Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by dbf, May 9, 2010.
A note about Army Intelligence Corps & JCCC
Finding Antony's grave brought us in contact with an exceptional group of people. They are personable, clever and an inspiration.
Army Intelligence thanked us many times for finding one of their "own". This meant a lot to us. The JCCC people work tirelessly to provide recognition through burials and services for all those who died. When we met with Nicola in Becklingen, she had already overseen an earlier ceremony for a few British bones which had been unearthed and needed proper burial. The Padre who serves with Army Intelligence came with a bugler, a bagpiper, a team of the Corps and a raft of dignitaries.
To anyone still searching for a loved one, we hope you persist and get to this amazing stage.
4392030 Private G H Thompson Green Howards
I thought you may be interested in a postscript to the Antony Coulthard story.
Of the thirty soldiers who died in Antony's column, after we had found Antony's grave, six remained unaccounted for; the tenth to die was one of those six, Private G H Thompson of the 4th Battalion, Green Howards. According to S/Sgt Aitken's affidavit (copy attached), he died on the 3rd of March 1945 at Wittenburg. Wittenburg is a medium sized town to the east of the river Elbe in the former East Germany. It is about 50 miles from the barn in Kaltenhof where Antony died.
Coincidentally, the CWGC database shows there to be a grave of an unknown British soldier in Wittenburg cemetery and also shows that Pte G H Thompson died on 3 March 1945. I put two and two together and thought it is bound to be the same man as the British army did not advance beyond the river Elbe in 1945 in its drive to the east. This had to be a soldier who died on the death march as only they were to the east of the Elbe.
The day after Antony's re-dedication, I had a spare day before getting back to Dunkirk for the ferry, so motorbiked over to Wittenburg to see if I could find his grave. After a long, fruitless search I was about to give up and start to ride back to UK but decided to ask one of the gardeners if there were any military graves. He pointed to a row of German WW2 graves which I went over to look at and it appeared they were graves of named German soldiers who all died in the last weeks of the war. However, on further inspection, to my surprise, among the graves was a military grave marked "Unbeck Eng Soldat" which is the shortened version of Unbekanter Englander Soldat - Unknown English Soldier. I had found Pte Thompson's grave! S/Sgt Aitken stated that he buried each of his comrades in civilian cemeteries so this all added up.
I knew there was not the same compelling evidence that I had discovered in Antony Coulthard's case, just a coincidence of dates and place, but decided it was worth having a go, so I wrote to the CWGC and JCCC. Not expecting a positive response, I was amazed to receive an e mail last week from the JCCC saying they agreed with my evidence and that a headstone will be produced and a re-dedication will take place in 2017. They will caveat the headstone with the words "believed to be buried in this cemetery"
I am so pleased for Pte Thompson's relatives and the Regimental Association who are over the moon. The Regimental archivist is in contact with me and reports that a NOK card has been found with the name of his mother and the address in North Shields where they lived. They are contacting local media to attempt to find living relatives.
So another soldier who died in dreadful circumstances and has had no known grave for seventy years has been found. I am glad I took the time to ride to Wittenburg.
Have attached two photos of the grave, the page from S/Sgt Aitken's affidavit and a list of the thirty victims in Aitken's column which I produced from the CWGC data base.
Great news Steve. I wonder what a Green Howard's Grave naming service will be like?
As a result of an interview I was asked to do on local radio last week, the national press got hold of the Antony Coulthard story and it was published on Friday 25 March in the Times, Mail and Mirror.
Here are links to the three articles:
I am so glad for LCpl Coulthard and Sgt Fred Foster that their story is now told.
Very sobering, reading the list of casualties on the march and this was one of many columns threading their way through Europe as the allies closed in on Germany, demonstrating the suffering that the European POW's suffered at that time through brutality, lack of care, food and resources and in a few cases, friendly fire.
So true Nick. The reality hits home when you see the endless country roads they had to tramp. So sad to force already sick and weak people to walk 1000 miles with useless footwear and inadequate clothing or food.
But there might be more.... Steve is going through facts in search of all the remaining POWs from Antony's column who were buried but never located,
I think there's just 3 left to find. Give this man a medal!
Fingers crossed then.
An update on Pte G H Thompson's grave re-dedication service.
The details of Pte Thompson's death on the Forced march are on Post 283 above, which I wrote in January of last year. Since then the JCCC and CWGC have gone firm with the date of 21st of April for the re-dedication. The excellent Nicola Nash of the JCCC (who masterminded LCpl Coulthard's re-dedication) is the case manager and I am sure it will be conducted with great dignity.
The Green Howards Regiment were folded into the Yorkshire Regiment some years ago and it has been confirmed that the Yorkshire Regiment will send representatives as will the Green Howards Association. A padre, bugler and standard bearer have already been arranged.
I couldn't let this go without attending, so myself and four friends from the Solent Triumph Riders Club (all serving or ex-serving members of the RN) will attend and travel by motorcycle. We will take the opportunity to find the five remaining lads who have not been found from that weary column and who died in such dreadful circumstances.
Private Walker of the DLI was the 29th to die, at a place according to S/Sgt Aitken, called Walberhagan; it is very hard to read on his original document but wherever it was, it was two marching days before LCpl Coulthard's death. I have back tracked along the route and have discovered that there is an unknown soldier buried in the cemetery in the village of Kaarssen. This grave, just like Pte Thompson's, is alongside the graves of German soldiers who died in the final weeks of the war. I have arranged to meet the Pastor of Kaarssen church to look at his records. Here is a link to a German War Grave document, note the unknown listed fourteenth on the first list:
Kaarßen (Friedhof), Gemeinde Amt Neuhaus, Landkreis Lüneburg, Niedersachsen
We will then travel North East to Retzow where the first four from the column died to look at the cemetery in Hohen Mistorf (about 1km from Retzow) to see if we can find those lads. Please refer to the documents at post 283 above for the details of the five still to be found.
I am determined not to give up until we have found them all.
Late edit. I have just realised that the second part of the original list from S/Sgt Aitken's affidavit wasn't on Post 283. I have attached it here. As you can see, it is not as clear as the first document and the village or town where Pte Walker died is not easily read. Perhaps "Walberhagan ".
I have established from my contacts in the area that there is no such village within two marching days of Kaltenhof where LCpl Coulthard died so the unknown grave at Kaarssen is our best bet.
Steve, that is such dedication to a very worthy cause. As usual I will be watching closely to see how you get on!
Thank you for your words. I think by 1942 there were many New Zealanders and Australians at Stalag XXA, captured during the North African, Greek and Crete campaigns. Of interest, the eleventh soldier to die in S/Sgt Aitken's column, on the same date as Pte Thompson, was a New Zealander, Pte H A Colgate of the New Zealand Infantry. According to S/Sgt Aitken he died of Exhaustion and Dysentry.
Here is a link to his CWGC details which give various documents about him. He was the son of Arthur and Marion Colgate of Wellington City, New Zealand.
His grave is in Berlin cemetery where he was re-buried after he was found by the searcher teams after the war. How sad to die from those terrible things on the opposite side of the world to your home and family.
There's a podcast about the escape now -
Dan Snow has recorded a Podcast about Steve's amazing Dad, Fred Foster and his escape with Antony in 1942 - listen here -
Dan Snow's HISTORY HIT by History Hit Network on iTunes
I'll be looking forward to any news and photos from Pte Thompson's service and grave dedication. If it's anything like Antony's, your friends will be very glad they attended.
As Diane said, visiting the possible grave locations often reveals extra clues. I hope this happens when you look for the 4 men at Retzow.
Looking back on your post about your Grandpa and the Apple tree Antony collapsed into a coma under-
I was really touched that Nicola Nash from the JCCC was able to give you a wreath of apple blossom to lay on Antony's Grave on the day. She made that herself because she couldn't find a florist who could do it at the time. Good memory.
I'm not surprised your Dad couldn't talk about what happened. I've been reading a quite remarkable account of this experience and it was worse than I could have imagined
Here's a link to the book which gives an amazing account of POW Dennis Minter's time (after capture defending the Dunkirk evacuation).
You'll already know, the POWs who spent the longest time in captivity and suffered longest were from the ill trained and equipped BEF.
Ghosts of Dunkirk
This group photo was recently sent to me by Sheila Grant, daughter of POW, WE Winn (front row third from R). Antony is just behind him in his round spectacles.
William Winn met Antony in a punishment cell at XXA and they became good friends. He was one of the seriously wounded POWs, to be repatriated in the 1943 Prisoner exchange.
Separate names with a comma.