Funeral No.2. A funeral for a British soldier, possibly Gunner John Miller, shot dead on the 9th May 1942, for smoking a cigarette, according to William Law. Another "postcard" featuring this same scene has been brought to light, on the back of which is written "Shot for Smoking by German Guard, POW, 1942". Copyright: T.G. Stroud. Alison Shorrock writes the following:
"My great uncle Joe Gribben (Middlesex Regiment 6206452) was captured at St Valery-ex-caux on 12 June 1940 and was a prisoner of war at Stalag 21A at Torun. He was later transferred to BAB 20 a work camp in Upper Silesia, where sadly he was shot by a German guard on 27 March 1942. He was 21. He is one of the men whose funerals you show in your photo gallery. I believe he is the second funeral as these pictures match what we were sent - although some seem to be generic and were perhaps sent to other families too? In one of the photos for the third funeral I can see a cross with Pte Joe Gribben in the foreground."
"My mother wrote to The Legion magazine a number of years ago requesting information. She received a letter from Mr C Earl who was a medical orderly at the camp and who, along with another man J. Watson, identified Joe's body when it was brought into the guardroom.. He said that Joe was part of a working party formed at Fort 11 near Torun. There were 200 men in the party and their job was to build huts, lay pipes, clear snow etc.. Mr Earl describes that the working party then moved to Reigesfield near Old Cossel in Upper Silesia. The working party was known as BAB 20/3COY. Here they worked on a chemical factory building wooden huts, laying pipes and trenches etc.. Mr Cossel said, "Your uncle was working there when he was shot by a German guard. I think he had an argument with them about the fag." (This fits with your label to one of the photos.)"
"In 2005 my mother also contacted Alison Robertson from an advert in the local paper. Alison was researching a number of deaths in prison camps. She gave us a copy of the Translation of the Deposition of W.J. Schmitz (used in the war crimes investigation).This states that Joe refused to push a heavily laden wheelbarrow of earth. "Gerfreitter Sonntag lifted the wheelbarrow himself and pushed it a bit further in order to show the prisoner it was not too heavy. He ordered Gribben now to push the barrow. But Gribben unloaded a portion of the land on the ground." The sentry Sonntag continued to order my great uncle to move the barrow and threatened use of his firearm. Some of the surrounding POWs were said to have shouted at him and Sonntag took his rifle to show he meant his threat. "As Gribben made no attempts of pushing his wheelbarrow and as other POWs took up a threatening attitude, Sonntag fired." A civilain labourer apparently confirmed this version. The military court at the time granted Sonntag an acquittal as he had "acted in accordance with the instructions issued by the Kommander i/c POWs (Major General Von Osterrich). However, others have suggested that it was indeed an argument because my Gt Uncle was slow to put out a cigarette. My family were told that Sonntag was not seen in the camp again and they believed he was sent to the Eastern Front."
"Alison Robinson also sent us extracts from the journal, 'The Prisoner of War' dated November 1942 which says that BAB 20, "Made a bad impression" in the spring of the year. I assume this is heavily censored but refers to the death(s) of soldiers. Alison had also been in contact with a friend of Joe's from the camp and quotes him "Joe was a cheery lad from Lancashire. Good looking boy and intelligent with it. In the early days in Thorn, Joe and I, together with several other youngsters, had all been great mates full of fun and ready for any lark. Joe is now buried in Crakow War Cemetery and I visited the grave with my parents in 1994. We took flowers and a letter from his fiancee to place on the grave."
"I would be interested to know if other accounts match with what we know. Also I'd like to know more about the cicumstances of Joe's capture near Dunkirk. Also, is there anything to see at the old fortress at Torun? I heard it was a cheese factory. Is there any kind of museum relating to the war camps? Email firstname.lastname@example.org