The Prisoner of War Page
I have written this page in the hope of discovering further information on the Prisoner of War Camps described below. If you can help with any  information please contact me.
E-Mail me

My father was shot in the leg in northern France in May, 1940, and was unable to join the retreat to Dunkirk. He was captured and was a Prisoner of War for  5 years. He has a "Little Black Book"  in which he has listed names of the camps, together with dates and camp numbers. This, together with his recollections, is the main source of information for the following section of his biography. Where possible, I have checked the information against a Red Cross map (dated September 1943) obtained from the Imperial War Museum, and from a list of P.O.W. camps included in a book entitled  "Prisoners of War-British Army 1939-1945. (Hayward). However the exact location of some of the places mentioned is still slightly unclear and will continue to be the subject of research.

Dad was held captive in a prisoner of war camp for the first time, at Alexisdolph (Stalag 6c). He arrived here from hospital in Tournais, by train, on 15th August 1940.  Men escaped from either side of him, and the Germans threatened to shoot Dad and his friend as a result.  However one of the escapees, who had swum a canal, was caught on the other side, and so they were reprieved.

Dad was then moved, on 21st September, by train to Hemer, to a camp consisting of marquee tents in a quarry (Stalag 6a).  He was there until 2nd October, sleeping in blankets on stones, until the tents were flooded.  This caused a transfer into some new but incomplete barracks, lacking glass in the windows.  French prisoners were doing the cooking here.  Somehow Dad obtained a French overcoat, and came up with a plan to join the French food queue which promised better sustenance.  Encouraged by success, he tried a 2nd time but made the mistake of saying "thankyou" for the food!  A Frenchman swiped at him with a ladle, and Dad had to make his escape without his illicit extra soup ration.

Next came a journey by train to Strasbourg, arriving on 3rd October at some French or Belgian barracks on the Rhein which held 2 or 3000 prisoners (Stalag 5d).  His P.O.W. number 93 was issued, from a batch of numbers reserved for people from hospitals.  Conditions were very poor here - Dad remembers it for being the worst camp for infestation by lice and fleas.  He was held at this camp for until 15th December, during which time he knew of 6 or so escapees.

On 16th December he arrived at Munsingen (apparently also designated Stalag 5d), and stayed there until 8th January 1941.

Then Dad was transferred to Zimmeren (Stalag 5b), near Rottweil in the Black Forest close to the Swiss border.  By the second day here he was suffering from frost bite and lost some fingernails.  He remembers 2 escapees; an RSM Noble of the Durham Light Infantry and another named Rearden.  Accommodation was in wooden huts, like German quarters, and food was the same as that received by German troops - there seemed to be some pro-British attitude here. He remained at this camp until  10th March, when he was transferred for a short stay at Villengen (still Stalag 5b), until  14th March.

Schildberg and Deutchepresse
After a longer train journey to the German/Polish border, Dad arrived at Schildberg (Stalag 21a) on 15th March. He stayed here for about two weeks, being  transferred to Deutchepresse (Stalag cz?) on 1st April. A certain amount of thieving appeared to be taking place over a period here - it transpired that this was largely in preparation for his 21st birthday party

After  3 months at Deutchpresse the next move was on 4th July to Wollstein (Stalag 21c/h).  Quarters were huts with thatched roofs, built on stilts in an unsuccessful attempt to keep out rats.  A high spot here was the issue of Turkish Red Cross eiderdowns, one of which Dad won in a raffle.  On settling into this new acquisition he found that he was sharing it with an army of fleas. He managed to remedy this in the middle of the night by dragging thr eiderdown outside and turning it inside out, before returning to continue his sleep.

Work at this camp consisted largely of filling "palleyasses" with straw, but Dad volunteered for some car work.  He remembers lifting the engine into a Ford with a Frenchman and working on a front wheel drive Audi.

The camp was also memorable for the concerts which took place, with an organ being played by one of the prisoners which was similar to that of his father Oscar's back home

Although Dad seems to have some tolerable memories of this camp, the final days there were more unpleasant.  Prisoners were lined up to leave the camp with the exception of 24, one of which was Dad.  Russian prisoners were now held at the camp ("they were worked to death"), many of which were suffering from typhus.  Two or three wagons of their dead left the camp every day.  The 24 British prisoners had been selected to feed the Russians.

But then Dad became ill with yellow jaundice, so avoiding this onerous task.  He remembers that a Polish doctor was going to operate for appendicitis.  Before moving further, He had to spend 2 weeks in quarantine at Gratz, because he had been in contact with typhus. They were accommodated in a tall building with bunk beds stacked seven high.  Subsequently they moved to the main camp at Gratz.

 According to his "Black Book", Dad was moved between 3 different locations at  Wollstein, leaving the first on 21st July, the second on 25th July, and finalyy for Gratz, in Poland, on 24th November.

Dad was imprisoned at Gratz (Stalag21e) until 7th December 1941

Posen - "Fort Eight" and "Fort Roach"
Dad was moved on 7th December to "Fort Eight" (Stalag21d), a fort on the German Polish border which dated from the Franco Prussian wars.  The water pump there pumped up rats!  "Fort Eight" was closely followed on 13th December by "Fort Roach" (also Stalag 21d), a similar fort on the river Warter. Dad's mechanical abilities were recognised and he was set to work on non military vehicles at a Daimler Benz agent.  Dad actually worked in this way for 2 or more years from now on. He left "Fort Roach" on the 18th Dec.

It was only a local move to Kuhndorf, (still Stalag 21d), and Dad continued  to work as a mechanic at the Daimler Benz agent. He remained here till..............?
( Isolation Hospital 1/3/43)

Next, he was moved to Lamsdorf 344, which was a large camp dating from the 1st World War; housing 5 or 6000 prisoners.  The buildings were brick but in bad condition with many broken windows.  Here, a popular activity was to construct a contraption called a "blower" which was a fan driven cooker in a tin can. Dad remembers spending some time here in the sick bay with a South African, but his main recollection is of the amount of tunnelling that went on.  An Australian, adept at bartering and called "Trader" Horn was tunnelling under his table, and the football pitch was levelled in the day time for tunnel diggings.  The summer of 1944 was spent at this camp.  Dad found it preferable to sleep outside where the bug population made its presence less felt.

On the 11th January 1945 Dad joined of a large group of P.O.W.s which were to marched  through the snow back into Germany at a rate of 25 - 30 miles per day.  As can be imagined, this was extremely arduous in the prevailing conditions.  The march continued (for Dad) until the 2nd week in March when he fell out with disentry at Gorlitz.  He expected to be left till the Russians closed in, but eventually continued by train.  After passing through the devastated Dresden, a stop was made at Alberstat.  There the party was fired upon by USAF Mustang fighter planes, and 23 British were killed.

Finally Dad arrived at Fallingbostel, and it was from here on 16th April 1945 that he was liberated by Montgomery's 2nd Army.  The British climbed onto the roofs, but thought better of it when the gun posts at the corners of the camp came under fire.  He was transported by Bedford truck to Hanover, where the size of the meal with which he was presented defeated him after years on a minimal diet.

From Hanover Dad embarked for England in a Dakota - to land at Oakley aerodrome.  After tea in the hanger, a final truck ride to Hartwell House near Aylesbury was all that remained.  Passing through Thame without stopping was a bit much to bear, and he had to be retrieved after jumping from the truck at Priest End.  However, he was home with the family in Thame the next day. The closing weeks of Dad's war time story are of course much less harrowing than the preceding 5 years.  After a period of 6 weeks at home he was based at Andovers Ford near Cheltenham with the Dorset Regiment and finally spent 3 weeks at a civil resettlement camp at Hermitage, near Newbury.

Back to the Family History Page