- Stalagluft1 during the Second World War -
POW Camp Index
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27th Mar 1940 77 Squadron Whitley lost
11 May 1940 218 Squadron Battle lost
11th May 1940 88 Squadron Battle lost
12th May 1940 57 Squadron Belenheim lost
12th May 1940 12 Squadron Battle lost
14th May 1940 105 Squadron Battle lost
18th May 1940 Aircraft Lost
21st May 1940 226 Squadron Battle lost
8th Jun 1940 103 Squadron Battle lost
9th Jun 1940 107 Squadron Blemheim lost
13th Jun 1940 142 Squadron Battle lost
18th Jun 1940 58 Squadron Whitley lost
27th Jun 1940 82 Squadron Blenheim lost
27th Jun 1940 49 Squadron Hampden lost
30th Jun 1940 61 Squadron Hampden lost
6th Jul 1940 18 Squadron Blenheim lost
7th Jul 1940 102 Squadron Whitley lost
21st Jul 1940 61 Squadron Hampden lost
28th July 1940 Fairey Battle L5502 lost
29th Jul 1940 44 Squadron Hampden lost
20th Aug 1940 101 Squadron Blenheim lost
26th Aug 1940 50 Squadron Hampden lost
27th Aug 1940 61 Squadron Hampden lost
11th Feb 1941 49 Squadron Hampden lost
9th Apr 1941 207 Squadron Manchester lost
10th Apr 1941 50 Squadron Hampden lost
29th Aug 1941 408 Squadron Hampden lost
8th Nov 1941 78 Squadron Whitley lost
17th Apr 1942 114 Squadron Lancaster lost
8th May 1942 420 Squadron Hampden lost
21st Aug 1942 218 Squadron Stirling lost
23rd Oct 1943 434 Squadron Halifax lost
6th Dec 1942 Ventura of 464 Squadron lost
8th Dec 1942 105 Squadron Mosquito lost
10th Dec 1942 115 Squadron Wellington lost
17th Apr 1943 77 Squadron Halifax lost
3rd May 1943 Ventura of 487 Squadron lost
3rd May 1943 Ventura of 487 Squadron lost
13th May 1943 98 Squadron Mitchell lost
28th Jul 1943 408 Squadron Halifax lost
13th Aug 1940 83 Squadron Blenheim lost
22nd January 1944 51 Squadron Halifax lost
31st Jan 1944 550 Squadron Lancaster lost
19th Mar 1944
12th Sep 1944 640 Squadron Halifax lost
24th Dec 1944 419 squadron Lancaster lost
21st Mar 1945 51 Squadron Halifax lost
5th Apr 1945 635 Squadron Lancaster lost
22nd Nov 1944 433 Squadron Lancaster lost
26th Aug 1944 214 Squadron Fortress lost
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Those known to have been held in or employed at
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Berger Joseph S. 2nd Lt.
- Butler Fred W. .
- Croisdale T.. Cpl.
- Cullis Graham. Warrant Officer
- Culpan Johnny William Rae. Sgt
- Dallas William J.. 2nd Lt.
- Gardiner George W.. F/Lt.
- Gordon-Watkins William David. Wing Cdr.
- Goreham Rodney Shand. Pilot
- Harris Andrew James. Sgt.
- Hitchings Sydney James. Sgt.
- Hogan William.
- Jenkins Edward T.. 2nd Lt.
- Johnstone Mervyn M.. F/Lt
- Keck Charles H..
- Lewis L. W. C.. W/O
- May Thomas Kevin. Sgt.
- McConnell Robert James. F/Lt.
- McVey Charles Howard. 1st Lt.
- Minor William T..
- Murphy Stanley Oldfield John. Sgt.
- Parker Raymond A.. Nav.
- Peacock Roger. Sgt. (d. )
- Peterson Roy. S/Sgt.
- Reich Douglas Gordon. Flt.Lt.
- Ruble Howard.
- Sadler Anthony Graham. F/Lt..
- Sadler Anthony Graham. F/Lt.
- Shaw Jim. WO.
- Shaw John Cecil. Sgt. (d.4th Jan 1942)
- Smythe John Henry.
- Stephenson James Hawley.
- Sulick George Theodore. S/Sgt
- Webb Clifford. Sgt. This page is new, as yet no names have been submitted.
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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Wing Cdr. William David Gordon-Watkins DSO DFC DFM 15 SqdWing Cmdr Gordon-Watkins was the Commanding Officer of 15 Sqd. He was shot down on the 16th of November 1944 whilst piloting the lead bomber on a mission to Heinsburg. He was the only member of the crew to survive the incident and was captured and held as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 1. He had completed over 50 operations and had previously served with 149 sqd.
Sgt Johnny William Rae "Woofer" Culpan 149 SquadronMy Dad, Johnny Cuplan, flew in Wellington Bombers. He was posted to No. 20 O.T.U. Lossiemouth from 24/4/1941 to 22/5/1941. From there he was posted to 149 Squadron at RAF Mildenhall from 4/6/1941 until his Wellington IC serial X9704 code OJ-B took off from RAF Mildenhall at 2329 on 18/19.08.41 on Ops to Duisburg and was shot down by a night fighter which fatally wounded P/O Mendoza and crashed at Haelen (Limbourgh) 5km NW of Roermond Holland. Sadly two of dad's crew did not survive : 82988 P.O. (Air Gnr) Michael Isaac Archibald Mendoza of Chailey, Sussex and 89386 P.O. John Christian Lynn of Haslemere, Surrey. The rest of the crew were taken P.O.W. : J/3755 P/O R.R. Henderson RCAF, POW No. 3728 Stalag Luft L3 Sagan and Belaria; 922752 Sgt C.G. Jones POW No. 23612 Stalag 357; 1250142 Sgt K.K. Sterrett POW No. 23613
Just prior to leaving NZ, Johnny, like all young airmen training to go to War, was doing his best to get his flying hours up. Sent up solo by an instructor to do just so, he was seen by another instructor barnstorming a garden party in Christchurch. Hence Johnny had the somewhat dubious title of being the first pilot in NZ considered for a court marshall, but due to the dior need for as many pilots as possible he was put to work in the kitchens peeling potatoes, told that the best he could hope for was to be made a Sgt.
Johnny (P.O.W. 23615) was a POW in Stalag Luft 1 Barth, Stalag Luft L3 Sagan, Belaria Stalag Luft L6 Heyderkrug. A very keen and capable rugby player, he was the NZ Rugby Skipper at Heyderkrug. Many of days were taken up with kicking a rugby ball within the compound. Kicking it very carefully, as if it did happen to land outside the compound everyone was sent back to their huts and one person chosen to retrieve the ball under the eagle eye of an armed guard. Being mindful of this, Johnny developed a very effective chip kick which he used effectively time and time again against oponents. One such oponent, a South African P.O.W. took note of this chip kick and asked Johnny to teach him the art of the chip kick and spent much of his time with Johnny honing his kicking skills. On return to NZ, Johnny and a few of his POW mates were seated in Eden Park watching the BOKS play the All Blacks. It was a low scoring game and 80 minutes was just about up - the score was equal.....when a penalty was given to the BOKS. The kick was spot on and the BOKs won much to the chagrin of the NZ rugby mad crowd. Yes, the BOK who kicked the penalty was the South African POW Johnny had taught to kick in camp....and that day Johnny was never allowed to forget, thanks to his POW mates, that he was the reason The All Blacks had lostSue Dixon
W/O L. W. C. Lewis 514 Sqd.W/O Lewis survived the loss of Lancaster DS822 JI-T when it came down at La Celle Le Bordes France on the 8th of June 1944 whilst on a bombing raid to Massy Palaiseau. He evaded capture until the 16th of August and was then taken to Stalag 12a and later to Stalag Luft 1.
Fred W. ButlerI was a POW at Stalag Luft 1 Barth from Feb 1944 to May 1945 and was one of twelve "Kriegies" who decided to walk to freedom and out of Germany from North Compound I. I was accompanied by Harry Korger, Bill Reichle and Bill Dallas to name a few. The rest of the names escape me. It was after the Russians had arrived and they helped us by ferrying us to the mainland by boat two at a time. I'm trying to remember the whole story.Fred W Butler, Jr
Sgt. Roger "Pluto" Peacock 40 Sqd. (d. )Roger Peacock was born in Liverpool on January 1, 1920. He joined the RAF in 1937 and was trained to be a wireless operator and a gunner on a Blenheim Bomber. His plane was shot down on July 26th, 1940 during an air raid near Wilhelmshaven in north-west Germany. He was taken prisoner and spent five years in German POW camps:Oberursel-Barth-Sagan-Heydekrug-Fallingbostel. He took part in the "Long March" before returning to Britain after liberation.
After two years in hospital he became a teacher. After his retirement he adopted the pen name "Richard Passmore" and wrote three autobiographical works published by Thomas Harmsworth Publishing London: "Blenheim Boy"(1981), "Moving Tent" about his time as a POW(1982)and "Thursday is Missing" about his childhood and youth in Liverpool(1984). He died in 1996.
After being discharged from hospital in 1947 he returned to Germany on a bicycle tour. During his stay at the youth hostel here in Osnabrueck he met a young man living in the neighbourhood, who invited him to get to know his family. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.Gerhard Meyer-Ohle
2nd Lt. Joseph S BergerI'm Looking for any information on my husband's Uncle. His name was Joseph S. Berger. He was shot down in 1943 on a bombing mission over Floesti, Romania. He was stationed in North Africa with the AAF. We think he was a B-24 pilot but some stories have him flying a B-25. His Stalag Luft 1 Number is 4596. When my husband's Aunt passed away my husband received a box with his Uncle's AAF gear and some German items. One interesting item is a German Reich Mark with several names signed on both sides. A note with the bill states that these are names of men that were in his hut in the POW camp. My husband's uncle passed away in 1959 while serving with the Los Angeles County Sherrif's Office.Judy Ladner
Warrant Officer Graham Cullis 102 SquadronW/O Graham Cullis, a Welshman, was a wireless operator flying in Halifax bombers with 102 Squadron based at Pocklington N. Yorks. In late 1943 or early 1944 Graham's plane was shot down over Germany and he bailed out, landing with his parachute in a tree in a wood from which he had to extricate himself. At day break he left the wood, but there was a reception party awaiting him and he was captured. He remembers being taken through Berlin on his way to a POW camp and being spat at and verbally abused by German women in the city, though fortunately no further harm befell him. He was imprisoned in Stalag Luft 1 on Germany's Baltic coast and was eventually liberated by Russian forces in May 1945. By this time his weight was down to under seven stone due to the shortage of rations at the camp as the war progressed. Graham thought that, of his plane's crew of seven ,either three or four may have survived the shooting down. After the war Grham remained in the RAF for a time and eventually died C1992. He told me his story in the 1980s.David Whittaker
Sgt. Sydney James Hitchings 49 SquadronMy father Sgt Sidney Hitchings was POW number 276 in Stalag Luft 1
WR Chorley’s RAF Bomber Command Losses of Second World War (vol 1939 – 40) states: Night of 4/5 Set 1940 49 Squadron Hampden mk 1 P 1347 EA-D Op: Stettin
- Pilot F/O LM Hodges POW escape report WO 208/3304 S/PG 345
- Observer Sgt SJ Hitchings POW 276
- WOp/AG Sgt JH Wyatt POW escape report WO 208/3303 S/PG 280
- Wop/AG Sgt LC Turnbull POW 285
t/o Scampton. Strayed off course after being fired on by light flak from an airfield in Brittany, the Hampden was force landed in a field near St Brieuc. (Hodges and Wyatt escaped and arrived home via Gibraltar on 31 July 1941. Hodges rose in rank to become Air Chief Marshall Sir Lewis Hodges and was president of the RAF Escaping Society).
My father was one of the early pows in Stalag Luft 1 and the accompanying photos are from there. He was moved to several other camps including Stalag Lufts 3 and 4 and eventually after the forced marches of winter 1944 arrived at Camp 357 from which he was repatriated.In 2015 I visited Pordic and met members of the Association Bretagne de Sovenir Arien (www.absa3945.com) who took me to the site of the crash. One of the old men was a boy of seven at the time and he saw the two parachutes of my father and Sgt Turnbull, both of whom were subsequently captured.
A group photo in front of what appears to be stage set. The reverse shows that it was posted from Stalag Luft 1 and I think the postmark is 1942-7-18. S.J.Hitchings is second from left front row
A propaganda “Christmas Spread” photo but my father told me all of the items were made of paper! SJH 3rd from right. 4th from left (with beard) is Sgt JC Shaw
Sgt JC Shaw (middle) and SJH back right. Others unknown. Sgt Shaw was shot while attempting to escape on the night of 2/3 Jan 42 (see Footprints in the Sands of Time, Clutton-Brock. p46.)
Sgt LC Turnbull
Sgt LC Turnbull (front) and SJH
6. S.J.Hitchings back left, others unknown.
Photos of Hampden P1347 in which my father, Sgt SJ Hitchings, was observer on the raid to Stettin on the night of 4th Sept 1949, after it crash landed in a field near Pordic, Brittany, were sent to me by Rick of Historical-media.com to whom I am grateful.Robert Hitchings
Charles H. KeckMy father, Charles H Keck Jr. who is now 88 years old and of failing memory, was a POW at Stalag Luft I.Sally Keck Gold
Flt.Lt. Douglas Gordon Reich Photographic 2 Operational SquadronDouglas Reich was a 17-year-old lad from Worsley, Manchester when war was declared. After volunteering for the RAF at 18, he was sailing on the Liberty Ship “The George F Eliott” in March 1942 when it was diverted to New York to avoid U. Boat attacks, so he took the train to Montreal. He was posted to No 5 Elementary Flying Training School at Windsor Mills, Flying Fleet Finch Mk. 2. After 5 hours and 20 minutes duel instruction, he took his first solo flight and finished the course with 65 hours flying time. He was then posted to No 13 Service Flying Training School at St Huberts, 100 miles from Montreal, to fly Harvards. After 2 weeks, his instructor was badly injured and his pupil killed, so he got a new instructor F/O Thompson. Towards the end of the course, Reich belly landed the plane after the engine caught fire, but finished the course and was awarded his commission. He returned from Canada in December 1942 with 220 hours flying time and then went to Tern Hill, Shropshire, England on refresher courses flying Miles Master and Kestrels.
In 1943 he went to an operational training unit at Hawarden, North Wales, to fly Mustang Mk I, - single seater fighter planes - and in May, was posted to No 2 Operational Squadron, an Army co-op squadron, at Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, to fly low-level photography reconnaissance missions. He photographed the French coast before D-Day, VI rocket sites and Pegasus bridge in Normandy to see if it could carry Allied tanks. On June 15th 1944, at 08.00hrs he was briefed to lead a section to attack the ferry boats that were taking German troops across the River Seine. The ferry was allowing them to get to the beachhead much quicker than by road.
He took off from Gatwick Aerodrome about 8.40am to attack the ferry boats transporting troops across the River Seine. At a place called Caudebec, he saw a ferry on the bank and blasted it with his four 20mm cannons. He pulled up, turned and fired on another ferry on the opposite bank then turned back over the river. Doing well over 300mph and flying very low, he crashed in to the Seine at Caudebec.
He floated in the river for 5 hours before being picked up unconscious by a French fishing boat crew who handed him over to the Germans. Regaining consciousness in a French cottage hospital about 10 hours later, he awoke as a Prisoner of War. It was a miracle he survived with only bruising, concussion and a broken ankle, although he had also burst all the blood vessels in his eyes! This is due to the fact that he had given his ‘Mae West’ inflatable lifejacket a few lungfuls of air before take-off. He had done this in case a crash ever burned his hands and he couldn’t hold and blow into his mouthpiece while in water. But the crash’s cause remains a mystery. Says Doug: “The only thing I can think of is that I’d been flying too low, put a wing tip in the water and cartwheeled in.” He spent weeks in hospitals and was interrogated in Frankfurt where his Scottish name had sparked confusion. “When I was being interrogated in Frankfurt beforehand, the interrogator looked at my name, blue eyes and fair hair and thought I was German. I said ‘I am not! All my relatives come from the Glamis area of Scotland.’ Reich was probably misspelt in the 1700s.”
He was sent to Stalag Luft I in July 1944 on Germany’s Baltic coast at a small town named Barth, near to Stettin where he spent the last 11 months of the war. Its sister camp, Stalag Luft III, inspired the Great Escape film, although no one escaped from Doug’s camp while he was there.
Conditions in the camp were tough but inmates got Red Cross parcels from Britain and the US to stave off starvation. Under captivity, however, he did develop acute appendicitis. A fellow POW and doctor removed the organ by torchlight during an air raid.
Doug survived and prisoners learnt about the end of the war by listening to a secret hidden radio in the camp hospital. In May, 1945, Stalag Luft I was liberated by the Russians. The mood, of course, brightened with unexpected perks. He said: “A day or so later, a Russian Colonel visited our camp and decided we needed some fresh meat. So he sent a very drunk soldier who drove a herd of cows through our gate. It was very funny.”
On May 13, 1945, a fleet of American Flying Fortresses evacuated all RAF personnel. Doug returned to England left the RAF in 1946 and got a job as a newspaper photo engraver in Manchester. He married Sheila in 1948 and had a son and a daughter and currently (2009) have three grandchildren and a great grandchild.Elizabeth Whyman
S/Sgt George Theodore Sulick 334th Squadron 95th Bomb GroupMy Dad, Thoedore Sulick, was prisoner in Stalag Luft I, but his name is not on any list that I can find for Luft I. His B17 was named Holy Matrimony and the crew were:
- Everett D. Peery
- james W. Daniels
- Lawrence Kleinman
- Guiseppe G. Merlo
- Dominick Maffetone
- George T. Sulick
- John H. Detweiler
- Michael J. Natt
- Francis E. Sutpin
All were held as POW's, originally, Dad was in Stalag Luft IV, but was transported by boxcar, along with a lot of other men, to Stalag Luft I. This was done to try and evade tne encroaching Russian liberators.
This is his story:
My military training began on February 3, 1943. I was an inductee, therefore, I was sent to an induction center for my physical and general aptitude testing. This is most important, as it has tremendous bearing on one’s destiny, in the service of one’s country. From the center, I was shipped to Fort Devens, Massachusetts for basic training. Upon completion of said training, assignment was to the Air Corps and I was shipped to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Billeting was in a large oceanfront hotel - for guess what? Eight more weeks of basic training! This consisted of close order drill on sandy beaches, marching through city streets all-day and singing Air Corps marching songs. After completion of training, we received orders, transferring our group to Seymour Johnson Field, North Carolina. When we arrived, the Command did not know what to do with us. Consequently, we received “basic training” once more, along with K.P. duty.
This field was a huge facility and was operational, 24 hours a day. The troops had to be fed. I was assigned my first duty. It was my task to remove frozen sausage from a carton, and separate them from layers of cardboard, tossing them into a kettle the size of a hot tub. As you might suspect, this is not a simple task. Trying to separate frozen sausage from frozen cardboard can be a trial. I soon learned; it could be quite simple. Looking over my shoulder was the “K.P. pusher (he’s the boss). Seeing the kettle only half filled, he picked up a carton and removed the sausage – no problem! When he reached the layers, he had difficulty removing the frozen sausages from the frozen cardboard. Immediately, he changed the procedure. He told me, “If the sausages are not cooperative, toss them into the kettle, cardboard and all”. From this experience, I never ordered sausage and gravy. It was always, “just sausage, please”.
Our next orders for assignment would be Hammer Field, California, for schooling. It didn’t happen. Instead, we were shipped to Camp Pinedale in Fresno California, for classification. I accepted the offer to become a radio operator. The classes were to be held at Camp Kohler, in Sacramento, California. After listening to Morse code for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, it becomes a drag. However, graduation was achieved because I was capable of receiving 20 words a minute without error. At our graduation ceremony we were told, because of our accomplishments, the class would attend a “High Speed Radio Operators” course. This was at a former CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp Camp), located in Yosemite National Park, California, at Waiwona Point.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by the First Sergeant, who was armed with a 45-caliber pistol. This location had a country club atmosphere, consisting of five buildings. Two were classrooms, two were administration buildings and one was a mess hall. As new students, we were to sleep in 8-man pyramid tents, in clearings surrounding the compound. After the sergeant finished his orientation lecture, a recruit from Brooklyn, New York, who was overcome with curiosity, asked: “Hey Sarge, why the sidearm”? The Sergeant’s sole reply was “Bears”! After a few weeks of schooling and country club living, some of us became restless. We were not involved in the real war! Ten of us made a pact that we would go to see the captain and request a transfer to become aircrew members or Paratroopers. Our agreement was whichever came first, we all would accept, since we bonded together as buddies. Now it was back to classes and our daily routine – listening to code and learning to type at the same time. The only excitement was returning to our tents at the end of our day to find that the bears had pulled a raid, stealing the Brooklyn recruit’s salami. He had a startled look because some recruits didn’t know what a bear looked like, let alone seeing one in the wild! More excitement occurred because our request for transfer became the news of the day throughout the entire camp. The next day, we were off to Air Force Gunnery School, north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The training was interesting, as we learned about disassembling and reassembling 50 caliber machine guns at high altitudes with mittens on. It is very cold above the clouds. We had 6 weeks of strafing the floor of Death Valley and shooting at a fighter plane and towing a target. This was significant because each crew member was assigned a belt of 50 caliber tracer bullets with a color-coded slug. The color was put into the individual’s record for scoring purposes. We all thought that shooting tracer bullets at a tow target was a no brainer – how could anyone miss? The target will come back in shreds. It came back, but not in shreds and our instructor read the results of each individual’s performance. There was not a Sergeant York among the crew!
These exercises completed our training. We were then transferred to a reception center for the formation of individual crews. The center was in Tampa, Florida. Each B-17 was to consist of a 10-man crew for further training at an Overseas Training Unit (OTU). Most of the crews were waiting for the tenth man, who was to become our Navigator. Scuttlebutt came out concerning attendance at classes. Classes were supposed to be longer in order for the recruits to earn their wings as full-fledged Navigators. During the waiting period, there was not much to do. Our days were filled with the mundane – roll call, meals, sleep and visits to the theater, which was on the base.
After 2 weeks of waiting, we got our Navigator. Now we became a complete crew ready for our OUT assignment. We did not have long to wait. We were assigned to Avon Park, Florida, which was not far from Tampa. Upon arrival, we were immediately assigned to the Cromer Group, flying B-17’s. Training began in earnest and it was much like Gunnery School, except we flew in the positions for which we were trained. Guess who was the Radio Operator? On all missions my requirements were this: maintain a radio log, monitor the frequencies selected for the missions, and keep in touch with our base. There was a briefing before each mission, and it was at this briefing that we were informed of our destination, the dead reckoning signs, and when to return. Most of the flights took us over the Gulf of Mexico. I recall that our Briefing Officer would always warn the Navigators not to mistake Lake Okeechobee for the Gulf of Mexico. All missions returning from the Gulf would routinely buzz Fort Myers Beach. It stirred our patriotism to see the excitement we created on the beach. The sunbathers jumped up and screamed. The pilot would tip the wings of our plane and our crew would wave back from the windows in the waist of the B-17.
While at Avon Park, several crewmembers invited their fiancées to visit because this would be our last stateside base. During this time, our engineer and his fiancée decided to marry. We were all involved with the wedding arrangements. The ceremony was performed in the base chapel. The reception was held in town. The guests enjoyed a menu of potato chips, sandwiches and beer.
This was May 1944 and we were still stateside. Approximately one week from the wedding, we were put on 24 hour alert. This meant we would be shipped to Hunter Field, Georgia, pick up our spanking new B-17, and we would fly it over to “Merry Olde England”. When we arrived, we found out there was a shortage of planes. For several weeks we did busy work until we were sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Then it was on to Brooklyn, New York to board a ship bound for England. The ship was a former luxury liner. We sailed past the Statue of Liberty into the Atlantic Ocean. Once on the Atlantic, we became part of a large convoy, bound for the British Isles. The head count on board was 9,000 men – all heading for the unknown. Not much happened aboard ship. We whiled away the time, waiting in long lines for our meals, playing card games. The only interruption to this routine was the occasional submarine alert. After 5 days at sea, we docked in Liverpool, England. In about 20 more years Liverpool would become famous as the home of the Beatles. It was June 1944 and the only singing the Beatles were doing was from their cribs! We were not in port for long. Trucks pulled in and drove us to a reception center, not far from Birmingham, England. After several days, it was announced that our crew would be assigned to the 8th Air Force, 95th Bomb Group, 334th Squadron, stationed in Horham, England. During our orientation, the Briefing Officer told us that a British Colonel from World War I had invited us to his estate for afternoon tea. This was to acquaint us with the local female population. These young ladies would be responsible for serving tea. Our lodging was in Nisson Huts, two crew to each hut.
It was now our responsibility to check the bulletin board daily. The board would list which crews were scheduled for a bombing mission the following day. Eighteen months of training and anticipation finally fell upon us on August 25, 1944. We were in a combat ready mode.
The wake up call was at 3 AM. It was breakfast, religious services of your choice, then report to the briefing room at 5 AM. This is where it all began. The Briefing Officer instructed us on the details of our mission. Our target was oil storage dumps in Politz, Germany. Intelligence reported 99 anti-aircraft guns at this location, all waiting for our arrival. We were cautioned to wear our parachute at all times. If it became necessary to use it, we were instructed NOT to pull the ripcord until we could see the ground spinning below. As a crew, we had never had so much as a practice jump during any of our training. We were given the name of the plane we would fly. Our plane was called Nagasaki. We were dismissed with “Good Luck Men”. The jeeps were waiting to take us to our bomber. Before entering the plane, our pilot gave instructions on what he expected from us during the mission. He also announced, following completion of 3 missions, we would be eligible for a weekend pass to London.
Soon we heard the pilot announce that we were now in enemy territory. He reminded us to keep our eyes open for enemy fighters and maintain our positions. The pilot then announced we were approaching the target. At this point, it was my job to quickly start jumping “Chaff” (8 pieces of tin foil) through a small hole in the floor of the radio room. There wasn’t much visibility through the hole, but I cold see puffs of black smoke below, caused by the bursting of anti-aircraft shells. Within seconds, I could hear and see pieces of shrapnel coming through the ship. I then heard “Bombs Away” and I watched the bombs drop from the bomb bay, heading for the target.
The waist gunner called to the pilot: “Sir, one of our engines is on fire”. The pilot quickly asked the navigator to give him a fix for Sweden, as we were not too far from that neutral country. Attempts were made to put out the fire, but they didn’t work. Then came the moment of reckoning – the pilot issued the order – ABANDON SHIP! Seconds later someone said they had seen the navigator bail out and his chute had opened. With that information, I walked back to the waist of the ship and saw that it was empty. I noticed the tail gunner crawling into the waist and I waited for him at the door. We watched the flames for a few seconds, and I commented to the gunner that the flames would never go out. With that, I jumped. Drifting down, I looked over my shoulder and saw the ground spinning and I pulled the ripcord. The jerk was so great that I lost my portable oxygen tent and mask. The next thing I saw in front of me was a billowing parachute, dragging me out to the open sea. It was imperative to rid myself of my chute and keep afloat. Finally I managed to free myself from the harness, inflate my “Mae West”, and sink the chute. I headed toward shore, but it was very difficult to swim with my heavy sheepskin-lined flying boots, so I discarded them. This was a big mistake because when I reached shore, my first task was to fashion some sort of footwear from my flying suit coveralls. It was time to open my escape kit and see what I had. I found a map, two buttonhole compasses, a D bar (chocolate candy), a plastic tube to carry water, a tiny saw, and two types of pills. One was for purifying water. The other pills were “bennies” (Benadryl for energy). The map was not helpful because I didn’t have a clue where I was, although I knew I was in enemy territory. One thing I did know was West was the direction I should follow. Despite the fact that I was soaked to the skin, I fell asleep in the bushes. I awoke before daylight and started my journey into the unknown as an evader. Go West was firmly implanted in my mind, and I headed in that direction, staying close to brush and forest. After several hours of walking, I found a pond and decided to stop. My clothes were still very wet and the day was very bright and sunny. I removed my clothing and laid it on the grass to dry. I sat down and rested and slipped into periods of fretful sleep. Suddenly I head young female laughter in the distance. Shocked, I jumped up quickly, gathered my clothing, and bolted for cover in a nearby forest.
Walking in the forest I heard a train whistle. This was music to my ears. Intelligence always told us to follow railroad tracks. Following the tracks I came upon a small village railroad station with its name on the building. Quickly I checked my map for the location. I could not find any listing resembling the name. Traveling on, not too far from the station, I passed a farmhouse. People were sitting on the porch, so I waved as a friendly neighbor. Darkness was falling, so I found the next available haystack and fell asleep. When I woke up, there was breakfast to be had. Luckily it was not far away. Within sight there was a farm that ran along the tracks. There, for my picking, I found carrots, rutabaga, apples and pears. Well supplied, but getting nowhere, I altered my course. I was more comfortable in the forest, than out in the open along the tracks. I chose a wagon trail, which was a straight line versus a huge curve in the railroad tracks. Halfway along, I passed two German soldiers. They did not speak, so I kept my mouth shut. Quickly I found refuge and burrowed under a pine tree and stopped breathing! I’m not sure, but I believe I slept there for the night. Later it occurred to me that the German soldiers might have thought I was a tired woodsman, because I was carrying a large branch on my shoulder as a weapon.
This experience frightened me, so I altered my course again and followed the tracks, which were now in a straight line through the forest. Looking ahead, I spotted a sentry post at the entrance to a fenced-in factory compound. It was necessary to circle around and follow the tracks to the other end of the compound. Before reaching the tracks, there was a small gully where I stopped to sit and eat my lunch. Suddenly I heard rustling from behind. Turning to see the cause of the sound, there was an uniformed plant guard, jumping from his bicycle. He had a rifle pointed at me. He motioned for me to climb over the fence. From a call in station inside the perimeter, he announced his capture or spread an alarm. He then motioned for me to march ahead. My homemade boots no longer had bottoms. A severe blister developed on the ball of my right foot. Walking became most difficult. After a short distance we arrived at the desk of the receptionist. She questioned me in German. I gave her what the Geneva Convention required: Name, Rank and Serial Number. The receptionist called someone on the phone. Soon a blond, English speaking young lady came in and asked whom, what, why and where are you from. Intelligence cautioned us to be wary of young, blonde, German women. They wine and dine you, hoping to elicit information. It didn’t happen that way to me. Appearing at the door was an uniformed policeman, who beckoned me to follow. Outside, he mounted his bicycle and pedaled behind me. It was a long walk to the police station in the town of Barth, Germany. I was strip-searched and placed in a room with a bed made of boards, and an empty pail. There was no food for the night.
Early the next morning, the policeman awakened me. He left some bread and coffee for my breakfast. I pointed to my blistered foot and he shook his head up and down and said Yah. An hour went by and in walked a Luftwaffe soldier who would remain my personal guard until we reached our destination. It was a short walk to the railroad station to board the train to a German Airdrome. There I was put in solitary confinement and fed a good meal for dinner. The meal consisted of noodles in hot milk. With the warm feeling I fell into a sound sleep. The morning came quickly – so did my breakfast, which was a tasty bowl of millet. Soon I was escorted to my personal guard who was waiting outside the jail. He pointed his finger in the direction I was to walk and I pointed my finger to my blistered foot. He shook his head up and down, which I accepted as Yes, OK. Sure enough we ended up at sick call in a German Airdrome. It was as crowded as those were in the United States (full of goof-offs). The guard left me in the center of the overcrowded room and walked into the inner office. Seconds later, he opened the door and motioned for me to enter, despite the grumbling of the other patients. Even though I did not understand German, I felt strongly that I understood what they were saying. Inside a doctor in a long white coat looked at my foot. He treated and bandaged it with crepe paper. I bowed my head and thanked him. He became enraged and kept hollering and waving his arms. Finally I detected a word that sounded like salute. As soon as I realized what he meant, I saluted him and everything was fine. My guard and I went out the door, through the crowd of grumbling sick call Luftwaffe soldiers. We boarded a train headed south. Along the way we picked up a seriously burned P38 pilot and a paratrooper from Brooklyn, who was dropped in error behind enemy lines. Our train stopped in Wetzlar, Germany, which was the Interrogation Center for all POW airmen.
I was put in solitary confinement like all the others, as we waited to be interrogated. On my second day I was taken to another room to meet with my interrogator. It was not an intense, stressful situation. The questions asked were about the group I flew with and its location. To all questions, my answer remained Name, Rank and Serial Number. I returned to my cell for one more day in solitary before I became part of a large group of United States Airmen who were assembled in the area. Colonel Charles W. Stark, U.S. Army Air Corps, greeted us. He announced that we were here to receive proper clothing, a good meal, and assignment to a Luftwaffe camp. That evening we had what would be our last meal, sitting at a table, in a Mess Hall for the next 9 months. Early the next morning we were issued a cardboard suitcase with pajamas, socks, handkerchiefs, soap, razors, toothbrush, writing paper and a pencil. We also received a G.I. overcoat and fatigue cap. In addition, I received a pair of shoes. This was the first time I had footwear since bailout.
The morning of September 5, Colonel Stark informed us that we were leaving for our permanent camp by train. The train traveled in a northeasterly direction to the town of Kiefheide, Germany. This was the location of Stalag Luft IV. After the war, this town reverted back to Poland and became known as Podborsko. When our train was pulling into the station, there was a patrol of armed guards with German Shepherd dogs, waiting for us to be discharged. On the platform, the guards lined us up for the march to our new home – Stalag Luft IV. If anyone lagged behind, the guard would command the dogs to bark, snarl, and snip at the person that lagged behind. Approaching the camp, we could see the guard towers with machine guns pointing at the formation. When inside the Lager, we were assigned to a barrack with a room number.
The barrack leader ushered me to my room and announced who I was. He also explained that I would be spending my time with the rest of them until the end of the war. With introductions accomplished, the prisoners began asking questions. Most of the questions were “Where’s Patton, where’s Montgomery and where are the Russians”? They also wanted to know how long I thought the war would last, and how many missions I had flown. For the first 3 questions I had no information that would raise their spirits. However, I did say we would be home for Christmas. As to how many missions I had flown, I told them it was my first! One of my new roommates pulled me aside and whispered the next time anyone asks what mission you are on, tell them it was your last! It adds more glory to your record, and it really is the truth.
The shout “roll call” sounded through the barrack. We left to be counted by the guards. Standing for my first roll call as a POW was memorable because the RAF (Royal Air Force) arranged with the Germans for the presentation of a cardboard medal to a RAF pilot, who was shot down during the siege of Poland in September, 1939. Returning to our room after roll call, the room leader told me it would be best for me to use the table as my bed, since the floor would be very cold. The room was small, so my roommates would stumble over me on the way to the latrine.
Soon, 2 G.I.’s left to get our dinner from the kitchen. They returned with a bucket of boiled potatoes. The room leader had the tedious task of dividing equal portions for 15 hungry men, salivating over the bucket. It did not take much time to fall into the daily routine of life in a POW Lager. The day began with roll call – then breakfast. Breakfast consisted of hot water, a slice of black bread, and a lump of coal to heat our room. Then we had free time. We played bridge, pinochle or read all day. We would listen to the arguments over the other games. The bridge games were very serious business, non-stop all day, except for chow time. Normally we had a lunch of soup and then more free time. At this point you were allowed to get some fresh air and exercise. We were not allowed to exercise too much because it would make us more hungry and dirty. In the evening there was another roll call and lights out at 8 PM. As a new recruit, I listened to many horror stories from my roommates. In the course of exchanging experiences, I learned that the body of water I bailed into was the Baltic Sea. Daily rumors were abundant. There was bad news when the guards would shake down a barracks and claim they found a tunnel being dug or a radio in a room. For this, punishment was being locked in the barrack for a day or more – often without food.
This is where the Red Cross parcels filled the void. Sixteen items were in each carton. There was a bartering value on each item. For example, two packs of cigarettes could get you a D-bar or a package of prunes, etc. We did not always receive full parcels. At times it would become necessary to split and share the contents of the parcels. The Germans gave several excuses for the shortages. One excuse was that our fighter planes strafed the running railroad cars carrying the goods, and another excuse was the U.S. had bombed the warehouse containing the parcels. For our fresh air and exercise, we would walk around the compound. At times you could hear machine gun fire from the tower, blasting at the center of the compound. When this occurred, our top ranking officer would register a complaint. The German response to this was usually that they were testing their guns. Thanksgiving arrived and we made the best of what we had. I made an icebox cake with cracker crumbs for the crust. I formed the cake in an empty prune package, and I filled it with stewed prunes, minus the pits. A layer of chocolate sauce from a D-bar and then a layer of whipped powdered milk topped the cake. I cracked the pits of the prunes and used the seed to decorate the top. Some of my roommates were willing to sign an IOU from their back pay for a slice. When they heard the price, they found it was beyond their reach.
Time passed and we started to prepare for the Christmas holidays. Raisins were claiming a high price in the bartering market. The winemakers were forming wine clubs. If you wanted to toast both Christmas and the New Year, it would cost you your raisins. The Community Room was not large enough, so we were allowed to celebrate Christmas Eve services in shifts. We sang Christmas carols by the Christmas tree. The wine club members were anxious to get back and have the wine tasting. I must say, it was a very unusual vintage. There wasn’t a lot of wine, but it did upset many stomachs. Time seemed to pass quickly because there were many rumors concerning the Russian advances in the East. We began to hear the muffled sounds of heavy artillery. With every salvo we heard, the lager would erupt with whistles, screaming and jumping up and down. We would yell “Come on Joe (Stalin)”.
In January 1945, a new rumor was rampant every day. The one that was so vivid was that the Russians were very close. You had a sense of this in everyone’s mood. This continued for weeks. On January 30th some of us were marched out of camp, despite severe blizzard conditions. We were herded onto boxcars that were waiting for us. The Germans loaded 50 to 52 men in each car and threw us some bread and an empty pail. The pail was our latrine. They locked the door and left. There was not a configuration we could come up with for a comfortable seating arrangement. There was not enough room because the cars were not big enough for 50 plus men. At 2300 hours, the train left the station for an unknown destination. The second day of our trip, the guards opened all doors, allowing us to jump out and relieve ourselves. This was in the snow-covered meadows along the track. I don’t know how many cars made up the train, but I do know that at least 1300 to 1400 men were relieving their bowels at the same time. What added to the drama was the appearance of a horse-drawn sleigh, with its bells tingling. The passengers in the sleigh were teenagers witnessing this spectacle. This was the longest “mooning line” in history. The trip was long and complications developed. There was sickness and physical pain and a lot of mental stress. One of the men broke down. He had been standing for such a long time that his legs could not support him any longer. We managed to sling a blanket in one of the corners of the boxcar. This gave him the necessary relief. There were delays because of bombing raids, which took place day and night. We also had to wait for German troop trains to pass. On the 8th day of our trip, we arrived at Stalag Luft I. It had taken us 8 days to arrive at this camp in Barth, Germany. It was less than 300 miles from our former camp. The camp was laid out the same as the other camp. Overcrowding was still a problem. We also learned that the men we left behind were marched out the next day, headed on foot over the countryside to keep them from being liberated by the advancing Russian troops. Again, the booming of field artillery could be heard. We knew liberation was at hand. At 5am on May 1, 1945, we were awakened by shouts inside the barracks. ‘’G.I.’s in the towers”!!!! Sure enough, the German guards had moved out in the still of the night, leaving us to the Russians.
The Russians arrived at the main gate later that morning. All hell broke loose. The Russians gave us gifts of flour, cattle, pigs, and geese. We had some Texans in our barracks, and they shot one of the herd. They butchered it into steaks and stew meat. After being hungry for several months, this was quite a bonanza! One of our senior officers, Colonel Zemke, was in charge of negotiations with the Russian command. One order was to remain in camp for our safety. Some of the men became adventurous and wanted to take part in the spoils of war. They were commandeering boats and rowing across the peninsula into town. My buddies and I swam across from another side of the peninsula and walked into a small hamlet outside of town. There were four small cottages in this lonely village that seemed abandoned. We decided to enter one to see what it was like. To our surprise it had not been ransacked. It was as though a family might have gone off to church. Suddenly we heard a woman’s voice hollering at someone in German. We looked over and saw a Russian soldier with a gun trying to remove something from her home. Quickly we ran out the back door to the safety of our camp.
The camp was all-abuzz because word was out that planes (B-17’s) would be arriving daily to evacuate the camp. On Mother’s Day 1945 I climbed aboard a plane and headed for a landing field, somewhere in France. When we landed we were loaded into trucks headed for Ramp Camp (Recovered Allied Military Personnel). There were several ramp camps in the region. Ours was Camp Lucky Strike outside of LeHavre, France. On arrival, we were stripped, deloused, showered, issued new uniforms and fed. The tents we were assigned to were huge. I don’t know how it was possible to keep track of the thousands of G.I.’s that poured into the camp. We were immediately allowed to send a telegram to our folks telling them we were headed home. One health tip given to us was to be sure to drink a lot of eggnog. For this, an area was set up to dispense eggnogs all day and well into the evening. Instead of saying let’s go for a Coke or a beer, it was let’s have an eggnog. Actually it was a social event, watching the endless line of G.I.’s going for their tonic. One day, while watching this flow of humanity, I met all the members of my crew, except the navigator. From this meeting I learned that only 3 of us landed in the sea – the pilot, tail gunner and me. A German patrol boat picked up the pilot and tail gunner. Their captors punched them around.
In a few days a passenger list was posted. My name was on it and the ship was leaving the next morning. Trucks delivered us to the pier. There we boarded a creaky old tub known as a Liberty Ship. The second day out it was stormy and I got seasick. What a nightmare! After all I had been through, I wanted to die because I was so ill from seasickness. There were many suggestions for a cure. None worked. Finally I crawled to sick bay. I received some pills and strong advice from the medic to be sure to take small amounts of food each day. This prescription worked out fine. After 7 or 8 days at sea, we pulled into New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty. A briefing officer came aboard from Fort Dix, New Jersey. He told us we would be going by train to the Fort for debriefing, cleaning up, and food. From there we would receive our orders and transportation to our next base. My orders sent me back to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. There was more debriefing there, a physical examination, and completion of our military wardrobe. After 6 weeks of leave and 2 weeks of R & R in Atlantic City, New Jersey, my next assignment was Bedford Army Airbase in Bedford, Massachusetts. If I had enough points for discharge, this latter stint would not have been necessary. However, it was fun and games. They caught up with me though and put me in charge of traffic. This was the office that handled the paperwork for incoming and outgoing flights. The GI who had this assignment before me had enough points for discharge. He was out of there. I was not trained for the job and my first day was a predictable catastrophe. It all started with a call over the intercom. “Traffic, this is tower”. Aircraft coming in for a landing with a VIP aboard. The VIP aboard is Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Traffic to tower – what do I do? This is my first hour on the job. They told me to find the Officer of the Day quickly. He took the pressure away from my end and arranged for the proper receiving line for the Admiral. Weeks dragged on and I began to accept what I was doing. However, as each week ticked by, I finally earned the points necessary for discharge. My orders were cut for Mitchell Field, New York. This was not a lengthy stay, but just enough time for them to prepare my records for discharge. I was finally a free man and they sent me home to my family and loved ones. This happened on November 15, 1945. Soon it was Thanksgiving and I was, indeed, most thankful.
Report on Stalag Luft IV
Map of the area.Patricia Mazella
F/Lt.. Anthony Graham Sadler 100 SquadronTony was shot down on July 13th 1943 at about 0700 hrs over Brest. He was piloting a Lancaster Bomber EE 183 HW-P that had returned from a bombing raid on the Turin railyard, they were based at RAF Waltham (Grimsby) His crew members were ;
EE 183 came down below 1000 ft to get a visual as their instruments were damaged by an electrical storm earlier, they were supposed to land in Cornwall, refuel and retun to Waltham, unfortunately Cornwall turned out to be France! Not just any bit of France, but Brest one of the most heavily fortified harbours in Europe.
- A G Sadler 148132
- J Egleston 1487782
- M J Maloney 1031746
- W E Broxup 657446
- R A A Howe 657446
- R R W Parker 158598
- A Burton Aust 413527
Machine gun fire opened up on them from a fighter, then all hell broke loose, ack ack, heavy machine guns, the works, now coming from the ground, 2 engines caught fire and the plane was well alight. Tony ordered the crew to bale out, unfortunately the rear gunner was trapped in his turret and badly wounded. Tony changed the order and started looking for somewhere to land. Bob Parker the upper gunner spotted an airfield a short distance away, this turned out to be Guipavas. Guipavas in 1943 was occupied by a German fighter squadron, and this was the airfield Tony landed on. Hydraulic fluid was now all over the cockpit windscreen making visibility very poor. Bob gave Tony instructions from his position to aid the landing. They were still been fired on, and a third engine caught fire, as was most of the aircraft. Bob said bullets were flying past him missing him by inches. Bob was very lucky and was the only person not wounded, even the mascot got its nose shot off! The plane landed but with no hydraulics. Tony swerved the plane round causing the undercarriage to collapse, but stopping the Lanc. before it hit a hanger. The Lanc burnt out on the airfield, totally destroyed. All the crew got out, wounded, apart from Bob, but safe.
They were all made POWs, Tony was taken to hospital in Paris for a month, recovering from a wound in his leg. He then went to Barth Stalag Luft 1, from 23/8/43 to 1/11/43, he was then moved to Stalag Luft 5 in Hyderkrug from 4/11/43 to 10/4/44. Then on 13/4/43 he was transfered to Sargan (Zagan) Staluft luft 3, Tony stayed here until the Great March as the Russians approached Sargan, and was moved out 28/1/45. Tony finally ended up at Tarmsted and was liberated on 7/4/45 and retuned to UK. It would appear that none of the crew ever met up again, all were interned in different camps,and all went their own ways after the war.Mike Sadler
John Henry SmytheJohn Henry Smythe was a prisoner in Stalag Luft1.
William HoganWilliam Hogan served on bombers and flew dangerous missions from Foggia, Italy. He was a tail gunner on a B-24 bomber during his 16th and final mission on May 29, 1944. His plane was flying in a formation to bomb a German fighter-plane factory in a suburb of Vienna, Austria. "The Germans knew where we were going, they knew our altitude and speed, and when we approaced, there was all kinds of flak. You couldn't go over it, under it or around it; you had to go through it. We had just dropped our bombs when we were hit by flak. The plane went into a steep dive, but the pilot straightened it out. The pilot was wounded, and the copilot and top gunner were killed. On the intercom, everyone could hear what was going on. The copilot's body was removed and the navigator took over."
But the crew had bigger problems now that their plane was separated from the protection of the formation. German fighteers hit the bomber with fire from 30-caliber machine guns and 20 mm cannons. Hogan fired back, but the outlook looked more grim with each passing second. The tail rudders were knocked out, and parts of the planes were ablaze. The crew bailed out over Austria. Hogan had to pull the lines of his parachute to avoid landing on top of a woman and instead hit the roof of a two-story farm house, then fell, breaking tow bones in his right leg. He was taken prisoner by the Germans and after time in Austrian and German hospitals, an interrogation, and a stint at a POW camp in Poland, he was transferred to Stalag Luft 1, where he spent 11 months. The camp housed thousands of POW's, mostly American and British service members. What stood out? "Starvation. We didn't get much food."SFlynn
F/Lt. Anthony Graham Sadler 100 SqdMy father Anthony Sadler piloted EE183, a Lancaster Bomber, out of RAF Waltham/Grimsby on July 12 1943. They were shot down after returning from a bombing raid on the Turin railyards. Dad crash landed EE183 on a German airfield near Brest. The crew all survived but all were wounded. Dad first was taken to a Luftwaffe hospital in Paris, 14/7/1943 to 18/8 /1943. After a month he was sent to: Stalag Luft 1 Barth 23/8/1943 to 1/11/1943 then Stalag Luft 6 Hyderkrug 4/11/1943 to 10/4/1944 then Stalag Luft 3 Sargan 13/4/1944 to 28/1/1945 then after the Long March Stalag Luft 3 Tarmstedt 3/2/1945 to 7/4/1945 Shortly after this he returned to the UK.
I have no information on anyone who knew Tony in Stalag Luft 3 or on the Long March. Any information gratefully received.Michael Sadler
WO. Jim "Shagger" Shaw 40 SquadronMy uncle Flt.Sgt. Jim Shaw WOP/AG of 40 Squadron was a member of the crew of 39923 Roderick W.Finlayson RNZAF the other members were Murray, Fletcher, Tuckwell, Beckett and Cawthraw. On the night of 11th May 1941 at 22.25hrs they took off to bomb the U Boat Yards in Hamburg flying in H for Harry.They were subsequently shot down about 01.00hrs on the 12th by Lieutnant Helmut Lent, later to become the Luftwaffe;s 2nd top night fighter Ace. That morning Lent also shot down another 40 Sqdn aircraft piloted by Freddie Luscombe and his crew who were Chappell, Mulligan, Harris, Hodges,and Long RNZAF.
F/Sgt Shaw was the W/Op that night, having swapped from rear Gunner with his friend, to keep his hand in on wireless duties. It would appear the aircraft blew up, my uncle stated he doesn't remember anything except falling through the sky and having a bright glow above him then passing out. He came to in a field with his feet in a stream and his chute around him.
He was subsequently found by farmers who put a rope around his neck and dragged him across fields to the village, stabbing at him with hay forks and kicking him continually, he was taken to a barn where the rope was placed over a beam. At that point a very large German kept kicking him; my uncle said he assumed he was going to be hanged so he spat at him whereupon he received another kicking. He said he had completely lost interest and felt so ill he just wanted them to get on with it.
Things subsequently quietened down and he was later rescued by German Forces. Upon his rescue a German Officer drew his pistol and pointed it at the villagers and began shouting and screaming at them. My uncle was then placed in a truck and taken to a hospital. He said from being taken prisoner by German Forces he was extremely well treated by them and the hospital staff and had excellent hospital treatment, being operated on for head injuries and a broken ankle.
After hospitalization he was taken to Stalag Luft 1 Barth Vogelsang; he was POW number either 9 or 10, he remained a POW until the war ended. All his crew are interred in the RAF Cemetery Nordfriedhof Kiel Row 4 C. He was the sole survivor of four aircraft shot down that night
He was promoted to Warrant Officer on his return to England.Rodger Chamley-Shaw
F/Lt Mervyn M. Johnstone 431st SquadronMy Uncle, Flight Lt Johnstone, pilot, RCAF, wrote:
It would be the 8th trip on our second tour of bombing operations. Night of June 16/17-airborne at about 2200 hours, the target was a part of the munitions complex in the Rhur Valley. No big deal and no problems. On leaving the German border behind, we were in and out of the tops of cloud at around 16,000 feet and homeward bound over Holland. Time to break out some flight rations of orange juice and candy bar. Wham! A burst of cannon shell holes a few inches apart, traced a pattern from the bomb aimers position, through the navigator's table and angled through the left side of the instrument panel past the port inner engine which was set afire. Going into some fairly wild weaving with height change, we shut down the port inner, deployed the one shot fire extinguisher and took stock. The navigator, John Burns had just pulled his feet back to relax and was uninjured. "Dinger" Bell was still prone in his position and received some injury to his left ribs. The aircraft was flyable. Right away, another burst of swept the port wing root and reestablished fire in that engine. Worse still, the wing began to vibrate and a major aileron control problem was developing. Bail out! Proof the the Germans had developed some mighty sophisticated radar and guns in their aircraft was evident.
They were flying Halifax MZ-537 SE-L from Croft and crashed near Druemel in The Netherlands. Names of crew were Sgt JC Fereday, Flight Engineer RAF, F/Lt JC Burns, Navigator RCAF, F/O C Bell, Bombardier RCAF, F/O Lloyd Oliver Stanley, Telegrapher RCAF, F/O MB Steeves, gunner RCAF and F/O RJ Oates, gunner RCAF. Mervyn learned that Stanley, Fereday and Oates were uninjured but were captured by the Germans shortly after landing. Burns and Steeves were at farmhouses close by and Bell was tended by a doctor who had underground connections. Lifelong friendships were made especially with the van Gelder family in Alforst. They were hidden well by the wonderful Dutch folk! On July 16 they travelled in pairs on cycles to town of Hertogenbosch, then boarded a train for Eindhoven. They were then to cycle in pairs to Belgian border but 10 miles from the border the guide that was leading them disappeared and subsequently the four of them were rounded up. They ended up in Stalag Luft 1 Barth Vogelsang until the end of the war.Helen Ayers
Sgt. Clifford Webb MBE. 21 SquadronWe believe that my father Clifford Webb was captured twice. This article was found which was probably written by our father to his mother after the second capture/escape. If anybody can shed some light on Clifford Webb, it would certainly be most appreciated !
The article Letter home from Sgt. C. Webb, RAF, from “Woodside”, Homer, aged 24 years. C. 1940. We were shot down in France, near Calais, on June 14th, by six Messerschmitts, but nobody was injured, so we tried to make our way back to England. We found a little boat three days after the crash, but had no chance to stock it with food and drink. Our oars were very weak and soon broke. The upshot of it all was that we were in the channel for three days without food or drink and not a stitch of dry clothing on us. One of my companions died on the last night and the two of us left were washed back on the French coast, still behind the German lines. We hid for two days to regain our strength, and started walking to Le Havre about 50 miles away, but abandoned the idea as the port was too closely watched. Then we tried to get work on the farms, posing as Belgians, but failed because we had no identification papers. We begged bought and stole food and civilian clothing during this time.
Eventually we decided to go north and try to cross the Channel again, but were unlucky enough to walk into a hidden German aerodrome, just south of the Somme. We were stopped and questioned; I was the only one speaking French. They found out my companion was English so I was taken as well. This was on the evening of July 1st. I don’t know how I escaped, but all the people in this camp are the same. Some of the escapees from crashes are nothing short of miraculous.
Report of incident near Calais. 14/06/1940: Merville, France.
- Type: Bristol Type 142L, Blenheim Mk. IV
- Serial number: R3742,YH-?
- Operation: Merville
- Lost: 14/06/1940
- Pilot Officer William A. Saunders, RAF 40756, 21 Sqn., age 20, 14/06/1940, missing
- Sgt W.H.Eden PoW also initialled H.W.Eden
- Sgt C.Webb PoW
- Airborne from Bodney. Crash-site not established. Last seen being chased by Me109s.
- P/O Saunders has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Mmemorial.
- Sgt W.H.Eden on his 30th operation evaded until captured July 40 near Doullens after spending 3 days in a rowing boat and interned in Camps L1/L6/357, PoW No.87.
- Sgt C.Webb was also captured with his comrade but was interned in Camps L1/L3/L6/357, PoW No.76.
F/Lt. George W. Gardiner 429 SquadronMy dad, George Gardiner was on his 23 mission on July 18th 1944 when his plane was hit from falling bombs from above Aircraft Halifax LW127. Went down 3 killed 3 POW's and 1 made it back to friendly lines. Phil Brunet was in the same camp and bunk house.Greg Gardiner
Sgt. Thomas Kevin May 37 SquadronI believe my father, Thomas May served in 37 Squadron and fought in the Battle of Heliogland. He was shot down in 1939 and was imprisoned for the rest of the war, in Stalag Luft 111 & 1. But I'm not sure of the dates. I was only 7 years old so I have no real first-hand information.Ursula Duval
James Hawley StephensonMy father was a prisoner of war in Barth, but he never spoke of his experience at all to me or my sister. I asked him many times, and he would always say, "don't ask" or the like. His name was James Hawley Stephenson and upon returning from being a prisoner of war, he changed his life direction and became a physician. He then got interested in natural medicine and practised as a homeopath all his life, until his death in 1985.
My mother, who married him shortly upon his return from WW2, said he used to have nightmares, and more, for a long time. I believe he experienced PTSD all his life, he never made any deep friendships and was a bit of a loner.
I only learned where he was incarcerated recently thanks to the web and sites like this, and had the amazing opportunity to visit the site of Barth. a poem I wrote about my feelings at the site, with a photo of him.
If anyone has any other information about him, like where he was in the camp or anything else, it would be great to know. I do know he was good friends with a Canadian man, and they kept up a bit after the war.Skye Stephenson
Sgt. Stanley Oldfield John "Spud" Murphy 247 SquadronStanley Murphy served with the RNZAF from the 12th of March 1940 to the 7th of January 1946, then on the Reserve from 14 Sep 50 to 14 Sep 54. He was shot down in August 1941 and spent the rest of the war in various prisoner-of-war camps, including Stalag Luft I and Stalag 357.
Stan was born in Bolton, Lancashire on 16 February 1922 but emigrated to New Zealand as a baby of 9 months with his parents - James 32 (b 1890) and Beatrice Murphy 30 (born 1892) - and older brother, Frank, who was five. Frank later also joined the RNZAF (Squadron Leader Francis (Frank) Murphy DFC OBE) and served in 486 Squadron until, towards the end of the war, he was co-opted by Hawker Aircraft to test Hurricanes. He continued to be a test pilot after the war. Stan’s family travelled 3rd class to Auckland, New Zealand on HMS Suffolk, leaving on 13th of October 1922 from Southampton, England. His father’s occupation was listed as a ‘Motor Driver’. Stan grew up in Wellington and attended university there, graduating in 1939. In March 1940, he was one of the first New Zealanders to enlist in the RNZAF after the outbreak of war in Europe and was sent for training at Wigram.
By June 1941, Stan was serving with RAF 247 Squadron based at Predannack in Cornwall when the squadron, flying hurricanes, was engaged in night interceptions of bombers and in early offensive 'intruder' attacks against Luftwaffe aerodromes in northern France. It was during one of these operations that Stan - flying a Mk IIc Hurricane BD857 coded HP-P (which had arrived on 14th August 1941, from 44 MU) - "failed to return from attack on Morlaix airfield" on 28 August 1941. Stan had hit trees after an attack on Morlaix Aérodrome and had had to force-land nearby.
“This was the first strike by the Squadron, named Mandolin V. Target : Morlaix aerodrome. 4 Hurricane IICs :
- S/L O'Brian, red 1, BD859,
- Sgt Murphy red2 BD857,
- F/L Carver blue 1 Z3089 and
- Sgt McClelland Blue 2 Z3088.
They took off from Predannack at 20:00. The French coast was crossed 40 minutes later to the west of Ile de Batz. Turning south-west the Hurricanes followed the landward side of the Plouescat-Morlaix railway and approached the aerodrome from the west at a height of 50 feet. S/L O'Brian opened fire at a blister hangar. Defences began to react with heavy Flak and machine gun fire. Sgt Murphy was seen by O'Brian parallel to him diving to the right, firing at gun posts on the southern corners. F/L Carver thought that Murphy's Hurricane appeared to be 'slipping in'. Red 1, Blue 1 and 2 left the area turning north and crossed the coast at St Jean at 20:48. Sgt Murphy was missing. S/L O'Brian's Hurricane had been hit in the oil tank and the wing, but damage was slight. The remaining 3 aircraft landed back at Predannack at five-minute intervals from 21:20."
From the transcript of Stan’s interview at the end of the war, we know that after he had had to force-land his machine in occupied France and that he was on his own for 3 days "heading hopefully south". He then met some French farmers at St Thegonnec who took him to a farmhouse and gave him soup while they, unknown to him, sent off a little girl on a bicycle to alert the authorities. While he was sipping his soup, the local curé arrived and as his schoolboy French and the Curé’s limited English made it difficult for them to communicate, they had to write each other notes. Stan was asking for a map and civilian clothes but getting nowhere while the curé was telling him that two women had been taken away by the Germans recently for helping airmen. Shortly after the local mayor arrived and greeted the pilot warmly but he was closely followed by German with a large Luger in hand advising the pilot to put his hands behind his neck.
Stan was captured on 1st September 1941 and was driven to the Luftwaffe HQ in Morlaix on the next day. Stan probably spent the first few months of his capture in a Dulag Luft, after which he transferred to the newly-opened Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany.
Later (probably April 1942) he was transferred to Stalag 357 (XXA) in Thorn, Poland - and then, in 1944, Stalag 357 was relocated to Fallingbostel on the Luneberg Heath in Germany at Stalag XI (B or D). On 16th of April 1945 the prisoners of war were liberated by British troops. Stan must have been one of the first New Zealanders repatriated to the UK via Dunsfold Aerodrome to Brighton for processing, as he next appears as best man at his brother's wedding in Windsor on 28th of April 1945. After holidaying with his brother and new sister-in-law on their honeymoon in Ireland, Stan returned to New Zealand.
Like many others, Stan did not talk much about his experiences in Germany. I hope to view the rest of his post-war interview shortly and add to this account. Some years ago I found some news footage of the camp liberation. Stan is clearly visible behind the wire, running along in line with the camera. He was delighted to receive a copy of it.Angela Bailey
William T. Minor 703 Sqdn. 445th Bomb GroupI flew a B-24, the `Gremlin's Roost'. I was shot down on 5 January 1944 and was a POW at Stalag Luft 1.William T Minor
Pilot Rodney Shand "Puggy" Goreham Royal Canadian Air ForceMy great uncle Rodney Gorham was a pilot in the war with the RCAF. When his plane was shot down by the Germans he was the only survivor. Badly burned, he hid for days from the Germans before he was captured. He spent five months in their hospital before he was sent to a concentration camp at Stalag 1. That camp was liberated by the Russians who ran a herd of cattle into the camp on their way through to ensure the prisoners had food before their people came for them.Angie
2nd Lt. Edward T. JenkinsEdward T. Jenkins was 2nd Lt Bombardier on a B-17 which was shot down over Germany. He was captured and remained a POW in Stalag Luft I from March 1944 until the liberation.Donna Jenkins
Nav. Raymond A. Parker 703 Squadron 445th Bomb GroupI came to Tibenham with the original 445th Bomb Group. I was a navigator in the 703rd Squadron, and flew 11 missions over Germany and France. I was shot down on 18th March 1944, and remained a POW until the Russians liberated us.
While at Stalag Luft I, I was the publisher of our underground daily paper `Pow Wow'. I would appreciate hearing from anyone in the 445th.Raymond A Parker
Howard RubleMy uncle, Howard Ruble of Waynesville, Illinois was shot down over Berlin sometime in early 1944, I believe. He was taken to Stalag Luft 4, then was transferred to Luft 1 early in 1945. His camp was liberated by Russians in May 1945. Does anyone know anything about his POW experience?Ron Hicks
S/Sgt. Roy Peterson 567th Bomb Sqdn. 389th Bomb GroupMy grandfather was a POW at Stalag Luft 1 for about seven and a half months after his B24 Liberator bomber took anti-aircraft fire over Koblenz in late September/early October 1944. Five of his ten crew were killed that day. He and his radio operator were captured together.Kendra Ogles
2nd Lt. William J. Dallas 303rd Bomb Group 427th Bomb Sq.I was a 2nd Lt Co-pilot on a B17 from the 427th Bomb Sq., 303rd Bomb Group and a POW at Stalag Luft 1, North Compound, Block 7 from April 1944 until the Russians liberated us in 1945.
Also in my room were:
George Arvanites Richard McDonald Norman Stockstill William Harry William Ball Stanley Perlman George King Ernest Herzing Edward Edwards William Reichel [??] Bernard [??] McEver Jack Winn.William J Dallas
Cpl. T. CroisdaleMy now deceased stepfather was at Barth as a POW. Unfortunately I never, regrettably, got around to asking him about his all experiences. There is a oddity about one thing he did tell me, he was army (captured in N Africa) and in a Stalag Luft for RAF prisoners. He did say he was interogated at Fallingbostel (Luftwaffe). I know he made a signet ring of RAF roundels made from red/white/blue toothbrush handles. Why did he do this? I think I remember him saying that during an air-raid in Germany he'd walked across to another POW train and as his train moved off he was forced to get on the other one and those aboard gave him RAF kit. Could this possibly be true?Mike Meldrum
Sgt. John Cecil Shaw MID 49 Sqdn. (d.4th Jan 1942)I have some photos of the military funeral Of Sgt J.C Shaw (in the POW camp Stalag Luft 1st January 1942.) They look to be giving him a funeral with full military honours, complete with a volley by the Germans. I have been told that he was shot trying to escape, but have no idea about the escape. Was he by himself? Were others shot? How did they try to escape? If anybody could answer these questions I would be very grateful.
Update: Sgt Shaw was shot attempting to escape. There were no others involved. During his escape attempt he had apparently been spotted by a guard and held his hands up, surrendering, but the guard shot him dead anyway. There was an inquiry by the Germans, but there doesn't seem to have been any action taken as a result of this. The Germans allowed a full military funeral.
Sgt Shaw's Hampden P4404 of 49 Squadron had been brought down about 50 miles south of Paris and all the crew became POWs. A subsequent shooting of another member of the crew occurred after the "Great Escape" from Stalag Luft 3. F/Lt Brian Herbert Evans was one of the many escapees, but was recaptured. The Gestapo executed him on 31st March 1944. He is buried in Poznam Old Garrison Cemetery.
The full crew were:
Sgt J.C. Shaw (pilot) F/Lt B.H. Evans (navigator) Sgt D. Young (wop/airgunner) W.K. O'Leary (wop/airgunner)John Galvin
Sgt. Andrew James Harris 12 SquadronMy father, Jim Harris, was shot down on 2nd of December 1943 in Lancaster JB 285 PH-G on the way back from Berlin. He was the mid upper gunner. They were hit by radar controlled flak. He could not get out though his hatch so he went out the rear, he found the rear gunner had been shot in the leg by his own ammunition, they both bailed out. The pilot Geoff Goldsmith went down with the plane and is buried at Reichswald where we visited and have left a cross. My dad landed in a tree. He had lost his left boot. He tried to get a bar of chocolate from a pocket and accidentally tripped his parachute release and fell to the ground and broke his back. He also got frostbite in his foot. The next day he crawled from the wood and was found by a German farmer who called the army. He was taken to Dulag Luft. He was in hospital for a while and a German doctor grafted a piece of bone from his hip to fuse his back. He eventually ended up at Heydekrug (Stalag Luft VI).
I have his Wartime Log in which he drew a plan of the camp. Due to his back injury he was repatriated by the Red Cross. On the way back he passed though Potsdam and sketched a church there, through Kaub on the Rhein where he sketched the castle. Although there is no record I think he must have been at Stalag Luft 1 Baarth for a short time as he had photos of a concert performed there. He passed through Stalag XI Fallingbostel as he sketched the gate house. Eventually he reached Marseilles and was repatriated on RMS Arundel of which he made one final sketch in ink "Farewell" and I have checked photos of the ship and my dad drew it with it's original bow before it was later reconstructed.
My dad could not continue his original career in the grocery business due to his back problem - he was classified as 50% disabled. He worked for the Co-Op as a clerk and later worked for the National Coal Board for 22 years as a wages clerk and later in sales promotion which he really enjoyed. He died in 1996.Peter Harris
1st Lt. Charles Howard "Chuck" McVey 20th Bomber Squadron 2nd Bombardment GroupMy father Charles H. McVey, Sr., was a navigator in a B-17 shot down on the way to the Ploesti Oil Fields (Romania) on 29th of August 1944 on 20th Bomber Squadron, Mission No. 263. It was my father's 25th mission. He was flying in 'tail end Charlie', the very last B-17 in a large formation. He was flying as a substitute navigator that day with a crew whose navigator was sick. His was among many planes shot down that day*. Once the plane was hit by fire from Fockwulf 109 German fighters, the pilot gave the order to bail out; the normal doors were jammed, most tried to then get out the bomb bay door, but it would not open either. My father remembered that most of the plexiglas navigator bubble on the nose of the B-17 had been shot off so he made his way back there, bailed out, blacked out; when he came to, he saw his plane falling with no one else bailing out.
His chute was caught a bit in a tree and he had to cut himself down. The next couple of days/nights he did E & E (escape and evasion), eating what he could from farmers' plots; the 2nd or 3rd night, he encountered a British flyer who had also been shot down and they teamed up. Within a day a Czech patrol, ostensibly working for the occupying Germans, took my father and the Brit and added them to a group of 7 other Allied flyers they had 'captured'. They assured the Allied flyers that they would help them reach Allied lines. On that or a subsequent evening, the Czechs took the 9 Allies to a tavern to eat; a German patrol suddenly came in saying they wanted the 9 Allies. The Czechs turned over the 8 in the tavern; when the German commander asked about the 9th one, he was not there (he had gone outside just before this to the outhouse; the Germans didn't bother to look there - I understand that he made it back to Allied territory).
*About the raid during which my father was shot down: in the 1990s, a young Czech studying in the US, called my parents' home in Chattanooga TN and wanted to speak to someone in the family of Charles McVey. My dad said that he was Charles McVey. The young Czech was incredulous as his father, Jan Chovanick had been a young boy out in the fields working that August day of 1944 and had witnessed the many US B-17s that were shot down over his area. The day was then known in that area of Czechoslovakia as the "Day of the Falling Birds". The inhabitants of that area found the list of airmen in the wreckage of the plane that my dad had been flying in; they took a propeller blade and inscribed the names of the 11 airmen, all thought to have died in the crash, on the blade and mounted it atop a stone pillar (I have seen a picture of it that Jan Chovanic's son later sent my father). That is why the young Czech was so surprised that my father was living.
Once captured, my father and many other POWs were taken first to Vienna for interrogation, then on to Frankfurt (am Main); after that, he was sent on with others to Stalag Luft 1 in Barth on the Baltic seacoast.
Dad said that they were treated fairly well and ate as well as their German guards. They even got their care packages with most of the contents still in them. Since all of the POWs were flying officers and almost all of the Germans were non-coms, the guards saluted the Allied officers and treated them with military respect of rank. Dad said that only two men were shot by the Germans, both during nearby fighting or air raids - the Germans had told them on pain of death not to come out of the barracks at all when the alarm sirens were sounding. On one such occasion two men stuck their heads out and were immediately shot dead.
Dad said that one morning (May 1945) they got up, and all the Germans were gone; within a day the Russian troops arrived. Dad said there was much partying and then the Russians put the Allies on trains and sent them back to the American/British lines. From there he was brought back to the States.
During the late 1940s Dad wrote out on long yellow legal pads a lot of his recollections of that experience. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find those among his things (Dad died in August, 2003, age 85). My niece did have my dad come to a show and tell day and I have a VHS tape of his interview with the students. Also, in 2014, Jim L. Noles Sr. & Jr. published a book about that particular bombing raid (mission 263) and stories of many of the flyers involved on that raid in August, 1944, Mighty by Sacrifice: The Destruction of an American Bomber Squadron, August 29, 1944
I will add more should we ever find that yellow legal pad with my dad's memories written in it. I would love to hear more from anyone with information about that day and the living in Stalag Luft 1 at Barth.Charles H. McVey, Jr.
Available at discounted prices.
Footprints on the Sands of Time: RAF Bomber Command Prisoners of War in Germany 1939-45
Oliver Clutton-Brockhe 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 theMore information on:
Footprints on the Sands of Time: RAF Bomber Command Prisoners of War in Germany 1939-45
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