Arbeits Kommando 844/4 Thale, Harz Mtns, Germany

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Katharine, Apr 19, 2016.

  1. Hendy5

    Hendy5 WW2 Research

    Hi Katherine, That's all useful to know. You can see from Tommy's diary that there were lots of different types of work available and he did all sorts of work including labouring and driving, he worked in various hotels including in the wine cellar of one and was even put in charge of a horse and cart! What I don't understand though was the freedom Tommy Shields had to move around Thale totally unrestricted. He even had a girlfriend in the town, whose house he visited. He does talk about Guards but often as company on an evening walk in the town. Your Grandfather's time in Thale as well as that of John Headley coincide almost exactly with Tommy's. With all the others he was moved out on 10th April. They were on their way east to a camp not far from Quedlinburg but escaped on the way and made their way back to the semi-deserted and looted Thale camp where they waited on the Americans. Eventually six of them couldn't wait any longer and set off on their own. What was your Grandfather's name?

    John H
  2. Katharine

    Katharine Member

    Hello John,
    My Grandfather's name was Henry Mercer C/JX 271671. He escaped from the camp on 9th April 1945 with two others, using wire cutters to cut the wire(from his Liberation Report). They laid low in the forest for 5 days before swimming across a river to meet up with the American troops. He described how the three of them had a hard job persuading the US troops that they were escaped British POWs. John described being moved out of the camp on 10th April as you mention and being marched towards Magdeburg. He recalled spending two nights sleeping rough, the second night in a barn. They could hear the Americans in the distance and came to an 'agreement' with the German guards that if they were not forced to continue to walk, they would stay put and tell the US troops that the Germans had surrendered, which is what happened.
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  3. Katharine

    Katharine Member

    I have exciting news-after 4 years of trying, the name of HMS Bedouin will finally be added to the Malta Convoy list of ships which participated in Operation Harpoon. The names of all the other ships are on the oak Memorial board with the exception of Bedouin. It was sunk off Pantellaria on 15 June 1942 with the loss of 28 lives, with the rest of the crew being POWs for the rest of the War, my Grandfather being one of them. It was an omission that desperately needed putting right, I am delighted.
    An addendum Ceremony is being held in Valletta, Malta on 26 Oct 2023.
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  4. Katharine

    Katharine Member

    The name of HMS Bedouin was finally added to the list of Malta Convoy ships in St Paul's Pro Cathedral, Valletta on 26th Oct 2023 in a very moving and poignant service.

    A Marine Archaeologist who we met, wants to find the wreck of the ship and formally designate it as a War Grave. To that end, I obtained several documents from the National Archives. These are messages from the ships in the Harpoon Convoy to the Admiralty giving up to date info on the battle on 15 June 1942. My problem is that they were copied to various people/departments and I need help to work out all the departments/people these messages were sent to. I attach one page for now, so you can see what I mean. I would be grateful for anyone who can help. From HMS Cairo 15 June 1942 .jpg
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  5. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Katharine,

    Congratulations on your success.

    I suggest you post this on the War at Sea page of the website.

    Best wishes,

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  6. Katharine

    Katharine Member


    I have posted on War at Sea as suggested. Thank you for the tip off.

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  7. Hendy5

    Hendy5 WW2 Research

    Hi Katharine, Congratulations, your persistence has paid off and HMS Bedouin and crew are rightly remembered. It's 18 months since I've posted to this thread but I have finished my biography of Tommy Shields and will soon make it available as a print-on-demand publication on Amazon. But there are still several small details that I want to add and several copyright permissions that I am waiting on. But, does anyone know exactly which U.S. unit was first into Thale when the camp was liberated/abandoned, presumably 10 April 1945?
  8. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

  9. Hendy5

    Hendy5 WW2 Research

    Thank you for that information Itdan, and for the link to a very useful document.
    John H
  10. Katharine

    Katharine Member

    Thank you for your message re HMS Bedouin.
    I would be most interested in reading your biography of Tommy Shields when it is complete. Please let me know when it is released via Amazon.

    Itdan, thank you for that information.

  11. Hendy5

    Hendy5 WW2 Research

    Katharine, I'm hoping it will be available as a print-on-demand publication on Amazon in March. But I'll let you know when it's there.
  12. Hendy5

    Hendy5 WW2 Research

    Just to let all on this thread know that my book on Tommy Shields has now been published. The title is 'Shipwrecks, sausages and survival: the wartime journey of Able Seaman Tommy Shields' by John Henderson and it is available on Amazon( at £7.99. I learnt so much about Tommy's work and his time in Thale as a POW just by reading this thread and I have given WW2Talk acknowledgement in a footnote. Katharine, Itdan, Vitello and Harry have given invaluable information and links and pointers to other sources and I thank you all for sharing your experise. In the chapters covering this period I just hope I have correctly represented life in Thale as a POW and the general structure of the regime. Any shortcomings are entirely down to my own misunderstanding.Thank you.

    John H Shipwrecks 2.jpg
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  13. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thank you for letting us know about your book, John.
    I intend to purchase a copy.

  14. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Hi Kathrine,
    I think there was another thread sometimes, somewhere in the Forum.
    May be one of the moderators can dig it out.
    I recall having spoken to a local historian at the time receiving pics and information.
  15. Hendy5

    Hendy5 WW2 Research

    Thank you Vitellino - sorry for mis-spelling your name! - I hope the book is as accurate and informative as the posts on this forum.

    John H
  16. Katharine

    Katharine Member

    Hello John,
    Just seen that you have published your book about Tommy Shields. Thank you so much for letting us know-I will be purchasing a copy.
    A great achievement, well done.


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