MILAG-MARLAG NORD - OFLAG L (Ex. STALAG LUFT III)
REPORT FOR PERIOD MARCH 1945 - MAY 1945
1. Following liberation of Allied Air Force Prisoners-of-War from Germany the Air Ministry and associated Dominion Air Headquarters require certain reports concerning the Prisoner-of-War period. These reports are being compiled by certain senior officers and key personnel previously in responsible positions in P.O.W. camps in Germany. The reports are being prepared under the direction of the Air Member for Personnel in the Directorate of Personal Services, P.O.W. (Information). It is understood that from this office articles or sections of the reports will be forwarded to the interested departments of Air Ministry, Dominion Air Headquarters, or other offices for information and/or action as required.
2. It is the intention of the first part of this report to provide a frame-work to which more detailed reports may be attached or referred, if it is so desired to use it for that purpose. The more detailed reports will be compiled by certain officers nominated by the Directorate of Prisoners-of-War (Information) or by the following section as applicable to this one group of prisoners. This report will centre around Stalag Luft III, but, will by the nature of P.O.W. life interlock and in some cases overlap into other camps. It will be concerned principally with commissioned Ps.O.W.
3. Hereunder in chronologically reverse order is a schedule of Senior British Officers of some officer prison camps who had "graduated" by various moves into Stalag Luft III. From these officers, reports of the detailed camps or periods in camps may be obtained, if such reports are required. It is pointed out that this schedule does not cover all officer P.O.W. camps, nor all periods, but only those camps and periods which became by transfer of personnel related to Stalag Luft III. For information of camps or periods in camps not mentioned hereunder, it would be necessary to obtain further frame-work schedules from officers who were at those camps after inter-communication with Stalag Luft III ceases.
Senior British Officer
G/C. L.E. WRAY
G/C. D.E.L. WILSON
S/L. D.W. HODGKINSON
G/C. H.M. MASSEY
G/C. G.C. WILLETTS
G/C. R. KELLETT
W/C. R. COLLARD
G/C. J.C. MACDONALD
W/C N.C. HYDE
S/L. G.C. STEPHENSON
S/L. S.S. MURRAY
W/C. H.M.A. DAY
Milag Marlag L (previously Stalag Luft III
(North) & part of Luft III (East)).
Stalag Luft III North
Stalag Luft III North
Stalag Luft III East
" " " "
Luckenwalde (previously Stalag Luft III
East and Stalag Luft III Belaria)
Stalag Luft III (Belaria)
Stalag Luft I
Stalag Luft III North
Oflag XXIB Schubin
Stalag Luft III East
Stalag Luft I
Mar/45 - May/45
Feb/45 - Mar/45
May/44 - Feb/45
Apr/45 - May/45
/43 - May/444
/43 - Feb/45
/43 - /43
Feb/45 - May/45
/44 - Feb/45
1941 - 1942
1940 - 1941
1941 - 1942
1939 - 1941
1942 - 43
1941 - 42
1940 - 41
1939 - 40
5. Following the framework laid out above, the succeeding portion of this report will be confined to the period during which the undersigned was Senior British Officer of Milag Marlag Oflag L Tarmstedt near Bremen. The personnel of this camp were those who had arrived after the winter move from Stalag Luft III at the end of January 1945, principally the North Compound personnel plus approximately five hundred of the East Compound of Stalag Luft III (see report of G/Capt. D.E.L. Wilson, R.A.A.F.)
6. Following heated negotiations with the German staff in respect to the handling of Red Cross Food, G/Capt. D.E.L. Wilson was moved to Spangenburg in March 1945 and the undersigned G/Capt. L.E. WRAY, R.C.A.F. took over the position of S.B.O. At this time the camps, which upon entry in February 1945 had been in shocking state, had been cleared up and repaired principally by the prisoners. The German staff had supplied sufficient equipment such as beds, water utensils etc., to permit the camp to run on an organized and relatively satisfactory basis. German rations in accordance with their meagre scales were regularly obtained and a supply of Red Cross food was continuously available. Conditions in the camp, which was under German Navy administration, were crude and far below the Luftwaffe standard of Stalag Luft III, but could be described as livable.
7. In the first week of April 1945, the personnel of this camp accompanied by British Naval prisoners of an adjoining compound were again marched on to the roads as the Second Army approached the Bremen area. By forceful representation and continuous non-compliance it was possible to practically take over control from the German staff and direct the conditions of the march to the Lubeck area. Although nearly every article of the Geneva Convention was broken by the Germans in this march, in actual fact, the march was by the prisoners' efforts turned into a leisurely move and other than minor discomfort caused by sleeping in fields and barns, by dampness etc., no real hardship was suffered. By independent trading and foraging, ample supplies of food were obtained. Near the Lubeck area, I refused to move the Air Force section of this movement into the prison camp in Lubeck owing to the conditions there and was successful in forcing the German staff to permit us to use billets found in the barns and buildings of a very large estate at Trenthorst near Lubeck. Here in crude but open conditions, the personnel lived out the remainder of the period until liberated on May 2nd, 1945. At this time we had the satisfaction of forcing the surrender of the German garrison on the strength of one patrol car having passed through.
8. Nominal Rolls.
The nominal rolls of this group of prisoners changed several times, after the compound was evacuated from Stalag Luft III Sagan, owing to subsequent moved. It is suggested that to obtain a clear outline of the nominal rolls, it will be necessary to trace them through from the last camp i.e. Sagan. A portion of the North Compound was left in a hospital party at Sagan at the time of the move in January 1945; a number were left behind on the march owing to sickness and fatigue and a portion of the East Compound joined the North Compound group. A stable period of approximately two months then occurred at Tarmstedt but it is not believed that the nominal roll of the camp ever reached the Red Cross or this country. When this camp was again moved, this time from Tarmstedt to Lubeck, a hospital party was left at Tarmstedt; a number were left behind on the march; a party of approximately one hundred were detached and sent by rail to Lubeck and subsequently did not re-join the remainder of the camp at Trenthorst, at which place liberation took place. In consequence of the above, the tracing of nominal rolls of my period as S.B.O. is completed [completely?] intermingled with the period of G/Capt. Wilson's time as S.B.O. It is therefore recommended that 28224 S/Ldr. L.W.V. Jennins R.A.F., the Camp Adjutant, and 1270 Lieutenant M.J. Hanrahan R.N., the administrative adjutant, be requested to complete this section of the report on behalf of both G/Capt. Wilson and the undersigned.
During my period as S.B.O. two Air Force casualties occurred during the march from Tarmstedt to Lubeck. While the personnel were bedding down in an open field for the night two officers, J 15847 F/L. D. Matheson R.C.A.F. and N.826 F/Lt. N. Bowker S.A.A.F., attempted to get some straw from an adjoining field. Without warning a guard, Under Officer Krause, opened fire and wounded both officers in the legs. Medical attention was given them by our own Medical Officer and later they were moved to a German hospital at Zeven. After violent protestations to the Kommandant, this guard was detached from the column guards but was later met in the prison camp at Lubeck. At the time of liberation, he was arrested and statements were taken by B.L.A. officers from our officers there. It is understood that Under Officer Krause was satisfactorily dealt with. It should be noted that this man was the guard who shot and killed 112710 F/L. C.J. Bryson R.A.F. at Tarmstedt, the report of which will be submitted by G/Capt. Wilson.
On the march our column was shot up on one occasion by Allied aircraft. The casualties, three dead and seven wounded, were entirely confined to the Royal Navy section of the column and in consequence it is believed that Captain Baker R.N., the Senior Naval Officer, will submit the necessary reports.
10. Missing Prisoners
During the march from Tarmstedt to Lubeck there were a number of Ps.O.W. who left the column to undertake independent movements and, inasfar as we were concerned, they became missing personnel. However, it is presumed that most of these prisoners here returned to this country and should be checked off our missing list. However in the event that some have not turned up, S/Ldr. Jennins and Lt. Hanrahan, referred to above, can provide information in conjunction with their submissions on nominal rolls, giving in each case the last point at which these prisoners were seen.
11. Recommendations for Valuable Services.
(a) As I took over the position of S.B.O. from G/Capt. D.E.L. Wilson, the same personnel were involved. In view of his much longer tenure as S.B.O. it is considered more appropriate that the majority of the recommendations for valuable services should originate in his report. We have discussed the recommendations he will make and I would merely add my complete concurrence to his recommendations. To the above recommendations I would like to add the following for outstanding work carried out in the last two months of captivity.
(b) 3138 W/Cdr. R.A. Norman, D.F.C. R.A.A.F. This officer distinguished himself on the march from Tarmstedt to Lubeck in April 1945, and it would be appreciated if his outstanding service could be brought to the attention of R.A.A.F. H.Q. I had appointed W/Cdr. Norman as the officer-in-charge of the Rear Party of the column, a party whose duties included assisting the Medical Officer with the sick, helping stragglers, clearing out billet areas as the column moved out in the morning, supplicating and holding in check certain German personnel who were inclined to be forceful at the rear of the column, and generally attending to the multitude of detail which naturally followed in the wake of a movement of approximately 2,000 P.O.W.s. in a straggling and forced march. W/Cdr. Norman was completely unsparing of himself in carrying out these duties and was a tower of strength to me in the complete assurance that he inspired in all, that personnel in difficulties would be looked after under his able direction. On the move and in the billets he was ever ready to take on responsibility and no amount of work, frustration or difficulty discouraged him. I am most appreciative of his services and commend him highly as an officer of whom his Service may be justly proud.
(c) 36111 S/Ldr. F.A. Willan R.A.F. S/Ldr. Willan acted as an Adjutant to myself on the forced march from Tarmstedt to Lubeck and in all respects his assistance to me was of an outstanding nature. His duties required unusual physical exertion in administering to a long drawn out column and dispersed billet groups and daily he undertook this requirement cheerfully and uncomplainingly. Despite the German staff, the distances or the hours involved, I could rely unquestionably upon his judgement and determination. Four and a half years of confinement had in no way affected this officer, as he so clearly demonstrated in the performance of his difficult task in this last chaotic month, I am deeply indebted to this officer for his loyal support and extraordinary efforts. It was by the efforts of exceptional officers, such as S/Ldr. Willan, that it was possible to hold control of the forced march and by this control ameliorate conditions that might otherwise have been extremely difficult.
(d) 70699 F/Lt. Vivian H. R.A.F. F/Lt. Vivian was employed on my staff as an official interpreter, but carried out his duties far in excess of what was required of him as an interpreter. By his tact and diplomacy, he was able on many occasions to turn a situation from one that might have become intolerable and dangerous to one where reasonable negotiations could continue. He was continuously available to me for 24 hours a day during the past month and was utterly unsparing of himself. I can speak only in the highest terms of the ability and character of this officer, without whom I would have had the greatest difficulty in forcing the German staff to alleviate difficult conditions.
(e) 39385 S/Ldr. D.W. Hodgkinson, R.A.F. S/Ldr. Hodgkinson is an officer who took a keen interest in P.O.W. administration in the camps and very capably assisted G/Capt. Willetts, then G/Capt. Wilson and in the later stages myself, in various administrative positions that he undertook. He was respected by all P.O.W.s and was exceptionally capable in creating and maintaining discipline, principally by the splendid example he set by his own actions. During the march from Tarmstedt to Lubeck, the undersigned, during a 24 hour halt, made contact with a recently formed P.O.W. camp at Pinneberg. In exchange for assistance in obtaining Red Cross parcels for P.O.W.s there, I was able to demand from the Kommandant of this camp, changes which would further benefit the prisoners. To assure that these were carried out, it was agreed that I would supply a Senior S.B.O. officer to take over the position of S.B.O. of the group, all of which had to be carried out without our German Kommandant being aware of the negotiations, owing to the inter-service jealousy and "red tape" of the German organisation. S/Ldr. Hodgkinson was selected by myself as the most suitable for this position and without hesitation he volunteered, accepting the risk without question, that was involved in this very unorthodox transfer. With the connivance of Luftwaffe officers from the Pinneberg camp, he was taken out of our camp in the middle of the night, became a new prisoner in the Pinneberg camp and then undertook the position of S.B.O. there. I was later informed that he was able to improve the conditions there very considerably. In this, as in all other details, he showed himself to be a most capable, loyal and courageous officer.
(f) 90276 W/Cdr. Kayll, J.R. R.A.F. The above-mentioned officer was in charge of one of the "blocks" or companies of the camp organisation and was outstandingly keen and effective in his command. He proved himself a natural leader of men, he inspired confidence and displayed sound initiative, particularly under the difficult circumstances of the forced marches. So great was the confidence that could be placed in this officer that, irregardless of the difficulties, it was instinctively known that his "block" would not be in trouble. His personal interest in the welfare of the prisoners was continuously reflected by the high esteem with which he was held by all. I would like to particularly mention his willingness to take on extra duties or responsibilities without the slightest regard for the personal effort involved. I am most appreciative of the loyal and valuable assistance rendered me by this officer.
(g) 27256 W/Cdr. Keily, G.V. R.A.F. W/Cdr. Keily, my second in command, was an exceptionally capable officer upon whom I could completely rely. The discipline held among the prisoners in the last forced march is largely attributable to his administration. He demonstrated organizing ability well above the average and the character necessary to carry through irregardless of difficulties. His cheerfulness, his sound common sense and his advice were always a pillar of steady support to me. I have no hesitation in recommending W/Cdr. Keily for any position of command as he clearly illustrated his ability to lead, organize and direct in a most capable manner.
12. Non-Commissioned Officers.
Approximately 150 N.C.O's and other ranks volunteered to serve at this camp as orderlies, many of whom did excellent work in very many respects. It is requested that Lieutenant Paynter R.N., the camp officer-in-charge of the N.C.O.'s be invited to submit recommendations for these N.C.O.'s on behalf of G/Capt. Wilson and myself.
13. Red Cross Clothing.
During my tenure as S.B.O. there was no stock of Red Cross or Service clothing available to the camp.
14. Discipline in the Camp.
Discipline in the camp was all that could be expected under the conditions and was particularly good on the march. There are no cases of major infraction of discipline that require further attention.
15. Escape and Intelligence Activities.
A committee was formed at Stalag Luft III, originally in the East Compound, to report in detail on escape activities and the work of this committee was continued during my term as S.B.O. It is recommended that the undermentioned officers be requested to complete this report:
W/Cdr. J.R. Kayll R.A.F.
Lt./Cmdr. P. Fanshaw R.N.
F/L. Stafford-Crawley R.A.F.
Intelligence activities were under the direct control of W/Cdr. Williams R.A.F. and it is suggested that he be invited to submit a separate report on this section.
I would like to acknowledge the tremendous assistance given to us by the International Red Cross, the International Y.M.C.A. and the Canadian P.O.W. Relatives Association.
Without the Red Cross fund, it would have been impossible to maintain health and vitality and casualties from sickness or starvation would have been very high. Without the recreational, educational and miscellaneous equipment supplied by the Y.M.C.A and C.P.O.W.R.A. the life as a prisoner would have been so intolerable that many would have been mentally affected for the remainder of their lives.
I would particularly acknowledge the work of the I.R.C. in the last months in the Lubeck area. Here, a truck depot was established from which truck shipments of food were rushed to thousands of prisoners and other displaced personnel all on the roads in the last chaotic weeks. We were continuously supplied by these trucks, driven by American and Canadian prisoners, and despite air attacks and front line fighting and casualties these trucks reached us, as they did thousands of others, with the food that enabled us to remain alive. I would strongly recommend that every driver of those I.R.C. trucks should be considered for decoration. In the event that a complete report is not already available, it could be obtained from Monsieur Du Bonney, the I.R.C. representative of the Lubeck area.
L.E. WRAY G/CAPT.
SENIOR BRITISH OFFICER