Stalag XXA

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by geejayboy, Sep 19, 2010.

  1. geejayboy

    geejayboy Junior Member

    Hi everyone, I have been reading these posts over the last few weeks and feel I can now post my first thread.

    My father-in-law, George McRitchie, (Army No. 2755798) now aged 91 was in the 1st Royal Armoured Corp, came south from Lille, Belgium and was captured on Sunday 26th May 1940 at Calais.

    He was taken to Stalag XXA (Thorn Podgorz), given POW No. 4931 and spent the rest of the war in various camps in Poland.

    I have found some information on another website which gives Record Office and address as - Record Office 8,
    Royal Artillery (Coast and Searchlight), Corps of Military Police and Military Provost Staff Corps Record Office, Savoy Hotel, Bournemouth. I assume this is no longer able to give me any more information regarding his time as a POW .

    I have a copy of his memoirs (about 8 pages) about his time in captivity and how my late mother-in-law helped him escape and avoid the 'Long March' back to Germany.

    I would be grateful to hear from anyone who can give me any more infomation about Stalag XXA and The Battle for Calais.

    Regardds

    Gordon Johnston
     
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hello,

    Do you know what Regiment he was in? I know you said the RAC but he would have been in a lower formation like 7 Royal Tank Regiment.

    There is a good cheap book on Calais called 'Calais-A Fight to the Finish May 1940 by Jon Cooksey.

    Regards
    Andy
     
  3. billminer

    billminer Member

    This is a statement from the commandant of stalag xxa, V. Hovel. I received this a number of years ago from a Jacky Kingsley. Sorry for the print quality.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Thanks very much for posting the Comandant's report Bill. It potentially has new information in it for Barbara and I. It states the direction in which they crossed the Elbe was from West to East, arriving at Domitz from the West from the direction of Hamburg. The natural way to march from Poland to Germany is to cross from Domitz to Kaltenhof, East to West.

    Barbara and I were going to look for Antony Coulthard's grave at Kaltenhof, on the oposite bank to Domitz but as the book states "We crossed the Elbe and arrived at Domitz", it apears he may be buried there after all.

    Regards

    Steve
     
  5. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Hi Bill

    I am so glad Gordon's Dad escaped before the long march. I would be interested to hear how he did it! If he feels like posting those 8 pages he wrote, they would be a good read.

    Thanks very much for the scans; it is a thrill to be able to read them, as any info that sheds light on the March is of interest to Steve and me. It would also be interesting to know how Jack come across this Report. There is so much out there but getting it is the issue.

    Regards,
    Barbara
     
  6. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    View attachment Long March Route.tif

    Having read the Stalag XXA Commandant's statement of the Long March at Billminer's post above, I have plotted it on a map of Germany. This is attached above, apologies it is not a thumbnail but I could not reduce it any further.

    The reproduction quality of the statement is not good but I managed to decipher all of the towns they passed through in Germany except the one itemised between Salzwedal and Fallingbostel. On the map I have traced the route in red ink as it comes in from the North East from Demmin to Schwerin and then on to Hagenow etc. The Polish towns were all called by their German version names and I could not identify any of these names on a modern map of Poland.

    The statement also states that in Zarrentin, all of the POWs were handed over for Railway work in various German towns and it was just the soldiers of the Stalag that marched after that. I find that hard to believe as there would be no point in marching that round about route without prisoners. Also we know that Antony Coulthard died at Domitz so the prisoner column must have gone on after Zarrentin.

    I am not sure where this leaves us Barbara. The Antony Coulthard book states that Schwerin was reached in early March, yet the Commandant states they reached Zarrentin (many days march after Schwerin) in late February. I can only think that Antony was in a separate, slower column from the one lead by the Commandant.

    You will see that the route was, to say the least, circuitous, but I guess this was because they were constantly getting new orders to avoid the Russians from the East and the Americans/British from the West. Barbara and I are interested in when the column crossed the Elbe at Domitz and from which direction; this is to help us identify Antony Coulthard's grave. It appears the column crossed the Elbe at Domitz twice, once heading West some time after the end of February between Zarrentin and Salzweden, and once some time after this heading East from Luneburg to avoid the Americans.

    Will post the map on the Antony Coulthard Long March thread as we have two covering the same subject now.

    Steve
     
    Ian Armstrong likes this.
  7. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi everyone, I have been reading these posts over the last few weeks and feel I can now post my first thread.

    My father-in-law, George McRitchie, (Army No. 2755798) now aged 91 was in the 1st Royal Armoured Corp, came south from Lille, Belgium and was captured on Sunday 26th May 1940 at Calais.

    He was taken to Stalag XXA (Thorn Podgorz), given POW No. 4931 and spent the rest of the war in various camps in Poland.

    I have found some information on another website which gives Record Office and address as - Record Office 8,
    Royal Artillery (Coast and Searchlight), Corps of Military Police and Military Provost Staff Corps Record Office, Savoy Hotel, Bournemouth. I assume this is no longer able to give me any more information regarding his time as a POW .

    I have a copy of his memoirs (about 8 pages) about his time in captivity and how my late mother-in-law helped him escape and avoid the 'Long March' back to Germany.

    I would be grateful to hear from anyone who can give me any more infomation about Stalag XXA and The Battle for Calais.

    Regardds

    Gordon Johnston
    Hello Gordon,
    Two websites that give a good insight into Stalag XXA as it was and is now are:
    WARTIME GUIDES and Autumn 2009

    The first is run by two young Polish people who are prepared to show visitors round and get all of the necessary permissions from the Polish Military. The forts have reverted back to military establishments. The second is a write up by Mr David Garnett who visited XXA in 2009 and will give you all of the contact details for visiting. I have his address if you would like it.

    I have quite a few of dad's old photos if you would like to see them.

    Hope that is of help

    steve
     
  8. billminer

    billminer Member

  9. geejayboy

    geejayboy Junior Member

    Hi there everyone,

    Just to let you know that with all the latest interest, I hope to visit my father in law George sometime over the Xmas holidays, and if you have any specific questions you would like me to ask him please feel free to get in touch either on here on send me a PM.

    I will try and get his 8 page memoirs scanned (as soon as I can find them) but If I remember I think it is mostly anecdotal stuff.

    Steve I would really like to see some of your dad photos

    Looking forward to hearing from you

    Gordon
     
  10. billminer

    billminer Member

    Gord

    See if he remembers any of these guys, if he will talk about it ? My dad is the one on the right with the picture of three people. I posted them before on another site. I bet he was on the march to. If he has any photo,s of xxa It would be nice to see them on this site.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    View attachment Sam Kydd.tif

    View attachment Sgt F Foster Stalag XXA.tif

    View attachment StalagXXA-1.tif

    View attachment StalagXXA-2.tif

    Hi Gord,

    Here are some more photos of dad in XXA. At any one time it was holding up to 10000 POWS in about 4 or 5 different forts plus many outside working parties. Men could have probably done 5 years there and not known each other. The one outside the Stalag HQ with the German officers is interesting in that dad wanggled a job in Stalag HQ as the editor of the "prisoners pie" magasine. He only did that to get acces to a German typewriter so he could forge the documents for their escape.

    One more website about XXA. If you log on to wwiimemories.com/powjournals.htm a page will come up about POW journals. If you go to the right hand side, 3 pictures down, there is an article there about XXA with the actor Sam Kydd and my dad on the picture.

    Steve

    View attachment Sam Kydd.tif
     
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  12. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Hi Steve,
    The Stalag XXA-1 is new to me. Is this the photo taken outside the Stalag Headquarters?
    Barbara
     
  13. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Hi Steve,
    The Stalag XXA-1 is new to me. Is this the photo taken outside the Stalag Headquarters?
    Barbara
    Hi Barbara,
    The shot I labelled Stallag-2 is taken outside Stalag HQ, it must have been during a red cross inspection looking at the men in civilian suits. I honestly thought the young lance corporal standing with the typewriter was Antony until you posted his photo.

    The shot labelled Stalag-1 seems to be some kind of outdoor typing class looking at the typewriters on the table. They all seem very relaxed in the company of the guards!

    The naval Chief petty Officer at the back is of interest. He was from the submarine HMS Seal, the only RN vessel to surrender in WW2. According to dad, the Engine Room Artificers (ERAs) in the camp argued constantly about whose job it was to open the sea cocks to scuttle the boat, apparently no one did it and it was captured intact and recommissioned as a German U boat. He also said that the naval artificers were the most skilled people in the camp when it came to forging and making bits for escapes etc - one of the reasons I joined the RN as an Artificer.

    Will look for some more photos and post them.
    Steve
     
  14. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Here are a few more shots of Stalag XXA from dad's collection. All have the stamp "Gepruft M-Stammlager XXA" on the back.
    View attachment Stalag XXA-4.tif

    View attachment Stalag XXA-5.tif

    View attachment 69508

    View attachment Stalag XXA-7.tif

    View attachment 69510

    View attachment Stalag XXA-8.tif


    XXA-4 seems to be an outdoor typing class watched over by the Red Cross
    XXA-6 has "Outside of our room, No 24 Fort 15" written on the back in dad's handwriting
    XXA-7 appears to be red cross parcels being unloaded
    XXA-9 Just has the word "Christmas" written on the back, again in dad's handwriting. It must have been '40 or '41 as he was transferred to Stalag 383 in Aug 42.
    XXA-8 Just has the word "Library" on the back". Dad is stood behind a gestetner machine so I think he was reproducing copies of the "The New Prisoner's Pie" magasine.

    Steve
     
  15. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    Here are four unpleasant photos from dad's collection. There are no Stalag stamps on the back of these and no writing, but they are original photos I found in his collection.
    He did tell me that there was a camp for Polish and Russian soldiers in the XXA complex and that the conditions were dreadful. He said that from time to time working parties would try to throw what little food and cigarettes they had, but would be punished if caught.
    I can't see that the Camp guards would have allowed photos like these to be taken by the British POWs as it would be evidence of the dreadful conditions and mis-treatment. Any ideas where these were taken and what uniforms are they wearing?


    Steve

    View attachment PolRus POW 1.tif

    View attachment PolRus POW 2.tif

    View attachment PolRus POW 3.tif

    View attachment 69519
     
  16. billminer

    billminer Member

    Keep them coming Steve. Excellent photo's. My dad used to say the same about the Russian prisoners.
     
  17. BarbaraWT

    BarbaraWT Member

    Here are four unpleasant photos from dad's collection. There are no Stalag stamps on the back of these and no writing, but they are original photos I found in his collection.
    He did tell me that there was a camp for Polish and Russian soldiers in the XXA complex and that the conditions were dreadful. He said that from time to time working parties would try to throw what little food and cigarettes they had, but would be punished if caught.
    I can't see that the Camp guards would have allowed photos like these to be taken by the British POWs as it would be evidence of the dreadful conditions and mis-treatment. Any ideas where these were taken and what uniforms are they wearing?


    Steve

    View attachment 71637

    View attachment 71638

    View attachment 71639

    View attachment 71640

    What an absolute disgrace to have treated these people even worse than the other POWs. Eternal shame on the perpetrators.
     
  18. John Williams

    John Williams Junior Member

    I have a postcard of my uncle as a PoW. I am confused as to the whereabouts of the camp. In his handwriting it says "Stalag XXA (6) Deutchland". An ink stamp says "M-Stammlager XXA Gepruft 19". I thought this range of camps were in Poland.
    Any help really appreciated as I am hoping to do a trip to Poland early summer.
     
  19. Steve Foster

    Steve Foster Senior Member

    I have a postcard of my uncle as a PoW. I am confused as to the whereabouts of the camp. In his handwriting it says "Stalag XXA (6) Deutchland". An ink stamp says "M-Stammlager XXA Gepruft 19". I thought this range of camps were in Poland.
    Any help really appreciated as I am hoping to do a trip to Poland early summer.
    Hi John,

    Stalag XXA was a whole complex of about 20 old Polish Forts just south of the town of Thorun in Poland. Apart from the Forts, there were many hutted camps in the vicinity and the whole complex housed between 10 and 20 thousand allied troops at one time. Forts 13, 15 and 17 were used for British POWs, 14 was the hospital, 16 the punishment camp and 12 for Polish prisoners.

    As well as the Forts and Camps within the complex, there were many Working Parties (Arbeits Commandos) all based and living outside the complex but linked to XXA for administration. If your postcard had Gepruft 19 on the back, it may mean that your uncle was in Fort 19, nearer the river and town than the main camp, Fort 13. For interest, Germany was split into various military districts, XX was the Polish corridor (which Germany thought was German), hence the title Stalag XXA.

    I have a whole series of postcards and photos from Stalag XXA, sent from dad to mum, which had the same stamp on the back, M-Stammlager XXA Gepruft, and then various numbers ranging from 3 to 21. I do know he was in Fort 13 and then Camp 13 for most of his time there, but the last number on the stamps seem to vary. So that last number may not indicate his Fort or Camp.

    The link below is a pretty good website to give a plan of the various Forts and camps around Thorn, as you can see, it was a huge complex. Most of the old Forts are now Polish Military establishments, but a serving Polish Major will arrange tours around them. I went on to google earth and got a magnified view of the area, and compared it to the map on the link below; all of the Forts are still visible, but highly camouflaged due to vegitation on the roofs.
    My sister and I are visiting XXA in May along with relatives of dad's friend and are arranging it through a contact I found in the National Ex POWs Association. Will pass details via a Private Message.

    First Link: www.gps-practice-and-fun.com/Stalag-20a.html

    2cnd Link: www.wartimememories.co.uk/POW/Stalag20a.html

    Please don't hesitate to ask if you need more information.

    Steve
     
  20. John Williams

    John Williams Junior Member

    Thanks Steve. A very helpful reply and Private Message. Things to think about in relation to my potential trip in June. Haven't looked at the sites yet. Will try to post postcard onto this site at some stage as it is of a group of British PoWs well wrapped up against the snow visible on the ground.
    John
     

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