POWCollector

My Prisoner of War Collection

130 posts in this topic

Hi all!

I am a 20 year old collector of Medals and Militaria and Ive been collecting since i was about 8 years old when i inherited my Great Grandfathers medals (Killed in Action on HMS Dunedin in 1941). In the past few years i have become very interested in Prisoners of War and in particular, Escape. Due to this i have started to almost exclusively collect medals to prisoners of war as there are some fascinating stories behind the men who won the medals.

I have seen some other members POW collections and been very jealous of what Ive seen and as they had a lot of interest, i thought that I would share my collection and start posting on the forum. I will try to post pictures and info of my collection over the next couple of days and i hope you enjoy seeing them!!

 

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My First post will be about Gordon Gray who was captured in Crete and imprisoned at Stalag's 18a and 18c from 1941.

George Kenneth Gray was born in 1915 and Enlisted into the Royal Regiment of Signals with service number 2590294 in 1939. I have not been able to find an MI9 POW debrief form for him (Any help would be much appreciated!) but Gordon originally served in 1940 in Egypt with the 50th Dispatch rider section. He then was transferred in 1941 to Greece as part of Operation Lustre in response to the looming threat of German invasion. When the expected invasion came on the 6th of April, the combined Greek and British Commonwealth forces were heavily outnumbered and outgunned and after it became apparent that the situation was unwinnable, the evacuation began. A Dunkirk style evacuation from Greece to Egypt and Crete resulted in 50,000 troops escaping with 7000 being taken prisoner.

Less than a month later, the Germans launched an airborne invasion of Crete. On the first day, German casualties were high. but on the second day of the invasion the Germans captured the Maleme airfield which enabled a large number of reinforcements to be brought in. The defenders were again outnumbered and eventually overrun after 10 days.

It was during this period that Gordon was captured. He would probably have first been held in Salonika but he arrived at Stalag 18a in Austria near Wolfsberg in July/August of 1941 and he was given the POW number 351. Almost immediately after arriving at Stalag 18a, he was put on the Arbeitskommando at the Dam at Lavamund (10030/GW) where he worked throughout his time at Stalag 18a.

I Have many letters written by Gordon to his good friend Mr Stanley Day and these have some very interesting details in them. For example in September of 1941, Gordon had a severe accident and spent 5 months in hospital after fracturing his skull! Another letter referenced and Escape attempt made by Gordon in very early 1943! He writes "I have just finished 21 days in Jail for escape but never mind, it was very good to be a civilian again for a few days!". I would absolutely LOVE to be able to find out more details of Gordon's escape attempt(s) which is why i am praying that he did indeed fill out an MI9 Debrief form!

I have a feeling that Gordon's friend, Stanley Day, Could have been an RAF chap as Gordon writes in March 1943 "Well Stanley if you ever come over here with a flying fortress there is a plenty of room for a false landing and maybe i will come back with you!" and Gordon writes again in January 1944 "Several of your mates have been having a look round and i hope they will be coming more regularly in the near future!"

In 1944, Gordon and 200 other NCO's were transferred to Stalag 18c where he remained for the rest of the war.

During his time as a Prisoner of war, he was promoted from Signalman to Sergeant and i haven't got a clue what for, if anybody could speculate as to why that would be interesting!

I will attach a few photos of Stalag 18a, The Lavamund Dam, Gordon's Medals and Cap badge and finally something which i was very happy to obtain, The Picture of Gordon on Arrival at Wolfsberg taken by the Germans! I think his face says it all about his situation!

wolfsberg.jpg

lavamunddam.jpg

Gordon Gray medals.jpg

Gordon Gray pow 351.jpg

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Up Next i have a group to 190377 Cpl Robert Frederick Thomson of the 20th Division of the South African Engineering Corps who was Captured in Libya in 1942, Imprisoned in 4 camps before Escaping into Switzerland after the Capitulation of Italy in 1943. He spent nearly a year in Switzerland where he met his wife before being repatriated to South Africa in October 1944.

The escaped prisoner of war MI9 debrief form gives the following details...

Robert was captured with his company when the Germans captured Tobruk on the 21st of June 1942. He was initially held in North Africa from 21.6.42 to 4.12.42 most likely his time held captive in North Africa would have been in one of the infamous POW Cages. On 4.12.42 he was moved to Capua transit camp until 15.1.43. He then spent two months at PG54 before being moved to PG146 near Pavia where he stayed until the Italian Surrender. He didn't have any work until he got to Pavia where he was employed on a Farm.

Details of his Escape are as follows;

"When the Armistice came, i left my camp on the 9.9.43 and lived for a week in the fields in the surrounding district and then left for Vigevano, Prov: Pavia, where i stayed for 1 month. From here i made an attempt to travel to Switzerland by train and arrived at Stresa, it was here that my leg was injured and had to remain here for one fortnight, from here when my leg had recovered i went back to Vigevano where i stayed for a further fortnight. I then set out by train to Lunioanfi from there on foot to Switzerland".

Under the section of Helpers he lists 3 people. First is Mena Casazza who gave Food, Civilian clothing and acted as a guide to Tresa where he stayed with her for a fortnight. Second is Antonette Caviglani who provided guides for the final crossing into Switzerland and last he names Isa Bescio who provided lodging for all the English evaders before crossing into Switzerland.

On the final section regarding the journey into Switzerland he writes "Whilst with Caviglani-Antonette who lives at Piccolino Casino Da Sopra, Vigevano-Prov: Pavia, i was contacted by some guides the names of whom i do not know who took me by train to Luino and From there we were handed over to the other guides who escorted us to Switzerland arriving at Locarno on the 12.11.43.

I also was able to get the QSA Medal with 5 clasps awarded to his Father and i have got copies of the enlistment papers of both Robert and his father which are very interesting and give good descriptions of both men. I was very happy to win these at the DNW auction a couple of weeks ago!

medals Thomson.jpg

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Next i have a great group awarded to 5769115 Gnr Herbert Mitchell of the Royal Artillery.

Herbert was born on the 17th of October 1907 and enlisted on the 22nd of March 1938. He served with the 65th anti tank regiment Norfolk Yeomanry, Royal Artillery.

He was captured in Libya on the 24th of January 1942 and sent to PG66 Capua on 28.2.42 where he was held until 8.6.42. He was then moved to PG65 and held from 9.6.42 until 10.5.43 when he moved to PG52 at Chiavari where he was held until 13.9.43.

Due to the Allied high command issuing the stay put order, nobody attempted to escape from Chiavari and the Germans parachuted in to make sure none escaped. All of the Prisoners were entrained over a few days to camps in Germany and the last train left on the 13th of September. This is the train that Gnr Herbert Mitchell was on. A few prisoners did manage to get away from these trains and it is my belief that Gnr Mitchell was one of these as he has the Italy star which usually points to service with Partisans but sadly there is no paper work to support this so i doubt ill ever truly know!

There is nothing more on the mi9 debrief form to do with what happened next  as the last camp details given are that he was in Chiavari until the 13th of September 1943. However there is a list of British Army Prisoners which states that he was held in Stalag VIIIB in mid 1944. Perhaps he met partisan forces but was recaptured whilst attempting to reach allied lines and was sent to Stalag VIIIB instead?

Hopefully i will be able to get a hold of his Service Record at some point and see what that has to say!

Either way, this is a very interesting group and its nice to have a long service and bar medal group to a man who must have endured many hardships during the war.

medals gnr mitchell.jpg

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Rob,

These are fantastic groups, I wish the information available today was available when I started collecting. The service record for Herbert Mitchell will hopefully show the reason for his entitlement to the Italy Star.

Where do you find MI9 debriefs?

Looking forward to seeing more of your collection.

Tony

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6 hours ago, Tony said:

Rob,

These are fantastic groups, I wish the information available today was available when I started collecting. The service record for Herbert Mitchell will hopefully show the reason for his entitlement to the Italy Star.

Where do you find MI9 debriefs?

Looking forward to seeing more of your collection.

Tony

Hi Tony!

Thanks for your message! I have a friend online who finds the MI9 debrief questionnaires for me (Presumably at the archives at Kew). 

I am very glad that you have enjoyed these groups and I'll upload a couple more this evening!

I have an amazing group to a pre war regular who was awarded the MM for his escapes which I'll post about next!

Regards,

Rob

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Great groups, indeed, Rob.  Thanks very much for sharing them.  

I was a bit surprised to see the full names and addreses of the men who assisted Greay.  I hope he memorized those and didn't write them down!  If he's been captured with the names on his person the consequences would have been dire for the guides.

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39 minutes ago, peter monahan said:

Great groups, indeed, Rob.  Thanks very much for sharing them.  

I was a bit surprised to see the full names and addreses of the men who assisted Greay.  I hope he memorized those and didn't write them down!  If he's been captured with the names on his person the consequences would have been dire for the guides.

Hi Peter,

I think you might have meant the women who helped Cpl Thomson?

Yes something which is often overlooked is the brutal treatment the Germans gave to any civilians who helped the POW's in Italy to escape! For the men of the family, it would have been a bullet after subjection torture and interrogation and the women would most likely have been tortured and then sent to a camp in Germany where sadly many helpers perished!

 A good book which I would recommend (although sadly is quite a short read) is 'Escape from Italy, 1943-1945. Allied Escaper's and Helpers in Fascist Italy' written by Malcolm Tudor. I picked it up for only a couple of pounds on Amazon and it was very insightful.

Thanks for your comment and keep an eye out for my next posts!

Regards,

Rob

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ID: 9   Posted (edited)

Next up is the highlight of my collection and i am incredibly lucky to have been able to buy this group, although in order to afford this i had to sell a lot of interesting items from my collection including my ww2 MC group and a Caterpillar club badge attributed to a chap who completed a tour of duty and was awarded the DFM! However as interesting as these were, i am glad i was able to get this group as i find the story much more interesting!

Here we have the awards of 2818056 Pte Frank Butters of the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders who was a pre-war regular with 10 years and 8 months of service by the time he was interviewed by MI9 on the 23rd of July 1941.

Franks awards are as follows; MM, GSM Palestine, 1939-45 Star and 1939-45 War Medal.

Frank first served abroad in Palestine at some point between the 19th of April 1936 and the 3rd of September 1939. After this, his next big adventure was going over to France with the 2nd Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders, part of the 51st Highland Division.

The 51st Highland Division was captured on the 12th of June 1940 at St. Valery-En-Caux , the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders included and were march off to Stalag XXA at Thorn in Poland. Of the 10,000 men captured here,  about 300 managed to escape and reach home by July of 1941. One of these Escapers was Frank Butters and his story is found in his MI9 interview which goes as follows.

"I was captured on 12 Jun 1940, 6 kms. from St. Valery-En-Caux. We were marched to Rouen (16 Jun), Bethune (19 Jun), Seclin (21 Jun), Tournai (24 Jun) and Alost (29 Jun).

On 29 Jun I escaped 10 kms. from Alost along with 2819021 Pte. J Farrell, 4th Seaforths and 2818086 Pte I Temperley 4th Seaforths. They were with me for ten days, when we got separated outside Lille.

My route after escape was : Tournai (3 July), Lille (8 July), Seclin (15 July), Amiens (10 Aug), Bourges (22 Aug). I walked most of the way with occasional lifts, and lived at farmhouses. I crossed the line of demarcation on 22nd August, 13 kms. East of Bourges.

I was arrested at Chateauroux and put in the guardroom, but escaped on 28 August and got as far as Montlucon, where i was again arrested by police five or six days later.

After a weeks detention I stole a bicycle and in company with 2752154 Cpl G Wadsley of the Black watch, went to Tulle, Figac, Montauban, Tarbes, Lourdes, and Argeles. We crossed the Pyrenees and were arrested at Jaca, 60 kms. across the frontier, at the end of October. We were sent back to France and interned in a concentration camp at Gurs, near Olornon, Bassees Pyrnenees (30th Oct).

On 15th Nov I was removed to Fort St. Jean and remained there till 24 Nov when I went to the docks at Marseilles. Next day, Pte Farrell and I stowed away on a French cargo steamer bound for Casablanca. Ten hours before we passed Gibraltar, we were Discovered and put ashore at Oran and sent back to Marseilles, where I served 92 days in a civil prison.

On being liberated I was sent to St. Hippolyte (23 Feb 41) from which I escaped on 20 May. I went to Marseilles and took the train to the Spanish Frontier which I crossed on 25 May. I reached Madrid on the 28th of May 1941."

Frank then travelled to Gibraltar which he left on the 4th of July 1941 and he arrived back in Glasgow on the 13th of July. On the journey from Gibraltar to Glasgow, Frank was reunited with Cpl G Wadsley with whom he had previously escaped to Spain and was sent to the Concentration camp at Gurs.

Franks escape story is exceptional and incredibly interesting. He had the very very rare distinction of having escaped into Spain not once, but twice! He travelled in Belgium, France, Algeria, Spain and Gibraltar on his adventure and made a total of 5 escapes and he must have had some help from the Embassies or resistance to get papers enabling him to get from Marseilles to Madrid in just 3 days! Amazing stuff!

Thanks for looking!

 

Butters medals.jpg

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Edited by RobPinnell

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ID: 10   Posted (edited)

All that by 1941?  He must have been bored for the remainder of the war.  Out of curiosity, what is the citation for Pte. Butters' MM?  Is this related to his escapes?

Edited by IrishGunner

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45 minutes ago, IrishGunner said:

All that by 1941?  He must have been bored for the remainder of the war.  Out of curiosity, what is the citation for Pte. Butters' MM?  Is this related to his escapes?

Hi,

The official citation for the MM was 'For distinguished services in the field' . This was done so that the axis forces didn't know the escape routes presumably and to keep escapes and evasion of RAF personnel a secret. But the recommendation I found on the national archives is pretty much just an account of the escape :)

rob

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Up next Are the Awards of a man named 4391760 Pte Reginald Crossley who served with the Green Howards.

Reginald Crossley was born on the 6th of September 1918 and he enlisted into the Green Howards on the 15th of September 1939.

The 1st Battalion of the Green Howards went to France in 1939 as a part of the BEF but they returned to England before the evacuation of Dunkirk and set sail for Norway as a part of an urgent taskforce to try and hold back the German invasion. A famous battle took place at otta where, for 24 hours, the Green Howards held back 7 German battalions, Stuka dive bombers and heavy artillery. Lightly armed they waited until the advancing Germans were within 400 metres before they opened fire. A very gallant action from the Green Howards!

Pte Crossley was captured by the Germans on the 12th of May 1940 near Polfus and was taken to Stalag XXa at Thorn in Poland. He was held here from 19.5.40 until 22.7.40 when he was transferred to a working camp in Danzig where he listed his employment as 'Jobbing' until the 17th of February 1945 when the Prisoners were forced to start moving westwards away from the Soviet invasion.

Whilst on this forced march, On the 17th of February he escaped near Kartuska  but was recaptured 3 days later by the SS. He made another attempt to escape on the 4th of March from Kolberg and managed to evade capture until he met up with Russian forces.

The forced marches were absolute hell and many lost their lives on them. It is nice that Reginald did not give up after the first break and was successful in his bid for freedom. Hopefully the Russians took care of him when he was with them!

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Here are a couple more photos of Reginald and his mates at Stalag XXa or at the working camp in Danzig.

In the first photo, Reginald is on the far right of the Bottom row.

In the second photo, Reginald is 3rd from the left in the Back row.

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Next up is something which i picked up a few years ago with some other ww2 RAF officers badges.

It is the RAF Escaping Society club badge which was given to members of the society.

During the second world war, 2803 Royal Air Force aircrew were shot down who either evaded capture or successfully escaped from captivity. For many of these men, the way back to allied territory was by clandestine means and thousands of ordinary people did some extraordinary thing to help these aircrew in getting back home at a huge personal risk. These helpers were incredibly brave as being caught assisting an allied airman would have meant torture and death for you and your family!

It would have been great to be able to know who this badge was given to and to find out the story behind it but i guess that is something i will never find out!

I have a book, 'Escape or die:Authentic stories of the RAF Escaping Society', published I believe in the 1950's written by Paul Brickhill which details the stories of 8 men who belonged to the RAF Escaping Society and it is a good read as it covers different conflicts (Western Desert, Italy, Singapore, Germany etc). My favourite story in this is the account of the escape of Sgt Cyril Rofe who was a very very brave man who made multiple escape attempts, despite knowing the potential repercussions as a Jew. He successfully escaped in late 1944 after exchanging identities with another prisoner and set off towards the Russian lines. He and his fellow escaper eventually reached a group of Cossack Partisans who had been cut off from their lines. Sgt Rofe ended up on a horse and took part in a Cossack Calvary charge and he eventually got through to the Russian lines and eventually England in early 1945. Cyril has the distinction of being the only RAF personnel ever to take part in a Calvary charge!

Paul Brickhill was famous for being the Author of 'The Great Escape' and 'The Dam Busters' and was himself an RAF Prisoner of War after being shot down in North Africa over Tunisia in 1943. He was involved himself in escape activities such as radio monitoring but did not escape through tunnelling due to claustrophobia.

attached is a picture of the badge, and a picture taken of Sgt Cyril Rofe just after he reached the Russian lines in the Cossack Calvary Charge.

 

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Cyril_Rofe_in_Uniform.jpg

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Going by Frank Butter’s escapades it’s a wonder the rest of the BEF didn’t get back, he makes it sound so easy.
 
What’s pictured with the R Crossley engraving?
 
I did some digging and have found the MI9 records online, they’re on Find My Past for anyone who’s a member, I’m not but then I only have 2 WWII Brit groups.
 
Tony

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5 hours ago, Tony said:
Going by Frank Butter’s escapades it’s a wonder the rest of the BEF didn’t get back, he makes it sound so easy.
 
What’s pictured with the R Crossley engraving?
 
I did some digging and have found the MI9 records online, they’re on Find My Past for anyone who’s a member, I’m not but then I only have 2 WWII Brit groups.
 
Tony

Hi Tony,

Pte Butters was definitely a slippery character wasn't he! Also he must have been very clever and very brave to have escaped so many times and still be undeterred. Especially after his spell in the Concentration camp at Gurs. I wonder how many people escaped into the Spain twice during the second world war, other than people like Florentino Goicoechea who was one of the most famous Comet Line helpers who guided allied servicemen over the Pyrenees for 3 years! He was awarded the George Medal for his exploits.

The item you see engraved with R Crossley is just a keyring Fob with two precious stones in it. Green jasper and Amber. It has nothing to do with the military, but it is nice to have something else of Reginalds which he probably had on his keys for years. Sorry i completely forgot to write about that!

I have looked on find my past and im pretty certain that the records they have just give the Name, Rank and Service number. The camp, where they escaped to (eg. Switzerland) and give the reference to which file the record is in at the National Archives.

Do you also collect POW medal groups?

 

Rob

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Rob mate no, I can't stay focused so just pick up what takes my fancy after getting the ok from the wife, and it's 99% WWI. I know that ancestry shows many more men in their POW list but it's also just name, rank and POW camp so no info about evaders as the men listed obviously stayed there.

Tony

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Rob, you have an impressive collection - with a great theme - for a young man!  You are an inspiration to we Old Contemptibles!

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4 hours ago, IrishGunner said:

Rob, you have an impressive collection - with a great theme - for a young man!  You are an inspiration to we Old Contemptibles!

Thanks very much! Im glad you like what i have posted so far, I hope you like my upcoming posts!

 

Rob

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ID: 19   Posted (edited)

Next up is the medal group i purchased most recently which arrived a few days ago. I haven't had the time to properly research this group but I have a contact who is going to search the national archives for me to see if the soldier in question filled out an MI9 debrief questionnaire which should be interesting.

These were awarded to 4267944 Fusilier G Harkness who served with the Northumberland Fusiliers during world war 2.

His medal entitlement shows that he was captured at Dunkirk or St Valery and then he was marched off and held at Stalag XXB at Marienberg. Due to being held at Marienberg, i think it is most likely that he was captured at Dunkirk as most St Valery Northumberland Fusiliers that i have heard about were held at Stalag XXa at Thorn.

I am sorry that this is a fairly bland post, but i hope to be able to find out more on this man and write a better post if and when i do find out the whole story!

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Edited by RobPinnell

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Rob

Thank you for sharing your great POW collection with us.  I have a friend who has collected a number of medal groups to South Africans captured during WWII, and, like you, he has unearthed some very interesting stories about them.

Regards

Brett

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12 hours ago, Brett Hendey said:

Rob

Thank you for sharing your great POW collection with us.  I have a friend who has collected a number of medal groups to South Africans captured during WWII, and, like you, he has unearthed some very interesting stories about them.

Regards

Brett

Hi Brett,

Thanks very much for your comment! Yes my collection was for a while just collecting medals to casualties because i thought there was more research that could be done, but then I discovered that some really amazing stories could be found out about those who experience both the battles, and the struggles of POW life! Id like to mix the two fields and get a medal group to somebody who died as a POW either escaping or on one of the 'long marches' but these can be pretty hard to find! Id also like to get POW medals to various nationalities, such as New Zealanders and Aussies. I have a Canadian Escapers medal which i will be posting about later this evening and i hope you enjoy it!

Regards,

Rob

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ID: 22   Posted (edited)

Up next is my first WW1 P.O.W medal and its a cracking one at that! It is going to be a pretty hefty post but its very interesting i promise!

24601 L/Cpl Edward Gyde was born on May the 17th 1881 in Gloucestershire, England. He enlisted into the 13th Canadian Infantry Regiment at Valcartier on the 25th of September of 1914. Edward was 5'9, 170 lbs, of fair complexion, had light blue eyes and fair hair. He had 2 vaccination marks on his arm and his former trade was as a labourer. 

Edward went from Canada to England in October of 1914 and entered France in February 1915 but on the 28th of April 1915, Edward was wounded and captured. He wrote of his capture in a statement he wrote about the treatment of Prisoner of War and the deplorable conditions of the camps he was in.

"I had been attached to No. 4 company of the 13th Battalion of the Canadians, and on April 25th 1915 about 9am, when we were holding a trench near St. Julien, i was shot through the back and the left hip. The company retired, and i tried to follow them but i soon became exhausted and had to give it up and about midnight i was captured by some German soldiers who after they had searched my pockets and taken possession of my knife and loose cash, helped me to reach their lines. I was taken to a dressing station at Langemarck where a red cross man bandaged one of my wounds and as soon as it was daylight i was taken in a tramcar to Roulers. The car was filled with wounded Germans; there was only one other British soldier besides Smyself. Some men in uniform who were working on the road at a place where we stopped acted threateningly towards us and they were evidently calling us names but the wounded Germans made them desist." 

After this L/Cpl Gyde spent some months in a couple of hospitals before being moved to Sonnelager Camp about 4 miles from Paderborn. He was here for a month before being moved to Dulmen POW Camp where he stayed for a year and a day with pretty awful conditions. From here he, along with 34 other British POW's, all of whom had been wounded, were transferred 20 miles to a small working camp at Emsdetten. It was from Emsdetten that Gyde made his successful escape in 1917.

His escape report goes as follows;

"Victim of much outrageous treatment in the more notorious prison camps of Germany, Notably at Dulmen and Muenster and their working detachments, Private E Gyde of the 13th Battalion (Canadian Highlanders) made a daring escape on October 27th after two and a half years of captivity in company with two English soldiers traversing some fifty-five miles in a Zig-Zag course to the Dutch frontier.

Gyde, on arrival in England, alleged that the worst treatment received in Germany was at Emsdetten, a small working camp of the Muenster command. This camp was under the rule of a Hun tyrant who held the equivalent rank of a Lance Corporal in the British Army and who had the power to inflict degrading punishments upon his charges, Summarily.

An Englishman by birth, Gyde fought throughout the South African Campaign and responded to the call of arms in the present war at Cranbrook (British Columbia) where he enlisted within a few days of Britains entry. Joining a British Columbian detachment, he went to Valcartier where he was transferred to the 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada).

Capture

Gyde fell into the hands of the Germans at Ypres in April 1915. On the memorable 24th day, 9.00am to be precise, he was severely wounded in the back and hip. Temporarily bandaged yet in a state of semi-exhaustion he lay during the whole of the day, making repeated attempts to gain touch with his regiment which had been driven from its position. At 2.00 o'clock in the morning of the 25th Gyde was taken prisoner by advancing German patrol, in company with two or three wounded men of the East Kent Regiment which had suffered heavy casualties.

Treatment in Hospital

Marched back through the main German lines, or rather assisted back by his captors, Gyde was taken to a central dressing station where his wounds were attended to by a German cross man. Thence, he went to Roulers, a small Flemish town which was a main German HQ in those days being there placed in an improvised hospital where his bed was a straw mattress and his victuals, coffee and his first war bread, the latter black in colour and bitter and taste. 

The evening on the 25th, Gyde boarded the train for Germany being treated to the accommodation fo a stuffy railway box-car. On the 26th he detrained at the Westphanian town of Padeborn where his wounds were found to be of such a nature that he was forthwith admitted to hospital

This hospital treated about a hundred British and two hundred French prisoners of war. The sisters who tended the patients were of a cruel, unsympathetic nature and displayed these characteristics on frequent occasions, often treating their unfortunate charges with utter contempt. The food that Gyde received was substantially the same as that apportioned to him on later occasions in the notorious prison camps, medicines and drugs were at a premium. 

Under such conditions, the Canadians progress as tedious indeed. For six dreary, trying months he endured it perforce and during four of those did not leave his bed. On one occasion when feeling especially under the weather, Gyde politely requested some nourishing food, In reply he received a curt rebuke and was vouchsafed the information that the German people were existing on similar rations to those issued to prisoners.

Guards thick as Flies

About the end of October, 1915, Gyde was considered fit for removal to one of the prison camps and was transferred to Sennelager, four or five miles distant from Padebron. Sennelager, where many Canadians have spent their early weeks of captivity offered to Gyde's mind a dismal and forbidding spectacle. Here guards swarmed as thick as flies and sought for opportunities to vent their petty spleen upon wretched prisoners. It was a formidable camp indeed and offered no apparent loopholes for escape. Girded as it was with its double strands of live barbed wire. Gyde was now wearing a prison suit of dark grey marked with black and yellow facings. His food at Sennelager consisted of coffee for breakfast, Soup and vegetables at the midday meal and a similar dish at night when the daily issue of bread was 250 grammes. Weekly luxuries were uncooked fish in varying grades of putrefaction and German brawn.

The prisoners were accommodated in small huts with any number from one to two hundred in each. For cleanlinness the Britishers, at least, depended upton their own efforts the huns having little thought for the sanitary welfare of the camp. Whilst at Senne, Gyde was exempted from heavy tasks owing to his physical state which was still very much impaired.

Removed to Dulmen

On Decemer 14th 1915, Gyde was removed to Dulmen Lager, One of the larger camps of Westphalia. Here he found conditions worse than at Senne. The food was very similar but the conduct and general demeanour of the guards were truly characteristic of the bullying Bosche spirit. Again here was this Canadian exempted from the usual routine of work though he did not entirely escape the heavy camp fatigues which included the carrying of coals. In the winter especially, life at Dulmen became intolerably monotonous for Gyde - during the year he spent there his food did not improve at all and in the cold weather he was half frozen in his hut, for though each hut was fitted with a stove of a kind this was seldom lighted owing to the great shortage of fuel.

From bad to worse

December 15th 1916 witnessed Gydes transfer to Esmdetten which is a working detachment of Muenster. Here he became attached to a gang of sixty-eight prisoners of war, British and Russian, engaged in a process of draining the land by means of ditches. Emsdetten offered an oustanding example of gross neglect and harshness. The food was coarser and less nourishing than that at Dulmen and each sentry was of the ultra-bullying type of Hun. The breat issue was less than at Dulmen or Senne, 220g only, daily. The only beverage was coffee which was made from burnt barley and acorns.

Victims of Spleen

Punishment was awarded indiscriminately by an NCO who had almost supreme authority at Emsdetten. Charges were frequently trumped up against prisoners on the most trivial pretexts and many were sent to the cells though no charge had been preferred against them. On one occasion, Gyde recalls that he was sick in his hut when he was kicked by a guard, brutally thrown out of bed and made to stand at attention for three hours. He complained about this manner of treatment but no redress was forthcoming.

In April 1917 the upstart Kommandant at Emsdetten announced that all British Prisoners parcel would be stopped on account of bad treatment alleged to have been accorded German prisoners of war in England. This resulted in a stubborn refusal to work by the British section. However an organised rebellion was out of the question the Britishers here being comparatively few in number. They were finally driven to work at the butt of the rifle and point of the bayonet. Private Allen of the 54th Battalion of Australian Infantry was bayoneted in the breast in the execution of these characteristic Hun methods. Despite the threats and lies of their persecutors, Gyde and his colleagues continued to receive their packets from home.

Escape

On October 27th, Gyde launched his first and successful attempt to escape accompanied by Privates Tomlinson and Hewins. Without that requisite upon which so many men rely, a map, this trio really quite ill-prepared for such an adventure outwitted their captors in broad daylight.

At noontime while the attention of their guards was deflected, Gyde and his two companions made their exit from what was at that time but a poorly guarded prison by way of a detached building and without being seen reached the cover of a wood where they took early refuge. A compass saved the situation from being absolutely hopeless. They carried but one days rations of biscuits and when these were gone they lived upon the vegetable products of the country through which they pursued their perilous pathway to freedom. As they hid in the wood, they distinctly heard the movements of their former captors in pursuit, on one occasion actually within twenty yards of them.

Their first night was a sinecure. They travelled cross country using the compass to great advantage and encountered no extraordinary obstacles. On their second night, they covered  upwards of twenty miles negotiating one unknown village with ease. At 10.00 o'clock in the morning of their third day they were all but recaptured, a shooting party passing within a stones throw of their hiding place. This was really the solitary occasion on which their progress was threatened. 

They travelled on undisturbed avoiding all communities and any signs of life until their fourth night, October 31st when they reached the first region of the Frontier. Encountering no barbed wire and no patrol they cross the border quite unconscious of their happy position, covering upwards of 10km before they realised they were on Dutch soil. When they approached a small country store which bore the familiar sign of a 'Zebra Polish' advertisement in English their joy knew no bounds. Crossing more fields, they took the highway and hearing the sound of bells they hurried into the Dutch village of Etasksbergen where they gave themselves up to the tender mercies of the Dutch military police authorities. At the hands of the latter they received eminently satisfactory treatment and availed themselves to the full of the kindly offers of food which were made to them.

A short period in quarantine at Enschede and Gyde and his co-adventurers were despatched to Rotterdam and thence to England which was reached on November 21st."

 

For his successful escape, L/Cpl Gyde was awarded the Military Medal which sadly I don't have. I only have his 1914-15 Star but i would love to one day reunite his entire group!

Thanks very much for reading, Sorry about it being such a long post, but all the information of the Report was so interesting. Its not just the Escape that is interesting!

 

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Edited by RobPinnell

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On 08/12/2015 at 21:22, Tony said:

Rob mate no, I can't stay focused so just pick up what takes my fancy after getting the ok from the wife, and it's 99% WWI. I know that ancestry shows many more men in their POW list but it's also just name, rank and POW camp so no info about evaders as the men listed obviously stayed there.

Tony

Tony,

Glad you are into WW1, my most recent post is for the only First World War POW medal I have with a really interesting story. Hopefully ill get more ww1 POW groups in the future! Hope you enjoy!

Rob

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My wife’s great grandfather was captured in September 1915 (annoyingly I can't find his POW card on the ICRC site) and apparently received similar treatment, in a letter home he said some guards are good to us, some aren’t. Even after his release some of his possessions were about to be confiscated by an officer but another officer stopped it from happening.
 
You’d best keep your eyes peeled for that MM, BWM and VM and start saving for when/if they do turn up.
 
Tony

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Hi Rob,  It's great to see someone else interested in PoWs.  Please keep posting and the length is all the better as far as I'm concerned as it's the story behind the medal, which you obviously know and enjoy.  I look forward to following your posts!

All the best,

John

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