Names in L/Cpl John Conway's logbook

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Incredibledisc, May 15, 2016.

  1. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Thanks to the help of a number of forum members I have now completed the transcription of the names written in my Great Grandfather's YMCA logbook. I've been piecing together his time in German hands to figure out where he was kept prisoner during the five years he was held. Below is what I've found out so far. I've highlighted camp names in bold for those who just want to skim.

    Lance Corporal John Conway, 7th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

    John was captured on the 6th of June 1940 after being involved in the fierce fighting at the village of Franleu. The Argylls had been in France since January and had started May with 32 officers and 736 men. By June 6th they had lost 23 officers and over 500 men killed, wounded or missing. The 6th of June was to be the start of a journey into five years in German hands.

    Along with other prisoners taken during the Battle of France he was marched through France, Belgium and Holland until they reached the Rhine river. From there the men boarded barges that took them to Bavaria. John described the four days spent on the barges as “worse than Hell,” the men were ridden with lice and were given no food or water by the Germans who kept their machine guns trained on the prisoners at all times. The barges took them near Dortmund where he was processed at an unnamed camp and sent to Stalag IXC at a place called Bad Sulza near Weimar. The camp was part of a network of sub-camps where prisoners were sent to Arbeitskommandos to work for the Germans. While officers and NCOs were forbidden from working by the Geneva Convention, no such protection was afforded men below the rank of Corporal. As part of their processing the men would be asked what their profession had been in civilian life which helped the Germans assign them to jobs. John spent two days at Bad Sulza where all of his valuables were taken away before being sent to Arbeitskommando 1401 on the 6th of July. The prisoners were set to work in a salt mine located at Bleicherode. As he put it, he was given a “pick and shovel to work for the Fatherland.” After their long journey it was not surprising that he described himself as being “in a very weak and sad condition after all the tramping and marching we had come through with very little to put in our stomach as we had no meals off the Jerries one month on the march.”

    Between July and October John was given a series of odd jobs doing general labouring before being sent to work on a gardening detail in the forest burning old wood which helped keep him warm at least. After six weeks of this he was finally sent to work down the mine where he did “heavy work handing the heavy tubs for six hours”. He was given a tour of inspection to see the different workings of the mine. He describes the mine as “clean and tidy”. The prisoners worked alongside German miners whom John described as “good workers,” who “expect everybody to do the same.”

    At this point John’s account of his captivity ends and the rest of his time as a POW has to be figured out from his photographs, snippets of dates and place names in his journal and various books and official documents.

    I believe that John remained at Stalag IXC until around March 1941 as he recorded being inoculated there on 16/03/1941. At seem point after this he would appear to have been moved to Stalag 357/XXA at Thorn as there are several photos from this camp dated 1941, many of them showing a boxing match. There is one photograph showing the kitchens at Oflag IX-A/H in the castle at Spangenberg. Spangenberg was closed down in October 1941 and all prisoners were sent to Oflag VIB, Warburg. His next recorded inoculation is at Warburg on 07/03/1942. I think John volunteered to be an orderly (far easier work than a salt mine!) which would explain his being in a series of Oflags (officer’s camps). So far I have not been able to identify any photos from Warburg in his logbook however he may have worked for Cretan General Solon Kaffatos, a distinguished veteran of WWl and roommate of Major Alexis Theodore Casdagli. It was Kaffatos who provided the wool for his famous "fuck Hitler" sampler which hung in plain sight of the Germans without them realising the message. 41 prisoners attempted a mass escape on the 30th August 1942 which led to the British prisoners being removed from the camp. From here it would appear that John went to Oflag XXIB at Schubin in Poland. Several of the photos in the logbook can be identified from this camp. He may also have spent a short period at Oflag VIIC in Laufen Castle as there is a photo of it also in the logbook. The camp was closed early in 1942.

    In March 1943 a mass escape of 35 officers from Schubin took place via a tunnel. The escape was masterminded by Wing Commander Harry “Wings” Day who would later help plan the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III. Day is one of a number of famous escapers who appear in John’s logbook and he was held in several of the same camps. In the run up to the escape, a young RAF officer called Peter Lovegrove was killed whilst trying to map out the terrain around the camp. He fell from a window and died. There are several photographs of the funeral contained in the logbook. As a result of the escape attempt the camp was closed in April 1943 and all prisoners including John were sent to Stalag Luft III at Sagan which had recently been increased in size. John’s logbook records another inoculation at Sagan on 18/05/43 and as well as photos the logbook records the names and addresses of several of the inmates.

    At some point I think John was transferred to the nearby Stalag VIIIC also located at Sagan. He may also,have spent some time at Stalag VIIIB at Lamsdorf as there is a photo in his logbook showing prisoners doing PT. From there he appears to have gone to Stalag VIIIA located at Gorlitz. There he was sent to a coal mine at Fellhammer, Poland as part of Arbietskommando 12403.

    On the 14th February the evacuation of Stalag VIIIA began when a large group of US soldiers with 140 British were marched off, followed on the next day by a further 1,200. On the 17th February a Hospital train whisked 700-800 sick prisoners away to Stalag XIB, while the small number for whom room could not be found proceeded on foot or on the back of horse drawn carts. From the information I have it appears likely that John was on one of the trains to Fallingbostel as this is the last camp name I could find in his diary and none of the men who marched out of the camp ended up in Stalag IXB. He remained at Fallingbostel until the camp was liberated by the 7th Armoured Division on April 16th 1945. He was back in Stirling in time for his story to appear just over a week later in the Stirling Observer on the 24th April.

    Logbook names, transcriptions in Excel format. View attachment Logbook names edited.xlsx

    Photos from logbook showing the names & addresses:
    View attachment 149243 image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg

    Some faces to go with names:
    image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg

    Attached Files:

  2. DianeE

    DianeE Member

    I am sure that was a labour of love.

    I can give you some information on the South Africans

    A Phard is L/Bdr A W Pharo
    service no. 109058
    POW No. 75575
    Camp Stalag A Gorlitz
    SA Land Forces other ranks

    Const Koeglenberg is Pte J G Koegelenberg
    service no. SAP 195518 (SA Police)
    POW No. 76851
    Stalag 8A Gorlitz
    SA Land Forces Other Ranks

    Gnr S A Thompson
    service no. 31210
    POW No 80462
    Camp Stalag 8A Gorlitz
    SA Land Forces other ranks

    Tpr F Imbriolo
    service no. 213962
    POW No 76067
    Camp Stalag 8C

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  3. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Thank you ever so much Diane. I will update my spreadsheet to reflect your new information. Matching all the men to relevant camps is one of my ambitions and it will hopefully be a useful resource to others. I also hope that I might turn up someone who is still alive who knew John. My great grandfather was already 40 when war broke out (he had also joined up in 1917 - his brother was killed in France just before he joined not very far from where he would be captured in 1940) but there must have been plenty of younger men in the camps who might feasibly still be alive today - more than a few veteran forum members to back up that theory!

    Yes, trying to piece together a coherent chain of events out of the tiny scraps I have has been a real challenge but it has been surprising just how much you can turn up when you know where to look and people like yourself have been a big help. The inscription with John's name and address etc inside of his book has Stalag Luft 3 on it so I'm surmising that he was given the book while he was there and then kept it for the rest of his captivity. Quite a few names so far seem to have been held in Stalag 8A Gorlitz - I wonder if they were all working down the mines with him?

    I was really hoping that the National Archives would have John's POW identity card which would have details of camps and dates but sadly I was told they had no record on file - I'm holding out hope that maybe it was just misfiled but without going to Kew in person I have no way of checking. Apparently the Red Cross are planning to release their files digitally at some point this year which might unlock a lot more avenues of investigation.
  4. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    Aberdeen Weekly Journal 18 July 1940 Burr - killed in action with the BEF Lcpl, William Burr, age 24 years, dearly beloved husband of Mina, Craigie Cottage, Newmachar and fifth son of Me. George Burr, Homely Cottage, Inverurie. Deeply mourned.

    There are various articles available about him in the newspaper archives, reporting his death announcement was a mistake. I found them just entering his address.

    There also appears to be articles from 1942 about the sale of the cottage.

    I haven't searched the archive for anything further but findmypast and the britishnewspaper archive hold these newspapers.

    The Aberdeen Journal 25 July 1940 that mentions him appears to have photographs attached of various soldiers. William maybe one of them.
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  5. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Thanks Amberdog - I did look up Bill Burr the other day as Newmachar is literally a few miles from my house. Sadly he passed away a few years ago. I have a British Newspaper Archive account so it's handy to know there are some articles available.
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  6. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Another South African for you Diane - Bill Giles 20 McIntyre Street, Parow, Cape Town, South Africa
  7. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    (Wounded) Aberdeen Weekly Journal 5/9/40 Pte. John A. Watson Gordon Highlanders, is a son of Mr & Mrs W. Watson, he is a graduate of....

    These must be a brothers 17/12/42, same paper, Arthur Forbes Watson, 40 Ashley Road, wounded in Middle East helping the Highlanders...

    Marriage - James, second son of Mr & Mrs W. U. Watson to Rhoda Wylie, younger daughter of Mr & Mrs J. Wylie...

    There's a 1947 article in the Aberdeen Journal All claims against Mr. William Urquhart Watson, retired stationer...

    Few hints there of other family members if you need to extend your research into other family tree branches.
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  8. DianeE

    DianeE Member

    The only Giles that I can find that served with the South African forces is
    L/Cpl B D Giles
    Service No 77128
    Stalag 8A Gorlitz
    South African Land Forces and Other Ranks

    There are other men with the surname Giles and W as an initial who served in the British Army. However the camps don't seem to tie in.

    Incidentally, in the early 1980's I lived in Parow not far from McIntyre Street.
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  9. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    That camp location would match up. I've had a few with identical names where I've tried to guess by going on camp, regiment etc but there are still a few gaps where I haven't been 100%. The list I have WO392 doesn't list Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans unfortunately althought I was able to find a few bits out through google searches. Weird how you find all these connections with people living in places you know etc. isn't it?

    Anyway, UPDATED SPREADSHEET - click the link to open. I've figured out how to add filters so you can see results by camp, rank, regiment etc.
    amberdog45 likes this.
  10. DianeE

    DianeE Member

    Although I am a member of Ancestry I do not have a subscription. I have no idea why but I was able to click on the name of a POW and see the details as I have posted.

    Alas no more which is a pity.

    However I did find this on

    Michael James Hicks 2/28 Australian Infantry Battalion. He was a POW but no camp is recorded.
    He was the only one I found.

    Attached is his certificate of service.


    Attached Files:

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  11. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Name: M J Hicks
    Rank: Pte
    Army Number: WX5913
    Regiment: 2/28 I. Bn.
    POW Number: 32825
    Camp Type: Stalag
    Camp Number: 8A
    Camp Location: Gorlitz, Poland
    Section: Australian Imperial Force: Officers and Other Ranks

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  12. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Thanks guys. I have an Ancestry account so I will have a hunt for some of my Commonwealth POWs there.
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  13. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    Found this in The West Australian newspaper dated, 19th July 1946

    Mr and Mrs Harry Coumbe, 236 Seventh Avenue, Inglewood, wish to announce the engagement of their third daughter Inez Evelyn to Michael James Hicks, Kalgoorlie, youngest son of Mr and Mrs M Hicks of Grass Valley Hotel via Northam.

    I really enjoy the Australian archive website Trove. It can be really useful.

    I don't know how far you are going with this, but if your intention is to trace the living relatives of all the families, I don't know if you are aware you can access Electoral Rolls and property valuation records in Old Aberdeen. I can't remember the address, you'd find it via the Council website. You can also book an hour for £30 at Aberdeen Registrars as well to get Scottish birth, marriage and death records. Best to go in equipped with some research via Scotlandspeople first though to maximise the number of records you can access.

    Edit. From the Blackwood Times 4th May 1945 Mrs. R. Hanrahan has received the good news that her brother Michael Hicks, who was taken prisoner at Ruin Ridge and transferred to Germany has been released and is now in England.

    I've found a photo of him too. Will post when I get on my computer.

    Photo was printed 17 Jul 1941 in the Western Mail newspaper

    Attached Files:

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  14. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    Some items potentially linked to the Australians Bluey Carrol (may have been a boxer), W. H. Cooper and R. J. Sharp (all via Trove). Hover over the attachements for some detail.

    Attached Files:

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  15. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Wow! Thank you once again for your excellent research Amberdog :cheers: .

    I did find some information about "Bluey" Carrol being a boxer but as I couldn't confirm his id I put it to one side - both the Australians and New Zealanders seem to have been very good at recording POWs as well as those KIA so their war memorial sites often have information on the men. I will have to give this Trove website a look as well. I'm a member of the North East Family History Society and we have access to all the genealogy websites, microfilms of census returns etc at our research centre but so far I've been using all that to research my family tree (believe it or not, my great, great, grandfather was born less than two miles from my current home - I did not know this when I moved to Aberdeen).

    TBH I don't know how far I'm going! I started just with the intention of identifying as many of the names in the logbook as possible with maybe a distant hope of finding someone who was still alive who might remember my great granddad or other relatives like myself who wanted to know more about their family members who had been POWs. As I started to find out bits and pieces about the names I thought it might be a good idea to collate the info into some kind of database yourself and others here have kicked over all sorts of rocks and turned up even more than I ever dreamed I was likely to find out.

    I can see this thread might run and run :D
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  16. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    It's no easy task given how much certain archives charge. I was trying to find the families of the merchant navy ship my uncle went down with, but it's also going to be a long and likely expensive project. Haven't found anything at all on Bill Ballantyne, the Carlisle man but his address is 60 Cranbourne Road. His "C" was the same at the start of Carlisle, and the small "n" he used at the end of Newtown helped me figure out it's Cran. Fancy writing that. The Carlisle news papers only cover the later 1800's for now. Perhaps more will get added in the future.

    Funny you buying your home not far from where your gx2 grandfather was born. The first house we bid on near Fordoun turned out to be home my mother was raised in for a few years. In fact, the address was on her marriage certificate. I don't know how my Gran managed to raise 7 children in that house. I thought it was pokey for just three of us!
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  17. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Right now it's this guy giving me a headache.


    I think his first and middle names are Ivan Gordon but so far searching for Afunzo, Alunzo, Afunso, and Afonso and Alonso on google and Ancestry with no results.
  18. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

  19. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Does this mean your last post was rhetorical?? :lol: :biggrin:

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  20. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    More a case of fingers working faster than brain TD! I had literally just hit the "post" button having run into what I thought was a brick wall with Mr "Alunzo" when I decided to just google the first and middle name. The embarrassment of finding the answer to my own question has been offset by the satisfaction of finally cracking the bugger's handwriting :)

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