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Stalag XXA (312) Torun Podgorz (Thorn), Poland in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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Stalag XXA (312) Torun Podgorz (Thorn), Poland

       Stalag XXA (also called 357 in the early part of the war) was situated at Torun (Thorn) in Poland, where there were a number of defensive forts. The camp began begins in late 1939 with Polish POWs being held in Forts 9 and 10 which they converted to prisons.

    The Headquarters of the camp was in Fort 17, until mid 1940, when a two-storey house opposite Fort 13, now in Okolna Street, was taken over. It was known as "Komendantury Stalag 20A".

    Other forts were converted to hold the prisoners, Fort 11 (XI) named after Stefana Batorego, Fort 12 (XII) named after Wladyslawa Jagielty, Fort 13 (XIII) named after Karola Kniaziewicza held British POWs, Fort 14 (XIV) the hospital named after Jozefa Dwernickiego, Fort 15 (XV) named after Jaroslwaw Dabrowskiego held French POWs, Fort 16 (XVI) named ‘Kolejowy’ or ‘Railway’, and Fort 17 (XVII) named after Michala Zymierskiego were situated on the left bank of the River Vistula and were collectively known as Stalag 312. During the second half of 1941 Stalag 20A was enlarged. New barracks were built in the direction of Glinki to accommodate Russian POWs this new complex was known as Stalag 312/XXC.

    Over 60,000 inmates passed through the Stalag 20A complex over a five year period, Poles, French, Belgians, British, Yugoslavs, Russians, Norwegians, Italians and Americans.

    Those who met their deaths in Stalag XXA were buried in the garrison military cemetery except Russian POWs who were buried in a mass grave in the forest near Stalag 312, between Glinki and Cierpice. About 14,000 men are buried there.

    The Thorn Complex was a sub-camp of the concentration camp in Sztutowic. It contained POW camps for non-commissioned officers and other ranks. The 357 designation was later transferred to Oerbke near Fallingbostel

    The prisoners were liberated by the Americans in 1945.


    10th May 1940 103 Squadron Battle lost

    21st Jul 1940 61 Squadron Hampden lost

     Items found in the area.

    If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

    Those known to have been held in or employed at

    Stalag XXA (312) Torun Podgorz (Thorn), Poland

    during the Second World War 1939-1945.

    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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    Phillip Eric Page Middlesex Regiment

    I'm trying to gather information about my Grandad and his time in World War II. His name was Phillip Eric Page and served in the Middlesex Regiment, He was captured in June 1940, but am unsure when he arrived at Stalag XXA. We are currently going through old papers and photos that we have, and hopefully in the near future I will be posting what we find.

    If anyone has any information on the Middlesex Regiment we would love to hear from you as we are trying to find as much information as possible. Thanks for taking the time to read this

    Dan Newman

    Albert William Mead Royal Artillery

    My granddad, Bill Mead, is a veteran of WW2 and I am currently trying to find anyone who remembers him or has any photos that may be of interest to him. He was a member of the Royal Artillery, is from Birmingham and was in Stalag VIIIB Lammsdorf and Stalag XXA.

    Jessica Wood

    George MacBain The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

    My uncle, George MacBain was a member of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders was captured at st Valerie in 1940 his brother Alexander Alistair Macbain was in the same regiment and was killed in 1940. Uncle George was marched to Stalag XXA where he spent the rest of the war working on a farm. He has told me many horendous stories of the war. Are any of the men who shared those years of his life still alive? He would love to hear from them. One time in Stalag XXA he was nick named "The Blue Man" after catching a form of impatigo from the cattle and his face had to be painted with blue gencenviolet, does that jog any ones memory?

    Many Thanks to all you soldiers for giving so much and receiving so little in the name of freedom.

    Robert Hampton

    James Forbes "Pongo" Adams The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

    The name James Stobie is so familiar!! My late father was James Forbes Adams of Nairn, was in the Cameron Highlanders (51st Highland Division). He was a drummer with Cameron Highlanders (Territorials) Pipe Band, and as he was 18, he got called up to take place of the 17 year old tip drummer.

    James Forbes Adams at breakup of a Territorial camp near Fort George, just prior to hostilities.

    After going to France with the BEF (51st HD), he was captured at St. Valery. That's him next to Kenneth Warner at the end of the row in the second photo. (See photo below) I know this, as I still have that portion that my Aunty Marj (ex Wren) had carried around in her purse throughout his captivity. We lived in Nairn until 1959, when we moved to Glenrothes in Fife. Dad was a founding member of the Nairn Pipeband, and later the Co-founded the Glenrothes Pipeband. After that he was involed with teaching youngsters a Cupar PB, and played with the Kelty and Blairadam PB (the year they won the 2nd Grade drumming at World Championships at Perth.

    The dreaded telegram his aunty received when he was posted missing.

    Dad did attempt escape twice, once in Holland on the long march to Germany, and I believe the other time was when he was at Stalag XXA (Fort 13). He ended up at Stalag XXB. It was hard to get him to talk about his experiences. As a child, I can vividly remember him waking up screaming as a result of the nightmares (right up until the early 60's). He once let his guard down and told me how one night he awoke thinking he was dyingas he was completely soaked in blood. Sadly it was the chap in the bunk above him who had taken his own life.

    James M. Adams

    Jozef Ciesielski

    My husband's grandfather is Jozef Ciesielski. He was captured by German forces while defending Poland on March 17, 1939. He was interred in Stallag XXA and Stallag VIG. His numbers were 2426. In May 1941 he was transferred from one to the other, but in what order I am unsure. Joe passed away in 1996 and never really talked about his experience. In doing genealogy work on my husband's family, I have been very interested in trying to keeping Joe's memory alive for being one of the survivors.

    Cpl William White Royal Pioneer Corps

    My father's eldest brother, Cpl William White, had been a regular in the Royal Dragoons in the 1920s and served in India. He was transferred to the Pioneer Corps and went to France with the B.E.F. He was captured at Abbeville, after Dunkirk. He was marched with others, through various countries and ended up at Stalag XXa. Bill remained a POW until his release in 1945. He survived and returned to Shoreham by Sea in Sussex to his wife, Nell, and children, Gordon, Terry, and Renee. He lived until old age and died in 1977. He was a member of the Dunkirk Veterans Assn in Brighton. His pal was Edward Goldring.

    Gerald White

    L/Cpl. William Downie 6th Btn. Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (d.19th Apr 1945)

    I am looking for information on my Grandfather, Lance Corpral William Downie of the Cameronians Scottish ifles, R.O. No 16, Camp no 357, POW no 25505, He was captured in May 1940 and died May 19th 1943, he was in Stalag XXA (fort 13 infirmary).

    B. Martin

    L/Cpl. William Downie 6th Btn. Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (d.19th May 1943)

    I am looking for information on my Grandfather, Lance Corpral William Downie of the Cameronians Scottish ifles, R.O. No 16, Camp no 357, POW no 25505, He was captured in May 1940 and died May 19th 1943, he was in Stalag XXA (fort 13 infirmary).


    I would like to contact anyone who knew my uncle LCpl William (Bill) Downie, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) who was captured in Trondheim, Norway in 1940 and transferred to Stalag XXA. He was a POW there until 1945 where he joined the exodus to the west and was killed by an Allied aircraft attack on his column along with approximately 33 other POWs. This incident occured near Hannover on 19 April 1945. If anyone knows any more information on this incident, I would appreciate that you would contact me. My uncle in buried at the Commonwealth Military Cemetery in Charlotteburg, Berlin.

    Private David George Avis Royal West Kent Regiment

    My father, pte David George Avis, no.6347487 of the West Kent Regiment, was wounded at Doullens on 14.5.1940, picked up by the Germans and transported to Cambrai Hospital, then to Aachen. From there he went by train via Bocholt to Thorn over 4 days, 70 men to a cattle truck. He spoke very little about his time as an inmate of Stalag XXA but I do know that they started their 'death march' on 15.1.1945 from Graudenz. They were liberated by the Americans in a small town outside Hanover after walking 850 miles. He was flown home by the RAF on 20.4.1945 to High Wycombe,rekitted,paid and arrived home at Herne Pound, Mereworth, Kent on 21.4.1945. He was recalled after 6 weeks to Wotten Underwood Barracks.

    Unfortunately I have only found all this information after he died in 2006 when going through his effects.

    Patricia Sage

    Lance Corporal William Downie 6th Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (d.19th April 1945)

    L/Cpl William Downie from Larkhall in Lanarkshire was badly wounded at Narvik in May 1940 and left for dead. He was taken to Trondheim Hospital and later to Oslo Infirmary by the Germans. Willie was in hospital in Norway until August 1940 then transferred to Stalag XXA ,Thorn, Poland, Fort 13. He was in the misery march which saw Germans and prisoners go west to escape the Russian advance in January 1945. L/Cpl William Downie was killed by friendly fire at Gresse, on the River Elbe on the 19th April 1945. L/Cpl William Downie is buried in the British and Commonwealth Cemetery, The Heerstrasse, Charlottenburg, Berlin,Plot 11.Row k

    William Downie

    Pvt. William Jones 1st Battalion The Loyal Regiment

    Private William Jones of the 1st Battalion, The Loyal Regiment was captured at Calais on 28 May 40 and arrived at Stalag XXA (3) on 9th June 40. His Prisoner of War No. was 11677. He was a prisoner until he was repatriated in 1945 and arrived home in April of that year. His service No. was 3852683. My father would never discuss anything about the time when he was a prisoner so we know very little except for a lot of letters he had sent my mother and various photographs from the camp he was in. He was on the long march that they did through Poland and of course survived. He had nightmares for years and years. He came from Dowlais South Wales, but after his marriage he lived in Oldham.

    Vivien Orriss

    William Duncan McArthur Black Watch 51st Highland Division

    My father William Duncan McArthur was a prisoner in Stalag XXA. I have his dog tags and his number is 15369. He came from Dundee and he was a Dundee weaver.

    He was a piper in the Black Watch which was part of the 51st Highland Division. He was captured at St Valery during the retreat to Dunkirk as his division was fighting a rearguard action to assist in the evacuation of Dunkirk. He was Lord Ogilvy's Batman. He died when I was five and thus I have only dim memories of him now that I am 47 and have a family of my own.

    I have heard several stories of him. He was once working as a farm hand when he saw a Nazi Sergeant beating a Jewish woman with his rifle butt. My father became enraged and chased the Sergeant with a pitchfork with the intent of killing him. He was brought before the authorities of the camp to be executed but he explained that he could not understand the German language and what the Sergeant was saying and so his life was spared. This excuse saved his life.

    On another occasion whilst in the camp, 17 camp inmates were desperate to contact their families at home to inform them that they were not dead. They all wrote their names and addresses on any material they could find such as cardboard, paper, bark or leaves. They did not know how to get the addresses to the outside world so my father stuffed all of the bits of paper and bark into his boot and threw it over the camp fence. A postman found the boot and delivered it to the French Underground and it was finally delivered to my mother who notified the families of their loved one's presence in the camp.

    He remained in the camp for the whole war. Once he was home from the war, he weighed only 6 stone. His legs were so badly ulcerated that the medical authorities wanted to amputate both legs. My mother forbade this and over a long period of time, tended him and saved his legs.

    At his funeral in Sydney, Australia in 1965, a man came to the funeral whom none of our family and friends recognised. Once he was approached he stated that "Bill McArthur saved my life and so I have come to pay my respects".

    If anyone knew of my father, especially in WW2 please contact me.

    Alexander McArthur

    Albert William Mead Royal Artillery

    My granddad, Bill Mead, is a veteran of WW2 and I am currently trying to find anyone who remembers him or has any photos that may be of interest to him. He was a member of the Royal Artillery, is from Birmingham and was in Stalag VIIIB Lammsdorf and Stalag XXA.

    Jessica Wood

    William Duncan McArthur Black Watch 51st Highland Division

    My father William Duncan McArthur was a prisoner in Stalag XXA. I have his dog tags and his number is 15369. He came from Dundee and he was a Dundee weaver.

    He was a piper in the Black Watch which was part of the 51st Highland Division. He was captured at St Valery during the retreat to Dunkirk as his division was fighting a rearguard action to assist in the evacuation of Dunkirk. He was Lord Ogilvy's Batman. He died when I was five and thus I have only dim memories of him now that I am 47 and have a family of my own.

    I have heard several stories of him. He was once working as a farm hand when he saw a Nazi Sergeant beating a Jewish woman with his rifle butt. My father became enraged and chased the Sergeant with a pitchfork with the intent of killing him. He was brought before the authorities of the camp to be executed but he explained that he could not understand the German language and what the Sergeant was saying and so his life was spared. This excuse saved his life.

    On another occasion whilst in the camp, 17 camp inmates were desperate to contact their families at home to inform them that they were not dead. They all wrote their names and addresses on any material they could find such as cardboard, paper, bark or leaves. They did not know how to get the addresses to the outside world so my father stuffed all of the bits of paper and bark into his boot and threw it over the camp fence. A postman found the boot and delivered it to the French Underground and it was finally delivered to my mother who notified the families of their loved one's presence in the camp.

    He remained in the camp for the whole war. Once he was home from the war, he weighed only 6 stone. His legs were so badly ulcerated that the medical authorities wanted to amputate both legs. My mother forbade this and over a long period of time, tended him and saved his legs.

    At his funeral in Sydney, Australia in 1965, a man came to the funeral whom none of our family and friends recognised. Once he was approached he stated that "Bill McArthur saved my life and so I have come to pay my respects".

    If anyone knew of my father, especially in WW2 please contact me.

    Alexander McArthur

    Ken Wall

    My father, Ken Wall, was very involved with the concert parties at Stalag XXa. There are a couple of pictures that we found on this site of Dad. He also used to do a double act with his good mate Ted Hitchens under either Hitchens and Wall or Wall and Hitchens.

    Phil Wall

    Ted Hitchens

    My father, Ken Wall, was very involved with the concert parties at Stalag XXa. There are a couple of pictures that we found on this site of Dad. He also used to do a double act with his good mate Ted Hitchens under either Hitchens and Wall or Wall and Hitchens.

    Phil Wall

    Harry Dalby 1st Battalion The Black Watch, 51st Highland Division

    My late grandfather Harry Dalby was a POW in Stalag XXA. I have had his prisoner of war records translated and they give 2.K Batlingen, Batlingen 20 and Reigersfeld as work camps.

    My grandfather, while in one of the camps, had what can only be described as a large hankie or part of a sheet with his Battalion's badge and two soldiers in highland dress on either side of it. This was drawn in ink we were told. It also has HE YDEBRECK written on the top of it which I believe is Batlingen. We have no idea who made this for him so if anyone has any idea or info I would be very greatful.

    He was in the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, 51st Highland Division captured St.Valery 16/6/40.


    Pte. william Allen Queens Royal West Surrey

    My late father’s service, was with The Queen’s Royal West Surrey regiment. He was captured at Arras in France, his regimental number was 6090475,and his p.o.w. number was 6154, and he was like a lot more gallant men.and sent to Stalag xxa at Thorn Poland, he worked on a farm, at the time of sending this letter I’m tracing my family tree, which I started when my father was alive, but as he died about 30years ago, I’ts left a blank in my research ,so if theres some-one who knew my father, and can send me any infomation, when he was working on the farm, he told me that to keep their farm, the farmer had to sign papers so they could keep their farm, and become "volks deutscher" which means second class "german citizen" so the polish farmers could keep their land and their sons were sent into the German army. As for the death march he was in that too, he also told me that he and many others had to dig up a mass grave of which the bodies they got out were those of babies, who were buried alive, so bullets, were saved, and when my twin brother and myself were born, he had a nervous break-down ,as it all came back, I felt that I had to write this as a lot of people didn’t know what when on.

    christopher allen

    Private Charles John McCarthy

    My uncle, Pte Charles John McCarthy was a POW in Stalag XXA and Stalag 8B/344 between 1941 and 1945. Apparently he escaped three times. His service number was VX8916. He was AWOL more than 20 times before and after he was a POW. It is a fantastic story but he died not long after the war with no wife or children. It is sad he did not have his own family.

    Pete Kennedy

    Pte. Thomas Andrew " " Gray

    I am doing research on my grandfather Thomas Andrew Gray who was captured at Calais in May 1940. I have just received information from the Red Cross showing the various camps he was held at which included by date, Stalag xxa,111a,111d,xxa,xxb and finally 111a again.

    Darren Quinn

    Rfm. Harry Miller Kings Royal Rifle Corps

    My uncle Harry Miller, was a POW at Stalag XXA-3 at Torun, Poland. I have the official German postcard of him and others. I would be very interested to know more about his experiences at the camp, or any other information.

    Kenneth Hodge

    Pte. Joseph "Smokey Joe" Gardner Royal Army Medical Corps

    I am trying to find out more information about my grandfather, Joseph (Smokey Joe) Gardner during the war. He served in the RAMC and was taken Prisoner of War at Doullens in 1943 and held at Stalag XXA. On 17th October 1943 he joined a Repratraion party and was repatriated from Goteborg, Sweden in 1943. From what I understand he went back to Germany after the war ended as a member of working party to assist in the re-building of Germany. He is no longer alive and did not talk about what happened to him during the time that he was a Prisoner of War. All I can say is that he was very keen on football and I feel sure that he would have played a huge part in any matches that were held within the camp.

    Fiona Paterson

    Signalman Albert Derbyshire Royal Corps of Signals (d.19th Jan 1945)

    I would like to find any information regarding my Great Uncle, Signalman Albert Derbyshire 2584305. He was captured on 3/6/40 at St Omer and sent to Stalag XXA on 21/7/40 Prisoner No. 18781. He was transferred to Stalag XXB in Oct 41. He died on 19/1/45 and this is the part that hurts the family as we don`t know how. I thought that he possibly died on one of the forced marches but, reading some of the stories on this site it would seem he died before the marches began.

    Paul Rowley

    Cpl. George Homewood 1st Battalion The Buffs

    George Homewood was my father. The army was his family from the day he ran away from his foster home in Lamberhurst and walked to Canterbury to enlist, he had to lie about his age to get accepted. He spent much of his time in the far and the near east. He met and married his first wife whilst serving in Burma, unfortunately his wife died in child birth. He never spoke of this until around a week before he died. My mother was his second wife, they enjoyed 45 yrs of married life.

    He was a corporal at the time of his capture, together with his squad he had hidden in a barn but a young soldier with him lost his nerve when the hay around them was prodded with bayonets. He was sent to Stalag XXA but from here the story becomes sparser, he "like many" did not speak very much in detail of the camp life. Only relating specific happenings and events,such as the fact that he became a tailor "altering"`uniforms for the escapees. Using ink and boot polish to "dye" the material. His fingers were not delicate but it seems he could "sew" with the best, and his embroidery equals the best you can find. He told me of the radio kept in the bass drum of the camp orchestra, of the time the prisoners were getting rowdy and louder whilst being held on the parade ground, ordering the guards to raise their rifles made no difference to the POWs behaviour and this prompted the commandant to draw his pistol and shout "Stop or I shoot myself" needless to say that caused even more uproar among the POWs.

    I remember one time walking down the local High St on a Saturday when we heard my fathers name called out, it was a man who had been in the same camp, and had recognised my father, not bad after 20+ years. My father has passed away But I write in the hope that somebody out there will be able to add to my limited knowledge. I have a photograph of Dad and the rest of his hut? I will share this if anybody can add names etc.

    D Homewood

    Pte. John Arthur Evans Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment, Middlesex R (d. 1945)

    I am trying to find out any information about my great uncle John Evans he was in Stalag 20a in Thorn and I am told that he died in 1945 while being marched away from the camp, in a German town called Parchim.

    Neil Lai

    Pte. Alfred Frank Denny Royal Army Service Corps

    I am trying to trace the steps of Private Alf Denny, POW no 19372, he came from Ipswich Suffolk. He was taken prisoner very early in the war and spent time at Stalag XXA, BAB20/20. I would really like to hear from anyone who knew him at that time.

    Clive Claxton

    L/Cpl William Evan Phillips 1st Battalion. Welsh Guards

    This is a letter recived by my late mother from the father of Second Lieutenant C N Jenson 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, about the capture of my late father Lance Corporal W.E. Phillips 1st Battalion Welsh Guards.

    Letter dated 25.06.1940

    The following account of the events of Wednesday 29th May 1940 leading up to the time when my son Second Lieut. C.N.Jenson, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and the nine men with him at the end were last seen is the result of exhaustive enquiries which I have personally made from all officers and men whom I was told were likely to be able to throw any light on the subject.

    I am satisfied that I now know all that I shall ever know unless either my son or any of his men survive as prisoners of war. I consider that there is a fair chance of this but I cannot say that there is any evidence of it. I may say that I have heard from various sources that the Germans are treating their prisoners and the wounded well. I understand that both the Government and the Red Cross have found great difficulty in finding out about prisoners up till now. So we do not expect to have further news for some time.

    The action in question took place in Flanders half way between West Cappell and Vyfweg 12 miles inland from Dunkirk about 5 oclock in the afternoon. My son's platoon based on a farmhouse was the right platoon of his company on the flank from the enemy attack was expected and it was covering the rest of the company with which the remainder of the battalion was fighting a real guard action. My son's orders were to hold onto his position until things got too hot and then retire to the rest of the company.

    His position in the afternoon became serious as his platoon was attacked by four tanks followed by infantry estimated by a survivor as a good deal more than a company. My son then decided to evacuate the position and to fall back on the company. He ordered his platoon sergeant to retire in a motor vehicle with all the platoon except nine men who were then engaging the enemy to cover the retreat of the rest of the platoon.

    The sergeant with his party managed to rejoin the company without serious loss although two or three men were slightly wounded by machine gun fire from the ground and from enemy aeroplanes. Some of this party are returned to England I am afraid that the rest of this party were either killed or wounded in the main attack on the battalion which occured shortly afterwards in whcih some officers and 250 men were lost in the subsequent evacuation from Dunkirk.

    None of those remaining with my son are returned. My son saw the sergeants party safely off in their motor vehicle and was last seen entering the farmhouse to get the rest of his men away in the other motor vehicle.

    Nothing more is known except that from a distance it was seen that the farmhouse was being hit by shells mortars, which I understand always follow the German tanks who send for mortars if they encounter serious opposition. Subsequently it was seen that the farmhouse was on fire but it does not at all follow that my son and his men had not withdrawn from the house before this happened. We must just hope for the best.

    My wife and I were comforted by the thought as I know you will be that if that was the end it was a gallant one and that our son and his platoon carried out successfully the important task they were entrusted with and worthily upheld the honour of their regiment and the brigade of guards.

    The last man got away with the sergants party who I liked very much gave me an account of their last afternoon which it would interest you to hear. The platoon arrived at the farmhouse at about 2:30pm their put out sentries and everyone washed and shaved and had a good meal. My son then found an abandoned motor vehicle full of clean underclothes and battle dress and as they were all rather dirty by then they changed out of their old clothes into new ones. They then turned on a small wireless set and waited for the enemy.

    These simple facts helped my wife and I very much to visualise the whole thing and I thought you would like to hear them although they do not add anything very material to the story which I already told you.

    My father Lance Corporal W. E. Phillips sadly passed away on September 3rd 1978. He never spoke much about events in the war but he was a prisoner of war for five years in Stalag XXA, POW number 10744. Any information about this camp would be appreciated.

    Brian Phillips

    Pte. John Richard Craig

    Ron Gilkes, T.Q. Palmer, J.R. Craig, Ken Brown, A. Godfrey, W.A. Gibson, N. Scudder, W. Cope, G. Nicholson, F. Wright, George T. Brown, Walter Vasey (first on the right).

    Terry Vassey submitted this photo which includes my father John Craig. My Dad died in 1972, I was 13, but he told me some stories of being a POW. He told me about the long march and how he and his mate Ken tried several unsuccessful escapes. On one escape, Ken's heel of his boot was shot off! He also told me about the hunger and the dysentery and how they would go around the back of the kitchens and scoop up the fat in the vats, even eating raw potato peelings. My mother told me that shortly after the war when they got married, he would wake up every night after a nightmare shouting in German.

    Can anyone give me any information on my father? I would be grateful for absolutely anything.

    Sue Craig

    Sgt. Graham William Porter Reid 153rd (Highland) Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

    I have recently read papers belonging to my late father, Graham W P Reid who was captured at St Valery. He was in the 153rd (Highland) Field Ambulance RAMC(T) and a POW in Stalag XXa from June 1940 - January 1945. He was Camp Commandant and I have lists of many who were with him during that time and a diary of the time when they were released.

    Like so many, he talked little in the 50s and 60s,except with local POWs in Aberdeen, but did begin to tell stories to our two sons in later years. I have read many of the stories from folk on this site, but have yet to find how to see the photos. Like one person says, he spoke of Camp plays with Sam Kydd.

    I would so love to hear from others whose parents and grandparents may have been there with him and who might appear in his letters or on the lists.

    Rev Joan Foster

    Pte. Rupert Ainsley Wright 2nd Btn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment

    I joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and was called up on September 3rd 1939 in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in Coventry. I was sent to Swindon for basic training and then we were shipped to France via Le Havre at Christmas. We were stationed near Lille in Northern France with the BEF.

    Infantry training continued until May 1940 when we were sent to Belgium to try to hold the German attack on France. We also experienced action in Holland. I was taken prisoner at Houthem, near Ypres.

    We were marched with thousands of other British and French troops through Rotterdam in Holland and then crammed into coal barges and taken up the Rhine to Germany. The Dutch were the only people who tried to give us food. I remember I was given a very old Blue & Red coat to wear with a brown blood stain on the front. I imagined this was possibly from the Franco Prussian war of 1871.

    We were then herded into cattle wagons with (70 men to a wagon) on a German railway, and then taken to a siding at a station in Berlin where trestle tables had been set up with food on the platform. Red Cross nurses stood by with baskets of bread and one wagon was opened to allow men to stand by for food. German propaganda camera teams took photographs. The prisoners were then returned to the wagons having not been allowed to eat any of the food.

    The train continued on to Poland and East Prussia and arrived at Marienburg. There were 10,000 men in camp with a 20ft barbed wire fence all around. This was Stalag XXA. I was later at Stalag XXB.

    Our food consisted of one litre of watery potato soup per day with black bread or a handful of dog biscuits. Pea soup was boiled in huge cauldrons still in the sacks and meat was almost non-existent. One day a man sitting next to me received an entire horse’s hoof complete with nails in it. The public latrine consisted of a large pit in the ground approximately 20ft long and 6ft wide and 6ft deep.

    I had a small understanding of the German language learnt at school which I improved on and I became on of the interpreters who were in short supply. I volunteered for farm work and was sent to a work camp in East Prussia with others who worked on the land. Red Cross parcels began to arrive which helped the food situation a little. We even received some basic German medical care. Dental care in my case, as I was unfortunate to be standing behind another POW who answered back a German Guard and instead of him receiving the end of a rifle butt (he ducked down) I received it on my jaw, knocking out some front teeth.

    We made several attempts to contact “underground” with escape in mind but were always told that RAF crews were given priority because of bomber losses over Germany. Aircrew were more expensive to train. I was involved in an escape plan but decided the night before not to go. Those that did were found the following morning. They had all been shot.

    I remember on another occasion we had heard that there was a coal miners strike in Britain. There was a petition drawn up that everyone signed to say that we would gladly swap places with the miners and we would work the mines instead. This was apparently sent to Winston Churchill. We never got a reply.

    I have another memory that many prisoners took up smoking, I mean those who never had back home, and cigarettes being scarce, people experimented with oak gall. This being poisonous, the guards threatened to shoot anyone caught smoking it in the future.

    Another memory I have is how some of the men would receive letters from their wives to say that they couldn’t wait any longer and that they had found themselves new partners. The men would publicly display the letters for the other men to read.

    In 1944, American planes began bombing which was always in daylight.

    Christmas 1945, heavy artillery was heard coming from the east. The Russian army was getting closer and soon all allied prisoners were force to march westward into Germany. British, American, French and thousands of inmates from the death-camps were herded away from the battlefront. As a result we received no more Red-Cross parcels.

    We marched along the Baltic coast in the snow and on Easter Sunday we arrived on the River Elbe at Wittenberg. There were rumours from Polish slave workers that the American army was just across the river, which was about a quarter of a mile wide. We were then moved northwards to the Hamburg area. RAF Typhoons now started to visit us, everyday they would fly about 20ft overhead up and down the long column of prisoners with an occasional waggle of wings to give us a sign of recognition, to much waving and cheering. The terrified guards would leap into the adjacent ditches on the roadside. I remember the joy of seeing the red, white and blue spandrels on their wings instead of the usual black crosses.

    American tanks caught up on May 2nd 1945 to liberate us. One American officer (who had been drinking) asked the prisoners if anyone (meaning our guards) “had given us grief?” whilst offering us his machine gun. Nobody took him up on the offer. We were then taken by troop carriers to British headquarters in Lunaberg. We had marched well over 1,000 miles and had our first hot bath in years. We had said at one point to our liberators not to get close as we all had lice. We were told by one soldier that they had had them for months too.

    An opportunity arose to meet Field Marshall Mongomery who asked us if there were any “Royal Warwicks” amongst us, that being his old regiment. We were then taken to Lubeck on the Baltic and flown home in a Lancaster bomber with 25 men in the bomb bay. On arrival we learnt that the plane behind us had crashed in France and all were killed.

    After 6 weeks leave at home, the army selection panel offered me a temporary commission as an interpreter in Germany if I signed on for a further two years. I declined the offer. I was posted instead to Oxford Ordinance HQ and de-mobbed in 1946.

    Like many other POW’s, I brought back a German steel helmet, epaulettes and a Luger as souvenirs.

    Peter Wright

    Pte. Patrick "Patsy" Higgins Royal Corps of Signals

    Patrick served with the 51st Scottish Division and was captured at Saint Valery in France after Dunkirk. He was a prisoner for 5 years in Poland in Stalag XXA, until the end of the war when he was released.

    Paul Brennan

    Stephen Featherstone

    My uncle, Stephen Featherstone, was a POW at Stalag XXA in the early 1940s and then in Stalag 383 around 1943. I don't know what regiment he was in but he was captured after only a few weeks in the army and was a POW for the duration of WW2. He never talked about his wartime experiences but there are dozens of photos which were sent home during this period.




    Derek, Steve, Bobbie in Stalag XXA

    Derek, Steve & Bobbie in Stalag XXa

    Stalag XXA 1941

    Stalag XXA 1941

    Stalag 383

    Stalag 383

    Stalag 383,  15th of Nov 1943

    Stalag 383 15th of Nov 1943

    Stalag 383

    Stalag 383

    Stalag 383

    After the war he married the girl who waited for him throughout, had three children and died at the great age of 88 in 2002. Born in Hunwick, Co Durham, in 1913, he was a wonderful uncle, father and grandfather. After the war he worked until retirement as a railway signalman in the Stockton on Tees area.

    Sue Nicholson

    Pte. Frederick George Edwards Royal West Kent Regiment

    I know very little about my father`s wartime history.Dad had a torrid childhood - "joining up" to escape his poor family life. Fred lived in Maidstone (I think)and was in the Royal West Kents.Dad died in 1997 and so did any chance of me finding out about his survival at Stalag XXa (Thorn/ Torun).Frederick George Edwards, as he was born, later adopted the name Willetts.This period of his life is all very hazy and I`m not sure if he went to war as an Edwards or a Willetts.

    I believe he was in the TA prior to being sent overseas.Like many who survived the horrors of WWII he would not talk openly or extensively about his time as a POW.From the little I have been able to find out I know he was captured at the begining of the war, spent the rest of it as a POW, and was on that infamous "march".

    He did tell me he was part of a bren-gun unit (?) and was captured because "he couldn`t run fast enough." He laboured on a farm and recalled that he once killed a pig for food and was beaten by a guard.He remembers returning back to the UK in a Lancaster/Wellington and flying low over the White Cliffs of Dover.

    He once talked of a Les Syveter as a pal.There is a reference to a Fred Edwards in one of your articles but after much searching back through your letters etc. I can`t find it. Please, if anyone has a reference to my Dad I would be very grateful to hear from you.

    Malcolm Willetts

    Private Stanley Pettifer Royal Engineers

    My father, Stanley Pettifer, was captured at Dunkirk, aged 21. He said that he was a POW in Poland, probably in the Gdansk area. He was in Stalag XXA. He worked on a farm. I have several photos from the camp when they were performing shows. In some of them is the actor Sam Kydd.

    I know that my father, towards the end of the war, was on a very long march, in deep snow, that lasted several weeks. I think about 3,000 men started out, and about 300 survived. My father survived by swapping his daily ration of cigarettes for chocolate. He spoke very little about his time as a POW, and I would really like to hear from anyone who remembers him or has any info at all. He died in 1982.

    Doreen Pettifer

    Pte. David James Slater Gordon Highlanders

    I am trying to trace any records or surviving ex-comrades of my late uncle, David James Slater. He was taken prisoner at St Valery-en-Caux in June 1940 and spent most of the next five years in Stalag XXA (357) at Thorn, East Prussia (Now Torun in Poland). His Prisoner of War number (Gefangenennumer) was 45655.

    He had joined the Territorials before the outbreak of war and was called up with many other Shetland boys in 1939. It was not until November 1940 that his parents learned that he was still alive and a POW in what was then East Prussia.

    Uncle Davy died in Shetland in 1976 and, like so many POWs, never spoke a word about what he had experienced. My Aunt Barbara, his widow, is now 83 and has recently shown me some of the papers Uncle Davy brought with him back from Poland. They include his Soldier's Release Book 1939-1945, a battered Red Cross Map of British POW camps, a copy of the US Army newspaper "Stars and Stripes", Germany edition, dated 9th May 1945 and a photograph of Davy and some comrades, which we think may have been taken in the camp.

    In 1969, when I was a student, camping out during a research trip, Uncle Davy gave me the Red Cross blanket he'd carried with him on the dreadful march from Torun back to Germany in the winter of 1944-45, but it fell to pieces many years ago and, not then realising its significance, I threw it away, alas.

    My Aunt also has a postcard Uncle Davie sent to his friend Stewart Smith of Gulberwick, Shetland, postmarked Stalag XXA on 16th August 1942. This card also bears the stamp "P. No. 13".

    I've been delighted to find so much information on the web about St Valery and Stalag XXA and have printed out much of it for my Aunt. We are planning a trip to St Valery, and perhaps to Torun, and would dearly love to hear from anyone with memories or any other mementoes of my Uncle Davy.

    Jonathan Wills

    Clifford Rupert Wright Royal Warwickshire Regiment

    I joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and was called up on September 3rd 1939 in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in Coventry. I was sent to Swindon for basic training and then we were shipped to France via Le Havre at Christmas. We were stationed near Lille in Northern France with the BEF. Infantry training continued until May 1940 when we were sent to Belgium to try to hold the German attack on France. We also experienced action in Holland. I was taken prisoner at Houthem, near Ypres.

    We were marched with thousands of other British and French troops through Rotterdam in Holland and then crammed into coal barges and taken up the Rhine to Germany. The Dutch were the only people who tried to give us food. We were then herded into cattle wagons with (70 men to a wagon) on a German railway, and then taken to a siding at a station in Berlin where trestle tables had been set up with food on the platform. Red Cross nurses stood by with baskets of bread and one wagon was opened to allow men to stand by for food. German propaganda camera teams took photographs. The prisoners were then returned to the wagons having not been allowed to eat any of the food.

    The train continued on to Poland and East Prussia and arrived at Marienburg. There were 10,000 men in camp with a 20ft barbed wire fence all around. This was Stalag XXA. I was later at Stalag XXB.

    Our food consisted of one litre of watery potato soup per day with black bread or a handful of dog biscuits. Pea soup was boiled in huge cauldrons still in the sacks and meat was almost non-existent. One day a man sitting next to me received an entire horse’s hoof complete with nails in it. The public latrine consisted of a large pit in the ground approximately 20ft long and 6ft wide and 6ft deep.

    I had a small understanding of the German language learnt at school which I improved on and I became on of the interpreters who were in short supply. I was then sent to a work camp in East Prussia with others who worked on the land. Red Cross parcels began to arrive which helped the food situation a little. We even received some basic German medical care.

    We made several attempts to contact “underground” with escape in mind but were always told that RAF crews were given priority because of bomber losses over Germany. Aircrew were more expensive to train. I was involved in an escape plan but decided the night before not to go. Those that did were found the following morning. They had all been shot.

    I remember on one occasion we had heard that there was a coal miners strike in Britain. There was a petition drawn up that everyone signed to say that we would gladly swap places with the miners and we would work the mines instead. This was apparently sent to Winston Churchill. We never got a reply. Another time some of the prisoners had taken up smoking (even those who never did back home) cigarettes being scarce, people experimented with oak gall. This being poisonous, the guards threatened to shoot anyone caught smoking it in the future.

    In 1944, American planes began bombing which was always in daylight. At Christmas 1945, heavy artillery was heard coming from the east. The Russian army was getting closer and soon all allied prisoners were force to march westward into Germany. British, American, French and thousands of inmates from the death-camps were herded away from the battlefront. As a result we received no more Red-Cross parcels.

    We marched along the Baltic coast in the snow and on Easter Sunday we arrived on the River Elbe at Wittenberg. There were rumours from Polish slave workers that the American army was just across the river, which was about a quarter of a mile wide. We were then moved northwards to the Hamburg area. RAF Typhoons now started to visit us, everyday they would fly about 20ft overhead up and down the long column of prisoners with an occasional waggle of wings to give us a sign of recognition, to much waving and cheering. The terrified guards would leap into the adjacent ditches on the roadside. I remember the joy of seeing the red, white and blue spandrels on their wings instead of the usual black crosses.

    American tanks caught up on May 2nd 1945 to liberate us. One American officer (who had been drinking) asked the prisoners if anyone (meaning our guards) “had given us grief?” whilst offering us his machine gun. Nobody took him up on the offer. We were then taken by troop carriers to British headquarters in Lunaberg. We had marched well over 1,000 miles and had our first hot bath in years. We had said at one point to our liberators not to get close as we all had lice. We were told by one soldier that they had had them for months too.

    An opportunity arose to meet Field Marshall Mongomery who asked us if there were any “Royal Warwicks” amongst us, that being his old regiment.

    We were then taken to Lubeck on the Baltic and flown home in a Lancaster bomber with 25 men in the bomb bay. On arrival we learnt that the plane behind us had crashed in France and all were killed.

    After 6 weeks leave at home, the army selection panel offered me a temporary commission as an interpreter in Germany if I signed on for a further two years. I declined the offer. I was posted instead to Oxford Ordinance HQ and de-mobbed in 1946. Like most other ex POW’s, I brought back a German steel helmet, epaulettes and a Luger as souvenirs.

    Clifford Wright

    Pte. George Petty Royal West Kent Regiment

    My father, George Petty never spoke much about his time serving with the Royal West Kent Regiment. He has now sadly passed and my children are eager to find out all they can about their Grandad and to keep his memories alive. All I know is he was a Prisoner of War in Camp XXA at Torun Poland. Some stories I remember were of him working on a farm ploughing fields with big horses and being on the death march. I would love to hear from anyone who can give more information about the life in this particular camp.

    Lorraine Appleton

    Pte. Ronald Pinder

    I would like to find out more about my Grandad, Ronald Pinder, I have a photo of him with 2 other pow's. On the back of the postcard is his pow number 14551 at Stalag XXA3 this is all that I know apart from he was there from 1939.

    Craig Pinder

    Pte. Edward Hart 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders

    Ned Hart was captured at Le Tot outside St Valery En Caux on the 13th of June 1940 and given Prisoner number 18573. He arrived at Stalag XXA on the 10th of July 1940 from Dulag then transferred to Stalag XXB on 30th of October 1940. He is reputed to have escaped on Long March and hid and worked on a Polish Farm. He was repatriated by the Russians who threw him in jail for a number of weeks. He hated the Russians more than the Germans.

    There is a published story of a POW escaped from another camp who hid in XXB until the hue and cry died down before slipping away. Ned was a cook and hid the prisoner in a wall cavity behind the cooking cauldrons. He would get out to play football for exercise then return to his cupboard. Finally he slipped away unnoticed. Any details of this would be greatly appreciated. I've read Bill Inne's St Valery, also Doctor behind barbed wire.

    In the photograph, are Seaforths at XXB with Ned third from right bottom row (discovered recently in the archives of a newspaper published in 1941)

    Jim Hart

    Sgt. John "Seonaidh An Bhig" Robertson 4th Btn. Cameron Highlanders

    I am keen to find out more about my grandfather's war time experience. John Robertson was captured at St Valery, part of the 51st Highland Division. He spent the rest of the war in Stalag XXA working on a farm. Apparently on liberation of the camp by Russians he was taken to Odessa. It is thought that the Russians mistook him for a German as he had no papers on him.

    I would be delighted to hear from any contacts.

    Norman MacArthur

    Isaac Joseph Dignam Seaforth Highlanders

    My Dad, Isaac Dignam, was a member of the Seaforth Highlanders. He was captured at Saint Valery, 1940, was interred in Stalag XXA. He did not talk too much about his time in the POW camp. He mentioned that he worked on a farm. And he mentioned the walk after being liberated. I'm trying to find out a little more about his time in the POW camp and would like it if we had a picture of him.

    Marshall Dignam

    S/Sgt. Frank William "Tiny" Bray Royal West Kent Regiment

    Frank William Bray, had been based in Cheriton with Regular Army and was sent to France as part of the BEF, British Expeditionary Force. For a period of time his experiences were peaceful with visits to Lille. He was reminded that his regiment spent some time in the same area during the First War. His regiment set up a defensive position in Petergem, Belgium. He said that the Buffs and a Guard's regiment were close by.

    He was the senior NCO in charge of a listening post situated in a forward line ditch aside a railway line. In front the roadway lead down to a main road and some farm buildings were being watched for occupation. There was some enemy activity reported nearby during the night by other forward posts. He reported a German officer, oblivious to the the danger had made his way towards them down this road. His platoon bren-gunner fired a burst and this officer was instantly killed. He lay on the road. Small arms fire was experienced coming from the farm house and it was thought that it had been occupied. The platoon laid down some heavy fire on the occupants. It is thought that minor contact occured during the course of two days by which time the platoon had no food or water.

    A regimental bren gun carrier had been seen trying to approch their position from the rear but heavy shelling prevented success and it was forced back to shelter behind the high ground and battalion position. At this time an order had been issued for strategic withdrawal but this never reached their position. A decision to forage for water and food was made and Frank crawled his way towards the farm. He got in through a window and found three or four German solders all with wounds. He leant his rifle up against a wall, got out his field dressing kit and tried to help the wounded solders. Later his platoon members told him that they had watched his movement to the farm and the occupation of the farm area by a significant German force. They thought he would be shot.

    A group of German solders entered the room where Frank was and he believed were about to shoot him until a wounded solder shouted something. He was taken to a German Officer who had a perfect British accent. The Officer told Frank his Regiment and said that Frank was obviously a regular and asked him what he expected to happen. Frank said he expected to be treated according to the Geneva Convention Agreements. The officer asked Frank about the condition of his platoon and at this time Frank had assessed the size and scale of his opposition. He negotiated the surrender of what remained of his platoon without bloodshed. Those captured at this point were marched to Stalag XXa in Poland. On route he said he witnessed some very sorry sights of both comrades and refugees. He was shot at for trying to pick up a potato.

    The camp, mentioned by others here was originally a fort and Frank said that a number of men were unable to take the prolonged strain, some jumping to their deaths from the towers. After a short time a letter was sent from his British officer giving information about the Brigade and events that occured when it was overrun.

    John Bray

    Pte. Stanley Hewes Royal Army Medical Corps

    My father Stanley Hewes was prisoner of war In Poland in Stalag XXA for 5 years. He will not talk about his time as a prisoner but have found out quite a bit from his mate George Hemblem from Norwich who he paled up with and keep in touch until Georges death about 5 years ago. I have recently cleared out his house because he has had to go into a home after a fall in December and came across a lot of photos.

    Sally Hewes

    Pte. Leonard Green DCM

    Leonard Green escaped from Stalag XXA and made it back to England via Sweden with Angus Paton. Their story is the subject of the book Escape Route Green.

    In June of this year, my wife (Leonard's daughter)and I went to Torun to re-trace the route he took and to visit the 3 prison camps he was kept in, in Torun, Lobsenica and Graudiatz. I can only describe our experience as one of the most incredible weeks of our lives and would recommend Poland to anyone who would be interested in seeing were family members may have been held. The interest and assistance we received was remarkable.

    Please visit Torun Daily Photo for photos Stalag XXA as it is today.

    John Ridout

    Pte. James Stothard Durham Light Infantry

    My dad, James Stothard was taken prisoner of war at Dunkirk at the beginning of the war and was taken to Toruń camp Stalag XX-A, he was with the actor Sam Kidd.

    Peter Stothard

    Charles "Bill" Desborough Rifle Brigade

    I have started a family tree for my sister and myself and have just found out that my father, Bill Desborough was a prisoner of war and at POW Stalag XXA. He never really spoke of the war and so everything I am finding out is quite a surprise. He was in the Rifle Brigade and was a prisoner of war at Stalag XX-A Thorn podgorz, poland. He was injured during a march where he had to pick potatoes, he was so hungry he ate a potato and was caught by a german officer and was injured then as a result. I would love to hear from anyone else that was in the same camp or anyone who remembers my father, if you have even a little smidget of information.

    Janet Samson

    Pte. Joseph Gribben Princess Louise Battalion Middlesex Regiment (d.27th Mar 1942)

    My great uncle Joe Gribben served with Princess Louise Battalion, Middlesex Regiment and was captured at St Valery-en-caux on 12 June 1940 and was a prisoner of war at Stalag 20A at Torun. He was later transferred to BAB20 a work camp in Upper Silesia, where sadly he was shot by a German guard on 27 March 1942. He was 21.

    My mother wrote to The Legion magazine a number of years ago requesting information. She received a letter from Mr. C. Earl who was a medical orderly at the camp and who, along with another man J. Watson, identified Joe's body when it was brought into the guardroom. He said that Joe was part of a working party formed at Fort 11 near Torun. There were 200 men in the party and their job was to build huts, lay pipes, clear snow etc. Mr Earl describes that the working party then moved to Reigersfield near Old Cossel in Upper Silesia. The working party was known as BAB 20/3COY. Here they worked on a chemical factory building wooden huts, laying pipes and trenches etc. Mr Cossel said, "Your uncle was working there when he was shot by a German guard. I think he had an argument with them about the fag." There are various post cards of a funeral at BAB20 for a man shot for smoking a fag.

    In 2005 my mother also contacted Alison Robertson from an advert in the local paper. Alison was researching a number of deaths in prison camps. She gave us a copy of the Translation of the Deposition of W.J. Schmitz (used in the war crimes investigation). This states that Joe refused to push a heavily laden wheelbarrow of earth. "Gerfreitter Sonntag lifted the wheelbarrow himself and pushed it a bit further in order to show the prisoner it was not too heavy. He ordered Gribben now to push the barrow. But Gribben unloaded a portion of the land on the ground." The sentry Sonntag continued to order my great uncle to move the barrow and threatened use of his firearm. Some of the surrounding POWs were said to have shouted at him and Sonntag took his rifle to show he meant his threat. "As Gribben made no attempts of pushing his wheelbarrow and as other POWs took up a threatening attitude, Sonntag fired." A civilian labourer apparently confirmed this version. The military court at the time granted Sonntag an acquittal as he had "acted in accordance with the instructions issued by the Kommander i/c POWs, Major General Von Osterrich. My family were told that Sonntag was not seen in the camp again and they believed he was sent to the Eastern Front.

    Today I read the diaries of Private William Law. On the 27th March there is an entry about a shooting of a POW for refusing to push a wheel barrow. The date fits (if this was Pte Law's diary for 1942) and the reason fits the official German version. I now wonder if it was another soldier who was shot in an argument over a cigarette and that Joe's shooting was indeed over refusing to push the wheelbarrow. There are photos of three funerals at BAB20 on the Pegasus website.

    I would very much like to get in touch with Paul Law (William's son who submitted the dairies).  

    Alison Shorrock

    Sgt. James Blake Bartlett 1st Btn. Kings Royal Rifle Corps

    My late father was a prisoner in Stalag 383. His name was Sgt James Blake Bartlett of the KRRC 1 QVR's. He was captured at Calais 23.5.1940 and according to his army record first went to Stalag XXA in 1940 then to XXB in 1941 and to Stalag 111C which was renamed Stalag 383 in November 1942 where he stayed until release on the 11.5.1945.

    I can still remember his home coming even to this day, our mum woke us up to say this is your Dad, as I was only 3 when he went away and now I was 8, so did not remember him all that much. He passed away in 1992 and never spoke much about his time as a POW.

    Geoff Bartlett

    Pte. John Shaughnessy Royal Army Medical Corps

    My father, John Shaughnessy, always known as Jack or Shon was captured at Dunkirk. He took his friend Tom to the last place in a boat as he had been shot in the face and turned back to the beach, too late to get to another boat he was captured by the Germans. He was then marched to a POW camp in Germany but escaped only to be given away at a safe house in France by a collaberateur. He was then taken to Stalag XX at Thorn. I always was told that as he was a medic he was in a camp for non-combatants with doctors and padres and other medics.

    One day they were being marched back from the fields, where they were made to work for the farmers, and a train had stopped below the bridge they were crossing. The guards had thrown an old Jewish man out to die on the side of the tracks. My father, being a Shaughnessy and a medic, tried to get down on to the tracks to help him. The German guard saved his life by knocking him unconcious with his rifle-butt and ordering his comrades to carry him back to camp as they could see the officer at the head of the column taking out his sidearm to shoot my dad because they did not want anyone to see what was happening to the Jews who were being taken to the death-camps.

    He tried to escape again and broke his back falling. The Germans gave them Plaster of Paris and medical supplies and they contrived traction from two bunks and treated his broken back. Because of this my dad was repatriated via the Red Cross in early 1944.

    The army changed his number and he was sent over to France on D-Day plus 1 in a glider. He fought through France and went down the Suez Canal to India were he spent the last months of the war in the BMH in Calcutta. From where he was demobbed in 1946 and came home.

    He recovered from both the broken jaw caused by the rifle-butt and the broken back and suffered greatly with his feet because of the forced march from Dunkirk to Germany with boots that had been immersed in sea-water.

    In 1957, he was diagnosed with a brain-tumour and died after a short illness. All the stories I have heard have come from my mother and my uncle and I have no way of verifying them as I never heard my father mention the war. He had two small china aeroplanes, souvenirs of Thorn, which a farmer's wife gave him in exchange for some rations from his Red Cross parcel, my brother has them now. I have some photos and paper-work from Stalag XXa, including one very similar to one already on this website, with all the men dressed up for a panto or play.

    Maureen Benton

    Pte. Arthur Hooten

    Some years ago my Mother worked with a lady named Elsie who would often talk about her husband's wartime service and how she related he was a mere shell of his former self. The lady's husband's name was Mr. Arthur Hooten, for whom I have the very greatest respect and understanding for. Elsie, related how she had to go and get him when he was repatriated home to England, how he hated the dark and had suffered at the hands of the Germans. The back of his right hand bore a horrific scar, where the tendons at the back of his hand had been cut and knotted so he could never fire a rifle again.

    At the time of knowing Arthur our families used to spend weekend evenings at a local drinking club, poor Arthur used to attend with his wife, but would always seem to be in his own private world or was it his own private hell? My interest at the time was collecting German and wartime memorabilia. One evening in the club I was talking about a new acquisition to my collection and had for a moment forgotten Arthur's presence. He looked and never said a word, but on another similar occasion when we both sat together, he put his hand on mine and pulled from his pocket a small grey coloured piece of metal. I looked upon it and was surprised to see that it was his POW German Camp dog tag. I looked at Arthur and I remember him telling me he was caught at Dunkirk, but for the life of me I cannot remember what unit he served with. He like many in your other stories would not talk about his time interned by the Germans, but his wife Elsie also now deceased told me and my parents that we should make allowances for Arthur being quiet and never wanting to join in the fun. He had regular nightmares, waking up shouting in his sleep, he found it difficult through the rest of his life keeping certain food down suffering with his stomach.

    Elsie Hooten related to me, on many occasions, how much she hated the Germans. Further saying that she never ever got the man she married back. After the war he never really recovered, his life after lived in torment. Upon his death Elsie gave me Arthur's dog tag and when I looked it bore the name of the Camp where he was interned, Thorn. I don't profess to know anything of the history of this place, or the camp Arthur was interned in, but I saw first hand how frail and tormented poor Arthur Hooten was before his death.

    I still have Arthur's dog tag and will never part with it, but would love to know more of anything known about this man. I don't even have Arthur's service number because out of respect and feeling, nobody ever asked.

    Trevor A. Williams

    L/Cpl Alistair Crawford Cameron MacRitchie 153rd Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

    My father Alister MacRitchie was captured on the cliff top at St.Valery-en-Caux with the 51st Highland Division on the 12th of June 1940. He was marched, trucked, marched, trained, barged, and trained again (32 hours, 50 men to a truck, with no water) to Stalag XXA in Thorn in Poland where he worked on various work details in satellite camps. As he was "protected personnel", being a medical orderly, he was repatriated through Sweden in October 1943 as part of the first successful prisoner exchange with the Germans.

    My Dad (far right) with his two pals, Allan Cameron and Archie Day, "The Three Musketeers" or "The Three Must Get Beers", who were in his unit and were captured with him.

    This is a German photo of my Dad and others at one of the satellite camps. My Dad swears that the faces in the photographs had been touched up to make everyone look fatter and healthier than they really were.

    Alan Moore, who was a fellow POW of my father's at one of the camps, was recently featured on The Antiques Roadshow, Remembrance Day Special recounting the story of the radio that was smuggled in and operated in the camp (he still has the radio). My Dad's story, transcribed from his own handwritten notes and POW diaries, is recounted in "Chrismas in the Lager - Worse than a Sunday" available from

    The following are fellow POWs with their POW numbers whom he listed in his diary:

    • Cameron, A. 18476
    • McPherson 18536
    • MacRitchie, A 18702
    • Chapman 17238
    • Bridges, A. 50131
    • Hawley 18502
    • Drake, D. 50130
    • Elliott, A. 13785
    • Case, G. 50136
    • Bynes 18313
    • Lait, W. 15225
    • Tucker
    • Young, G. 16995
    • McKenzie 11244


    • Moran, W. 18262
    • McKenzie 16904
    • Smith, J. 18171
    • Underwood
    • Henry, A. 18408
    • Small
    • Kennedy 18185
    • McFarlane
    • Castle, N. 18254
    • Woods 17244
    • Steven, C. 18545
    • Borne 18272
    • Ross, T. 15149
    • Firth 17074
    • Smith, A.V. 15230
    • Masters
    • McQueen 18387

    Stuart MacRitchie

    Dvr. John Sinderson Royal Army Service Corps

    John Sinderson was held in Stalag XXa, Torun, Poland.

    Peter Kryworuczka

    Pte. James Lawson Guy Gordon Highlanders

    My father, Private James Lawson Guy of the Gordon Highlanders, was captured at St. Valerie in France in (my mother thinks) May, 1940. In total he escaped on five occasions – mostly for short periods. He was, however, ‘on the run’ between his first escape in 1940 and his recapture in 1943. It is thought he escaped somewhere on the route between St Valerie and Thorn in Poland (where he was eventually held in Stalag XXA (6)).). He stayed with Polish families and worked with them during this period. I have in my possession 21 letters and postcards he sent to his family between 1943 and 1944. All are written in pencil but most are remarkably clear. During the ‘transcription’ of these letters in January 2009, I spoke with ‘wee brother George’ (who is referred to in the letters and who is now about 80 years old) and he told me that my dad was with the Polish Underground between 1940 and 43. (My mother states that he spoke Polish fluently.) There are clear indications in two of his letters that he escaped twice during the period when these letters were written (1943/44). On his second recapture he was moved to Stalag XXA (156).

    He was awarded the British Empire Medal on his return home and I have a copy of a letter from King George VI making this award. When he and my mother were married on 21 June 1946, the Glasgow Eastern Standard Newspaper ran an article headed ‘Captured for Life’.

    The eleven letters and ten postcards, dating from 29 August, 1943 until 24 May, 1944 were kept for years by his sister Agnes and eventually handed over to my brother Ron. He gave them to be and I have had copies bound and treated in a manner which will preserve them forever. I also still have the originals.

    In spite of his stated intentions to the contrary in one of his letters, my father did become a coal miner on his return from the war, which contributed to his early death aged just 42.

    Jim Guy

    George Hughes Kings Royal Rifle Corps

    My dad, George Hughes of the King's Royal Rifle Corps was a POW in Stalag XXa, from 26the May 1940 to the 18th of April 1945. Is there anyone who remembers him as my dad never spoke about his time in the camp? I would like to be able to fill in the blanks as my dad passed away in 1990.

    Dorreen Davies

    Pte. Firth Clarke West Yorkshire Regiment

    Pte. Firth Clarke was captured early in the war and held prisoner through to the end. He was held in Stalag XXB. He rarely spoke of his time there, but on occasions told of stealing sugar hidden in a drum after a concert and getting German guards to help lift it as it was too heavy, of having shrapnel removed from his leg/ankle by German doctors, of walking home through Poland and refusing to remove his boots in case he was never able to get them back on. He was fond of boxing and gambling.

    This second picture is of Firth at Stalag XXb (he did spend a short while in XXA before being moved to XXB)

    Firth after the war (sadly he died in 1960) – he had had time to recover from the weight loss caused by walking home through Poland, so I guess the picture is about 1947/8?

    If anyone recognises him, I would love to get in touch and find out more.

    Steve Clarke

    Pte Frederick Cyril John "Cyril" Uzzell Gloucestershire Regiment

    I recently started my family tree and came across a great uncle who served in WW2 and was a prisoner at camp number XX-A in Torun, Poland. This information was found from where it provided his regiment, army number and POW number.

    If possible I would like to find out more if anyone has any further information. Many thanks

    Tracey Nash

    Pte. Cyril Coleman

    All I know is that Cyril Coelman was in Stalag XXA/58 and XXA/22. His number was 521

    Roslyn Meeve

    Pte. Walter Flanders Standage Black Watch

    My father, Walter Standage, never spoke of his time as a POW and sadly he died in 1978 before I became interested in genealogy and discovered the information I now have on his life and his war years. From research I do know he was captured on 16th June 1940 (uncertain yet exactly where captured or the circumstances - maybe someone can enlighten me) and was in Stalag XXa 35 - Torun and released after VE day 1945.

    My mother was notified in August 1940 of his capture and there is a press cutting from the South Wales Echo of this information as apparently another POW in the same Stalag, one Private Hughes was in the same regiment and from the same street back home.

    I found the reading of this web page very interesting, enlightening and helpful to understanding some of what he may have endured. I enjoyed reading others memories and viewing the photo's - sadly my father did not seem to be amongst them. I have many photo's of my father's army days but they appear to be more from his time at various postings / camps rather than anything remotely 'Stalag' - only one seems feasible, a group in front of a large wooden hut.

    Yvonne Flanders

    Pte. Jack Lionel Wallis Royal West Kent Regiment

    My Father, Jack Lionel Wallis, was captured in Dunkirk in May 1940 and was POW in Stalag XXa and XXb from 1940 to 1944. He did not like to talk to us about it very much as it never left him like so many others I have read about on these pages. He learned to play the piano accordian while he was in the camp and he made a tapestry of a bowl of flowers which was very good. He did tell us how they had to march such a long way and how sometimes they only had cabbage water to keep going with. My Father eventually got TB and had to be repatriated in 1944 on a Swedish ship called the "Gripsholm" and was very lucky to survive. A few years after the war he went and found the doctor who treated him to thank him.

    In the 1970's he went on a trip with the British Legion back there but he wished after he had not gone as it brought back so many memories and he went through a depressive time but recovered from it. Years went by and Dad was walking his dog along Eastbourne seafront when he stopped to speak to a stranger they got talking and the stranger said his uncle was also a prisoner of war in Poland his name is Jack Killick then Dad butted in and said "I remember him". Anyway, the nephew arranged for them both to meet which they did after 64 years. The local newspaper did a story on it which was nice.

    Sadly my dad died 3 months after that. I have since been to the British Red Cross in London and found a picture of dad playing with a band in the POW journal which they allow you to search through. I have all the letters which his father wrote to him while he was in the camp.

    Linda Fielder

    Pte. Henry William John Lavender East Kent Regiment

    My late father Henry Lavender served with the Buff's (East Kent Regiment) I'm trying to find out any information about his military back ground and whether he was awarded any campain medals whilst he served in his Regiment during his time in the Army. I have collated some brief information on line about his military career and also that he may have been a POW duering the Second World War and that he may have been in a POW camp in Poland (Stalag xxa and XXb). However, I have no information what happend after he was liberated and demobed from the Army at the end of the Second World War. I presume that he returned back to his parent's home in Wales. His last known address I have for him is where he settled down into civillan life is where I was born which is 68 Belasis Avenue, Haverton Hill, Billingham, Teeside. But sadly he passed away in 1960. I can only just briefly remember him as I was very young when he passed away and it would be nice to remember him by and to know that he served his country.

    Mr P. Lavender

    L/Cpl. Bertram Knight 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers

    My husband’s grandfather, Bertram Knight, was a Lance Corporal in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers. He was captured at St. Valery and force marched to Torun, Poland. His POW number was 7770 and he was a prisoner in Stalag XX-A. He never spoke about his experiences before he passed away in 1971. I would love to hear from anyone who may know his name or who may have any photos of him from the camp.

    Yasmin Simpson

    Robert Woods 7th Btn. Royal Norfolk Regiment

    My father, Robert Woods, was a prisoner of war in Stalag XXA and Stalag XXB. He was captured at St Valerie 12/6/1940 and arrived Stalag XXA (2A) 11/7/1940 He was transferred to Stalag XXB on 4/4/1943. I have several photos of him and colleagues in the camps including two which you have up on your website which must have been posted by someone else, it shows him in a band. I also have a photo with a few addresses and names on the back (difficult to make out but I am trying to research them) I am keen to find out more about his part in the Battle of St Valerie and his time in prisoner of war camps. He was on the death march back away from the advancing Russian and American forces and I believe he was liberated by the Russians. He was in the Royal Norfolk 7th Battalion. If you know of anybody who might be able to shed more light on his time during the war I would be grateful to hear from you.

    Chris Woods

    Pte. James "Hamish" McCorkindale 2nd Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

    I have received confirmation from the ICRC that my father, James McCorkindale, was held as a prisoner of war in Stalag XX/A following his capture at St Valerey on the 12th of June 1940. He arrived at Stalag XX/A on the 9th of July following his transfer from a transfer camp. Known as Hamish he was a Bren gunner in the Seaforth Highlanders 2nd, service number 2823104, which formed part of the BEF. He was originally from Paisley and was a groom /chauffeur before the war.

    Sadly, he passed away in September 1970. Like many other men who were held with him he very rarely spoke of his time in captivity but regularly said that his time on the farms and the families whom he worked for were bearable. If anyone recognises his name or has heard it mentioned in conversations with their loved ones I would be delighted to hear from you.

    Alastair McCorkindale

    Pte. Thomas Sydney Down East Surrey Regiment

    My father-in-law was Private Sydney Thomas Down, East Surrey Regiment POW number 12463. Sydney was captured and spent 1 year in Stalag XXA then was transferred to XXB for the duration of the war. Sydney died in 1947. Anyone who knew of him and could tell us anything about him we would love you to get in contact.

    Peggy Down

    Pte. Harry Miller Kings Royal Rifle Corps

    Harry Miller was a prisoner in Stalag XXA-3.

    Kenneth Hodge

    Roy Liebermann Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry

    My Uncle was Roy Liebermann of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry who, according to family stories, was captured very near the start of the war and spent most of his time at Thorn Podgorz (Stalag XXa). He told us very little, the only thing I can remember is that instead of weeding the vegetable fields they hoed up the veges and left the weeds!!

    Mary Wilson

    Pte. Ronald Cooke Worcestershire Regiment

    My uncle, Ron Cooke, served in the Worcestershire Regiment along with his brother Edward (my dad). They were both taken prisioner at Dunkirk Ron was POW 11184, held at Stalag XXA Torun Poland. They both survived the Camps.

    Anne Piff

    William Yabsley Royal Engineers

    My Grandad, Bill Yabsley, was a POW at Stalag XXA from 1941-1942. He was captured at Dunkirk and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner. He has lots of stories to tell, particularly one where he helped to save the lives of two Jewish girls; Magda and Suzanne Hersgovitch. Grandad is now 93 and frequently talks about his experiences as a POW. We would love to hear from anyone who can remember him, particularly Bill Ackland.

    Cia May

    Pte. Walter Payne 2/5th Btn. B Company West Yorkshire Regiment

    My father, Walter Payne was in the 2/5 West Yorks Regiment and was held at Torun from June 1940, he was captured at Bethune, France and was taken prisoner at the tender age of 19.

    He died in 1979 without ever telling me anything about his time in the prisoner of war camp other than he worked on a farm. Last year myself and my husband went to lay a poppy wreath in Dunkirk for my dad's fallen comrades, it was something he always wanted to do but never got the chance.

    If anyone out there has anyone whose dad may have known my dad I would be grateful for any info you have can you let me know. Thanks for any help.

    Gloria Payne Leigh

    Pte. James Mount

    My wife and I found this photo in her mother's photo album. She and her husband cannot remember any thing about it although it is addressed to them. We assume that Private James Mount GEF No 97305 is one of them. May be someone could identify some of the others?.

    Graham Rogerson

    Pte. Len Kelly Northumberland Fusiliers (d.1945)

    Len Kelly was captured at St. Valery, France in 1940 and held as a POW in Stalag XX-A at Thorn, Poland. He was repatriated in 1944 or 45 via the Red Cross in an exchange of seriously ill prisoners, but died within a few months of being repatriated to England in 1945.


    Pte. Joseph Russell Bell 10th Btn. Durham Light Infantry (d.24th Jul 1943)

    The dry moat at one of the forts

    Joseph Russell Bell 4456672 10th Battalion DLI, was part of the BEF fighting a retreating battle against the overwhelming numbers of the German Army. He was shot, wounded and captured near Villiers, northern France on 20th May 1940 then taken to Stalag XXA,Thorn on 10th June 1940, where he became POW No 10558, he was held at various forts until he was "shot while trying to escape" on 24th July 1943 whereupon he was buried in the garrison cemetery at garnison freidhof then later exhumed and re- buried in the Malbork commonwealth cemetery.

    Russell was also "mentioned in despatches" and because our relative is reluctant to give details of his citation we dont know whether he earned this award during the fighting or in his captive time. During his time in Thorn he was sent to work in the brickworks near Tuchola where he was befriended by a Pole called Jan Glowacki who's son Lucjan used to to sneak food parcels in for them despite the enormous risks, sometime later the two comrades became separated for ever.

    Years later in 2011 when we were planning to visit Malbork to honour his grave Russells sister Doreen gave us a letter written in german by Jan asking Russell to write back and tell him about his story, anyway we showed this letter to the lady who was organising our trip and she said "Tuchola is a small village, I'll be able to track down the Glowacki family and maybe arrange for you to meet them", well she did, we visited the three forts where Russell was held then actually met Lucjan who despite his age remembered His father and his friend, what a moving moment it was! Anyway thats Russells story, now I'm hoping someone somewhere will have a soldier who knew Russell Bell either in the prison or in battle who can maybe "put some flesh on the bones" of this enigmatic man.

    Alan Bell

    Pte. Jack Pritchard 7th Btn. Worcestershire Regiment

    My uncle, Jack Pritchard was captured at Bethune on 28th May 1940, fighting the rear guard action at Dunkirk. He was marched to XXa POW camp and was moved to Lamsdorf 344 camp in 1941. He helped a soldier from Newcastle on one of the marches. I have been trying to find out who this soldier's family are.

    M. Pritchard

    Walter Frost 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays)

    My granddad, Walter Frost, was captured in May 1940. He was in Thorn prison camp and then Marienburg. He was from Gateshead.

    Kev Hedley

    L/Cpl. James Walker McLaren Cameron Higlanders

    My father, James McLaren was captured on 27/5/1940 at La Basse, France. He was sent to Stalag XXA (Thorn) from 9/6/1940 - 19/4/1941. He was then transferred to Stalag XXB from 19/4/1941 - 24/1/1945. During his time in the camps he worked at Marienwerder 23/4/1941 - 2/3/1943 (Farm), Rehof 16/3/1943 - 18/4/1944 (Farm) and Mierua 20/4/1944 - 24/1/1945 (Smithy Work). He was then forced to go on the long march. During his time working on the farms he became very friendly with a young Polish girl called Stefania Drews. Soon after the war he applied for permission to bring Stefania to Britain and he married her. They went on to have four children, three girls and one boy.

    Stuart McLaren

    Eugeniusz Kowalski

    A few souvenirs from my father Eugeniusz Kowalski in Stalag XXIA.

    Eugeniusz Kowalski

    Albert Henry Emery Royal Army Service Corps

    My father, Albert Emery, joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1934 and served with them for 14 years. His first posting was to Jerusalem and later he served in Egypt, Malta and Gibraltar.

    In 1940 his company returned to England where they formed a new company attached to the Royal Engineers for building airstrips. They went to Helencourt, but when the German tanks went through the Maginot Line, Albert and his company were caught between Dunkirk and Boulogne. After many adventures and lucky escapes, he ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Torun, the old capital of Poland. Albert spent many years in Stalag XXa, from which camp I have several copies of "Prisoner's Pie", a small magazine which the prisoners used to compile and have printed in Thorn, Germany. I also have some concert programmes from Stalag XXa, with names of cast characters. Maybe someone will recognize a relative's name:

    • John Westcott,
    • Tommy Bagley,
    • L. Pritchard,
    • A. Smith,
    • T. Hicks,
    • H. Churchill,
    • L. Rusby,
    • James Patrick O'Keefe,
    • P. Joughin,
    • L. Jennings,
    • M.A. Dean,
    • J. Chambers,
    • J. Foster,
    • Sgt. Maj. Curtis,
    • A. Smith
    • Jimmy James who played Cinderella in the pantomime of the same name

    My father passed away in 2001, and like many other prisoners of war did not talk much about the war years. Fortunately in 1974, a local newspaper printed Dad's story over a 5-week period and I learned more from that than he ever wished to disclose to the family. They were trying times, but the prisoners managed to retain their sense of humour and make the most of a bad situation. God bless them all!

    Sue Schmidt

    Pte. Nelson Robert Owen 7th Btn. Royal Norfolk Regiment

    Private Nelson Owen

    My father, Nelson Robert Owen, was born in Heacham, Norfolk on the 4th of November 1918. He served with the 7th Royal Norfolk Regiment during the 2nd World War. He was captured at St.Valery on the 12/06/1940. His prisoner of war number was 15877. He was held in Stalag XXA in Poland.

    Due to my father dying in 1971 at the age of 52 (I was only 13 years old) I didn't ever really get to hear anything much about his time as a prisoner of war etc. But one thing I do remember is him telling me about his friend (who later became a close family friend) John Hagen, who since the war lived near Melton Constable, Norfolk. He had one Christmas Eve when it was bitterly cold and snowing, picked up his banjo and played 'Silent Night'. Afterwards everyone was completely quiet and silence remained for quite some time, as obviously everyone was feeling very homesick and thinking of family back home. John Hagen had also told me how he had worked in the kitchen and also in the brewery at the camp, where they would prepare the food for the German's, and would regularly urinate in the soup! If anyone can remember anything about my father, please add to this message.

    Steve Owen

    FO. Lloyd Christie "Little Mac" McCracken 426 Squadron

    I 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

    Private James Alexander Edwards 6th Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

    James Edwards was a Prisoner of war in German hands. He was interned in POW camp Stalag XXA from where put on move on 9th June 1940, according to a capture card and document dated 26th November 1940. He was admitted to Stalag XXD on 1st November 1940, according to a document dated 26th November 1940.

    Terry Lynch

    Sgt. William "Tiny" Adams

    My dad Sergeant William Adams, his number was 96084, was in Stalag 8b. (I have a Christmas postcard sent to my mother dated 3rd Jan 1942. It was drawn Thomas Burke Stalag 20a). He later went to Stalag 383. He was captured in Crete. He was a commando and because he was tall people called him "Tiny". He lived in Lowestoft.

    Sally Wilson

    Cpl. Ted Sinnott South Lancashire Regiment

    My late Uncle, Cpl Ted Sinnott, born 1921, Widnes, Cheshire (then Lancashire) was taken POW at raid on St Nazaire, France 28/3/1942. Eventually transferred to Lamsdorf 8b/344 around June 1942 before transfer to Stalag XXA Thorun, Poland (1944) and eventually Stalag 357 Fallingbostel, Germany and liberation April 1945.

    He served with South Lancs Regt. before joining No 2 Commando in late 1940 after surviving Dunkirk. It would be great if anyone reading this knew of my uncle/or about life in this camp, and could contact me.

    John Sinnott

    Pte. Raymond Edwards Royal Artillery

    My late father, Raymond Edwards, was taken POW in Dunkirk and spent some time in 20A at Torun and endured the long march, leaving him so sick he spent six months in hospital recovering. As well as being at 20A he also spent some time in a camp in Italy where I believe he was working on building a dam, I presume this must have been before going to 20A. I so enjoyed reading other peoples' accounts, like so many other POWs my father would say very little about his time during the war. Also, like others he did not want to claim his medals.

    Ray Edwards

    L/Cpl. Laurence Frank Brignall

    I have a book written by my Grandad who was a prisoner of war in WWII which contains:

    • Arrival at Stalag XXA
    • Arriving at Dortmund - 10 days for registering
    • Life at Fort 12 the Balloon Hangar
    • A 40 man roadwork party

    • Life at fort 17 -
    • Time at POW hospital Fort 14 for a short time over winter
    • Roadwork party in an early summer
    • The mention of a man named Paddy Toner

    • Life at Fort 15 - winter 1941
    • Road job of spring 1942 working with rail lines and cutting in Steinfdorf. An amusing tale of 'green hat' and mentions Duggie Whitfiend from Dundee.
    • The time they were moved to Reisenberg Sugar Factory mentioning a Welshman called Roger Lewis whom he worked with til the end of '42

    He was then moved a rest camp where he received parcels from a Mlle Legrand and became friends with Arther Waldren. An Iillness death in the camp is documented and how they played out a funeral how best they could. And also a play of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

    He was then moved in in spring to Stalag XXB and did farmwork at Schlablau a lady called Alina took care of the soldiers very well. I have photographs of the farm party. Mentions a train line split the farm and Hitler's personal train passed through.

    He was moved to an Altfelde sugar factory - and documents a story where a geordie man had his foot crushed. There is a photograph taken at Altfelde. Stories of making alcohol involving a man called 'Pudden' Walters and conceiling a prisoner called 'Kelly' for 4 months who was in hiding from the punishment camp. Marching back to Marienburg in 1945 arriving at Magdeberg, Annaberg and finaly being liberated by the Russians.

    The entire book is too long to copy, however I'm happy to copy parts of it if the information is beneficial to people researching.

    Suzi Rodrigues

    Cpl Janek Glogiewicz Infantry

    My father Janek Glogiewicz was in Torun Stalag XXA for a major part of WW2. He could not return to his native Dolinyany, as the Russian occupiers gave that part of Poland to the Ukraine and expelled the Poles or had them sent to Siberia. Dad was expatriated to Australia in 1950, and lived mainly in Richmond Victoria and never lived in fear of War again till his death in 1993.

    Tadeusz J Glogiewicz

    Jos Glanville

    My Grampsy, Jos Glaville, was part of the 51st Highland Division that was captured at St Valery-en-coux in 1940 and subsequently taken to Poland Stalag XX-A. If anyone has any relatives who were in the same battalion or POW camp, I am looking for any photos/ information relating to this as it is a piece of family history that was left empty when he sadly passed away in 1996. Please contact me if you are able to assist in any way possible. Thank you

    Vanessa Sears

    M Bogaert

    I have a beautiful large charcoal drawing of my mother, taken from a photo. It is signed M. Bogaert, Thorn, 11.3.1942. I have just discovered this camp, Stalag XXA is in Thorn Poland. So, my father Norman Key, must have been a prisoner here at some time, as well as Stalag 383, in Hohenfels. Is there a relative of M. Bogaert, who was exceptional portrait artist, out there? I have tried looking for him on the prisoner list, for Thorn XXA, but he may be American, Dutch or English. I would love to know if he survived the war, and I have a wonderful reminder of his signed work.

    Janet lane

    Flt.Sgt. Galbraith M. D. Hyde

    Flight Sergeant Galbraith M.D. Hyde served with the New Zealand Air Force during WW2 and was interned at Stalag XXA Thorn Pogorz, Poland. POW number 27495.

    Pte. John Cameron Royal Engineers

    John Cameron was captured within 6 days of the war and was from Scotland. I am trying to find out what regiment he would have been from first and then take it from there. He spent the whole war there also. There are three photos attached, one with a fellow prisoner. I am just looking for a starting point really.

    Editors Note: a search on Ancestry shows that John Cameron was in the Royal Engineers and was a craftsman. Stalag XX-A was located in Torun, Poland. The Record Office given for this information is Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers Record Office, 2A, Tichborne Street, Leicester.

    Mark Liddell

    Pte. Percy Eric George Figg 2/7th Btn. Queens Royal Regiment (West Surrey) (d.18th Mar 1945)

    Percy Eric George Figg served with the 2/7th Battalion Queens Royal Regiment during WW2 and died age 27 on the 18th March 1945. He is buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery having died on the freedom march after being held prisoner in Stalag 20a. following his capture at St. Valery after Dunkirk. He was the son of George Albert Arthur and Alice gertrude figg of Worthing, Sussex.

    I have known about 3 people who had served in WWII. My uncle Percy Figg. Also my father Charles Figg who was Royal Navy and Major Bernard Wilmshurst from heavy artillery. Percy was captured at St Valery after Dunkirk where he was supposedly transported to Stalag 20a where he saw the rest of the war out. He died unfortunately on the freedom march and his final resting place was Berlin war cemetery. I have not yet been to either of these places but I hope to very soon. I am surprised Percy fell as he was always as I have been told a master sportsman who was always respected by all in his home town of Worthing in Sussex.

    My father Charles Figg was on a tank landing craft all the time. He saw all five invasions during his time in the war. He described the horrors of the war blow by blow. From the smell of death as the flotilla cruised around the shores of North Africa from decaying bodies in the hot sun. To waiting of the shores of Italy waiting for the naval bombardment to start and being woken up from the splash of water from a shell landing close to the carrier. Finally the Normandy invasions where all the American troops he was carrying were hit by a wall of bullets as the ramps dropped. Most never made it off the landing craft. We may scoff at the Yanks for being many things, but one thing for sure is those boys went up that beach the same as our boys did.

    Major Bernard was a great character, famous for blowing the top off of Gosport town hall during some practice drills shortly before D day. He got it a couple of clicks too low and took the dome clean off. I always chuckle to myself when I see that building. Had many stories to tell including being faced by his superior officer during the France invasion onslaught. Montgomery himself.

    Paul Figg

    Pte. William Henry Hancock 1/5th Btn Leicestershire Regiment (d.22nd Feb 1945)

    William Henry Hancock was my mother's cousin. He served with the 1/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment. I was always led to believe he was a prisoner of war in Japan, but through research I find he was a prisoner in Poland at Stalag xxa and Stalag 357. He is buried in a cemetery outside Berlin. He died on 22nd February 1945 I presume not long after he arrived there after the 'Death march.' from Poland. I know very little about him, just his name and the story of being a prisoner in Japan. I think what makes his story so sad, is that his mother Harriet Hancock, had 13 children, William being the youngest. Eleven of the children died as babies or toddlers, then William died in the war. He had one surviving brother named Fred. I am pleased I did find a little more about his short life. He was 25 when he died.

    Yvonne Norton

    James Worden

    I have two books belonging to my late uncle, James Worden, who was a prisoner of war in Stalag XXA. In one book, a New Testament, he has written his name, STALAG XXA, then Long 139, Poland 1942.

    In the second book, The Little Bible, he has his name and the number 10554. There is also an ink stamp which seems to show the following: M_Sta.....anlager XXA Gepruft 44

    I would appreciate any information about my uncle.

    Derek Worden

    Sgt Leslie Matthews. 12Sqd.

    Leslie Matthews was held as a POW in Stalag XXA, Kopernikus.

    Cpl. Albert Leslie Pickering 1/5th Btn. Leicestershire Regiment

    Les Pickering was my father. He died in 1987, he would never talk about the war, he always said its the past, let it go. What I do know is that he was captured in Norway and spent five years as a prisoner of war, first in Stalag XXA and then three years in Stalag 383 in Hoenfels, Bavaria. He served with the territorials and was in the brigade of Colonal G J German. If any one should have any information about him please contact me.

    Doreen Jackson

    Pte. Douglas Bernard Pistell Queens Regiment

    My dad Douglas Pistell was a prisoner of war in Poland Stalag XXA for 5rs. As said many times before on here he never spoke about it. I know no more of his war years other than this. No photos or letters where he was captured. I'm sure he must have been on the long march but is a guess. As both my parents have passed away I fear I may have left it too long to find much out. I do know his P.O.W. No was 13038.If anyone could give me any Info I would be so grateful.

    He may have been serving with the 2nd/6th Battalion, Queens East Surrey Regiment which had to surrender along with the 51st Highland Division when surrounded at St. Valery. But that is only one probability as there were many battalions of both the East and West Surreys.

    Robert Pistell

    Sgt. Charles Edward Turner East Yorkshire Yeomanry 5th Dragoon Guards

    My father, Charles Turner was a Tank Commander from the East Yorkshire Regiment. he was captured 23 May 1940 in St Omer, and sent to Stalag XX/A 6 June 1940 prisoner number 776 in Oflag III/C. He was transferred to Stalag XX/B on 10 October 1941. He was transferred from XX/A on 16 September 1942 and held in Oflag III/C we have no records of his of his release etc, he attested into the TA in 1947 In Kingston upon Hull.

    My Father would never talk about his time in the camps as he thought it was better to look to the future. We have a photo of him in the camp, but we don't know which one is him. My father died in May 1973 and I am trying to compose a life book for my children before I die. I would like any help of advice from anyone and will pass on any info I have.

    James Turner

    Pte John Edward Milne Gordon Highlanders

    Private John Edward Milne (playing the Accordian)

    The reverse of the photograph

    My Father John Edward Milne, as part of the 51st Highland Division, was captured by the Germans, at St Valery-en-Caux, in June 1940. He did not tell me very much about his experiences as a POW except that he escaped twice. The first time early in his captivity whilst being marched across Holland and the second escape was late in the War where with others he tried to get to Danzig but was re-captured.

    The photograph shows him with an accordion and two other POWs one playing slide guitar. My father 'Eddie' was a very good accordion player and had been booked on the BBC in Scotland before the war. I have copies of the fee receipts from the BBC and a cutting from the Radio Times dated 1939. I included a picture of the reverse side of the photograph which was used as a postcard which has the camp stamp on it. I would not be surprised if he had played in the camp big band. He used to also play alto sax and piano.

    During my childhood he would sometimes wake in the night shouting in German and the experiences he had in the camp must have been pretty bad. As a young child I found a picture in the bottom of a drawer of a very emaciated man in a striped jacket with his head shaved. My mother told me it was my father who was found in that state when the camp was liberated. He weighed four and a half stone. With many others he was flown by Dakota transport aircraft straight to England where he spend six months in hospital to build him up before he could go home. I now regret tearing up that photograph because it is part of the evidence record of what went on. I am sure his relatively short temper and nerves were a result of the treatment he received as a POW. That said, he was a good father to me and always provided well for his family.

    After the war whilst still in the army he was promoted to corporal before being demobbed. He was a musician all his life and played with a show-band in the 1960s & 70s. In the 1960s whilst on a family holiday on the Isle of Wight he met his old Company Regimental Sergeant Major Ferguson (I remember the pair of them went on a two day bender, which annoyed my Mother but thinking back on it they were entitled to a good drink after what they had been through). One odd thing occurred in 1966/7 new neigbours moved in next door to my parents house in Chadwell Heath, Essex. My father met the new neighbour Les whom he immediately recognised as a fellow POW. I cannot recall Les's surname his wife was Madge. Les died in the late 1960s I beleive. My father died in 1997 and since then I have visited St Valery and the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen. These places are well worth a visit.

    Robert Milne

    Trpr. Irving Hallsworth Wray 15th/19th Btn King's Royal Hussars (d.14th Dec 1944)

    My Uncle Irving Hallsworth Wray died in Stalag 20a. We believe he was captured at Dunkirk and marched to Poland. He was buried by his comrades and the padre was David F Wild that conducted the service.

    His regiment was the 15th/19th Kings Royal Hussars. He died of heart malady on 14th December 1944 and is buried at Malbork Commonwealth Cemetery in Poland. If anyone has any further information I would be grateful.

    Patrick Carroll

    Pte. Ronald William Cross

    My late father was captured at Dunkirk and ended up a POW at Stalag XX in Danzig, Poland. He was a POW for 5 years and he could speak German and Polish fluently. He used to organise football games and taught some of the men to ballroom dance. He never spoke much about his time there but we understand he lost a lot of weight and when he was demobbed his own mother did not recognise him.

    Their home had been bombed and they ended up in a small flat in Major Road, Stratford, London E17. He arrived after demob in Stratford not knowing where they were, but he had remembered it was something to do with army ranks, after a while someone directed him to Major Road and he just knocked on all the doors until he found his mother, who refused to believe it was him.

    He wrote a book about his experiences in life called "Dont Cross Me Ref" as he was a football referee, and he always said it was football that made his time in the POW camp bearable. He was made to work in freezing rivers loading logs, then in a sugar factory, and finally on a farm in his time in Stalag 20. He often said that his ability with languages meant that he could engage in conversation with the guards and he thought they were fair in the camp he was in. A great man who was always firm and fair.

    Christopher Arthur "Steve" Howe

    Grandad didn't tell us much about his time in Stalag 20A we know he escaped a few times and he was involved in the Long March. His name was Christopher Howe, known as Steve.

    Clarissa Howe

    Sgt. Andrew Hall Smith 13th Field Hygene Section Royal Army Medical Corps

    On 12th of Jun 1940 Sgt Andrew Hall Smith was at St Valerie and was taken POW, (POW No. 18007). He arrived at Stalag XXA, Thorn, Germany on 10th of July 1940. He was sent to Stalag XXB Marienburg on 9th of October 1941 and back to Stalag XXA on 13th of October 1943. He was repatriated on 13th of October 1944

    James Smith

    L/Cpl. William "Tut" Curry Durham Light Infantry

    William Curry at Stalag XXA 45

    William Curry served with the Durham Light Infantry and was held in Stalag XXA as a prisoner of war.

    Neil Curry

    Peter Edwards

    I have been trying to trace my fathers wartime history. He was Peter Edwards of Sonning, Nr. Reading, Berks. In so far as I can tell, he was captured near Lille in France and then spent time in Poland at Stalag 20A (I think) until around January 1944. Peter was a keen footballer, could ice skate and was quite good at boxing if family photos are anything to go by. Dad also played several musical instruments such as mouthorgan, piano-accordian and the drums and up until the late 60's when he tried to compete with the tamla-motown groups, he could sing well too. Peter would have probably entertained the troops during the stay in Hitler's Hotels. If anyone remembers my Dad please contact me

    Jeanette Edwards

    Tpr. Henry Lee Spencer 2nd Btn. Royal Tank Corps

    My father was a prisoner in Stalag XXA (54) in Thorn. He was Henry Lee Spencer, born March 27, 1912, Plaistow, West Ham; died June 28, 2000 Duncan, British Columbia, Canada. Trooper 7881077, 2nd Battalion, Royal Tank Corps, 1929 - 1935. Trooper, R.T.R., Calais HQ 1st Armoured Division, captured May 25, 1940 during defense of Calais. Survived "death march" to Poland. Prisoner number 7358, Stalag XXA(54). "Escaped" to the East on Wednesday 14th of February 1945 working his way down to Odessa where embarked on SS "Moreton Bay", 7th of March 1945.

    A couple of Dad's chums were Frank Bylett, Norwood, London SE25; and Bill Barlow, Salford, Lancs.

    Like most men, Dad said little about his P.O.W. experiences. I remember him talking about:

    • how utterly unprepared the Brits were to defend Calais
    • he saw one of his best friends killed by a Vichy/Nazi French sniper in one of the dock cranes at Calais (This would explain my Dad's lifelong antipathy for the French. I remember when I was a young man I asked Dad if he had ever shot a man. With a twinkle in his eye, he said "No - but I think I winged a Frenchman.")
    • he was in a bunker when a German officer opened the hatch, pointed a Tommy gun at them, and said in good English, "It's all over for you chaps."
    • he saw men, too exhausted to walk, murdered in cold blood in the May 1940 march to prison camp
    • how life as a prisoner was very unpleasant, and how men became very petty
    • how the Brits never doubted for a moment that they would win the war
    • how they starved in the last winter (1944 - 1945)
    • how the guards in the last winter (1944 - 1945) were mostly old men and youths
    • Dad slapped around a young fellow who was ready to give up and die after years as a P.O.W. - a not uncommon problem
    • prisoners "borrowed" a piano and installed it in a hut
    • they listened to the BBC and the guards would ask them for the latest news
    • he put sand in the tanks of German lorries headed for the Russian front, when he was assigned to petrol them up
    • he respected the men of the regular German army
    • Brits utterly despised the Nazis - as did most men of the regular German army
    • how the Polish resistance begged for help in January / February 1945, but British prisoners were warned not to help them
    • how hazardous was his escape through the Baltics to Odessa

    Tim Spencer

    Leslie William Bryan

    This photo taken was taken at Stalag xxa I do not know the date but it shows my father Leslie William Bryan playing the drums. My father was captured in 1939 early 1940 I am not exactly certain as he passed away in 1970 and never said very much about the war, he had mentioned a few names but he only told me about Sam Kydd and some of the plays they put on.

    M Bryan

    Charles Albert King Highland Light Infantry

    My Dad Charley King of Old Ford The East End Of London is no longer with me after dieing of lung cancer 29 years ago and he is still dearly missed by me and all his Family. I must say before I start he was so Proud to have been in the H.L.I. and also meeting so many great guys in Glasgow, and while he was alive he always told me so many story about his time with the H L I David Niven really gave him the hump. His only reaming brother has recently died which has brought a very big hole in my life because he was the only one left to tell me all the stories about my dad and all the family life.

    I was left alot of pictures regarding my Dads time in Stalag XXA. I have read and down loaded Private William Laws Diaries and on one day he describes an English solder being shot for smoking in a P O W Camp by a German solder, I have a photo of the Germans giving this poor sole a gun salute at his funeral. There are so many Faces, Football games Boxing Matches Concert shows, and unfortunately Funerals. Fortunately for him my Dad must have a few friends that he made while he was walking the P O W camps and a guest at Hitler's Hotels as we have no Photo's of him at all, only one and that was before the war, in full dress when he served in Egypt. He must given his to the boys who I've got photo's of, and he had a Photo of my mum which has the autograph of Marline Detrict on the back that's the only thing he could give her when she was there at his release. Any one who would be interested give me an E-Mail as its a shame for so much history to go to waste. As you know the Films never get it right!

    Julie Freeburn

    Pte William Clifton 7th Btn. Royal Worcestershire Regiment

    Bill Clifton, 2nd from left front row. Ernie Cameron, 3rd from left in back row.

    I came across this photograph of my late uncle, Pte. 11719 Bill Clifton of the Worcestershire Regiment, amongst my mother's things after she died. The date on the back is March 1942. He was in Stalag XXA (176) and is second from the left on the front row. He would have been about 23 when this was taken.

    I remember him coming home to Malvern after the war, although I was only about 3 at the time. The family and neighbours put flags across the street, and there was another soldier with him, but I can't remember a name. Perhaps someone remembers them, or this picture ?

    Maggie Case

    Pte. Ernest Cameron 7th Btn. Royal Worcestershire Regiment

    Bill Clifton, 2nd from left front row. Ernie Cameron, 3rd from left in back row.

    My Dad, Ernie Cameron, was a friend of Bill Clifton and he took Dad home in Malvern to have a bath before they got sent abroad. Dad recognised himself at once on the above photo, he is third from the left.

    Ernie CameronErnie Cameron

    Dad was captured in May 1940 and taken to Stalag XXA but most of the time he and many others were sent to out to work on the roads and the farms. The work they did was hard and no amenities, not a lot of food not much of anything. He was also on the march in 1945 where he saw some dreadful things, Dysentry, starvation, frost bite, it was about 800 to 900 miles, was'nt it ,up the Baltics and down them. He recalls the Germans being terrified of the Russians finding them, as Dad said the "Russians" had no discipline at all. The air cracked it was so cold, they starved, toes dropped off and many, many, dying along the way.

    There are lots of things now Dad tells me, if I ask him but it is only now not when I was younger, it holds too many bad memories for him. He says he can't believe it actually happened, that he actually did it, his family didn't recognise him when he got home, he was that thin, and now he is saying, what was it all for.

    I've enclosed the photos in case anyone recognises themselves. Dad knows the faces but not the names. Could anyone help?

    Ernie Cameron 3rd from left

    Ernie Cameron

    Ernie Cameron

    Ernie Cameron, far right marked with an X.

    Dad enjoyed the site, we printed it off for him so he could read it quietly in his own time. Thank you very much.

    Sue Black

    J. Lilley

    I have in two letters from Stalag XXA, one from a J Lilley, the other from a George Hatt. The letters were never delivered to the family, but I found them at a stamp auction in Canada. If anyone knows of the families of these 2 men I would like to forward the letters on to them. They may be 60 years late getting there, but would be good if they arrive at their rightful home.

    Jim McNaughton

    George Hatt

    I have in my 2 letters from Stalag XXA, one from a J Lilley, the other from a George Hatt. The letters were never delivered to the family, but I found them at a stamp auction in Canada. If anyone knows of the families of these 2 men I would like to forward the letters on to them. They may be 60 years late getting there, but would be good if they arrive at their rightful home.

    Jim McNaughton

    George Edward Parr

    My late grandfather George Edward Parr was held in Stalag XXa for much of the war. Unfortunately he rarely talked about his time there and all I have to go on is the few photographs that I have. I have learnt more through your website than I have from any other source, so thank you. My grandfather's name is on the list of prisoners as George A Parr, his middle name was actually Edward. I believe he was taken at Dunkirk but do not know what regiment he belonged to, can anybody help me to find this information? I know that he was held prisoner for at least four years but I am not sure if he was at stalag xxa for all of that time. All the photos that were sent from and to home all have the xxa mark on them.

    I would be so interested to hear from anybody who knew my granddad or can give me any more information. He sometimes used to talk about how the men were marched for long periods of time, so I wonder if he was part of the forced march. He came from the Birmingham area and often told us that he used to be one of the camps barbers. Would this jog anybodies memory? I have some wonderful group photographs that were sent home from the camp.

    Linda Ward

    Henry George Cooper

    My grandfather who died in the 1970s who was interred at Stalag XXA his name was Harry Cooper. I do not know his regiment but know he was with the rear guard at Dunkirk. I am trying to find information.

    Adam Cooper

    PO. Maurice Barnes HMS Seal (d.9th Sep 1940)

    Petty Officer Maurice Barnes of the submarine HMS Seal, whose family lived in the village of Bergh Apton, Norfolk, was captured when HMS Seal surrendered on 5th of May 1940. He was sent with other crew to Stalag XXa. He escaped in Summer 1940 but was killed by Russian guards on the Russian/Polish border on 9th of September 1940. I would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone who served with Maurice, or who can shed any light on his life in Stalag XXa, his escape and his death. I would particularly like to make contact with a Warrant Officer of a Hussar Regiment who escaped with Maurice and who was probably the only witness to his death. Presumably he made it home to report the circumstances. His own story, or contact with his family, would be a great joy to us at Bergh Apton Local History Group.

    John Ling

    Pte. Frederick William Mitchell Royal Army Ordnance Corps

    This is a picture of him when he joined up

    The letter that was sent to his parents from the home office saying that he was at stalag XXA

    My Father was Frederick William Mitchell, he was a private in the Royal Ordnance Corps. He was captured at St Valery and was at Atalag xxA. He died in 1976 I was only seventeen, he didn't often talk of his time in the Army, but I do remember him telling me that he worked on farms while a POW and walked off a few times, he also told me of the long march he had to do to get to the POW camp.

    Mark Mitchell

    Christopher Preston

    A 'Prison of Make Believe' - A story taken from a newspaper cutting of my cousins POW memories.

    "There were times when he looked through the barbed wire of the German prison camp and wondered if he would end his days there.... Moments during an incredible 800 mile forced walk through the terrible months of a Polish winter when starvation made him want to lie down and die - and stay there in the snow. Yet Christopher Preston always found the will to go on. But behind that smile, he used to have before his death, is a tale of courage and fortitude, of a man incarcerated in Stalag 20. He was captured on the beaches of Dunkirk.

    However his love of music and acting kept him sane. He as his fellow POW's put on shows in Bromberg and Graudenz, and his greatest wish was to once again meet up with his fellow POW's, such as Stan Ibbotson, a church organist from Leeds, Londoner's Lesley 'Monty' Banks, John Savage, Harry Stafford, Sid Steer from Kent and Eric goble. A key figure in the prison theatre group, Harry Stafford, a Saville Row tailor, made many of costumes. Many of the POW's stayed sane by playing at make believe. Many tried to escape but Chris never did. As the Russia's advanced so the POW's were forced to march from Stalag 20, 800 miles, through a Polish winter, sleeping in the open and eating pig swill to survive. Over 700 men set out, some 400 dying on route to Germany. in Triere, Germany, Chris and his friends were liberated by the Americans - Their War was Over."

    Please contact me if you have any info on Chris or his fellow POW's mentioned in this story.

    Michael Preston

    Frank William Biddlecombe 6th Btn. Royal West Kent Regiment

    My son and I are taking my father to Gdansk to revisit his wartime POW sites. Dad is Frank William Biddlecombe. Now 85, he was a Private in the 6th Batt Royal West Kents. They were sent to France in the BEF and were taken prisoners virtually en masse at Doullens fighting what turned out to a rearguard for Dunkirk. A few weeks later he arrived at Thorn Stalag XXA. He was soon moved out to a satellite camp in Pietsendorf (Piecki) a suburb of Danzig (Gdansk) and from there engaged in his trade as a carpenter iaw the Geneva Convention working in Sopot for several years. In the last 12 months he has started talking about his experiences to his grandchildren. My sister and I have never heard any of this and the horrors he and his colleagues endured are mind bending! Thankfully we are recording this and I am taking a tape recorder with me to capture as much as possible. May I ask if anyone has any experience of visiting Poland and Thorn (Torun) in particular? Would much appreciate any tips; we plan to visit Thorn, Pietsendorf and possible Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) all places dad has talked about.

    Tom Biddlecombe

    Pte. Walter Grant Royal Army Ordnance Corps

    My Father, Walter Grant is 5th from right on the top row. He was a Private in the RAOC. In the same picture is my StepFather, Eric Tuckerman 4th from right in the middle row. He was a Private in the RASC. I hope other visitors will find their loved ones on the photograph and possibly put names to faces.


    Charles Redrup

    Here is a transcibed account of my Father in Law's diary of the forced march from Stalag XXa to Germany from January to April 1945. Charlie died in 2002 and his diary only came to light shortly before his death. Like so many he never spoke of his experiences as a prisoner of war but was heartened to rediscover his diary.

    A Diary of Charles Redrup from 1st Jan 1945 to Repatriation on 22nd April 1945.

    • MONDAY 1ST JAN 1945. Spent most of the day in bed reading. Wrote letters to mum and Joan.
    • TUESDAY 2ND JAN Had a hair cut today.
    • WEDNESDAY 3RD JAN Saw the doctor, must go back again.
    • THURSDAY 4TH JAN The boys for repatriation went on their way to England today. Lucky devils! Red Cross wp. 1 Canadian 30 yrs.
    • FRIDAY 5TH JAN Done my washing today.
    • SATURDAY 6TH JAN Lazing about.
    • SUNDAY 7th JAN Had a bath. Wrote card to Mr Turner.
    • MONDAY 8TH JAN Washed the collars of my two tuniques.
    • TUESDAY 9TH JAN Saw the doctor again today. Got another week of indoor work.
    • WEDNESDAY 10TH JAN Met Emrys Williams again today after three years. He is in our room.
    • THURSDAY 11TH JAN Done nothing but laze about.
    • FRIDAY 12TH JAN Its been snowing all day and very bad under foot.
    • SATURDAY 13TH JAN Ginger started to have his teeth out today and had to go in dark.
    • SUNDAY 14TH JAN Had a bath this morning. Wrote letter to mum.
    • MONDAY 15TH JAN Done my washing.
    • TUESDAY 16TH JAN Saw the doctor this morning and got light work. Must go back friday night.
    • WEDNESDAY 17TH JAN Got stung for a small job this morning.
    • THURSDAY 18TH JAN Had to go out on a working party today. All workers were recalled at dinner time except Stallag workers. All confined to camp. Issue of 25 figs . are under 1 hours notice to move.
    • FRIDAY 19TH JAN Still confined to camp. Air raids all day. Bulk issue red cross.
    • SATURDAY 20TH JAN Up at 3 am and started to evacuate. Marching all day, and spent all night in an open field. It was too cold to sleep. We were building fires all night to keep warm. No sleep. 3/4 loaf.
    • SUNDAY 21ST JAN On our way again at 6.00am. We came through Bromburg and spent the night in an old factory. We managed to get a good sleep tonight.
    • MONDAY 22ND JAN On the move again, all aches and pains. We slept the night in a farm, so I started to milk the cows. Immerheim .
    • TUESDAY 23RD JAN On waking up this morning all our guards were gone and the Russians are here. We moved into an empty house so I'm now OK! The Germans recaptured us again at 4.00pm. Started to march again. Vandsburger .
    • WEDNESDAY 24TH JAN Stopped one day then moved to Vandeburger .
    • THURSDAY 25th JAN Moved off this morning and stopped at Flatow . 1/3 of a loaf.
    • FRIDAY 26TH JAN Left Flatow at 1000pm and moved all night.
    • SATURDAY 27TH JAN We are now resting in a church at Jacov . Moved out at 3.00 pm on the way for Bankenbrugge and stopped in a farm.
    • SUNDAY 28TH JAN Stopped all day in the farm at about half way to Bankenbrugge.
    • MONDAY 29TH JAN On our way again at 8.00 am. and stopped over night in an officers camp at Bankenbrugge. 3/4 of a loaf.
    • TUESDAY 30TH JAN On our way at 7.30am. and landed at a big German Barracks in Grosse Varn Linde. More food than we could eat! Bags of spuds and 2 loaves a man.
    • WEDNESDAY 31ST JAN We moved out at 5.00 am and stopped overnight at Bon Walde. We moved into Bon Walde and then had to go 5 kilometers back for billets.
    • THURSDAY 1ST FEB On our way again at 8.30 am and stopped once more in a farm near Bad Polgin.
    • FRIDAY 2ND FEB We are still at the same farm. Stopped here all day.
    • SATURDAY 3RD FEB Marched to within 6 kilometers of Schivelbein. Stopped overnight in a farm. We have to carry our packs now as it is too wet for sledges to go any more.
    • SUNDAY 4TH FEB On the move again. Had 1/2 a loaf of bread at Schivelbein. Stopped at a farm at Sturgardt . 1/2 a loaf.
    • MONDAY 5TH FEB On our way once more and stopped at a farm 6 kilometers past Plame .
    • TUESDAY 6TH FEB We are now resting in the same farm.
    • WEDNESDAY 7TH FEB On our way again. We have done about 15 kilometeres.
    • THURSDAY 8TH FEB Done about 25 kilometers and stopped 6 km before Wolbin. A big air raid during the night. Our bed was rocking.
    • FRIDAY 9TH FEB We stopped tonight at a marine barracks at Misroy. We got a pea soup here. We were in sight of the sun today.
    • SATURDAY 10TH FEB We crossed the river in a ferry at Swinermunde.
    • SUNDAY 11TH FEB Stopped today at a farm near Usedone after 25 km.
    • MONDAY 12TH FEB We are having a badly needed rest today. The boys are in a very bad state.
    • TUESDAY 13th FEB 18 km today
    • WEDNESDAY 14TH FEB We stopped tonight near Jarmin after 18 km.
    • THURSDAY 15TH FEB We stopped at a farm near Pemmin where we had an issue of a few spuds.
    • FRIDAY 16TH FEB We arrived at a small village, Wagum . We have noe been promised a good rest.
    • SATURDAY 17TH FEB We are now resting. We got a cup full of soup and a loaf between 10 men. Issue of spuds.
    • SUNDAY 18TH FEB Still resting. Soup and spuds. 2 loaves between 5 men. We finished the last of our tea today. Am beginning to feel a bit weak.
    • MONDAY 19th FEB Still here.
    • TUESDAY 20TH FEB We have now been here four days. We have received half a loaf, 4 cups of soup, and a few pig spuds. Haven't had a smoke for two weeks.
    • WEDNESDAY 21ST FEB On our way again. Done 15 kilometers and stopped 6k from the town of Malchin
    • THURSDAY 22ND FEB 18k today, through the town of Tetenow, stopping just outside it.
    • FRIDAY 23RD FEB Moved on again and stopped just outside the town of Gustnow. 20k.
    • SATURDAY 24th FEB Resting here today.
    • SUNDAY 25TH FEB 18 km today.
    • MONDAY 26TH FEB Done 28k today and stopped at a farm 6k past Steinburg.
    • TUESDAY 27th FEB Resting today. Now two days without rations.
    • WEDNESDAY 28TH FEB 20k today to the village of Cambes, County of Schwerin. Had a jolly good soup today.
    • THURSDAY 29th FEB ??? 25 km to the village of Walsmahle, running all day.
    • FRIDAY 1st MARCH 25k again today to a farm 6k past Wittenburg. Very strong wind.
    • SATURDAY 2nd MARCH Resting today. Found my first louse again today.
    • SUNDAY 3rd MARCH Still resting.
    • MONDAY 4th MARCH Only 6 km today.
    • TUESDAY 5th MARCH Still resting, but then done another 20 km to the village of Grusse. We are now living on 2 slices of bread and a drop of watery soup.
    • SATURDAY 9th MARCH We are now stopping in the village of Grusse. I went for a job today chopping wood for a bit of extra food.
    • SUNDAY 10th MARCH Still here. Worked half a day.
    • MONDAY 11th MARCH Same as yesterday. We got red cross today. 1 parcel -100 American cigs between 3 men.
    • THURSDAY 14th MARCH No work today so I did some hair cutting for a few smokes.
    • FRIDAY 15th MARCH Work again making a farthing in the woods. We got spuds just for dinner. I got some jolly good soup of some.............. that were there.
    • SATURDAY 16th MARCH Chopping wood again on the old job.
    • SUNDAY 17th MARCH No work
    • MONDAY 18th MARCH We are on our way once more. Done 30 km to the town of Neu Haus. One of our boys got a 3 kilo loaf of bread.
    • TUESDAY 19th MARCH 26 km to a farm 6 km from the town of Domitx.
    • WEDNESDAY 20th MARCH Done 30 km passing over the river and on through the town of Dannenburg .
    • THURSDAY 21st MARCH We are now resting after having done 85 km in the last three days.
    • FRIDAY 22nd MARCH On our way again. 18km to the village of Borg County of Valgen.
    • SATURDAY 23rd MARCH 20 km today to within 6 km of Valgen . A Cut in the bread today to 6 in a loaf.
    • SUNDAY 24th MARCH 20 km today into the County of Celle .
    • MONDAY 25th MARCH Restday. Had a wash and a shave.
    • TUESDAY 26th MARCH 18 km today. 5 km from the town of Celle. RAF in good form.
    • WEDNESDAY 27th MARCH Big surprise. After doing 5 km we are now waiting in a cattle truck for the train at 6 pm.
    • THURSDAY 28th MARCH Arrived at the town of Emmenthal , after passing through the town of Hamelin which was in ruins.
    • FRIDAY 29th MARCH We are now waiting in a farm until we are deloused, and then going to live in a sugar factory. 2 slices of bread and half a bowl of watery soup. Had some pig meal.
    • SATURDAY 30th MARCH Still waiting to go to the ...billetts. An American bomber came down near here yesterday. The crew taken prisoner.
    • SUNDAY 31st MARCH Much activity in the village making road blocks. Olly, Jack, Alf, and me have decided to spend our next Easter together.
    • MONDAY 1st APRIL Spent nearly all day in bed. Very very hungry.
    • TUESDAY 2nd APRIL Up at 4am. Went to Hamelin for a delouse. The town was bombed before all the boys got back.
    • WEDNESDAY 3rd APRIL A big party went to the town of Hamelin to help clean up after the bombing. When the party got back we all got made to pack. We marched all night.
    • THURSDAY 4th APRIL Arrived at the town of Kaffenburgen at 4am. We then managed to get a bit of sleep. We have now had no food for two days.
    • FRIDAY 5th APRIL Done 20 km today. We were given some 8 spuds. 6 km from Bodenburg.
    • SATURDAY 6th APRIL 25 km today to the village of Badenstein. No food all day. We have been promised soup in three hours time.
    • SUNDAY 7th APRIL Done 25 km today. The Yanks are supposed to be 60 km behind us.
    • MONDAY 8th APRIL Another 20 km today.
    • TUESDAY 9th APRIL 25 km today. One of our boys died today!
    • WEDNESDAY 10th APRIL We heard Yankie tanks in the distance today. The guards are all scared. 81 days on the road. About 690 miles all told.
    • THURSDAY 11th APRIL Magdeburg Ummendorf 30 km. As soon as the tanks came through they threw us out cigs and eats. We are now having a most wonderful time! The greatest day of my life. The guards left in the night and at 11 am the Americans came through and released us. [The American 9th and 2nd armed division]. We are now eating and smoking like lords.
    • FRIDAY 12th APRIL Have been out in the village today getting eggs and other things. 96 eggs and 8 lbs of butter all told.
    • SATURDAY 13th APRIL Went out and got myself a new pair of shoes. Transport came at 2 pm and took us back to a collecting camp. I got a photo taken today.
    • SUNDAY 14th APRIL Got registered today and passed the doctor after dinner. Now waiting for the planes. Sitting in the picture hall.
    • MONDAY 15th APRIL Names were called for the planes but mine was not there. Perhaps tomorrow. Wrote letter to mum and dad. Took some more photos.
    • TUESDAY 16th APRIL Have been listening to names all day, but still no luck. Jack Hales, one of our mates was lucky.
    • WEDNESDAY 17th APRIL Still no luck but we are now put into groups, so stand a good chance tomorrow.
    • THURSDAY 18th APRIL No planes came today at all. I went and saw a film show.
    • FRIDAY 19th APRIL We have just been told to stand by for a plane. It has not turned up.
    • SATURDAY 20th APRIL It has been raining all day and still no planes have turned up. Went out this evening and got two rabbits for dinner tomorrow. Wrote to mum and Joan.
    • SUNDAY 21st APRIL We have just had rabbit spuds and gravy. It was grand. 6 pm. I am now on the plane on my way home. Landed at 10 pm. Have just had a bath and am writing this in bed.

    Names and Adresses of Charly's friends on this trek:
    • Malcolm McIntyre. Dunoon, Scotland
    • Michael Flynn. Belfast Northern Ireland.
    • George Lewis. Wrexham Wales
    • Alex Missen 2 London SE1
    • W Evans Middlesex
    • Fred Brewster Kentish Town London NW5
    • Alfred Olsen North Shields Durham
    • Jack Hales Berkhampstead Herts
    • Frederick Edwards High Wycombe Bucks.

    Alan Scott

    Robert Diamond

    My father Bob Diamond was a POW in Torun (thorn) I dont know which fort. He told me he worked on the river, moving bags of sugar to Germany from Poland. He talked very little of this time, but we believe he was captured at Dunkirk. He sadly died in 2002 and I would be very grateful for any information or memories of him. He was of medium height with red hair and came from Glasgow

    Eleanor Wood

    Jack M. Walker

    I was an Australian POW at Fort 15 POW Stalag 20A in 1941 to 1943. I am trying to find information about Feldwebel Benz, from friends or relatives, who was in charge of Fort 15. He had been a POW of the British in the Great War.

    Jack M Walker

    Pte. Sydney Grindy 5th Btn. Royal East Kent Regiment

    My father - Private 6286696 Sydney Grindy of the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). He served with the 1st, 2nd and 5th Battalion between 1937-45. He was taken prisoner at Le Milliard on 24th May 1940. He was confined in Stalag XXA at Thorn (9/6/40 - 16/4/41) Stalag XXB at Marienberg (18/4/41 - 17/5/43) Stalag XXA at Thorn (27/11/43 - 23/1/45). He was also posted to the following work camps - Elbing Camp from 20/5/41 - 17/2/42 and Konitz Camp from 11/4/44 - 23/1/45. I am particularly keen to trace any members of the regiment who may have been confined with my father during this period.

    I wish I had listened more to my father on the few occasions he spoke about his experiences in the camps. Much of what I have read on the memories page (which is excellent) I remember my father speaking about when I was young. I only wish I had been able to record this information, as many of the contributors to your excellent memories page have already done. As a family we are desperate to contact people - of any nationality - who may have know my father during his time as a POW. Can any one help in some way or offer us some advise?

    Susan Grindy

    Fus. Robert Miskimmin Royal Scots Fusiliers

    Photos from Stalag XXa and sub camps.

    I have very few memories or photographs of my grandfather, Robert Miskimmin of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. Whilst piecing together some information and browsing your site I have seen him in the photograph above, it's amazing! He is standing in the center at the back

    Camp 2A><br>
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    Camp 2

    Tpr. Ronald Victor Page East Riding Yeomanry

    My father, Ronald Victor Page, lives with us in North Bay, Ontario. He wrote a book about his wartime experiences, "European Tour, 1939-1945". It was printed in a very limited edition (12 copies; one for each family member). There is a lot more to his story than he has revealed in his book. He has told us many humorous stories and some very sad one's since he finished the book in 1997. We are trying to encourage him to document more of his experiences and have the book re-written with our help.

    Ron, a member of the East Riding Yeomanry, was taken prisoner near Watou, Belgium on 30th of May 1940. After six weeks of being marched around France and then following a long train ride, he ended up at Stalag XXA, Thorn. About a month later his group was split up and he was transferred to Stalag XXB farm / labour camps, where he stayed for the next few years. On 14th Jan 1945, his group left Deutsch Eylau on foot on a journey through Poland and Germany. The estimated 800 mile march ended near Bitterfeld, Germany, on 25th of April 1945, when they met up with US forces. Ron sketched out the general route they took. Ron would enjoy hearing from any old comrades who may have taken "the tour' with him.

    Gerry Page

    Pte. Thomas Tracey Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

    My father, Thomas Tracey, was in the Argylls, captured at Dunkirk and imprisoned at Stalag XX (A) 3.. He never talked very much about his time there and I have been fascinated to learn what things were link thanks to your project. I have a Daily Record from April 14th 1945, with his picture as also Private Spratt of the Argylls and Private Michael McCourt of the Seaforths. The paper also tells the story of his return home with Privates Michael McCourt of Govan, Joseph Young of Durham, George O'Neil of Ramsgate and Fred Johnston of Stepney. They had escaped from the German prison camp at Hildeheim near Hanover, which they reached after a terrible march from East Prussia and Silesia - over 700 miles in ten weeks. I would be interested to hear from anyone with any further details.

    James Tracey

    William Dodds Pioneer Corps

    An uncle of mine, William Dodds, is recorded as having been a POW at Stalag XXA. He had the dubious distinction of being gassed in WWI and then of spending most of WWII as a POW. He was captured at Dunkirk in 1940. He was always regarded as something of a black sheep and his father's only reported comment on hearing of his capture was that 'Hitler would have to watch out.'

    Although I remember him, most of what I know about his experiences is second hand. I was told that the POWs had a radio under the floorboards which kept them informed of progress throughout the War. This story may be somewhat exaggerated in the telling, although I see from the information on the Web that the POWs certainly did hear about the end of the War before their German captors. I also heard that he had a Polish girl friend who used to help with supplies of food.

    I had heard he was on a march out of Poland at the end of the War, which is presumably the one described by many of the other POWs. He apparently jumped into a ditch in the course of the march, but this only resulted in his being liberated after the other POWs. My father met him at Newcastle Central Station about a week after everyone else had already arrived home. He got frostbite on the march and in later life had to have the affected leg amputated.

    It is a long shot, but it would be interesting to know if this stirs any memories with anyone else. William Dodds came from Bedlington, Northumberland, and was with the Pioneer Corps. He would be in his early 40s when he was taken prisoner.

    Chris Fisher

    John Victor Godwin Royal Horse Artillery

    My father John Victor Goodwin, Royal Horse Artillery, he was captured on Crete after being shot by German parachutists. He was a prisoner in Stalag xxa Thorn Poland from 1941 to 1945. he had a great friend in Sgt Dennis Glover who he met in the camp. I have a few photographs one with Sam Kydd appearing in a camp play, he managed to escape on the march with Dennis Glover and was released by the Russians. His POW number was 25931, sadly he died on June 6th 2004 very fittingly. Sadly before we found this web site. If there is still anyone out there who knew my father as a prisoner I would love to hear from you, as I have lots of items from the camp and lots of memories.

    Paul Goodwin

    H. E. "Joe" Norman Buckinghamshire Yeomanry

    Joe Norman on the right, photo sent to his mother (my grandmother) in March 1943

    letter from Joe

    My uncle H E 'Joe' Norman was at Stalag XXA, having been part of the Dunkirk rearguard with the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry and taken P.o.W then. Uncle Joe has only recently started to talk about his wartime experiences and I now hope to obtain a lot more information which I hope to pass on in due course. Anything regarding the other man in the photo above or people who knew him (or of him) would be appreciated.

    John Bushby

    Pte. John Thomas Patrick Lincolnshire Regiment

    My Grandfather, John Thomas Patrick - Lincolnshire Reg - was held at Stalag 20A after being captured in Norway. He would never speak of his time there to me and even refused to send for his medals. Sadly he passed away in 1992 and is very much missed (though I now have the medals). I would love to find out more about his life there (Nan has just given me a box full of letters and photos which has fired up my interest). I would love to hear from anyone who can remember him or any of his friends.


    Jozef Ciesielski

    My husband's grandfather is Jozef Ciesielski. He was captured by German forces while defending Poland on 17th of March 1939. He was interred in Stallag XXA and Stallag VIG. His numbers were 2426. In May 1941 he was transferred from one to the other, but in what order I am unsure. Joe passed away in 1996 and never really talked about his experience. In doing genealogy work on my husband's family, I have been very interested in trying to keeping Joe's memory alive for being one of the survivors.

    L/Cpl. Harold Astbury 1/7th Btn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment

    My late father Harold Astbury was a prisoner in Stalag XXA (3A) in Poland following his capture at Dunkirk. He joined the territorial battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment after the Munich crisis along with pals in their local rugby club in Coventry. As L/Cpl Harold Astbury 511320 he went to France in January 1940.

    He was first wounded by "friendly fire" when he was struck in the head by shrapnel from French anti aircraft fire. His steel helmet saved him but to the end of his life he had pronounced scars in his scalp, which we would feel as children. He returned to active service just before the German invasion. He recalled the advance into Belgium was dispiriting as they passed through the cemeteries of the Great War. He told the tale of meeting Lord Gort, the C in C while his section were digging a tank trap. After explaining to the General about what would happen with the trap when the Germans came, a junior staff officer piped up at the back. "The fellows talking as though they'll be here next week" Which was, my father said, was precisely what did happen.

    At Dunkirk he said his unit along with others formed a defensive line on a canal on the Franco Belgian border. The next day they found the other units had been withdrawn. The Germans arrived and after a firefight he was wounded by a bullet passing through his top lip and he passed out from loss of blood. He, along with all those who did not get away then passed through Holland where he was seen by representatives of the Red Cross. He was given a pencil and a scrap of paper to put his name rank a serial number. This eventually reached his mother attached to a Red Cross postcard saying he had been seen and was alright, although now prisoner 12197. Others of his regiment were not so fortunate and were summarily executed by the Germans after capture.

    In Poland he was in a fortress built on the old German/Russian border. He said that at one time the Allied prisoners did not occupy the whole fort but that there were displaced Polish families there as well. A sad story he told me many years later was of how the prisoners were exercised by being marched round the top of the fort and that a prisoner had committed suicide by jumping from the fortress wall. He was always disparaging of the prisoner of war films made after the war as they always portrayed the life of officers and not that of other ranks who were required to work by the Germans. Therefore plans to escape could only be hatched in what free time they had. Certainly there were successes in getting home.


    This picture is one I think was sent to my father by two escapees. The innocent scene of two friends fishing is in fact the disguise they used. He also kept to the end of his life a corner of a postcard with an address in Lisbon, which showed someone had reached neutral Portugal. He also had his City and Guilds certificate for Spanish "place of examination Stalag XX". It was part of an escape plan. They would all learn Spanish and pass themselves off as volunteers for the "Blau" division, who were Spanish Nazi sympathisers fighting in Russia, returning on leave to Spain, which was then neutral. There was also tragic irony, two of those who knew to escape returned to active service and one was killed in North Africa and one in the Far East. He also talked of the mysterious repatriation of a prisoner nicknamed "the thin man" as he looked like the actor in the thin man films.

    Prisoners set to manual labour. He told of working at the Christiana tabacfabrik packing tobacco for Germans on the Eastern front. They brought tobacco from the Balkans in cattle trucks and mixed it with a little Virginia tobacco bought before the war. The cattle trucks had been used to move animals and the prisoners were required to sweep everything out of the trucks. This was done with great care so that many a German light up a pipeful of cow dung in Russia! Before the war he was in the post office and also worked sorting prisoners mail and I have been contacted through the website by some one who can remember working with him.

    The prisoners were paid in camp money for this work but the War Office then deducted this from their Army pay accruing in England.

    I also attach photos of my father as a prisoner and of a play put on in the camp. The photo in the contribution by Bill Overy is from the same set. My father is on the back row third from the right in a light jacket. Of the actors he only recalled Sam Kydd who was famous in the sixties as "Orlando" on ITV.

    camp show
    poster for show
    Soldiers in Stalag XXA

    He said that from the camp they could see the vapour trails of the German experimental launching of V" rockets from Peenamunde on the Baltic but discounted as fantasy the Polish reports of the Germans firing railway engines into space.

    Finally the war turned our way and one day in June as he travelled on a train he could see the Poles barely able to control themselves with the news of the Allied invasion of France. As the Russians closed in the prisoners were marched west. By that time the guards consisted of hard-line Nazis too wounded to return to the front and very elderly men whose only skill was an ability to speak English. They were more concerned to reach the western allies and escape the Russians.

    He was finally liberated one month short of five years after his capture. The relived German guards were last seen going off to captivity on an American tank. He was given a "K" ration by the Americans, which contained a hairbrush and shaving kit including a shaving brush, which he then used to the end of his life. The only items he was able to "liberate" were a Nazi party swastika armband and a large bottle of De Kyper cherry brandy. However it was so cold this froze in barracks they were billeted in and the next day a sticky mess was across the barrack floor as the bottle had split

    While a prisoner a young woman from Coventry wrote to him, they had known each other slightly before the war. Her letters to the camp came in a distinctive peach envelope, each of which he kept until the march to the west. He returned to England and they married in the autumn of 1945.

    I also see from the site there were many Scots from the 51st Highland Brigade prisoner as well and as a child there were many visits to old comrades on our summer holidays to Scotland. He also talked about being kept in the forts round Thorn (Torun) and being exercised on the parapets, but that also Polish refugees/displaced families would occupy parts of the forts. Until I read the contributions I did not realise how large the march West had been. He described being on the road with a general stream of refugees including a circus at one stage. Those guarding them by then were either disabled hardline Nazis or elderly men he portrayed to me as being like private Godfreys more concerned about finding and surrendering to the Americans before the Soviets got them.

    His grandson idolized his grandfather and I am sure would welcome any information from anyone who knew him during this time.

    Mark Astbury

    Jack Henry "Taffy" Perks Welsh Guards

    Jack Henry Perks "Taffy" of the Welsh Guards, I was caught in Bolougne on the 28th of May 1940. I became POW No: 8027 STALAG XXA AND STALAG 13 Working parties at Bruss Sept 1940 to October 1941 Also at Dorf Waldorf 1942 to 1944 doing Farm Work. Does anyone have any memory of me?

    Jack Perks

    William Henry Donald Overy 5th Btn. Royal East Kent Regiment

    Pte Bill Overy

    Bill Overy was in the British Army, serving with the 5th Buffs, an East Kent Regiment. He joined the Territorials on the 3rd May 1939 when he was 24 and in April 1940 he went to France. In May they took up positions along the Arras-Doullens road to defend the town of Doullens. They had no backup troops to their rear or any aircraft for support. They had three Bren guns for which there had been little training and three 0.55 inch anti-tank rifles and one 2 inch mortar which unfortunately had no ammunition. All this to stem the onslaught of the 218 tanks of the 6th Panzer division, which overrun them on the 20 May 1940 and he was captured.

    Following his capture they were all herded into a field with thousands of others of all nationalities where they stayed for about 3 or 4 days. When they moved off they received a black loaf, about 9 inches long, to share between six of them. They marched on for days often raiding empty houses to get food and wine to go with the turnips they collected from the fields. Eventually they arrived at a railway siding, where they were loaded into cattle trucks, 40 to a truck, with no ventilation, except for a narrow window about a foot square. They traveled for days through Luxembourg. Germany and Poland some days they ate and some days they didn't.

    They arrived at Thorne in Poland to Prisoner of War camp Stalag XXA which was a large fort but the food was still bad consisting of one litre of watery soup at mid day and at tea time a loaf between five of them and ersatz coffee made from acorns.

    POW`s Stalag XXa

    About 20 men all from the Buffs, were sent to DANZIG in EAST PRUSSIA to work on farms and from there they were allowed to write a card home every two weeks. By Christmas 1940 they were moved to Stalag XXB at MARIENBURG in EAST PRUSSIA. It was very cold and the snow was deep and with no greatcoats it was very bad but for Christmas they had their first Red Cross parcels. They returned to Stalag XXA in the spring and then in the summer of 1941 moved to a new camp outside Thorne.

    POW`s Stalag XXA

    Parcels started to arrive from the Red Cross and from home, so what with these and they exchanged coffee, tea and chocolate with the Poles for white bread, eggs and cakes, life was fair. They got the bread and eggs past the guards by making pockets inside the lining of their coats and dropped the eggs down inside. They had concerts at night in the camp, also football, a lot of the players were professionals from big clubs back home in Britain. Every Sunday they had a church service.

    POW`s put on a play, Stalag XXA

    POW Football Team, Stalag XXA

    In the spring of 1942 they were put on a farm work party in the village of GRUSSAUS GR SCHONWALDE near GROUDENS. They lived in a large house with two Polish families and the farmer and his wife and two children.

    Bill Overy and a friend

    They were split up into pairs to go onto the farms and the guards took them out at 6 in the morning and returned for them at 6 at night. A lot of things changed, they gave the women tea and coffee and showed them how to brew tea. The women did their washing, for which they paid them with soap, chocolate or cigarettes from their food parcels. Bill Overy made friends with John Whitticker from Derby who was the camp barber and they shared their Red Cross parcels so they went a lot further. They would often meet prisoners from other farms and exchanged news, much was wild rumors but it helped to keep up their moral.

    Bill Overy (left) with two friends

    During this time there was a new arrival, which was always a great event as they always had more news. He was Jack Imlack, a New Zealander who had been captured in Crete and was from camp Stalag XXB. He had been in a lot of trouble because he hated the Germans and one night a guard hit him with his rifle, so he hit him back and broke his jaw. For this he got 8 months in a civil jail and it nearly killed him, he was 16 1/2 stone when he went in and 8 stone when he came out. They took him in with them sharing their food parcels.

    POW`s Stalag XXa

    In the spring of 1944 they got hold of an old radio that they kept under the floorboards. Every morning two were left behind to clean the rooms while the guards took the rest to work. This gave them the opportunity to listen to the British news and write it down. When they delivered the milk later they would pass on the news to other areas.

    So came the great day, 6th June 1944. Bill Overy was one doing the cleaning that morning and when they put the radio they found out the Allies had landed in France. They could not believe it and as luck would have it, they did not write it down or pass it on they just could not believe it. When they got back to the fields they told the others, forgetting some of the Poles had learnt a bit of English. By that night the entire village knew. Of course the guards didn't know, they were not told until two days later, so where did the news come from? Their rooms were turned upside down but they found nothing and the Poles kept quiet. Later that week three of them were returned to Stalag XXA with their corporal. When the corporal was being interrogated they heard all he said from the next room so they were all able to tell the same story. They said they had heard the officer in charge of the guard talking about it. That was that, they went back to Schonwalde and the officer went to the Russian front. All mail from home stopped from July 1944 and food parcels came only one a month, so their food had to be rationed. Winter came and in November it started to snow and the temperature was 20 degrees below zero.

    Group of POW`s Stalag XXA

    Early in 1945 they were told they would be leaving at the weekend and they would be walking. So they got rid of all excess baggage, except food, their spare shoes and clothes they gave to the Poles. The three of them made a sledge to carry their food and on the Saturday they left, pulling their sledge, to a camp called Possen. The journey there was not too bad, plenty of snow but at night the guards found them shelter in a barn, as there was only twelve of them. Food was a problem though as their food parcels were very low. It took four days to reach the camp that was an assembly area for all the working parties in the area. They stayed for two days waiting for everyone to arrive then they each were given two Red Cross parcels and they loaded their sledge and started on their way. There were about 400 British and 200 Russians and 25 guards and 6 dogs. The German officer rode in a small buggy pulled by two horses. They had a short rest every two hours, which was not too bad at the beginning but then some started to lag behind. The Germans turned their sledges over and hit them with their rifles and made them leave everything. One night they spent in the open in a football ground, and in the morning they left quite a few behind frozen in the snow. Even if they sheltered in a barn, they never took their boots off as they would freeze solid and it would be impossible to put them on again. As food became scarce the Germans killed some horses to make soup and at one of the place they caught a rabbit, which they killed and ate raw.

    The snow was nearly gone by the time they arrived in STETTEN and crossed the river into Germany but it was still very cold and the rain meant they slept in wet clothes at night. At this point they left the Russians behind. Days did not seem to matter anymore. Walking, walking and more walking. One day they arrived at a farm where there were about 200 British POWs, they were in a terrible state with dysentery and typhus and they were dying like flies. The guards were scared stiff so they quickly moved them on. The Germans started to get trigger-happy and two lads were shot trying to pick up potatoes and another when he relieved himself during the night. And still they walked on, first one way, then another, until they reached the town of CELLE. In HAMBURG they were put into huts near the station. That night the station was bombed but none of them were killed. The guards did not know where go, so they started to take them south into Germany while the sound of gunfire got closer. At this point Bill, John and Jack thought they had had enough so they planned to make a break for it when they moved off. After about an hour they dived into a wood but the Germans sent the dogs after them and they were recaptured. John had been hit around the head with a rifle that split his ear and when they next stopped, they were trying a bit of first aid when the British NCO, in charge, told them the guards had gone.

    So at last they were free, after 5 years. The change that came over them was unbelievable. Where it had been every man for himself, now those who had cigarettes shared with everybody else. It was a wonderful feeling. Of the 400 who had started out on the march, less that 200 were left. Not all had died, a lot had been taken into hospital on the way but it was still a shock.

    They were told to tidy up and were soon busy shaving and washing, as best as they could. The NCO's went to look around and when they returned they said the Americans were down the road and as they were still in the British Army would march into town. Then they were taken by truck to the British main depot at a place called Hereford about 4 hours drive away and then to Munster and flown to Brussels. That night in Brussels they went to the Churchill Club for their first taste of English beer in five years. The next day they boarded another Lancaster for England and home.

    Bill Overy

    Sergeant Douglas Taylor

    Sgt Douglas Taylor Scotland Camp Football Team Names of players

    Sgt Douglas Taylor England's Team against Scotland

    I was recently given some photographs by my mother that belonged to my grandad, Sgt Douglas Taylor P.O.W. 17698 Stalag XXA (3) May 1943. I grew up with them in Aberdeen and this was the first time I’d ever seen the photos. My grandad sadly passed away in the early 1980’s. I feel duty bound to see that they get posted into the public domain so that someone may see their loved ones. I hope that these photos can prove to be as invaluable to others as they have been for me, by providing a window into my grandad's life as a P.O.W.

    One photo taken prior to the war showed his prowess at football, he won 4 trophies in a year with Abergeldie FC: Winners of “The Bon-Accord League Championship”, Orion Challenge Trophy, X.L Cup and the Hay Cup in Season 1930-31

    At Stalag XXA, my grandad was in the Scotland Team against England. He is 3rd from the left on the front row with the bald head. There are photos of both teams – only the names of the Scotland team were recorded on the reverse of the photo.

    My grandad sent the photos and postcards to my grandma in Inchmarlo in Kincardineshire. Sgt Douglas Taylor was a cook in the Army and was given the P.O.W. number 17698. I don’t know which Division or Brigade he served in or even his service number, only that these photos are from Stalag XXA. The photos are date stamped 1943 on the reverse with M-Stammlager XXA Gepruft 19. There are several photos of plays, orchestras, boxing and even one of prisoners playing table tennis. One photo shows the Graudenz Dance Band. Sadly there are also photos of funerals including two for Bob Park, a comrade of 153rd TA RAMC. In one of the photos it mentioned Col. McKay and Capt. Blanthorne in attendance at this sad occasion. Another photo is the funeral of Danny Faulds in 1942 There’s a postcard with my grandad at the head of the table in what looks like a birthday party as there is a cake with his name and a few plates of what appears to be pastries!

    Martin Taylor

    Henry Albert Samuel Humphries Royal Artillery

    My dad Harry Humphries was in Stalag 20a or b, in Poland. I would like to find anyone who would have known him.

    Patricia Hayllar

    Pte. James Cunningham Cameron Highlanders

    Jimmy is back row second from the left

    Names of Cameron Highlanders in XXA

    Jimmy Cunningham was my father's uncle, served in the Cameron Highlanders, 51st Division. He was captured on the 12th of June 1940 St Valery en Caux, marched to XXA, later transferred to XXB. His is POW number was 364. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Karen Hillas

    William Edward Winn Royal Army Service Corps

    My father William Winn was captured at St Valery and taken to Stalag XXa. He spoke very little of his imprisonment but I did see pictures of him in a cricket team playing for The Ashes in the prison camp.

    S Grant

    Willie Smith Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

    Willie Smith 6977059

    My great uncle Willie Smith was a POW in Stalag XXa 35. He was from Belfast and served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He returned home to Belfast in 1945. Son to David and Minnie Smith and brother to Ernie Smith who also served in WW2.

    Kathy Brant

    John Harwood Leicestershire Regiment

    My father, Jack Harwood was captured at Dunkirk in May 1940 and incarcerated in Stalag XXA, Thorn, eventually ending up in Stalag 383, Hohenfals, Germany. He talked little of his experiences but I recall him saying he was on The Death March. I am currently researching his military history.

    Janice Newcombe

    Jack Henry "Taffy" Perks Welsh Guards

    Jack Henry Perks (Taffy) of the Welsh Guards, I was caught in Bolougne on the 28th of May 1940. POW No: 8027 Stalag XXA and Stalag 13 Working parties at Bruss Sept 1940 to October 1941 Also at Dorf Waldorf 1942 to 1944 doing Farm Work. Does anyone have any memory of me?

    Jack Perks

    Gunner Les Hayes Royal Artillery

    I would like to contact anyone who knew my late father, Gunner Les Hayes, Royal Artillery when he was a POW in Stalags XXA and XXB from 1940 to 1945. Any information or photographs would be appreciated.

    Ann Hayes

    Colin Virley

    Colin Virley is my father. He was a POW at Schulitz Camp 34, Stalag 20A. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who knew my father at the camp.

    Keith Virley

    Pte. Donald Martin "Coker " Cargill Seaforth Highlanders

    This was a real Propaganda photo taken in Stalag XXA in 1943. The POW's worked in the camp laundry and were  allowed to wash their uniforms and clothes anytime and could have a hot bath after work. My father Donald (Cocker) Cargill is middle back row.

    Like most old soldiers, Donald 'Coker' Cargill preferred not to talk about his experiences during WWII till the passing of several decades had softened the more painful edges of his memories. But when he did decide to talk about his years as a Prisoner of War, so remarkable were his stories his family wanted them preserved.

    They are tales sometimes so audacious as to be funny. Yet they are no less courageous for that. Was it this courage that ensured he lived to tell the tale? The quick-thinking that so often outwitted the Germans? Or the youthful brass neck that made even his captors laugh?

    Perhaps all these things helped him survive where friends he served with did not. But maybe it was simply luck.. Because Coker considers himself a lucky man. Whatever tragic losses he has suffered in his life - and there have been several - he has, for the most part, held onto the natural cheeriness that's such an endearing part of his character.

    Though he's now in his eighties, you can still picture him as the good-looking, cocksure 21-year-old who went off to face that great adventure, leaving a worried young wife and toddler son.

    His smile is still infectious as he recounts the laughs he used to have, he and his comrades-in-arms, bluffing it out on the run from a POW camp. And if this account skims over the worst of his experiences - the horrors witnessed, the deprivation endured, the losses keenly felt - it's because that's how he chooses to recall them. At least in public.

    Donald Martin Cargill was born in Edinburgh on the 21st April, 1918 and was brought up in Elgin by his granny Elsie Mathieson in a two-storey house near Lossie Green. He left school at 14. His first job was as a message boy for Pullars of Perth, who had a shop in Commerce Street at the time. Later he worked on a petrol lorry, and from the age of 18 had "odds and sods of jobbies."

    "I was on the dole maist o' the time," he says. "Jobs were affa scarce in them days."

    He married Millie in 1938. Encouraged by the bounty offered and the chance to travel, Coker had joined the Territorial Army. So when war broke out in 1939 he was among the first to volunteer for service.

    "We didn't get called up", he explains. "When war broke out we just went down and reported to the Town Hall. We were in the regular Army then."

    He enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders Territorial Unit, 6th Battalion. In it there were lads from all over Moray and beyond, and some older soldiers too. They were stationed at the Drill Hall, which was beside the Cooper Park (it's currently incorporated into a new library building) and did their training in the park in readiness to go to France.

    War had been declared in the September, and Coker and his fellow recruits went first to Aldershot and then to France in early January 1939. Their task was to defend a gap in the Maginot line, a long stretch of fortress-like defences erected specially to protect France and Belgium against German invasion. Though determined to do their duty, it was a hopeless task for the ill-equipped young soldiers.

    "We only had about 60 rounds of ammunition, an old rifle from the first war, and two Bren gun carriers for the whole regiment We were sitting ducks, no doubt about it. We'd about as much chance of stopping the Germans advancing as the Salvation Army would have!" he jokes ruefully.

    While many of Coker's fellow soldiers made for mass evacuation at Dunkirk and a mention in the history books, he and his friend Lance Corporal Jim McCulloch were among the unlucky ones chosen to stay behind and defend the position.

    "We were the boys that should have got all the praise," he points out, "not them that escaped in boats."

    "Every day we were fighting rearguard action. We had been holding defensive positions for quite a while when the Germans broke through. There had been a big push in May 1940 so they went through us like a dose of salts.

    "We lost a lot of boys. My best mate was killed just beside me. I aye mind him turning round to Millie in the High Street, before we left, saying, 'Dinna you worry, I'll look after him'."

    Despite their resolution to fight it out "to the finish" the braveheart Scots who survived were taken prisoner instead. After a march of several days, their German captors herded them into a railway truck for the journey across Germany into Poland.

    At Berlin they halted briefly so the Germans could show them off to jubilant crowds. Once in Poland they were taken to a Prisoner Of War camp called Stalag XXA near Marienberg.

    This was a real Propaganda photo taken in Stalag XXA in 1943. The POW's worked in the camp laundry and were allowed to wash their uniforms and clothes anytime and could have a hot bath after work. My father Donald (Cocker) Cargill is middle back row.

    What were conditions like in the camp?

    "It was bad, but it could have been a helluva lot worse," says Coker.

    Within the huts the soldiers maintained their ranks. Their Sergeant Major was still in charge and it was up to the men themselves to keep their Spartan accommodation as clean and orderly as possible.

    There were 40-50 men to a hut and they slept in bunks, in rows of three.

    There was little food. Once a day they'd queue up for a bowl of barley soup and a slice of bread. It was unappetizing fare. "But anything tastes good when you're starving," says Coker.

    "We had a little loaf between 5-6 of us. As the bread got scarcer, more had to share. There was a lot of childishness," he says, euphemistically. "The boy that was cutting it took his life in his hands if he didn't cut it equally!"

    Polish winters are hard. Sometimes it was 20 degrees below zero. Yet there were bright spots in the prisoners' existence. Some attempt was made to provide them with recreation.

    Football games among the different nationalities in the camp were organized. Coker still has a medal to show for it. There was also a concert hall.

    "Sometimes we didn't bother trying to escape because things were quite good in the camp," he says. But in the five years he was there he did try, five times.

    The first attempt was in the winter of 1942.

    "Me and my mucker got out of the camp all right", he recalls. "It was dark and it wasn't that well guarded. We got under the wire and away.

    "We thought all the rivers would be frozen and we could cross them no bother. But the first ditch we came to, my mate fell through the ice. A run and a jump and he landed in the middle!

    "I said we can't go on further, it's freezing. I'll go back with you. So we crept back in. It learned us a lesson though ….not to go in the dark for a start!"

    Undaunted, they made their next attempt in the summer.

    Coker and his mate 'Mac' - real name Jack Northmore - had been working in the camp laundry where they amused themselves by taking a razor blade to the seams of the German uniforms, nicking the stitches so they'd fall apart within a short time.

    "The uniforms had come from Russia and were often very dirty, so the boss of the laundry thought it was too much soda in the laundry to blame!" laughs Coker. "He used to keep telling us not to put so much in."

    "The Germans were usually easily fooled. I must say we were streets ahead of them as far as using our loaf was concerned."

    This time, Mac and Coker didn't just nobble the uniforms: they filched them, bit by bit - a jacket here, a pair of trousers there, a belt - till both were fully kitted out in the perfect disguise.

    "We thought this was a good enough idea, so we could travel through the day, as long as no-one asked to see our papers," says Coker.

    "I was dressed as a Private but the uniform Jack had got was a Lance Corporal's, and that stopped a lot of lower ranking soldiers from checking us out.

    "We just walked out. Nobody challenged us."

    Congratulating themselves on the success of their daring plan, they yet knew they couldn't afford to be complacent.

    "We walked all the time, but we used to keep ourselves smart so as to avoid attracting attention, brushed our boots and shaved and all that sort of thing."

    They were looking for allies who might help them.

    "Our idea was to get as near to Warsaw as possible because we might meet in with the Polish partisans fighting against the Germans. We would listen at windows to see if the occupants were speaking Polish or German. If they were Polish we would go to the door and explain we were British Tommies and ask if they had any food to spare, or cigarettes.

    "We tried not to endanger them more than we could help. They just left food out for us. They aye had plenty of eggs. We lived on boiled eggs and slices of bread.

    "Sometimes we would come across two or three British boys - other POWs - working in a field. They'd had Red Cross parcels. Jack would shout across to them and they'd tell us where the food was left unguarded at night when all the men were locked up."

    On one memorable occasion, Cocker and Mac came upon a garden full of beautiful apples. Rather than steal them, they thought they'd do the honourable thing and go to the door offering to buy some with loose change they'd found in pockets while doing the laundry.

    "When we went to the door it turned out to be the Burgermeister - the sort of mayor! He said, "Heil Hitler!"

    "Mac asked, could you sell us some apples? He said, 'Certainly, for the sons of the Fatherland! Take what you want, for free!"

    "That stripe on Mac's uniform was coming in affa handy," Coker chuckles.

    Mac, who Coker describes as "a babyfaced ex-public school boy" had worked alongside a German and been taught to speak the language pretty well. Coker himself had picked up a smattering as he went along. Both Scots were also very fair, which helped them pass easily as Germans.

    In the 2-3 weeks they were on the run, they covered a fair distance: 300-400km. In the end though, their empty bellies betrayed them.

    "The way we were captured was, we had gone to this house to ask for food and a young Polish loon came to the door and said come in. And when we got in, two German soldiers were in there.

    "We tried to bluff it out, and they didn't say anything, but we had an idea they knew there was something not right. They never challenged us like, but they smelled a rat and reported it to the authorities in the town we were headed for.

    "The next day we were walking along and all of a sudden German soldiers with rifles were right across the road. This boy, an officer, came up on his horse and asked us for our papers and of course we didn't have any. He said, 'Who are you?'

    "I said to Mac, 'Just tell the truth'. We said, 'We're just having a wee walk round, a bit of a holiday from the POW camp.'

    "He listened and laughed and then he said, 'I was a POW in the last war, in Edinburgh, and they were good to me. So I will be good to you.'

    "I said I came from Edinburgh and he was delighted. I said to Mac, 'You come from Edinburgh too.' He was a bloody Londoner!"

    "That officer was right good to us though. He gave us soup, bread and fags. He kept us there for 2-3 days and said, 'Feeling fit now?' He sent for someone to escort us back to camp.

    "It was an SS boy that came and I mind there was a post with a sign on it, he fired a couple of bullets into it. He couldn't speak English, so that was his way of warning us that if we were going to run he wouldn't miss!

    "He took us on the train. There were a lot of Germans on leave and they were delighted at seeing two Tommies captured. They thought we would get shot when we got back."

    Coker and Mac - still in their stolen German uniforms - eventually arrived at a special punishment camp where the officer in charge looked them over and remarked, 'Well, you look a damn sight smarter than my bloody shower!'

    "He asked how long we'd been on the run, and when we told him he said it was marvellous. He showed us on a map where we'd been, how far away we'd got from the camp, and said he couldn't understand how we had gone so long without anyone asking to see our papers.

    Because he obviously admired his new prisoners' spirit, and thinking to play a joke on their countrymen, he invited them to take the roll call of their fellow British POWs.

    "We thought it would be a good laugh," admits Coker. "The men were told there were two new guards - pretty rough boys. So we took the roll call and we had to try not to laugh at all the dirty names they were calling us, not realising we could understand them.

    "I aye mind this Glasgow boy, he was at the end of the line; he said, 'We'll soon sort out these square-headed bastards!'

    "I just turned round and said, 'Look mate, just watch who you are calling a square - headed bastard, or I'll have you!' He was tongue-tied. The Germans were pissing themselves laughing."

    As soon as the other prisoners grasped who they were, they crowded round them, asking questions. The British sergeant major even asked if they could vouch for another lad from north-east Scotland who'd also escaped from Stalag XXA some time back but who they'd kept in isolation for fear he was a spy, since no-one recognized him.

    "Right away I knew who they were speaking about," says Coker. "The poor bugger had been kept away from everybody all that time."

    Coker and Mac were sent back to Stalag XXA for court martial. They claimed they had simply "borrowed" the uniforms and were given the maximum 21 days solitary confinement with only bread and water and a plate of soup every third day.

    "They had a queer system where you got 21 days for your first escape, I think; 10 days for your second and 7 for your third," Coker recalls.

    "After your third you started at 21 again. It was something to do with the Geneva Convention."

    While prisoners were in solitary their mates would smuggle in the odd fag to them through a hole specially made in the brickwork,or by leave it on a ledge for them to find. Then, when they came out, their Red Cross parcels would have been saved for them. Attempting escape earned men kudos - not only among their fellow prisoners but even with their captors.

    The Germans had a grudging respect for Tommies whose records showed they'd demonstrated courage and cleverness in trying to escape. Each time an escapee was courtmartialled he'd offer up the expected response, "It's a soldier's duty to escape Sir!" and it was accepted that it was.

    "Most of them were trying to escape. It was always the same boys," says Coker.

    None of them thought of themselves as heroes particularly and their fellow prisoners didn't treat them as such.

    Yet it must have been tempting to sit tight and ride out the storm rather than risk being shot. Some guards, who knew they'd be punished for failing in their duty, even tried to bargain with prisoners - give them the cushier jobs if they'd behave.

    Men like Coker would still risk their lives repeatedly. Why?

    "It passed the time," he answers, with a shrug.

    So it was that the daring duo's next escape was not so much to avoid punishment as to bring it upon themselves!

    "We were in a working party in a sugar beet factory and it was bloody hard graft; twelve hours at a time," explains Coker. "After about two weeks I said, 'Bugger this. I'm not staying here to do this. I'm getting out for Christmas.'

    "It was night-time and the factory wasn't wired off or anything, and there were maybe four guards to 50 blokes. So we just escaped.

    "I knew we would get captured but it was a lot easier loafing about in solitary than bloody knocking your pan in. We got into the town (Riesenberg), still in our British uniforms, and sat in the square smoking a fag. We got some funny looks like, but nobody challenged us."

    After two or three days in the cold without much to eat, the squaddies were nearly on the point of giving themselves up when matters were taken out of their hands, Coker recalls.

    "Two SS boys came and asked us for papers. We said we are just out here because it's Christmas. We were only about 7-8km away from where we'd started and one German soldier was told to escort us back.

    "The boy was in a right rage. You're not supposed to tie anybody up but we did get tied up. It didn't strike us till later the poor bugger was missing his leave or something like that.

    "Christmas, and here he was escorting two Tommies into the nick!" Coker laughs sympathetically, understanding only too well his enemy's annoyance.

    "I had a marvellous escape after that," he says. "When the Russians were coming through, we wanted to meet them, so we escaped. All the prisoners were being taken back into Germany from Poland and so on. They marched for weeks and weeks. They had a helluva time of it.

    "Well I escaped about two days into the march - me and about half a dozen boys. When we came to a big lot of trees we asked the guard if we could go for a piddle and we just never came back. There was nothing they could do about it - there were thousands of boys and only 50-60 guards."

    By this time Coker and Mac had been split up. "It was fine when we were together," says Coker regretfully. "We aye escaped. They gave him a job in a working party so we were separated."

    Coker and his new 'partners-in-crime' retraced their steps to the village where there were still some POWs in a compound.

    "We stayed there and I mind there was a boy from Elgin there, a butcher by name of Mackay," recalls Coker. "One of our main meals was roast pork. He killed a couple of pigs and cut them up."

    Unfortunately the first people to stumble across them were not Russians but Germans.

    "They came all round the compound, and the German officer said, 'Who are you?'

    "We said we are POWs, we have all got jobs here. He said, 'Where's the guard?' We said 'He's away to the village to try to fix up billets for us there. He just hasn't got back yet.

    "The officer said, 'Just carry on.' He said, 'You will be going back to London and we will be going to Moscow'. They knew the war was over. We were going to wait for the Russians. Then this boy came and said, 'I have lost my two pals. The Russians were coming and they shot our own boys. They shot first and asked questions afterwards.'

    "We'd heard stories like that already, so when he told us that we thought we'll just have to go. There was no use waiting on them. They might just have shot us.

    "This German officer - a decent bloke - said: 'Well Tommy, if you want to wait for the Russians that's OK by us. But we have a train of wounded coming through any day now. We will get you onto that if you like and that will get you further into Germany.'

    "So we said, 'Aye, bugger the Russians!' Life was cheap to the Russians. And that officer kept his word. He said, 'You can come now under escort.'

    Coker and his fellow POWs were on the train for about a week with little water and even less food.

    "As a matter of fact, I don't even know how we existed," he marvels. "One time we stopped and there was a trainload of neeps nearby so we went and helped ourselves. The guard let us."

    The desperation of men who'd fall ravenously upon raw vegetables meant for cattle feed can only be imagined.

    Indeed Coker has always suspected, though he can't be sure, that Russians who had been taken prisoner and were also on that train had been killed at some point and their bodies dumped in a mass grave, their captors not having the resources to keep them all.

    Although POWs became accustomed to not having much to eat - and in some ways Coker looks back at that time as the period when he was fittest - it did make him angry later to see good food wasted.

    "After the war we hated to see folk not wanting this and not wanting that," he admits.

    The train took its miserable human cargo right into Fallenborstal, a big POW camp.

    "After a couple of weeks there, me and a boy Craig from Buckie got out under the wire and into the wood and escaped," says Coker. "I ran up against the British Army tanks.

    "I gave myself up to them and I was such a sight - I had khaki trousers on and only a vest. I had a helluva job to try and identify myself. I had no papers, nothing. The officer said, 'Where do you come from?'

    "I said, 'I don't suppose you know Elgin? It's a small town between Inverness and Aberdeen.' This boy turned round and said, 'Excuse me sir, we have got an Elgin boy in our platoon, in a tank.'

    "The officer said, 'Bring him up here.' I was quite confident the boy would recognize me.

    "But he was looking at me, not knowing me, and I says to him, 'I see a family resemblance here - if I'm not mistaken you are a King, and your family stay near the college. You have a sister, Maisie.' He said, 'That's right.'

    This was the boy who was supposed to be identifying ME and instead I was identifying HIM!

    "I said, 'D'ye nae mind the ice cream cart that came round - d'ye mind who was on it?' He minded it, so that was another identification."

    The British forces Coker had handed himself over to were on their way to liberate the Fallenborstal camp. Two or three days after that, he found himself on one of their lorries, then on an airfield and finally landing in High Wickham in England.

    He'd a few days in which to be checked over, spruced up and kitted out in a new clean uniform before being allowed home to Elgin on leave.

    "Some poor boys didn't get home - they wouldn't let them because they weren't fit. But I was fine. I was as fit as a fiddle" he declares.

    In fact it was his birthday the day he was travelling home. When he landed in England, he'd sent Millie a pre-printed telegram announcing when he'd arrive. Only he and one other soldier, a Jackie Wilson, were expected.

    Coker's "distinguished service" had been mentioned in Despatches - a great honour - and news of his remarkable exploits had spread.

    "I just stepped off the train and there was a wee crowdie," he remembers. "I didn't realize it was me they were looking for. The bloody streets were lined."

    Millie was there to greet him with son Donnie, who by now was six or seven. Coker's daughter Margaret, who was born just nine months later, recounts a story that when the schoolboy first saw the heroic figure he could only remember hearing about, his first reaction was: "Is that wee mannie my Dad?"

    Family and friends thronged the pavement en route to their home in the High Street. "It was kind of emotional like," is as much as he'll say. But you can imagine there was many a damp hankie that day.

    Coker's leave lasted about six weeks. Thereafter, instead of letting him serve out the remainder of the war nearer home, the army stationed him down in Derby. On September 2nd, 1945, the war ended.

    When asked how he viewed the war, Coker jokes: "A nice long holiday at the Government's expense." But seriously, he paid a personal cost too.

    "I lost my best friends; my pals," he says simply. "One who was in the RAF, Adam King from Keith, was my mate for years. I met him when I was home on leave and that's the last time I ever saw him.

    "He said he was going out on reconnaissance and that it was a dangerous job. He was killed somewhere over the North Sea."

    In more recent years Coker has been at memorial services and reunions at home and abroad, hoping to meet a few of his old fighting comrades who survived, but "there seem to be very few boys around that I served with," he remarks. "At St Valery I did expect to meet one or two, but there was not a soul. It was a bit disappointing."

    Private Cargill, service number 2820565 - a number he can still reel off with ease - needs reminding sometimes that not everyone his age is as relatively sound in mind and limb! He counts his blessings, just as he did all that time ago as a Prisoner of War.

    "I just say I'm lucky I was good natured," he concludes. "I never used to look on the black side of anything. I just used to think to myself, 'Here's me playing football and other poor buggers are getting killed'.

    "We were lucky being prisoners. At least we would see Blighty again."

    Sadly, Donald Cargill, died on the 25th February, 2003. Following a well-attended funeral, at which his service to his country was remembered, he was buried wearing his war medals.

    Ronnie Cargill

    George Collis Royal Engineers

    My father was a POW in Stalag XXA Torun between 1944 and 1945. He was captured at Gazala on 27th May 1942. He spent several years in Italian POW Camps, was later transferred to Stalag IVG and ended up in Stalag XXA in 1944.

    Chris Collis

    Dennis Evans

    I was a POW at Stalag XXA, Kloister Gorka and moved to Graudenz in 1942. I knew Leonard Green and last saw him in military prison Graudenz just prior to his escape. I was marched from Stutthof on 6th January 1945 to near Brunswick, where we were released by the Americans on 13th April 1945.

    Dennis Evans

    Pte. Harry Dalby Black Watch

    My late grandad, Harry Dalby, was captured at St Valery on 12th June 1940 and became a POW at Stalag XXA.

    Michele Carroll

    Charles Albert King Highland Light Infantry

    My dad joined with Army long before the start of WWII and was in Egypt for some time with his reigment. He was captured and became a prisoner in Stalag XXA. His prison number was Heydebreck 0/553KGF.

    Julie Freeburn


    My father was a POW in Stalag 20A from 1940 until the end of the war. His identity disc reads: KR.KEF.Lager Nr.17211. He was on the long march and was finally released at a railay station and given food by US soldiers (who nearly killed him by giving him rich food). He arrived home with very bad frostbite.

    Bill Duncan

    Leonard Whitmarsh Royal Signals

    My dad was a POW in Stalags 20a and 13a.

    Vanessa Harvey

    Pte. Sidney Grindy East Kent Regiment

    My father was a POW from 1940 to 1945. He was taken prisoner at Le Milliard on 24th May 1940 and confined at:
  • Stalag XXA at Thorn (9th June 1940 to 16th April 1941)
  • Stalag XXb at Marienberg (18th April 1941 to 17th May 1943)
  • Stalag XXA at Thorn (27th November 1943 to 23rd January 1945)

    He was also posted to the following work camps:

  • Elbing Camp (20th May 1941 to 17th February 1942)
  • Konitz Camp (11th April 1944 to 23rd January 1945).

    Does anyone have any information about members of the regiment who were confined with my father?

  • Ian Grindy

    Pte. William Allen Queen's Royal West Surrey Rgt

    My late father was a POW, number 6154 at Stalag XXA (Thorn or Torun, Poland). He related how, when he was on a work detail on the road to Danzig, he found the body of a Polish soldier. He told the guard, who informed his officer. They buried him with full military honours, even though he was the enemy. I would like to hear from ex-POWs who knew my dad. He worked on a farm at Torun.

    Christopher Allen

    William Forster

    My father, William Forster, was a POW in Thorn (Stalag 20b) and at Stetten for the majority of the war after being captured in the fall of France. He did not wish to talk about his experiences, but since his death in 1996 I have been trying to discover his history. Can anyone help please?

    Brian Forster

    Robert Diamond

    My father, Robert Diamond, was in Stalag XXA. Any information would be welcome.

    Eleanor Wood

    Leonard John Waterhouse 6th Btn. Queen's Own Royal West Kent

    I am trying to find information about my father, Leonard John Waterhouse, and also Eddie Bauldy and Danny O'Leary, of the 6th Btn. Queen's Own Royal West Kents. Dad was a POW in Stalag XXA and XXB in Poland.

    Eric J Waterhouse

    Sgt. George Henry "Darky Boy" Lupson

    I am looking for information about my grandad who was nicknamed `Darky Boy'. He was a bareknuckle boxer. His real name was George Henry Lupson and he was in Stalag XXA from 1939 until 1944 (I think). Sadly, he passed away in 1977. He didn't like to talk about his experiences. His POW number was 11755. If anyone knows anything about him please get in touch.


    John L. Evans Welsh Guards

    My dad, guardsman John L. Evans, Welsh Guards, was imprisoned at Stalag XXA. He subsequently escaped via Odessa. I have many photographs and dad's diary. Sadly, dad died when I was a young child, due to illness as a result of the escape. I would love to hear from anyone who may have known him.

    Phil Evans

    Harry Lazenby Green Howards (Yorkshire Rgt)

    My father was a despatch rider with the Green Howards. He was captured in 1939/40 in France. He was a POW at Stalag XXA, Fort 13, Thorn 1. His POW Number is 5774. I have photos and stories concerning this camp if anyone wishes to see them.

    Jennifer Lazenby

    Pte. George Mackenzie 1st Btn. Gordon Highlanders

    Pte George Mackenzie

    George Mackenzie enlisted 1938 and served in the Intelligence Section. He was captured at St Valery and held at POW Stalag XXA (152) location: Thorn, Poland. Work detail there included road making (2 years), farm labourer (14 months), cooking for working party (18 months).

    At the end of the war he was commissioned (SSC) from emergency commission as Lt, 1st July 1949 with seniority from December 1946 (source: London Gazette 21st October 1949). Office number thought to be 376296. Transferred from Gordons to RPC 21st May 1952 with seniority to 15th June 1944 (source: London Gazette 23rd September 1952). Promoted to Captain 21st May 1952 (source: London Gazette 18th November 1952). George retired on the 31st March 1973.


    Spr. Robert Cecil James 1st Field Squadron Royal Engineers

    I joined the Royal Engineers, British Army on 11th April 1938. I was captured at St Valery on 12th June 1940 and imprisoned at Stalag XXa for almost five years. I survived the Long March across Europe (approximately 1000 miles) and was demobbed 1946.

    Albert Derbyshire 1 Air Form Sigs Royal Corps of Signals (d.19th January 1945)

    My great uncle, Albert Derbyshire, was wounded and captured at Dunkrik. He was admitted to Stalag XXa in 1940, Stalag XXb in 1941, then moved around till he died on 19th January 1945. His fate is unknown and there is no known grave for him. He may have been executed on the forced march from the Russians. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who knew him.

    Paul Clive Rowley

    Harry Stafford

    My father was in Stalag 20. He made costumes for the prison theatre plays.

    Kathleen Clasper

    Corporal Walter Bloxham Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps

    My grandfather, Walter Bloxham, from Rugby, was a corporal in the AMPC and was taken prisoner in May 1940, aged 43. He spent time in Stalag XXA(3A), though my mother believes she received a letter from Stalag XXB. After repatriation, Walter refused to speak about the war. He remained in poor health until he died in 1964. If anybody has documents, photos or knowledge of Walter Bloxham, please contact me.

    Teresa Wormald

    John Evans

    My father, John Evans (also known as Jack), was captured at West Capelle during the rearguard fight to Dunkirk. I would like to find out more about this battle. He was then imprisoned at Stalag XXA until his escape on 21st January 1945, when he and many others eventually made it to Odessa. The survivors sailed home on the `Duchess of Richmond'. Any memories or knowledge of this would be very welcome.

    Phil Evans

    Pte. Walter Grant Royal Army Ordnance Corps

    My father and stepfather were both in Stalag XXA and XXB. Their names are Walter Grant from Sheffield, a Private in the RAOC, and Eric Tuckerman from Stanley in County Durham - I have forgotten his rank and regiment. I have many photos of XXA and XXB. My father used to have terrible nightmares. Anyone with information please get in touch.

    James Grant

    Les Hayes 60th Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery

    I am trying to contact anyone who knew my late father, Les Hayes, a gunner in the 60th Antitank Rgt. He was captured in France on 31st July 1940 and released on 11th May 1945. He was held at Stalags XXA and XXB. I have three photos from the camps. Dad did not talk about his experiences.

    Ann Hayes


    My father was in Stalag XXA in Thorn, Poland for most of the war. He worked on the local farms. Near the end of the war they were marched back into Germany (in front of the Russian advance), this was also known as a death march. My father only started talking about the war to us after all those years. I was able to find one of his mates on the Commonwealth War Graves site.

    David Mace

    Victor Lewis Charles Glenister

    My father was a POW at Thorn. His name was Victor Lewis Charles Glenister. Most people called him Dick. He was a farm worker from Bucks before the war. He died in 1990 and never talked much about his time as a POW. I remember he had terrible nightmares. I would like to hear from anyone who remembers him.

    Yvonne Lane

    William George "Pete" Hotston

    The POWs from Stalag XXA marched from Poland at the end of January and did a tour of Germany. At Zarrentin they were handed over to the German railways. My father William George (Pete) Hotston went to Hameln (Hamlin) where a POW was shot for looting. They left and carried on marching. They were liberated by two American tanks with coloured drivers from a barn in a valley. Does anyone know the name of the village?

    Jacky Kingsley

    Sgt. Bertie Nicholson MM Royal Artillery

    I am looking for information regarding my sister-in-law's father, Bertie Nicholson, a sergeant in the Royal Artillery. He was presented with the Military Medal by the late Queen Mother at Buckingham Palace. He was captured by the Germans at St Valery. I think he escaped approximately seven times.

    He was in Stalag XXA from 27th April 1943. I think his hut number was 2(3A). He has a number - 2891 - but I don't know if that was his prison number.

    I am also looking for information about Sgt Matthew Cooper, my uncle, who was captured at the same place. He was also in the Royal Artillery.

    Rikki Duncan

    Sgt. Matthew Cooper Royal Artillery

    My uncle, Sgt Matthew Cooper, was taken prisoner at St Valery and sent to Stalag XXB, along with Bertie Nicholson, my sister-in-law's father. They were both in the Royal Artillery.

    Rikki Duncan

    Bdr. John Pickup 23 Field Regiment Royal Artillery

    Dad, Bdr Jsck Pickup, had been in the Artillery for 8 years prior to WW2. They went out to France in Sept 1939 and were stationed near Metz, in North Eastern France. He was a surveyor. They carried out rearguard actions through France and the Somme region to Abbeville. His battery knocked out numerous German tanks using "open sights" at relatively close range. They had become part of The 51st Highland Division.

    They were trying to get back to Le Havre. When near to St Valery-En-Caux, the surveying unit was asked to go towards Fecamp to plot future gun positions. When returning the "truck" they were in was targeted by a panzer machine gunner. There was a driver, a captain, Bdr John Pickup and one other person. The only one to be wounded was the captain, whose arm was almost severed by a large calibre round. He had earlier insisted that they return to St Valery, which had almost been surrounded by the Germans before they left. They dropped the captain at an improvised aid post and Dad never knew if the captain had survived his wounds. Dad didnt think he would have.

    They were in action around St Valery without infantry in front of them and the 25 pounder guns were worn with all the rounds that they had fired. Within a day or two they surrended to Rommel on 12th of June 1940. I have researched and found a captain who I think died on the 11th of June 1940, at St Valery and he was in the 23rd Field Regiment and was from Kent, he may have been the captain mentioned above, a brave and dedicated officer!.

    Dad spent the next four and three quarter years in POW camps in Poland and Germany (Stalag 20a and 357 at Falinbostal) and nearly being killed by Typhoons on a forced march towards Lubeck at the end of the war.

    Graham Pickup

    Leslie William Bryan Welsh Fusiliers

    My father, Leslie William Bryan, was a POW in Stalag XXA from 1939 until the end of the war. He was in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Like many other POWs he never said much but he played the drums in the band and knew Sam Kydd. Does anyone remember him?

    Mark Bryan

    Pte. W Blows

    My grandfather was a POW in Germany during WWII, at Stalag XXA. His POW No. was 10. Does anyone remember him?


    James Gavin Clark Tyneside Scottish Btn Black Watch

    My dad, James Gavin Clark of Durham, served in the Tyneside Scottish Rgt. He was in Stalags XXA and XXB, having been captured in 1940. Does anyone remember him?

    Malcolm Clark

    L/Cpl. George Edward Collins

    My grandfather was a POW in Stalag XXA from 1940 to liberation. He was L/Cpl George Edward Collins. I have a postcard from him showing two mates in the snow outside a hut. Does anyone know anything about him?

    Alan Collins

    Reginald Cleve Holt A Coy 33rd Btn.

    Reginald Holt was captured in Greece in April 1941 and sent to Stalag XXA. He was repatriated to Australia in 1944. He was captured with Pte N. Parnell and Pte P T Green of A Coy 33rd Btn.

    Faye Peattie

    Christopher Arthur "Steve" Howe 2nd Btn Northants

    He was caught in May 1940 and became a PoW in Poland at Thorn (Stalag XXA). He was on long march. He died in 1988; I would like to have more information

    Ivor Calverley Royal West Kents

    My father, Ivor Calverley of the Royal West Kents was a POW in Stalag XXA, fort 13. My father did not say a lot about the time he was a POW.

    Carol Calverley

    Pte. Albert Edwin "Bill" Billington MID. 1/5th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment

    My father, Albert Billington joined The Territorial Army in Leicester during 1939 realizing that war was inevitable. He had a strong sense of duty and of right and wrong and knew that Hitler had to be stopped. Almost immediately after war had been declared in September 1939 he received his call up papers and joined the 1/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment in the rank of private. He was trained, as all infantry were, to use the Lee Enfield rifle but also went on to be very proficient with both the Mortar, and Sten and Bren guns.

    He was sent to Norway as part of the Expeditionary Force under Guy German, his Commanding Officer, in April 1940 and recalled it later as being a complete fiasco. With the sinking of their supply ship, he, like all the rest, possessed no winter clothing and very little in the way of ammunition. Their mortars only had smoke shells whilst rounds for their Lee Enfields, Sten and Bren guns was rationed. He was never bitter in later life about the fact that they had to stop tanks with rifles and that a great many good men were lost in the action.

    Dad, like so many fighting men, could never bring himself to remember or discuss his experiences, saying that he preferred to keep those memories locked away. As a family we know little about the confusion that was the Norway Campaign, the actions that Dad saw, and where he was captured. What we do know is that he was Mentioned in Dispatches for something which he told us nothing about. This was recorded in The London Gazette in October 1945 and I believe Guy Gibson was also honoured at the same time.

    After his capture, he eventually arrived at Stalag 20A (but we don't know at which site) at Thorn in Poland where he remained until January 1945. He was detailed to work in a local sugar factory, and because he was continually hungry, he would eat the beet raw, and any other by-products he could lay his hands on. The high sugar levels he consumed brought about serious skin problems, notably facial boils, and digestive issues. He later became badly jaundiced too.

    He would speak of occasional showers under cold water (the only decent wash you could get) even in the depths of a bitterly cold Polish winter. He would also talk about delousing and fumigation which he detested.

    For recreation, he became involved in the camp shows and acted alongside Sam Kydd on more than one occasion. I also have a colour photocopy of one programme at home from the camp which he managed to bring home with him.

    One other piece of information is that he was shot in the calf by a German Guard at some point, for what I don�t know. Again, not unprisingly, Dad wouldn�t speak about it.

    He endured The Long March to Freedom, and completely against orders, kept a daily log on a postcard. He detailed start and finish points for each day, noting occasionally when they had managed to obtain a Red Cross parcel or if a comrade had died. Throughout the �Death March� my father was accompanied by his friend Frank �Jack� Allen who my father believed had kept him going when he just wanted to lie down and give up. The two would often recount how their boots flapped open at the sole and how they packed them with newspaper and tied them up with bits of string. They talked too of frostbite and sleeping out in open fields under the watchful gaze of brutal guards.

    They remained close friends after the war up until Dad died in 1975, after much suffering that we attribute to his many years as a POW. Over the years the postcard deteriorated and Mum rewrote this diary and a couple of years ago, my son and I spent some time plotting the route. It was interesting to read his brief notes about their journey home after being repatriated by the Americans. Much of the journey across Europe was on horse and cart, American lorries, taxis and even at one point by what he described as a Hansom Cab.

    Dad always maintained though that he had had an �easy war� compared to some. Sadly, I was never able to have that conversation with him to establish what he endured.

    I would really appreciate contact from anyone who knew Dad or who has any information concerning him whilst a prisoner. Thank you in anticipation.

    Sandy Baillie 51st Highland Div.

    My father-in-law, Sandy Baillie, was captured at St Valery en Caux in June 1940 (part of the 51st Highland Division). After being marched across Europe, he spent the remainder of the war in Poland (Stalag XXA and Stalag XXB). He has never talked about the conditions he endured.

    Ian Forbes

    Fredrick Keytes Tank Corps

    My father was in the Tank Corps and was wounded in 1940. He spent 18 months in hospital in Bethune and the rest of the war in Stalag XXa. His POW No. was 20713.

    Chris Keytes

    Graham King Royal Army Medical Corps

    I was a medical orderly with the dental officer at Stalag XXA, but sadly don't remember any names. It wasn't too bad a camp.

    Graham King

    Harry Clayton West Surrey (Queens Royal) Rgt.

    My grandfather was a POW at Stalag XXA in Poland from 1940 until 1945.

    Keith Kendal

    Bmbdr. Sydney Christopher Coulson 97th (Irish) Field Bty Royal Artillery

    My wife's grandfather, Sydney Coulson, was captured in Belgium on 21st May 1940 while serving in the Royal Artillery, with the 97th (Irish) Field Battery. He was subsequently held in Stalag XXA and possibly Stalag 383 until his repatriation in February 1945, after being wounded during an escape attempt. Does anybody have any information on Syd?

    Steve Pearce

    James Henderson

    Does anyone remember James Hodgson who was a POW in Stalag XXA?

    Gwen Joyce

    L/Cpl. Clifford Hoole 4 Ordnance Field Park Royal Army Ordnance Corps (d.21st March 1945)

    Clifford Hoole of the 4 Ordnance Field Park, Royal Army Ordnance Corps was a risoner since June 1940 held at Stalag XXA.He is remembered on the Memorial at Dunkirk.


    Pte. Eric Earl Flisher 4th Btn. East Kent Regiment

    I am trying to find more information about my granddad's time as a POW. According to the information I have from the ICRC, he was captured at Fecamp on 11th June 1940 and arrived at Stalag XXA on 9th July 1940 having come from a Dulag. He was then transferred to Stalag XXB on 1st March 1941 for the remainder of the war. His unit was 4th Battalion, East Kent (Buffs). His POW number was 13947.


    Nornan R. Wardle 42 Coy. Royal Army Service Corps

    My grandad Norman Wardle was a POW in Stalag XXA 319 in 1941 and Stalag XXA 94 in 1943. His Squad No was T/61609. I have a Character Testimonial for him dated 6th April 1939 at Aldershot from a Capt. RCASO Commanding 42 Company RASC. Does this mean anything to anyone or do they remember Norman?

    Christine Cessford

    Jimmy Clark Black Watch

    My father Jimmy Clark was a drummer with the Black Watch? He was captured at St Valery and imprisoned in Stalag XXa. Does anyone have any information on him, any photos would be much appreciated.

    S. Clark

    William Jones Royal Welch Fusiliers

    My Dad, Bill Jones of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, was in Stalag XXa(77) until liberated by the Allies. I have a group photograph that I will upload as soon as I can. Sadly Bill died in 2001 after a long illness. Any information greatly appreciated. I know he took part in a long forced march.

    Stephen J Jones

    Pte. Frank Charles Curtis 2/2 Infantry Btn. (d.6th September 1943)

    I am trying to track down information on my uncle who was killed while a POW at Stalag XXa. He was an Australian in the 2/2 Infantry Battalion. I have little information on him, however the three postcards my mum kept indicate he was at one time in Stalag XXa (1) at some time prior to his death. Nothing is known about how he died. I would like to make contact with anyone who may know of him.


    Fus. Robert Miskimmin Scottish Fusiliers

    I am looking for information about my grandfather, captured in 1940 and taken with the other RSF to Stalag XXa. He was burned during his capture and spent a lot of his time in the camp hospital.

    Iain Miskimmin

    Fus. Robert Miskimmin Royal Scottish Fusiliers

    I am looking for information about my grandfather, captured in 1940 and taken with the other RSF to Stalag XXa. He was burned during his capture and spent a lot of his time in the camp hospital.

    Iain Miskimmin

    Peter Conway Moriaty Royal Engineers

    While researching a family tree I found a postkarte circa 1940. It was drawn by Thomas Burke, POW and printed by The Camp to be sent out from Stalag XXa for Christmas. I also have a Field Service post card dated 20/5/40 from Peter Conway Moriaty (gefangennummer 4578). I am curious to know a bit more about these individuals

    Sally Hudson

    Robert W. Barkley Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps

    Bob Barkley of Blyth served in the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, POW No. 10533, and was captured at Boulogne in 1940. Can anyone help with information on any of these camps: Stalag XXa, 20a, 3a, camp 17 and 135?

    Deborah Sheret

    John Thomas Patrick Lincolnshire Regiment

    My grandfather, Tom Patrick was held at Stalag 20A. He was captured in Norway in 1940. He served with the Lincolnshire Regiment. I have all his letters but am desperate to find out more about the camp (photos etc) - I have some photos that he brought back with him.

    Lisa Patrick

    Pte. Sydney Grindy Royal East Kent Regiment

    Can anyone help me trace fellow members of the Royal East Kent (The Buffs) Regiment who were confined with my father as a POW in 1940-45? My father - Private 6286696 Sydney Grindy was taken prisoner at Le Milliard on 24th May 1940. He was confined in the following camps:
  • Stalag XXA at Thorn (9th June 1940 - 16th April 1941)
  • Stalag XXB at Marienberg (18th April 1941 - 17th May 1943)
  • Stalag XXA at Thorn (27th November 1943 - 23rd January 1945).

    He was also posted to the following work camps:

  • Elbing Camp from 20th May 1941 - 17th February 1942
  • Konitz Camp from 11th April 1944 - 23rd January 1945.

    I am partculary keen to trace any members of the regiment who may have been confined with my father during this period.

  • Susan Grindy

    Pte. E. Matthews

    I have two photographs from 1942 showing a group of POWS at Stammlager XXA. Both are from Pte E Matthews POW No 20311. These photos were sent to my mother who lived in Maidstone, Kent. I believe that Pte Matthews was billeted with her at some point.

    David Archer

    Ron Page 1st Btn. East Riding Yeomanry 1st Arm. Recon Bgde.

    My father, Ron Page, was with the 1st Btn East Riding Yeomanry, and was taken prisoner near Watou, Belgium on 30th May 1940. He was at XXA Thorn, and XXB Marienburg, Elbing, Paulsdorf, Garnsee and Deutsch Eylau. He has a couple of POW group photos from XXB Deutsch Eylau taken in 1943 and 1944. There are names and home towns for 16 of the men in the 1944 photo. He says that the men in the photos are from a variety of regiments.

    Gerry Page

    Ken Short

    I am trying to find out more about my late father Ken Short who was, according to his POW war record cards, in Stalag XXa and XXb. The only bit of information I ever had from him about his POW years, was about the long forced march he did with all other prisoners from Poland into Germany in January, February and March 1945. Sadly, he is not in any of the photos on this site.

    Colin Short

    Pte. Walter Grant Royal Army Ordnance Corps

    My father, Pte. Walter Grant, served in the RAOC and was in Stalag XXA and XXB. He came from Sheffield.

    Pte. Eric Tuckerman, who was in RASC, was also in Stalag XXB and became very goods pals with my father. When my father married my mother, Stella Arber from Sheffield on 29th December, 1945, Eric was my father's best man. Later, when my father died in 1975, Eric courted my mother and they were married in May 1977. Sadly, Eric died in 1996 and my mother died on Christmas morning 2002. I have put on my webpage a group photograph of Walter, fifth from the right on the top row and Eric fourth from the right on the middle row, when they were in Stalag XXB. There is also a group photograph of Walter second from right middle row when he was in Stalag XXA as well. webpage:

    James Grant

    Zygmunt Frackiewicz 2nd Btn. Artillery Rgt

    I have just begun researching my late father, Zygmunt Frackiewicz. He was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1914 and was 25 years old when Germany invaded Poland. He was held POW from 1939 to 1944. I have a document with the letterhead "Comite International De La Croix-Rouge. It is dated 14.9.48 and states:

    1. Incorporation: 2e Regt Artillere

    2. a ete fair prisonnier le: 19.9.1939 a Brzezany

    3. et interne: aux Stalags XVIIA-XX A et VI J

    4. sous le numero: 36398

    Le resneignment ei dissus est atteste par: des listies de prisonniers de guerre Polonhias des Stalags XVIIA-XXA et par une carte de presence au Stalags VI J du 1.8.1944.

    Can anyone give me any information/input/comments regarding this. Did POWs travel from Stalag to Stalag? Does anyone have any information regarding Zygmunt Frackiewicz?

    Susanna Frackiewicz

    Frederick Brooks Somerset Light Infantry

    My wife's father, Frederick Brooks was a POW in Stalag XXA and he was in the Somerset Light Infantry. Unfortunately, we know nothing about how long he was a POW so any information would be gratefully received.

    Terry Moss

    Pte. George James Elijah Butler East Kent Regiment


    My father, Private George James Elijah Butler served with the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs. He was captured in Belgium in 1940 and sent to POW Camp Stalag XXA13. His prisoner number was 12556. In WW2 my father, along with a great many others, was a part of the British Expeditionary Forces that was sent to Belgium to fight the Germans. He was in the Royal East Kent Regiment (The Buffs). His battalion was 20 men over strength making it 1020 men in all.

    He told me that he didn't have a tin hat - he only had a beret - and his mate had a tin hat but didn't like it, so they swapped. He went on to say that this helped to save his life, because shrapnel hit the tin hat and made a hole in it. He also was saved by his tin mug and tin plate in his kit bag because they stopped a spent bullet that hit the kit bag. They were sent over to Belgium without adequate weapons or supplies to be able fight the Germans. As a result, 1000 men lost their lives. At the end of the battle the twenty who were left were ordered to surrender. He was captured before the fall of Dunkirk. When he was captured he, along with a great number of others, was paraded in a large sports stadium. They were being paraded in front of Adolf Hitler and other top Nazis. I remember my father telling me that a German guard told him to stand to attention. He told me the answer he gave the guard and it's a wonder he wasn't shot by the guard.

    He was force-marched into Poland via Holland with many other British troops. He ended up in Stalag XXA13 in Poland. He made three escape attempts, but did not make a home run. On one of the escape attempts he and some of his mates removed some iron bars which were set into a frame that was set into the stone work of a window that overlooked a road and climbed out straight on to the road. Their mates then put the iron bars back in place. They were all recaptured. After they came out of solitary he was told by his friends that the SS came to try to find out how they manage to escape. His mates told him that the SS officer reached up and pulled on the iron bars and the bars gave way and fell on top of him. My father told me that he wished he hadn't escaped that time, because he would have loved to seen the bars fall on the SS officer. During another escape they removed a large stone block from the wall which was replaced by their mates once they had made their escape.

    Another of the escapes was when he was working on a farm. The German sergeant pulled out his gun and told all the prisoners that he would shoot anybody that tried to escape while he was in charge. My father told me that became a challenge to him and his mate. So they both did a bunk as soon as the guard's back was turned. They were both recaptured by the Polish police and were held at the police station until they could be escorted back to the prison camp. The guard who came to escort them back to the prison camp was the same sergeant who had said he would shoot anyone that escaped while he was in charge. So my father and his mate told the Polish police officer that if they went back with that sergeant he would shoot them before they got back to the camp and they told him what the German sergeant had said to them. So the Polish police officer phoned the prison camp and asked for a German officer to come and escort them back to the camp because the sergeant has told the prisoners that he intended to shoot them.

    On one of my father's escapes he was put in a concentration camp when he was recaptured until the camp guards could come and pick him up to escort him back to the prison camp. He told me how he was put to work on a farm and that the farmer's son was trying to shoot crows for food and that he wasn't a very good shot, so my dad persuaded the farmer's son to let him have the gun to shoot the crows for him. So my father ended up shooting the crows. It was a good job that there were no German guards about at the time. My father was a marksman with a rifle and Bren gun.

    The atrocities he saw I cannot put here - there were many of them. He suffered all his life with bad health because of being a POW. He had nightmares most of his life because of what he had seen. He also survived a 600 mile death march.

    I am now trying to find out as much as I can about his service record because when he was alive he would not tell me as much as I would have liked him to.

    Michael G Butler

    Ian Morgan Goodyer Royal West Kent Regiment

    My late father Ian Goodyer served in the Royal West Kent Regiment and was a POW at M-Stammlager XXA. I have many photos of him in groups and fellow prisoners and wondered if anyone still remembers him or served with him. He lived in Wouldham, Kent and was part of a large march through Poland and also worked as a prisoner in the Black Forest.

    Doug Goodyer

    George William Frederick "Bob" Jacobs

    George William Frederick Jacobs known in his wartime years as Bob, passed on January 21st 2004 aged 84 yrs after a brave battle with illness.

    George is mentioned in the diaries of Sapper Rex Pearson in 1945 and also in his list of friends on this site. He was taken POW in Dunkirk and George eventually ended up in Poland (Stalag XXA). A kind man, a much loved father, grandad and indeed much loved father-in-law in our hearts and memories he shall live forever along with his brave comrades.

    Janet Jacobs

    Albert Elliott

    My brother Albert was a POW in Stalag XXA, Torun, Poland, for five years and he passed away in 1984.

    Ron Elliott

    Robert Diamond

    My father, Robert Diamond, was in Stalag XXA for five years. He was taken prisoner in Dunkirk. Sadly he assed away in 2002, aged 82. He rarely talked of the war.

    Eleanor Woodf

    Pte. George Harvey Tattersall 4th Btn. Cheshire Regiment (d.5th March 1944)

    George Tattersall was captured at Dunkirk and taken to Stalag XXA. He was in the Cheshire Regiment and was shot and killed on 5th March 1944 while trying to escape. Any information would be very welcome. He is buried in Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery, Poland.

    Martin Vaughan

    Pte. Arthur Lionel Grant 2nd Btn. Wiltshire Regiment (d.28th Feb 1945)

    My uncle Arthur Lionel Grant was a prisoner in Camp 3A at Stalag XXA from June 1940 until liberated by the Russians. He died on the march (28th February 1945) and is buried at the Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery in Poland. Can anyone tell me what type of work was done there?

    June Tulloch

    Pte. John Edward "Ted" Leese Notts & Derby Regiment

    My father, John Edward Leese, who was a member of the Sherwood Foresters in the British Army in WWII. He was captured at Dunkirk. Dad was not one to tell of the horrors of war. His family is in Australia (where he and mum emigrated after war) and believe he was in either Stalag 9 or 11 in Poland. Dad told a story of being marched for days and days across Poland. This story I have read on many websites. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Update: Just in case you do not have this information, Prisoners of the British Army lists: Leese J.E., Pte 4971012, Foresters, POW No. 8659, Camp Stalag 20A (located at Thorn Podgorz). - Stuart Brown

    John Leese

    Edward G. Burn

    My wife's uncle was a POW No. 14658 and was interned in Stalag XXB, XXA and VIIB. Sadly, he is now deceased, his name was Edward G Burn. He was captured in or near Dunkirk. Does anyone have information on him, photos of the camps, how they got to these camps, how they were liberated, or information on anyone who might have known him?

    Andy Merrett

    L/Cpl. Fredrick William Freeman

    L/Cpl William Fredrick Freeman, POW number 7543 was captured at Dunkirk and imprisoned at Stalag XXa near Thorn, Poland. Does anyone have information?

    Colin Freeman

    L/Cpl. George T. Gilbert King's Royal Rifle Corps

    I've recently been trying to find out more about my grandfather. He was in the King's Royal Rifles and was captured defending Calais. He was sent to Poland where he spent the rest of the war as a POW. Can anyone give me more information?

    Update: There is one G Gilbert of the KRRC listed in the POW book. Camp 20A Thorn Podgorz). Prisoner number 6735. Gilbert, G.T. L/Cpl 6844890, K.R.R.C. - Stuart Brown

    John Colverson

    Robert "Bully" Dunbar Gordon Highlanders

    My uncle, Robert Dunbar (Bully Dunbar), was in Stalag XXA. He was in the Gordon Highlanders. He was in the rearguard at Dunkirk and was captured in June/July 1940. I have recently found a photo of him inside his hut in a group of 21 POWs (post marked 00.3.42--0, M-Stammlager XXA Gepruft 19. - Sender R. Dunbar cpl No. 5212 Stalag XXA(5)). I have been trying to gather information on him.


    Harry Marshall-Deane

    I was a POW at Stalag XXA from June 1940 until 1941 when I was shipped out to the Herr Fresian farm at Fisherbabski (not sure of spelling) near to the Vistula river. Later shipped to other farms in the area. Eventually I escaped from farms around February 1945 to a seaport on the Baltic. Disguised as a civilian I was loaded onto a ship via landing craft and sailed to Keil. From Keil to Lubeck and then on to Lumburgh. Does anyone remember me?

    Harry Marshall-Deane

    Edwin Leighton

    My grandfather was at Stalag XXa and I was wondering if anyone has any information about him. His name was Teddy Leighton and I remember him saying that he was a barber there at some point. I'm at university studying history at the moment and would love to get more information about him to relay to my mum.


    Dvr. David Ballantyne "Ginger" Johnston 643 Coy. Royal Army Service Corps

    Stalag XXb Football team David is in front extreme right. Goalkeeper is Jim Gillespie from Cambuslang Lanarkshire, also in photograph is Bill fisher from London and Jim MacDonald from Whiterashes Aberdeenshire but I cannot Identify them

    David See also: Ballantyne Johnston Dads War.jpg & Word doc

    Variety Show Written on back is No 3323398 1st Battalion Black Watch R.H.R. C Coy B.L.A

    David Ballantyne Johnston enlisted at Perth on 19th of October 1939 (Aged 20) left behind his wife and 8 week old daughter. He trained for six weeks at Fort George, Inverness. Attached to 51st Highland Division Cameron Highlanders and sent to France The battle is well documented, when his group realised they were in a hopeless situation orders were given to disable all trucks and equipment, The engines of the trucks were made to run jammed at full throttle and the sump drain plug removed.

    He was captured, at St. Valery en Caux May 1940:- The German soldiers looted the prisoners belongings; the Camerons kilts were particularly prized. Having been searched the prisoners were made to run over a hill three at a time, when they were out of sight a machine gun was heard to fire, however when Davids turn came he found that the gun was pointing in the other direction and they were victim to the macabre sense of humour of a few German soldiers, all his mates were safe. They were then loaded into trucks, to be taken to Poland marching most of the way, but sometimes by train (cattle trucks) also by barges.

    Imprisoned in XXa, Thorn. later transferred to XXb Marienburg. Camps: - Stalag XXa Main Camp then Stalag XXb work camp, David worked in a tar factory supplying tar for airfields, and making coal briquettes. Then Germans found he was a driver and was used as driver/labourer. In January 1945 the men were confined to camp, with no work, then told they were leaving as the Russians were rumoured to be nearby, Then The Death March My dad told me when they met the advancing Americans several prisoners pointed out the Guards who had treated them fairly and of course those who had abused them. This was at Magdeburg in April 1945, after a march of around 85 days ( he lost count.) He waited 10 days for an American Dakota to fly him home. He had Home Leave, in May 1945 and was discharged at the Military Dispersal Edinburgh on the 17th of February 1946. Arrived home suffering from Dysentery, and a tarry substance leaking through his sweat glands. A legacy from his years in the tar factory. His daughter was now 6 years old and took time to get to know him. Despite the law which was supposed to ensure a former employer would re-employ those who had served, he and many other ex- service men found themselves without a job. My Mother hated the Germans but my dad always made the distinction between Germans and Nazis.

    David Johnston

    Pte. Matthew Thompson Royal Army Medical Corps

    Matthew Thompson is a relation of a lady called Myrtle Thompson, who comes into the school we attend in Trimdon Station Co. Durham, as part of an AGE UK Co. Durham project. She brought in a diary from Stalag XXa (45), which his details in and we are trying to find out more information about him for her. His POW number, according to his diary is: 17377 and he was captured on 12th of June 1940 at St Valery.

    Peter Atherton

    Pte. George Edgar Ford 7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (d.9th Sep 1940)

    George Edgar Ford was an apprentice draughtsman working at Alfred Herbert in Coventry before the war. He was captured in the defence of Dunkirk on either the 27th or 28th May 1940. He was taken to Stalag XXA.

    Unfortunately, he died there. According to the official report from Germany he died from 'cardiac weakness following internal inflammation and phthisis' on 9th of September 1940. He had written to his parents: "I don't like to keep asking for parcels.... our major interest here is where our next bit of food is coming from."

    Brian Blackford

    Pte. Richard Ward Royal West Kent Regiment

    My dad, Richard Ward, was in Stalag XXa from 1940 to 1945. Does anyone know anything about his time there? We have some photos but no names. He worked on a farm. The farmer's daughter was called Wanda and he had a tattoo with her name on it. He also worked in a sugar factory.

    Marianne Bennett

    James Clifford

    In the inheritance left to me by my mother in Holland, I found some documents about a ration packet meant for a James Clifford, no.I75II at Stalag XX-a Thorn Wehrkr. Danzig.

    Zwaan Tineke

    Bdr. Alfred Gray 58th Light AA Regt Royal Artillery

    My father, Alfred Gray, a prisoner of war, did not arrive home until April 1945 after three months forced marching.

    Alf was taken prisoner in 1940 fighting in the rearguard action near Dunkirk to help our army to retreat to the beaches. My mother, Violet, received a letter in June 1940 from his Captain informing her that her husband was "still missing - last seen at Hazebrook on May 27th." At last a card came from the Red Cross, Geneva, dated 1st July 1940 stating that "Gray Alfred Ed. Bombardier 58th Light AA Regt. R.A. is interned in camp Stalag XXA. He is well." This must have been a great relief to know he was alive. I was 4 years old when my mother was going through this worrying time. There followed five long years of separation but they kept in touch with loving correspondence.

    My father also kept a diary during his time as a P.O.W. I found the diary when I was clearing my parents' bungalow in 2000 after Dad had died, aged 90 years. He was 35 years in 1945 when he and his comrades endured their three months ordeal. Here are some excerpts of the graphic details:

    • 20 Jan. 3 a.m. Forced evacuation march from Thorn - 32kilometres to Schulitz - slept in field of snow.
    • 21 Jan. 6 a.m. 41k. Bromberg - sleep in garage.
    • 22 Jan. 32k. Immenham.
    • 23 Jan. 14k spend night in Fire Station.
    • 24 Jan. 4k Vanburg
    • 25 Jan. 40k big farm outside Flatow
    • 26 Jan. Receive bread rations and polony.
    • 27 Jan. 20k sledge breaks down, dump all kit, wet feet. move off 2.30 p.m. 10k.
    • 28 Jan. Farm. tend skinned and frostbitten feet.
    • 31 Jan. 40k gruelling march, hilly roads thick with snow. Boys all in. Still no hot meal.
    • 1st Feb. 20k to barn. Hope terrible ordeal will soon be over."

    It was not to be over soon. They marched into Northern Poland and then through Germany. They had very little food, often just potatoes. Some men were too weak to carry on. Dad was worrying about not being able to write home.

    • By 16th February they had marched 571k. and survived heavy bombing. "lice among boys - no change of clothing or a bath"
    • 16th March "I am still sticking it out. I am coming back."
    • 18 March - total distance in 8 weeks 775k.
    • 21 March pass over River Elbe. Pass refugee wagons, 13 dead horses on roadside.
    • 24 March hundreds of our planes overhead.
    • 26 March - distance marched 926k. CELLE.
    • 28 March - air raids, entrain in goods wagons, 60 men in a wagon, 1 loaf to 6 men, very uncomfortable.
    • 29 March Springe, split into working groups along railway line.
    • 2nd April - Germans pouring back from West. Yanks outside Kassel. German troops rushing from East to stem attack. Still no chance to write home.
    • 7th April - 5 a.m. march 43k through Hanover - people hungry, Jerries deserting.
    • 11th April - Germans flee, only 12 guards.
    • 12th April -It looks as if I will be home for Irene's birthday honey. (Every daily diary entry ended with a personal loving message)
    • 14th April - Yanks 3k away WE ARE FREE.
    • 16th April - with 2 friends commandeer tractor but halted by blown up bridge. Yank lorry takes us to Hanover. REMEs take us to camp.
    • 17th April receive bath, delouse, burn all clothing and receive brand new outfit. Good dinner, sent Celle for transport home, three men to room, spring bed!
    • 18th April 8 a.m. bacon and beans. Over 600 men here waiting for air transport.
    • 22nd April leave in transport planes for Tilburn, change planes, cross Channel in Stirling bomber, Ostend to Clacton, land Aylesbury. Wonderful reception and tea by WAAFs then to Amersham in lorry to a Reception camp.
    • On 23rd April after three months with no news Mam received telegram "DARLING ARRIVED SAFE SEE YOU SOON LOVE ALF."

    Sgt. Alexander Walter Cleland 1st Btn. Gordon Highlanders

    serving in the Khyber Pass

    POW letter to Mother

    Alex Cleland was born at 22 Eve Road, Plaistow, East Ham, Essex. He went to the Napier Road School, and left at the age of 14. He joined the Army Territorials, before joining the Gordon Highlanders, he signed on for 7 years on the 23rd of Aug 1928. He served in India and Palatine leaving the Army in 1936. He joined the British Post Office but was returned to the Army for the 2nd World War on the 2nd of September 1939 and was promoted to Sargent. He was captured during the British retreat at Dunkirk on the 12th of Jun 1940 and was a POW until 19th of Apr 1945 in Stalag XXA Thorn, Poland and Stalag XXB Marienburg, East Prussia. He spent time in hospital and recuperating at Hatfield House, and was discharged on the 13th of Nov 1945.

    Graham Cleland

    Pte. Sidney Ellis Griffiths Wiltshire Regiment

    This story, although there is not much of it, is for my late uncle Sidney Ellis Griffiths a private in the Wiltshire Regiment who was captured at Dunkirk in 1940. His Army service number was 5567902 and his POW number from Torun 20a (Thorn 20a) was 10575.

    He died aged 79 in Bloxwich near Walsall without giving away much about his time in captivity. I know that at Dunkirk he was bayoneted in the left side of his head, face and neck, fortunately missing the jugular, he bore the scars for the remainder of his life. I also recall him telling me about a German guard nicknamed "Fingers". (Typical army humour, this guard was wounded and had no fingers on his one hand.) Uncle Sid said "He was alright and did us a few favours at risk to himself", others (guards) "were right buggers!" The march towards the end of the war was very, very hard and harrowing he said, "but we made it".

    The really sad end to this story is the reaction of my grandfather, Sid's father, to the return of his two sons, my father (RAF) was the other one. When my father went to his room at home that he had shared with Sid prior to the war he found it empty of all of their belongings and on being asked what had happened to them my Grandfather replied, "I didn't think either of you would get back so I sold them". Unbelievable. I am ashamed to relay this part of the story but it is true, I wonder if anyone else has a similar tale...I hope not.

    My dad told me the years of captivity affected Sid badly and he would have little to do with anyone apart from my dad and his long-time girlfriend, and later his wife, Nora. He suffered badly with his nerves for many years and developed alopecia because of it. In later years, like thousands of others, he rarely complained about his lot and as he said "We were the lucky ones, we made it". Thanks Uncle Sid'

    John Griffiths

    Pte Harry Smith 4th Battalion Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

    My Dad, Harry Smith was captured in Belgium in late May by the Albert Canal in 1940 He was a prisoner of war for 5 years until "the long walk" and a lift home. I have a letter he sent to his Mother in 1946 saying he was in hospital to be fattened up then he would be home. He gave his address as Mid Glamorgan Hospital but no records can be found? I have found records that suggest he was in Stalag XX-A but another records suggests it was Stalag XX-B so perhaps he was moved around. Dad, like many other brave men who endured this horror never spoke about it to anyone other than to remark when asked once about friends, "I lost my friends in 1940". I am slowly gathering snippets of information but if anyone thinks they can fill some of the gaps?

    Robert Smith

    L/Cpl. Stanley Henry Gordon Elliott 1BDE Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

    My grandfather, Stanley Elliott, died back in the UK when I was very young, after emigrating to Australia with his family in 1951, and from stories my mother has told, he didn't like to speak about his time in the war.

    From the information I have researched he was captured during the retreat at Dunkirk in 1940 and sent to Stalag XXA in Thorn (Torun) for the rest of the war.

    If anyone has any photos or information about him during that time, I would be extremely grateful.


    Pte. Leslie Gilbert Dudley 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment

    Private Leslie Gilbert Dudley Battalion 6th Bn. West Kents He was captured on the 25th May 1940 at Doullens, Somme, France and ransferred on the 29th July 1940 From Stalag VI D, Dormund, to Stalag XX A, Thorn (according to list dated 01.08.1940) His Prisoner of War Number was 20150 from information received from the Tracing Agency, Red Cross, Geneva.

    Cpl. Norman Edgar Lewis Royal Welch Fusiliers

    Cigarette case

    Cigarette case

    My father, Norman Lewis, was a regular soldier before World War Two but after serving was a civilian clerk with the War Office. When war broke out he was called up. Dad was in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, but I think he originally enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment. My eldest sister, Valerie, was born in January 1940, and my father saw her before embarking for France. At the beginning of June he was captured as a member of the rearguard forces near Dunkirk. He did not see my sister again until she was 5 years old.

    He was eventually taken to Stalag XXA in Thorn, Poland and spent the rest of war there until the camp was evacuated in January 1945. During his time in captivity Dad worked on farms and did other work in the area. When the camp was evacuated the prisoners were forced to march more than 800 miles in one of the coldest winters on record. During this march Dad became ill with bronchitis and frostbite. If prisoners couldn't march they were often shot or left by the roadside. A Russian prisoner on the march made a sledge and pulled Dad along, and also built bivouacs in the snow at night to keep warm. Dad shared his meagre Red Cross rations with this man. His family still has a cigarette case made from a tin can which the Russian made for Dad.

    Dad died in 1991 and in common with many veterans, he spoke very little about his experiences. We all feel very sad that we didn't ask Dad more when he was still here with us. We have no one left now who can fill in the gaps.

    Sheila Cinelli

    Pte. James Walker Serginson Border Regiment

    James Serginson was a POW (Number 7213) at Torun, Poland in Stalag 20a after the fall of Dunkirk.

    Marianne Martin

    W. Rosenberg

    On sorting through books today I have come across one entitled Wayside and Woodland Trees, a guide to the British Sylvia. The inside sleeve has a stamp Stalag XXA, Gepruft,42 so I presume it came from the camp Red Cross library. It is numbered 1018 and has the name W Rosenberg from Falkirk written in pencil.

    Margaret Stenhouse

    William C. Law 2nd Btn. Gloucester Regiment

    For You the War is Over Tommy

    Of course it had to come, Hitler had been seizing all the smaller states and threatening others. So when he marched on Poland it was the last straw, for Britain had warned him that we would not stand idly by, but would go to the aid of Poland.

    It was the 3rd September 1939, and I was digging air-raid shelters when I heard that we were at war with Germany; and it was only the day before, that I had received my calling up papers, so it looked as though I would be in for some excitement.

    I lived in Bristol at this time, and as I was to join the local regiment which was the "GLOUCESTERSHIRE" it meant that my training would be done at the Horfield Barracks, Bristol. So on the 15th September 1939, I presented myself at the correct hour, was "kitted out" that is the term used by the army for being given a uniform and all that goes with it, such as a rifle & bayonet, equipment and a housewife; no a housewife is not a lady, but a small cloth pouch with needles and cotton in, so that you can mend your own clothes, not quite so exciting, infact just the opposite, with all the name tags to be sewn on, the boots to be burnished, the equipment to be blanco'ed, and the brass to be cleaned. This was the first bit of training, where a man had to learn discipline, up at 6am wash - shave, make-up beds, polish barrack room floor and on parade in gym kit by 7am for P.E before breakfast, then at 9am it would be on parade, fully dressed for the C.O.s inspection, before a full day of drill and training for the day when you would have to face the enemy.

    After eight weeks of this basic training we were split into groups and I was sent to the rugby ground with some others to have instructions on driving, although all of us held driving licences, we had to learn to drive the army way.

    All this time the war was going on, but no real action had taken place as far as the army were concerned; at the start some soldiers had been sent to France and this force had been called the B.E.F ( British Expeditionry Force ) but their main function seemed to be digging anti-tank traps along the Belgium border, with an occasional trip up in front of the MAGINOT LINE, "this being a concrete structure along the German & French border, manned by the French army" and our men would go out on patrol to see what the German soldiers were doing in their defence line which was called the SIEGFREDE LINE

    Our navy had been more active and had won a victory by making a German captain scuttle his boat which was a pocket battleship called the "GRAF SPEEY".

    On the other hand the R.A.F much to a lot of peoples annoyance had been going over to Germany nearly every night dropping "no not bombs" but leaflets.

    So Christmas came and so did the end of the year with nothing much done by us, it seemed to be just a war of nerves; even the German troops seemed to be doing nothing now as the war with Poland only lasted a few days because the Polish army was no match for the might of the Germans.

    After another eight weeks of training at the rugby ground we were finished as far as training was concerned and ready to be sent to a unit for active service, so another move, this time to the county cricket ground to await our allocation to whatever we were assigned to. During this time things were very easy and apart from having to get a lot of innoculations, we did not have much to do, I went out two or three times as a bearer on military funerals.

    At last we got "drafted" which means that we knew where we were to be some had tropical kit issued to go to India to join our 1st battalion, but me and my mates were to be sent to France to join the 2nd battalion, at last we would be going to do something for our country.

    So on Good Friday 1940, we bought hot cross buns on the railway station as we enbarked for our journey and sung songs like "we're going to hang out the washing on the SEGFREAD LINE" and "RUN ADOLF", as we sped through Southern England; to board the boat, which was to take us across the channel.

    It was just after daylight when we dissembarked at Le Harvre was taken to a train for a three day and night ride to where our detatchment was. I do not know why the journey took so long, I can only assume that we were taken around a bit to throw any enemy agents off knowing how many troops were going to different places.

    Mud and clay, digging deep anti-tank traps, so this was our lot as soon as we arrived at the unit, then sometimes at night we would be sent out in the woods in sections to have an exercise in compass reading, all the same things that we had been taught in England but now more intent.

    We heard Revalli blown on the bugle but it was not the usual time; infact it was only just getting light, so what was it all about, the day was the 10th May 1940. When we all got on parade our O/C "officer commanding" told us that the German troops had started to invade Belgium. This was a very serious thing as Belgium had said at the start of the war that she would remain neutral, now King Leopold asked for help to try and save them; this of course meant that we went across Belgium to try and stop the Germans, our section went up as far as Waterloo, it's the place where Napolian made his stand, but I must say we did not; we spent a couple of days and nights dug in on a bank but never saw any enemy soldiers, only heard the shelling as barrages were layed to try and stop them advancing but Germany had a more modern army and troops were transported, by coach, car, motorcycle, with side-cars and even bicycles, so he could out-flank us, and we started to pull back, marching back by day and digging in a 'foxhole' at night, a foxhole was a small hole to give you a bit of protection if you were attacked during the night.

    After a few days of this, the roads began to get very overcrowded, with refugees as families moved back with whatever they could take out of their homes, it was a heartbreaking sight at times as some of the poorer people would try to transport a sick old relative on a small cart, with the children crying for lost or killed mothers, animals left to starve, and then the German 'Luftwaff' started to make matters worse by flying low along the roads, straffing and dropping aerial bombs down on everyone. At one point along this withdrawal it was arranged for us to be picked up by lorries to try and get us back far enough to make a good line of defence: The lorryies picked us up as arranged, but before we had travelled very far the stukas came down and what a mess, the truck that I was in got bombed just as we were trying to get out, my mate sat next to me got the full force, I was lucky as the force sent me sprawling to the ground, and I was only dazed. We then set up on the edge of the Albert canel where the Germans got on the other side and sent up a balloon with an observer to find out where we were, it was very demoralising to us, and by the all that was left of our R.A.F had been recalled to Britain.

    After two or three more days we were on the move again , this time we were to go back over the border into France for a rest as you must remember that from the time that we had left France we had only had odd snoozes while we were standing up in trenches, when one man of the section was watching for the enemy; its surprising what strains that the human body can stand.

    Well what a relief, we have had that rest as promised, and a bath, shave and some cooked food, now what, the rumour is that we are going back to England, for re-grouping, it's quite on the cards; as we have lost quite a lot of our equipment, I had lost my rifle when we had been bombed, and had been made the 'Bren Gunner' in my section. At last we are on parade and the Brigadier addresses us, it appeared that the rumour had been correct, BUT our Brigadier had decided to volunteer for us to try and hold the Germans back while as many as possible was evacuated from Dunkirk. So this was the way that things were to be.

    We now moved up to a place called Cassel, it's about 30km from Dunkirk and stands on top of a hill and on the 29th May 1940. 'AT Dawn' our Company of 164 men made our way out of Cassel to take up positions in the village at enbankment, it must have been about 10 or 11 o'clock before any action started, then we observed the Germans in the distance going into the village another way, they appeared to be cycle patrol , and not near enough to us for us to take any action. The day was getting very hot by now, and we were not able to get any shade, we could hear the other sections engaging the enemy, then they were coming towards us so we started to fire; this held them up, but not for very long, as we could see their next move was to go over the railway enbankment to approach us from behind, so we had to get out; fast. We then went to the house that our O/C had made his H/Q outside was our company truck , burning fiercely, 'having been hit by an anti-tank shell', inside the house the wounded were being attended to, down in the cellar, we took up positions at the windows and started firing again at the Germans, as by now they were coming at us from all sides, the next thing was "A CRASH AND A FLASH" as a German grenade came through the window, then the back door caved in and the Germans were shouting to us to come out with our hands up, and as we did so, some of them kicked us up the backside while others shouted "FOR YOU THE WAR IS OVER TOMMY".

    We were then lined up and searched, it was very very unpleasant as we did not know what the Germans would do next, it was easy to see that one or two of them was all for shooting us on the spot. 'It is understandable when you realise that probably during the battle, we had killed and wounded some of their friends; but war is war, and we had lost friends too, infact there was only 36 of us left out of 164 which had started out for Belgium on the 10th'. But thank goodness their better nature prevailed, so they made us form up in threes and marched us off back through the lines. 'We were a very sad and sorry sight, utterly dejected, and frustrated, with the German troops taking photos of us, and shouting catcalls to us about how "ENGLAND WAS CAPOOT", meaning that England was finished, and they would be in London the next week.

    As the sun began to set that evening we were all taken into a small field, and guards posted around the outside, ready to shoot anyone who tried to escape, most of us though were too weary to do anything else but drop down and rest. But as the night went on it got colder, then the dew began to form on the grass, we were all waking up stiff and cold and cramped, as we now only had the clothes we stood up in, and their was no hot drink to warm us up, infact nothing had we received from our captors. The sun came up and we began to feel a little better, soon the Germans got us going again and as we went along we were joined by more and more prisoners of war until it looked like one continuous stream along the road, as the day wore on, it got hotter again, and as we passed through the small french villages, the women would risk getting shot at to give us a drop of water, and perhaps if we were lucky a bit of bread or a smoke, and as evening approached we were taken to a field again, for the night; but as we went in this time the Germans had a boiler full of potatoes boiled in their jackets, and each p.o.w was given two or three, it was not much, but better than nothing I suppose. The next couple of days was about the same , then we reached the town of Canbera and were taken to the French cavalry barracks and remained there for a few days, being taken out in small numbers by the guards to do odd little jobs, it was when I was returning from one of these jobs that we saw Adolf Hitler go through on his way to Paris.

    By now though we were all in bad shape, as we all had got lice, from not being able to wash, and we all had diarrhoea or dysentry, through not having any propper food.

    At last we finished being marched and were put into cattle trucks on a train to go through Luxembourg and on into Trieste on the German border.

    We then had some properly cooked soup and put on the train again to be taken right across Germany and into Poland, a journey which took us nearly a week, as by now the British bombers had stopped dropping leaflets and was at last dropping the real thing, and causing quite a bit of havoc to the towns and cities of Germany.

    In Poland we were taken to a place called TOREN it was a town made up of forts with damp dungeon type passages inside, and we all had our old clothes taken from us, we went into showers, and our clothes were put into steam ovens to kill the lice, then we got them back, after that we had our registration as P.O.W. given a number and had our photo taken, so that we now had the protection of the International Red Cross; 'a very important thing for us as Germany now had to account for anything that might happen to us. For the rest of 1940 our lives were vey dull as we had nothing to do but walk round and round on the small grass hill in the centre of the fort, and the Germans printed a small paper in English about once a month, which they issued to us, which told us of some terrifying things that was happening to Britain, Coventry flattened ,London bombed every night, Bristol centre in rubble, then the navy sunk. 'O what frustration for us '. All this happening to all our families and we can do nothing but walk around in small circles! And we were told that after Germany won the war, we would not be going home until we had rebuilt all that our bombers had done to the German cities.

    All this time at least our food was regular, it was not very much, just a bowl of soup a day, with a bit of bread about 3 slices, and a small knob of margarine'and a spoonful of jam once or twice a week'.

    We had a barbers shop and you went in at intervals to get a shave as no one had a razor; also a hair cut, which was all your hair off, because it was a big problem keeping down the lice. We would go at intervals to be deloused and have a bath, as our boots wore out we were given wooden clogs to wear and pieces of rag instead of socks, and as winter approached everyone was given an overcoat and hat, from what the Germans had taken from Polish forces.

    Early in the spring of 1941 we were sent to another town called GRAUDENZ and this was better, because now we were taken out in small working parties to help repair roads, or clearing some waste ground, also we came into contact with Polish people; who not only gave us an odd loaf to stick up into our coat and smuggle back into the camp, but also told us more of what was happening in the world, from which we had been cut off from for so long.

    Things began to look a bit brighter now as letters began to arrive from home and even parcels, with some good things arrived, such as soap that you could get to 'lather'. It is rumoured that the soap issued to us is made from the bones of Jewish political prisoners who has died, I know that it will not lather. We are also beginnning to get food parcels coming through, which is helpful as the Germans are beginning to cut down on our food. They are beginning to feel the pinch as they cannot get any shipping into their ports. But the Germans are still very sure that they will win the war, and a bit of friendly rivalry seems to be coming into the relationship between us and our guards, as we get to know a few more of them better.

    But not all of them would take a joke and although they all respected us because we were British they still showed us that they were the masters, and we would do as we were told.

    It was at this time that we got to see what all the fuss was about as we were taken up to Danzigland to help with the harvesting, the strip of land known as the corridor, was the bit of land , which Germany had gone to war with Poland over, as being German; well they had the lot now.

    TENS of thousands of soldiers went through Graudenz on their way to the Russian front all through the summer, but the following winter, many of them came back with frostbite, and fingers and toes dropping off. 'YES it reminded us all of that remark, "for you the war is over tommy", we had at least been kept reasonably warm, although we did have one bad job, we went off by train to this place, about 30 p.o.w.s with a few guards, and an Under-officer "just a lanc corpral" in charge, we went to a small camp which consisted of 3 wooden huts one for us, one for the guards and one for a cookhouse, plus another older shed for use as a wash house and toilet. The job we had to do was about a mile from the camp , and it was supposed to be holes dug in the ground for foundations for some large structure, but being on the top of a hill, in the middle of a very hard winter,it needed a pnumatic drill before we could have made any impression with the job, and when he was coming out to see how we were getting on one day, he met us halfway back to camp, plowing through about 2 feet of snow. He went into the most violent rage, he threatened to shoot us, told the guards to turn around and get us back up that hill, but although we were made to go back, it was impossible to do any work. When we returned to camp he told us that he was cutting our coal ration to half a bucket, and he was going to stop the issue of Red Cross parcels which had arrived for us. If ever we hated a man it was him, another day he found that the cook had thrown away the potato peelings instead of putting them into the pig swill, so he got us all on parade in short sleeves in temperatures about 20 degrees below to pick them up again. He was a very fat man so from then on he had the nick-name "CARTOFFEL GUTS", cartoffel being the German for potato; I think that any man that was at that camp, would have killed him, if the opportunity had arisen.

    But the job came to an end with as I say nothing much done, and we then went away into Upper Silisia, this was then called the air raid shelter of Germany, as it was too far for planes to come from England; and return, so the Germans started to build factories and all the Prisoners and displaced persons, were brought to work at this area. We were the lucky ones here as we had to be treated as laid down in the Red Cross Convention, as both Germany and our country had signed. But the Russians and Jews had no standing at all, they were hounded to work even when they were so sick that they could hardly stand, and unlike us "we had the army guarding us; but they had the S/S troops, whos badge was the skull and crossbones; which I think they lived up to.

    WE settled down here very well, Red Cross parcels began to arrive quite good, we now had water and showers, new uniforms and army boots had been sent through the Red Cross, infact we are having to rely more and more on the Red Cross, as the Germans, keep on cutting back on our rations, with their food getting in short supply, we have a concert party formed in the camp and various sporting activities. Mail is being received from home, although it takes a couple of months, not at all good news though, one of mine bore news of my mothers death, but we had to carry on.

    I had a nice job here as I was made a fitters mate to work on central heating, with a German who had been a boy on the Rhine when the British tommys had been in occupation after the first war, and had given him sweets.

    So I was treated like another worker, and not as an enemy although, the man who I worked with was given an arm-band to wear showing that he held the position of a guard, and our regular guard made a check on us every now and again. The camp that we lived in was on the edge of the factory area, so we had to be on parade at 5.30am. to be taken into the area to start work at 6.00am. and remained there until 6.00pm with a half hour break at 1.00pm for lunch, which was a bowl of soup, brought around in heated containers.

    After a while new faces came to the camp, and we began to hear how Rommel had been chased back in Africa, and the Italians had given up. Also the Russians were beginning to drive the German army back, after a disasterous winter at Stalingrad.

    As the work progressed on the factory we suddenly found that we were not the air-raid shelter of Germany anymore, as the American air force started to send flying fortresses over from Italy, that is when it began to get a little ironic for us; as we were all for this except, we lost all the men in the concert party, on one raid, and half a dozen others at another, as the air-raids became more frequent, and the Germans began to be pushed back on the Russian front, until we could hear the heavy guns firing.

    On the 29th December 1944, we had to start moving back in the middle of a snow storm, we set out on a march, that was to last for four months in which we went through, Czechoslovakia, Austria and in circles around Germany, ending at Scleswig Holstean, in being released by the advancing American forces. But there were many incidences on the march, like when one of the Jews dropped out with exhaustion in the snow, he was shot, or the day we got to Graz, a small town in Austria, and found p.o.w.s running the gas works. Then the fatefull day as we went through Beyruth, it was the day when wave after wave of bombers came over until the sky was full of them going over to bomb Dresden. We started to cheer but cheers turned to horror as bombs rained down all around us, killing quite a few of my friends, who had survived and suffered all through, only to be killed by our own bombs, just days before they would have been free again. Then the day when three small planes R.A.F doing scout duty for the advancing troops, swooped out of the sky , blasted a truck that the guards used for their rations and carrying their things in, they then flew over our heads doing victory rolls and waving to us.

    It seemed very quiet, and when someone looked out of the barn that we had been put into for the night, an unusual sight,no guard was there to be seen, then someone said that he had heard gun fire during the night.

    After a while it began to sink in that we were not being guarded any more, then, surprise, out of the morning mist rolls an American tank, what relief for us, now the guards came out from a cellar and surrendered to them, that is all but one who thought he might get away, 'his name Cartoffel guts' and when Yanks heard that he had been so bad, they blasted him down in the middle of the field he was running across. We were told to remain at that place for a couple of days, until transport was available to take us back to England. In the meantime the Yanks told us that they were in a hurry to get to a consentration camp, at a place called Belson, where it was said the most horrifying things were taking place. "A fact which proved to be correct and the world found out later".

    Things happened fast on the day we began to be brought home, a fleet of lorries took us Nurenberg, and one batch flown out right away for England mostly the ones that were sick. I was not with that lot, so remained there over night. The following morning a small mobile'doughnut and coffee' van opened up and the woman in it spoke to us in English,that was something that we had not heard for over five years, a woman speaking to us in our own language, asking would we like some coffee and doughnuts, after which she gave us all her signature, for she was none other than the film star 'Marlene Deittrich' doing her bit to help the war effort.

    That afternoon saw us aboard Decota transport planes but only as far as Brussels, there we were taken to one of the best hotels, with lovely beds, that had sheets, meals served to us at a table, with a table-cloth on, and a vase of flowers, after a meal we then went down to a small basement shop, run by the RED CROSS where we were given lots of good things , like shaving things, socks, soap, flannel, hair cream, tooth paste and brush, blacking and brushes, handkerchiefs, a big bar of chocolate, and lots of smiles, all for free. Back at the hotel it was a nice hot bath, then into that beautiful bed, what a good nights sleep that was. After breakfast the next morning we took a walk around the city, then back for lunch, then to the railway station to catch a train for Ostend, and a boat across the channel. WHAT A GREAT SIGHT THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER WERE TO US and a band turned out to greet us.


    Paul Law

    Spr. Rex Pearson 262nd Field Company Royal Engineers

    Sapper Rex Pearson 262 Field Company, Royal Engineers spent his time as a POW in Poland. He was registered to Stalag XXA which consisted of a number of camps located in some of the 24, 19 century underground forts around Thorn, various hutted sites, work camps and farms. He would like to contact any of his old comrades who were in these camps at the same time as he was.

    Please contact via his son-in-law, Mike Roach

    Update: Thanks for publishing my father in laws details on your site. It has resulted in a contact from the family of a Frank Curtis, Australian Army, who was shot at Stalag XXA in September 1943. A chance in a million but my father in law has a record of him being shot but cannot remember the incident. He was witness to a number of shootings, including one the long march out of Poland to freedom in 1945. He has been able to provide a lot of unknown information for the family together where Frank is now buried. My father in law is now researching amongst his POW friends who are still alive to see if they can throw any more light on the subject.

    Keep up the good work.

    Mike Roche

    Gnr. Thomas Gibbon Royal Artillery

    Thomas Gibbon was my Great Grandad and was in the Stalag Camp XXA in Touran, Poland as a POW in 1939.

    Pte. Harry "Darkie" Cressey

    Harry Cressey was my father in law. He died in 1995. He didn't say much about his time in Torun (Thorn) but did say he was in Fort 17 and arrived on his 21st birthday which was 13th June 1940. That he used to go out on work details to farms. That he marched through a Polish winter, walking up to 30 Km a day on to near Hanover where he and his mate escaped for 3 days until the Americans broke through.

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