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

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

  1. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    I am in Sydney Australia.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
  2. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hello Barbara,

    I am so pleased you have replied to the thread, and thank you Diane for letting me know. You don't know what this means to me to be in contact with a relative of Antony Coulthard; I have been trying for the last few months to further my research about Antony and contact living relatives. Your uncle and my father certainly had an adventure together and I know that Dad never forgot their escape and the act of comradeship that Antony displayed in coming back for him at the Swiss border. They must have been very good friends to work together for a whole year and to reherse and perfect their escape which was so nearly a success. Thanks to your uncle, my father spoke almost perfect german all of his life!

    I have many papers and documents about Antony including a book of his life, some have been reproduced on this site. I would love his relatives to see them and I believe that his posthumous Mentioned in Despatches must have been to do with his exploits in Stalag XXA - possibly their escape together in 1942.

    My wife says I am a driven man once I get the bit between my teeth and I was not going to give up until I had discovered all I could about Antony, if for no other reason than it is a fantastic story and also for my father's sake. My aim is to find his citation for his Mention in Despatches, find his grave in Domitz, and of course to contact any living relative; one of those three is now complete.
    To date I have been in contact with the Intelligence Corps Historian (who has been most helpful and very grateful for the copies of the papers I have), Domitz Tourist Board, Hannover Military Cemetery, The Commonwealth War Grave Commission, the MOD Medal Office, the Army Personnel Disclosures Branch, the London Gazette and the British National Archives. The replies from the above organisations have been supportive but have not furthered my research much although I have yet to receive a reply from the National Archives. I have visited the Historian at his old school in Southampton who provided me with a photo of him in the Upper VI form and his address whilst attending the school.

    Armed with that information, my next move was to drive to Villa Vita in New Milton (from where Antony's mother wrote to dad) and see if any one remembered the family. It is very easy to discover information about people in the past but very hard to trace living relatives. The power of the internet.

    You mentioned that your cousins live in England, I would dearly love to meet them and share the information I have about your uncle. As I am fairly new to this site and have not figured out how to send a private message, perhaps you could email me and we could discuss this amazing breakthrough further.

    Thanks once again Diane for kicking all of this off with your attestation from Guardsman Burnell and for your help along the way, without your input none of this would have happened.

    I look forward to further contact Barbara, and perhaps between us we will be able to find Antony's grave in Domitz.

    Yours sincerely

    Steve Foster
     
  3. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hello Diane and Barbara, me again,

    I was busy writing my post whilst Diane was writing hers. With regards to the CWGC, their reply to my letter stated: " L/Cpl Coulthard has no known grave therefore he is commemorated by name on the Dunkirk memorial." They went on to list the information given on the Dunkirk Memorial that Diane has quoted above. They went on to state: "Please be advised that attempts were made during both world wars to locate and register graves, but in battlefield areas many soldiers were never buried, and the graves of those who were buried were sometimes destroyed in subsequent fighting, or temporary grave markers were lost or became illegible. In areas which were lost to the enemy or were very close to the front line, graves registration was often delayed for months or even years."

    That sounds like a standard "blurb" they send to anyone who enquires about graves they have no record of.

    After giving it some thought, I replied by email that: "In the case of L/Cpl Coulthard, the above was not the case as Domitz fell into Soviet hands when Germany surrendered and was in their area of occupation. Therefore the CWGC would never have had the chance to investigate his grave until possibly the reunification of Germany. By which time it is probable that collective memories would have forgotten about people who fell on the "Long March." I went on to ask them about adresses for grave registration in the former Soviet Union and East Germany.

    Their reply was: " We do not hold any addresses for organisations in East Germany/Russia, but perhaps the Imperial War Museum may be able to advise you further".

    I received that Email a few days ago and was about to write/ring the IWM but was not hoping for much success.

    I received one more piece of information about where Antony may be buried when I visited the Intelligence Corps Historian at Chicksands. He gave me access to all of the documentation they had regarding Antony, much of which they must have received from Antony's father (your Grandfather, Barbara) Capt JR Coulthard. In their files was a copy of the Casualty Notification Letter from the Casualty Records Office formally informing Mr and Mrs Coulthard of the death of their son. It was dated 14 June 1945 (nearly 3 months after he died). It stated that "Antony died at Domitz, Germany on 24 March 1945 and that he was buried on the same day at Kaltorhof".

    This was new information to me so I got a map of Germany out to try and find Kalterhof, but with no luck. I then Emailed my contact in Domitz Tourismus (Marina Moller) and asked her where Kalterhof is. Her reply was that it is a suberb of Domitz. At least that will narrow the search down. If you combine that with the information in Guardsman Burnell's statement and also in the letter from Mrs Couthard to dad that "he was buried in a little civilian cemetery in Domitz", we are looking for a civilian cemetery in the suberb of Kalterhof.

    The other potentially useful document I found in the Int Corps Museum was the Corp's record card of Antony. It stated his Mention in Despatches, date of gazetting and the file number of his citation which was BM/1236/PW2. I have quoted that in all of my letters to the various authorities but with no luck. The Army Disclosures Cell stated that 3 copies were normally typed up: one in the man's personal file, one in the Corps/Regimental records and one for the recipient. It looks like the first two have gone missing, perhaps you or your cousins Barbara have the family copy?

    That's about it for tonight, I hope that was of use. It 12.40 in the morning now so will close down. I hope to hear from you soon,

    Regards
    Steve
     
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Steve lovely to read those posts and see how much more you have discovered in the interim.

    It's kind of you to acknowledge me, but I really must stress that this thread never would have been started had it not been for ADM199 who, knowing my interest in Guards, passed on a copy of Guardsman Burnell's Liberation report. This thread illustrates what small pieces of information on the internet can lead to.

    I hope you and Barbara and her family are able to swap information and that something will eventually come from your enquiries relating to his possible burial location.

    All the best
    Diane
     
  5. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Hi
    I want to thank you too. And ADM199.
    Barbara
     
  6. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    I had a look for Kalterhof (actual place of Antony's burial) on Google maps. A bit confusing for me. Is the English spelling Kaltenhof?. If so, it appears to be on the opposite side of the river from Domitz.
    Barbara
     
  7. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    I have had another look at the letter and the spelling appears to be Kaltonhof, the type of the n has run into the h making it look like Kaltorhof. I guess it would have been easy to miss spell in the letter so Kaltenhof is probably it.

    Steve
     
  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Steve
    It might be worthwhile writing to the Pastor at the church in Domitz. You could ask if there were any reference made in church records of POW burials/visits from Grave team, and about burial grounds near Kaltenhof or indeed, if any of the older parishioners who are more likely to be in attendance, still remember the time when the POWs were marched through there.

    Ev.-Luth. Kirchgemeinde Dömitz, Slüterplatz 8, 19303 Dömitz, Germany.

    (Something to bear in mind, should you believe his remains were not recovered: Germany has had for some time a different system for burial plots, quite unlike ours in UK. Plots in many cemeteries are leased for x years and then after the time period has elapsed / no-one wants to renew, they are released for reuse under another contract. I also remember being shocked that my g/grandparents were in fact 'resting' in what was a tiny park - the village church had simply removed all headstones and covered the area in grass.)
     
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Steve
    It might be worthwhile writing to the Pastor at the church in Domitz. You could ask if there were any reference made in church records of POW burials and about burial grounds near Kaltenhof or indeed, if any of the older parishioners who are more likely to be in attendance, still remember the time when the POWs were marched through there.

    Ev.-Luth. Kirchgemeinde Dömitz, Slüterplatz 8, 19303 Dömitz, Germany.

    (Something to bear in mind, should you believe his remains were not recovered: Germany has had for some time a different system for burial plots, quite unlike ours in UK. Plots in many cemeteries are leased for x years and then after the time period has elapsed / no-one wants to renew, they are released for reuse under another contract. I also remember being shocked that my g/grandparents were in fact 'resting' in what was a tiny park - the village church had simply removed all headstones and covered the area in grass.)

    I think the same happens to a degree in France - As 'the' JK Rowling found out.
     
  10. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Thanks Diane and Drew, will write to the pastor, many thanks for finding his address. I was just re reading the last part of the Antony Coulthard book and in the penultimate paragraph the text reads "We crossed the Elbe and arrived at Domitz." If the long march was from East to West, when they crossed the Elbe they would have reached the western bank from Domitz which is on the eastern bank. As Barbara states, Kaltenhof is on the western bank which would make sense of the army letter from the Casualty Records Office.

    I am sure between us we can track his grave down.

    Steve
     
  11. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Antony Coulthard at StalagXXa September 1942 vs 2.jpg

    Thanks to Ian Maher from Colourburst for taking a very small picture of Antony and using his photographic and retouching skills to improve the image quality.
     
  12. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    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.

    Here is a photo of Mrs Coulthard, my grandmother on my mother's side. It was taken in 1922 in happier times. Reading the letter again, I want to mention to Steve that she does end the letter "Forgive me" which shows she recognises the intensity of the letter.

    I am not sure why she signed the letter W M Coulthard. Her name is definitely Dorothy. And Grandpa's name was John Robert. A mystery to me!

    Regards
    Barbara
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Here is a photo of Mrs Coulthard, my grandmother on my mother's side. It was taken in 1922 in happier times. Reading the letter again, I want to mention to Steve that she does end the letter "Forgive me" which shows she recognises the intensity of the letter.

    I am not sure why she signed the letter W M Coulthard. Her name is definitely Dorothy. And Grandpa's name was John Robert. A mystery to me!

    Regards
    Barbara

    Hi Barbara,

    That is fully understood and I am sure that Dad and your Grandmother came to be good acquaintances as he received at least two more letters from her and he wrote to her at length with a full account of the escape. I also think they met. Re looking at the original, now faded, hand written letter I can see that the initial I mistook for a W is a D with lots of curls in it. Her handwriting was excellent.

    When I first read the letter, after I found it in his old suitcase with all of his other papers about his time as a POW, I was very moved and close to tears, as I am sure Dad would have been when he received it. It would have been the first he had heard of Antony's death as they had been in separate POW camps since their escape in 1942 and we have talked about how close they must have been in Stalag XXa.

    Kind Regards

    Steve
     
  14. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Does anyone know anything about the Award "Mentions-in-Despatches" which was given Posthumously to Antony?

    I have had a brief search and read:
    • :poppy: It entitles the recipient to wear an Oak Leaf badge;
    • :poppy: It is one of 3 which can be given Posthumously.
    I haven't been able to find reference to a specific, detailed "Despatch" about Antony Coulthard, only the entry in the London Gazette, 20 Nov 1945; kindly sent to me by Steve.
     
  15. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Barbara I believed we checked for this early on in the thread and with Steve. Many MiDs did not survive - ie they didn't make it to the archives. A copy may have been filed in service records, but I doubt that there's anything in public domain.

    Try searching using this link, perhaps on variations of his name, often there are typos.
    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Refine Browse Criteria

    I did once find an unindexed MiD which was awarded posthumously, amongst papers for fellow Officer's MC. Pure blind good luck.
     
    BarbaraWT likes this.
  16. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Does anyone know anything about the Award "Mentions-in-Despatches" which was given Posthumously to Antony?

    I have had a brief search and read:
    • :poppy: It entitles the recipient to wear an Oak Leaf badge;
    • :poppy: It is one of 3 which can be given Posthumously.
    I haven't been able to find reference to a specific, detailed "Despatch" about Antony Coulthard, only the entry in the London Gazette, 20 Nov 1945; kindly sent to me by Steve.
    Hi Barbara,

    As Diane states above, neither The National Archives Office, The Ministry of Defence Medals Office, the Army Disclosures Office or the Intelligence Corps Archives have a copy of Antony's MiD citation. I have written letters to the first three, all with negative answers and have personally gone through the Int Corps records when I visited their office - nothing.

    I did receive copies of Antony's Service Records from the Disclosures Office and one of the documents was his completed "Army Form B200B - Statement of Service". Under the Medals and Decorations section are the following entries:

    1939/45 Star awarded iaw Int PTO 40/47
    War Medal 1939/45 awarded with Emblem. (embold words in manuscript on record)

    There is an oficial stamp over the entries stating "Stars/Clasps/Medals issued 20 Jul 45 and then in manuscript I/IA/NOK

    It would appear Antony was awarded two medals which were issued to his NOK in Jul 45. His War Medal had an "Emblem" on it which I thought would be similar to my General Service Medal clasp from my RN days which gives the theatre the medal is awarded in. I don't think this is the case with Antony however, as I have just looked at dad's 39/45 War Medal which would be for identical service to Antony's, and there is no clasp. From that I deduct the Emblem is his Mention in Despatches Oak Leave Emblem.

    I can only assume that his citation and medals with emblem were received by your grandparents at the time of being awarded. Would your mum or aunt have inherited those when your grandparents passed away? If so, possibly one of your living relatives have them now.

    I have written quite a few citations for awards whilst in the RN, and if accepted by the hierachy, were definitely placed in the recipients Service Records. I can't understand why Antony's has gone missing.

    I hope that is of help

    Regards Steve
     
  17. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Hi, thanks to you both for the updates. I didn't understand the comments about MiD earlier in the thread. I am fairly confident that my cousins, maybe Andrew, would be looking after all the items handed over to next of kin.

    As mentioned in an email (MiE:lol:), my family on my mother's side were very keen to preserve family memorabilia. For example, I have a box of my Grandfathers letters to Dorothy from before their marriage, when he was on duty in WWI.

    When Andrew has time, I think he will be able to fill in the gaps. Stay tuned.
     
  18. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Hi Diane,
    Is there any information on Douglas Burnell's POW story? He was at Thorn XXa 1943-1945, but that's all I have found.
    Regards
    Barbara
     
  19. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Barbara
    I don't have much other than his full Liberation questionnaire. Here is a transcription of his replies:

    Regtl No 2719823
    Rank Guardsman
    Surname BURNELL
    Initials / First Name Douglas
    Unit 2 Bn [Irish Guards]
    Whether taken POW Yes
    Date of Birth 25 Dec 1917
    Date of Enlistment 5 Jan 1940
    Trade or Profession Clerk
    Address 4 Ferngate Drive, Withington, Manchester 20, Lancashire
    Date of Original Capture 23 May 1940
    Place of Original Capture Boulogne, France
    Whether wounded No
    Main Camps, Name, Location, Dates from to Stalag 20b Marienburg, 1940 to 1943;
    Stalag 20a Thorn Poland, 1943 to 1945
    Working Camp Gotenhafen, 17 Jul 1940 to Sep 1941;
    Danzig, 5 Dec 1941 to 12 Sep 1943;
    Thorn 12 Sep 1943 to 20 Jan 1945;
    As Clerk and Interpreter in each case
    Illness while P/W nature, cause, duration Dysentry, cause bad / lack of food, 3 weeks
    Whether adequate medical treatment received No. Complaint whilst on the Evacuation march from Poland
    Lectures before Capture -
    Interrogation after Capture Normal verbal interrogation
    Escapes attempted Yes.
    1) Early 1940 at Gotenhafen attempted to board a Swedish ship. Escaped while guard was engaged in conversation. Recaptured by German Dock guard.
    2) On the evacuation march from Poland. Hid in the straw in a barn. By Police dog. Received threat of shooting and rifle butt strokes.
    Sabotage Engaged in Camp work the whole time
    Collaboration by Brit/US personnel No
    Any other matter "Tony Coulthard died on the line of march from Poland at a ?barn near Dormitz. He was in an extremely weak condition from Dysentry, but the final blow (in my eyes) was a cold bath in the open, carried out by a Medical Orderly acting on orders from a German W.O. in charge of the column.
    Hptm. Mackensen No. 1 Co. Landeschutz Batt. 714 was the officer responsible for the column.
    Coulthard was buried in Dormitz by four of our men."
    Date of Questionnaire 19 Apr 1945


    If interested, this is a report dealing with the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards part in the action at Boulogne
    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/irish-guards/16709-2nd-battalion-irish-guards.html
     
    BarbaraWT likes this.
  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    This file might also be of interest as regards Stalag XX A, Thorn

    TNA Catalogue Ref: WO 361/1818

    Context: Department of the Permanent Under Secretary of State: Casualties (L) Branch: Enquiries into Missing Personnel, 1939-45 War
    Scope and content: Prisoners of war, Germany: Stalag XXA, Thorn (Torun), Poland; reports by the International Red Cross
    Covering dates: 1941 Jan 01 - 1945 Dec 31
     

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