The Wartime Memories Project - Stalag IVB POW Camp

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Trace your family's war heros POW Records now available online!

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My father Chester Devoid Gainey was a Stalag 4B from January 1945 until the war ended. He was part of the 291 st Infantry Regiment. During the Battle of the Bulge on January 1, 1945 he was captured by the Germans. There were 19 soldiers who were on a scouting expedition in Belgium 3 miles behind enemy lines. As his party was crossing a road, German troops surprised them and opened fire. Chester hit the ground. He was wearing several layers of shirts and as he fell the shirts billowed out from his body. After the gunfire was over, Chester discovered 14 bullet holes through the back of his shirts. A bullet had grazed the back of his head and he was shot in his right arm. (the bullet stayed in his arm all his life) 12 of the soldiers were dead, the surviving 7 were transported to Stalag 4B.

Merle Inman of Tulsa OK was also captured that day. Chester and Merle had become friends at Camp Breckenridge Ky. and had ended up in the same unit. They lived a horrible existence for 5 months at Stalag 4B. They were fed once a day. It was usually a thin soup from whatever could be found and a piece of moldy bread. Chester said the soup would have worms in it. He thought the germans had put cow feed in it to stretch it and the cow feed had worms in it. Snow was deep outside and the soldiers had 2 blankets and 4 boards for a mattress. Chester and Merle combined their blankets and boards and slept together to stay warm. They nursed each other through pneumonia. When the Russians took over the camp, Chester and Merle escaped and made it to an Army base (Camp Lucky Strike I think). In the fall of 1945, they and other P.O.W.'s were honored at a ceremony in Miami Florida in which General Dwight D. Eisenhower pinned their Purple Hearts on them.

Merle and Chester lost touch after 1945. In the fall of 2001 Chester and Merle found each other via the internet. On Dec. 24, 2001 Merle traveled from Tulsa Ok to Smithland Ky. and spent a few days with Chester and his family. It was a wonderful Christmas present for each of them as my father died 2 months later from lung cancer. As of this writing Merle is still living in Tulsa Ok although he is in ill health.

Mona Gainey Lanier.

my Dad was in stalag 4B and his name is George Bolton. He is now 79, and still working as a post boy for an Insurance Company in the City of London. He still remembers his number and after god know's how many years I have managed to get his medals from Tony Blair in fact. Someone else signed for them back then while he was still in prison or trying to get home. He was let out by the Russians and only remembers being in a field being made to drink a glass of vodka with gun shots going off around him. They gave him a bike to get away on and he ended up staying with a German family who he is convinced would not have survived with the Russians there if he had not defended them. It was an old couple with a couple of young girls. He returned home on VJ day.

He lives down the road from me so I get to see loads of him plus we work near each other so I get to have a pint with him every day and hear what he wants to tell me, which grows with either trust or just wanting to reminisce

Anyone remember him. Please contact me.

Chris Whalebone

My late father Arthur Andrew Forrester, who was conscripted into the East Yorkshire Regiment. I think 5th Battalion. He was captured at Tobruk and was in an Italian POW camp for a short while before being sent to Stalag IVB.

Whilst there he was sent to work in a meat factory and sometimes put steaks in his boots to eat when he got back to the camp. His nickname was Slasher as he cut peoples hair. He escaped the camp and found his way to Dresden and was almost killed there by allied fire.

He made his way home after being found by US soldiers, I think he went on a boat via South Africa but am unclear as to why this route was taken. I have his war diary, it is written in pencil and many pages are sadly illegible now.

My father sadly died in 1984. I miss him and am very proud of him. He spoke very little about the war but did make friends with a German prison officer in the camp, and kept in touch with him for many years after the war, this German sent us German Christmas cake every year.

If anyone knows of my father or would like to tell me more about the POW camp I would be very grateful.

Kindest regards Carole

I visited the village of Ripnitz near Doebeln not far from Stalag 4b in 1994 and found the Gasthaus where I and nineteen others of my Arbeitskommando were housed. The room/hall where we had our accommodation was still there and there were marks in the parkett floor where our bunks had been. Just another memory now. I was at the camp from early spring 1944 until the war ended but worked at an Arbeitskommando ,the sand quarry and Kalkwerke at Ripnitz not very far from Muehlberg. Rfmn George Loughridge, London Irish/Royal UlsterRifles, I was captured at Anzio, Italy, on February 16th, 1944.

George Loughridge

My late Grandfather was a POWs held at Stalag 4b. His name was 2926930 Sergeant Henry Cassidy, Cameron Highlanders. He was from Motherwell, Lanarkshire an his overseas service included;India, Sudan and Egypt. Like so many others, he never really spoke of this time so little is known of his time as a Prisoner of war. All I know is that he was reported prisoner of war on 21.06.42, repatriated on 06.05.45 and that during this time he was held at Stalag 4b (Muhlberg).

Stephen Hutson

My name is Harry, ( a Brummie ) I'm 81 years old now. I was captured at Anzio beach head in 1944 and Transported by wagon for 4 days to Stalag IVB. After 4 months I volunteered for work duty and was moved to StalagIVF the reason being that being on working parties the chance to escape became a more realistic proposition. On the Ist of April it becomes unfortunately the 59th anniversary of my recapture after a failed escape attempt. I can remember being with another Brummie ( others I cant remember ) Charlie Thorton, who has now sadly passed away.

Kind regards H.

This is my camp record card.

Raymond Hall

My dad, F. Perrée, and was a technical sergeant in the Dutch army, because he sabotaged a factory then he was send 31-5-43 to Stalag 4B, Stalag X1 A Altengrabow and after that to Czechie Stalag 39 Brux Most. In 44 he flied to Czech. farmers and after the war he returned to Netherlands. But told nothing about that period, who can tell me more information and history?? Gonnie Perree

My father, PFC Louis C. Schmitt of Altoona, Pennsylvania, was captured by the Germans near St. Claire-Sur-L'Elle on June 10, 1944. I believe he was with the 29th Infantry Division. A German prisoner card indicates that he was imprisoned at Stalag IVB near Muhlberg sometime during August of 1944.

My father said the prisoners were assigned to work parties, and that food was very scarce. During his time in Stalag IVB he lost sixty pounds. He was given rations of bread baked from sawdust. Instead of cigarettes, he sometimes smoked wood splinters. One time the guards were seen bringing horses into the camp; the prisoners became quite excited at the prospect of a meal containing fresh meat. If anyone remembers my father, please contact me

Louis C. Schmitt, Jr.

My father, Loren George Resterhouse: Btry. D 634th AAA AW Bn, an Anti-Aircraft & Artillery Auto Cps crew (tankers). The First Army was captured with 900 Men December 1944 and sent to Stalag 4-B then to 8A. They walked the prisoners 720 miles, starved them, in like a death March.

He was freed by American forces in March of 1945 Went to Miami with other Men. Married my Mother there in Miami. He was approx. 110 pounds when he was liberated.

I have photos, and his journal, as I do research on what his suffering was like as an American POW He passed away in Jan. 1987. Would not like to talk about his experiences. He had many nightmares mostly of the war. He carried the anger with him. I am his Daughter

Laura Resterhouse (Born on his Birthday 1953)

My uncle, Staff Sergeant Joseph J. Kilcullen, was captured on or about December 21, 1944, at the Battle of the Bulge. He was a POW at Stalag IV B Muhlberg until liberation, when we believe he was airlifted to a hospital in France suffering from dysentery. I'd appreciate any information about the camp, particularly from anyone who may have known him.

Maureen Kilcullen

My Granddad, Frank Ruston was a member of the Coldstream Guards. He was in Stalag 4B in early in 1944 for a couple of weeks in transit to Eisleben, to work in the copper mines, until April 1945.

I would be very grateful for any other information that you could supply. (Especially on: Jacobstal and Stalag 7A and 4B)

Yours Thankfully

Rebecca Rushton

Both my grandfathers were prisoners of war in Stalag 4b and were captured in Tobruk. They were from Natal, South Africa.

Their names were: Horace Norwood Walker and Boet Wessels - he played in the South African POW Rugby Team - we think flank.

I would love to hear from anyone who perhaps knew them in the camps.

Tracey Wessels

Members of the Stalag IVB POW Group are going to Muhlberg in April 2005 to mark 60th anniversary of liberation. Organiser is Lew Parsons 44 Furlongs, Vange, Basildon, Essex.SS16 4BW. Telephone 01268 527524 (UK)

We have many members who have memories of captivity, memorabilia for StalagIVB and Zeithain (Jacobstahl)

Any one interested in coming to re union or making contact please E Mail Tony Drewitt son of Harry Drewitt exIVB or Lew Parsons above.

Stalag IVB site is devoid of buildings but the whole site is is being preserved by the German initiative group who have erected memorials on the camp and sign posted all the locations and huts there is also a Stadt Museum in Muhlberg containing many artefacts from the camp and a warm welcome awaits any visitor interested in the camp site. German contact details on request.

Tony Drewitt

My uncle was a POW in 4b he died in 1945 and is buried in Berlin .His name is SGT Joe Brann RASC

Jonathan Alderman

I have recently been looking at my fathers POW pictures again and having seen this web site thought I would share them and hopefully have the chance to learn some more about the camp Stalag 4b.

My Father was Private 4751910 Alfred Earnest Chown. Green Howards, I believe he was captured at Torburk and spent some or all of his time at this camp. The pictures I believe were taken at this camp[ my father is forth from the left in the top picture, no idea who the person is in the single picture, other than he could be an officer] I also have a note book with Football fixtures of the time, details of teams including players and positions, 'post match reports', including 'internationals' [sadly no away games !] and I will try to find away of scanning these down and sending them on. Like most of the others my father never spoke of his life in the camp but I would be very interested in filling in some of the gaps, I was told that he escaped once but got no where and returned to the camp other than that the only details I have are in this note book.

Kevin Chown

Thank you for the time and effort given to the Wartime memories web site. I have just read through all the stories relating to prisoners of Slalag IVB where my father, Harold George Knibbs was a prisoner. I would be grateful if his name could be added to the list of prisoners for Stalag IVB. He was in the Royal Armoured Corps.

Sadly he is no longer with us but I know for sure, had the internet been around in his day, he would have been fascinated by all the information available to him from those days.

Regards, Don Knibbs

My Dad, William (Bill) Flockhart was a prisoner in Stalag IVB for 18 months until the end of the war. He was from Glasgow, and was in the Scots Guards. Like many of the servicemen listed on this page he didn't tell me of his experiences except for the odd funny story about fellow prisoners. I do know that he changed identities with someone who escaped. After a period of time, he felt it was safe to collect his mail and was caught and punished. Dad died in 1994. I have letters and documents from his time in the service but no details to go along with them. I would appreciate hearing from anyone with any information about my Dad. Fay Fiedler

My father, Wayne Heuer, 42nd Rainbow Division, was a prisoner in Stalag IV B from 5 January, 1945 until the camp was liberated. We believe he was captured in the bell tower of the church in Offendorf, Germany, and suffered wounds to his head and face right before his capture. He said he was marched around for days, rode the infamous 40 and 8's, and spent time in Stalag V A before arriving at Muhlberg. Somewhere along the line, a British doctor fixed his broken jaw. Due to his jaw injury he was able to eat only a little of the starvation diet offered to the prisoners. In addition, he said they had little water for washing or drinking. He went into the Army weighing 160 pounds and came out of the camp at 95 pounds. There was only one blanket per man during a bitter cold winter, but the lice were more than plentiful and caused unending suffering.

After the liberation, he spoke of being with the Russians for an unknown period of time, and at some point sharing a meal with them, following which he and the other men became sick because their stomachs weren't used to having much food in them. I don't know how long he was with them, or how he parted from them. I've read that some men stayed with the Russians until they were turned over to the Allies, and some took off on their own, fearing what the Russians true motives were, and where they might end up.

My father didn't speak of the war often, and out of respect,I didn't ask him. I always thought 'someday' he'd be ready to tell us more about his experiences. He died at the young age of 58, and that 'someday' never came. If anyone might remember him, or would just like to contact me, I would love to hear from them.

I can never say 'thank you' enough for the sacrifices these veterans made to give us the gift of freedom.

God Bless, Robin

I am trying to research my family history just now as my mother died recently. Among her possessions was a photograph of her mother which had been sent to her brother (my Uncle) in 1942. His name was Sargent John George Latham. The back of the photograph was stamped by the Gerrman authorities as 'Geprüft' Stalag IVb and date stamped 23.May 1942. I would like to make contact with anyone who may have known him or had close contact with him during this time?

Yours gratefully Dave Menham

A story that concerns my late father, Cpl William Charles Wingrove. He was captured in Libya during the 2nd World War , 31/01/43, whilst serving in the East Surrey Regiment (now amalgamated with the Middlesex Regiment) aged 22 and was transferred to Stammlager IVB Muhlberg, Germany, 26,500 allied POW's. due south of Berlin about half way towards Czechoslovakia, along the River Elbe. Whilst captive he Captained an England soccer Team that played in an unofficial World Cup. Forty eight (48) nationalities were represented, Vichy France were excluded as they're contribution to the early War effort (7 days) was not acceptable to their erstwhile comrades. The final was played between England and Germany (comprised of the prison guards).

England won one nil with my father scoring the winning goal, with a firm header from distance. The Team was managed by Sgt George Cartlidge a fellow from the East Surrey's and comprised Elliott, Beecham, Hunt, Robinson, Gray, Taylor, Herbert, McCarthy, Grantham, Keenan, Holt, Wingrove and Manager Cartlidge.

My mother has an inscribed one half of a cigarette case as a memento of the occasion, it was engraved by Russian prisoners at great personal risk. George Cartlidge (deceased) was given a magnificent trophy of a footballer kicking a ball with the legend, Champions Stalag IVB inscribed that was fashioned out of other melted cigarette cases. I have both seen the trophy and discussed the occasion with George as our families grew up in close proximity after the war.

My father learned to speak German quite well as he traded for goods and information. His nickname was 'Griff' which when translated meant 'News Boy' as his fellows would call out to him "What's the Griff Bill. A work colleague of mine's father recalled him with fondness, Ray Nicholson which we discovered in a chance conversation. Sadly they never met up. His memories remained his own and he rarely spoke of his exploits as he lost many fine friends in the campaign. He was repatriated 16th of April 1945 by the 7th Armoured Division, 2nd British Army. This information is taken from an address book written by my father containing many entries by his fellow captives, their names and their then addresses, including American prisoners. My father died in 1982 emaciated by Cancer, his weight in death ironically equaled that of when he was repatriated.

When I asked him if he hated Germans he replied "No, not the regular soldiers as they were doing their job as well as you or I would.

Colin Wingrove

I have been researching my grandfather's military history. He did tell me one or two pieces of info when he was alive but he didn't really like talking about it.I have managed to get hold ofhis "soldiers pay book" his "soldiers release book" and some copies of letters and documents regarding his stay at Stalag 4B.

He served with the supplementary reserves from 1933 and was called up at the outbreak of war,he was sent to Ashford, Kent to train up the new recruits. He was promoted to sergent during this time.He served with 86 company,Royal Engineers.His name was Ernest Reginald Baldwin (nickname;Ike ) In 1942 he was shipped over to North Africa where he was captured in1943 in what was his first time in battle.He surrendered to a Tiger tank and its crew.

Alot of the details of where he was in North Africa are still a bit vague and this is what I'm trying to discover.I would also like to know what route he took to get to Stalag 4B,where he remained until the end of the war.

It also happens that my father-in-law's brother was held at Stalag 4B too. Coincidently they were best friends and worked together as bricklayers in Chelmsford,Essex.Unfortunately this friend died many years ago and I never got to meet him.

Best wishes Andrew Headdon

My Grandfather was a prisoner (#313430 did they have numbers?) of STALAG IV B. His name was Wallace E. Houghtaling from Pittsfield, MA. I don't know the details of his capture. I never really knew him. My mother told me while going over some family genealogy that he was scheduled to be shot on April 13,1943 or 44, the year she wasn't sure of. He escaped the night before along with several others:

Clarance A. Sterner, Monessen, PA

John D. Knappenburgh, Charleroi (?), PA

Charles Bundy, Hina, KY

James Matilinos, Lowell, MA

Arthur C. Peifer, Bloomington, IL

This information came from a military Bible that he carried with him, along with a photo of a deceased daughter.

John Tiffany

I was a POW in Stalag 4b Muhlberg on Elbe, being amonst the first few British RAF Aircrew who were imprisoned there in 1943. Seeking a safer means of escaping from 4b, I exchanged identity with another RAF fellow who because of a rank lower than sergeant was compelled to go out on a working Kommando. (The Germans never suspected that RAF Aircrew were amongst this working Kommando)

In consequence a group of about 15 British POWS were sent out on a Working Commando in 1944 . Amongst that group was at least two British Senior NCO's whose sole purpose was to escape. We were surprised to find that we were taken to Stalag 17b near to Vienna which was Occupied by American Aircrew, many of whom had been shot down on the Schwienfurt Raid in 1943.

However this camp was like being sent to Billy Butlins because the Americans were able to recloth us with American Uniforms, hundreds of cigarettes and Hershey Bars. Scissors and Shoes. They even has an internal broadcast system and playing one old record every night. "I didn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" Food and Facilities were plentyful compared with Stalg 4B.

The work for the British Kommando was that of cleaning the 40 seater system, running repairs and the odd walk down to the railstation for the collection of odd items. Gave we few RAF Aircrew a better view of a means to escaping.

We would watch the United States Air Force overhead a midday on bombing runs into Vienna.

The Americans had a "No Talkie/ No Trade with the Germans "system in force amongst themselves and to we few British our Fellow American POW's left us to our own devices. We all got along together very well.

As Russian troops neared Vienna, all Prisioners were assembled and marched out of Stalag 17b and walked over a number of weeks towards Ranshaffen in Bavaria, when we were released by advanced American Patrols.

The German's Treatment to all of us to my experience was that of Military Respect and Honour.

After the War, two American ex. POWs made a Film "Stalag 17". Trizinsky and Dan Breman. In this film oin which they acted, they attempted to portray the German soldier as a bit dim, especially an Unter Officer Schultz, who had been Max Schmellings sparring Partner. I, because of my work duties, knew this German Soldier. To my memory I recall this man telling me that he had been a proffessional boxer, and he was an German Soldier carrying out his duties in an Honourable Manner.

After the War, I make contact with a Russian Soldier who had been in the Russian Section of Stalag 17 . One Georgie Shemyarkin. Mr Shemyarkin escaped with four others from Stalag 17 and they actually got back to Moscow. We met in Moscow and Mr Shemyarkin had retired as Headmaster from a Moscow School. Georgie died about 1990 and always wanted me to visit the Museum at Shykovo which was dedicated to Field Marshall Shykov - this I managed to do as guest of Georgie's daughter Nadeshda.

Stalag 17 has many memories as a well run POW camp at my time of incarceration.

John Mabbs

James Edward Tranthem, a former prisoner of war in World War II.

My dad registered for the draft at age 18. In three months, he was called and was sent to Camp Wheeler, Georgia where he had nine weeks of basic training. He was then sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to train for six weeks in heavy weapons. After this training, he was sent to New York where he boarded a ship bound for Europe.

When the men arrived at their destination, the Germans bombed their ship. They stay in the bottom of the ship all night till the air raid was over. In the morning they were sent to the front lines. They used 30 calibur water cool machine guns, which they set up where small arm fire couldn't hit them. They fought only during the day. At night they would dig a hole, crawl in it, and sleep until daylight. My dad (James Tranthem) was in the 100th Division Co. D 398th Infantry Regt. 7th Army under General Patton.

Most of the Combat fighting he experienced was in the mountains or wooded areas. One day they came into a small village where there was fighting. They fought for two days. They did not have enough warfare compared to the German artillery. Many men were getting killed, but they were ordered to fight until they took over the village. They fought until dark. They were taught never to enter a place at night where there was a potential for combat. However, the camp captain ordered them to go in anyway. The Germans were watching and waiting until all the Americans got in the village, then they used every weapon they had, destroyed the village, and killed most of our men who were there. They captured the ones they didn't kill. My dad was captured during the Battle of the Bulge on December 04, 1944.

They took their weapons from them, and led them into Germany. They took them to a place where they took away their clothes and replaced them with thin, ragged ones. The Germans also took their boots and give the wooden sandals. They then loaded them into boxcars and proceeded to take them to several different places. They would only travel on the boxcars at night because of aircraft. Many times the boxcars were standing in water. My dad's feet literally froze during this time.

Finally, the prisoners were taken to three different prison camps. In the third prison (Stalag IVB) was where my dad was placed, the conditions were very bad. There were no beds. They slept on the floor and were given two small blankets. There was no place to use the bathroom except inside your cell. No one got to take a bath. It was common practice to starve the prisoners. Many of them died.

One day the Germans came around and asked for 20 volunteers. Anything was better than this camp, so dad volunteered. He was taken, along with the rest of the men, to a town called Glocal, Germany. He worked for two German brothers. One of the brothers had been educated in the United States, so he could speak to them in English. The brothers were really good to them. He stayed on this farm until he was liberated on April 23, 1945.

When dad came back to the states, he was checked carefully by a doctor who said he was okay. He weighed less then 100 pounds. He was sent home for 60 days, then he caught a train for Miami Beach, Florida, where the government had all of the hotels leased for them. He stayed there 30 days and was then assigned to duty at Fort McClellan, NC, a prison for Germans.

My dad never liked to talk about his war time experiences, but he did give this interview to his granddaughter for a paper she was writing in college.

I can't say enough about my dad, he was a very special person who loved his family dearly. After the war he went to work for Tennessee Chemical Company, which he retired after 38 years of service. He was a deacon of his church and a pillar of the small community of Epworth, Georgia. He and wife Helen Green Tranthem were married, March 15, 1946 and had four children. Sadly we lost this wonderful man on August 03, 1999. But our memory of him will live on in our heart forever.

Pat Thomas

My Father, Albert (Bert) Kightley, was in the RAMC. He spent time on Malta during the seige and was then sent with his unit to Kos where they were captured by the Germans and he ended up in Stalag IVB where he spent the rest of the war. He refused to leave when the camp was relieved by the Russian Allies and stayed to tend the sick but although he very rarely spoke of his experiences he was very bitter about the treatment meted out to him and his fellow prisoners by the Russians, which he said was considerably worse than the treatment they had had from the Germans. One of the Russian Officers was a female who was apparently particularly brutal, and witheld Red Cross parcels, eventually forcing my father with three colleagues to leave the camp and make their way to the American lines. They left with all their possesions in a small handcart the side of which was decorated with a portion of a Union Flag. When they eventually reached American lines they cut the flag into four pieces and kept a piece each. I still have that piece today but I have no idea who his companions were.

Val Davis

My father, Nick Kyriakides, was a prisoner in Stalag 4b. He was an acting Lieutenant of the Cyprus Regiment and told me many things about it. I have his Ausweis, his dog tag and his copy of the Geneva Convention, which he carried round and used when he thought that the Germans were getting out of line. I also have some photos of the men in the camp and a funeral of two of his compatriots which was caused when American bombs fell on the camp by accident.

He spent most of his time trying to make sure that the Red Cross parcels got through and dividing the food between his men equally and teaching them foreign languages. His substantive rank was Sergeant and he refused promotion several times so as to stay with his men.

My Dad was captured when the 8th Army left behind the Cyprus Regiment when evacuating the Pelopenese in May 1941 and was there when the Russians entered. He was actually in charge of the camp for a few days when he negotiated with the Germans that they could leave and surrender to the Americans before the Russians reached the town. He married a Czech girl and they settled in this country after the war.

Robert Kyriakides

My father Robet Cossar held for a short time at Stalag 4b. He was captured in North Africa.I have his German dog tags of Stalag 4B with his german number .He was passing thu to Lansdorf Stalag VIIIB Next to Auchwitz wher he spent most of his captivity years, he was used as forced labour at the synthetic rubber and petrol plant by IK Farben. The plants were bombed by the Americans during daylight raids by B17bombers. But the missed and hit the Camp instead, a lot of alied prisoners were killed. (We now call this friendly fire !!)

He remembers seeing his first jet plane a german fighter bomber, they thought it was powered by compressed air. They knew what was going on, every night a was a vist from a reader who read out the BBC news which was received on a clandesdine radio receiver. He is still alive and till only recently had never spoken about his experiences. I saw my Dad today and he still remembers it all.

Dave Cossar.

My father Guy Wilkinson was in the Sherwood Foresters regiment and captured at Tobruk. He eventually arrived at Stalag IVB via Italy. His story of smuggling food to a fellow prisoner, Doug Smith, who was locked up on Christmas Day, explained why we had a phone call every Christmas Day from wherever Doug was in the world until we stopped recieving them in about 1978.

My father walked out of the camp when the Russians were coming, with another prisoner and eventually met up with the Americans. Guy unfortunately died in 1988, but I would love to hear from anyone that was with him.

Peter Wilkinson

letter to F/Sgt F G Hawthorne in Stalag IVB

A letter to F/Sgt F G Hawthorne in Stalag 4B from Jay, telling him about a dance at the hospital and a cricket match with the cub scouts.

If anyone knows Derick or Jay, please get in touch. I would like to return the letter to them.

Submitted by David McKittrick

Update: Derrick and Jay have been located, they married after the war and still togther. The letter has been returned to them by Derrick's friend:

I met Derick on a 4 Group Battle Course at the beginning of 1943, when we discovered we lived not far apart, he in Prestwich and I in Middleton. Derick was a navigator and went on to 77 Squadron flying Halifax Mk2s from Elvington.

I was a pilot flying Halifax Mk2s from 51 Squadron at Snaith. We were both shot down on Krefeld on 21/22 June 1943, but of course we did not know that at the time. Derick baled out and a slack parachute harness gave him quite a severe jerk in the abdomen. He was sheltered by nuns in a convent in Holland and then taken to Brussels.

I lost the two engines the port side immediately after the bombing run, and had no hydraulics to raise the bomb doors. With the rudders also damaged it was difficult to hold height and course and we lost height down to 4,000 feet. I turned into Belgium and baled out my crew. When I thought all had gone, the rear gunner reported that he could not get out of the turret. ( He did not tell me he was wounded in the back and shoulder and I only found this out after the war.)

I told him I would attempt a landing, but he got out at 1,000 feet. I landed in a forest and was knocked out, but the aircraft did not burn. When I recovered I set fire to the Halifax and headed towards France. Five weeks later I found myself back in Brussels being introduced to an Evasion organisation. On my first interrogation, I gave my number rank and name, but refused any further service details, which upset my interrogator. I was asked to wait in another room and I immediately noticed a photo of Derick, wearing pyjamas and sitting up in bed, but looking very ill. I said, "I know that man. His name is Derick Hawthorne," and I was immediately accepted as genuine airman. For the next few nights I was moved to the tiny apartment of a Swiss Nurse, and there I found that Derick had arrived at her flat and had suffered a haemorrhage of the stomach. Nurse Collet refused to surrender him to the Germans and she nursed him until he could be moved on. She organised blood transfusions from friends in a local hospital and fed him on ice cream, still available in wartime Belgium.

Unknown to Nurse Collet she was a collecting point for an organisation infiltrated by the Gestapo. From her flat I was moved by the Belgian Gestapo Agent, Prosper de Zitter, who posed as a Captain in the British Secret Service. At the next address I found Derick. Later I was moved to Paris where I was handed over to the Gestapo and placed in Fresnes Gaol. Derick, a few days later, was arrested in Brussels and spent some time in St Giles Prison.

When I was moved to Dulag Luft interrogation centre the first person I saw was Derick. I next saw him when I got to Stalag IV-B. We have remained friends for 61 years.

Fred Heathfield

My father, John Badger Woodman, was a Flight Sergeant Wellington bomber pilot with 70 Sqn shot down over Benghazi in 1942. After appalling captivity at the hands of the Italian Army he was sent to Germany where he was incarcerated in Stalag IVB. My father never spoke of his wartime experiences, I do understand from my relatives that he tried to escape on three occasions but sadly these were stories he took to his grave, he died in April 1999.

I never was really able to understand what he went through becaused he simply never talked about it and I supppose I never really asked. I do recall that he did tell me once towards the end of his life about a time that he had managed to get himself out of a cattle truck on its northward journey to Germany from Southern Italy ( having been shipped over I presume from North Africa by the German Army) when it was stopped at a station. He described running onto the rail track in a desparate attempt to get away and hearing the German guard shout 'Halt' followed by the sound of a rifle bolt being drawn back and closed. I remember this story because it was one of the only times in my life I ever heard my father swear, he told me that he knew he wasn't going to make it and honestly believed he was about to be shot so he stopped, turned around to face his guard and said simply, 'F***k it'. Since my father died I have been trying to research his wartime experiences, from my own service in the forces I was extremely lucky to have the oppurtunity to visit the site of Stalag IVB in Germany in 1999. I have corresponded with a number of former POWs who were at Stalag IVB but would dearly love to make contact with somone who might be able to shed light on my father's personal experiences. His POW number was 229136 and he was promoted to Warrant Officer whilst in captivity. From what I have been able to gather he spent some time in solitary confinement due to unsuccessful escape attempts.

Jason Woodman

My father was a POW at Stalag 4b. 4984835 Pte. Joseph Fredrick Brown. Brit. Army, Sherwood Foresters. Captured in North Africa November 1943 liberated from Stalag 4B 9 April 1945.

Like many, he never spoke of his wartime experiences.

Ian Brown


Eddie James, my father, died in hospital on 23rd May 2002. He hardly ever spoke of his wartime experiences, especially to his little girl ( me ), hence I have very few details. I believe he was captured some time after D-Day and sent to Stalag IVB. He escaped three times. On the first two occasions he was recaptured and returned to the prison camp. On the third occasion he eventually made his way back to England. Although returning in a pretty sorry state, he eventually returned to the Army, latterly with the Royal Military Police, until he left in 1954.

I have now inherited several photographs taken within the camp and a drawing of the camp by a Dutchman, N. Uchtmann. Unfortunately the accompanying letter has been lost.

If anyone knew him, or would like to share any information about anyone in the camp, I would be glad to hear from them. Georgina Harding

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