18 Allied PoWs scrawling their names into history in Normandy
This the story of 18 Normandy PoWs – Allied Prisoners of War – who for a short while (following the D Day landings and Normandy fighting) in 1944 were held in a wooden shed in Normandy; whilst there, they scrawled their names & details on the inside of the shed wall.
Here are photos of some of the men – I’m still tracking others down!
I found out about these Normandy PoWs from a friend who bought the former bakery in the village of St Vigor des Mezerets (the shed used to be the bakery’s grain store) who knew I was interested in Military History.
Since I first started writing the site & blog, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to & contacting a number of direct family members & wartime colleagues of these Normandy PoWs & on a number of occasions have had the gratification of taking some of these to places that their relatives would have known on their travels; these visits are recorded within the blog.
There’s some brief background information here which explains a little about how I became involved, but the key pages are here as these are the individual pages to each of these Captured Allied servicemen held as Prisoners of War.
What do we know of these Normandy PoWs?
Some of the pages, for example those relating to Flt Lt John Worthington Harder have lots of content & details as his family have not only retained large amounts of memorabilia, but have kindly allowed me access to it. Similarly, pages for Pte Thomas Blunt, Cpl Tom Caldwell, Pvt Gerald Willen and M/Sgt Morris Sheppard have a reasonable amount of detail, again shared by family members. However, many of the other pages have limited information (as yet) as I have been unable to trace relatives or find out much more about them other than some basic details.
The information provided by the family of Major Raymond P Elledge Jr , including his 140 page manuscript covering the period from what turned out to be his last flight until liberation has been absolutely invaluable in tracing the route that some of these Normandy PoWs travelled trying to evade capture & return to Allied lines; along with Raymond Elledge, Francis Gillespie, Morris Sheppard and Gerald Willen all escaped from “The Monastery” together – but that’s getting ahead of ourselves!
At the moment, the men are grouped into 4 categories…
- Those we know nothing about other than their signature on the shed wall,
- A group that we know something about, even if this is only a copy of their “Returning PoW Questionnaire”
- The ones that we have a little more information for, perhaps family photographs or War Diary entries
- And finally, those that we have lots of information about which has been generously shared by their families
Thanks and things…
During my research into this period in our history, I’ve been helped by a large number of people who have either given their time, knowledge or memories freely to help me build this picture. There is always a danger in naming names that you miss someone important, so to avoid this, at the moment I’m just going to say a huge “Thank You” to everyone that’s been involved in helping me move this from “just” a series of names on a shed wall to what you are now reading. Especially, thanks need to go to those friends & families of the men in question who have been so generous with sharing their memories and memorabilia with me and to my friend Stuart & his dad Barrie who, having spotted the signatures in their shed had the presence of mind to protect them behind a thick sheet of perspex
I’d also like to thank Arthur Brett, one of the people who posts on to the World War 2 Talk website as he kindly spent the time in researching through some of his resources to provide many of the PoW details that you see on the site. Stuart Hadaway of the RAF Museum at Hendon has been really helpful in researching information out on Flt Lt John Harder. To John Levesley who provided much of the information on the two American pilots – Elledge & Gillespie – and who built the Winkton Website and to Stephen Fryer who pulled together the information on the RAF Harrowbeer website
The shed is in a small village in Normandy, France by the name of St Vigor des Mezerets which is to the North West of Conde sur Noireau and South West of Caen