Handmade Box made as POW in Stalag 4B

Discussion in 'WW2 Militaria' started by Chris Tolman, Feb 26, 2024.

  1. Chris Tolman

    Chris Tolman Member

    Hi all,

    I am posting this as i think people may like to see it, this is a box my Grandad made whilst being a POW in Stalag 4B. You can see in the photos he has singed his name Tolman.T, Muhlberg 1944, Stalag 4B.

    I believe he said he made it from a Italian dixie or canteen, and lined it with a uniform im not sure which nationality from.

    He was in the Royal Artillery i believe the 57th Anti Tank regiment firing a 25 Pounder artillery piece.

    I hope you find it as interesting as i do!


    Attached Files:

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  2. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    The main question is how much do you know about him and what more would you like to know.
    There are several routes that you might follow.

    Regarding his unit the 57th Anti tank were using 2 pounder anti tank guns in the BEF which I assume that he was in when captured.
    Anti tank Regiments were mainly equipped with the 2 pounder anti tank gun.
    Ordnance QF 2-pounder - Wikipedia

    57 (East Surrey) Anti-Tank Regiment RA (TA) - The Royal Artillery 1939-45
    Home | The 57th and 67th Anti-tank Regiments

    However in the same Division (44th) was the 57th Field Regiment who use Field Guns.
    In 1940 they were equipped with the old WW1 18 pounder modified to take a 25 pound shell.
    Later replaced by the 25 pounder Field Gun.
    57 (Home Counties) Field Regiment RA (TA) - The Royal Artillery 1939-45
    1st Sussex Artillery Volunteers - Wikipedia

    To trace his personal service you will need to apply for his Service Record.

    You might also find his details as a POW.
    In either case members could assist you.

    Best wait for others to comment and have dig around any other memorabilia that you have.
    Particularly any letters with addresses from him before his capture.

    Good luck, maybe meet again on this thread.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2024
  3. Chris Tolman

    Chris Tolman Member

    Thank you for the information you have given me, i also have a letter sent to his mother say he was missing in action, also a swastika arm band he took off fallen german soldier.

    I would love to learn more about his capture, i know he was also captured twice before and managed to escape twice, the third time he was captured he spent the remainder of the war in Stalag 4B

    Also he was treated for dysentery in Colditz Castle.

    I would like to trace the exact dates of these events if its possible.

    Thank you again for the reply.
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  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    What a fantastic box!

    If it turns out he was in the 57th Anti-Tank Regiment, I know a fellow who has researched the regiment and written some small books. I am sure he would be interested in chatting with you if you dropped him a line.

    Home | The 57th and 67th Anti-tank Regiments
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  5. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Last edited: Feb 26, 2024
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  6. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria.

    From Ancestry.

    Name T Tolman
    Rank Gunner
    Army Number 14334536
    Regiment Royal Artillery
    POW Number 279444
    Camp Type Stalag
    Camp Number IV-B
    Camp Location Mühlberg, Elbe, Brandenburg
    Record Office Royal Artillery (Field) Record Office, Foots Cray, Sidcup, Kent

    48741_b429193-00442.jpg i3119806-00072.jpg
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  7. Chris Tolman

    Chris Tolman Member

    Wow thank you so much for these amazing documents, im trying to find out more about him and create a timeline of events.

    Again thank you

  8. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    From the second document, it looks like 81st Anti-Tank Regiment?
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  9. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria.

    Found his tracer card but not much information im afraid.
    But as Uncle Target says you really need to send off for his service records they will give more information.
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  10. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Zoomed in but the typing is still unclear It looks like Chris C is right.
    Sorry I cant look at this further due to a hospital appointment today.

    If it is 81st A/T they were in 1st Division, I might be able to help further when I get back home this evening.

    81 Anti-Tank Regiment RA - The Royal Artillery 1939-45
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  11. Chris Tolman

    Chris Tolman Member

    Thank you all for you research and help, i am very grateful.
    When i say 57th A/T this is just by memory so i could be mistaken and in fact he was in the 81st.

    I hope your appointment went well and thank you again!
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  12. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    There`s a German PoW card at the National Archives but the card is `closed` until 1st January 2025 due to Thomas Tolman being born in 1924.

    Name: Thomas Tolman . Date of Birth: 1924 . | The National Archives

    14334536 Gnr Thomas Tolman was 81 ANTI TANK REGT posted `Missing believed Prisoner of War` on 4th February 1944 Italy the other documents in the same series Deacs kindly posted (see below)


    Screenshot 2024-02-27 114555.png

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  13. Wobbler

    Wobbler Well-Known Member

    I agree with Chris C too, I’m pretty sure it reads 81st. (Edit: I didn’t see Kyle’s post, which makes it even clearer. I took so long typing this that it must have popped up as I wrote :D).

    The beauty of Deacs’ tracer card is that, if you didn’t have it before, at least you now also have his service number to add to your records application. Every little helps.

    Bmbdr. Walter Nixon British Army 81st Anti Tank Regiment The Wartime Memories Project

    81st Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -
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  14. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Back from hospital so dropped in to look.
    4th Feb was when the Germans tried to "lance the absis" under direct command of Adolph Hitler.
    All hell broke loose, there are a number of threads covering this on the forum.
    Stu Avery and Minden 1759 are major exponents of this story.

    I have posted photos taken at the time.
    1st British Infantry Division Histories - Digital Versions

    By 3/4th February 1944 1 Division had succeeded in forcing forward, pushing out the perimeter, unfortunately the flanking units had not been able to follow suit creating a salient up the main road past The Factory.
    The two vulnerable flanks were manned by 2IB and the Guards Brigade.

    The Gordons were the first to be attacked on the 3rd Feb when an SOS was called at 2315 by Major Shepherd Commander of 266 Battery from the Gordons Battalion HQ.
    Between then and 0900 the next day he and Capt Jupp called for Regimental and Divisional fire on targets against a partly seen enemy in the pitch dark night
    with sleet and rain obscuring visibility. Each of the Gordons Companies were cut off from the other in an attack involving six Tiger Tanks who isolated their Battalion HQ.
    Due to their determined and skilled action both Major Shepherd and Capt Jupp Commander of C Troop 266 Bty succeeded in preventing a very nasty situation becoming incredibly grim, due to their control of the Divisional Artillery, in the morning one of the companies was recaptured complete with its German Escort and the situation partly restored. Allowing the Guards and 3IB to withdraw to a new defensive position.
    Major Shepherd was awarded a Military Cross, Capt Jupp an immediate MC and his OP Carrier driver/signaller
    who had spent the whole time on the radio in the carrier under fire, earned a Military Medal.

    A German communique read:
    "German Shock Troops cutting in front of a British Spearhead surrounded two British Battalions.
    So far 983 prisoners have been counted, their entire equipment captured. Six Sherman Tanks have been seized and several hundred British dead and wounded cover the battlefield.
    Attempts to break out were smashed as were attacks by reinforcements from the south. Colle Valletta a hill to the north of Aprilia is again in German hands and German guns now dominate the coastal plain down to the sea".

    A somewhat inaccurate synopsis but never the less partly true.
    Their guns did not in fact begin firing on the 67th until the 4th Feb after the Regt had been firing for over four hours. When the Germans did turn their attention to the gunners the shells mostly fell short or were duds, although
    the Scottish Horse Medium guns did have several nasty casualties in the Bosco behind them.

    The 81st Anti tank would have been in the front of the Field Artillery, placed to defend the roads and strongpoints many of which were overrun.
    Your grandfather would not have been alone.

    Some where I have an account of a member of the 67th Field Regt who was captured in Tunisia and taken by train to Moosburg. He escaped in 1944 and got home. If I think it is relevant, I will post it later.

    Tuesday is shopping day, posted on Standing Orders by the Brigadier!
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2024
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  15. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    I think that the latter part of this story might be typical so decided to post excerpts.
    The Gunner who wrote this was captured in Tunisia April 1943.
    He was wounded by a Spitfire who strafed the group of Germans when marching them back to Tunis,. they were handed over to the Italians.
    Having been moved to Bologna the POW's were taken by the Germans in Sept 1943.
    The trains ran from Modena to Moosberg up until the end of the war in Italy, mainly carrying victims to the Gas Chambers in Auschwitz etc.
    But also to take POW's to Germany where they were placed in work camps.
    The metal cattle trucks were overcrowded, hot in summer and cold in winter.
    The doors were opened once a day when it suited the guards. Several men died in the time it took to reach Moosburg. Any attempted escapees were shot.

    "We were ordered to parade in blocks of 50 along the road,.given Red Cross parcels then put on a train in metal cattle trucks for four days until we got to Austria.

    The Germans made us strip off, deloused us and sent us to a bath house and issued new clothes which were all mixed up I had Hungarian trousers and Polish Jackets but after a week we got Red Cross issued battle dress with German POW markings. We were placed in groups of thirty and taken to a farm in Poland somewhere near Krakow. They were vast flat fields as far as the eye could see growing Flax, they used the seeds for oil and the rest for cloth.
    We had three guards but there was no point in escaping as no-one knew where they were.
    We lived in a big barn near the farmhouse where we ate in groups of six or seven. They brought in a huge bowl of stewed vegetables and everyone sat around dipping their bread into it. Eventually the Germans got us our own individual bowls.

    As the Russians advanced we moved back into Germany to a sugar beet factory near Leipzig called Luttzen which worked 24 hours a day on shifts everything was sticky.
    Our meals were all spinach seven days a week we got fed up with it.
    After a few months they put us to work on the tramways in Leipzig repairing bomb damage.
    Because we were working in small camps the RAF were not aware we were there so we were losing men to the bombing.
    One day I had a word with a friend and we decided to escape.

    It was Christmas 1944 the wire was down and the guards were panicking.
    There were a lot of French prisoners working all over Germany.
    We broke into the French compound next door found some overcoats trousers and berets but kept our boots.
    We filled a haversack with cigarettes I had fifty tins saved as I didn’t smoke.
    My father had said to keep the cigarettes as they are useful currency if you get captured.
    If I saw a Frenchman I offered him a cigarette and kept moving west".

    They eventully met American Forces who flew them to France then the UK.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2024
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  16. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    I often read threads after they have been posted to ensure all questions have been answered.
    I think you might want to consider how far you want to go.

    Looking at #3 you commented: "I would love to learn more about his capture, I know he was also captured twice before and managed to escape twice, the third time he was captured he spent the remainder of the war in Stalag 4B.

    We have yet to investigate this. Nothing has been found to indicate where this occurred.

    The statement on #12 seems pretty final as far as official files go.

    I don't think we can find out more unless he gave a Liberation Report after repatriation, when he was released.
    This might be found in The National Archives or possibly on a site such as Ancestry or Find My Past.
    The Service Record might tell us more regarding his time with the Regiment i.e. Enlistment and postings.
    We would then know which other actions he fought in.
    Copies of the War Diaries would then come into play.

    The 1st Infantry Division were fighting in Tunisia in March/April/May 1943. 81 A/T are mentioned regarding the battles on the Medjez Plain.
    "A History of the 67th Field Regiment" a copy of which hold in my files.

    6th May 1943
    "The Gordons were to make an attempt on The Bou, the Regt laid down smoke but the attempt was cancelled when the Germans repeated their Gab Gab performance occupying the start line with tanks.
    81st Anti Tank effectively dealt with them.

    The Division sailed to Tarranto in December 1943.
    The Anzio Landings began on 22nd January 1944 elements of 81 A/T were in the assault wave, followed by the rest of the Regiment over the next tree days.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2024
  17. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Last edited: Feb 27, 2024
  18. riter

    riter Well-Known Member

    True trench art. I was taught hinge making and it requires bending them metal and cutting along with filing the knuckles to fit. I'd like to know how he did it without a vise. I wonder how he annealed the metal to keep it from work hardening. I can see chip engraving and wiggle type lines. Well done.
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  19. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Regarding the box.
    I suppose I gave it less attention due to my interest in military history.
    I was taught woodwork and metal work at Secondary School in the 1960's so appreciate the techniques required.
    I trained as an instrument mechanic which involved small mechanical parts and electronics. My trainer was a Flight Engineer in a Halifax Bomber trained to fix hydraulic equipment and instruments if hit by flak, using what was to hand to get the plane home.

    From The Beginning – Royal Air Force Flight Engineer & Air Engineer Association

    At technical college I covered all aspects of maintenance and before retirement trained multi skilled maintenance apprentices in a large manufacturing company.
    Approaching retirement I had the good fortune to become interested in the Staffordshire Hoard.
    The skills required to make jewellery and weapons in the 6th/7th Century become obvious to a trained eye.

    Staffordshire Hoard - Wikipedia

    It is quite incredible what a man can achieve given time to do it.
    POW's had much time at hand and learned how to survive by "acquiring" what they needed from various sources.
    (see #15).

    The box that we see presented challenges to make, giving the incentive to go on and stay sane.
    The number of escape attempts reflect his persistence and tenacity.
    The decoration is interesting was it in code?
    One clock shows 12 the other 3 0'clock. The stars might mean night time.

    We have yet to find out what his trade was before he enlisted.
    It will be revealed in his Service Record but it might be a year or more before it can be opened.
    Perhaps Chris Tolman will know.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2024
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  20. riter

    riter Well-Known Member

    Was Tolman in the Middle East? Studying the building it looks like a middle eastern style fortification. The tulips are very Germanic folk art oriented (so the Germans decorated with other than acorns and oak leaves). I put similar tulips (inspired by a book on folk art) on a clay plate that was fired (Conner Prairie Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana, Estados Unidos).

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