- Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug, Germany during the Second World War -
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Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug, Germany
30th Sep 1939 150 Squadron Battle lost
16th Oct 1939 57 Squadron Blenheim lost
27th Mar 1940 77 Squadron Whitley lost
10th May 1940 12 Squadron Battle lost
10th May 1940 103 Squadron Battle lost
12th May 1940 57 Squadron Belenheim lost
12th May 1940 12 Squadron Battle 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
13th Jun 1940 142 Squadron Battle lost
18th Jun 1940 58 Squadron Whitley lost
27th Jun 1940 82 Squadron Blenheim lost
30th Jun 1940 61 Squadron Hampden lost
7th Jul 1940 102 Squadron Whitley lost
21st Jul 1940 61 Squadron Hampden 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
12th Mar 1941 Aircraft Lost
9th Apr 1941 207 Squadron Manchester lost
25th May 1941 18 Squadron Blenheim lost
9th Jul 1941 35 Squadron Halifax lost
15th Aug 1941 15 Squadron Stirling lost
15th Aug 1941 102 Squadron Whitley lost
25th Aug 1941 51 Squadron Whitley lost
26th Aug 1941 7 Squadron Stirling lost
29th Aug 1941 408 Squadron Hampden lost
30th Aug 1941 102 Squadron Whitley lost
3rd Sep 1941 35 Squadron Halifax lost
1st Dec 1941 77 Squadron Whitley lost
25th Apr 1942 107 Squadron Boston lost
27th Apr 1942 226 Squadron Battle lost
27th Apr 1942 107 Squadron Boston lost
30th Apr 1942 50 Squadron Manchester lost
31st May 1942 109 Squadron Wellington lost
31st May 1942 26 Squadron Wellington lost
31st May 1942 101 Squadron Wellington lost
31st May 1942 50 Squadron Manchester lost
31st May 1942 10 Squadron Halifax lost
3rd Jun 1942 49 Squadron Manchester lost
26th Jul 1942 15 Squadron Stirling lost
21st Aug 1942 218 Squadron Stirling lost
20th Sep 1942 156 Squadron Wellington lost.
6th Dec 1942 Ventura of 464 Squadron lost
8th Dec 1942 105 Squadron Mosquito lost
10th Dec 1942 115 Squadron Wellington lost
15th Mar 1943 Ventura of 21 Squadron lost
17th Apr 1943 77 Squadron Halifax lost
3rd May 1943 Ventura of 487 Squadron 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 May 1943 109 Squadron Mosquito lost
29th May 1943 466 Squadron Wellington lost
30th May 1943 35 Squadron Halifax lost
4th July 1943 432 Squadron Wellington lost
13th Aug 1940 83 Squadron Blenheim lost
24th Sep 1943 57 Squadron Lancaster lost
22nd January 1944 51 Squadron Halifax lost
31st Jan 1944 550 Squadron Lancaster lost
19th Mar 1944
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Those known to have been held in or employed at
Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug, Germany
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Adams Frank George Webster.
- Barlow Albert Ernest.
- Benson Arthur James. WO/1
- Blanchard Arthur. Bombardier
- Brown Donald. Fl/Sgt.
- Callaghan F. J.. Sgt.
- Clifford N. J.. W/O
- Croston William Patrick. Flt.Sgt.
- Culpan Johnny William Rae. Sgt
- Dolby Bernard H.. Sgt.
- Dunn Ron D.. Sgt.
- Fenton Ken. WO/Sgt
- Fuller A. A..
- Graves George T.. Sgt.
- Gray D. L.. Sgt.
- Grigg William Hamilton. Flt.Sgt.
- Hamilton R. J.. Sgt.
- Harris Andrew James. Sgt.
- Holder Thomas Malcolm. Warrant Officer
- Jarvis S.. F/S
- Kirk George Andrew. Sgt
- Kirkham B. D.. W/OII
- Layne Walter Henry.
- Lee Tom J. L.. P/O
- McCracken Lloyd Christie. FO.
- McDonald R. W..
- McGarvey Robert Robinson. Sgt
- McIntyre Alfred.
- Mills James Albert. P/O
- Moriarty John Glover. W/O (d. )
- Nicholson S. H. A.. Sgt.
- O'Connelley K..
- Peacock Roger. Sgt. (d. )
- Perry Keith Oliver. W/O. (d.23rd Aug 1943)
- Plowman G. E.. Sgt.
- Sadler Anthony Graham. F/Lt.
- Seddon Frank.
- Sharp Ralph George. Sgt.
- Stott Robert Floyd. Tech/Sgt.
- Taylor H. A.. Sgt.
- Tittley Donald Frank. Sgt.
- Varrichio Arthur L.. S/Sgt
- Webb Clifford. Sgt.
- Whittaker D. B.. Sgt.
- Yeatman Winston. 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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Sgt. Ralph George Sharp pilot 7 Sqd.W/O Clifford was the pilot of Lancaster JA-718, he survived the crash on the the 29th of January 1944 and was held as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 6 and Stalag 357. We would love to hear from him or his family as my wife's brother Stanley Liddle was one of his crew.Doug Madden
F/S S. Jarvis pilot 7 Sqd.F/S Jarvis survived the crash of Lancaster JA-718 on the the 29th of January 1944 and was held as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 6 and Stalag 357. We would love to hear from him or his family as my wife's brother Stanley Liddle was one of his crewmates.Doug Madden
W/O N. J. Clifford pilot 7 Sqd.W/O Clifford was the pilot of Lancaster JA-718, he survived the crash on the the 29th of January 1944 and was held as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 6 and Stalag 357. We would love to hear from him or his family as my wife's brother Stanley Liddle was one of his crew.Doug Madden
Sgt. S. H. A. Nicholson 77 Sqd.Sgt Nicholson was in the same crew as my father John Gardner. Their Lancaster was shot down over Holland in the early hours of the 22nd of June 1943.Gillian Houghton
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
Sgt. G. E. Plowman w/op 630 SqdSgt Plowman was the Wireless Operator on my Father's crew, thier Lancaster was shot down the 16th of March 1944. My father, Len Barnes evaded capture.
The crew were:
- P/O L.A.Barnes
- Sgt K.A.Walker
- F/O M.Geisler
- Sgt M.E.Gregg
- Sgt G.E.Plowman
- Sgt J.H.Overholt
- Sgt T.A.FoxAmanda Burrows
W/OII B. D. Kirkham 419 Sqd.Sgt Kirkham was taken POW after Halifax DT616 VR-K was shot down on the 12th of June 1943. He was promoted to Warrant Officer2 whilst in captivity.
The crew were:
- Sgt B.D.Kirkham
- Sgt R.J.Hamilton
- Sgt H.A.Taylor
- Sgt D.B.Whittaker
- Sgt F.J.Callaghan
- Sgt J.A.Mills
- Sgt D.L.Gray
P/O James Albert Mills wireless operator 419 Sqd.From my recollection, my Dad, James Mills, was shot down on a bombing mission over the Ruhr Valley by two me109s. He said they riddled the aircraft from nose to tail, the cannon holes not an inch apart and yet not one of them was hit, after being ordered to bail, they stayed and got both meshersmits. He clipped his head on the tail wing as he bailed out and was unconsious when landing, and he lost a boot on the jump. He went to a farmhouse, the old german couple were quite alarmed until he produced a picture of jesus or mary and then it was all ....sit , eat .....relax until the Gestapo walked in a couple hours later with their lugers out, off to the stalag for 4 yrs.
He said the germans had civies on under their uniforms when they heard the barrage in the very near vicinity, they knew the war was done. He said most of the guards were pretty good blokes. Upon liberation, most of them just threw their flight jackets and what not into the ditch. Upon landing somewhere in England, a bbc reporter grabbed the first two guys and interviewed them, I remember, as a kid,listening to the old 78 over and over. It was James Albert Mills and Gus Morrison telling a 2 minute story of camplife. Does anyone have a copy? My sister lost that old record and his caterpiller pin. Dad went in to camp 6 foot 2 and 245 lbs, came out 6 foot and 100 pounds, They didnt eat well. he was diagnosed for a pension with anxiety neurosis and our govt gave him a really cheesey pittance of a pension, which he fought all his life to have increased. It didn't happen.
I would love to hear from any one who may have been in Stalag 357 or in 419 Moose Squadron that may have known him. Guess I should have done this 25 yrs ago. Its not until one reaches the age where one truly appreciates the caliber of men and women then and the guts they had to fight and give their life for the beauty and freedom we take for granted today.Bill Mills
Frank George Webster Adams 420 SquadronI am trying to learn about the incarceration of RCAF Sergeant Frank George Webster Adams, who was the only survivor of the crash of Hampden P5330 in Denmark on April 25, 1942 after his bomber was attacked by a German night fighter near the Dutch island of Ameland. He flew with RCAF Squadron 420, and it is believed that the POW camps he was interned in were Stalag 9C, Stalag Luft 6 and Stalag 357.
I would be most appreciative to learn of the whereabouts of Sgt Adams today.Bob Ingraham
WO/1 Arthur James "Buzz" Benson DFM 10 OTU Coastal CommandMy Father, Arthur Benson is now 88 years old, and living in Australia. He was part of the Empire Air Training Scheme and was sent to Dauphin, Canada, completing his training at St. Eval in England, as a pilot.
On 14 June 1943, he was attached to 19 Group of Coastal Command and equipped wtih a twin-engined Whitley aircraft (10 OTU), was sent to help Coastal Command hunting submarines out over the Bay of Biscay. The crew consisted of Fellow Australian Sergeant R.L. 'Bob" Rennick (second pilot), Pilot Officer Tom J.L. Lee (navigator) RAF, F/O Alan Kingsley (Rear Gunner) RCAF, Sergeant George T Graves (Wireless Operator) RAF. They had seven trips in all and on what was to be their last trip with Coastal Command, spotted two German submarines. After shadowing the U-boats for two hours the crew was given the instructions to attack. As they commenced their descent, they were fired upon and the Whitley was hit in the port fuel tank. But by now they were well committed, so they continued with their attack, and sank one submarine, U 564. This submarine had already sank 33 Allied ships. With the loss of the hydraulics and fuel, and with the damaged engine about to stop, it was obvious that they were going to struggle to return to base. My Father successfully ditched the Whitley and the crew managed to evacuate into the dinghy, even though the dinghy had been damaged when the Whitley was fired upon. They had lost the dinghy pack, containing food and water, but still had 12 one-pint tins of water. The crew had carried a homing-pigeon on these trips and had managed to bring the cage into the dinghy. They attached a message to the bird's leg and attempted to launch it in the direction of base. After several attempts to get the bird to leave the dinghy it finally disappeared in the right direction. Unfortunately the pigeon did not make it back to base. Dad and his crew spent the next two days and three nights drifting on the Bay of Biscay. On the evening of the third day they were rescued by the crew of a French fishing boat. Unfortunately, the crew could not help them get back to England by boat or put them in contact with the Resistence as they were expected by the Germans to be back in their port by a certain time or there would be serious consequences for themselves and their families. The fishing boat returned to Morgat, a small fishing village south of Brest, and Dad and his crew were captured by the Germans. They were sent to Paris by train and then sent to Frankfurt for interrogation. After eight days in solitary confinement, the crew were separated and Dad, George and Tom were sent to Stalag Luft 6 at Hyderkrug in East Prussia. Tom and Alan were sent to Stalag Luft III. Dad has many stories of this time as a POW. He talks of the efficient Escape Committee and the several attempts that were made whilst he was in Stalag Luft 6. He also talks of the boredom, the theatre, the sport played to keep fit. He tells his grandchildren that he "played rugby for Australia" as there were many matches between the English and Australian and other Empire countries during this time.
On June 6 1944 Dad and his fellow POWs were moved to a camp near Thorne in Poland and then after about three months they were move Stalag 357, Fallingbostel in the north of Germany.
This is one part of Dad's story in Stalag 357, in his own words - "The need for firewood became so urgent on one occasion when were not able to go out into the forest, that Trevor Scales (fellow Australian who eventually escaped with Dad) decided that we would knock off some posts from the inner surround holding up the strands of barbed wire. Ten wires were attached to each post and had to be knocked off by detaching the staples that held them on. For the purpose I had managed to find a length of steel rood about half a metre in length. At this time the snow had thawed somewhat and we were able to walk around the inner surround for exercise. As we walked around we would have to keep an eye on the guards in the towers and those patrolling the outer fence. First we would test a post by pushing it. If it was loose in the ground we would then hit the wires and break the staples away. A night just before lights out, when it was dark we would go out and wait our chance when the searchlights were off, leave our hiding place behind the huts, make a swift dash to a loose post and whip it out of the ground, and dart back behind the huts again. Then it was a matter of dodging the guards and making it back to our hut without being seen. It worked well for us for a long time, and eventually the absence of posts in the fence must have became obvious to the guards. All the time we were working closer to the guard boxes in the corners of the lager. On our last venture we had to hide behind a hut near the guard box, and as the searchlight went off made a dash for a post. It was tighter in the ground than we thought it would be and took a lot of pulling out. However, we succeeded and with the post on our shoulders made a dash to safety of the hut. I was in front and Scales was sliding about a bit in the frost and ice. Just as rounded the corner of the hut, the searchlight came on and we were caught in the beam. I did a smart turn to the left and Trevor skated out in a large circle, but still hung on to the post. We did some quick dodging about amongst the huts before we made it back to our own hut. We hurled the post through an open window and dived in after it. All was not lost but we gave away knocking off the posts after that."
On 12 April 1945 the Air Force prinsoners in Stalag Luft 357 were told to be ready to march out of camp in two hours time - destination unknown - but it was obvious that the Allies were advancing. The first two nights they camped in the forest 'scrounging' food from the locals. During the march towards Elbe River a spitfire had flown low overhead whilst attacking a target nearby. My father, Trevor Scales and a young American lad by the name of Lloyd (Dad cannot remember his last name) decided it was dangerous to be on the march as to be escaping and were in danger of being 'strafed' by the Allies. Each morning a ration truck would arrive and the guards would be distracted, so Dad, Trevor and Lloyd used this opportunity to make their escape by running into the thick forest. They had noticed the previous day they had passed a camp of foreign 'slave workers' and went there to ask for help. They were reluctant to help but finally a group of Russian gave Trevor, Dad and Lloyd coats and hats to disguise themselves as well as some food. Trevor spoke some German and was able to ascertain that by following the railway track that they would arrive at Saltau 50 Kms away. They were stopped five times by German soldiers over the next couple of days but Trevor managed to convince these soldiers that they were civilian "arbiters" being sent to Saltau to work. Finally Dad and Trevor's luck ran out and they were captured once again, very close to the town of Saltau, by a German soldier that did not believe they were Russian. They were taken to the town of Saltau and put into the basement of a military barracks. An attack on the town started soon afterwards. The following morning the British tanks arrived. In my father's Words "Suddenly it was all over. German soldiers came into the barracks and threw their firearms into a room. They were ready to surrender. It was strange really, for they were no longer enemies, and we got into conversation with them. They wanted to know what it was like being a POW, and what they should take with them into a prison camp. They were just as apprehensive as we had been when re-captured a few hours before. Just frightened young men." After receiving food from the British, Dad, Trevor and Lloyd were told to get a car and follow the White Star Line, which was a road cleared of debris and clearly marked by large white painted stars to an "aerodrome" from there they would fly to Brussels and then onto England. Dad had been a POW for one year and 10 months. My father's story has been written up in several books including - "War Gave Us Wings" - Col King "Search, Find and Kill" - Norman Franks Dad was awarded the DFM whilst he was a POW and later promoted to Warrant Officer. Footnote: ELMS is having its yearly reunion in York, England in April and my father will be traveling from Australia to be part of this event.Sharon Benson
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
W/O John Glover Moriarty 10 OTU (d. )My Father was shot down in a Whitley V on 26 June 1942 in the Third Thousand Bomber raid over Bremen by Obit Helment Lent from unit 4/NJG2 in a Messerscmit BF 110 R4+AC. The crew included Pilot Sgt Norman R Parons, Sgt George Ewen (Killed in Action), F/O Reginaif van Toen and F/Sgt G.McB. Harris. As far as I am aware he was taken prisoner and sent first to Stalag Luft 3, then 6 and finally to 357 at Fallinbostal, liberated in April 1945. I would be interested to hear from any one who knew my father during his POW years. My mother recalls stories of him helping with escape operations but is unclear as to whether these included working on the Great Escape or the Wooden Horse.Simon Moriarty
Sgt. Donald Frank Tittley 77 SquadronThis fragment, in the possession of his younger brother, is all that can be found of a longer account of the wartime experience written by the late Donald F Tittley. (1434973 WO1 RAF. )
Donald Tittley's Recollections of 77 Squadron RAF. At the Squadron Re-Union in September 1989 I was asked to produce what I could remember of my time at Elvington with 77 Squadron.
It was in July 1943 that I was first introduced to other members of the crew at Rufforth and we were brought to Elvington in a service bus. We were put in a Nissen hut miles away from the station proper. It was a time of considerable activity and losses; we were held in reserve until we replaced a crew that had been lost. This was in the first week in August and before flying operationally as a crew both Peter Garlette, the pilot, and I flew with other crews to gain experience. Our first operational trip as a crew was about the first week in September. From that time on we were on many operations, not always bombing targets in Germany. Our duties included patrols round the British coastline, back-up flights for the air-sea rescue teams and once or twice we were reserve crews for dropping agents into France.
Looking back to these months we spent at Elvington I recall the abysmal Nissen hut site, always muddy and cold in spite of us keeping the stove red hot all day and night. Also it was rat infested and every morning a Land Army girl used to patrol round our site with three fierce ganders who chased the vermin away. Unfortunately they chased us too. We only slept in the huts and the ablutions hut and the Mess was a good ten minutes walk along a railway line and this caused us problems. Should we walk along in pyjamas and greatcoat, dress fully only to disrobe in the shower block and re-dress and go straight in to breakfast? The prospect of being chased by these creatures when in pyjamas and overcoat, given the damage they were said to inflict, made even the carefree reflective. Those geese frightened us more than the Germans.
Away from the Station we led a merry life; locals at Elvington treated us like family and I still marvel at the kindness and tolerance we received from everyone in York. We were spoiled and cosseted everywhere we went. Our noise and foolish, sometimes infantile, pranks were treated with forbearance and we were always pushed to the head of the innumerable queues there were outside cinemas, hairdressers and tea-rooms. It was a strange life we led, enjoying the glorious summer weather, wandering across those broad fields and chatting with the farm workers sowing autumn corn. They incidentally, from regular observation of the fuel tankers round the airfield, could predict with remarkable accuracy our likely target for any given night. Those of us familiar with bees used to help the local Vicar with his colonies. He was a keen beekeeper and endeavoured to supplement the village food supply. On wet days I would spend time combing the bookshops in York. Then as soon as it was dark we could be flying off into conflict. If we were lucky, back in the early hours for breakfast and a brief nap before another day in York. Often we walked to York or some other village and returned by Liberty Bus later in the day. We had a week off duty every seventh week and naturally we all rushed off home or, if you were from abroad, to some club, usually in London. Because of this and being quartered in a dispersal unit, we only ever got to know our immediate neighbours and our own ground crew.
Of the regular Station personnel we knew little except for encounters in the Mess, squabbling for the best armchairs or the morning papers. But one must not forget to mention those wonderful WAAF girls of the kitchen staff who fed us so cheerfully every hour of the day or night. Other wonderful lassies were those in the parachute section; there was to be an occasion when I thanked God for their consummate skill and devotion to duty. Then there were the girls from the transport section who drove us to our aircraft and, on many occasions when we were 'standing- by', would bring us tea and cakes every hour or so. It was not until many years later that I learned that each WAAF gave up a day's pay each month to provide us with these goodies.
The girls from SHQ, the control tower staff, the meteorological office and administration always seemed so cool and professional on duty, but at odd moments one saw a tear stained face. Sometimes when we were discussing operational points or concerns, a girl would rush away and hide herself from view for a time. It took me some time to realise that those who saw us off and awaited our return during the long hours suffered anxieties and stress too.
Our last day at Elvington was cold and icy and there was a low haze hanging over the fields. As we walked from our hut along the familiar railway line to the crew room our boots crunched the thin ice into the mud. It was a damp site and we were often scolded bitterly by our ground crew if we left traces of mud in the aircraft, so we always attempted to clean our boots before clambering aboard. When the usual briefing was over we were transported to Halifax Z Zebra. Scrambling aboard we waited. There was an ominous delay before we trundled down the runway and got airborne. We climbed and I looked for my favourite landmark, Beverley Minster. Its tower was always the last shape discernible in the darkening sky. It was to be forty-five years before I returned to Elvington.
There was the customary flak and searchlights as we approached Texel but after that it was quiet; an ominous sign that the night fighters were out. However, we flew on through occasional cloud and reached the Magdeburg region ahead of schedule. Over the target area we looked for the coloured flares which would mark our target and there were none to be seen. For several minutes we circled round until suddenly a red flare appeared; we lined up on it and proceeded to drop our bombs on to the target, a concentration of secret weapons (later to be called V2s). As we did so a Me 110 appeared on our starboard beam about a mile off. He began to attack us in a classic curve of pursuit. With his 30mm cannon he could hit us from far off, but we continued on our bombing run and as the bomb doors were closing we began taking evasive action. He rapidly closed in and followed us in our corkscrew. Firing again he hit our starboard wing setting it alight, but he had come close enough for our fire to damage him. Both turrets aimed at and hit his starboard wing root. He drifted slightly to port and I gave him two three-second bursts of fire as he closed and flames spurted from his starboard engine. I had shattered his exhausts I think. He broke away smartly, diving to port with his engine aflame. Anyway, were alone in the sky once more and we began to congratulate ourselves when Peter, the pilot, ordered us to prepare to abandon the aircraft. Despite George, the flight engineer, reporting that the starboard engine temperatures were normal there was a fear that the tanks would explode. So we jumped. Tumbling for a few seconds, then in seemingly absolute silence I was gliding very slowly downwards. Above my head was the huge white canopy of my 'chute and below like a beautiful model lay the city of Magdeburg and the river Elbe twisting towards the horizon. Soon I could see the outline of the famous castle and cathedral, then an island, a bridge and some mud banks. As I descended the noise of war resumed. Guns were roaring, tracer shells shot across the sky. The white searchlights began sweeping the sky as the blue master beams signalled them. Now, at what I thought was steeple height, I feared I might land in the river itself. Side-slipping I steered myself into a small field some fifty yards or so from the water and quite near a house landing amidst somebody's washing line and linen. Beyond I saw a yard and the back door of the house which was open. I heard voices so I lay quite still for a while. I saw no-one. I discarded my harness and 'chute by draping it over the washing line with the other sheets. Backing away from the house I discovered I had lost a flying boot in my descent so I threw the other one into a pool of water and ran off in my electric slippers. I cannot remember much after that apart from seemingly walking for a long time. Realising it would soon be day, I searched for a place to hide.
My capture, when it came was almost comical. Quite suddenly somewhere in the darkness to my left I saw flashes then heard rifles being fired seemingly wildly. Not at me, but all over the place. I later learned I had walked into a Home Watch Patrol. I dropped into a ditch full of icy water and tried to sneak along the road. I had gone but a few yards when I almost bumped into a crouching German policeman who, I think, was sheltering from his comrade's rifle fire. He grabbed me and said something in German before shining his torch at me. He joined the others and they led me to the Mayor's house, kicking at the door until he was awakened and came, in his nightshirt, to look at me. Behind him his diminutive wife carrying a most magnificent candelabrum was also in quaint night attire.
Next I was taken to the police station. I didn't know where I was but I saw on the way a signpost with the name Konigsborn. I was treated with a mixture or formal courtesy and kindness. There was only one incidence of ill-treatment when an elderly policeman unfastened his service belt and began to slap my face with it. Immediately the others stopped him and led me down to a basement cell. Some time later while it was still dark a constable opened the cell door and led his wife in to see me. They brought me some soup and a hunk of black bread. In broken English he told me that he and some of the other policemen had been prisoners in Suffolk in the last war. After the soup I fell asleep and dreamed of plucking fowls and tossing the feathers about. Suddenly the feathers began to fall on my face. I woke and discovered that local children on their way to school were dropping pieces of paper on to my face through the iron grating in the cell wall. One young boy spoke to me in good English, even quoting Shakespeare to me to the admiration of his comrades. Further exchanges were curtailed when my policeman chased them off to school. Later in the day another bloodstained airman was led in; it was the bomb-aimer of my crew. In accordance with our training we pretended we did not know each other.
Early the following morning we were collected by Luftwaffe guards and driven to a Luftwaffe station. We soon discovered that all movements of people and goods happened in the hours of darkness. There were about eight of us sitting inside this canvas topped truck; we couldn't see each other and as we tried to give clues as to identity the guards would shout 'Silence, silence' and cock their rifles. We arrived at Kȍthen, a celebrated Luftwaffe base just as day broke. After formal registration in the Adjutant's office, we were put in solitary confinement in the sparkling clean cells of the service lock-up. The feeding was meagre, a slice of black bread and honey at 0630; a bowl of soup at midday and a slice of bread at 1800. This and the fact there was nothing to read or do were the chief hardships. At odd times in the day an officer would visit us or the gaoler would let us out for a brief chat to some of the others. I always remember the man in the next cell to me was a German pilot serving four weeks for low flying offences.
About a week later we were taken in small groups across Germany to Frankfurt am Mainz to the central interrogating centre called Dulagluft. Again life was lonely and boring, confined in cells little bigger than a wardrobe. One could only lie and look at the plain walls or the barred window. The lighting and heating were controlled centrally so were in constant glare of electric lights. The heating fluctuated ceaselessly from very cold to intense heat and one could only dress and undress to keep any sense of comfort. It was while I was stripped naked during a hot session when the guard the guard came to take me for interrogation. Hurriedly dressing myself I was bustled away to a large airy room. There at a desk sat a German officer; around him English books, papers and cigarettes. The walls were covered in English maps and illustrations. When I refused cigarettes, there was a choice of brand, he promised to try and get me a pipe and tobacco. In common with others I was astonished at the personal details he knew about me, my crew and Squadron. We chatted amicably enough for several minutes about different English verbs; what was the difference between to occupy and to reserve a seat? He then wanted to know why I had failed to become a pilot. I hadn't told him this. He was guessing I had trained in England not knowing of course I had been an instructor in Canada before commencing operational flying. By this I was afterwards able to work out the sources of his intelligence. There must have been an excellent filing system containing all references to the RAF personnel in the British press including birthday greetings and such like. This linked with your service number gave them a basic outline which could be filled in by interrogating other prisoners.
Soon after this we were moved to a transit camp in the middle of Frankfurt. Here there was an English army officer and a Sergeant-major in charge. These two were a source of worry to me months later. Suddenly one evening just as it got dark we were loaded into trucks and driven to a nearby railway siding. Here we were loaded into cattle trucks, twenty five to each wagon; by the use of barbed wired screens the guards divided us into two groups, leaving space for themselves in front of the doors. For over a week we travelled across Germany, Poland and into Lithuania. Every five or six hours we stopped, often outside a town, where we would be allowed to stretch our legs under close guard. Two of us would be detailed to collect large buckets of coffee or soup from a military canteen or club. At Frankfurt am Oder I walked about half a mile along the track to collect coffee from the rear of a military canteen. As I stood there I glimpsed through the serving hatch and saw a crowd of German servicemen on their way to the Eastern Front. They eyed me in a strange wistful manner. Another occasion, with the same guard, I stood on a station platform. I was in Germany but the other side of the track the platform was in Poland. On either side of the railway tracks were fields littered with rusting burnt-out tanks, trucks, horse drawn carts and other battle relics. It was here the war had begun.
Some time in March we finally reached our prison camp. It was at a place called Heydekrug in Lithuania. In a way I suppose I had reached my next RAF station. It was Stalag Luft VI and I had a new number - 913.John Tittley
Warrant Officer Thomas Malcolm HolderMy wife's late father, W.O. Thomas Malcolm Holder was a POW in Stalag Luft 6Allen Blakeley
Sgt Robert Robinson McGarvey 460 SquadronMy late father, Bob McGarvey, was only 20 when he signed up as an RAF VR in Glasgow in May 1941. Based at Binbrook as a a WOP/AG, his Pathfinder Lancaster aircraft ED 658 crashed 8/9 October 1943 at Bahnof during Operation Hanover. All the crew became POWs. Dad was in Stalag Luft 6 and Stalag 357 until he was repatriated in 1945. Since I was only two when dad died, I would be interested to hear from any of the family of the crew or Bomber Command who included:
- Pilot F/O M C Caffyn (RAAF)
- Flight Engineer Sgt C W J Marshall (RAF)
- omb Aimer F/S N L Wulff (RAAF)
- Navigator F/O F Brown (RAAF)
- Air gunner A/G Sgt R N Cannon (RAF)
- Air Gunner F/S T A Richardson (RAF)Julie McGarvey
Fl/Sgt. Donald Brown DK257 Squadron 428Don Brown was a flight engineer on Halifax DK257 from 428 squadron from Middleton St George. He was shot down on his 2nd mission - the raid on Aachen on his 19th birthday 13/7/43.
He was captured and we believe taken to Stalag Luft 6, however there are a few misleading pieces of information, one says camp 357, another L6. We have interviewed Don, and he is a very friendly gentleman, and has given us a lot of information, which we are trying to put together, but want it to be factually correct.
Don recounts that he was in the camp next to to Stalag Luft 3 (the great escape camp), and he thought it was Stalag Luft 4. He was moved at one point, we think from L6 to L4, but thats a bit unclear. He also recounts the Black March in 1945, when carried his guards rifle.
We have done an interview with Don, and tried to pull as much information together as we can, but if there is anyone out there who can provide some clarity or further information about the camp numbers, or details of others who were held, i'd love to hear from anyone.David Jackson
FO. Lloyd Christie "Little Mac" McCracken 426 SquadronI enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force June 10, 1940 and was discharged July 30, 1945. I entered as Aircraftsman Second Class and left as a Flying Officer. I was taken on Active Force June 11, 1940 and arrived overseas on November 5, 1942.
The following tale is a personal memory of my days in the Royal Canadian Air Force. It was a time of new experiences, sometimes very exciting and at other times very boring. I have been able to refresh my memory with my log book, the logs and charts of our operational trips and my letters home. I was able, in 1992 to attend a reunion in Trenton, Ontario, which helped renew memories and create a desire to record my history fifty years later. In addition I have consulted the 426 Squadron History written by Captain Ray Jacobson. I have provided commentary from authorities whenever I thought they might help clarify certain terms and concepts. I take great pride in having been a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Signing Up I cannot now remember exactly how I felt on that day, September 10, when we learned that Canada was at war. However, I can recall everyone rushing around talking of food shortages. I had taken a Motor Mechanics course in Fredericton and was employed by Herb Swan, in Harvey Station from September 1 to October 8, 1939. They were building a road and a lot of heavy trucks needed their motors overhauled, so I worked until the end of the rush period. I was then employed by Harry McCracken, who, living in Welsford at the time, managed the Service Station in Fredericton Junction, at which I became an attendant from October 10 to October 31. It then closed for the winter. During this winter period I became a cookee for Harry Brawn in back of Tracy, near the beginning of Meransey Brook. I was beginning to notice that fellows in uniforms received more attention from girls than the average guy. This made the Air Force look quite appealing, so on the 16th of April, 1940, at the age of seventeen, I completed forms on my personal history, education, parents, and work experiences for W.G. Cook, Flying Officer.
On June 10th, 1940, I boarded the train for Moncton, New Brunswick Canada; really my first time away from home on my own. After arriving,I remember asking at the post office where you go to enlist. The building was handy and there were other fellows signing up as well. I was told I needed a letter of recommendation and the only person I knew in Moncton was Doug Ball. He was working at the airport, so I called a taxi and went and looked him up. He seemed very busy, gave me his address and asked me to drop by his home later and pick up the letter. I did that and was quite pleased at what he had done for me. More forms were filled out including a Medical Form indicating I had a scar on my leg (from sharpening a knife as a young fellow. That knife was so sharp you could split a hair off a donkey.) It also mentioned a fractured nose( when I was about ten, I was playing ball and was batting. I hit the ball, then the ball hit my nose. It bled and bled but I didn’t go to a doctor). The medical form also records my height to be 5 ft. 6 1/2 in., and weighing 126 pounds. I made out a will, leaving everything to my mother. The next day we were off to Ottawa. Mother had thought I would be home before leaving. However, she didn’t hear from me until two weeks later when she received my letter. She didn’t know what had happened to me and I think she was quite sore at me for not writing earlier.
We traveled to Ottawa by train. We were young and green but we did know that we were supposed to salute officers. We got off the train and saw the Parliament Buildings. On going into a hotel, we noticed a man standing in a uniform with a hat, so we saluted, thinking this fellow was an officer. He never responded, except to give us a funny look - this was our introduction to a doorman.
Initial Training School. We then took a bus to Rocliffe Air Station to report for I.T.S. (Initial Training School). On the first morning names were called out to report to various messes. Upon arrival you were put to work. Some reported to Officer’s Quarters and became cleaners. Others reported to various buildings to wash and wax floors. I worked in the kitchen slicing bacon, setting tables, washing dishes - I enjoyed the dishwasher, and peeling potatoes. They had large bins that would hold 100 lbs. of potatoes. It went around and around, and as it did it took off the skins. I thought that was pretty slick! The purpose of this was to experience service life while waiting for space at Initial Training School, (I.T.S.). While here, we also learned how to march, went on parade, and attended church. This period lasted for two or three months.
My R.C.A.F. number was R64681, which I have remembered all my life, even after I became an officer and was issued a new number J96264. Barrack life was quite different from what we were used to. However, we did have a lot of fun horsing around. After my first visit to a wet canteen I was feeling pretty good and I swung at a guy to scare him and hit the wall above his head. My fist went through the wall and I quickly covered the hole with an Air Force crest I had bought. It had been pinned on the wall so I just moved it over the hole. I didn’t want anyone to find out, and perhaps get in trouble.
We received all of our inoculations here. We lined up in the fields and stood so long waiting our turn that some guys fainted just from the thought of all those needles. Here we were supposed to sign up and go anywhere we were called. It was quite a treat to get out of the Junction.
One day a sergeant in the kitchen took some of us through Ottawa in a car with a rumble seat and the top down. We crossed the bridge to Hull. In the evenings we had a ten o’clock curfew. Another fellow and I went to the theater where there were a lot of older people and we had a great time. We laughed so hard and hated to leave. We were really enjoying ourselves. We left at ten and were late getting in but no one paid any attention to our arrival. It was a great time here and I especially enjoyed the marching.
#1 Wireless School - Montreal. Next I was transferred to # 1 Wireless School on Queen Mary Road outside the center of Montreal. I traveled by train and became an AC1 (Air Craftsman 1st Class) on the 11th of September, 1940. The only work we did here was guard duty. I was given a rifle and was told to stand in a box. This was a picnic. We were waiting to get on course. One civilian came along and just for fun,I said "Halt!" The civilian frowned, looked at me and said "What’s your problem?" He went on in and complained to a sergeant. I was called in and told to go easy on civilians. If we stayed out too late we ended up picking dandelions. But that was all right too. We were given a stick with a V shape on the end that picked them. Well, we’d go along, picking away and then when no one was looking, we would visit with our female neighbours near the back fence. They were maids keeping children. Yes, we had a great time there.
We ate well while at #1 Wireless Training School. On the ends of the tables were big jugs of milk, of which we were always running out, and the kitchen help had to keep running in and refilling the jugs. After a while he just brought out two five gallon jugs, placed one on each end of the table, and told us to help ourselves. One fellow thought he recognized my last name. He asked me if I was related to Crowley McCracken from Ontario. I didn’t really know but I guessed I must have been. Crowley had the contract to feed all of us in the #1 Wireless School. We were just placed here as a holding unit.
#3 Training Command - Montreal. I was next transferred to #3 Training Command, St. James Street in Montreal. Here we took a course in Shorthand and it didn’t take long to realize that some of us weren’t too good at that. I worked in the offices for the central registry where my job was to open and sort the mail for the officers in the electrical and plumbing building. They were large buildings with three or four floors of offices. Once I got in trouble for opening mail marked "Confidential".
Here I rented a room on Lagouchitere Street, along with another fellow, Gordon Gilbert whom I found in the #3 Training Command. Opposite us, men were beginning to dig the foundation for Montreal’s underground railway station. For breakfast we would have cornflakes and milk, and for lunch and supper we would go to a restaurant. You could get a good feed of liver and onions for 70 cents and they sure did a good job. This place did a big business to truck drivers as well. I ate here a lot. Another favorite spot was Mother Martins. This tavern was handy and was operated by an older lady who was interested in all of us young fellows and how we were doing. I was approached and asked to run the canteen. I had to take money from here to a bank in Westmount. I was pleased they trusted me with this. I sold sweatshirts with the Air Force crest on them. We purchased them for 35 cents and sold them for $1.50. I sold watches and charged $10.00 less than other stores and still made a great profit.
Sometimes we were asked to be Special Police in the evenings; not often, just the odd night when the boys were rowdy. We wore a band on our arm, with S. P. on it, for Special Police, and occasionally would take it off and go to the movies. It was a great life! While at the canteen I was on a Softball team, and occasionally enjoyed hockey games, which were free to aircrew. I bought a bike for my youngest sister Ethel, and put it together, then took it apart and put it in a crate to send it down on the train. Usually they are sent assembled. Father and my brother Larrie had an awful time getting it home and putting it together. The country was so busy making war materials, a bike was hard to get.
I was acting out and cut my finger on a bottle and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital and received stitches. From here I went back to #3 Training Command doing clerical work. While living at home, my sister, Helen, had Scarlet Fever and we had all been quarantined. Therefore, I believed I had had it too. In Montreal I was hospitalized and they were uncertain as to what I had. I was very sick yet told to help myself to the fluids in the refrigerator. When I did get up to get some there wouldn’t be any there. I went days without fluid - they tried to starve me. The doctor came, saw me, and sent me by Air Force Ambulance to Montreal General. In the ambulance a boil had broken in my mouth - it tasted awful! I arrived and a doctor checked me over and I got settled in. They still wondered what I had and thought it might be Scarlet Fever. I was then taken to Alexandra Hospital, and placed in a glass cubicle. It was the only way they could quarantine me. I lay awake at night and slept all day. I couldn’t eat and was there over a week. When I broke out in a rash the doctor was almost certain that it was scarlet fever. I was put in a ward for a while, and then moved upstairs. Helen was working at a TB Hospital in St. Agathe and she would occasionally phone and come to visit. The doctor reported that on October 31, I developed strawberry tongue and was now positive that it was scarlet fever. After November 1st, I made a rapid recovery and continued to do well until my discharge, November 20. My personal address was 4450 Sherbrooke St. W. Montreal, August 2, 1941.
I also had tonsillitis and was admitted to the hospital at the Wireless Training School for three days. They were removed at the Royal Victoria Hospital and I was there a further four days, then on to St. Anne’s Military Hospital for six days. I soon became bored here and upon receiving a letter from mother, learned that my brothers Charlie and Harvey enlisted in the army and had been transferred overseas. Probably they were in Halifax waiting to go. It was a short time later I decided to remuster in the air crew and go overseas.
It was decided June 24th, 1942, that I was "good material for an air gunner, a good marksman, keen to fly, wanted to be an air gunner, some boxing, fighter type, with plenty of ambition". These comments were recorded by Flight Officer J.O. Laffoley. I had been a clerk 1 so I spoke to my officer, Laffoley and he looked into it. I had trouble passing the medical exam due to breathing problems. After treating the problem they then made arrangements for the next gunnery course which began in Mount Jolie, Quebec.
I planned to go home for Christmas, had $400 saved, but at the last moment wasn’t allowed to leave, so bought gifts at Morgans, a big department store of four or five stories. I remember buying a 5 pound box of the best chocolates they had. I can’t remember anything else I bought but I did have a good time buying and shipping the presents home.
Number 9 Bombing and Gunnery School - Mont Jolie My next transfer was to Number 9 Bombing and Gunnery School in Mount Jolie on the 19th of July, 1942. I was now a Leading Aircraftsman with an increase in pay. At the beginning of this course we were entitled to wear a white flash on the front of our forage cap signifying that we were air crew under training. This was an eight week course beginning on July 27, and ending on September 10th. At the end we were to receive our wings and promotion to rank of sergeant. Life was looking up.
During the gunnery course we did a lot of skeet shooting which consisted of shooting clay pigeons out of the air from different angles. I became pretty good at this. In the report on skeet shooting my officers remarks report "average". Once, while home on leave, I was able to show off a little while hunting with my brother. I shot three Gorbies(Grey Jays) on the wing, one after another.
We had plenty of flying experience as well. We flew in the old Fairey Battle planes which were used in World War I. These had a single engine and we would drop smoke bombs on the St. Lawrence River, circle around, and then shoot at them. One fellow dived too low and a wing went under water. It then pulled him down into the water but he was able to get out of the plane and swim to shore. My most memorable and nerve racking flight during training was when our pilot put down the landing gear and only one wheel came down. The Commanding Officer (C.O.) in the tower told the pilot to put our other wheel up and come in on the plane’s belly. We were told to prepare for a crash landing. We did this and it caused us to stop faster but never did much damage.
I was given a 30 day leave so went home and worked on the farm with my brothers Larrie and Arthur and told stories. I remember telling them "if I ever get hit, I hope it’s not in the stomach". I wanted a quick ending. I returned to Mount Jolie and at the end of the course received my wings and a promotion to the rank of sergeant. My flying log tells me I had accumulated 16 hours flying time and my marks were 81%. I was awarded an Air Gunner Badge, 1942. I had my sergeant stripes and wings sewn on and removed the white flash from my hat. We knew that approximately the top third of the class would be commissioned and I learned that I had a chance for a commission but I would need $50. This posed an immediate problem as I didn’t have the funds. I wrote home asking my brother Larrie if he could loan me the cash. He was unable to help out so I ended up turning down the commission. I was given about one month leave and went home to visit my family before leaving Canada for overseas.
We were kept seven days in a holding unit for people waiting for the ship to England. This was really a sorry place. Our beds were loose straw with a blanket. The person who slept there before me had the crabs, (body lice) and I found out they were contagious. We had to stay right there the entire time. Our ocean liner, the Queen Mary, one of the most luxurious ships ever built, was more than 1,000 feet long and would cross the Atlantic Ocean in just over five days. The rooms were jam packed with men. We were crowded in double or triple tiered steel beds closely packed with duffel bags. I shared a cabin, meant to accommodate two, with five other men. I was on the ship writing letters home about a week before it left shore. We went to the mess hall for our meals and were served on white linen. It was beautiful. We fed like kings on the Queen Mary. I remember enjoying salmon with a twist of lemon. The weather was good and the ship was so large that no one experienced sea sickness. We spent most of our time eating, sleeping and visiting a few guys we knew. There wasn’t enough room to play card games. Before leaving, men were taking bathroom fixtures and the like. It was all so fancy and very sad to see them do this. Some of us had bought silk stockings in Canada, for we had heard they were very rare in England. We thought we might give them to some of the girls over there. However, someone on the boat had taken my silk stockings and a new pair of air force gloves.
England. On November 1, 1942, we docked in Greenwich, Scotland. We stayed on the boat until we got a train. It took quite a while to get the boat unloaded, as there were quite a few train loads of us. The next day I boarded a train, the "Flying Scotsman", to Bournemouth. They fed us biscuits that were as hard as bullets. The trip to Bournemouth took about a day. In Bournemouth we were billeted in a large room in a Hall. Upon arrival, November 5, 1942, it was necessary to check with the medical officer. Bournemouth was a lovely resort town and the weather was beautiful! The whole town was a holding unit for Canadian Airmen. There was a big dining room near the beaches which served as a mess hall for NCOs,(Non Commissioned Officers). There were acres and acres of lawns and flowers, as well as water fountains, peacocks, big trees, little paths and bridges to walk on. The beach, which was seven miles long had the finest sand you ever saw. The Germans had machine gunned a group of swimmers there earlier in the war. We had little to do but enjoy ourselves while we awaited posting. The city offered plenty of entertainment; pubs, cinemas, and a music hall. From here I was posted to Instructional Training (ITU) in Wellsbourne, Warwickshire.
Instructional Training Unit - Wellsbourne. The countryside was beautiful as I took the train to Wellsbourne. I was impressed with the beauty of the brooks, bridges and the vines growing around and over so much. Upon arrival, another class ahead of us were in the midst of a course, so we had a fair amount of leisure time on our hands. Meanwhile, we walked around, enjoyed the country side and the girls. I was given seven days leave from the 11th of December to the 17th. and had been invited to spend Christmas with friends but chose instead to stay on the base. Between the 29th of January and the 10th of February, 1943, I enjoyed another 13 days leave. Quite often the airmen would visit London or take bicycle rides through Stratford-on-Avon. Once my course began it did not involve flying, but rather was instructional training held in classrooms. From here I was transferred to Operational Training (OTU) in Leamington.
Operational Training Unit - Leamington. We came from Canada, just young fellows - 18 and 19 years old flying bombers and fighters. The young English boys couldn’t get over that! In England you had to be 21 to get a driver’s licence. They couldn’t even drive a car. They were allowed to wear a uniform, but not fly a plane. I think they later lowered the age. Upon arrival October 13, 1942, we were assigned to Quonset huts. The hut had a coal stove in each end and lots of beds. The first morning we all reported to a large briefing room to be addressed by the Commanding Officer (C. O.). Among us were pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless operators and gunners. The C.O. advised us we would spend most of the first week in ground school and would have some free time. The big question now was who do you crew up with, and how do you go about crewing up? Usually the pilot chose the navigator and from there on they would choose their crew.
Eventually, our crew consisted of Stanley Gaunt, a pilot from Rhode Island, U.S.A.; McCormick, a navigator from Alaska; Bomb Aimer, Lloyd Fadden from Seattle, Washington; and our wireless operator, Green from England. Some were given nicknames. McCormick, being married, seemed much older than the rest of us. He was a very quiet guy and kept to himself. We called him "Big Mac" and I was known as "Little Mac". Stanley was just called Stan. He was a really nice guy and I thought the world of him. Fadden was called "Whitie" because he had naturally white hair. He was a character, always getting into fights and trouble. He would get nasty and sassy with too many drinks. In ground school the crew would start learning about the Wellington aircraft (Wimpies) that we would be using for training. Near the end of our tour we were in a hurry to become operational. We did cross-countries, some low flying, air flying, and a height test. We did some ground and flying training, then a load test, night flying and were then ready for operations.
Our first bombing raid was at an altitude new to us, twenty thousand feet. This meant we would be using oxygen for the first time. Some people have said they found this mask somewhat unpleasant. I was just glad I had it! We did a lot of flying and shooting from the air. Some of the fellows shot at some sheep and got in trouble for that. Before finishing our flying we had one hair raising experience. We had been flying around, quite low at this point. The pilot was busy looking for girls and didn’t see a three inch thick cable until he was right in front of it. He quickly decided to go under it and in so doing went so low the wind from the plane blew the grass right over. We thought that was pretty close and tried to pay closer attention after that.
My boots were beginning to give me a problem so I took the bus to the store to see what could be done about a new pair. The Englishman at the desk looked at them and concluded they were still in pretty good shape, and therefore decided he wouldn’t give me a new pair. I responded with "I’ll get them!" So of I went to the office sergeant and asked him if I could see the C.O. He told me I couldn’t see the C.O. and asked me what my trouble was. I explained my situation and he immediately picked up the phone and called the clerk at the store and told him to give me the boots. I suppose the clerk never figured I’d go to anyone and was just taking the opportunity to show his authority. Well I was pleased as I was handed the boots right away.
During one of our test flights the arrival back in England was not so good. Once one wheel came down and one didn’t. We landed and just spun around in circles, bent the propeller all up and broke off one wing. Imagine being in the tail end of a plane spinning round and round. You really felt it back there. Fire trucks, ambulances, staff and the C.O. all came out to the runway. We were alright but pretty shook up - it happened so fast.
I had entered O.T.U. on the 13th of October, 1942 and left on the 10th of February, 1943. My total day time flying hours were 11, and the total night time flying hours were 20. The remarks of my C.O. are as follows: Keen, average gunner. The deficiency in flying times is due to the fact that the previous air gunner was taken off training and Sgt. McCracken subsisted in the crew. The assessment placed me as an air gunner 5. 426 Squadron - Bomber Command, Dishforth.
On February 1st, 1943, I was posted to 426 Squadron, Canada’s’ Bomber Squadron, Group 6. We were given a special meal of ham and eggs before we left for each bombing raid and upon arrival home another great meal. I could only just get my goon suit on over the top of my flight clothes. What a job to get into the turret, especially with the parachute pack clipped to the upper left-hand side. My first operational of night time bombing occurred March 3, 1943. I had to ride in the top turret and observe the action. The sky was really lit up! This was definitely the most frightening time for me. I couldn’t get over how the pilot could fly the plane right in the midst of it all. You could see all the fire and fighting two hours before you reached it and yet you’d swear you were right over it all along. You couldn’t turn back until you had dropped your bombs. And all that time you just sat and watched what you were flying into.
On one occasion we were over our target and the air was heavy with flak. We saw a great big Halifax bomber coming right at us. I gave a yell. The pilot dipped the plane down and he went right over our head. That was close. On another sortie, Navigator McCormick wasn’t getting oxygen and became confused. We found ourselves flying around, apparently lost for a bit. We saw some fire below so let our bombs go. As a bomb is dropped a camera on the plane takes a picture, thereby telling us if we hit our target, or how close we came. We eventually learned we had shot at a burning haystack. The Germans must have seen us flying around so set fire to one of their haystacks. Records of the 426 Squadron report a plane being heavily shot up. Our aircraft was the one with over a hundred flak holes. The flak hit the back of my flying jacket, leaving in it a hole about a foot long. It just missed my backbone and severed my intercom with the pilot. This was a close call. If the flak had hit an inch closer, it would have cut my backbone. It virtually nailed my flight suit to the steel door behind me, as my back had been right up against it, later forcing them to cut the steel door to free my jacket. With the intercom out, the crew was worried about me. I could hear them but they couldn’t hear me. I could hear Fadden say, "Little Mac must have got it". Then, speaking to me, they said, "If you can hear me, press your button". There was a button I could push that would cause a light to come on in the cockpit. I did this and the button lit up. Fadden came down to check on me and then reported back to the others. We made an emergency landing in southern England, off the White Cliffs of Dover. We came in for a crash landing with our hydraulics shot up and no brakes. There were large banks of sand across the runway to help us stop. The plane was sent to the factory for major repairs. I have no idea how I came out of there unscathed.
Once we landed, a girl was asked to drive us to Dishforth, which took all day. She was a great girl for when we stopped to visit a pub along the way she loaned us some money. When I arrived in Dishforth I was told my brother Charlie had been to see me, and that he was in the area awaiting my arrival. He had been told I was out on a bombing raid and that I hadn’t returned. They did tell him I had landed in southern England. It was good to see him again.
After bombing Bochum one night and on our trip back our gas was reading empty and when we called in to land we were told to go to another airport. Trying to find a place to land when you are running very low on fuel can be your biggest problem. Quite often a lot of planes would be returning at the same time and all would be very low on fuel. This night the pilot said he couldn’t go anywhere, he had been reading empty so long. They turned all the lights on and we had a safe landing. This was quite nerve racking, low on fuel and trying to find a place to land.
Our squadron returned to the Battle of the Ruhr to attack Dortmund May 23. This was my last sortie - I never returned. An interesting event - before this last bombing raid I had a funny (peculiar) feeling that something was going to go wrong. I cleaned out my locker and gave special chocolates to one of the girls just down from us. It was as though I knew I would not return. As I was leaving the mess hall I told the pilot "I’ll see you in Dulag Luft."
A friend, Bailey and myself signed our money over to another fellow who wasn’t flying that night, as was the custom before each air raid. Neither of us returned. Bailey’s plane was coned in search lights. The pilot took a fast nose dive to escape the lights and then tried to pull up quickly to evade the enemy. Something must have gone wrong, for the pilot gave the order to bail out. When Bailey jumped he was too close to the ground and his parachute never had a chance to open. I have a picture of him. He is located in the first row of my photo in Operational Training Unit. He was engaged so I visited southern England to speak to his fiancee regarding his death. A difficult time but I was glad to do this for them.
At the Dortmund raid, our crew, skippered by Sgt. Stanley Gaunt, had a very difficult trip. Our plane was coned by search lights and we received repeated hits by anti-aircraft guns, taking out our hydraulics, intercom and starting a fire. Whitey Fadden and I received the order to bale out. Before the rest of the crew jumped, the fire went out and Gaunt decided to try to fly the plane home. He made it and received the Distinguished Flying Medal for his heroics.
My next scheduled operation was to be in a Lancaster. However, I never made it back. The last I remember was a big gust of wind hitting me as I turned the turret around crossways, leaned backwards and fell out. My intercom cord was hooked around something and snapped in two giving me quite a jerk and knocking me unconscious. Luckily, my hand was on the rip cord and the jerk snapped my hand down opening the chute. I wasn’t conscious to bend my knees and break my fall, so all my weight came down on one leg. It was twisted pretty badly.
Prisoner of War. It was early morning and still dark when I came to, looked up, and saw open sky and stars above me. I thought I was in PMQs back in England and that we must have been bombed and our roof blown off. I fell asleep and awoke the second time, now daylight, with my parachute spread all around me and discovered I had landed in the end of a turnip patch, close to the farm buildings. Hitting the ground with terrific force, I lost a boot. I couldn’t walk so I crawled on my hands and knees and tried to bury my parachute in a pond. This was impossible so I left it, crawled up to the barn and sat in the sun until someone came around. Finally a young fellow came from the house to feed the cattle. I called twice and when he saw me he went back into the house. The father came out and took me in, sat me at the table and gave me some bread. He couldn’t have been friendlier. I offered them my escape kit but they refused. They could get in trouble if the Germans found they had received anything from us. They asked me where my parachute was, then the old fellow took off on a bicycle and was gone for about two hours. He arrived back later with a guard. The German guard looked at me and in English said, "For you, the war is over." This seemed to be the only English the German guards could say, for each of the prisoners got the same greeting. This later became a joke among the POWs in prison camp. We progressed from interrogation to a holding unit and then to a Stalag or prison. I was taken just outside Dusseldorf to a farm house which had an office. I was held here for a couple of days in a building made of concrete building blocks. Inside was a bunk, a window and a guard. An older guard and a girl from the office came and stood in my doorway smiling. I must have appeared pretty down for I believe they were trying to get me to smile. Finally I did and they returned to the office. From here I was taken to an office in Dusseldorf with seven or eight Special Service men. These fellows had grown up in the States and could pass without any trouble as American or Canadian airmen. They spoke better English than most of us. They looked like they were ready to slap me in the head but I just sat there giving my name, rank and number. I was afraid but stubborn. I remember being given three small potatoes that had been boiled with the skins on. The guard took the largest potato. I was taken to a hospital because of my bad leg and spent about a month in a room in the basement. They didn’t want me on a regular floor with the rest of their patients. They found I had strained ligaments. Being the only prisoner there, a few of the nurses and staff came down and looked at me as though I were a pet monkey. Someone took my wrist watch and I kept complaining and finally, after a week or so, they brought it back to me. From here I was placed on a street car carrying civilians and, accompanied by a guard, traveled up the Rhine River from Dusseldorf to Dulag Luft in Frankfurt. Scenery was beautiful. I remember grapes growing on a nearly thirty foot high bank. Half way there we stopped at a station and a woman brought me a bowl of rice - no milk or sugar, just a large bowl of rice. I had not been doing much and therefore wasn’t hungry. I tried to thank her and ate as much as I could. Then we moved on up country to Frankfurt. Here we had huts, little shacks they put up fast, with just one man in each. This was an interrogation center - solitary confinement. They didn’t ask me questions, instead they told me who my CO was, the bomb aimer, what boat I came over on, the number of people on that boat and when I came over. They even knew how many bombing raids my CO had been on. They were just verifying what they already knew. I was amazed. We had quite a talk there. They could tell by the look on my face everything they said was true. They didn’t give me a hard time here like they did in Dusseldorf. Fadden, who had bailed out the same time as me eventually found himself in a town and seeing a bicycle leaning against a store, proceeded to take it. A guard came out of the store and Whitey pulled a knife on him and ended up on the firing line. They gave him quite a hard time. After being questioned, on my way back to my room, I saw Whitey making a face at me from his room, with his thumbs in his ears, waving his hands - the foolish fellow. I was glad to see him and we kind of hung out together. We were put in barracks with a group of others and waited there until they had enough prisoners for a train load. After three weeks we were moved on. We unloaded at Stalag Luft VI, in Heydekrug, East Prussia. As far as I knew I would be here until the end of the war. As it turned out I was in this camp one and a half years. There were many of us crowding into the camp and looking for beds. We were the first fellows to settle in and the only person I knew here was Whitey Fadden. Later they brought up Americans and built an extension on the east side of our camp and kept them separate. Every four - six weeks another train load would arrive. They added another extension on the south side for British and Canadian airmen. Mother sent word that a fellow from St. John by the name of Fox was a POW and believed to be in the same camp. I called across the fence to see if they knew of a Fox. They said "Sure, Zeke Fox". Since Germany generally kept within the bounds of the Geneva Convention we were able to have a reasonable lifestyle. We always felt hungry. I suppose after months went by your stomach shrunk up a bit. When Red Cross parcels were coming in, morale was good. We would get up in the morning, go out and wash in cold water. Each hut was given large pitchers of ersatz coffee made from acorns and whatever else. For lunch we were given what was called turnip stew, which was more like soup and no stronger than their coffee. This was turnip and water and maybe a little salt. There were no chunks of turnip and you only received a tin full. We were given a tin cup for our coffee, lunch and anything else. We got turnips every day - even the turnip peelings were fought over by the prisoners. One day, walking by one of the huts, I noticed a smell coming from there that would knock you down! Some prisoners had traded cigarettes with a German guard for a dog telling him they wanted it for a pet. Sure enough, they were cooking the dog and having him for their supper. The smell was awful! You would also see fellows sprinkle crumbs of bread on the ground and set a trap for a bird with a tin can and a string attached. They would lie there for hours, perfectly still, waiting for a bird to land for the crumbs, then pull the string and trap maybe a sparrow. I imagine they got some, otherwise they wouldn’t lie there so long. Who knows? From the Red Cross we also received cans of powdered milk about the size of a tobacco can. This was labeled Klim Tin (milk spelled backwards). Those multi purpose cans were just the greatest! Prisoners made cups from them, heated water for tea, or made porridge in them. You could also heat water and give yourself a good wash in a Klim Tin. They were even used to make blowers. We were able to heat our food on blowers. They were little stoves we made consisting of a fan, with a little shaft leading into a fire box and you’d put little chips of wood in it and get a fire going. We mostly enjoyed coffee and porridge heated on the blowers. Every day after dinner the fellows would wash their dishes out and throw the dirty water over a board with a warning sign posted on it demanding they not go beyond that point. I watched as one fellow threw his water over the board and the guard fired at him and hit him in the arm. Another time, a German guard high up in a tower received word his family had been bombed. He just let his machine gun fire all around our feet. Tore the ground right up in front of us. It was just a burst. We stopped for a second but didn’t want to stand there too long - he might open up again, so we just kept walking and stuck together. During the spring hundreds of tadpoles could be found in a small stream running along one side of the camp. Summer in the prison camp had several disadvantages such as dust and unpleasant smells. Flies were extremely annoying and dangerous, outbreaks of dysentry frequently being caused by these pests. Wasps were also really bad. Attracted by numerous Red Cross jam tins, they arrived by the thousands. During the long winter evenings, the lights were too dim to read by. We only had two little windows in each end of the 60 foot buildings with three tier bunks on each side. The only place I did any reading was at the library which was closed in the evening. One day a fellow arose early and with his towel thrown over his shoulder, headed to the washroom. It must have been before 7:00 for we weren’t allowed out of our huts before then. The guard shot him in the stomach and just left him there to die. We watched this and were totally unable to do anything. None of us could leave our hut or we’d get it too. He suffered there for an hour. It was just awful. It was fantastic what the Red Cross parcels brought to us. If it hadn’t been for them I wouldn’t be here today. When they would arrive, we’d take it off to a corner and nibble on the food like a mouse. After awhile we pooled things like jars of jam. We would only open one at a time and share it. This didn’t last long for we found some guys would always take more than their share. In a prison camp on rations, behaviour like that doesn’t go over very well. Cheese would also arrive in these parcels. Some had been on ships a long time in the heat and by the time we received them, the cheese would have huge worms. These Red Cross parcels were intended to supplement the rations provided by the enemy. One parcel was to last each man one week. But they rarely arrived that often. There was one case of theft I remember. A fellow had been guilty of raiding the lockers of seventy-five or eighty guys while others were on parade. One fellow got angry and searched all the bunks and their kits as well. He found the culprit, marched the guy out to the washroom, tore up some of the boards, and threw him in the waste. He pushed him down under again and again, head and all, until he was good and soaked. When he finally was allowed up out of that awful mess, was he mad. Swearing and cursing and shaking that mess off him and onto people close to him! That was the only case of thieving I ever heard of. We would get mail every four or six months. We had a little type of post card/letter. It opened up so you actually had two post cards and you could write in there. We were always happy when a mail day came, unless you were one of the fellows receiving `dear john’ letters. All letters were censored by the British government to stop people from sending information to Germany; and then the German government would censor to prevent you from getting information they thought might be useful to you. Sometimes a letter would come with just the `ands’ and the `the’s’ left. The rest blotted out. Cigarettes were like money. You could swap or barter anything. The Red Cross supplied 50 cigarettes a week. Some Canadians received cigarettes from home. We made up trading stores. If you had cigarettes you could buy anything. There was more smoking going on there than eating, that’s for sure. I never smoked while a POW and at bedtime it would get pretty smokey in your hut with nearly everyone smoking (100 - 150 men). In the morning and evening, for about an hour or more, we would walk around the rows and rows of huts just inside the warning line. The Red Cross supplied us with a library and you had to wait your turn for books. I had received word from home that father had bought a farm for me (the Davis place for which I paid upon my return) and it had a few apple trees. I sent for a book from the Red Cross on pruning apple trees. It took six to eight months to arrive but I finally received it and made many notes. I still have the notes on farming I made in the prison camp. We received seeds as well. Most men didn’t want theirs. I tried growing a little garden no bigger than a kitchen table. I had lettuce and radish planted and a sunflower seed in each corner. Not much came of it. Some fellow would tear them out each night, though I did get to enjoy some of it. We had a billet for entertaining or holding meetings in. About once a month we would find a notice on the bulletin board for the opportunity to go and enjoy some records a fellow would play for us. Those records really sounded like home and made you lonesome. I was only there four or five times. Only one evening I remember well. In the warm weather I became quite creative and turned an old blue shirt into a pair of shorts. I had a great tan that summer. Sure was cool and nice. Aunt Jessie sent me a blanket from home. It was white with pink stripes across the ends of it, and was far superior to the regular ones we were given. One day I hung my blanket on the fence to let the wind blow it out. I forgot it and asked the guard for permission to go and get it. He told me I’d be fine. You couldn’t really be sure of the guard in the tower so I decided to leave it there and get it the next day. Some fellows tried making a rink by flooding from the washroom, but the ground was slanted and the water went down hill. It didn’t quite work. We were able to play cards a lot, also rugby and baseball. Some of the boys were digging tunnels and would put sand under their shirts and pants and would gradually drop the sand out of their clothes while running around the bases playing ball. In March, 1944, 76 men made a great but brief escape from Stalag Luft III at Sagan in occupied Poland. Three escaped, the others were rounded up and 50 were shot, including six Canadians. We were made aware of this and upon hearing of the shooting, everyone booed the German officer who informed us. The tunnel in our camp didn’t get out in the woods far enough. They kept a stove over the entrance to the tunnel but the Germans found it. They took some of the boards from our beds and our mattresses as well, so we couldn’t build tunnels with the boards. We were left with only three boards to lie on. One under our head, another under our rears and one under our feet. A friend and I decided to sleep together and share our boards. Many fellows did that. The German authorities used to parade us twice a day on a head count, in the morning and then again around 4:30 in the afternoon. We were lined up in six rows and were all counted. The Germans would find that they would be eight men short. As we were standing in rows, some fellows would step back and ahead from different lines causing the guards to come up short each time. They would count and count. Sometimes we’d be standing there till dark getting a great kick out of this. The guards would get quite worked up One day, as a guard came to get us out for parade, a prisoner lying in bed said he was too sick to be counted. The guard poked him with his gun, swore and told him to get out there. The prisoner grabbed the guard’s gun. I got right out of there. I don’t think they bothered with him. I think he’d let them shoot him before he’d get up. The Germans were beginning to hear how their men who were held as prisoners in Canada were pleased with how they were being treated. This made the Germans happy and so they decided to give Canadian POWs preferential treatment for treating their people so well. One morning they came to take us out for a walk outside the camp but our camp leader said "They’re doing this to cause hard feelings between us in the camp". So we decided not to accept the offer. I did get out with a couple of prisoners and two guards for a walk in the country. I can’t remember how that came to be. One Christmas the boys got hold of some women’s clothing and they put on a great show for the men. They played some records, wore wigs, silk stockings and painted themselves up with rouge. They had a great time and the show was enjoyed by all. Another Christmas I tried to make a cake. Some of the boys and I saved up some big thick white crackers and crushed them up with water or something to make a dough. I decorated it on top with jam. It was quite a good size.
Death March. (Although this was not the historic "Death March", we prisoners commonly referred to it as the Death March.) One day in January, 1945, without explanation we were put on a boxcar headed south. We had tied up some of our belongings before moving on. I had to leave the blanket Aunt Jessie sent me, but I did take a thinner one. The train was really long and we were crammed in like sardines. If you had to go to the bathroom, there was a pail in the corner of the boxcar with sand in it. No one used it much. It was degrading. Everyone was in a sort of stupor - just sat there and stared. It took a long time to get anywhere. We were put in a vacant prison camp, Stalag XX A in Thorne, Poland. We all had showers and the stink was something awful. We knew the Jews had been killed there and had been buried in a trench with dirt bulldozed over them. After awhile you got used to that smell. You sure knew it was death. The guards were mostly older men. One German told me "We don’t want this war". I knew they would be shot if they didn’t do their job. We marched to Fallingbostel, Stalag XI B.
I had over 1,000 cigarettes on me during the march, and I traded them with a fellow for a pair of pyjamas. He came back later and told me they were too damp to smoke. We had been sleeping on the ground and it was pretty hard to keep things dry. I told him I’d trade them back, but he decided he’d keep them instead. We stayed here about two weeks. We marched on to Germany, from seven in the morning until seven at night. We found that in parts of Germany they would harvest their crops and pile and cover them with straw and dirt. So when we’d stop for a rest, somebody would investigate, and then some would help themselves to this food. We would get potatoes and onions that way. If caught, the Germans would open machine guns on you. A lot of fellows became sick along the way. We had nothing to eat. At one farm we found a big bin with crushed oats in it for the pigs. Some fellows had a screen and sifted the hulls out. I didn’t have a screen so I cooked up the oats and ate them hulls and all. That nearly ruined my stomach. I suffered a lot from that. I was so sick that I wished I’d die. I had ulcers for a long time after I was home. I did receive bottles of medicine from the DVA Hospital in St. John for quite awhile, at no charge. My friend went to a house and asked to borrow a needle and thread. They gave him something to eat. Meanwhile, I was out behind a shed and found onions they had thrown out. They had been frozen and were starting to spoil. I cut the spoiled parts out, cooked them up and ate them. There was an army doctor in prison with us. Everyone went to him telling their problems. All he had were little white pills which he gave to everyone. They never really helped. I was sick for two or three days. We usually slept out in the fields or by the side of the road. Occasionally we would stop by a barn overnight. Some fellows may have slept in the barn. I only slept in a barn twice. Our physical condition was worsening. Some started breaking out in boils. Sometimes the guards would poke you with a rifle butt to push you on. Some were bayonetted in the rear for not moving fast enough.
We ended up in Fallingbostel, Stalag XI B. This camp had tents so we slept on the ground. Here, some fellows drew scenes from prison camp. They were making a book of sketches on life as a POW. A paper was posted and if anyone wanted a copy of the book they were to sign up and it would be mailed to you later. I am happy to have a copy, entitled ‘Handle with Care’. Near the end we were in groups of about 500 men. Whenever we saw any of our planes flying above, we’d jump and wave at them. One day we prisoners were sitting on one side of the road and the guards were on the other having their lunch. Ahead we saw men running. I looked up and saw an American fighter, a Mustang maybe, flying low coming right at us. We knew they were going to open fire, so I ran for about eight feet through bushes, dropped right down on my belly and buried my face in the dirt. Seven planes came at us, one at a time, circled and came back again, thinking, of course, that we were German troops. They fired, I got up again and ran further into the field watching for the next group. I hit the dirt again, my face ploughed into the sod. They were dropping torpedoes and firing machine guns. I got up and ran again, and so on. Someone’s foot was blown off at the ankle and it landed right in front of me. No blood, just blown right off. There were thirty men killed and well over 100 injured. Some of the men gathered up the dead and laid them in a barn. In walking through the barn I saw they had laid the bodies in two rows. The wounded were transported to a hospital. After that, anytime we saw a plane we’d head for the woods. Some fellows took food off the dead bodies but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. We stopped at a house, knocked on the door and asked the woman for some bread. She couldn’t understand us so the man of the house came and asked her to give us some food. The next day we marched ahead to a barn. Names of the men who had been shot were posted on the outside of the barn. If we knew any of these people, we were asked to put our names down by the deceased. I recognized a couple of people so I wrote my name by theirs. Zeke Fox, we called him, was one of the fellows and my name was sent to his family. I was later contacted by his uncle for some information or details. Along the way we arrived in a small town and it was said that Red Cross parcels were being stored in a vacant building here. Because of fuel shortages they couldn’t transport these parcels. The German guards found the building and we were issued a box a piece. We left a lot there for we were down in number to about 300 now. One of the POW leaders on the death march had a little radio and would sneak the news to the men about once a week. We knew the end was near. Some fellows just took off on their own for Brussels or other places. The American and English troops were coming our way so many left on their own to meet up with them and be flown back to England. German guards were leaving as well. During the last month one or two would drop out at a time. Finally, only one German officer was left with us. Our group was now down to about 30 men. Once, while on a country road, we caught some chickens, gathered poles, and right there made a fire and cooked them. The next day an Englishman appeared on a motor bike. The German officer wanted to get rid of his hand gun so I asked him for it.
The Englishman told us there was a plane ahead that would take us to Brussels. This was where we were liberated. I tried to get a halter on a horse. The Polish fellow tending the horse for the Germans tried to warn me not to take it - the horse wasn’t safe. I couldn’t understand the language so kept on. The horse kicked me in the stomach with both hind feet. Down I went with the wind knocked out of me. There was another fellow nearby trying to hot wire an old car with a folded down top and big seats. Eight of us jumped in and away we went until we found the airport. We met Allies coming on APCs (Armoured Personnel Carriers) and asked them for gas. They threw us some white bread. We took big bites, it was just like cake. The German bread we had been given all along was so dark, nearly black. They flew us to Brussels. We spent the night in Brussels and the Red Cross looked after us. We showered, deloused and had supper. In the evening we walked along the streets. The Allies had taken over. I can’t quite explain how I felt, except that my stomach was bad. There was so much happening all at once. I was able to take home some needle nose pliers which I had taken from an old truck, and some German money I got from going through some German officers clothes hanging up in some empty buildings. I still carried with me my note book on farming, my Prisoner of War book and the little German hand gun.
We arrived in England, were taken to London and my stomach was really bad. There was lots of room here. We showered and deloused again, were given fresh clothes, and went down to a lovely dining hall. There were lots of young girls waiting tables and plenty of rich food, ham, eggs - everything. With my stomach so bad I ate very little while others just wolfed it down. We were here only one night and were sent on to Bournemouth the next day to be rehabilitated.
Going Home. Our stay in Bournemouth lasted about a month. What a switch after being in the prison camp for two years to the month! We were put on special diets to build us up and about every two feet on the tables were large bowls of vitamins. I began eating light and could gradually eat more. I gained thirty pounds in one month. When I arrived I weighed about 98 pounds. Here we just laid on the beach, watched girls and walked in the parks and walkways. It was just beautiful. In the evenings we visited the pubs. After two weeks we were given money and were told to go by train to South Hampton and buy a uniform, trench coat, club bag and cap. All of these I still have today. A French boat, the Louis Pasteur, came in to transport us back to Canada. It just had hammocks hanging everywhere to sleep on. Whitey took one look at the boat and said he wasn’t going on that thing! I took advantage of the opportunity and when we landed in Halifax were instructed to go on to Montreal. We traveled by train through Bathurst and the lower Gaspe. The countryside here was quite a let-down after all the beautiful scenery I had seen. We stayed in Montreal a couple of days with doctors checking us, listening to our concerns and caring for our wounds. We went through commissions. I went from a Chief Warrant Officer Badge to a Flying Officers Badge. I sent a wire home to tell the folks I was on my way. The wire simply read "Coming Home". I neglected to say what time and which train I would be on. Father walked to meet the train morning, noon and evening. I arrived the next morning at 9:00 all excited and worked up. Father met me and I thrust my hand out to shake his. I had forgotten his hands were crippled from the burns he had received while working for the Hydro Co. wiring an airport in Pennfield. We walked home and after all my travels I really didn’t think the Jct. looked like much. If it hadn’t been for mother and father I’d have been off again. I enjoyed a month home with pay - then back to Montreal to get discharged.Greg McCracken
Winston Yeatman 19th Army Troop EngineersMy father, Winston Yeatman from Christchurch, New Zealand was an Engineer (or 'sapper') in the 19th New Zealand Army Troop Engineers. He was a prisoner of war in Stalag V111B after being captured on Crete in 1941, arriving back in UK May 1945. His POW number was 7490. From his war record he seems to have been in a few camps - Salonika, where he was first registered as a POW at the Front. Stalag 18c; V111b; 344; Stalagluft 6; He was an Engineer in the NZ Army.
He changed identities with Richard Pape (and others) and his exploits are in the book written by Richard Pape 'Boldness Be My Friend' and it's sequel. Dad passed away in 1986, he was always actively involved in the RSA, Ex-POW & Tin Hat Club in Christchurch, New Zealand.Cynthia Fraser
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
W/O. Keith Oliver Perry 405 Squadron (d.23rd Aug 1943)Keith Oliver Perry was my Mom's cousin. I do not know much about him other than he was with the RCAF 405 Squadron in England during World War II. He was shot down and captured sometime around March-April 1943. On 27th of Apr-1943 his status was changed from missing to Prisoner of War in the Lethbridge Hearald. He died in Stalag Luft VI in Heydekrug, East Prussia (now Macikai, Klaipedos Apskritis, Lithuania). He is buried in the cemetery just northeasterly of the camp. In 2007, a stone to honor him was placed in the cemetery.Ken Whitehorn
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.
S/Sgt Arthur L. VarrichioMy Father, Arthur L Varrichio, was a pow at St Wendel #4272 and served with the following, according to his diary, with their signatures and the few stories he shared,
Friends & Prisoners at St.Wendel
- T/Sgt AL Vance- D. Col
- S/Sgt "Hub" Campney E.lo
- S/Sgt Phil Homan - c.Wy
- S/Sgt "Les" Gausin AF. NY
- "Rex" Knapp - Iowa
- S/Sgt "Freaches" Montiel - KC. Kan
- S/Sgt E. Thomas- T Arz
- S/Sgt AL "Vic" Varicchio - N.Y.Ny Quinn-
- A. Vannel -Conn
- "Hank" Sytnix - C.Ill
- Adam Straciewsi - Jer
- Tex Squpres - L. Texas
The names are too many to list these are just a few. The crew he flew and was shot down with are as follows.
- Pilot F/O W.J.. Stiles, Cleveland Ohio
- T/Sgt T.J Walker ,Los Angles CA
- Navigator Ltd John P Madefra (Spelling)
- (Engineer) Co Pilot P/o J. Lowjuski
- * Ball Gunner S/Sgt H.P Campney-Emmetsburg , Iowa
- Ltd Charles Keck -
- W.G Ford PA waist gunner
- L.W Gaulin Tail Gunner
- R.Monteil Waist GunnerMathew Varricchio
Bombardier Arthur "Doc" Blanchard Air CorpsArt `Doc' Blanchard was a bombardier with US Army Air Corps. He flew out of Northern Ireland between approximately January and March 1944. He was shot down over the French/German border, was captured and sent to Stalag Luft 6 - his POW number was 3070. Art was held captive for about 16 months, commencing in Germany, but also in Poland and finally Lithuania. I would like to hear from anyone who may have known Doc.John V Parker
Alfred McIntyreMy father, Alfred McIntyre was in the RAF. He survived Stalag Luft 6 and the long march to Fallingbostel which, sadly, many did not. I have his wartime log which has poems etc by other British POWs. Their names are: Alick Yardley, Stan Tyson, Eric Bickey, Bill Gilroy, Doug Pinney and Fred Bowler. I would love to hear from any family members and especially about my dad `wee Fred'.Joyce Lang
Frank SeddonI have a metal identity tag that belonged to my father, Frank Seddon, which is stampted Stal Luft 6 1469. He was shot down over Berlin in February 1944. This is only one camp that he was in and I am trying to trace his movements to other camps.
Update Try the International Red Cross in Geneva. They hold POW records. It will cost about £18 for a copy.Frank Seddon
Sgt. Bernard H. DolbySgt Dolby was a crew member of Lancaster ED-363 which crashed on 29th October 1943. He became a POW in Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. His POW number was 306.Michel
A. A. FullerA. A. Fuller an RAF Observer was in Stalag IXc (Bad Sulza 10th July 1941-29th April 1942; Stalag Luft III (Sagan) 1st May 1942-18th June 1943; VI (Heydekrug) 20th June 1943-18th July 1944; Stalag 357 (Thorn, Poland) 19th July 1944-8th August 1944 and Falingbostel August 1944-7th April 1945.
R. W. McDonaldR. W. McDonald (WOP/AG) was in Stalag IXc (Bad Sulza 10th July 1941-29th April 1942; Stalag Luft III (Sagan) 1st May 1942-18th June 1943; VI (Heydekrug) 20th June 1943-18th July 1944; Stalag 357 (Thorn, Poland) 19th July 1944-8th August 1944 and Falingbostel August 1944-7th April 1945.
WO/Sgt Ken FentonMy father, Warrant Officer/Sgt Ken Fenton - POW No. 39204 was a POW with A.A. Fuller (observer) and R.W. McDonald (WOP/AG). They ended up in:
Stalag IXC (Bad Sulza) from 10 July 1941 to 29th April 1942. Stalag Luft III (Sagan) from 1 May 1942 to 18 June 1943 Stalag VI (Heydekrug) from 20 June 1943 to 18 July 1944 Stalag 357 (Thorn, Poland) from 19 July 1944 until 8 August 1944 Fallingbostel from August 1944 to 7 April 1945.
The crew of the HSL that was sent to rescue them followed a simiilar route, but remained in Sagan, Stalag Luft III, North Camp. Other names listed in a log book are:
McCairns J. Jones S.F. Roughthon Harry Mahoney Lional Raymond Silver Stan Pannis W.W. Hall R. Evans W.H.E. Harwood P. Balson Walter Kershaw Gordon Bottomley A. Bonyle Joe Walker Norman J. Smith R. Duffield R. MacDonald John Woolston Arthur Thomson D.A. MacLeod N.M.Campbell Harold E. Bennett Malcolm Gillies W.M. Hard (Al's brother) E.G. Caban H.A. Hard E.G.R. DaggettNick Fenton
Albert Ernest "Shirley" BarlowMy father was a POW from 1941 to 1945 after being shot down over Anna Paulowna, Holland. He flew Lancasters. He was sent to Stalag 357 near Fallingbostel in 1944. His POW route took him from Anna Paulowna to Amsterdam to Darth Pomerania to Sagan Silesia (Stalag Luft III), to Heydekrug (Stalag Luft 6) to Thorn Poland, finally arriving in Fallingbostel in August 1944. Names from Fallingbostel: George Hunter, Douglas Harwood, Ron Wade, James Fisher, John Hasefield, Robert Mount and Peter Robson.Dave Barlow
Tech/Sgt. Robert Floyd StottMy father, Robert Floyd Stott, was a tech/sgt on the big bombers over Germany during WWII. He was captured and interned in Stalag Luft 4 and Stalag Luft 6. I was very surprised to find out that he was also at Buchenwald for two weeks. His plane was called "Pegasus" and he was stationed in England.Mart E Stott/Persad
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
Flt.Sgt. William Patrick CrostonMy great uncle, William Croston, was a prisoner at Stalag Luft 6. He never spoke about his time there. The only story I have was second hand.
My grandmother (his sister) had been told that he was missing and, I believe presumed dead. However, she was convinced that he was still alive. One day there was a knock at her door in Newport and a man she had never seen before said "Are you Will Croston's sister?" She said yes and the man told her he was in a POW camp with Will but had escaped and to say he was alive and said he would come home.
She was so shocked she just said "thank you", burst into tears and the man walked away - she didn't even ask his name. We never did find out who he was but she thought he was Welsh, probably from outside of Newport.
When Will came home he was in a very bad state, He was painfully thin and couldn't eat solid food for a long time. It took a toll on him. He never really settled anywhere.Jane Owen
Flt.Sgt. William Hamilton Grigg 424 SquadronWilliam H. Grigg joined the RCAF in January 1942. His first posting was to elementary flight training at #10 EFTS in Mount Hope, Ontario. In April 1942 he transferred to #6 SFTS in Dunville, Ontario for training on the Harvard and Yale aircraft. In July 1942 having completed the tests and training for his pilots badge, he was awarded his RCAF wings.
In September 1942 he commenced his training on the Oxford bomber aircraft with the RAF in Dishforth. In November of this same year, he commenced his training on the Wellington bomber aircraft while attached to the #23 OTU in Pershore, England.
In March 1943, Bill Grigg and his crew began operational bombing flights into Germany on the Wellington aircraft. Between March 1st 1942 and May 29th 1943, they flew numerous missions over Germany bombing their assigned targets. On May 29th, while returning to England from a mission over Wuppertal, Germany, their aircraft was shot down. During this enemy attack, Bill Grigg was rendered unconscious from a shrapnel hit in the head. Prior to jumping from the aircraft, other crew members put him out of the falling aircraft with an open parachute. He landed in Holland and was captured by the German Army. In early June 1943, he was taken to Stalag Luft VI at Haydekrug. He was assigned POW No.154. William Grigg remained a POW for the remainder of the war.
His wartime log book states that on 6th April 1945, he and the entire POW personnel set out on a forced march from Fallingbostel, Germany. On 2nd May 1945 they were liberated by British paratroopers. Those that did survive were seriously malnourished and many POWs did not survive the march.Mike Keegan
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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