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Dulag Luft 8 in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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Dulag Luft 8

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    Those known to have been held in or employed at

    Dulag Luft 8

    during the Second World War 1939-1945.

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    Flt. Sgt. Francis Joseph Bretherton 102 Sqd.

    Frank Bretherton was my uncle. His service records say that he was posted to the Squadron on 23-11-1943 and was posted as missing in air operations flying from the United Kingdom on 29-12-1943. He was then reported as prisoner of war in Germany at Dulag Luft 8 from 8-1-1944 until 13-1-1944 was then in Stalag IVB from 15-1-1944 until 23-4-1945.

    Bart Bretherton

    Eric Hodgson HQ206 Group

    My father, Eric Hodgson, spent about 18 months in Stalag IV B after being captured on Leros in 1943. He had prisoner number 267453. He was a wireless operator in the RAF. Whilst he rarely talked about his wartime experiences, I have managed to glean the following history from his photo album and the occasional comments he made.

    He was shipped out to Egypt in 1941, travelling in HMT Orcades from Greenock to Durban (with a stop at Freetown) and then in SS Mauretania to Egypt (via Aden). He kept the Christmas 1941 dinner menu titled "HQ206 Group MEF" and with a "Merry Christmas Other Ranks!" signed by CB Cooke Air Officer Commanding. He was transferred to Cyprus and was there on his 21st birthday in Sept 1942. In late 1943 he was part of the force sent to occupy Leros following the Italian surrender, but was captured when the Germans, with total air superiority, overwhelmed the Allied forces there.

    He was sent as a POW to Germany. I have the POW Christmas card he sent home (franked on 4th Jan 1944) from Dulag Luft. I also have two postcards he was able to send home from Stalag IV B. I think they speak eloquently of the despair of life in the camps and they boost the POWs got from parcels when they arrived.

    Dated 10th Jan 1945 "Dear Mother & Dad, My luck has still not improved there is very little mail & parcels coming in now, & I'm not one of the lucky few. This streak must break sometime & the sooner the better. Parcels have run out again & cigarettes are only for the privileged few. I hope you sending plenty a few five hundreds would be just the job now. Love Eric"

    The second one was dated 11th Feb 1945 "Dear Mother & Dad, Well I'm in a much more cheerful frame of mind this week. The reason of course - parcels arrived last Thursday so that we are now eating better & have a few cigarettes to smoke. You've no idea what a colossal boost it gives to the morale of the camp when parcels arrive after an interval without. No more mail from you yet. Love Eric"

    I remember he mentioned the bitterness caused when a few of the American POWs captured in the Battle of the Bulge were involved in stealing some of the few possessions of fellow POWs who had been in captivity for several years in many cases.

    Ian Hodgson

    Sgt Donald Thomsett RAF Snaith 51 Sqn

    Donald Thomsett was my Grandad. He flew as an RAF gunner during the whole of the war, moving from varying heavy bombers including the Wellington but settled for the majority of the war as a rear gunner in Halifax bombers based at RAF Snaith with 51 Sqn. My Grandad lasted until January of 1945 before being shot down during a night raid on Hannover. His story was one he hardly ever spoke of and he never really got over his experiences til the day he died. Towards the end of his life he began to talk more and more about the war, eventually dying of cancer in 2000. Donald was on a night bombing mission over Hannover which took place on the night of the 5th of January 1945. He remembered sitting in the rear turret as usual when out of the darkness, and in heavy flak, he saw a German fighter plane approach from the rear and slightly above his plane. He managed to fire on it and thought he had shot it down as it turned away very quickly and looked to be out of control.

    Next, another fighter appeared to the rear and slightly below the plane. Don moved the guns downwards and saw the pilots face illuminated by the lights on his German instrument panel. The guns wouldn't reach to a position to fire on the fighter plane. As the Halifax was being engaged, the pilot had gone into a wide sweeping manouvre to make attack from the fighter more difficult - a sort of large u shape, rolling the controls right, then left. Don watched as the German fighter continued to match the Halifax and flew underneath it. He heard a loud explosion and felt the plane shudder, then it changed direction steeply heading towards the ground.

    My Grandad said he was supposed to keep his parachute in the turret with him but always slung it just into the bulk inside the fusilage. The angle of the plane meant he thought it would have slid down the length of the plane out of his reach, but it had snagged on something and he put his hand straight on it. Realising that the plane was going to crash he pressed for the turret to turn to bail out but found the hydraulics had failed (probably something to do with the explosion he thought?) so had to turn it by hand until he could get out.

    He landed on the roof of a house and fell into the garden, badly spraining his ankle. There was snow everywhere and it was freezing. Local residents came out and, possibly scared, started to beat him with whatever they could get their hands on - brooms, sticks, feet - until some soldiers arrived and took him to a local police station, then marched him to Dulag.

    They had removed his flying boots and made him limp in the snow with his damaged ankle. My Grandad said he remembered this taking a couple of days, but thinks there was some transport at some point too. Along the route to Dulag he said he saw the blodies of allied airmen hung on lamposts, killed by the local populace, or German soldiers. At Dulag interrogation centre he was hung up by his hands and all his possessions taken from him. He was tortured with a knife being run up and down his back - he had scars on his back that I remember seeing, long lines. - and was kept in solitary for a couple of weeks. By that time he had frostbite on his feet and the Germans repeatedly made the room very hot, then cold in an attempt to extract information from him. He was also put into a room with another British airman to live for a couple of days. This airman then told the Germans all the things that my Grandad hadn't - like where he lived, the name of my grandmother, etc. He must have been some sort of double agent my Grandad thought. He was taken to a train station and loaded into large cattle trucks with lots of other POWs. There they spent a couple of days including one frightening night in Berlin station, locked in their trucks as the allies bombed Berlin. He intially was taken to Sagan camp, but was soon transferred out to what he called Stalag luft 3b. He spent from February until May 1945 there and witnessed some horrific things, including the shooting of an attempted escapee. He also mentioned that the Russian POWs, who were kept next door, were treated "like dogs". In May, and with the camp on the verge of being over-run by Soviet troops, my Grandad, an American airman and a Canadian airman, escaped by going over the wire and running into the countryside. They happened on a car that had been disabled on purpose and got it going, driving across Germany. They had no food. He told me they managed to meet a German family in a small village who offered them food and somewhere to stay. It was while staying there that the Soviet troops came into the area. My Grandad and his two friends hid in the cellar of the German family's house as they were unsure of what the intention of the soldiers was and I remember him telling me that he witnessed "chinese looking men coming into the cellar and eating raw sugar out of sacks with their bare hands like they hadn't been fed for weeks." When the Soviet troops left, they made their way towards the west and eventually were picked up by some American troops in the area surrounding Berlin in early June (or late May). Returning to England, my Grandad was silent. He learned that he was the only survivor from his plane that night and blamed himself for the deaths of his friends because he failed to shoot down the second fighter that night. pHe walked with a slight limp for the rest of his life, received no counselling, compensation, or anything to help him get over what he had seen.

    But the story does have a ending of sorts. In his seventies, a historian got in touch with my Grandad and via some research found the name of the German pilot who had claimed the "kill" of my Grandad's plane; one Hermann Greiner. Herr Greiner was still alive. He was contacted by the historian and eventually, after some soul searching and correspondence, my Grandad went over to Germany to meet him. Hermann remembered that night, and told my Grandad that an experimental type of gun was on his night fighter (It pointed upwards from behind the cockpit) meaning that there was nothing my Grandad could have done to save his friends. He flew under the Halifax and merely shot up into the fuel tanks as it lumbered about its defensive manouvres.

    My Grandad was able to meet the face he had seen 50 years previously on that fateful night when his life changed forever. He bore no grudge and Herr Greiner gave him his Iron Cross, with Oak Leaf, medal as a token of their friendship and in reconcilliation. Hermann Greiner had around 50 "kills" as a night fighter ace and was one of the luftwaffes "stars".

    My Grandad died in 2000 and his ashes were scattered at the memorial site of his old, now long forgotten, RAF base at Pollington, Yorkshire. The war had affected the rest of his life and if it hadn't been for his courage and bravery I wouldn't even be writing this, as his young wife (My Grandmother) gave birth to my father a year after he got home.

    Ben Thomsett

    Flt. Offr W. Wylton Todd Biggin Hill & Little Snoring 29th and 169th Sq

    My mother is the daughter of W. Wylton Todd. Wylton was an RAF navigator who designed the memorial for the fallen 50 officers who were shot after the Great Escape. It still stands in Zagan, Poland. He was assigned to the North camp after being shot down in a Mosquito on Feb 15, 1944. The pilot was the famous Commander "Jumbo" Gracie, who unfortunately went down with the plane in Hannover. Cmdr. Gracie was an older, decorated pilot who was instrumental in organizing flight standards for pilots in Malta and North Africa. Wylton was older too, but lied about his age so that he could join the war effort. He was 38 by the time he was shot down. Wylton was a piano virtuoso. He designed, wrote and produced several of the musicals during his capture (i.e., Messalina, Paulina Panic). He worked with Rupert Davies, Peter Butterworth, Talbot Rothwell and a few others. They signed his war log. I'm certain that theater kept him and many others sane. He was not only a great musician, he was already a successful architect in London before the war. King Edward honored him with recognition at the last Levee in 1936. A remarkable distinction for the young professional. Since he was first held in Dulag Luft, then brought to SL3, he would have arrived just before the great escape on March 25. My mother maintains that he told her that he worked on the tunnels and escape efforts. His drafting abilities and keen eye probably made him a good forger or mapmaker. After the war, Wylton was commissioned to design a memorial at Biggin Hill, from which most of the Battle of Britain pilots tenaciously defended their country. He stayed in the UK to rebuild London. He also designed a palace for a Maharaja in India, Redesigned The Elms in London, a mansion in Mexico and designed plans for a massive luxury complex for Arthur Vining Davis in Eleuthera, Bahamas. Unfortunately it never came to fruition because of political complications. He died shortly afterwards from a freak accident in 1961. I never met him, but have learned quite a bit about this amazing man. I'm currently working on research about his activities in the North camp theater. If anyone knows more about him or particular info about the North camp theater I would appreciate it.

    Peter Hynes

    Sgt. Robert Allen Anderson 420 Squadron

    I have prepared the following brief summary of my Dad's World War II experiences based primarily on materials in my possession, including his Identity Card, Flying Log and Wartime Log:

    In October, 1943, my Dad, Robert Allan Anderson, qualified as an Air Gunner after completing training at #3 Bomb and Gunnery School at Macdonald, Manitoba under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. In January, 1944, he was posted to the 420 (Snowy Owl) Squadron, based in Tholthorpe, England, as a tail gunner in a Halifax bomber.

    My Dad was just 3 days shy of his 20th birthday on April 20, 1944, when 154 Halifax bombers took off to attack the rail facilities at Lens, France, Dad's Halifax, LW692, was shot down and crashed into the Scie River at Pourville, near Dieppe. It was the only aircraft that failed to return that night and my Dad and Paul Bourcier, the mid-upper gunner, were the only survivors.

    According to a researcher, Dad described the event as follows: "We flew down to south England and over the Channel. Reached enemy coast 10 minutes early and off track, we passed over very near Dieppe. They threw up a lot of flak and we got 3 hits, the plane shuddered, slowed down and lost height fast. Port engines went on fire, spread to whole wing, engineer admitted it was hopeless, skipper said bale out. I got to escape hatch after mid upper gunner and jumped after him, plane was diving very fast and had trouble to get out of slipstream. Saw the plane spiral down on fire and crash. I landed in the mouth of a small river near Dieppe, had to use my Mae West, not a scratch."

    The same researcher described Paul Bourcier's account as follows: After taking off and setting course for Southern England and then the Channel we got off course and reached the enemy coast ten minutes before time over Dieppe, which was about 20 miles off course, as Le Havre was the crossing point. We were picked up by radar and we were hit 3 times by flak, causing trouble to port engines, the necessary measures were taken, but fire started, and spreading rapidly on the port wing, I was then given order to bale out, which I did and by doing so landed safely. Out of front hatch."

    After capture, the researcher presented a quick timeline of events: lane goes down, Anderson and Bourcier are picked up. From there they take a train ride to the Dulag Luft, the Luftwaffe Interrogation Centre at Albereusel, north of Frankfurt. Most fliers spent between 2-3 weeks there. Treatment ranged from pretty decent, to threats to a strange scenario where the Luftwaffe stripped you of all your clothes and locked you in a room with the heat turned up high. They had an interrogator there from Kitchener, Ontario who spoke better English than some of the Canadians there. When the Fatherland called he had returned to Germany."

    Both Dad and Paul were then sent to Stalag Luft III, arriving just days after the 50 airmen were recaptured and murdered by the SS under the direct order of Adolph Hitler for their part in The Great Escape. As the Russians advance towards Germany in 1945, Hitler gave the order to evacuate POW camps and move POW's closer to Berlin. On Saturday, January 27, 1945, Dad and thousands of other POW's were told to gather their meager belongings and a forced exodus began. A day-by-day account was recorded in Dad's Wartime Log. After an eleven day trek, Dad ended up in Stalag IIIA in Luckenwalde. Eventually liberated by the Russians, his ordeal was still not as yet over.

    A notation in his Log states: May 6, 1945 Russians refuse to let Americans evacuate us, some trucks have gone back empty. Russians have posted guards who have shot at some of the fellows. On May 7, 1945, he nevertheless managed to escape his new captors by making his way to the American lines at Magdeburg. On May 10, 1945, he then caught a USAAF DC3 (Dakota) to Rheims, France, and the next day, a Lancaster to Tangmere, England.

    Today, there are memorials to Peter Warren the Navigator, Patrick Gough the Flight Engineer, and Raymond Leonard, the Pilot, in Runnymede Cemetery, Surrey, England. Clifford Wheelhouse, the Wireless Air Gunner, and Clark Wilson, the Bomb Aimer, were originally buried in a cemetery in St Riquier-es-Plains, and later in Grandcourt War Cemetery, France.

    Bill Anderson

    Recomended Reading.

    Available at discounted prices.

    Footprints on the Sands of Time: RAF Bomber Command Prisoners of War in Germany 1939-45

    Oliver Clutton-Brock

    he first part of this book deals with German PoW camps as they were opened, in chronological order and to which the Bomber Command PoWs were sent. Each chapter includes anecdotes and stories of the men in the camps - capture, escape, illness, murder and more - and illustrates the awfulness of captivity even in German hands. Roughly one in every 20 captured airmen never returned home. The first part of the book also covers subjects such as how the PoWs were repatriated during the war; how they returned at war's end; the RAF traitors; the war crimes; and the vital role of the Red Cross. The style is part reference, part narrative and aims to correct many historical inaccuracies. It also includes previously unpublished photographs. The second part comprises an annotated list of all 10,995 RAF Bomber Command airmen who were taken prisoner, together with an extended introduction. The book provides an important contribution to our knowledge of the war. It is a reference work not only for the


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