enlisted on the 27th July 1940, he was serving at home until 10/3/43. He was then sent to India via the Liverpool Docks. While serving Norman was shot in the thigh on the 27th Nov 1944 (a battle accident) and was transfered to the Somerset Regiment and sent home. He was always a very shy man but never wanted to talk about his time in India.
My wife sent for his Army record and we found that Norman was transfered to Bellsdyke Miltary Hospital in Scotland. We found that Norman was found to be suffering from mental dullness, we are a little unsure of the term but we have been told it was caused by the events in India when he was serving in Bombay. Norman remained at Bellsdyke for a period of two years nine months. So it seems his mental state of mind was not good. We have been told that his mother, Florence, did not know of his condition and did not know where he was, she felt he was "missing" but a family member found him and brought him home to Birmingham when he was well enough.
I can remember Norman as being a kind loving man, but we could tell that he was suffering a little all his life with the strain of his mental health, he was killed in an accident at work in 1966, he is sadly missed.
Cpl. George Charles "Chubby" Smith Royal Warwickshire RegimentAs far as I know, my father, George Charles Smith, known as Chubby or Smudger, served with the Warwickshires and the Gloucesters, but I'm not sure of what order. He finished up with the Military Police towards the end of the War in India. He was posted to North West Frontier, Red Fort Deli, Calcutta, Rangoon. He returned to England aboard the ship SS Maloja out of Bombay on the 18th of December 1949 with my mother Enid Maisie Smith and four children. I also have an address in Calcutta, 30 Gobra Road, Entally, Calcutta. I would like to find more info on my father's travels from Thornbury, South Glouctershire, his place of birth. He had a brother Gilbert who also entered service.Nigel Smith
Pte. Derek Stephen Palmer 7th Battalion Royal Warwicksshire RegimentMy father, Derek Palmer from Birmingham, was a Private in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment joining up in April 1939. He was part of the BEF and his unit part of 7th Battalion, who I believe entered Belgium on the 19th /20th May and fought a rearguard action on the Ypres/Comines canal alongside the 48th Division and the Wilts and a Scottish regiment. His c/o was Captain Hunt who was killed at some point during the action. He was taken prisoner on about the 28th May, and marched through the Low Countries, (a Dutch family managed to take his name, rank & number to let people know he was still alive. They wrote to him throughout his captivity and remained friends for many years) finishing up in Poland Stalag XXB where he remained despite, at least, one unsuccessful escape attempt.
He took part in the 'Death March', during which time he was so ill he couldn't walk due to a poisoned leg and owes his survival to his friend Alf Lane who carried him on his back, so that he wouldn't be shot by the guards. They were liberated first by the Russians, whose Doctor operated on my father's leg with a razor blade. The Americans arrived and after some confusion as to who was claiming which allies, they flew my father home to hospital in the UK.
He spoke very little of his time in prison camp, but I was named after a Polish family's daughter who hid him during an escape attempt. He remained a close friend of Alf Lane for the rest of his life. My father was one of the most delightful, kind and witty man you could wish to meet. I never liked to ask him any questions because I didn't wish to bring back painful memories, but I would be grateful if anybody has any information about the Royal Warwicks actions at that period or remember him or Alf Lane.Erika Williams
Pte. James Lewis Leighfield 8th Btn. Royal Warwickshire RegimentMy great Uncle, James Leighfield volunteered for the British Expeditionary Force at the beginning of the war. He had already done army service in South Wales. He was among the first to arrive in France late in 1939. After the first few months "digging in" in Northern France, the Germans invaded Holland and Belgium and the BEF was marched North. He was involved in heavy fighting and as the French fell back, (he said they ran away), the Germans came in through the Ardennes to the South. The BEF was pulled back, fighting all the way. His regiment, the 8th. Warwicks, along with a number of other regiments were told to stay back and act as rear guard for the Dunkirk evacuation, i.e. they weren't going to get away. The order was to fight to the "last round, then every man for himself".
In heavy fighting across the Escaut Canal at Antoing/Courtoing and got shot through the chest. He somehow managed to stay on his feet for 3 days, but was captured by the Wehrmacht several miles away near Wormhoudt, where the 2nd. Warwicks were massacred by the Waffen SS. In that sense, he was lucky. After weeks in a German military hospital, he was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Silesia, now part of Poland. He didn't see another English person for several months and the family at home didn't get news that he was still alive until well into 1941.
This camp site provided (slave) labour for an adjacent open cast coal mine and that was what he was forced to do, dig "brown" coal. He escaped three times, but was caught twice. On the last occasion in early 1945, he teamed up with other escaped prisoners living wild in the country and they all headed West. With the confusion in Germany at that time, they weren't caught and eventually met up with the Americans. The Yanks brought him home. He only weighed 6 1/2 stone and was a typhoid suspect until 1948.Kenneth Lamb
Pte. Gilbert Pickering Royal Warwickshire RegimentMy grandad, Gilbert Pickering, born 1914 in the Midlands was in Stalag 8b. During the early 80s he told me many stories of escapes, his mate being bayoneted beside him while hiding in a ditch at the side of the road while on the run, going out on work parties etc.
He was a wonderful man who died from lung cancer in 1986. We, his family, miss him every day and would love to hear if anyone has info about himSusan Bond
Sgt. R A Adams Royal Warwickshire Regiment (d.9th May 1945)Sgt R.A. Adams from the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was among those killed in an air crash on the 9th May 1945. The aircraft a Lancaster Bomber III, RF230-JI-B, from 514 Squadron was detailed to take part in Operation "Exodus “, the evacuation of ex-prisoners of war.
In addition to the crew of the bomber there were 24 army POW’s, ranging from private to captain from various regiments, as well as a lieutenant in the U.S.A.A.F, who was not on the manifest.
All the names of the aircrew and ex-POWs on board the aircraft are listed below.
Aircraft Crew Members.
List of POWS on board aircraft.
- D. Beaton F/Lt.
- A. McMurrugh F/Sgt.
- R.B. Hilchey F/Off. RCAF
- J.G. Brittain F/Sgt.
- R.M. Toms P/Off. RCAF
- O.C. Evers P/Off. RCAF
- Name. Regiment or Corps. Camp. Pow.No.Army No. Rank. Born.
- R.W. Wheeler Royal Engineers 07B 340 85759 Capt. Kent
- P.A.T. Campbell Royal West Kent Regt. 07B 224 124175 Lt. Southend-on-Sea
- E.T.T. Snowdon Royal Artillery 07B 1123 94190 Lt. West London
- R. A. Adams. Royal Warwickshire 344 12497 5111739. Sgt. Coventry
- E. L. Belshaw. East Surrey Regt 383 6774 2650397 Cpl. Wigan
- A. G. Thompson Worcestershire Regt. 344 6259 5253245 Cpl. Worcester
- G.W. Franks Kings Royal Rifle 8B 2584 6844798 L/Cpl. London
- H. Cummings Lancashire Fusiliers 344 35265 3461448 Fus. Salford
- O. Parkin Lancashire Fusiliers 21D 4948 3448706 Fus.
- J. Roe Irish Guards 8B 3308 2719806 Gdsm Birmingham
- A.J.S. Crowe Royal Artillery 7A 125860 840450 Gunner Preston
- A. N. Labotake SAA Gunner
- W.L. Lindhelmer PAL
- M. Maschit PAL
- T. Anderson Cameron Highlanders 7A 137173 2940187 Pte. Glasgow
- W. L. Ball Queens Royal Regt 8B 7289 804169 Pte. Ashford,Mx
- S.J. Bayston Green Howards 7A 4751822 Pte. London
- R.A. Betton K.S.L.I. 344 139030 4032985 Pte. Shropshire
- R.E. Clark Royal Scots 7A 14286 5954856 Pte. Bedfordshire
- W. Croston Pioneer Corps 8B 3737 2185985 Pte. Salford
- R. Danson East Surrey Regt 7A 135108 3392078 Pte. Lancashire
- R. Turnbull Durham Light Inf 8B 35785 4451208 Pte. Gateshead
- P. Yates Leicestershire Regt 07B 83763 14208422 Pte. London. SW
- T.J. Edwards Rfn.
The Lancaster took off at 0726 on the 9th May 1945 for the continent from Waterbeach and commenced the return flight from Juvincourt in France at 1215 hours. A message giving their time of arrival was received at his base at 1219 from the pilot, shortly afterwards the pilot reported he was experiencing trouble with the controls and was putting back to Juvincourt. But a further message sent by the aircraft at 1225 stated that it was making a forced landing. Flares were fired off from an airfield on route indicating permission to land to which no acknowledgment was received.
At 1230 hours this aircraft was seen by a number of witnesses on the ground to approach Roye Ami airfield from the west at a height of 10,000 feet. After circling the airfield twice the aircraft was seen to go into a steep bank to port, before going into a flat spin and crashing into the ground one mile east of Roye Ami.
On investigation into the crash, it was not possible to account for the necessity for a forced landing, as the aircraft seemed to be fully serviceable or to establish definitely the cause of the crash, which must therefore remain obscure. The position of the passengers to the rear of the fuselage however indicated that the aircraft may have been tail heavy, this could have resulted in the pilot finding the aircraft to be dangerously heavy and believing that there was something seriously wrong with the aircraft, he prepared to make a force landing at the nearest airfield, where he lost control and crashed. But whether their incorrect positions were assumed before or after difficulties arose when the aircraft became out of control could not be determined.
All the passengers and crew lost their lives and were buried at Clichy Northern Cemetery, which is on the northern boundary of Paris.
Rupert Aynsley Wright Royal Warwickshire RegimentRupert Wright was my father. Being already in the Territorial Army, my Father enlisted in Royal Warwickshires in 1939 at the age of 18 and was captured at Houthem (near Ypres), Belgium. He was marched to Torun (Thorn) in Poland and incarcerated at Stalag XXa then at Stalag XXb. There was much speculation as to whether it would be the Americans or the Russians who would be their liberators. He was liberated in 1945 by a Texan regiment, the (inebriated) officer saying to him, "Remember to tell 'em who liberated ya buddy". He then offered a sub machine gun to anybody who had been given "Grief by any of the guards". Nobody took him up on the offer. The guards incidentally had already unsurprisingy buried their uniforms before the Americans arrived. He passed through Berlin which he described as "mainly rubble". On flying back to Blighty in a Lancaster they heard on landing that the plane behind them crashed into the English Channel killing everybody onboard. Unlike most POWs, my Father spoke much of his experiences. My Father died in 2012 at the age of 92.
Sgt. Edward Bailey Royal Warwickshire RegimentMy grandfather, Edward Bailey known as Ted, was in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment during world war 2 and believe he may have been in India and Burma. I have looked on war records online and having some trouble finding him. Unfortunately I do not have his soldier number. I believe he may have been ranked sergeant at one stage but there is a belief in the family he may have lost this rank. Any information you may have would be very much appreciated.Simon Lewis
2nd Lt. Michael Goodliffe Royal Warwickshire Regiment2nd.Lt. Michael Goodliffe served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment
John Kendrick Royal Warwickshire RegimentMy Uncle John Kendrick was a prisoner of war at Stalag XXB. As far as we know he was captured at Dunkirk and spent the remainder of the war in the POW camp. He was in the Royal Warwickshires Regiment and their museum in Warwick (now called the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers museum) was very helpful in finding out information about where he was a POW and what his service (511823) and POW numbers (282) were. I would recommend them. I want to find out what battalion he was in and wonder if there is any quicker process than going via an army war records enquiry which I understand can take up to a year. I Would also love to know if anyone else has any information relating to himJacky Walters
L/Cpl. Harold Astbury 1/7th Btn. Royal Warwickshire RegimentMy late father Harold Astbury was a prisoner in Stalag XXA (3A) in Poland following his capture at Dunkirk. He joined the territorial battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment after the Munich crisis along with pals in their local rugby club in Coventry. As L/Cpl Harold Astbury 511320 he went to France in January 1940.
He was first wounded by "friendly fire" when he was struck in the head by shrapnel from French anti aircraft fire. His steel helmet saved him but to the end of his life he had pronounced scars in his scalp, which we would feel as children. He returned to active service just before the German invasion. He recalled the advance into Belgium was dispiriting as they passed through the cemeteries of the Great War. He told the tale of meeting Lord Gort, the C in C while his section were digging a tank trap. After explaining to the General about what would happen with the trap when the Germans came, a junior staff officer piped up at the back. "The fellows talking as though they'll be here next week" Which was, my father said, was precisely what did happen.
At Dunkirk he said his unit along with others formed a defensive line on a canal on the Franco Belgian border. The next day they found the other units had been withdrawn. The Germans arrived and after a firefight he was wounded by a bullet passing through his top lip and he passed out from loss of blood. He, along with all those who did not get away then passed through Holland where he was seen by representatives of the Red Cross. He was given a pencil and a scrap of paper to put his name rank a serial number. This eventually reached his mother attached to a Red Cross postcard saying he had been seen and was alright, although now prisoner 12197. Others of his regiment were not so fortunate and were summarily executed by the Germans after capture.
In Poland he was in a fortress built on the old German/Russian border. He said that at one time the Allied prisoners did not occupy the whole fort but that there were displaced Polish families there as well. A sad story he told me many years later was of how the prisoners were exercised by being marched round the top of the fort and that a prisoner had committed suicide by jumping from the fortress wall. He was always disparaging of the prisoner of war films made after the war as they always portrayed the life of officers and not that of other ranks who were required to work by the Germans. Therefore plans to escape could only be hatched in what free time they had. Certainly there were successes in getting home.
This picture is one I think was sent to my father by two escapees. The innocent scene of two friends fishing is in fact the disguise they used. He also kept to the end of his life a corner of a postcard with an address in Lisbon, which showed someone had reached neutral Portugal. He also had his City and Guilds certificate for Spanish "place of examination Stalag XX". It was part of an escape plan. They would all learn Spanish and pass themselves off as volunteers for the "Blau" division, who were Spanish Nazi sympathisers fighting in Russia, returning on leave to Spain, which was then neutral. There was also tragic irony, two of those who knew to escape returned to active service and one was killed in North Africa and one in the Far East. He also talked of the mysterious repatriation of a prisoner nicknamed "the thin man" as he looked like the actor in the thin man films.
Prisoners set to manual labour. He told of working at the Christiana tabacfabrik packing tobacco for Germans on the Eastern front. They brought tobacco from the Balkans in cattle trucks and mixed it with a little Virginia tobacco bought before the war. The cattle trucks had been used to move animals and the prisoners were required to sweep everything out of the trucks. This was done with great care so that many a German light up a pipeful of cow dung in Russia! Before the war he was in the post office and also worked sorting prisoners mail and I have been contacted through the website by some one who can remember working with him.
The prisoners were paid in camp money for this work but the War Office then deducted this from their Army pay accruing in England.
I also attach photos of my father as a prisoner and of a play put on in the camp. The photo in the contribution by Bill Overy is from the same set. My father is on the back row third from the right in a light jacket. Of the actors he only recalled Sam Kydd who was famous in the sixties as "Orlando" on ITV.
He said that from the camp they could see the vapour trails of the German experimental launching of V" rockets from Peenamunde on the Baltic but discounted as fantasy the Polish reports of the Germans firing railway engines into space.
Finally the war turned our way and one day in June as he travelled on a train he could see the Poles barely able to control themselves with the news of the Allied invasion of France. As the Russians closed in the prisoners were marched west. By that time the guards consisted of hard-line Nazis too wounded to return to the front and very elderly men whose only skill was an ability to speak English. They were more concerned to reach the western allies and escape the Russians.
He was finally liberated one month short of five years after his capture. The relived German guards were last seen going off to captivity on an American tank. He was given a "K" ration by the Americans, which contained a hairbrush and shaving kit including a shaving brush, which he then used to the end of his life. The only items he was able to "liberate" were a Nazi party swastika armband and a large bottle of De Kyper cherry brandy. However it was so cold this froze in barracks they were billeted in and the next day a sticky mess was across the barrack floor as the bottle had split
While a prisoner a young woman from Coventry wrote to him, they had known each other slightly before the war. Her letters to the camp came in a distinctive peach envelope, each of which he kept until the march to the west. He returned to England and they married in the autumn of 1945.
I also see from the site there were many Scots from the 51st Highland Brigade prisoner as well and as a child there were many visits to old comrades on our summer holidays to Scotland. He also talked about being kept in the forts round Thorn (Torun) and being exercised on the parapets, but that also Polish refugees/displaced families would occupy parts of the forts. Until I read the contributions I did not realise how large the march West had been. He described being on the road with a general stream of refugees including a circus at one stage. Those guarding them by then were either disabled hardline Nazis or elderly men he portrayed to me as being like private Godfreys more concerned about finding and surrendering to the Americans before the Soviets got them.
His grandson idolized his grandfather and I am sure would welcome any information from anyone who knew him during this time.Mark Astbury
Ron Edwards Royal Warwickshire Rgt.I joined the Army in August 1940 with service in the Royal Warwicks, then with the Royal Signals. I did my initial training at Colchester during the bombing raids of the Battle of Britain. My technical training was at Walthamstow during the Blitz and then I went to Huddersfield. There were postings to Kirkburton, Catterick. Overseas postings were to India via Durban, at Mhow, Sialkot, Poona, Abbotobad and Bangalore. I attended a special training course at Agra. There were leave periods in Bombay, Kashmir and Kodaicanal. I was a mechanic in radio and instrumental maintenance. Later, I served six months with the Army of Occupation in Neheim in the Rhur Valley, Germany. Does anyone have any memories of these places at that time?Ron Edwards
Pte. Bernard Ewart Medley-Smith Royal Warwickshire RegimentBernard Medley-Smith of the Royal Warwicks was held in Stalag XXa and Stalag IIIa.Elisabeth Medley-Smith
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