Missing pieces of a POW puzzle

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by charlh, Mar 25, 2016.

  1. charlh

    charlh Member

    I am trying to trace the story of my Grandfather Alexander Buchan. He was in the Royal corps of Signals, service number 2574097.
    I have a record of his service from the Ministry of Defense that shows him as confirmed Prisoner of War on 12 June 1940 when he was captured at St Valery. His last posting prior to capture was with the 1st Army Division No 2 Squadron.
    The service record shows he was back in Allied Hands on the 14.03.45.
    At Stalag 344/VIIIb his POW number was 13984

    His overseas service is listed as

    British Expeditionary Force France 16.05.40 - 11.06.40
    Germany (POW) 12.06.40-13.03.45
    Russia 14.03.45 - 31.03.45
    North West Europe 05.02.46 - 26.08.46

    I know he managed to escape the camps many times only to be recaptured. Eventually he managed to escape for good and joined the Russian army.

    We know he was in
    Stalags xxa, xxb, 344 and Graudenz Prison

    He was taken to Prison because he was made a political prisoner for drawing devil horns on a camp poster of Hitler.

    We have bits and pieces and stories of his escapes and those who helped hide him in different towns. However, we have no idea where he went and when. I know he was on what they called a death march, but no idea from where to where and when.
    Does anyone know about the movements of the men captured at St Valery? Just wondering if there was a pattern where they went first to Stalag xxa then to xxb then to 344 or if my Grandfather just was "lucky" to get to visit so many.

    Can anyone suggest where is the best place to look to find his POW record?

    I am visiting Stalag 344 and St Valery next month with my Mum (from Sydney Australia) She knows most of the stories about my grandfathers time in the war, but her dates and places are very muddled and so the stories are getting blurred into one. I would like to record his story as best I can for my children and his other great grandchildren.

    Tanks for any suggestions.

    POW photo taken at Stalag 344. Middle row on the very left without his hat on.

    Attached Files:

  2. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Hi Charlotte,

    Welcome to the Forum.

    You may not be aware that under UK Freedom of Information Act you can now obtain the original documents in your grandfathers army personnel file from UK MOD. Cost £30.

    Your grandfather may have completed a Liberation Questionnaire on his arrival in UK. It may detail some of his escaping experiences as a POW. They are not available online. Some members offer a look up service in the UK national archives in London. You may want to start a new topic with a title "POW LIBERATION QUESTIONNAIRE LOOK UP".

    I have the my fathers POW questionnaire as well as his ICRC papers but am looking forward to ICRC putting original WW2 papers online for free search and download - hopefully later this year on completion of 2 year digitisation project. You need to keep an eye on their website.

    In respect of his 1940 BEF service if you post in the 1940 sub forum members may assist. Forum member Drew5233 is the 1940 expert. He also served in Royal Signals. He copies War Diaries at UK National Archives.

    I'm sure others will be along with more assistance and suggestions shortly.

    Good Luck

    Steve Y
    alieneyes likes this.
  3. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member


    I am off to Kew around 6th April and will see if he completed a Liberation Questionnaire. He does not seem to have completed an Escape and Evasion questionnaire.

    Two books, Dunkirk, The men they left behind by Sean Longden and The Last Escape by John Nichol and Tony Rennell are both worth a look.

    Put a separate post on his Dunkirk time and others will be along to help there.


  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    There was no 1st Army Division in France during 1940. I think it may have been the 1st Armoured Division he was with?
  5. charlh

    charlh Member

    Thank you, thank you all for your reply's.
    I will look into the MOD option, thanks for the hint Steve. All we got from the MOD in the mid 90's was a service list and associated dates.
    The two page reply listed him as Posted to 1st Army Divisional Signals Jan 1940, Posted to 21st Army Tank Signals April 1940, then Posted to 1st Army Division No 2 Squadron. In my searching I could only find reference to the 1st Armoured Division being at St Valery, so I think you might be right Drew5233, it makes the most sense. Perhaps it was a typo.

    Thanks for the reading suggestions Nick. I'm ordering the Dunkirk book and think have just found a PDF version of a book mum mentioned that was like listening to my Grandfathers stories. It's called Private Prisoner by Robert Gayler. Thank you so much for offering to see if there is a Liberation Questionnaire that he filled in. Anything, even if shows there isn't one on file, means I can tick something off the list in piecing the puzzle together.

    Thanks again
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Charlotte

    Can you scan and upload the MOD record you speak of in post 1 - I have tried to trace him through Ancestry military records by name, service number and pow number but nothing appears.

  7. charlh

    charlh Member

    I know this will look strange. But these are probably the best "versions" of the file I have. My mother has the papers traveling with her and she can't use the camera on her phone too well. These are the least blurry of about 6 photos of the service record that I have been working off.
    And the complete record when it all gets de-blurred over multiple text messages is ....

    Enlisted into the Royal Signals Territorial Army


    Discharged on Re-enlistment


    Re-enlisted into the Royal Signals Regular Army and posted to 4th Divisional Signals


    Posted to Holding Battalion


    Posted to 1st Army Divisional Signals


    Posted to 21st Army Tank Signals


    Posted to 1st Army Division No 2 Squa


    Reported missing


    Confirmed Prisoner of War


    In Allied Hands


    Repatriated to United Kingdom

    31.03.45 ?

    Posted to 4 Holding battalion

    07.06.45 ?

    Posted to 1 Airborne Corps signals

    12.10.45 ?

    Posted to 10 Corps Signals

    14.12.45 ?

    Posted to 43 Divisional Signals

    ? .46

    Posted to 11 Air Formation Signals

    31 ?.46

    Released to Royal Army Reserve?




    Cause of Discharge : Ceased to fulfil Army Medical Requirements

    Attached Files:

  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Do you also have a copy of the document source for his POW number??

  9. charlh

    charlh Member

    I found that in the Germany and German Occupied Territories Imperial Prisoners of War List (not sure of the date)

    Attached Files:

  10. charlh

    charlh Member

    Do any of you happen to know if multiple POWs had the same prisoner number? I've stumbled over a few records in my searching that are not my grandfather but the POW number and location are the same. I've found the same thing with another Polish political prisoner record (my great grandmother) and just wondered if there was a further way to differentiate the prisoners besides their number, like a sub category or something.
    Ancestry has a record at Lambsdorf with the same POW number but different army number. Perhaps it is just a mis-transcribed record.


    A Bulloss



    Army Number:



    Royal Scots

    POW Number:


    Camp Type:


    Camp Number:


    Camp Location:

    Lambinowice, Poland

    Record Office:

    Infantry Record Office, Perth

    Record Office Number:

  11. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member


    Not unusual, they did not have a computer system to follow as we do today so the number could be used a couple of time but unusual to be more than a couple.

    German authority would not have been tolerant of too many mistakes.


  12. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    As Nick, I have often found POW's with the same POW number in the same or different camps. I assume that some could be given the same POW number in different camps, but as the war began to draw to a close and they were moved around then they could all end up in the same camp.
    There are also instances of servicemen taking over someone else's identity. One also has to accept that a German transcribing the information given him by a long line of frustrated, tired, hungry, etc POW's (from various parts of the world with different accents) being recorded on entry into a camp make create one or two transcription errors from time to time.

  13. charlh

    charlh Member

    Thanks, that makes sense, had to smile at your suggestion that too many mistakes wouldn't be tolerated Nick . :)
    I have found a photocopy of the cover of my Grandfathers Regular Army Certificate of Service it has a serial number 5972 on it and Army Form B.108. Does anyone know if this links to any further records anywhere?

    Going off bits and pieces it looks like after capture in St Valery, he followed the march through Belgium and eventually on train to Stalag XXa, then to Stalag XXb and lastly VIIIb/344 Lambsdorf.
    Given it's location, I would guess he would have been sent to Graudenz Prison from either Stalag XXa or XXb, because it seems to far to send him there from Lambsdorf.

    I have found something on the National Archives that relates to Graudenz Prison, WO 361/1866. Think I will start a list of WO documents to get from the archives. Does anyone know any good sites about the Graudenz prison? I know my grandfather was tortured here by a group of guards.

    Sadly the ICRC website says it has suspended research into their WW2 archives so can't get anything from them with regards his POW experience/time.

  14. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    You have seen the standard message on ICRC website.The Red Cross suspended responses to all enquiries when they started the digitisation process as per my earlier post above.

    You need to keep checking the website periodically to see when they launch the free digital service on the internet. It will be a lot quicker than having to wait for over a year for a written reply from ICRC - and you will get access to original documents rather than the previous typed summary - as was the case when I applied 5 yeas ago.

    Steve Y
  15. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    Just for fun I tried typing 5972 into the Keyword section of Ancestry search box for WW2 POW's - this did not come up with anything for your relation but it did oddly come up with 4 POW's with that same number - to answer your other question

    J B Lovery
    Royal Army Ordnance Corps Lambinowice, Poland 7620591 5972 344 32

    A R Robinson
    Royal Army Service Corps T/208993 5972 XVIII-B 29

    H Taylor
    Durham Light Infantry Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Poland 4034264 5972 BAB 20 20

    G Williams
    Kings Royal Rifle Corps Hohenfels, Rhineland-Palatinate 6844400 5972 383 24

  16. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    I've just had a look at my Dad's Red Regular Army Service Discharge Book - official title Army Form B108. All the information therein is drawn from his other army forms in my possession.

    His book also has a handwritten serial number but I do not believe it is of any great significance - just a clerk's shorthand IMHO.


    Steve Y
  17. charlh

    charlh Member

    Thanks Steve, I was a little worried by the ICRC message. I'll put it on my regular "check and see if anything has changed" list.
    Thanks TD - I guess it is somewhat reassuring to see so many records are doubled or quadrupled up, even if only to help me know that I'm not being completely hopeless in my research.
  18. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Its part & parcel of the fun and frustration of researching

  19. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member


    Is this your Grandfather?



    Attached Files:

  20. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    I'm sure you've noticed that OP says his service number ended 4097 so different to the last 4 digits visible on this Liberation Questionnaire.

    Hopefully a mistake by OP and she will recognise other details on the questionnaire and confirm it's her relative.


    Steve Y

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