STALAG LUFT III - NORTH COMPOUND.

 

Report covering the Camp from April, 1944, to January, 1945

 

Part 1 - General.

 

The compound as at April, 1944.

        1. On taking over North compound in April, 1944, from Group Captain H.M. Massey, R.A.F. who was being repatriated to England, the compound strength was approximately 1,200 officers and other ranks. Of these about 1,000 were officers from practically all parts of the empire and allied countries (except Russia). The remainder were army other rank prisoners and air-crew N.C.O's who had volunteered for duty as orderlies.

        2. The prisoners were housed in 15 wooden blocks and there existed the necessary other buildings such as cookhouse and latrines, which were satisfactory for the purpose they served. The size of the compound was about a quarter of a mile square, which allowed adequate space for exercise and games.

        3. The internal administration of the compound (prisoner administration) was in many respects similar to that of an R.A.F. establishment. Each living block was under the authority of a senior officer who in turn was responsible to a more senior officer commanding a group of three blocks. These latter in turn were responsible to the senior officer of the compound. A small camp staff administered special functions such as foodstuffs, barrack furniture, clothing and Red Cross supplies. Prisoner committees controlled other non-administrative departments such as entertainment, education, sport, and escape activities - the committees again being responsible to the senior officer of the camp.

 

Increases in Prisoner personnel.

        4. The compound strength gradually rose to approximately 2,000 officers and men, this being the figure when the evacuation occurred in January, 1945. Included in this number were about 600 American officers and other ranks, most of whom arrived during the period August - December, 1944.

 

Living conditions

        5. Living conditions were at all times tolerable, although the increasing number of prisoners led to a state of overcrowding in barrack blocks, for which no relief could be obtained.

        6. Furniture and bedding provided by the Germans allowed a fair degree of comfort in the mild periods of the year, but the scale of blankets (2 per individual) was insufficient in the winter months. Fortunately prisoners were able to supplement this issue by gifts from the Red Cross and supplies from home.

        7. German rations provided were similar to those available to garrison troops as far as could be ascertained, but quantities were reduced from time to time, and it was absolutely necessary to have the Red Cross food parcels to sustain a healthy life.

        8. Coal, in the form of briquettes, was issued during the winter months, and when carefully used, was sufficient to maintain bodily warmth.

        9. The Germans provided very little clothing, prisoners have to rely almost entirely on clothing parcels from next of kin and Red Cross supplies.

        10. As already stated there was ample space for exercise and games.

 

Attitude of the Germans.

        11. Generally speaking the attitude of the German camp personnel towards the prisoners was satisfactory and in accordance with what could be expected of a detaining authority towards its internees. Incidents were rare. The camp commandant was fair in his attitude and the camp staff well disciplined. Communication with other compounds was practically nil and parole walks outside the confines of the camp were very restricted.

 

Health and Sanitation

        12. The health of the prisoners was good, and except for occasional cases of diphtheria and scarlet fever, ailments were of a minor character. This favourable position was in some measure due to the high standard of cleanliness maintained by the prisoners in the camp and by the encouragement given to sport and exercise.

        13. Great assistance was given by a prisoner staff, skilled in physiotherapy work, to wounded and injured personnel.

        14. A camp hospital, having eventually over a hundred beds, was available to the sick.

        15. German medical supplies were inadequate, but this deficiency was covered by issues from the Red Cross at Geneva.

        16. Dental equipment was fair, but supplies meagre, and no major dental treatment could be carried out.

        17. The sanitation of the camp was good, the prisoners themselves being largely responsible for this state of affairs.

 

Red Cross Supplies.

        18. Red Cross food parcels were available on a normal scale of one per man per week until September, 1944. Thereafter the scale was halved due to the lack of supplies.

        19. Clothing and necessaries were available in the requisite quantities during most of the period.

 

Camp facilities.

        20. Educational courses covering a very wide range were organised within the compound, and were freely attended.

        21. Amateur theatricals reached a very high standard, and prisoners were able to see new plays every ten days.

        22. Football, cricket, basket ball, hockey, soft ball, ice hockey and many forms of minor games were played on a big scale.

        23. Hot showers were available to all prisoners twice a week.

        24. A feature of the camp was the many gardens which provided useful additions to the ration.

 

Y.M.C.A. and other organisations

        25. The help provided by certain organisations, particularly the Y.M.C.A. calls for the most favourable comment. The Y.M.C.A. was responsible for providing most of the entertainment and sporting equipment for the compound, without which very little could have been achieved in these spheres.

 

Visits by the Protecting Power.

        26. Visits by the Protecting Power to the compound occurred every three months. They were very valuable to the prisoners as they afforded an opportunity of representing grievances to the proper authority. Although the Protecting Power was limited to a certain extent in its work by the attitude of the higher command in Germany, their visits often resulted in the amelioration of conditions in the compound.

 

Visits by the Red Cross

        27. These occurred on an average about every nine months. They were of value, but most of the prisoners requirements were met by correspondence.

 

Escape Activities.

        28. The murder of 50 officers who escaped from the compound [?] 1944, and the German official attitude towards escaping which followed, resulted in an almost total abandonment of attempts to leave the camp. The normal routine of preparation, however, still continued. When the compound was evacuated a tunnel was nearing completion which would have provided a means of egress from the camp, had the situation warranted it. A full report on escape activities generally is being prepared by certain officers and will be submitted in due course.

 

Information to and from England.

        29. The organisation of this phase of camp activities is known to the branch of the Air Ministry concerned, and it is not appropriate to deal with the matter here, other than to record that the system used operated efficiently. Any detail required can be obtained from 26260 Wing Commander M.F.D. Williams, D.S.O., R.A.F.

 

Receipt of Special Parcels.

        30. This again is something which cannot be recorded in any detail in this report. Little difficulty was found in smuggling such parcels into the camp (parcels containing escape goods, wireless sets, and wireless parts). Full information as to procedure can be obtained from 76017 Flight Lieutenant L. Reavell-Carter, R.A.F.

 

Defence Measures.

        31. The possible attitude of the German people towards Air Force prisoners at the closing stages of the war - influenced by a press which showed the greatest hatred towards allied airmen - made it necessary to evolve measures for the safeguarding of personnel. To this end a defence scheme was inaugurated and prisoners were trained in individual and collective protection. In no way was the scheme contrary to the Geneva Convention, but in order to prevent any misconception on the part of the German camp authorities, all the work was done secretly.

 

PART II - NOMINAL ROLLS.

CASUALTIES AND MISSING PRISONERS.

 

Nominal Rolls.

        32. The nominal roll of North Compound at the time of leaving Stalag Luft III is not in my possession. Information re this matter can be obtained from the compound adjutant 28244 Squadron Leader Jennins, L.W.V., R.A.F.

 

Casualties.

        33. No casualties due to the action of the German authority, occurred during the period under review. This, of course, does not take into account the murder of fifty officers who escaped in March, 1944 - about which a separate report has been submitted to His Majesty's Government through the Protecting Power.

 

Missing Prisoners.

        34. Until the compound moved from Stalag Luft III in January, 1945, no prisoners can be classed as missing, with the exception of all the Czech personnel who were removed from the compound about August, 1944. These Czechs were taken to Prague for interrogation and although no official information is available as to their whereabouts, it is believed that they are safe. Personnel who were missing after the evacuation from Stalag Luft III are considered in another report which deals with Marlag Milag Nord.

 

PART III - CAMP DISCIPLINE

 

General

        35. It gives me great satisfaction to record that the discipline of members of North Compound was very good. There were isolated cases of infringement of camp orders (British) by a few prisoners, but these are not considered serious enough to warrant action in this country, and were in the main due to the conditions of confinement than to any other cause.

        36. As a matter of routine the living blocks were inspected regularly for cleanliness by myself and Group Captain L.E. Wray and a high standard was maintained.

        37. The help given by the Army orderlies and volunteer N.C.O. Air-crew in keeping the compound in good condition is pleasing to record.

        38. A high standard of parade discipline was observed during the German roll calls which took place twice daily.

 

Gambling.

        39. Gambling was strictly prohibited in the compound.

 

Communication with Germans.

        40. This was prohibited as a camp (British) order, except for certain nominated officers who requested to speak with the guards in the course of their duties.

 

Theft.

        41. It is again pleasing to record that theft within the compound was almost unknown.

 

PART IV - ISSUES OF SERVICE CLOTHING

 

        42. Red Cross supplies were issued to those who required them on an approved scale. This issue was partially on loan in that the individual was expected to return such clothing to store when he was able to get replacements from personal parcels.

        43. No record of the issues are at present available owing to the forced evacuation of the camp in January, 1945. The greater portion of the issues had to be left behind at Stalag Luft III, again owing to the evacuation of the camp.

 

PART V - RECOMMENDATIONS FOR VALUABLE SERVICE

 

Awards.

        44. The following officers are recommended for an appropriate award because of the services rendered by them.

                W/C. Williams, F/Lt. Rowe, F/Lt. Stark - These officers were responsible in large measure for the effective communication between the compound and England. Their work was continuous, and of a character which would have resulted in heavy punishment - if not death - had it been discovered by the Germans.

                S/Ldr. Waterer - This officer was head of the compound intelligence system and worked most conscientiously and effectively.

                F/Lt. Ellen - This officer was head of the compound wireless staff, and carried out his work always at the risk of heavy punishment if discovered.

                S/Ldr. Murray - This officer was one of the oldest Air Force prisoners in Germany. He had been the Senior British Officer of at least one camp, and was most efficient and loyal in every phase of camp activity.

                Lt. Hannahan, R.N. - This officer was in charge of the compound administrative staff. His devotion to duty was exceptional, and his work of a high order.

 

Recommendations

        45. The following officers names are brought to notice for the valuable work achieved by them.

                W/C. Ellis - As senior member of the escape committee.

                W/C. Eyre - For loyal and efficient co-operation as a senior camp officer.

                S/Ldr. Jennins - For loyal and efficient work over a long period as camp adjutant.

                W/C. Larken - For loyal and efficient co-operation as a senior camp officer, and as officer-in-charge of camp entertainment.

                F/Lt. Byclke-Petersen - For organising and administering the physio-therapy section of the camp.

                W/C. Hyde - For loyal and efficient co-operation as a senior camp officer.

                Petty Officer Cunningham - For executive work in the maintenance and operation of secret receiving equipment.

        46. The following officers are also considered worthy of mention for various camp duties performed.

                Capt. Rocher - Senior medical officer.

                F/Lt. Herrick - Compound foodstuffs officer.

                F/Lt. Level-Carter - Compound parcels officer.

                Lt. Poynter - Officer in charge of orderlies.

                F/Lt. Libby - Officer in charge of first aid.

                S/Ldr. Fielden - As a block commander and generally useful officer.

                Capt. Pepys - As camp Quartermaster.

                F/Lt. Vivian, F/Lt. Fenn, F/Lt. Nunn - As officers in charge of education.

                F/Lt. Walker - As camp interpreter.

                F/Lt. Smiley - For work in connection with sports and games.

                Capt. Partridge - For camp work generally.

                F/Lt. Collett - As camp shorthand writer.

                W/O. Cornwall - For orderly room work.

        47. I would like to record for any action which the Royal Canadian Air Force authorities may wish to make, the loyal co-operation given me by Group Captain L.E. Wray who undertook the whole of the internal administration of the camp, and who by his unfailing cheerfulness and knowledge of service requirements, was largely responsible for the maintenance of a high state of morale and good order in the compound.

        48. As it is not possible for me to cover all those officers and men who deserve recognition for services rendered, I request that the following officers be invited to make recommendations in their several spheres of camp life.

                W/C. Williams - Communication with England.

                W/C. Ellis - Escape organisation.

                W/C. Larken - Entertainments.

                F/Lt. Vivian and F/Lt. Fenn - Education.

                W/C. Hyde - Sports and games.

 

D.E.L. WILSON, G/CAPT. R.A.A.F.

SENIOR BRITISH OFFICER.