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 A small tribute to a brave group of WW II Allied servicemen.

Stalag XVIII A  - Wolfsberg in Austria
(Later to become 373 Internment Camp for Nazi prisoners)
Feb. 2004 Review of a book on the experiences of a British prisoner.

Several years ago we published examples from  fascinating collection of small photographs, the property of a south Wales family. A friend had inherited them and wished to know more about their origin. This initial research led to the present page which has attracted attention from around the world. The writer, however, has no personal connection with the camps and does not have access to any archives. If you have quite specific queries you might try writing to Mr. Horlington - see the postal address below. Researchers and relatives should also be aware of the British National Ex-Prisoner of War Association

The original pictures (and those since added) were taken at Stalag XVIII A in Austria.  Surprisingly, the camp authorities permitted photography, although a censorship system operated and most of the pictures can be seen as having potential propaganda value for the Germans. They seem to have been happy to allow pictures of camp concerts and entertainments and several lavish spectacles are illustrated in Mr. Ken Willmott's memoir* which tells of his experiences from capture in Greece in 1941 to his release in 1945. We must pay tribute to the amazing ingenuity and resourcefulness of these men in making their own entertainment  and dealing with their imprisonment. One of Mr. Willmott's pictures shows a large parade of prisoners immaculately kitted out as Roman soldiers. Apparently their uniforms and accoutrements were entirely made from cardboard salvaged from Red Cross parcels. See a plan of Stalag XVIIIA as it was in 1945. Update. This plan was updated in June 2001 by Mr. Robert Maxwell in England who kindly interpreted an old drawing and added much interesting detail. 

The Brotherhood of Veterans of the Greek Campaign 1940-41.

Visitors to this page have put us in touch with Mr. Edwin Horlington who is the secretary of The Brotherhood of Veterans of the Greek Campaign 1940-41. It would seem that many veterans of this campaign were incarcerated at Stalag XVIII. Mr. Horlington reminded us of the Battle of Kalamata which took place on 28th April, 1941. Kalamata, in the southern Peloponnese, was the scene of the final and fiercest clash of the battle for Greece in 1941. 

It appears that when the evacuation of Greece by Allied troops became inevitable, organised fighting troops were given priority in the evacuation. Ultimately around 10,000 administrative and support servicemen were left on the beaches at Kalamata to become prisoners of war. There were British, Australian, New Zealand and Greek men within this group. After many adventures, it seems that many of these passed the rest of the war in Stalag XVIIIA or one of its satellite camps. 

(It seems that some allied prisoners taken at the fall of Crete were also interned at Stalag 18. Crete was the scene of the first major parachute invasion of the War. Although it was ultimately successful, so many German parachute troops died in the attack that Hitler decided against using such tactics for the rest of the War. The British, however, did not learn from this and many British parachute troops were to suffer at Arnhem towards the end of the War). 

Mr. Horlington and friends have been responsible for the erection of a marble and bronze memorial at Kalamata. The inscription reads: 

In memory of the Allied forces and the Greeks who fell at the battle of Kalamata, 28 April 1941, or who were taken prisoner or who escaped to fight again that the world might be free.

Note: Edwin Horlington has edited two books which contain the reminiscences of men who were caught up in the maelstrom of Kalamata. Individuals and small groups were left wondering about the distant possibilities of evacuation while enduring incessant attacks by German dive bombers. It is impossible to read these accounts without sharing the fear - and the courage - of those who were left behind. No official account of the Greek Campaign could hope to tell the story of Kalamata in such a vivid way. For details of these books (Tell Them We Were Here, Vols. I and II) please contact Mr. Horlington at: 163, Walton Road, Walton-on-Naze, Essex CO14 8NE, United Kingdom.

Pictures taken at Stalag XVIII during WWII: 
Group relaxing at a game of some sort
Head and shoulders portrait
Relaxing with a good book
Summer group shot
Small posed group
A theatrical performance 
Relaxing in the sun 
Games (badminton?) 
Two men in RAF? uniform 
Camp Commandant (Herr Steiner)  "A humane officer ... was well liked by us."

Padre Ledgerwood.   Apparently now deceased, the padre was well known to many of the prisoners and very active in their care. Apart from his normal duties, he was a member of the escape committee! In 1944, Corporal Ducker of Auckland wrote: "Not long after we arrived John Ledgerwood, a Y.M.C.A. secretary from Christchurch, came to us as padre. This was a great stroke of fortune for the Stalag. Padre Ledgerwood proved to be a widely travelled, cultured man, with considerable stage experience. Above all he was practical. He encouraged all comers, sifted our talent, coached budding performers, polished up scripts, produced our shows .... Inspired by his enthusiasm many New Zealanders came forward. We were in a minority at the Stalag but it was significant that our contribution was relatively greater than that of any other body of prisoners." (Thanks to Mr. John Gregory of Sittingbourne, Kent for forwarding this information.)

Several British ex-prisoners heard talk of American fellow prisoners at Stalag XVIII, although those I have spoken to never seemed to have met one. We now have a photograph of one of this elusive band. Kent Fetter tells this story about how his late father became a prisoner, ultimately at Stalag XVIII. Donald Philip Fetter enlisted in April of 1943 at the age of 18 and went to North Africa in October as a Private in the 168th Infantry - 34th Division. From North Africa he was with the 34th Division as it made its push with the Allies up through Italy sometime about the middle of December. He was on his way to Cassino when he was wounded and was reported missing in action on January 5, 1944. While in a battle (fighting was heavy and the lines shifted back and forth) he was wounded. A German Sergeant picked him up from the field and threw him in the back end of a truck.  He woke up in a German field hospital where an Italian doctor amputated his right arm. 

A New Zealand enquirer asked me to look into the location of Stalag 183. This was the camp mentioned on his father's tag. A call to the Imperial War Museum established that Stalag numbers ran up to 20 and then there was a gap until a 300 series. This remained a mystery until - UPDATE: Dec. 1999. Museum ill-informed! Mr. Kingsland of Australia kindly wrote to set the record straight. "I read on the Data Wales site your reference to Stalag 183 - mentioned on someone's tag. The tag probably reads as stated , i.e.: Stalag 183 or more correctly Dulag 183. This was a transit camp located in Yugoslavia for POWs on their way to Stalag 18A, Wolfsberg, Austria after the fall of Greece. My Great Uncle served in the Australian 6th Division in Greece and spent some time in 183 before ending up at Wolfsberg. His name was Ken Cameron and he was in the 2/2 Infantry Battalion." Mr. Kingsland adds: "Dulag 183 was located for a brief time near Salonika, Greece, in the former Greek artillery camp of Pavlos Melas. The camp only operated from July to September, 1941, afterwards being used to house civilians. From then the records show Dulag 183 being located at Sabac, Yugoslavia." 


Resources and researchers around the world

A correspondent has a picture of  Robert Claude Tapscott (Born 7th July 1920 in Abbotsford, Victoria. Next of kin  Isabella Tapscott.) On the reverse "VX4552 (Australian service number) R.C. Tapscott, Stalag XV111A".

Prisoner of War -  published in Britain by Ian Brown in memory of his father. A comprehensive site, probably the best starting point for researchers.

America. Doria Plakotos of  the University of Missouri is working on a project that entails extensive interviews and writings about the Battle of Kalamata.  "My family in Greece lived through this time but my uncle was only two and my grandparents are dead.  I would like to contact people who lived through this period and/or were present in Kalamata and/or the surrounding villages during this time."

New Zealand. Chris Smith is researching the period his grandfather, Cyril William Cossgrove, spent in Stalag 18A. He would be interested to hear from you if you are related to a New Zealand veteran.

New Zealand. Tom Davies writes thus: "My father Pvte Davies TE (Tom) 19th Battalion, 1st Echelon NZ, was in two of the Stalag XVIIIA work camps Schwabeck and Lavamund. I am gathering a history of Lavamund so wish to talk to any Lavamund POWs, citizens of Lavamund, camp guards, other workers their next of kin and relatives who can help me with collecting this history. I am also keen to gather the stories of the wives of these POW's."

Australia.  Pamela Winter is looking into the wartime experiences of her grandfather, Donald Thomas Henry Winter (1st corps Signals, 2nd Australian Imperial Forces). She believes he was captured in Crete. Pamela would like to hear from you if you can help with information.

Britain.  Joseph Smith is researching the British military experience generally in Greece during WW2. He writes: "Essentially I would like to either talk to or correspond with veterans about memories of their combat as well as their non-combat experiences in wartime Greece. I am also interested in talking to any individuals who witnessed events but had a non-military role in Greece, e.g. nurses, civilians who were evacuated from Greece or Crete etc."  If you would like to write to Joseph, you can reach him at jwsmith@jwsmith.demon.co.uk

Eleanor Howell would like to contact anyone who knew her in father in Crete or at Stalag 18. Bill Harrison, a sapper from Birmingham, was captured in the battle for Crete. He wished to return there one day to thank the Cretan people for their kindness but unfortunately suffered a premature death from a respiratory illness caused by loading wheat and chaff on to trains during his sojourn in Austria. 

* "In Captivity, 1941 to 1945"  a memoir of Stalag 18A by Ken Willmott, 1996. Available from KEN at 5, Townfield Gardens, Altrincham, Cheshire WA14 4DT, United Kingdom. (2000 revised edition)

Forty Men - Eight Horses. By Douglas Arthur, published by Vanguard Press 2003. ISBN 1 843860 70 8.  Soft cover, 335 pages.

For the title of this book Douglas Arthur used the message on the sign affixed to the railway carriage on to which he was loaded, together with around another 80 prisoners, at the start of his journey from Salonika to Stalag XVIIIA. This is a very full account of the author's service from his arrival in Greece until his coming home after four years as a prisoner of war. It's not a reference book to be picked up occasionally for dry details of a campaign, but rather an adventure story which once started you will not want to put down.  

The reader will find accounts of the relentless German bombing of Allied forces in Greece, the terrible journey to Austria, the famous Stalag XVIIIA dramatic productions, the American bombing of the camp, the various work details and the surprising relationships which sometimes developed between the prisoners and Austrian civilians. Although Douglas Arthur does not spare the reader by omitting details of the horrors he was exposed to, his sense of humour and conversational style leaven the tone of the book and make it a very enjoyable, as well as educational, read.


September 2001: I learned that after the end of the War, Stalag 18A became a prison camp for Germans - those alleged to have strong Nazi sympathies. It has recently become possible for a British soldier to talk about his part in trying to foil an escape attempt and we have his story here: 373 Internment Camp.

John Weston   Data Wales 1995/2004

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