Long March POW Casualty 1945: John Antony Ronald Coulthard, Stalag XXA, Thorn

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by dbf, May 9, 2010.

  1. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    My father was a POW with Antony Coulthard in Stalag XXA and they escaped together in 1942, making it all of the way from Poland to the Swiss border. I have the book of their escape and letters from his mother to Dad. Antony was captured near Amiens in mid April 1940 after being sent forward to find a lost Divisional HQ on his motorbike. He did not realise he had passed through the front lines and when he slowed to talk to fellow motorcyclists only realised they were German as he drew alongside! His mother states he was in the Intelligence Corps but my father's submission to MI9 after the war (regarding their escape) stated he was in the Fiels Service Police. I am not sure. His mother also states that he was buried at Domitz, on the old East/West border.

    Steve Foster
     
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Steve-It must have been later than April-The Germans didn't start their advance into Holland, Belgium, Lux and France until May 10th.
     
  3. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Steve-It must have been later than April-The Germans didn't start their advance into Holland, Belgium, Lux and France until May 10th.
    Yes, you are quite right, my father was captured in Norway on Apr 23 1940 and that was the first contact between British and German troops. I have just re-read the passage in the book and Antony was deployed to France on April 7th and captured on May 20th. I have a picture of him with my father in Stalag XXA if anyone is interested. My intention is to go to Domitz next summer and try to find his grave. Steve
     
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Its always good to put faces to names Steve.
     
  5. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Steve, thanks for posting about your Dad and Antony Coulthard. I was intrigued by the account on Guardsman Burnell's Liberation questionnaire which was sent to me by someone who knows of my interest in Irish Guards, and wanted to confirm the correct casualty details.

    I do hope that you can locate his grave. How far are you with regards to this research. Have you contacted CWGC to see if they can tell you of any burials as Unknown?

    How much have you researched your father's service?

    Would you be able to share and post the correspondence as I think it would be of interest.

    Can you tell me when was the book published?

    Regards
    Diane
     
  6. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Steve, thanks for posting about your Dad and Antony Coulthard. I was intrigued by the account on Guardsman Burnell's Liberation questionnaire which was sent to me by someone who knows of my interest in Irish Guards, and wanted to confirm the correct casualty details.

    I do hope that you can locate his grave. How far are you with regards to this research. Have you contacted CWGC to see if they can tell you of any burials as Unknown?

    How much have you researched your father's service?

    Would you be able to share and post the correspondence as I think it would be of interest.

    Can you tell me when was the book published?

    Regards
    Diane
    Hello Diane,

    Pleased to meet you. I have only joined the site tonight so I am not sure how to attach items to the replies, is it the "insert image" icon above? I have researched my father's military record pretty thouroughly and have spent some time in the Sherwood Forester's museum with the curator last year. He was wounded and captured in Norway in 1940 when the 148th Brigade (TA) tried to halt the German advance from Oslo at a little town called Tretten. Most of his battallion were either killed, wounded or captured and it is a little known action which took place prior to the action in France and Belgium. I visited Tretten last year and the local historical society hosted me and took me round the war graves and the remains of the rock sangars that the Foresters held until overrun by tanks and ski troops.

    I will pass as much as I can once I have learnt how to attach!

    Steve
     
  7. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Andy and Diane,

    Please find attached two photos, one of my Dad, Sgt Fred Foster of 8th Bn Sherwood Foresters and the other of dad and L/Cpl Antony Coulthard of the Field Service Police. Both were taken in Stalag XXA. Antony is holding the Typewriter that they used to forge all of their pases for their escape. They volunteered to edit the Camp Paper, only as a rouse to get access to the typewriter which the Germans would only let them use in the camp HQ to make sure nothing subversive was being produced. Little did they know.
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Andy and Diane,

    Last missive this evening, I find this fascinating that someone else knows about Antony Coulthard; I was convinced that his death was completely unknown to anyone alive. As far as I can tell he has no living relatives as he was an only son; his mother lived in New Milton in Hants but she will be long gone. Her letters to Dad reveled how heartbroken she was for the loss of her Son and put quite a lot of blame Dad's way for Antony coming back to help dad at the check point. He must have lived with that all of his life as my sister and I only found all of this information after his death in an old suitcase

    Antony's full name was John Antony Ronald which aligns with the initials on the Dunkirk memorial.

    Diane, the book has no date on it but has this on the intro page:

    Oxford: Printed by A T Broome and Son, St Clement's

    I have attached the letter my father wrote to MI9 in 1945, apparently it was routine for all escapees to be debriefed by MI9 who were the Military Intelligence Department for Prisoners of War.

    Regards

    Steve

    Postnote: The system won't allow me to attach the letters as they are probably too big. I could Email them if you wish.
     
  9. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for adding the photos, as Andy says it's always good to have faces to put to names.
    How awful for your father, when the blame clearly lies elsewhere. He must have surely felt terrible with this guilt thrust upon him. Sad that he never shared this with you. That's a very long time for him to have been POW. I know about Norwegian campaign as the 1st Bn Irish Guards also fought there, losing most of their Officers and equipment when their ship was bombed. They eventually met up with the Scots Guards during a rearguard action. Some of those left behind made their way to Sweden and were repatriated.

    I'll send you a Personal Message with my email address and I'll see if I can get the letter attached for you if you want.

    Regards
    Diane
     
  10. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    ** The missing letters on post #32 below have now been reposted on post #211 on page 22 **

    Steve


    Hi Diane,

    I have Emailed you with the letter in 5 parts, the attachments and the accompanying texts are a bit out of sinc but you should have all 5 parts.

    I have just read the prefatory note from Antony Coulthard's book and the following is printed: The King has been graciously pleased to approve the Posthumous award of Mention-in-Despatches, in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in the Field to 5386215 L/Cpl J A R Couthard (Intelligence Corps)

    From the London Gazette, Nov 23rd 1945. War office

    So he was mentioned in despatches, I am not sure if this was for his actions prior to capture or as a result of dad's letter to MI9 detailing Antony's part in their escape.

    Steve
     
    dbf likes this.
  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Steve
    Email received and images attached below. Many thanks for sharing, it's interesting to read the actual letter addressed to MI9 rather than interview or summary notes.

    We already checked but unfortunately there is no record of Coulthard's MiD in the TNA archives, not many of these particular citations survived, so it is still a mystery. MiDs like V.C.s could be awarded posthumously. Other than that is there no mention of a citation in the book?

    Escape1.jpg

    Escape2.jpg

    Escape_3.jpg

    Escape4.jpg

    Escape5.jpg


    Adding names mentioned in the images, so that they can be accessed by search engines:

    Stalag 20A Thorn, Poland
    Bombadier J. WILCOX, Royal Artillery
    Sergeant T. FREESTONE, unknown regiment
    Sergeant Wilfred GORDON


    Stalag 383, Hohenfels, Bavaria
    C.S.M. SUNLEY, The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
    T.S.M. SHIRLEY, The Royal Corps of Signals
    Lance-Corporal DISSERENS, Royal Engineers
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2017
  12. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Diane,

    No mention of his MID in the text of the book, just at the preface. I have e mailed the CWGC to see if they know where his grave is in Domitz or indeed if he was repatriated. If not, it will give me a project in the summer to find his grave and to pass my father's respects.

    Steve
     
  13. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Steve, It's not possible for him to have been repatriated, to my knowledge, this just wasn't done.

    You might want to ask which cemeteries (in Poland too) were used for concentration burials for the deceased POWs from the March who were identified. It is likely that if he was found, he now lies under a headstone marked Known unto God. CWGC do not list where these burials on their website, only the number of unidentified burials within each cemetery.

    There is a way to try and plot each grave that is not allocated to a name, by comparing CWGC online Cemetery reports against their Cemetery plan for rows / numbers, but obviously you will need to have an idea to where the cwgc may have removed his remains, had they been discovered and then visit the cemetery. Some headstones have more info, like a date, a rank, or a unit, even if there is no name.
     
  14. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Thanks for that Diane, it seems complicated but will give it a go. I have Emailed the last 3 pages of the book to you where it states Antony was buried in the cemetery at Domitz by four of his friends. Probably Guardsman Burnell was one of those, he obviously felt very strongly about the manner of death to sign a statement.

    I have Emailed the German Tourist Board to find out who to contact about the cemetery in Domitz. I may get a reply!

    Please post the book pages for me if you wouldn't mind.

    Thanks

    Steve
     
  15. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hello Steve,

    Duly added, thank you for taking the trouble to scan these:

    Book1.jpg

    Book_2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2017
  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    With Steve's permission this is the text of a letter sent to his father by Anthony's mother.

    It shows the perspective we don't often get to read - that of the grieving parent.

    Steve, many thanks for sharing this personal document with the forum. I can't begin to imagine how your father must have felt reading this. I only hope that he knew beforehand of his friend's death.


    May 22nd 1945
    Villa Milton
    New Milton
    Hants

    Dear Sgt Foster,
    I suppose you know Antony Coulthard or “The Professor” from Stalag XXA perished on the way home on one of those torture marches from Poland. Cpl AG Price who lives in this district, with whom I got in touch, managed to get your address, hence this letter. I would particularly have liked to see you, as I believe you were the co-escapee with my Son to the Swiss border in 1942, and from what I have heard, he made the fatal mistake of returning to help you at the last moment; fool hardy but praiseworthy! And now he has gone, perished miserably and unnecessarily!

    What I would really like to know are a few details about that escape especially the latter part after your capture, before you were both returned to XXA. The story of Antony’s death is roughly as follows: He was not too well when he left XXA, but from Jan 20th to Mar 12th went bravely on, dysentery had set in and on the 12th he was in a very bad condition. He could no longer march so was put in a wagon at Schwerin. On March 22cnd, the guards ordered all to bathe in the River Elbe near Domitz. Poor Antony was in no fit state for that treatment but was forced to take a cold bath, with the result he lost consciousness and at 2am that night, died in a barn. His friends had tried to get medical treatment en route but without avail – just sheer murder! He was my idol, I just worshipped him and as a result I am broken hearted. The Germans tried to break his spirit over 5 years without success, but in the end they broke his body; I have been most touched by the many letters from returned POWs testifying to his character, nobility of spirit, his unerring efforts to help the men, especially in the dark days of 1940. So many owed so much to him. It is very bitter. If you can add to any knowledge of his doings, especially his escape, I would be most grateful, as his college want particulars to print his obituary in The Times.

    You might wonder how I know the details of his death. Four of his closest friends (one wrote to me on his arrival home) buried Antony in a little civilian cemetery in Domitz. They asked a passing German civilian to put up a rough wooden cross bearing his name, rank and number, as the march had to go on, but I believe they were soon liberated. Domitz is about 45 miles East of Luneburg, where Montgomery received the surrender. As soon as I can, I shall visit this hollowed spot – the only one in all Germany for me. Two friends from the Inter Allied Commission are soon going to Germany and are going to try to trace the grave or get someone in the area to see if it is marked. I only heard the tragic news on Apr 26th – just before VE Day and to the end of my days this wound will never heal although time may make it ache less. What brutes those Germans are.

    Forgive me, but I thought you would like to know and might help me.

    Yours very truly
    Mrs W M Coulthard
     
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Well done Di for starting this thread and thanks Steve for sharing what you have-That mothers letter is really heartbreaking. Like you mentioned Di, a side of war we seldom get to see or read about.
     
  18. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Andy, I am glad I have added to Diane's thread, as I said to Diane by Email, it is amazing how the internet can connect people with different parts of a sad story that probably no one would have been aware of. Most of what I have about Antony Coulthard and Dad has now been posted, except for the book written about Antony after the war and a very long and detailed typed letter of their escape. I only have pages 2-12 of this letter and I feel it may be the carbon copy of the original that Dad sent to Mrs Coulthard after she asked for details of their escape. If either you or Diane would like photocopies of these documents, I am only too happy to send them by post. When I scan them, they appear too big to post on the site. Maybe I am missing a trick on how to do it.
    One last piece of information you may be interested in: If you log onto WWIIMEMORIES.COM and on the main menu click on Prisoner of war Journals and then click on Sept 1942. Pictures of various journals come up. Click on the third picture down on the right and the front page of a journal comes up with a picture of Dad, Sgt Foster, with Corporal Sam Kydd the actor. They were in the same hut together at XXA. The article underneath describes how they were a film crew visiting all of the working parties from Stalag XXA. This was not all as it seemed; in the long letter, Dad described how he only volunteered for this as a means of a detailed recce prior to their escape. He got to know all of the roads to the railway station, the exact layout of the station, all of the lanes outside the camp and where to best cut the wire. He also memorised the train timetable. When he got all of the info he wanted, he "de-volunteered" . This was a similar rouse to volunteering to edit the camp magasine and thus being able to work in the camp HQ on the typewriter. They forged all of their documents this way. All of this was detailed in the long letter to Mrs Coulthard. Best wishes to you and Diane, Steve
     
  19. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Hi Steve, Diane and Drew
    I'm Antony's neice and I found your thread after a Google search of Antony's name. I was also thinking of trying to visit his grave if it is still in Domitz.
    I can ask my cousins in England if they know anything if you like? Antony had 2 sisters and I am a daughter of the oldest sister, Pamela Coulthard.
    We all still remember Antony and the story of his remarkable personality. He was an inspiration.
    I hope Steve's Dad tempered my Gran's letter with some commonsense, in that she was a totally heartbroken mother. He was clearly not to blame for the terrible circumstances they were all placed in.

    Antony was christened John Antony Ronald, but always called Antony (maybe because his Dad's name was John). It sounds like he was a unit Intelligence soldier? My mother said he didn't get enough training before going to the front, though no one predicted France would fall so quickly.
    Regards
    Barbara
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hello Barbara
    A warm welcome to the forum.
    As was stated at the start Antony is commemorated by CWGC on the Dunkirk Memorial

    Lance Corporal JOHN ANTONY RONALD COULTHARD, Mentioned in Despatches, 5386215, Intelligence Corps who died age 26 on 24 March 1945
    Son of Capt. John R. Coulthard and Dorothy M. Coulthard, of New Milton, Hampshire. B.A. Hons. (Oxon.). Exhibitioner, Queen's College, 1936. Heath Harrison Travelling Scholarship 1938-1939. Elected Laming Fellow of Queen's College 1939.
    Remembered with honour DUNKIRK MEMORIAL
    Grave/Memorial Reference: Column 155.
    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    This could be because although his grave was located, he may not have been positively identified. I've read of a few cases where ID was removed by Germans before burial. Without more information it'd be difficult to find out if indeed his grave was even discovered post war. There were Grave teams who went about identifying burial sites, attempted to identify servicemen from tags and clothing etc, and who carried out the task of bringing the bodies from isolated areas to larger cemeteries.

    Should you wish to follow this up, I'd suggest that you contact CWGC and ask if they have any information about the discovery of burial(s) at Domitz. They are unlikely at this stage to be willing to suggest that an unidentified burial could indeed be Antony's, but it would be interesting if they would let you know, as a relative of his, if any bodies were found there and if they have been removed and re-buried at a CWGC War cemetery. And if so, which cemetery. As you can see from this link, such concentration burials were routine: see Historical Information CWGC :: Cemetery Details. I'm afraid that as a relative you are more likely to get a response than anyone else.
    :: CWGC ::

    After the initial enquiry, should you need to forward information to them by email, feel free to copy and save the document I posted on this very thread. http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/285367-post16.html I am sure that Steve would also agree to anything he posted being also used. I hope he will be along soon, and doubtless delighted at the reply here from yourself.

    Kind regards
    Diane
     

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