My grandad: WWII PoW, Y&L

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Trophy, Apr 2, 2013.

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  1. Hello.

    Firstly, if you think this is in the wrong section of this forum, please suggest where this thread would be more usefully positioned!

    My grandad (1923-2002), from Leeds, served as a Private in the Yorks/Lancs regiment during the Second World War. He was a PoW in Italy and Germany after being captured in Tunisia in 1943.

    I'm currently seeking as much information as I can get about his time in the war, and I have listed what I know so far below. If you think your dad/grandad/great grandad could have spent time with my grandad then please PM me for more info (ie his name, number etc) as this would obviously be fantastic to hear.

    (I've posted the below on a War memories site hoping to hear from others who had similar experiences, but thought this would be a good place to try too, with so many people being from the area. )

    Anyway, the following are the basics of what my family and I have pieced together from the few bits of information he gave us before he died in 2002:
    He was captured by the Germans and taken to camp PG66 in Italy, which was in Capua, near Naples.

    He also stayed at camp PG53 (Campo Concentremento 53), which was in Sforzacosta, and then camp PG78.

    After the Italians surrendered, he was squashed into an open rail truck and taken to Stalag 357 in Germany (Oerbke, I think).

    He spent most of his time (we think!) at Stalag 4DZ near Annaburg. (We got this number from a photograph, but we're not sure what it means: 226387 D602. Perhaps a PoW number?)

    I think it was here where he was forced to work on repairing a damaged railway line near an ammunition factory (which was regularly bombed by the RAF). He was certain they were sent to work there to reduce numbers, and many men died working there.

    He, along with two other prisoners (Trooper Walter Rowley and Lance Corporal James "Busty" Speight, from Hunslet), fled Stalag 4DZ on April 14, 1945.

    The day before they fled, they were told by a British R.A.M.C major that the whole camp was to be marched east the following day. The march began and suddenly the air raid sirens sounded. As allied planes swooped to strafe a nearby airfield, the three of them made a run for it, taking with them two of the German sentries (they told them they would make it alright for them with the Americans, who were rumoured to be getting closer). In the village of Nienburg, they told the local Burgomaster that they had been sent to make their way back to camp. A German girl who had been a worker in the camp kitchen helped my grandad and the other PoW's by tipping them off about the Burgomaster being suspicious. He had sent for the SS, who were to arrive the next morning. The German girl also told them the way to the American lines, so they pulled out quickly and eventually found an American patrol near Halle (Saale). The Americans took some convincing that they were British POW's, but they eventually realised they were genuine and couldn't make them more welcome. They later learned that the guards who stayed behind were shot by the SS for assisting them to escape.

    My grandad returned home to Leeds on a Tuesday in May 1945.

    There are an awful lot of gaps that I'd love to fill in, and he probably stayed at a few more POW camps. I'm unsure where he was when at the end of the war but think it's most likely to be Stalag 4DZ in Annaburg. I have no idea how much time he spent at any one camp.

    If anyone has information about ANYTHING I have mentioned above, I'd appreciate hearing from you.
  2. I don't have any info I'm afraid but wondered if you had sent off for his POW record from the Red Cross. I sent off for my Grandad's, it took about 6 months to come back. It's only basic info (date of capture and dates he was in which camps) but it was more than I already knew.

    Info on how to do it is here:

    Records of prisoners of war | British Red Cross

    I also got hold of my Grandad's Liberation questionnaire from the National Archives. I don't think all POW's filled them in, I was lucky that my Grandad did, it's worth having a look to see if yours did.
  3. As suggested above. Red Cross are known for their record keeping. Erm, possibly something in the national archives perhaps? Or the imperial war museum might have general info On POWs that might help.

    Either way, all the best and perhaps post what you find. It's certainly a gripping endeavour.

    Sent via Heliograph from the Jebel Birkenhead
  4. Thank you both very much, I don't think that has been done so will find out! Great stuff.
  5. Always remember there being quite a strong element of the Arrse community who were rather into research, history and this sort of thing. Don't see as many on anymore but if there are they might venture in and offer help. Also consider asking on Rum Ration too. They might be Navy but they get a lot of people looking into family service stuff etc.

    Sent via Heliograph from the Jebel Birkenhead
  6. Dont know if you aready have or not, but the Regimental Museum may have information as well - I was reasearching a family member who died at the Somme and the Staffs Regt Museum were able to fill in some details about why her was there are what actually happened to him (he was a Woffer, joined up at 15 served in Galipoli then on the Somme whilst his Bn was in Ireland - the Staffs Regt were able to find out he was in the Machine Gun Platoon which was detached in Egypt and send to France not Ireland on attachment to the Staff, they also were able to describe how he had died too

    Well worth a try

    the Yorks & Lancs Regt Museum is

    York & Lancaster Regiment Museum
    • Like Like x 1
  7. I don't know what internet research you've done but changing 4DZ to IV-D/Z might get you a few more links.

    From Wiki:
    Stalag IV-D - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    While IV-D was recorded as using prisoners to repair railway lines, I'm a bit surprised that the inmates of IV-D/Z were used for this purpose, given it's status as housing sick prisoners.

    Also found, which may make research a bit easier:
    • Like Like x 1
  8. More about IV-D/Z:

    I: Movements of Prisoners and Liberation in Germany | NZETC

  9. I'm busy until Friday (working) but just wanted to quickly say thanks for what you've posted! I look forward to looking into the above in as much detail as I can.

    It's very interesting to hear about Stalag IV-D/Z being for sick prisoners from March 1945 onwards. I didn't know that, and he wasn't sick, as far as I know!

    Just a bit of background for you about what it is I'm trying to achieve here - after some persuasion from my grandma, my grandad began writing an account of his wartime experiences just before he died. He tells his story right from being snapped up by the army and his military training in Yarm to being captured by the Germans in Tunisia, but unfortunately he passed away after he got to the bit about him arriving in the first PoW in Italy (PG66). My grandma continued writing his story by remembering the bits and pieces he had told her over many years. So certain things are sketchy.

    I'm in the process of writing the story in full and am trying to fill in a lot of blanks at the moment. No one has ever researched anything online about this, so I'm hopeful of finding a few things.

    I know it's not the same when it's not your own family but it's really fascinating me. I just wish I'd have taken an interest years ago when he was still with us!
    • Like Like x 1
  10. On the contrary. I wouldn't mind knowing a bit about the training in Yarm, I didn't know that there was any done there. I might have a root around when I'm up there to see if there's anything still visible.

    It also comes as a surprise that York&Lancs were training in the Green Howards' patch.
  11. I think there's something in my Grandads papers, I'll check but that was WW1. Mainly though it lists the fines he got for going AWOL to get pissed, using foul and obscene language and damaging property.
    One of his periods of absence I think he was on the way for treatment at a Hospital in Bournemouth. I think it was Glasgow Hospital where he smashed a chair and swore lots. I'm not sure he actually earnt anything. Christ knows why they let him back in and kept him until 1930.
  12. The only York and Lancaster battalion to serve in Tunisia was the 6th, in 46th (North Midland) Division.
  13. If I were you, I would make sure the Regimental Musuem or the National Army Museum were made aware of that "Diary", there is a great deal of information looking from the top down, but the view from a humble Tom seldom gets recorded and it would be a tragedy if it were not preserved somehow
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Yep, he was in the 6th. Cheers.