WW2 lost POW's

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Tricky Dicky, Apr 7, 2014.

  1. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I am not sure how to start this thread. Not long ago I was trying to find some information about a POW and having checked the usual databases etc, came up empty handed. Somehow I learnt then about Allied POW's who were repatriated via Odessa. These were the POW's who had either escaped east from prison camps or had fallen into Russian forces hands as they quickly moved west towards Berlin. Many were then transported to Odessa where they were embarked on ships that had brought Russians from the UK - apparently many of these Russians did not really fancy the return trip.
    So I have started asking the questions about where is the list of all Allied POW's repatriated through Odessa, as I would assume the Military Mission that was sent there would need to record the details of those military personnel to keep the records up to date - this search is still in its infancy, but any help from member would be helpful.

    As an aside to starting the search above, I have also been pointed towards a book called "The Iron Cage" by Nigel Cawthorne and quickly looking his website (http://nigel-cawthorne.com/) I noted that this book covered the subject of unrepatriated Allied and US POW's from WW2 -

    " Following that, in 1993, I published The Iron Cage which shows that 31,000 British prisoners of war held by the Germans in 1945 disappeared into the Soviet Gulags and never returned. the British Ministry of Defence claims it is still investigating this issue. Twenty thousand U.S. PoWs disappeared the same way. Both The Bamboo Cage and The Iron Cage can be downloaded from authorsonline.co.uk or authorsonline.com."

    I think this forum is the sort of place where subjects such as this should be aired and was interested to hear from other members, especially those that have information on this subject.

    Lindele likes this.
  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi TD,

    It would be especially interesting to hear from any families of the lost personnel involved. A fascinating topic to bring forth on here.
  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi bamboo

    This is perhaps a very forgotten part of the war, but the question you raise I guess would be difficult to answer as the families could have been told that he/she died when in fact they could still be alive. I do not know how much truth or not there is in this subject and was hoping this thread would open it up to all.

  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member


    I have listened to my in-laws (in Vienna) tell stories of two of their relatives who disappeared on the Eastern front and almost certainly ended up in Russian Gulags, never to be heard of again. But, of course, this is nothing new. It would be interesting to know whether Allied families have been told that their man was killed, when in fact he was removed from one POW camp and in essence placed in another.
  5. Hesmond

    Hesmond Well-Known Member

    I recall a Channel 4 documentry some years back on the subject, after the colapse of,the wall new infomation had surfaced, i feel the figures quoted on are some what on the high side when concerning allied POWs, the programe did show a Japeanese bloke interned in 1939 and now living with a Russian faimly, what i did find suprising was the number of allied soliders being arrested and in prisioned in the East post 1945,including a case of a French female secatery taken in 1946 sent to a gulag and never seen again.
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I have just been reading this document which spells out the basic situation for POW's (Allied & Russian) and the politics that surrounded the problem:
    http://www.aifpow.com/part_5__free_men_elsewhere_in_europe/chapter_9_-_odessa although this is a document created and published by the Australians, I am wondering if there is something similar in the UK.

    A section of the document:

    "The exact number of Soviet citizens and POW liberated by the advancing Anglo-American armies from the West and that of their equivalents from the East probably will never be accurately known. The details of their treatment immediately the war ended were not spelled out by the "Big Three" at Yalta.

    It was becoming increasingly obvious that the mutual antipathy and suspicion of the USSR and the USA was leading to a “Cold War” between them while the political importance of Great Britain and France was in terminal decline. This was underlined by the defeat of Churchill and his replacement as Prime Minister by the Socialist Clement Atlee right in middle of the Yalta negotiations - the "Big 5" was reduced to the "Big 3".

    Although under the terms of the Yalta Agreement, Britain would appoint a Military Mission to Moscow to deal with the repatriation of Allied POW, with a transit Camp to be established in Odessa, the logistical problems lacked political clout while the magnitude of them on the ground were immediate and immense.

    The basic problem of world hegemony as seen through the eyes of the POW, was one of culture. This was coupled with the fact that Russia had not signed the Geneva Conventions of 1929, so when the International Red Cross set up a facility in Odessa, the returning Russian POW were not included in their rehabilitation program. Moreover to the Russian command their POW were expendable - a complete antithesis to Allied traditional military philosophy.

    Many Russian POW and forced labour returnees arrived back in the transit camps of Odessa dressed in German uniforms. This created local animosities, while the expectations of the freed Allied POW were dashed by their perceived lack of action from their Russian hosts.

    The Russians claimed they had no ships available to send Allied POW back across the Black Sea to Southern Europe. The Allied response to this explanation for lack of action was swift - they immediately dispatched a mini-fleet of Allied troop and hospital ships to Odessa. A memo sent from 30 Military Mission, Moscow to Middle East Headquarters in February 1945 advised that:

    ( a ) Members of the armed forces and merchant seamen of the UK, Canada, and Australia were to be picked up by the “Duchess of Bedford” and taken to the UK.

    ( b ) Personnel of other Dominions, Colonies and India by the “Morton Bay” and “Highland Princess” to the Middle East.

    ( c ) Any surplus UK, Canadian or Australian personnel left after the “Duchess of Bedford” was full, were to be embarked on the “Morton Bay” for the Middle East before proceeding in convoy to the UK.

    ( d ) Americans may be included in any spare accommodation.

    By March 1945, this mini-fleet had brought back 4,363 Allied POW of whom 350 were Anzacs. This .pdf lists all 350 - 174 Australians then 176 New Zealanders."

    From the figures in post 1 of 31,000 British POW's (this may be the number Commonwealth POW's) then the figure shown here of 4,500 leaves quite a large number unaccounted for.
    So the question would be "what happened to them".
  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Another interesting precis of the book "The Iron Cage"

    In The Iron Cage by Nigel Cawthorne [ISBN-10: 1857021010] the author exposes Britain and America’s betrayal of its own soldiers who ended up as pawns in a game over which they had no control. They were never mentioned as a group and have all but disappeared from the pages of history. Occasionally a story did emerge like that of Frank Kelly from Lewisham who was captured by the Germans at Arnhem and ‘liberated’ from Stalag 4B by Soviet soldiers only to be incarcerated in a labour camp until his release eight years later in 1953. On his return to the UK he was immediately arrested for being AWOL.

    and an eye opening precis of the whole situation:

    "Where did they go? What happened to them? How did they live their lives? How did they die? Where are they buried? Perhaps we will never know but we should not forget that more British troops than all of those who died in Ireland, Cyprus, the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan “disappeared” forever into the endless wastes of Siberia, never to return."

    I have copied the sections above from : http://stevehollier.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/the-tragic-story-of-the-50000-british-and-american-soldiers-who-disappeared-into-the-soviet-gulag-never-to-return/
  8. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    There were also many who were evacuated through Yugoslavia on to Bari.
    Quite a few came out through Balkan Countries such as Albania.

    There are over 4,000 Liberation Reports that were made and extracts taken by MI9 that are not around.
    These are extra to the 2 or 3 series of Escapers through the Lines Reports.

    Plan Endor was never completed as intended which was probably due to lack of MI9 manpower.

    There was also great resistance from Liberated POW to just waiting round to be questioned.
  9. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    On our village memorial we have a man who was shot by the Russians in 1940. PO Maurice Barnes, a survivor of the capture of HMS Seal, escaped from the German POW camp Stalag 20 but was captured and shot by Russian border guards as he crossed into Russia. We had hoped to have found some documentation of this in Russian archives but with the deterioration of relations with them this now seems a forlorn hope. We have the report about his escape from his accomplice who survived and returned to tell the Barnes family of his fate but was unable to say where he was buried. Does anyone know if there are any other places we can look for evidence?
  10. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    TD, info for you on J. Duncan (I hope this is the man your looking for). Put it on this thread as he returned home via Odessa.

    Attached Files:

    brithm likes this.
  11. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Amberdog

    Many thanks for the search.

    Do you have a full date for the article in image 5

    Also I dont think image 9 is the same man as he rec'd an MM in Italy and the man I'm after was a POW from 1940, but I will check out the lib report nos to verify that.

    For others reading this - Sgt J Duncan is noted in the files relating to Odessa, yet as he was captured in 1940 he does not appear on the normal POW online database of soldiers in NW Europe 1940 - 1945 , I wonder how many more there are.

  12. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Just checked out TNA and came across this:

    Reference:WO 208/3326/2951 Description:
    Sergeant J Duncan (service number 2873963).

    Service: Army, Gordon Highlanders.

    Escaped from working party attached to Stalag VIIIB, Lamsdorf, Germany; subsequently evaded capture in Poland, contacted Russian Forces and evacuated to UK via Odessa.

    Possible information on this individual (including appendices) may be present in WO 208/5582-5583.

    So again not sure how he would match up with the article for a Sgt J Duncan MM earned in Italy (if I have read the article correctly)

  13. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    Hi TD, that was the news article date. I didn't download every pdf file like I did on the items I emailed you regarding Odessa recently as my computer is working on donkey power at the moment. Got this new version of Zonealarm as well and its driving me nuts. Wants to scan every file even when you just hover over them! That's why I opted for some Screensnatch jpegs.

    My months subscription expires at midnight so get your order in quick if there is anything else. I'll likely subscribe in the future, but the weeds in the garden are trying to win again and there's jam needing made!

    P.S. You're probably right about the MM, that may have been an Aberdeen lad. Our Duncan (or at least his parents) seem to be based near Dundee.
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Just came across this article when doing some research:

    14 July 2014

    Russia: Last WW2 German Prisoner Finally Released from Gulag -


    "Officially, the last surviving German Prisoners of war returned home from the USSR in 1956, but it is now clear that it was not exactly true. According to Soviet records, 381,067 German Wehrmacht POW died in NKVD camps over that time period, out of which 356,700 were German nationals and 24,367 from other nations. Many scholars and historians dispute those numbers however, suggesting that the body count could be close to 1 million." Unquote.

  15. A-58

    A-58 Not so senior Member Patron

    I remember many years ago finding a paperback book at the bookstore and thumbing through it titled "Soldiers of Misfortune". That book covered the story of upwards of 75-80,000 US POWs disappearing into the vast depths of the Soviet Union after war. Not really sure about why it happened, but author alludes to the fact that Ike knew about their status but was unable to do anything about it. The men were wrote off as "MIA's" and their families informed as to the same.
  16. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I'm struggling to believe the scale here. 31,000 British (and Commonwealth ?) and 80,000 US prisoners simply being untraceable in 1945 ? These were countries with efficient graves registration services that went to great lengths to provide closure. The majority of prisoners of the Germans (except perhaps the very last captured) would have been notified to the International Red Cross and had some sort of postal contact with their families. I've never seen suggestions that Germany had large 'secret' prison camps for British and American personnel.

    I really can't believe that more than 100,000 western families suddenly lost contact with POWs and that it didn't become widely known. That many German prisoners were held well into the 1950s was common knowledge and aroused little concern. Could it be that those with sympathy for the losing side and a dislike of the regime in Soviet Russia found it convenient to state that there were also Allied prisoners amongst those remaining ?
  17. A-58

    A-58 Not so senior Member Patron

    I just googled the title "Soldiers of Misfortune" and found it available on Amazon.com still. It seems my numbers were a bit off (the book was first published in 1992). The narrative for the book claims that only 20,000 US POWs were unaccounted for, not the 75-80,000 that I mentioned earlier. Silly me. Sorry about the misinformation there. There would be no need for any Graves Registrations units to be used in verification of these men since they weren't dead. They were POWs held in camps in the eastern areas that were overrun by the advancing Soviets that had disappeared while in their custody according to the author.
  18. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    This situation starts becoming complex, on one side you have the political situation and on the other the problems of a fast moving war.

    The political situation as I understand it at the moment was:

    Russia: it wanted to move as far West as quickly as it could and 'capture' as much ground as possible, so that with boots on the ground no one was going to take it away from her again and any resources it found would be hers. One also needs to recognise that once occupied by the Russians then access by Allies searching for missing personnel would be basically impossible.

    Allies: knowing the above (well at least Churchill recognised the threat) they wanted to move as far East as possible – it may be another reason behind the decision to take on Operation Market Garden).

    However due to the fast and fluid situation, especially from the Russian point of view, they were not stopping for anything. Their front line troops were bashing on and the second line troops were more concerned with supplies to the front.

    Allied POW's that had been incarcerated for up to 5 years were in a bad state, and during the bad winter of 1944 – 1945 (as expressed by reports from the 'Long March' survivors) they would need any form of clothing they could find to keep as warm and dry as possible. So that when the Russian army found groups of 'people' in an assortment of clothes (many in bits of German uniform), they, being quite insular would not recognise them as Allied, or indeed had had instruction on what to look for.

    This was all compounded by the first steps of the Cold War, and the mistrust between Russia and the Western Allies, so a cloak of denial was dropped by the Russians and perhaps the West did not want another war or a continuation of the existing one, so swept some of this under the carpet.

    Other books you may like to read are:

    THE Z-5 INCIDENT: America's Ultimate POW/MIA Betrayal by Bob Miller

    The Iron Cage by Nigel Cawthorne http://www.amazon.com/The-Iron-Cage-Nigel-Cawthorne/dp/1857021010

    Principled Diplomacy: Security and Rights in U.S. Foreign Policy By Cathal J. Nolan

    Nashua Area Men And Women In World War II By Ron Dube

  19. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  20. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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