Lieutenant W.A. 'Dopey' Millar - Colditz

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by canuck, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    " In January 1944, Lieutenant W.A. 'Dopey' Millar, a Canadianengineer captured at Dieppe, slipped through a window and disappeared from Colditz Castle, never to be seen again".

    Objects of Concern: Canadian Prisoners of War Through the Twentieth Century - Jonathan Franklin William Vance - Google Books

    That is one account.

    Another mentions that he was murdered in that escape attempt.

    A third suggests that he died at the hands of the Gestapo well after the escape.

    Does anyone have any POW records which might offer more details?
  2. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Have you accessed his service file via the LAC? Does that give any clues??

    I note that he was apparently last seen in January 1944 but the CWGC gives a date of death in July 1944 - I wonder how that was arrived at??


    Rank: Lieutenant

    Date of Death: 15/07/1944

    Age: 31

    Regiment/Service: Royal Canadian Engineers 7 Field Coy.

    Awards: Mentioned in Despatches

    Panel Reference Panel 23. Column 2.


    Additional Information:

    Son of William A. and Catherine G. Millar, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. B.Sc. (University of Alberta).

    Google Translate

    A bit of his background & a photo here
  3. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    The Henry Chancellor book 'Colditz', mentions the theories you've listed but with a bit more detail, is that where you got your sources from?

    1. He was heading for the Protectorate in Czechoslovakia about 100 miles away. An SS guard later boasted that escapees should avoid it, so it was obviously known to the Germans.

    2. He was recaptured near Lamsdorf and executed on the 15/7/44 at Mauthausen extermination camp along with 'thousands of other Allied POWs'.
  4. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Profuse apologies to Canuck for coming to this thread late. I know my old grey matter is not what it used to be and it took me a while to connect with the name of Lt Miller, and whereabouts I'd seen it (think I've a better memory with pictures rather than the written word).

    Extract attached below from the introduction of "DETOUR - THE STORY OF OFLAG IVC" published in 1946.

    Lt Miller "Escape King", another very brave Canadian.

    Attached Files:

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  5. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Does anyone have any RELIABLE DOCUMENTED information as to who the 'thousands of other Allied POWs' were who were being held in Mauthausen and were executed there?

    Why were they in Mauthausen and not in a prisoner of war camp?

    Were they buried in a Commonwealth War Graves Commissioin Cemetery after having been executed? If so, which one?

    Or are they registered as 'missing?'

    I don't know a great deal about POWs in Germany or German-occupied territories but have come across the occasional case of Allied POWs being held in Dachau, for example two submariners from HM Saracen, Holt and Robertson. Mauthausen as a POW camp is news to me.

  6. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    I think the Allied POWs executed at Mauthausen would be Russian, NCOs,political commissars, those fanatical communists, POWs supposingly identified as Jewish who were earmarked as to receive Hitler's Bullet Decree....executed and vanish without trace.All in all, because the camp authorities kept a well maintained "death book", it revealed over 36000 inmates were executed at Mauthausen. The murder of Russian POWs was widespread across the concentration system,a policy which was detailed in the operational instructions for Barbarossa in early June 1941 prior to the launch of the operation.Additionally Russian POWs were not treated well,housed and fed but were treated less than animals.Consequently they died like flies.

    Also In Mauthausen there were about 40 SOE operatives,remnant members of the collapsed Prosper network and those SOE operators from the Dutch section who had been delivered straight into Abwehr captivity on reception from the German deception operation Nordpole. This group were executed in September 1944. This group are remembered by a plaque on the internal wall face at Mauthausen behind the gas chamber and disguised bullet in the neck execution room.There should be a photograph of the memorial plaque which I posted on the forum a few years ago.

    Hitler's decree Nacht und Nebel Erlass,the Night and Fog decree was introduced on 7 December 1941 where persons in custody vanished into the hight and fog without a trace.Under the decree persons were seized who were judged to be "endangering German security" .It applied to Special Forces in uniform or not,persistent escapers and resisters in occupied Europe,in fact anyone who opposed the regime.The SD had the task of discharging the decree which had the principle that offences committed against the German state carried the death penalty.Life or death was left to the discretion of the SD and although the SD files were captured after the has been reported that the total numbers,POWs and civilians alike that fell victim to this decree is unknown.

    As regards graves of the victims,non have been identified as these people vanished into the "night and fog"...records were not kept by the perpetrators...the actions were regarded as secret.An example during Operation Freshman,some members of the Special Forces were captured,murdered by poison injection and their bodies thrown into the sea.Postwar investigation into missing POWs traced personnel but it was never proved conclusively how their met their fate, although in some cases an appropriate date of death, as a result of investigations has been determined.As a result, without known graves,RAF personnel are remembered on the Runnymede memorial.Others such as missing SOE personnel are listed on the memorial at Valencay, France,dedicated in May 1991 and the CWGC Groesbeek Memorial in the Netherlands.

    As an aside, Keitel signed the decree order as detailed by Hitler and it sealed his death warrant at Nuremberg

    A good source on the concentration camp system and how it was involved in the treatment of POWs is Nikolaus Wachsmann's "KL... A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps"

    There are many other sources...."Wings" Day gives a good account of his experience in Sachenhausen from being a persistent escaper.....he was fortunate to be included in the Prominente prisoners...civilian high profile prisoners but who were always under the threat of being executed until their SS captors disappeared, en route to a number of changed destinations,always under orders, when the Third Reich was about to collapse.
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  7. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
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  8. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thank you Harry for all this information. Did the execution of prisoners take place in other German internment/concentration camps or mainly in Mauthausen?

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  9. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

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  10. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

  11. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Submariners William Holt and Andrew Robertson were also held in Buchenwald after beig sent there from Dachau, but they managed in the end through the offices of a Czech interpreter to have their prisoner of war status recognised and were sent to Stalag XVIIIC Makt Pongau. From there they went to a work camp at Uttendorf where sadly Stoker Holt died from what was described as influenza.

    They had been sent to Dachau from Perugia Gaol.

  12. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The Night and Fog Decree was carried out the bulk of concentration camps according to the convenience of the perpetrators.As well as Mauthausen such places as Dachau,Sachenhausen. Flossenburg. Gross-Rosen Buchenwald. Ravensbruck (woman inmates) Stutthof, Neuengamme and Natzweiler (Alsace France) had civilian inmates,Special Forces and selected POWs who vanished with little trace and certainly without identified graves.Others were murdered external to concentration camp custody.

    Bergen Belsen was a different matter insofar that it was initially a Russian POW camp where the death rate must have been as high as other Russian POW camps,chiefly caused from disease and neglect by the Germans in their treatment of captives.

    From 1944 Himmler saw that there was something to be gained by the exchange of Jewish civilians for German nationals held in Palestine and with any financial advantages that there may be.The policy failed as only a little over 200 Jewish prisoners were exchanged.The camp then became a holding camp for many thousands of prisoners who were moved west under the Russian advance.Consequently the camp population doubled in start of 1945 to about 40000 and with it death from starvation and disease,resulting in 18000 dying in March alone.

    At Bergen Belsen the SS created an additional compound for those selected as protective custody prisoners The SOE operator, Yvonne Rudellat was captured in the Sologne while a member of the SOE reseau Prosper. Deported to Belsen,she died from disease and neglect under a French assumed name in April 1945 without giving any information away and the German not knowing her real background.There would be others in protective custody who died there.However the camp was predominately a camp for Jews with Himmler's policy of exchange prisoners in mind.

    Many Allied personnel were refused the status of POW on account of Hitler's Night and Fog decree.One such example as related by MI 9 concerned a party infiltrated into Norway from the Shetlands on 29/30 April 1943 commanded by John Godwin RNVR,accompanied by a commando sergeant,two petty officers and three seamen.Their target was the shipping near Haugesund in a fjord north of Stavanger. They had success in limpet mine blowing up some ships while using canoes with a fishing coble as a base but were missing when the MTB, as prearranged came to collect them in mid May and at the end of May.It appears that after sinking another German ship,they attempted to raid a larger one but were captured.After a spell in confinement at Grini prison near Oslo they were transferred to another concentration camp and finally to Sachenhausen. It appears that Godwin's peers valued his leadership and courage and he knew what was expected of him...recorded that he gave plenty.His party spent 15 months in Sachenhausen feeding on turnip gruel and minimum bread.They already had lost a member by the name of Mayer who was thought to be Jewish and had been thought to have been murdered.The party were forced to march 30 miles a day round a cobbled track testing boots for the Wehrmacht but despite this the party maintained good spirits.

    Their end came on 2 February 1945 after a day's test marching,they were summoned with others for execution.As they passed through a gate,there was a scuffle.Godwin seized the firing party commander's pistol from his belt and shot him dead before being mown down.As there was no one senior to him at his death,the best the decoration system could afford for him was a posthumous "Mentioned in Dispatches".

    Two other persistent escapers were RAF W/O R B H Townsend-Coles who was captured as an LAC aircrew in 1940 and RAF W/O G T W Grimson captured as Sergeant Observer in 1940.This pair must have been the most persistent escapers who never made a home run.Both were shot in 1944,Townsend -Coles on 15 July 1944 at Tilsit civil prison,Poland, said by the Germans to be involved with the Polish resistance. Grimson was said to have declared shot by a German who was not involved in the execution in April 1944.Both have no known graves.The British Government demanded an inquiry but an Investigation by the British authorities came to nought as the Protecting Power were not able carry out their duties due to the area being occupied by Russian forces.

    There is extensive detail on the escape activities of Townsend-Coles and Grimson in Aidan Crawley's "Escape from Germany"...the book as a whole, worth reading.

    As MI 9 recorded "Splendid men often go unnoticed because there is no one to tell their tale."
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
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  13. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    "Splendid men often go unnoticed because there is no one to tell their tale."

    I am quite sure there are thousands of battlefield stories which also fall under that category.
  14. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    List from "Colditz Recaptured" by Reinhold Eggers.

    Entry number 19.

    Attached Files:

  15. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Cannot find any reference regarding W A Millar's escape from Colditz in Reinhold Eggers's publication Escape from Colditz where he references 16 First Hand Accounts of escapes.It's a pity since the 16 are presented in great detail and I am sure that Eggers as Security Officer would have known about the case...on the other hand the detail of the fate of A Miller would likely have been suppressed by the Germans.I wonder if the Protecting Power were alerted to W A Millar's disappearance.

    Incidentally W A Millar's brother,J W Millar lost with No 44 Squadron on 7/8 February 1943 was on a raid to the UB base at Lorient... centre now a concrete city as I recall from visiting.

    All the crew of Lancaster ED 309 except two were RCAF skippered by F/O Millar

    F/O J W Millar RCAF
    Sgt R W Drury RCAF
    F/S K M Perkins RCAF
    Sgt L H Curtis
    Sgt H G Black RCAF
    Sgt W W Scrimgeour RCAF
    Sgt A L Bond

    Squadron history records.No 44 Squadron joined the raids on the U Boat pens on 7 February 1943 when 5 crews attacked Lorient with 4000 lb blockbusters and incendiaries.Air defences in the area were generally considered light and such raids had not previously collected significant casualties,but by trick of fate the squadron lost P/O Millar (referenced as F/O in squadron Roll of Honour) and F/S D Skinner (W 4832)

    U Boat pens known to have been improved against air attack....Harris disgruntled in having to divert bombing away from Germany at the Admiralty's request.

    Looking further at Belsen and the imprisonment of POW special forces.MI 9 state that 40 odd SAS were lost here,most likely victims of the Night and Fog decree...latter my view.
  16. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Hello Harry, I think Lieut. Miller's fate was likely unknown to Eggers, hence the only mention of him in Eggers' book being within the list of "Home Runs" on page 239 (of the edition of "Colditz Recaptured" that I have, said list shown in my post above).

    Given the book's publishing date (1973) the fate of Lt. Miller would I guess have still been largely unknown beyond his immediate family.

    If Eggers' knew he's likely to have wanted to keep what he knew of Lt. Miller's death to himself for fear of any associated incrimination, but to be fair he was possibly still unaware in 1973 (maybe?)

    The SAS chaps fate is a whole other can of worms, along with the reprisals taken against the local populace (eg Loyton, Bulbasket etc).

    The work put into (and publication of) The SAS and LRDG Roll of Honour 1941 - 47 gives more answers than most. The dear chap responsible for said tomes deserves every accolade going (not that he'd likely want any beyond "a good job well done")

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