MI9 POW Camp Secret Histories: Stalag XX A Thorn

MI9 POW CAMP SECRET HISTORIES

STALAG XX A THORN

Stalag XX A Thorn POW Camp
Stalag XX A Thorn Prisoner of War Camp

 

1. DESCRIPTION AND CONDITIONS

Stalag XX A was started in June 1940. It was one of the main Other Ranks camps in those early days and a very large proportion of the O.R. P/W of May/June 1940 went straight to it for sorting.

The main camp was a collection of five or six 50-year old forts on the edge of TORUN (THORN) in the then German occupied POLAND. Camp amenities were of the same date, except the lavatories, which were slightly more modern. The camp administered Working Camps which normally numbered between 180 and 200.

At first, before Red Cross supplies got through, clothes were very bad, especially for P/W on working parties who were given only shirt and pants on arrival. Food was scarce and the water supply poor.

The German guards at this time were soldierly and unbribable - they firmly believed what they were told, that "Germans are in ENGLAND now". Those over 25 were fair to P/W, but the younger Germans tended to be brutal.

P/W received no interrogation but were merely registered. In July they were sorted by trades and sent out to work parties, where conditions were usually much harder than in the Main camp. In 3½ months one Arb. Kdo. (KULM) received two lots of Red Cross parcels - the first issue being 1 per 20 men and the second ½ each.

The main illness was dysentery. There was also some scabies and diphtheria.

In spite of all this the morale of P/W at XX A, judging by escapers' and I.R.C.C. reports seems always to have stood high. On the whole the camp was fortunate in its British Officer and W.O. officials. Also the early German Commandant was a fair man and did his best for the P/W, as their letters showed.

The usual P/W activities towards entertainment and education started and by the Autumn of 1941 there were orchestra, good library and various classes running.

Gradually in the main and working camps conditions improved. Red Cross supplies arrived regularly. The main persistent bad aspects were poor footwear, overcrowding in some working camps and the main camp hospital, bad water supply and lighting in the main camps.

Arbitrary shooting of P/W by the guards was another bad feature, particularly in the early years - at least 22 P/W met their death in this way. From 1943 onwards, however, the conduct of the Germans was fair, guards being generally better behaved on working parties. A new Commandant in September 1943 temporarily upset things. From April 1944 onwards conditions tended to worsen, with the Germans' security measures becoming gradually stricter.

Numbers at THORN, where there were usually 3 Forts in use as living quarters, varied between 3,000 to 4,000, with a temporary decrease in the summer to about 2,000, when more P/W were sent out on agricultural work.

M.Os, Padre and Man of Confidence appear to have had requisite freedom of movement. The hospital was good as a result of our M.O's. work.

On 21 January 1945 the camp started to move West on foot. The P/W marched 20-40 km a day through 2 or 3 feet of snow and 25° of frost. Frost bite was frequent and many P/W, died from dysentery. Shootings and beatings were frequent. Sgt. METHEWS referred to below, para 5, was killed on this march.

The route was across the North German plain - the largest number of P/W finishing up at HILDESHEIM.

 

2. ESCAPE ORGANISATION

In a camp of the nature of Stalag XX A complete control by senior members of the main camp over the escape activities of P/W in the outlying camps is virtually impossible, even if it were desirable. In the main camp, however, which was itself split up into partially separate Forts, a body of senior P/W and their helpers had by 1943 come by usage and personality to be regarded as the authorities on escape and the active assisters of those who wanted to try. And these men did indeed much to help, but not control, the P/W in outlying camps.

From the actual camps themselves escape was not difficult in the way that it was from, say, an Oflag. Therefore, control such as existed in some Oflags was in any case not necessary in XX A. The de facto Escape Committee was rather a band of non-combatant officers and senior N.C.Os. who by their official position had, and made good use of, unusual facilities for obtaining information and materials. Their work was made easier through the willing co-operation of some resourceful and brave helpers who went outside the camp for information and to make contacts (see Appx A (for HORLOCK) and Appx E). The Man of Confidence, C.Q.M.S. GRANGER was fully informed of, and in fact had a large hand in these activities.

The camp had 31 escapers who successfully reach the U.K. before the end of the war. Of these 15 reach[ed] Russia in 1940 within a few months of arriving at Stalag XX A. They all left from working camps, for the most part with little preparation or equipment. They were mostly helped by Poles to reach the Russian frontier. Their reception by the Russians was always cold and many were even maltreated. Most of them were on a train bound for SIBERIA when GERMANY attacked RUSSIA in June 1941. They were then released and were soon back in the U.K. One 1940 escaper from a working camp at DANZIG was the first P/W to use the later popular method of stowing away on a Swedish ship to SWEDEN. He was fortunate in striking a friendly Captain.

In 1941 there were no successful escapes. In 1942 there were two, one by a P/W who made contact with a Polish organisation and was sheltered and passed on till he finally reached SPAIN; the other, as did all subsequent successful escapers from Stalag XX A, went from a North Sea port by a neutral ship to SWEDEN. In 1943 eight P/W used this route and in 1944, five. The majority of all these escapers after 1942 were from the main camp.

Attached at Appx B, is an outline summary of the successful escapes from Stalag XX A. It can be seen from it how beginning from scratch and no background in 1940, escaping was by 1944 reduced to a fine art entailing, normally speaking, a lot of hard preparatory work, besides resolution and endurance during the attempt.

The 1940 escapes were from outlying camps. The escapers had little or no escape kit. One waited for several months before making his attempt in the hope that Red Cross parcels would arrive. Eventually one did come - but only one and there were 200 P/W to share it. So he went off without any "escape food". These were opportunist escapes which came off largely through the presence of friendly Poles. It was comparatively easy to get out of the camps, "work camps had only one wire fence and were easy to get out of" - but in view of the little information about neighbouring states that there was in these early days, it must have been a big decision to make, e.g., one escaper said, "the Germans put up notices saying that the Russian sentries shot on sight."

There were no successful escapes from the main camp till 1942. Camp conditions were more comfortable and there was thus less incentive. Several of the 1940 escapers reported that in the main camp there were in their time several senior W.O's. who discouraged all escape talk, as such activities would lead to the Germans imposing restrictions, and curtailing any existing comforts. Indeed there were alleged to be certain who betrayed two escape plans to the Germans.

As time went on and escaping became more difficult, it was in the Main Camp that most of the preparatory work was done. Encouraged by receiving information and kit from ENGLAND in the Autumn of 1942, the group of escape enthusiasts, mentioned above came into being, with self evident results. The efficiency of this group is particularly exemplified by the way in which PADDON, ARMSTRONG and MacPHERSON were kitted out and got away from THORN within a very short time of their arrival.

There appears to have been a good unselfish spirit among camp officials. For instance, 2 P/W who worked in the parcel store, and could thereby have escaped more easily than the ordinary P/W in the camp, had arranged to go out with the rabbit-keepers HUTSON and GLANCEY. It was thought, however, that as the previous escape of 2 workers in the parcel store (CURRY and DOUBLEDAY) had had certain unpleasant repercussions, a further escape that made use of the facilities offered by this job would cause the Germans to take some drastic action, such as cutting down parcel issues. These two, therefore, gave up their places in a well planned escape, to two others who reached U.K. successfully.

The 1940 escapers as has been seen, received help from the Poles. At this stage it was usually casual unorganised assistance from farmers and often from Jews. Later the camp made contacts with some Poles at BYDGOSZCZ (Bromberg) who formed an escape organisation for the benefit of P/W at THORN. Eight P/W were safely put on Swedish ships by them. Two of the Poles then came to the U.K. and were awarded the B.E.M. A note on this organisation is at Appx "D".

The main recorded workers for escape over the 4½ years of Stalag XX A's existence were:-

Capt. C.

Rev.

R.S.M.

C.Q.M.S.

Sgt.

Cpl.

Pte.

Cpl.

Cpl.

Cpl.

Pte.

Pte.

Sgt.

Cpl.

Sgt.

R.S.M.

C.S.M.

Pte.

Bdr.

Cpl.

l/Cpl.

COOK.

LATHAEN.

STRAWBRIDGE.

GRANGER.

BEVERLY (N.C.O. i/c. Esc.)

CURRY.

ASPREY.

WILLIAMS.

GOODSON.

BAKER.

SCOTLAND.

MEATKINS.

LINGANE.

COULTHARD.

McLELLAN.

SIVERS.

MACKINTOSH.

ROBSON.

HOOKS.

HORLOCK.

BRYDSON.

P/W mentioned as particularly persistent escapers are:-

L/Cpl. A. COULTHARD, F.S.P., 8 or 9 attempts - once reached SWISS border.

Sgt. FOSTER - reached SWISS border.

Sgt. McLELLAN, R.A.

Cpl. J. HORLOCK, R.A.S.C.

Pte. J. GILLILAND, Camerons - 8 or 9 attempts, finally shot by Germans.

 

3. ESCAPE MATERIAL

The experiences of the early escapers from XX A showed that the necessities for the journey to the RUSSIAN frontier were food and good clothes, uniform or civilian - the escapes being more than later mostly a matter of physical endurance. Travel was on foot by night until the P/W contacted a friendly Pole, and often continued to be so even then. Thus the wearing of uniform was not a great hindrance before, and was a definite advantage after, the escaper reached the frontier. Of the early escapers none had the chance of collecting escape food (which later was largely drawn from Red Cross parcels) and few had warm clothes.

Gradually as the Germans got more control of the area and unprepared escapers stood little chance of success, the greatest need was for the aids to masquerade and open travel; false papers, rubbers stamps, money and civilian clothes. Unfortunately very few of the false papers sent out reached the camp. Equipment of the nature of tools to help in the actual break-out were little needed. One P/W says, "From the point of view of men's camps, in my experience, special mechanical gadgets are not necessary as the men can procure these articles themselves, what we needed most, however, was money, passes and ration cards." Maps and compasses were not essential when travel came to be mostly by train. Plans of North Sea ports were, of course, invaluable. Money was of great use at THORN, not so much for purchasing kit as for paying for the services of various contacts, who themselves had to do a lot of bribing of petty German officials. Those escapes which were largely planned by the "BROMBERG organisation" are thought to have cost between 2,000 - 4,000 R.M. per head. One returned P/W said, "nearly all successful escapes were due to money aid".

Parcels began to arrive in April 1943 - which was rather late considering that this had been an important Camp ever since June 1940 and had had 15 escapers back towards the end of 1941 who could tell the tale of what was wanted. Appx "B" shows the equipment sent to, and acknowledged by the camp. This was got to the camp at first in totally concealed parcels. Later, when warning could be given, complete contraband parcels were sent with much success.

This Camp took part in the SAVORY and MOORE, HOGMANAY and XMAS cracker schemes. The former produced good results and Hogmanay put several fresh P/W in the know. Opinions were mixed about the success of the Xmas scheme at XX A.

Suggestions by returned P/W on the range of materials sent were:-

  1. Dyes; more should have been sent. Ours were often of not soft enough colour tones;
  2. Cigarettes must bear no trade mark - otherwise they are hard to use for bribery;
  3. German worker's clothes and German railway timetables would be useful (!)

Information for escaping was sent to the camp so far as any suitable was available. This was not much as a great deal of our own information on the North Sea ports, the really only practicable route for Stalag XX A, itself came from escapers from THORN and was already known in the camp.

The method of getting hold of all contraband parcels was to steal them from the parcel office or in transit from the station, before they had come under the German clerks and been registered. Warning to expect their arrival was given by the Man of Confidence, GRANGER, to his N.C.O's. in the "In" parcel store, who with the co-operation of 2 civilian Polish girls employed in the parcel office, smuggled them out to GRANGER, who had access to the "OUT" parcel store. Only GRANGER and Padre LATHAEN ever knew what these particular parcels contained. It is stressed by both, that plenty of warning must be given for good results to be achieved. The Germans do not seem to have suspected that illicit smuggling was so flourishing - probably because they thought that the contraband that they found in searches originated from the Poles. The only covers that they seem thoroughly to have learnt were boards for games such as Ludo and Chess, gramophone records and shaving soap. Cigarette parcels were never censored.

All P/W interrogated agree that contraband should be sent to individuals rather than to the S.B.O. or fictitious persons. Some have qualified this in the sense of the following remark made by one of the camp M.O's; "but the individuals (in men's camps certainly) should be nominated by a responsible officer, W.O. or N.C.O, in the P/W camp. This would result in better security as there have been most unreliable people amongst us".

 

4. CENSORSHIP

The censorship centre was in the German administrative building about ½ mile from the main camp. It was controlled by Wehrmacht N.C.O's., the work being done by German and Polish girls. Censoring was done here for all the 200 odd working camps, as well as for the main camp. Occasionally complete mail bags were picked out at random and sent to BERLIN for censoring. All parcels were also censored at THORN.

The system seems to have been haphazard. Sometimes mail was done in groups by the same censor and sometimes not. One P/W says that the group divisions were based on P/W numbers. Even when the group system was in force censors changed their groups at least once a month. The only consistency was that the outgoing mail of the few officers in camp was always done by the same censor.

Censorship seems to have been fairly efficient to begin with but to have slackened off noticeably after September/October 1944. The censorship of communications forwarded from the Main Camp to Arb. Kdos. was, conveniently, almost non-existent.

The presence of Polish girl censors no doubt made for slackness. Their presence in the parcel store is specifically stated to have made smuggling a fairly safe and easy business. Special parcel markings, as shown above, did not become well known at Stalag XX A.

The Man of Confidence reports that several of the senior P/W had their mail watched, but there is not certain indication that the Germans suspected that code was being used. On two separate occasions all the British P/W working in the censorship department were dismissed, but this was mostly due to the Germans suspecting that letters were being abstracted before coming before the censors.

 

5. CODE - LETTERS

In 1941 there were two code users at Stalag XX A who between June and August sent 10 messages, five of which contained useful information. They were not taught before capture so must have learnt the code from other users they met elsewhere. No more messages were received until October 1942 when contact was re-established by means of a private code that Pte. E.E. MATHEWS had arranged with his brother in LONDON. Through MATHEWS official codes were re-introduced to the Camp and Capt. MOODY, N.Z.M.C. set up the small organisation later run and perfected by Padre LATHAEN. MOODY and MATHEWS continued to operate MATHEWS' private code.

Incoming messages went to Padre LATHAEN who informed GRANGER of their contents. MATHEWS' letters, if written in his own code, normally went straight to him.

The text of outgoing messages were decided on by Padre LATHAEN and GRANGER, who used one or two casual writers to help in the actual despatch. At the outlying camp GRAUDENZ, Gnr. SCOPES was a writer and whenever possible sent his contribution in to THORN for checking and approval before despatch. MATHEWS, at his outlying camp, often sent messages independently.

The people in the know were so few that security of the codes in question was perfect. Several senior N.C.O's. have shown by their Pink Form answers that they knew nothing of the code-work set up.

 

6. W/T COMMUNICATION

There were wireless receiving sets in the main and most of the working camps. These were usually obtained from the Poles by barter for Red Cross food. Sometimes parts were bought and sets then assembled in camp. Occasionally a German guard could be bribed to bring in parts.

There was no code communication by wireless between W.O. and Stalag XX A.

Note:- See at Appx E (i) an appreciation by Padre LATHAEN of Bdr. HOOKS, the official wireless operator for News in the main camp.

 

7. NEWS LETTERS

About one third of the P/W who filled in special forms knew of the existence of News letters. "A few evaded Censor and others were extracted from the mail hags before reaching the censorship room."

In Stalag XX A contact with POLES meant that wireless news was available practically from the start; therefore their use here was less marked than in less fortunate camps, e.g: "Read with interest - but morale was good anyway." On the value of News generally in P/W Camps, Capt. MOODY, N.Z.M.C. makes the following remarks, "In my opinion the News, throughout the whole term of my prison life, in its effect on the morale of the men was second only to regular receipt of Red Cross parcels."

 

8 (a) MILITARY INFORMATION

The most fruitful source of information appears to have been specially selected people sent out by the organisers, Capt. MOODY, M.O., Padre LATHAEN and GRANGER, the Man of Confidence, to working parties situated near the factory, or whatever it was, about which information was required. Here contact with local inhabitants was usually possible. In this connection the names of BRYDSON, HORLOCK and GOODSON should be mentioned especially. Appx B, E, E3a. especially, gives a good example of how these matters were arranged and the risks often run by these information hunters. The following extracts from another P/W's reports are also interesting:-

"Cpl. HORLOCK, besides making contacts in GRAUDENZ area, collected useful information, regarding production and enemy activities in the GRAUDENZ area."

"I collected information about local factory production from fellow P/W working in these factories. They were only too pleased to discuss their daily work. This information I passed on verbally to Padre LATHAEN".

Inside the camp such information as they had could usually, anyway in the last year or 18 months, be wheedled from the guards in return for cigarettes or coffee. Civilian workers coming into the camp were another good source.

Camp officials such as M.O., Padre, Man of Confidence, had considerable freedom of movement from the Main Camp to pay visits to the outliers. This afforded good opportunity for observation and casual talk with civilians. The information provided by returned unsuccessful escapers was of a more specialised nature. It was seldom that an escaper had time to look about him for economic intelligence. But they brought very useful news about travel conditions, identity papers, docks and Gestapo methods, etc.

The following extract sums the matter up:-

"Sensible intelligent and trustworthy men were approached and told that Military information would always be welcome to us. The exact location of factories, what they were producing, the location and particulars of airfields and barracks, shipping activities in DANZIG, building and repairing of submarines, troop movements, and such-like, were especially emphasised. We also recorded A.A. defences, sighting of cloud producers in and around DANZIG, and endeavoured to locate places when submarine parts were stored in farms, etc., in and around DANZIG. Information was always checked through a second source or by personal contact before it was despatched."

Requests for particular information made by the W.O. were nearly all met, especially news about certain road construction, defence works, airfields, rockets and submarines, other subjects covered by the camp included security, atrocities, German morale, munition and other factories, and oil boring.

 

8 (b) INTERNAL SECURITY

Security of official secrets within the camp was achieved by the Officers and W.O's. in charge strictly limiting the other P/W in the know to as small a number as was consistent with efficiency. Thus there were few code users and only a small band of P/W engaged on the production of escape kit.

Security against internal stooging by the Germans seems to have had no elaborate organisation but to have depended on the good sense of those who might have been the object of their attacks. "Owing to the fact that we had what we considered known "phoney" persons in our midst, we always had to be specially careful of asking (German or Polish guards and workers in the camp) for assistance. Only when we were absolutely certain about people could we go ahead."

All information on these matters, appears to have been pooled amongst the officers, W.O. and N.C.O. officials.

Security must have been good in view of the success achieved, for example, by the BROMBERG organisation. Messages were also sent by the camp to the W.O. about doubtful characters such as STYLES.

 


 

APPENDIX B

SUMMARY OF ESCAPES FROM STALAG XX A (THORN) AND FROM ATTACHED WORKING CAMPS

 

1940

MONTH

NAME

METHOD OF EXIT MAIN CAMP, OR ARB. KDO.

EQUIPMENT PREPARATION

TRAVEL

WHERE ARRIVED

S/P.G. REPORT NO.

July

T.S.M. BRIGGS, R.A.C.

Walked away from Working Party during day. (WINDUGA).

Civilian coat from a Pole. No food.

Walked by night. Helped by Poles.

Making for Romania till heard it had been occupied - then go to Russian frontier

454

August

(L/Cpl. A.J. WEBB, W.G.
(Pte. J.R. TOMLINSON,
( A. & S.H.

Through single wire round Arb. Kdo., past drunk guards at night. (WINDUGA).

Battle Dress. No food.

Walk, chiefly by night. Helped by Poles.

Making for Romania till heard it had been occupied - then go to Russian frontier

458
459

August

Cpl. H. LOVERGROVE, Gordons.

Knocked out single sentry at Arb. Kdo. In evening (GRUPPE).

No food. Swam VISTULA.

A Polish labourer (ex Professor) gave him compass and map.

RUSSIA

464

September

(L/Cpl J.S. ALLEN, C.M.P.
(Pre. G. GREEN, R.A.S.C.
(Cpl. G.H. CLARK, R.A.

Walk away from German-Polish guard while working. (PISCHNITZ).

Battle Dress. Little Food.

Walk. Helped by poor Jews.

RUSSIA

572
573
574

September

(Pte. J. WALLER, Green Howards.
(Pte. W.J. ROBERTS, D.L.I.
(Cpl. R. BAINBRIDGE.

Through window and wire of Arb. Kdo. with axe, past drunk guards (old men). (KONITZ).

Some civilian clothes

Walked by night. Helped by an American Pole. Travel by train.

RUSSIA

455
456
457

September

Pte. E. BOUGHTON, Wilts.
Bdsmn. K.W. BATEMAN, R.W.F.

From lavatory and under wire of Arb. Kdo. At midnight. (KULM).

Some food.

Walked for four weeks. Some help.

RUSSIA

462
463

October

Pte. L.A. COE, A.D.C.

Hid in shed on docks where working (DANZIG-OLIVA).

No food. No clothes.

Swedish ship - no food for 3 days. Captain then friendly.

SWEDEN

212

October

(Cpl. W. CORKERY, Foresters.
(Pte. H. DOYLE, Gordons.
(Dvr. L. MASSEY, R.A.S.C.

Window and wire of Arb. Kdo. at night, "easy" (WINDUGA).

Some food.

Walk by night 10 nights - then passed on by Polish farmers

RUSSIA

460
461
595

 

 

1942

MONTH

NAME

METHOD OF EXIT MAIN CAMP, OR ARB. KDO.

EQUIPMENT PREPARATION

TRAVEL

WHERE ARRIVED

S/P.G. REPORT NO.

March

Cpl. T. McGRATH, R.A.S.C.

From Main Camp. Walked out of unguarded Kommandantur while on supply job.

Well equipped. Civilian clothes, razor, food, money.

Sheltered 3 months in THORN - given papers and new identity and escorted by organisation to SPAIN passing all controls

BELGIUM, FRANCE, SPAIN.

1189

June

S/Ldr. B. PADDON, R.A.F.

From Main Camp. Slipped away from a local working party.

An officer sent to THORN for Court-Martial. Within a few hours he was got away, completely equipped with clothes, maps, money and foreign worker's papers.

By slow trains to GDYNIA, finding no ships there, back to DANZIG

SWEDEN

805

 

 

1943

MONTH

NAME

METHOD OF EXIT MAIN CAMP, OR ARB. KDO.

EQUIPMENT PREPARATION

TRAVEL

WHERE ARRIVED

S/P.G. REPORT NO.

June

(B.S.M. A. PATON, R.A.
(Pte. L. GREEN, R.A.S.C.

Through window and wire of Arb. Kdo. (GRAUDENZ).

Well prepared with clothes and papers and contacts arranged.

To helpers - train to GDYNIA - various trips between towns and contacts waiting for ships, finally GDYNIA.

SWEDEN

1354
1362

September

(Cpl. R. DOUBLEDAY, O.B.L.I.
(Cpl. J. CURRY, R.A.O.C.

Walk out from Kommandantur, main camp where both worked in Post Office.

Fully equipped, clothes and papers and contacts arranged.

Picked up by lorry, sheltered BROMBERG - taken to ship at GDYNIA.

SWEDEN

1499
1500

October

Sgt. J. GLANCEY, R. Sig.
Pte. J. HUTSON, P.L.K.R.
Capt. R. MacPHERSON, Camerons.
Capt. C. ARMSTRONG, N.Z.E.F.

From back gate of Kommandantur to which two had access as official keepers of 200 rabbits.

Fully equipped - contact with lorry driver arranged. The 2 officers had only been in camp a day or two.

Picked up by lorry, sheltered BROMBERG - taken to ship at GDYNIA.

SWEDEN

1522
1514
1520
1521

 

 

1944

MONTH

NAME

METHOD OF EXIT MAIN CAMP, OR ARB. KDO.

EQUIPMENT PREPARATION

TRAVEL

WHERE ARRIVED

S/P.G. REPORT NO.

January

R.S.M. A.E. HAWTIN, O.B.L.I.

Walked out of main camp - past sentry by clever timing.

Fully equipped - clothes, papers, etc.

Helped by fellow escaper, a Pole, to GDYNIA.

SWEDEN

1726

February

F/Lt. T.H. CULLEN, R.A.F.
Q.M.S. J. GREIG, R.A.M.C.

From main camp - over frozen moat - scaling ladder over wire in a blind spot - passed guard room while a P/W on official duty distracted attention.

Fully equipped, clothes, papers, and contacts.

Picked up by lorry, sheltered and helped to ship at GDYNIA.

SWEDEN

1856
1857

May

L.Cpl. W.R. LLOYD, Foresters.
Pte. E.V. BURFIELD, Queen's.

From back window and wire of surveillance lager. Sentry distracted by a "fight".

Civilian clothes stolen from German confiscation store. Went to THORN, and in and out of main camp collecting proper equipment, passes, etc. Entered camp by rejoining working party instead of friends who stayed out till next day.

Alone by train, sheltered in THORN. Alone by train to GDYNIA.

SWEDEN

1976
1977

 


 

APPENDIX C

MATERIAL SENT OUT IN PARCELS

 

Sent

Acknowledged

Money    

Reichmarks.

72,180

5,300

Maps & Passes

 

 

Special maps and plans

General maps

Passes

77

112

46

 

Information

 

 

Handkerchiefs

Notes, on flimsy

Shirt "B"

3 sets

3

3

 

Clothes

 

 

Blankets (special)

Civilian suit

Civilian hat

Civilian tie

Civilian shirts

Housewife

Shoes (rope)

Dyes.

Buttons

1

4

4

7

1

1

1

 

Draughtsman's, etc., Kit for False Paper Production

 

 

Cameras

Photographic materials

Drawing materials

Rubber Stamps

Carbon paper

2

2 sets

2 sets

6

2

2 sets

Miscellaneous

 

 

Compasses

Cookers

File

Hacksaws

Blank-keys

Screwdrivers

Wire-cutters

Chisels

Torch & batteries

Flex

108

2

6

37

2

3

1

4

3

 

 


 

APPENDIX D

Report On

Edmund ZIOLKOWSKI and
Antoni STARUSZKIEWICZ
(Poles)

See R.V.P.S. Reports Nos. 18829, 18976, 18977
and
S/P.G.(Poland) Nos. 1499, 1500, 1514

 

In the summer of 1943 ZIOLKOWSKI got in touch with British at Stalag XX. A, which he visited every Friday with his lorry in which he carried Red Cross parcels. The only British P/W, whose name he remembers, is Sgt. SMITH.

Once contact had been established, he and STARUSZKIEWICZ conveyed the following British escapers to GDYNIA and arranged for them to be put on board Swedish ships and taken to Sweden; Cpl. CURRY, Cpl. DOUBLEDAY, Capt. MACPHERSON, Capt. ARMSTRONG, Pte. HUTTON and Sigmn. CLANCY.

The organisation worked as follows: ZIOLKOWSKI picked up escapers in his lorry outside the camp and took them to BROMBERG, where they stayed in STARUSZKIEWICZ's house, until they heard from GDYNIA that there was a suitable Swedish ship in port.

The escapers were then taken to GDYNIA or DANZIG by lorry. This was possible because ZIOLKOWSKI was employed by the Germans and trusted by them. He was able to find some reasonable business excuse for taking the lorry so far.

ZIOLKOWSKI finally decided to escape himself because the Germans were pressing him to work for them as a stool pigeon in the Polish Resistance Movement and threatening him if he refused. He, therefore, covered up his tracks by pretending to have been killed in an air raid in BERLIN and went to GDYNIA where he met STARUSZKIEWICZ, who was also a fugitive having narrowly escaped arrest for transactions on the Black Market. They stowed away on a Swedish ship with the help of GORYNIA, their contact in GDYNIA.

They are both convinced that their participation in the escape organisation was not suspected, that the organisation has not been compromised by their flight, and that the Germans are unaware that they have escaped.

The present members of the organisation are:-

Josef DOMBROWSKI, who has had himself transferred from the Stocking factory where he worked to the "DYNAMIT" factory near BROMBERG. As he is "eingedentscht", he would have been liable for military service if he were not doing work of national importance.

KOTZBACH, who now drives the lorry.

ZAKRZEWSKI, who can drive the lorry if KOTZBACH is not available.

CZESLAW GORYNIA, who operates the GDYNIA end of the work, a very prudent and careful man. He can bribe the sentries at GDYNIA docks and is in league with the captains of some Swedish ships. He goes to BROMBERG once a week.

The members of the organisation go armed and, if escapers were discovered in their lorry, they would shoot.

ZIOLKOWSKI estimates that it costs about 5,000 Reichsmarks to get a man out owing to the fact that it is sometimes necessary to have escapers for many days and to provide clothes. They think that DOMBROWSKI could get out five a week, if he had sufficient funds.

DOMBROWSKI's home address is FRANKENSTRASSE 35, BROMBERG, and his business address BROMBERGER STRUMPFFABRIK, ROBERT LEYSTRASSE (number not known) BROMBERG (Tel. 2120). As, however, he only sleeps occasionally at his home, and only spends two or three hours a day at the stocking factory (being also employed at the "DYNAMIT" factory), it would be best to go to ZIOLKOWSKI's former address, MEMELRSTRASSE, WOHNUNG 7, BROMBERG. ZIOLKOWSKI's brother-in-law would be able to contact DOMBROWSKI immediately.

Anyone contacting DOMBROWSKI should give the password "CRUSS VON JANUAR". He would be very suspicious of people who approached him without giving the password.

Both men are of the opinion that train travel is impossible in POLAND, because of the close check on identity papers, which have to be perfect. There is, therefore, no point in sending papers to Stalag XX A, where the chief requirements are money and civilian clothes.

 

(Sgd) J.D.H. BANKS, Capt.
for Major, I.O.

 

I.S.9(X)
29 Feb 44

 


 

APPENDIX E

SPECIAL NOTES ON WORK OF: -

 

E (1) Bdr. HOOKS.

E (2) L/Cpl. GOODSON.

E (3) L/Cpl. BRYDSON.
   (3.a)

 


 

APPENDIX E(l)

 

Bombardier James HOOKS, R.A., late Prisoner of War in STALAG XX A, now in ENGLAND via ODESSA.

To this Bombardier the British Prisoners of War of all ranks in STALAG XX A, especially Fort 13 and Camp Einheit III, owe a great debt. From 1942 until 20th January, 1945, HOOKS, with his secret wireless set, kept many of us informed daily of the British News in a full and careful manner.

With constant vigilance and fine circumspection he never failed us; in spite of searches by the Gestapo and the German security staff of the STALAG, also in spite of the Germans moving continually in and out of the camp cookhouse of which HOOKS was in charge. His finest effort was on Sunday, October 31st, 1943, when after a most thorough and meticulous search by 150 Gestapo agents of Fort 13 from 8 a.m. until 3.45 p.m., HOOKS produced the daily news from LONDON.

To some his work may seem small, but to us in captivity it was a life­line. Knowing full well the consequences of anyone caught with a radio set or listening to foreign news, and knowing the severe punishment meted out by the Germans for disseminating foreign news, Bombardier HOOKS carried out this task faithfully and willingly. The high and sound morale of many British Prisoners of War in STALAG XX A was due to HOOKS. They knew what was taking place in all theatres of war, the trend of political events and the plans for post-war reconstruction; and they were able to resist and scorn the various forms of German propaganda.

I hereby record the gratitude of many British Prisoners of War in STALAG XX A to Bombardier James HOOKS for faithfully keeping in touch with ENGLAND through his secret wireless set.

 


 

APPENDIX E(2)

Lance Corporal Frederick GOODSON, Q.V.R. (K.R.R.).

Late STALAG XX A, repatriated to ENGLAND in September, 1944.

I wish to record the clever, capable and thorough manner L/Corporal GOODSON gleaned valuable information for his country. Employed on the administrative staff of STALAG XX A, consulted by the Germans for furnishings and office fittings, in daily contact with civilians employed by the Germans; GOODSON turned his opportunities to useful ends. He never gave the slightest hints of his activities to other British Prisoners of War, nor allowed the Germans to suspect him.

He gave valuable and loyal assistance to the British Man of Confidence (C.Q.M.S. GRANGER) by passing on information needed for local affairs, e.g. warnings of an imminent search, etc., and information possibly needed by the authorities in ENGLAND.

When GOODSON passed the International Medical Commission in May 1944, I had no hesitation in entrusting and briefing him with all available information and reports, both C.Q.M.S. GRANGER and myself felt the authorities in ENGLAND would like to have. We knew the job would be well done.

GOODSON was a faithful, clever and loyal servant of his country while a Prisoner of War in STALAG XX A.

 


 

APPENDIX E(3)

Lance Corporal Kenneth BRYDSON, 2/5th Leicesters.

I would like to recommend Lance Corporal Ken BRYDSON, 2/5th Leicesters, for the ready and quiet manner he served his country while a Prisoner of War in STALAG XX A; for his courage, wit and patience when the Gestapo did all in their power to prove him guilty of espionage in April, 1944.

Through no fault of his own the Gestapo arrested BRYDSON on 3rd April, 1944. The same day at BROMBERG BRYDSON had to undergo a most gruelling and searching interrogation for five hours by the Gestapo. Brought back to THORN that night he was left to languish in solitary confinement in the German Military Prison for nearly six weeks. Throughout this period he did not know whether the outcome would be fatal to himself, nor was he allowed to make an appeal to the British authorities of Stalag XX A for official action to be taken on his behalf.

BRYDSON was acquitted and released because no sufficient evidence could be collected to convict him, and because of his own clever handling of the case. Alone in the hands of a ruthless group of men and with only his own courage and brains to aid him he saved himself, and not only himself but other British Prisoners of War and Poles. At no time did he give the Gestapo the slightest hint or clue.

We, who knew what BRYDSON must have suffered and the strain put upon him, were deeply impressed by his clear account about what took place and his courage, patience, and wit in a most critical and trying situation. Knowing what was involved BRYDSON's steady demeanour was an inspiration.

I hereby record our gratitude to Lance Corporal Kenneth BRYDSON and our deep appreciation of his work in captivity. He knew what was his duty as a British soldier and fulfilled it faithfully.

As far as I know BRYDSON was taken into GERMANY when Camp III, Stalag XX A was evacuated on 20th January, 1945.

 

April 4th, 1945

(Sgd) W.A. LATHAEN
Chaplain to the Forces
(Late STALAG XX A)

 


 

COPY

APPENDIX E(3.a.)

 

WRITTEN STATEMENT BY
4859162 L/Cpl. Kenneth BRYDSON, Leicesters, Late P/W ST. XX A.

On His Return to U.K.

 

In or about March 1943 I was approached by C.Q.M.S. GRANGER, the British Man of Confidence, Stalag XX A, asking if I could obtain information regarding the Airfield at THORN, Poland. The information required concerned size of 'drome, runways, number of planes (front-line or otherwise ?), personnel, etc. This information I obtained from a Pole (German naturalised) named ROMAN PIOSEK with whom I worked. From time to time I obtained more information from the same source and also maps and wireless parts. About the end of May 1943, PIOSEK handed me a letter written in English but with the stamp of the 8th Polish (Underground) Rebellion Army on it. This letter asked if British P.O.Ws. would fight alongside the Poles when the hour of necessity arose. I handed this letter to GRANGER who stated that he would have to hand it further in order to take the instructions of the British Government upon it, but asked me meanwhile to reply stating that we could give no definite reply until we heard from our Government. I wrote a short note to this effect which GRANGER read and approved. The letters had no addresses and were not signed. Later I was approached by GRANGER and asked to write another letter to the Association asking for help in an escape which was being organised. Numerous official passports were obtained and handed over to GRANGER. At this time I was also given an address:-

   177, Engerdine St.,
      SOUTHALL,
          to C.E. MATHEWS (pro).,

and a code by GRANGER from Sgt. MATHEWS, by which I could write to England if necessity arose. I never made use of these.

In July 1943 PIOSEK was arrested by the Gestapo along with other members of the Rebellion Army and copies of the letters (2) were found in their Headquarters. I was arrested by Gestapo on March 29, 1944, and interrogated at BROMBERG, but refused to answer them on the grounds that I was a British soldier entitled to a Military Court Martial and that they were civilians and had no right under the Geneva Convention to interfere with me. After 5 hours questioning I was handed to the Military Authorities who held me in Solitary Confinement for 3 months before releasing me on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Before I was arrested I was told by GRANGER that all the information I obtained was sent home to England by code and that if I ever needed any further help to see Capt. LATHAEN the C.E. Padre of the Stalag.

Capt. LATHAEN was left behind in Poland when we evacuated and from information received GRANGER after evacuation was forced back East across the ELBE with the rest of his column and is probably still a P.O.W.

 

 

[Source: TNA WO 208/3281, transcribed by www.arcre.com]