Recenty I looked at the large amount of Portsmouth men who were captured by the Japanese, and subsequently died in captivity.
Many servicemen were also captured by the Germans. As well as Army personnel captured at Dunkirk, many men were also captured when their aircraft were shot down over Germany. Many men were also captured on Crete, in Greece, in North Africa – particularly at Tobruk. Later in the war over 6,000 men were captured during the battle of Arnhem, including my Granddad.
Although there were isolated cases of brutality and atrocities, the Germans generally treated their British prisoners in accordance with the Geneva Convention. Although conditions deteriorated as the war drew on, fatalities did not reach the rate of those held by the Japanese.
Signalman Alfred Richards, of I Corps Royal Signals, died on 4 June 1940. Interestingly, he is buried in Cadzand War Cemetery in Holland. Why Holland? Well, Holland had been invaded by the Germans in May and quickly over-run. But British forces hadn’t set foot in Holland at all in 1940. Whats more, the Dunkirk evacuation ended on 4 June. It looks very much like Signalman Richards had been captured during the fall of France, and died on his way to a Prisoner of War Camp in Germany. Richards was 31 and from Stamshaw.
Guardsman David Lyons, 32 and from North End, was serving with the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. He died on 13 October 1940, and is buried in Enghien, Belgium. Given that the battle of France had ended in June, it would seem that Guardsman Lyons was a POW. Perhaps he had been too badly wounded to be moved to a camp in Germany?
One Portsmouth man died after reaching a Prisoner of War Camp. Gunner Kenneth Lanyon, 26 and from Southsea, was captured serving with 194 Battery, 60 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery during the Battle of France. He died on 30 December 1940, and is buried in Cracow Rakowiki Cemetery in Poland. Several Prisoner of War Camps were close to Cracow.
Remarkably, it seems that none of the Portsmouth men who died whilst serving in the RAF were taken prisoner. Evidence tells us that of the several hundred Portsmouh airmen who’s planes were shot down over Europe, all of them were killed. This demonstates just how dangerous the air war really was.
One Portsmouth man was a victim of German war crimes. In November 1942 Sapper Ernest Bailey of the 9 (Airborne) Field Company, Royal Engineers was captured during a glider-borne raid on a heavy water plant in Norway. He was captured by the Germans and murdered on 19 November. Bailey – 31 and from Paulsgrove – is buried in Stavanger War Cemetery.
Some Prisoners died even shortly after the war in Europe was over and they were released. Private William Starling of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps died on 14 May 1945, and is buried in Prague War Cemetery, Czech Republic. He probably died in a Prisoner of War Camp in the region.