Fort XIII (Wild, David. Prisoners of hope. 1992. London)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Corp. William Stone and his history....

        Ealier this month I had a pleasure to guide very special guests - the family of Corp. William George Stone. He was serving in 2nd Batallion, Royal Norfolks was taken into captivity in France while coming back from Dunkirk. He wan only 22 back then.

In Stalag XXA, he spent whole II WW, but he never spoke about his stay. In his 100th birth anniversary, his relatives visited Torun to put flowers and sing their father favourite song: Flanadan and Allen - Underneath the Arches...

Many thanks to MHW friends for your time and hostility!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Just few hours to understand life in Stalag XXA(20A) in Torun

"I will always be grateful to Pawel for helping me understand better what happened to my father when he was captured by the German army after the fighting at Dunkirk.

Like many former British POWs, Dad was reluctant to tell his children very much about what he had endured during the war. We knew he spent most of the war in German POW camps, in particular one in Poland. From his army records we discovered that camp was Staleg XX-A.
I contacted Pawel at very short notice recently when I was in traveling with my husband in Europe. Pawel was able to meet me in Torun to walk me through the history of Staleg XX-A and some of the forts of Torun.

My father, John Wilkinson, was with the British Expeditionary Force, serving in the  Light Tank Regiment of the 1st East Riding Yeomanry. We believe he fought at Cassel in France before being captured. 

It was extraordinary for me to walk with Pawel at Torun where the British POWs disembarked, knowing my father would have stood there utterly bereft so many decades earlier.

From my father's records we discovered that he had worked at some point as a medical orderly in the POW hospital and I am very grateful that Pawel managed to get me access to the old fort. Walking through the dark, cold corridors and rooms it was possible to get an insight into the bleak surroundings suffered by the POWs who were crippled with illnesses often brought about by the conditions they were forced to live in.

Pawel also helped me interpret a curious document I discovered in the Kew Archives about my father. It listed Dad under his army number, 555535,  as being in a work camp in "Bromberg" in early 1943 and getting assistance from a Polish national who supplied German identity cards and other materials to some of the POWs. Pawel explained that Bromberg was a satellite of Stalag XXA (20A) where British POWs were sent to work on the roads near a German munitions factory. We knew Dad had made several attempts to escape and Pawel explained the local Polish man was probably a member of the Polish resistance at the time.

One amazing document Pawel showed me was a playbill from a Christmas show put on by the British POWs from Bromberg in 1942. It listed a "J. Wilkinson" as one of the players, whether it was my father I can't be sure but I like to think it was, and maybe during that one Christmas he was able to have some laughs with his mates.

In early 1945 when the Russian army was advancing towards Poland and Stalag XXA (20A), my father did escape and went east towards Russia, eventually getting on a ship in Odessa which brought him back to England. I was amazed to hear from Pawel that he knew of other cases of POWs who also did this. He explained that the Germans were forcing the POWs to evacuate Stalag XXA (20A) and march towards Germany. Knowing what lay ahead would be a brutal, dangerous journey, these gutsy POWs took a huge gamble and headed east towards the Red Army. It was a miracle they survived the journey to Odessa.
Thank you Pawel for your help, your hard work and for keeping the story of Stalag XXA alive in Torun. "

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ken and Sue on the fathers way

Ken came to Toruń with his wife Sue tracking his father's steps in Stalag XXA (20A). His father worked in a workshop repairing shoes, clothes and theatre costumes. His comrades were Sam Kydd and Albie Tomson. The first one, after the war became a famous actor and the latter after leaving the camp died in the plane crach near Paris, France. Thanks to numerous documents and materials we were able to move back in history and see Torun in a wartime persepective.

The reason for our visit to Torun was to try and identify and visit as many sites that my father Corporal Ron Harrison, 7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, would have been at during his five years in captivity at Stalag XXA during the Second World War.

Ron rarely spoke about his time as a POW but he did have a considerable collection of wartime pictures plus a number of hand drawn sketches from publications such as “The Prisoners Pie”, which was an official paper produced by the prisoners.

Ron signed up with his school friend Albert Thompson at the age of 19 and both endured five years in captivity in Stalag XXA and also survived the three months “Long March” back to freedom. The friends were split up on the flight back to England from Paris, Ron arriving home only to find out that Albi’s plane had crashed killing all on board. Some years ago a local historian wrote a book “Operation Exodus” based on Albi’s diaries and Ron is mentioned on a number of occasions giving us exact dates and locations. 

Ron also had two other friends he kept in touch with after the war which from their letters also helped with my research. Private Ken Brydson, Leicestershire Regiment, sent letters and pictures from a visit to Torun in 1996 and mentioned their time together in Forts XIII and XIV. The other friend Lance Corporal Sam Kydd became a well-known actor and wrote his own book “For You the War is Over”. Although Ron is not mentioned it gives a great insight into life in Stalag XXA and does mention a funeral where Sam is a pall bearer to his close friend Danny Faulds. Ron has the exact same picture of the funeral in his collection and it is possible that they were part of the same group of friends. 

With this limited information I contacted Paweł Bukowskiat at Wartime Blogs, Torun and over the next few emails he was able to identify sites, put together an Itinerary and arranged for us to meet his friend Piotr Olecki who has an amazing museum of Wartime Memorabilia in the basement of his school.

When we arrived in Torun Pawel met us on three occasions including an interesting introduction into POW life in the Stalag Camps and how this fitted into the wartime history of Torun and Poland. He then took us out to numerous locations including five where he was able to confirm that my father would have been 100%[....] We were only able to gain access to the latter thanks to Pawel’s local knowledge and persuasion.

Pawel’s in depth knowledge we did get a better understanding of how and why the Forts were built and a genuine feeling as to how POW life may have been!

Thank you Pawel for making our trip such an adventure and for helping us try and understand a little of what my father and his fellow prisoners may have endured in Stalag XXA.

Our warmest wishes, we will never forget your kindness. Ken & Sue Harrison, 

Friday, February 16, 2018

To freedom through Berlin Paris and Spain

        This time we had a great opportunity to host a son of Corporal Tom MacGrath from 51st Highland Division, Mr Tom MacGrath

When Tom jr wrote to us, we were more than curiuos to learn about his father stay in Stalag XXA. It turned out that after spending two years in dreadful conditions of Stalag XXA, corp. MacGrath decided to escape from the camp. It took him some time to prepare the operation. But with help of local Home Army he managed to do so. The route was difficult and exhausting but fortunatelly through Barlin, Paris and finally Spain he got home safe and sound.

Thanks to British Army reports, his son and grandson recently retraced Tom's footsteps, crossing the Pyrenees into Spain.

It was a next thriving visit in which we actively took part! Hope for more!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Radio programmes

Apart from learning new facts about Stalag XXA (20A) and preparing materials about it, writing articles and book chapters Paweł albo runs  radio programms about local history, obviously with the touch of Stalag and its forbidden history.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Burial register in Torun, Staag XXA

            This Autumn, we found a very unique register! The register of burials in Torun's cemetery. Over 90 prisoners of war were buried at local cemetery and exhumeted soon after the war.

We won't be publishing the names but if you want to know if your relative was buried in Torun, Poland, Stalag XXA do not hesitate to ask.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Priceless signs and signatures in Fort XI

Only local guides and enthusiasts know how much do the signatures mean to Prisoners of War (Stalag XXA) and its relatives. This time we came to fort with another element of its history. A history of a soldier who wrote a sign in the cell but also took this unique picture!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Educating the youth

 Today, Paweł went to his former High School to educate students about his passions. He gave a lecture about the importance of history and traditions in contemporary world. The students listened also to stories about Stalag XXA (20A).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Cellars, basements and other secret places

Cellars, basements and secret closets often hide more that any museum. See what I found in one of them very close to Stalag XXA area!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mr Everret the most wanted

On the footprint of sad story

According to Mr Jastrzębski PhD - It's impossible for anybody to survive - But I still believe that somebody lives.

What happened?

We are looking for relatives of Mr Roman Łoziński (born 1922) form Czersk. Franciszek Kołodziejski (born1 920) from Czersk and Piotr and Juliusz Osowicki from Chojnice.

Dangerous connections

Łoziński and Kołodziejski worked on a farm in Duża Cerkwica where they met British POW - Everett worked in a working party but he was impriosoned in Chojnice. Everett share his plan with Polish friends how to escape to London. They organized civilian cloths. Everett prepared food on the way. They planned to walk on foot.


In July 1942 they escaped from Chojnice (Konitz), stole food from barracks and stop for a while in Piotr Osowicki's house, which was very close to the camp. There son of Piotr Osowicki decided to help and join to the escapers.

Unfortunately, in the morning all of them were arrested and after brutal trial they all confirmed that they helped Everett and would like to escape. Juliusz Osowicki, Roman Łoziński, Franciszek Kołodziejski were decapitated in 1943 by guillotine. Father of Juliusz died in hard prison in Koronowo.

Till these days we don't know what happened with Everett. It is hard to believe that nobody remembers.

We ask for help.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

September is always a time to think about a WWII. This year The Instutute of National Rememberance relased a film which gives us a picture of Polish situation durings the times of WWII and afterwards. Worth seeing:

Monday, September 18, 2017

visit in Szubin (Schubin) Oflag 64

Last Saturday we had a great opportunity to take part in historical reconstruction of Oflag 64 in Szubin (Schubin), Stalag XXI, 75 km east from Toruń (Thorn). We saw a model of an Oflag made by kids from a nearby school, people dressed up in prisoners of war uniforms. The organisers prepared a small exhibition and performences devoted to living conditions in an Oflag 64. It was a great pleasure to be there and see a living history. Hope local people saw and therefore understood the concept of Oflags. Great job Mr Mariusz Winiecki from Oflag64Blog

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Another unnamed story

It' s really nice when we find stories dedicated to Prisoners Of War of Stalag XXA (20a) in Torun. Accidentally we discover an interesting article about one POW whose garve was recognized in Germany. Pte George Henry Thompson died during the Long Marches. It is antoher story when unknown POW recoverd his identity. Now we also starting out new researches about POW who died in Torun. We hopethat after few weeks we could wirte here something. Below full text:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aerial picutres of Stalag XXA (20a) in 1944

In 1944 Allied Forces started flying over Torun (Thorn) to enlarge knowledge about the town, infrastrucutre and garnisson. In archives till these days survived a lot of maps which show city and Stalag XXA (20A) area - but not all. On the picutres you see good all forts and wooden huts area excluded Stalag XXC. Even today some of remains are still visible and very often we show it our Guests.

Stalag XX A (20A): Fort 11 and wooden huts

Stalag XX A (20A): Fort 12 and wooden huts

Stalag XX A (20A): Fort 13 and area

Stalag XX A ( 20A): Fort 14 - Stalag Hospital and area

Stalag XX A ( 20A): Fort 15 and area

Stalag XX A ( 20A): Fort 16 - Stalag Prison
Stalag XX A ( 20A): Fort 17 and main railway station

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stories are real heritage

Now in Torun left only few remains of  Stalag XXA. When we retraced paths of exPOW the really treasure is heritage cointained in stories. There are many fascinating about escapes from Stalag XXA. But each one is worthy to read:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Living conditions in the huts

One of PoWs described living conditions in the huts in Stalag XXA. Obviously living condtions changed throughout WWII because of weather, packeges and attitude towards PoWs and such like.

A man said that there were 5 huts with 100 men in each one. In each room there were double-decker beds (sometimes there were even triple- decker beds-wtg). The beds stood aroud the walls. Each men received a sheet, pillow slips and two blankets plus a cover. Also in the room were lockers. For that number of people there were two tables. But most importantly, in the room was a stove- '' a pretty good one' as he said.
Nearby was a wash -house so that they could keep clean all this time.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

What about graves in Torun?

Since August we have a big discussion in Torun about mass graves which were discovered in Glinki (district of Torun). During the diggins workres found a huge number of sceletors. Works were stoped and area was closed till clear this case. It's good to know that since 1941 there was a wooden hut camp for Soviets and other nationalities. After the War since 1945 Red Army imprisoned there Germans PoW which existed in terrible conditions. Estimated of dead there is around 4 000 people. We knew about exhumations but eveything seems that not all of Germans graves were found.

During our researches we have met a few people who gave us new facts about the camp after the war. Thanks German exPoW and Polish people who lived near the camp we know that was also Polish section there. We believe that when all researches will finish this place will be well memorialized and all investments will relocated. Below some picutres from local newspaper Nowości

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Many a time we wrote about parcels which came to Stalag XXAYou can read about them here Now we found a letter from 27th Dec. 1942, thanks to which we got the knowlegde about actually was in the parcels at that time. A Prisoner of War wrote that that week they received parcels from both Canada and England. Inside there were: roast port and stuffing, stead and tomatoe, Christmas pudding and cake. Also biscuits, chocolate, meat rolls, butter, bully meat, mashed potatoes. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Visit with lecture in Rypin

Thanks to our cooperation to Museum of Dobrzyńska Land in Rypin, Poland we had a great opportunity to give a short presentaion about Stalag XXA and working camps around Rypin. This city is located on the East of Kujawsko - Pomorskie region and since 1941 there was a working camp of Stalag XXA, Thorn (now Torun). Thanks help of the locals we possessed a lot of new facts: how did the camp worked and relations between citizens and Pows. What is more interesting,  we learnt about how partizans helped imprisoned soldiers, ways of escapes and farmers who hid soldiers who had decided to escape. Sometimes these stories could be script for a movie. We hope that with time we'll find new folders in local archives which fulfill white gaps in the history dedicated to personal storiers of British PoW's there. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

a summary of escapes from Stalag XXA and the attached working camps - part 2


Method of exit
Equipment preparation
Where arrived
March 1942
Cpl. T. McGraph
From main camp
Well equipped. Civilian clothes, razor, food, money
Sheltered 3 months in Toruń, given papers and new identity and escorted by organization to Spain passing all controls
Spain via Belgium and France
June 1942
S/Ldr B. Paddon RAF
From main camp slipped away from a local working party
An officer to Toruń for Martial court. Within few hours got away completely equipped: clothes, maps,  money, foreign worker’s papers
By slow trains to Gdynia, found no ships, came back to Gdańsk (Danzig)
June 1943
B.S.M. A. Paton
Pte. L. Green
Through window and wire of working party in Graudenz
Well prepared with clothes, papers and contracts prepared
Train to Gdynia
September 1943
Cpl. R. Doubleday
Cpl. J. Curry
Walk out from Stalag headquarter where both worked in Post Office
Fully equipped: clothes, papers and contracts
Picked up by lorry, sheltered in Bromberg. Taken to Gdynia
October 1943
Sgt. J. Glancey
Pte. J. Hutson
Capt. R. MacPherson
Capt. C. Armstrong
Back gate of Stalag headquarter
Fully equipped: contact with a lorry driver arranged
Picked up by lorry, sheltered in Bromberg. Taken to Gdynia
January 1944
R.S.M. A.E. Hawtin
Walked out of a main camp- past sentry by clever timing
Fully equipped
Helped by a fellow escaper- a Pole to Gdynia
February 1944
F/Lt. T.H. Cullen RAF
From main camp- over a frozen moat, scaling ladder over wire in a blind spot- passed a guard room
Fully equipped: clothes, papers and contracts
Picked up by lorry, sheltered, taken to Gdynia
May 1944
L/Cpl. W.R. Lloyd
Pte. E.V. Burfield
From back window of surveillance lager. Sentry distracted by a ‘fight’
Civilian clothes stolen from German confiscation store.
Sheltered in Torun, alone in a train to Gdynia

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Escapes from Stalag XXA in 1940

Few years ago, we wrote about the escapes routs from Stalag XXA. (see here: ) now we present a summary of escapes from Stalag XXA and the attached working camps. 


Method of exit
Equipment preparation
Where arrived
July 1940
T.S.M. Briggs, R.A.C
Walked away from a working party during a day
Civilian coat from a Pole, no food.
Walked by night. Helped by the Poles.
Making for Romania till heard it is occupied – then to Russian frontier
August 1940
L./Cpl. A.J. Webb, W.G; Pte J.R. Tomlinson
Through single wire around working camp
No food
Helped by Poles. Walked, chiefly by night.
Making for Romania till heard it is occupied – then to Russian frontier
August 1940
Cpl. H. Lovegrove
Knocked out single sentry at working camp in the evening
No food, swam the Vistula River
A Polish Labourer gave him a compass and a map
September 1940
L./Cpl. J.S. Allen
Pte. G. Green
Cpl. G.H. Clark
Walked away from a German- Polish guard while working
Little food
Helped by poor Jews
September 1940
Pte. J. Waller,
Green Howards,
Pte. W.J. Roberts
Cpl. R. Bainbridge
Through window and wire of working camp with axe
Some civilian clothes
Walked by night. Helped by American Pole. Travel by train
September 1940
Pte. E. Boughton,
Bdsmn. K.W. Bateman
From lavatory and under wire of working camp- at night
Some food
Walked for 4 weeks
October 1940
Pte. L.A. Coe.
Hid in shed on docks where working
No food no clothes
Swedish ship- no food for 3 days
October 1940
Cpl. W. Corkery,
Pte. H. Doyle,
Dvr. L. Massey
Window and wire in working camp
Some food
Walked by night for 10 nights – then passed on by Polish farmers