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

    View attachment Long March Route.tif

    Attached above is a map of the Stalag XXA Long March in Germany, plotted from the Commandant's statement in Billminer's post in the thread "Stalag XXA".

    It was a very round about route, crossing the Elbe twice at Domitz, so it is difficult to say on which crossing Antony Coulthard died.

    I have written a fuller explanation in my post on the Stalag XXA thread.

    Steve
     
  2. billminer

    billminer Member

    In the book Highland Schottische by Robert Grieve Black it tells where they crossed the river, Robert asked me to ask my dad which bridge he crossed when he wrote the book. That was hard enough to get that out of him. I will be getting the book tomorrow from our summer cabin and will look in the book for the name bridge town etc. Its to bad my dad will not talk about this march much or I might be able to help you more with this puzzle. All the old timers that went through this to the end were totally traumatized. With him it will last till he dies. Post Traumatic Stress disorder.
     
  3. jacksun

    jacksun Senior Member

    Not sure if you've seen this, affidavit by a German guard who was on the march with the Thorn POW's, including a list of the places they went through.
    I have also attached a map showing the movement of the POW's across the country.

    Maybe it will help.

    Wayne
     

    Attached Files:

  4. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    I just added it to promote the documentary.
    Hi Bill
    Were you involved in making the documentary? I'd be intersted to hear your father's story too, but understand how he must feel. Talking about it would be re-living it. Just reading the commandant's comment that he didn't study the planned March orders when he got them months earlier and therefore make better provision for the event, makes me angry! :mad111:
    But, I am glad your dad made it through - he must have been very fit.

    Regards
    Barbara
     
  5. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Not sure if you've seen this, affidavit by a German guard who was on the march with the Thorn POW's, including a list of the places they went through.
    I have also attached a map showing the movement of the POW's across the country.
    Maybe it will help.
    Wayne
    Thanks for this Wayne. There is a copy of this on the thread StalagXXa but it is very pale and harder to read. It doesn't have the list of towns or the map. But it has a promotional flyer for a new DVD about the POW experience and the March, if you are interested! I have visited the link to http://powvets and read some of the information with interest. I was impressed with the A-C list of POWs. I guess that's work in progress and the aim is to get to Z?; it was touching to see my Uncle's name in the roll; are you producing this website?
    Regards
    Barbara
     
  6. billminer

    billminer Member

    No, I am just a son of a vet who was always interested in what happened in 1940 after war broke out in Europe. Tracing his movements after he landed in France, is my obsession, St. Valéry en caux and afterwards March to stalag xxa xxb etc. He has mentioned quite a few things that happened to him on the march to hell as he describes it. For me the Long March to Freedom is the best documentary I have seen on the subject. Hopefully there will be more that will come out of this period. Battle of St Valery 70th Anniversary Tribute.wmv - YouTube
     
  7. jacksun

    jacksun Senior Member

    Thanks for this Wayne. There is a copy of this on the thread StalagXXa but it is very pale and harder to read. It doesn't have the list of towns or the map. But it has a promotional flyer for a new DVD about the POW experience and the March, if you are interested! I have visited the link to http://powvets and read some of the information with interest. I was impressed with the A-C list of POWs. I guess that's work in progress and the aim is to get to Z?; it was touching to see my Uncle's name in the roll; are you producing this website?
    Regards
    Barbara

    Hi Barbara, glad I could help. I am producing this website, slowly. I have lots more to put up, but little time. I am looking for POW stories and such as well.
    The POW A-C is just the top level, if you mouse over it for a few seconds the D - Z will drop down. Same with library, escapers & evaders and camp locations.

    Thank you for your kind words about my site, I appreciate it. If I help one person it will have been worth it.

    Cheers,
    Wayne
     
  8. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    View attachment 70910

    Attached above is a map of the Stalag XXA Long March in Germany, plotted from the Commandant's statement in Billminer's post in the thread "Stalag XXA".

    It was a very round about route, crossing the Elbe twice at Domitz, so it is difficult to say on which crossing Antony Coulthard died.

    I have written a fuller explanation in my post on the Stalag XXA thread.

    Steve

    Hi Steve,
    I've gone over the route and the map, which illustrates a truly torturous trek. I am wondering how the POWs were dispersed to the Railway yards to work for 3 weeks after they got to Zarrentin for the first time; and how they were re-assembled for more marching? The report says they were dispersed to yards in Magdeburg, Hanover, Brunswick etc. Then I guess they were reassembled to march to Domitz via Luneburg (therefore approaching from the west). Have I missed something?
    Regards
    Barbara
     
  9. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Barbara,

    Like you I am slightly baffled by the statement that only the guards marched on to Domitz and that the prisoners were dispersed to the railway yards. As they reached Zarrentin in late Feb, this was a full month before Antony died in Domitz.

    I think there is a clue in the Antony Coulthard book in that he was admitted to hospital in Schwerin in early March. I think he was in a column that was slower than the Commandant's; if that was the case, we can only assume his route was the same as the lead column. The Comandant's column certainly crossed the Elbe at Domitz twice, once from the East after Zarrentin (in late Feb) and once from the West from Luneburg some time after that. As Antony died in late March, I can only asume it was on the second crossing of the Elbe.

    Steve
     
  10. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Steve,
    I've gone over the route and the map, which illustrates a truly torturous trek. I am wondering how the POWs were dispersed to the Railway yards to work for 3 weeks after they got to Zarrentin for the first time; and how they were re-assembled for more marching? The report says they were dispersed to yards in Magdeburg, Hanover, Brunswick etc. Then I guess they were reassembled to march to Domitz via Luneburg (therefore approaching from the west). Have I missed something?
    Regards
    Barbara
    Hi again Barbara,

    Because the words are much clearer on the Comandant's attestation above, the town on the route between Salzweden and Fallingbostel is Gifhorn. If you open my map again, right at the bottom, just to the east of Wolfsburg is Gifhorn. If you draw an imaginary red line between Salzweden and Gifhorn, you cam see that the route was even more circuitous than I have drawn it. I wonder what purpose all of those dog legs served? maybe to keep clear of the advancing Russians and British.

    Will put my thinking head on about which crossing of the Elbe Antony died on.

    Regards,
    Steve
     
  11. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Barbara, glad I could help. I am producing this website, slowly. I have lots more to put up, but little time. I am looking for POW stories and such as well.
    The POW A-C is just the top level, if you mouse over it for a few seconds the D - Z will drop down. Same with library, escapers & evaders and camp locations.

    Thank you for your kind words about my site, I appreciate it. If I help one person it will have been worth it.

    Cheers,
    Wayne
    Hi Wayne,

    I have also enjoyed reading your website. If you want a good escape story that was so near and yet so far, read about Barbara's Uncle Antony and my Father, Sgt Fred Foster's escape in his letter to MI9. It is on page 4 of this thread, I am very happy you put the letter on your website.

    Regards
    Steve
     
  12. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    In the book Highland Schottische by Robert Grieve Black it tells where they crossed the river, Robert asked me to ask my dad which bridge he crossed when he wrote the book. That was hard enough to get that out of him. I will be getting the book tomorrow from our summer cabin and will look in the book for the name bridge town etc. Its to bad my dad will not talk about this march much or I might be able to help you more with this puzzle. All the old timers that went through this to the end were totally traumatized. With him it will last till he dies. Post Traumatic Stress disorder.
    Bill,

    That will be very helpful if you can get from the book when the column crossed the River Elbe and where.

    Thanks
    steve
     
  13. billminer

    billminer Member

    This is a page taken out of his book. He researched all his information pow accounts etc. but it is a fiction story about his fathers account capture xxa and the march from hell. The page taken out of the book is going across the bridge the first time. My dads account was the secound crossing which he figures was at Wittenburge. I will send some more pages shortly.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. billminer

    billminer Member

    Long shot or what ?
     

    Attached Files:

  15. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Bill,

    That will be very helpful if you can get from the book when the column crossed the River Elbe and where.

    Thanks
    steve


    Thanks to Bill for the extracts from the book "Highland Scottische"- there are only 2 copies on Amazon second hand for 54 pounds each!
    From the book, it seemed to me the only bridge intact go across was Wittenberge Bridge. I searched on Google maps as follows- "Wittenberge Bridge near Domitz Germany" and got this result (click on it):
    Uhrenturm

    I looked at your map again Steve, thanks. I had no idea there was so much chaos at the time of Antony's death. It was like the time in France at the beginning when he was first captured. No one knowing who was friend or foe or which way to turn; refugees and soldiers all mixed up on the roads. The American term SNAFU applies!

    Regards
    Barbara
     
  16. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Barbara and Bill,
    Having studied all of the various bits of information we have about the XXA Long March from Jan to April, the only way I could get things clear in my head was to produce a timeline which is below. I have put the relevant document next to the fact.


    Abbreviations are: Antony Coulthard book (AC), Scottische Highlander (SH), Letter from Domitz Pastor (DP), Commandant's Statement (CS) and Letter from Army Casualty Information Branch to Antony's parents (CIBL)
    • Jan 20, Main body of POWs leave XXA. CS and AC
    • End of Feb, reached Zarrentin. CS
    • Early March, reached Schwerrin, AC admitted to hospital but continued march. AC
    • Time unknown, 60k from Hamburg, AC and others left to proceed more slowly. A sick column formed. AC
    • 21 March (approx) POW column dispersed and taken to various Railway Workshops. CS
    • 23 March, crossed Elbe and arrived at Domitz. AC
    • 24 March in early hours, AC died in a barn. AC
    • 24 March, buried in cemetery in Domitz. AC
    • 24 March died in Domitz. CIBL
    • 24 March buried in Kaltenhof (opposite bank of R Elbe to Domitz). CIBL
    • 8 April, XXA Column north of Hannover and returning East to Domitz. SH p 123.
    • 10 April, XXA Column at Hitzacker on Elbe, 20k East of Domitz. Bridge at Hitzacker blown by SS. SH p124
    • 11 April, XXA Column headed South East Wittenburg on Elbe Bridge, 40k South East of Domitz. SH p124
    • 12 April, Bridge at Tagermunde Blown by SS, 80 k South East of Domitz. SH p124
    • 20 April, Rail and Road Bridge blown at Domitz. DP
    • 20-28 April, Several Hundred British POWs crossed Elbe from Domitz to Kaltenhof by floating Pontoon and held in barn in Kaltenhof overnight. One died. DP
    • 28 April Americans arrived at Kaltenhof and stoped their advance on the Elbe.
    The conclusions that can be drawn from the above facts are:
    • It appears that Antony died well before the incidents described in the Scottische Highlander and there are two accounts of where he was buried.
    • The British Prisoners crossing the Elbe by Pontoon incident, as described by the Pastor of Domitz, was well after Antony died.
    • Antony appearded to part of a slower sick column, separate from the main body.
    • The statement from the Commandant that all POWs were displaced to work on the railways on or about 21 March doesn't seem to align with any of the other facts.
    I noticed that in the Scottische Highlander, Phil Chinnery, the historian from the Ex Prisoner of War Association is mentioned as being very knowledgeable. I am already in email contact with him (about gaining access to XXA) and will email him to see if he can cast light on when the columns crossed the Elbe, and in which direction, at Domitz.
    Regards

    Steve
     
  17. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Stalag XXA Postcard 1942.jpg

    I found this photo today, Antony is on the far right. I am hoping other people can identify some of the other men.

    Regards and Happy New Year
    Barbara

    After note: The reverse side of the Postcard shows Antony was in Fort 3 (a Disciplinary fort) as punishment for using his position as linguist to alert visiting Red Cross Commissioners about malpractice in the distribution of parcels at Stalag XXA.
     
    dbf likes this.
  18. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Great find Barbara, super addition, was there anything written on the back?
     
  19. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    With Barbara's permission, I am posting the English version of the letter we sent to the Pastor of Domitz church and the translated reply.

    As the beginning of the reply states there are no records held in Domitz, the details of British POWs being transported across the Elbe, placed in a barn and one dying overnight must have been supplied to the Pastor by a person who witnessed it. The official notification to Antony's parents states he was buried in Kaltenhof so these facts seem to align. Barbara and I both agree that this is possibly the barn where Antony died and the person mentioned may well be him.

    We are contemplating our next move (probably to write again and ask if the barn still exists and for the contact details of the person who provided the information to the Pastor), but have put the letters in the public domain to allow debate and ask for ideas on the way forward.

    Steve Foster View attachment 69934

    View attachment 69935

    Hi,

    At last, the story has unfolded further.

    My cousin Andrew kindly forwarded a copy of a letter written by a fellow POW, Dennis Bonner (possibly Pte. A. D. Bonner Army Nbr 5571084?) who travelled by cart with Antony, when both were too weak to walk. He included a sketch of the location of the burial (attached) which ties in with the information from the Pastor at Domitz, though the dates don't seem to match.

    Here is an extract from that letter written to John Coulthard on Sept 9th, 1947:
    "..we had come from the Wittenberg area in North Germany. We crossed the Elbe to the right of Domitz and never actually entered the town although we could see it. We then followed the road along the south bank until we were directly opposite Domitz on the other side of the river. There the road bears south, and we stayed two nights at a farm alongside the road and about half a mile from the river. Antony died there. The following day, we formed up in the road facing south. Four boys volunteered to bury him, and the cortege passed us and I think he was buried in the next village. Later in the day I saw the four fellows and they said he was in a cemetery and that they had asked a civilian to mark the spot."

    To re-quote the Domitz Pastor's letter, of late last year:
    "During the weeks of war 1944/45 until the detonation of the tram and train bridge on the 20th of April 1945 continously refugees as well as German Army brigades passed both bridges.
    In the days after the 20th April 1945 until the invasion of the American troops on the 28th of April at the west bank of the Elbe a group of several 100 English prisoners was brought across the Elbe to Kaltenhof with a Pontoon. There they were watched over in a big barn. One prisoner died during this time – of an appendictis...?
    Perhaps he was buried in Langendorf/Niedersachsen, the closest cemetery. It is known that in 1945/46 there were five or six graves of foreigners behind the morgue (after the low level air attacks the the population’s attitute was barly friendly). After 1946 they were moved, where to is not known. Tombstones can not be found anymore.
    Maybe the German War Graves Commission can help you.
    The address:
    Volksbund Deutscher Kriegsgräberfürsorge, Werner-Hilpert-Straße 2, D-34112 Kassel.


    This brings us to the point Antony's parents got to. Now, the Iron Curtain is down we may have more luck? We could contact the UK WGC (as suggested by Diane) and the German equivalent, as suggested by the Pastor. We could also write to the Pastor at Langendorf.

    Dorothy Coulthard summed up the situation, in a note at the bottom of Dennis Bonner's letter:
    "War Graves Commission couldn't trace, neither could my 2 German friends from Frankfurt and Dresden although they tried hard.
    They Believed that Antony's grave was somewhere just in the Russian Zone, and that handicapped search."

    Now, the Iron Curtain is down we could find out what happened next? We could contact the UK WGC (as suggested by Diane) and the German equivalent, as suggested by the Pastor. We could also write to the Pastor at Langendorf.

    Comments welcome.
    Regards
    Barbara
     

    Attached Files:

  20. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    View attachment Kaltenhof.tif

    To add to Barbara's post, I have attached a copy of the google earth map of the area and marked the various landmarks. Almost due east of Domitz can be seen the remnants of where the two bridges crossed the Elbe, they were blown by the Germans in April 45. The one nearest to Domitz is the railbridge where the old railway lines can be seen going away from each bank. The white line above that is a road going to nowhere (ends at the river) and must lead to the other bridge.
    Where this road meets a road at a T junction to the south is the hamlet of Kaltenhof, this T junction aligns with the map in the letter. If you expand the map on google earth, there is a large farm just below the junction with a large barn. This may be the place where Antony died.

    The letter goes on to say that the cortege passed the column which was heading south, and he thinks Antony was buried in the next village. The next village on that south heading road is Langendorf.

    These two village names align with the reply we received from the Pastor of Domitz, that a prisoner died in a barn in Kaltenhof and that five or six foreign soldiers were buried behind the Morgue in Langendorf, the only village in the area with a cemetery.

    The various letters are starting to paint a picture, which hopefully will become clearer when we visit in May.

    Steve
     

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