Captured at St Valery and sent to Stalag XXB

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by voicey, Feb 22, 2014.

  1. voicey

    voicey Member

    Hello, I wonder if anyone could assist in getting any of my Grandfathers details/records regarding his time in WW2. He was one of the many thousands captured at St Valery in 1940 before being sent to Poland, Stalag XXB. He made a couple of failed escape attempts before finally succeeding on his 3rd. His name was William John Milne and he served in the 5th battalion Gordon Highlanders (51st Highland Division) and his army number was 2880536.

    I have attached a clipping from a local newspaper which ran a story back in the 70's about 2 local men who escaped from POW camps in WW2, my Grandfather is the second story shown. I'm sure you'll agree it is enjoyable reading, escaping from the Nazis and then being caught by the Red army who thought he was a German soldier.

    I have visited the site of the old XXB camp back in December 2013, I am travelling back there next week with my Father so he can see the place where his own father was held for 4 years.

    I hope someone reads this who can perhaps source some records, if so thank you in advance.

    Attached Files:

    dbf likes this.
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Have you got his service records? If not you can apply for a copy from the MoD for £30.

    This is the War Diary ref WO 167/746 5 Gordon Highlanders Jan to May 1940 but it looks like it finishes a month early for you.

    The regiment also has an 'official' history called The Life of a Regiment by Wilfred Miles.
  3. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Looking at the Ancestry database "All UK, British Prisoners of War, 1939-1945 results for Milne" your William John does not appear, there are 11 Milne, with initial W, and only 2 of those were in the Gordons, 1 (2870706) at Stalag XX A and the other 1 (2884045) at Stalag XVII A.

    I wonder if that was because he escaped??

    I also can't find him on any of the Liberation reports etc, but that maybe because he escaped/evaded to the east as opposed to the normal west route - something I need to find out about, but there may well be others who have this info.


    edited to add:

    Having read the newspaper article, just checked for a J Beattie (Gordons) and he does not appear in the database either
  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  6. voicey

    voicey Member

    Hello Tricky, thank you for your replies and the same goes for the other replies too.

    I know my father has tried to a spot of digging himself and funnily enough he hasn't had much luck, he was told it may be due to the fact that he wasn't released from XXB by the normal manner which meant he didn't have the same repatriation as the other POWs. This may be the reason why the other person J Beattie also isn't there.

    I've got my grandfathers medals and his boarding card for the ship which took him back from Odessa, I also have some paperwork from when he eventually left the army in 1946. I have one photograph with the official XXB stamp on the back of it, his army drivers license and various other documents.

    I will try the other links you posted, thank you again for your help.
  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi voicey

    Reading the news article, it seems to say in the penultimate paragraph that Jim arrived home 3 years before Bill - that confuses me a little, I guess there is no way of checking that.
    It would mean as they escaped in (I guess) spring 1945, that Jim was home in mid/late 1945, and that would then be 1948 for Bill, which does not seem right :(

  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I have been searching for further info and have found out the names of certain ships that transported 'Russian' POW's back to Odessa and picked up Allied POW's held/collected by the Russians back to the UK.
    The ships names are:
    SS Duchess of Richmond
    SS Moreton Bay
    SS Highland Princess
    SS Duchess of Ricmond

    On the last ship above I did find a relevant paragraph on this
    The ‘Duchess’ in wartime drab loading American troops somewhere?
    In 1945 she was used to ferry Soviet POWs on two voyages from the UK to Odessa, one reference I found said that in 1944 the Bedford left Liverpool with more than 3000
    Russian ex-prisoners of war, bound for Basra, from where the exprisoners would have been taken by train to Russia. I found references of her sister ship the Duchess of Richmond and other UK liners on this run also. I did find details of her carrying American POWs from Odessa to Malta & Italy so she obviously was in Odessa. American, British & Canadian POW’s from camps in Poland that the Russians overran were railed to Odessa were they were put on ships back to allied bases.


    edited to add:
    A newspaper article of the time for the repatriation of Allied POW's via Odessa -

    further article: - 5th paragraph (unable to copy & paste)
  9. voicey

    voicey Member

    Hello tricky,

    I think you've read the article wrong, the man jimmy escaped prior to ever reaching a pow camp (with a guy called Bill, but not my grandad Bill). The 2 stories are totally separate, I'm not sure jimmy and my Grandad would even have known each other. Jimmy would have escaped in 1940, where my grandad was prisoner until the end of 1944 before escaping (after 2 failed attempts).

    He sailed on 2 ships before reaching home in 1945, the duchess of Bedfordshire and the SS Orion. The names of the ships are written in some documents I have. I will take another look at these items and if you wish I could post them here for you to take a look.
  10. voicey

    voicey Member

    Duchess of Bedford, not Bedfordshire, sorry.
  11. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    That's also the info I have learnt - SS Duchess of Bedford from Odessa to Malta then SS Orion from Malta to the UK


    Sorry about the confusion in the news article, it comes from trying to read it sideways :)
  12. Derek MATTHEW

    Derek MATTHEW New Member

    hi my father's brother was captured at st valery he was with the black watch 51st highland division he was my uncle James MATTHEW he escaped 3 times in sure it was 1946 before he came home
  13. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Find my Past has a 1945 entry saying "Now not a P.O.W., Whereabouts unknown"
  14. Derek MATTHEW

    Derek MATTHEW New Member

    hi my uncle James MATTHEW returned to his job in the railways and became a mainline train driver in 1974 I became a fireman with British rail and was at the same depot we spent many shifts together he told me memories as a POW he lived into his mid eighties but never forgot what happened to him
  15. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    3318218 Pte. J. Matthew. POW number 6933 1941/42 listed as in Stalag 8B Teschen, Germany also on a list at Camp 21D. No date given.

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