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Escaped German POWs in UK

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Trebrys

Hi David,

I think you mean "Dyffryn Aled" which was a camp some fifteen miles away from me here. Heading towards Great Orme's Head would make sense as it is a very prominent headland that stands above Llandudno. "Dyffryn" is the Welsh word for "valley" and "Aled" is the name of the region. The camp was located in Llansannan which is smack in the middle of the famous Hiraethog (Denbigh Moors in English). The land around the camp would have been very bleak and the vast majority of the locals Welsh speaking. They knew what they were doing placing a camp there as any outsider , in theory, would have been spotted quite easily! In theory!!! I know a man who knows a man (!!) who's down a thesis of some sort on this camp. I'll get back to you on this.

I've also a postcard written in German by someone from Kreuznach sent to a prisoner there in March 1915. The postcard is of a cliff and has written on it "Bad Munster A. Stein" and "Rheingrafenstein." I'm afraid I have no idea at all what it says but there are three clear postmarks on it. One saying Kreuznach; another saying "Post Free Prisoner of War"; the last says "Konigl. Preuss. Reserve Lazarett II Kreuznach."

Finally, I have a photograph and a fairly detailed article written in Welsh from a Welsh newspaper dated April 29 1915 that relates the escape and capture of two German officers from Dyffryn Aled, namely Von Sanders Leben and Hans Von Andler. I will type it out on this thread once I've have time to translate it - probably over the weekend coming up!

Trebrys.

[color="#0000FF]In August 1915 U-38 spent three nights close inshore off Great Ormes Head in North Wales. She had been sent to try and contact and rescue some German naval officers who had escaped from a POW camp in Dyffryn. After three night laying off a beach the U-38's captain Valentiner gave up the rescue attempt.

Can anyone provide any details - how was this attempted pick up of the escapees organised? Who were they?

Regards

David [/color]

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Wdragon

Hi Trebrys,

Thanks for the information. I look forward to reading your newspaper accounts in due course. The intriguing thing about this episode is, that somehow the escape had been communicated to Germany to enable to U-boat to be in place for the pick up. How did they do it?

Regards

David

Hi David,

I think you mean "Dyffryn Aled" which was a camp some fifteen miles away from me here. Heading towards Great Orme's Head would make sense as it is a very prominent headland that stands above Llandudno. "Dyffryn" is the Welsh word for "valley" and "Aled" is the name of the region. The camp was located in Llansannan which is smack in the middle of the famous Hiraethog (Denbigh Moors in English). The land around the camp would have been very bleak and the vast majority of the locals Welsh speaking. They knew what they were doing placing a camp there as any outsider , in theory, would have been spotted quite easily! In theory!!! I know a man who knows a man (!!) who's down a thesis of some sort on this camp. I'll get back to you on this.

I've also a postcard written in German by someone from Kreuznach sent to a prisoner there in March 1915. The postcard is of a cliff and has written on it "Bad Munster A. Stein" and "Rheingrafenstein." I'm afraid I have no idea at all what it says but there are three clear postmarks on it. One saying Kreuznach; another saying "Post Free Prisoner of War"; the last says "Konigl. Preuss. Reserve Lazarett II Kreuznach."

Finally, I have a photograph and a fairly detailed article written in Welsh from a Welsh newspaper dated April 29 1915 that relates the escape and capture of two German officers from Dyffryn Aled, namely Von Sanders Leben and Hans Von Andler. I will type it out on this thread once I've have time to translate it - probably over the weekend coming up!

Trebrys.

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Trebrys

Here is a translation of the article promised, dated April 29 1915 as found in "Y Drych" (The Mirror), a Welsh-American newspaper.

THE CAPTURE OF GERMAN OFFICERS.

________

Found close to Harlech.

________

Last Sunday, the two German officers - Von Sanders Leben and Hans Von Andler - were found after escaping from the military camp in Dyffryn Aled, Llansannan the other day. They were caught in Talsarnau, near Harlech. Their escape from Dyffryn Aled caused quite a commotion in North Wales and other areas, and every policeman and others from every valley and district made searches and careful enquiries for them. It was believed by many that the two fugitives could not have left North Wales; and some believed that they weren't far from Dyffryn Aled itself. It is not known which route the two took during their escape, but it is judged that they went through Penmachno and to the direction of the Arenig, leaving Ffestiniog some miles to the south. Without doubt they chose a route that would take them well away from houses and people. Around nine o'clock on Sunday morning they were seen crossing the mountain from Caernarfonshire to Merionethshire, around eleven miles from Blaenau Ffestiniog. They were seen at first by a farmer named Mr. T. Parry, Blaencwm, who notified Inspector Owen, Ffestiniog, who went off to look for them. Mr. Parry stated that the men lay down when they saw him. They looked as though they were heading towards the Arenig mountains. Within two hours after that they were seen by two quarrymen. From that time to that when they were caught very little were they seen. It is believed that they came to the Trawsfynydd area, and crossed the road for Barmouth by making their way towards the Nantcol Valley, which takes them to the road which borders the beach by Llanbedr, a few miles to the north of Barmouth. They were seen in this commote by one John Jones, a river warden, who noticed them heading towards Harlech. Jones immediately went to Llanbedr Post Office, and informed the police in Harlech. The police left straight away and met the Germans on the road near Pensarn station. The two men admitted that they were the escaped prisoners, and they gave themselves up quite easily. The look upon the prisoners showed that they had endured quite a bit of harshness that week. They were wet through, and their shoes worn out. They carried no weapons apart for a knife. In a knapsack they had was some food, maps, a note book, and other things. They were taken to Harlech and then later to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Whilst in Harlech, Mr. W.H.Moore, Justice of the Peace, spoke with the prisoners. They said that they had done well to avoid capture for a week, considering that the weather had been so wet and foggy. They believed that they could have escaped completely from the country had the weather been better or had they been in more populated areas. They said that they were feeling tired and needy. They slept night after night in fields. They had around seven pounds in their pockets and said that part of it was to be used to buy clothes and shoes. On one page of the book they had in their knapsack was found the following: "Boat wanted towards a secret military exercise. Will return within two days. Secrecy thoroughly rewarded. (Signed) Booth, Captain."

Inside the book also were maps of North and South Wales with a sea chart showing the course to Ireland and Spain. Another map showed the strands of France and England, with a line drawn from a strand of France through Harwich and Llansannan to the beach in Porthmadog.

I also have a photo of the men with their captors which I'll try to post on the thread later.

Trebrys.

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Wdragon

Thanks for the translation. With the help of Google Earth I have been able to sort of follow their trail. It seems they went south west and headed for the coast after breaking out. The U-38 (CO Max Valentiner) was waiting for then off Great Ormes Head which is on the coast north west of the camp. U-38 lay off the beach close inshore (200 metres off the beach at one stage) on the nights of the 14th & 15th August. Having seen no sign of the men he was to pick up, Valentiner abandoned the attempt and left the area on the late afternoon of the 16th.

From the newspaper report they were re-captured on the 25th April 1915 (the Sunday prior to 29th April 1915). If they had (as reported) been on the run for a week, they would have escaped around the 18th. It seems U-38 was not only in the wrong place and a little too early.

It was quite remarkable that the Germans were able to co-ordinate the attempted pick up. There must have been some sort of communications avenue out of the camp, but clearly it was far from perfect.

I look forward to seeing the pictures.

Regards

David

Here is a translation of the article promised, dated April 29 1915 as found in "Y Drych" (The Mirror), a Welsh-American newspaper.

THE CAPTURE OF GERMAN OFFICERS.

________

Found close to Harlech.

________

Last Sunday, the two German officers - Von Sanders Leben and Hans Von Andler - were found after escaping from the military camp in Dyffryn Aled, Llansannan the other day. They were caught in Talsarnau, near Harlech. Their escape from Dyffryn Aled caused quite a commotion in North Wales and other areas, and every policeman and others from every valley and district made searches and careful enquiries for them. It was believed by many that the two fugitives could not have left North Wales; and some believed that they weren't far from Dyffryn Aled itself. It is not known which route the two took during their escape, but it is judged that they went through Penmachno and to the direction of the Arenig, leaving Ffestiniog some miles to the south. Without doubt they chose a route that would take them well away from houses and people. Around nine o'clock on Sunday morning they were seen crossing the mountain from Caernarfonshire to Merionethshire, around eleven miles from Blaenau Ffestiniog. They were seen at first by a farmer named Mr. T. Parry, Blaencwm, who notified Inspector Owen, Ffestiniog, who went off to look for them. Mr. Parry stated that the men lay down when they saw him. They looked as though they were heading towards the Arenig mountains. Within two hours after that they were seen by two quarrymen. From that time to that when they were caught very little were they seen. It is believed that they came to the Trawsfynydd area, and crossed the road for Barmouth by making their way towards the Nantcol Valley, which takes them to the road which borders the beach by Llanbedr, a few miles to the north of Barmouth. They were seen in this commote by one John Jones, a river warden, who noticed them heading towards Harlech. Jones immediately went to Llanbedr Post Office, and informed the police in Harlech. The police left straight away and met the Germans on the road near Pensarn station. The two men admitted that they were the escaped prisoners, and they gave themselves up quite easily. The look upon the prisoners showed that they had endured quite a bit of harshness that week. They were wet through, and their shoes worn out. They carried no weapons apart for a knife. In a knapsack they had was some food, maps, a note book, and other things. They were taken to Harlech and then later to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Whilst in Harlech, Mr. W.H.Moore, Justice of the Peace, spoke with the prisoners. They said that they had done well to avoid capture for a week, considering that the weather had been so wet and foggy. They believed that they could have escaped completely from the country had the weather been better or had they been in more populated areas. They said that they were feeling tired and needy. They slept night after night in fields. They had around seven pounds in their pockets and said that part of it was to be used to buy clothes and shoes. On one page of the book they had in their knapsack was found the following: "Boat wanted towards a secret military exercise. Will return within two days. Secrecy thoroughly rewarded. (Signed) Booth, Captain."

Inside the book also were maps of North and South Wales with a sea chart showing the course to Ireland and Spain. Another map showed the strands of France and England, with a line drawn from a strand of France through Harwich and Llansannan to the beach in Porthmadog.

I also have a photo of the men with their captors which I'll try to post on the thread later.

Trebrys.

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Wdragon

Hi Trebys,

If you would like to post a scan of your Bad Kreuznach post card I would be happy at translating it for you.

Are there any physical traces of the camp in LLansannan?

Regards

David

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clive_hughes

Hello David/trebrys,

there is an article "U-Boat Rendezvous at Llandudno", by the late Ivor Wynne Jones in Maritime Wales, no.3 (March 1978) concerning the escape of the officers from Dyffryn Aled.

It was he says one of several local incidents, apparently. On 5 April 1915 Pte Edward Phillips (from Deganwy), 13th RWF recalled he and others searched the Great Orme for escapees who were recaptured near Harlech on 11 April.

2nd Lieut. J.Cynlais Evans from Llanfair PG while serving with the 17th RWF recalled he arrested a "spy" at Llandudno in about June-August 1915, being congratulated by Brigr.-General Owen Thomas of 113th Brigade at the HQ in St.George's Hotel. The 15th, 16th and 17th RWF sealed off and searched the Great Orme peninsula on 15 August and the three officers were caught. The Brigade HQ is however given as The Imperial Hotel in this version, so I wonder how far Evans' and Phillips' accounts and dates may have been confused ?

John Williams of Caernarfon, Adjutant of 16th RWF also remembered an incident in late August 1915 (probably the Dyffryn Aled escapers?) when a field gun was set up at Craig-y-Don, Llandudno, against submarines. Amazingly, one was spotted, but the process of getting authorization from the Artillery HQ in Colwyn Bay to open fire took so long that the vessel disappeared unmolested (I seem to recall from elsewhere that they had no ammunition anyway, beyond a round or two which had been deviously acquired "for training purposes").

The U-27 was apparently detailled to pick up the escapers, as well as the U-38, but on 19 August 1915 the article says she captured the freighter Nicosian off the Scilly Isles and presumably never made the rendezvous. She was however attacked by the Q-ship Baralong and sunk, her crew allegedly being massacred. Did we have Q-ships as early as this???, or did it happen a long time after?

Don't rely on my old notes - read the original article if you can find it!

Hwyl,

LST_164

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Wdragon

Hello Hwyl,

Thanks for your mention of the 1978 article, I will try my best to put my hands on a copy (I suspect it will be difficult).

There were, as you say, several incidents. The Germans made at least two visits by U-boat to the Great Orme. On the night of 12th June (a new moon) U-22 spent some time off the beach (I am unable to discover if this was a dry run or an attempt to take off POWs). There was a break out from Dyffryn Aled in April by two officers, it seems to have been on the 18th (does not match the report of recaptures in Harlech on the 11th). The escapees went west not north (towards the Great Orme) and were recaptured near Harlech, on 25th April.

It is interesting to see that the Great Orme was searched after the German escape on 15th August 1915 - it has been claimed (by Valentiner the CO of the U-38 in his post war book) that the escape was arranged via code hidden in prisoners letters. The British were aware of this traffic and read it (FO 383/65 at Kew has details) - were the British aware of the escape and extraction plan?

The U-27 saga is well documented. Valentiner tells us that two boats were sent and that he met the U-27, (commanded by his cousin) off the Orme Head and decided that U-38 would execute the escape mission. Baralong was indeed a Q ship and it seems undeniable that the U-27 survivors were shot as they tried to swim to safety in what was a war crime.

Regards

David

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M.A.Stewart
Most escapees appear to have been recaptured quickly, but the two who came closest to success were the German sailors Otto Homke and Conrad Sandhagen, who escaped from Larkhill on April 17, 1918 and were at liberty until early May, when they were caught trying to take a boat on the south-east coast with the aim of crossing to Zeebrugge. They were dressed as civilian sailors, in blue serge clothes and high boots, and between them had an Australian shilling and nearly £1 in English silver coins. A mile from where they were caught they had hidden two bags containing biscuits, bread and other food, clothing, razor, shaving brush and knife. The men looked robust and well fed and one had a large bottle of water.

Moonraker

Hi there,

Just wondering...where did you find this information on Otto Homke and Conrad Sandhagen? My great-grandfather served with 15th Scottish Rifles on the south coast during the First World War, and we have a photo of Otto Homke in naval uniform, with the words "captured by father, First World War" written on the reverse - this must have been written by my Grandfather. I'd really appreciate any further information on Otto Homke.Thanks!

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Moonraker

I'm fairly sure that I got this from The Times on-line archive, available at many public libraries. If you're a member of such a library, you can probably access it on your PC via the library website.

I would have double-checked this but for the fact that nowadays my browser settings don't allow me access to the archive in this manner. (I've tried all sorts of adjustments but without luck.)

If you can't access the archive yourself for whatever reason, I'm sure that someone else in the Forum will for you. The archive search-engine should "recognise" the PoWs' names quite easily.

Moonraker

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David Filsell

Plushow wrote a full account of his escape in My Escape from Donnington Hall, also republished as Escape from Britain . in 2004 by a company called Ripping Yearns. The book was originally published as Die abenteuer des fliegers von Tsingtao, in 1916.

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Theo
Plushow wrote a full account of his escape in My Escape from Donnington Hall, also republished as Escape from Britain . in 2004 by a company called Ripping Yearns. The book was originally published as Die abenteuer des fliegers von Tsingtao, in 1916.

I have Plüschow's book if anyone requires any look ups

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Doug Johnson

Plüschow's book is also available on the internet for free.

Doug

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EastLancs

My Grandfather was taken prisoner in the March 1918 offensive. He was in a sap with two friends and their machine gun. They knew the Germans were about to attack and had orders to fire of a warning flare and get back to the main lines ASAP.

Obviously the Germans knew their position and sheled it as the next thing my GF remembers is coming around with his two Mates dead and the rim of his steel helmet hanging off around his ears. To add to his problems a mills grenade which he had picked up and put in his trouser leg pocket had exploded.

German troops were advancing past him in the open and one looked very threatening when he saw the flashes of the Machine Gun Corp on his shoulder but fortunately an Officer arrived and ordered the soldier away. He also spoke to him in good English, assuring him his wounds would be cared for. Naturally the Germans collected their own wounded first and he had to lie out in the open (in March) for three days. He was finally stretchered and placed around a German gun battery along with many other wounded. The German advance had been so fast that the guns were firing in the open and everytime an allied plane went over they were made to wave to it. I recall saying. "The ********!" when he told me that but he replied, "No, we used to do it too".

He remarked that people became more hostile the further he travelled from the front line.

At the camp he told them he was a miner as he thought he'd get more rations but his leg was too badly damaged for him to work. I seem to recall he hit a German NCO who had hit him (or a mate?) and was but in a freezing shed for a few days but when he was brought before the CO he was just sent back to work.

He received medical attention. The operating theatre was behind a blanket and the patients waited the otherside! He said that British and French were given chloroform but they just 'played about' with the Slavs until they fainted and then got on with it. As you can imagine that wouldn't have been very pleasant for those awaiting their turn! They had wanted to take his leg off but as he said, "I kicked up about it", I don't think any pun was intended.

Finally he got on well with the German Guards and used to swap items from his Red Cross Parcel with them. He was always very impressed how these turned up, ecspecially as the Germans were nearly starving at the time.

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Censorious

Escape from Dyffryn Aled, N Wales

The escape of Hans Andler and Hans von Sanders Leben was on 4 April 1915. This was an early escape of German officers and reports of "the chase" occupied a large quantity of newsprint. They made their way westward and were captured near Harlech on Sunday 11 April by PC Nathaniel Davies. The two went up before the Blaenau Festiniog Magistrates the next day and were handed over the Denbigh Police (Occurance Book Blaenau Festiniog Police Station, in Dolgellau Archives, reference number not in my notes). At Chester they faced a Court Martial and received 28 days detention for their exploit (Chester Chronicle 24 April).

A second escape was on 14 August 1915 when von Heldorf (Army), von Henning and Tholens (both Navy) got away and walked to the Gt Orme with the intention of catching a lift in a submarine which had been sent to meet them. Contact was not made on two consecutive nights so they decided to make their own ways towards London but all three were arrested. For this escapade they were sentenced to 84 days at Chelmsford Gaol. I take the story of this incident from Osterreichische Wehrzeitung of 30 AUg 1929, as well as contemporary UK papers, principally The Times in my Local Studies Library and Liverpool Daily Post which I accessed in the National Library of Wales at Aberysthwyth.

I understand the plot was hatched by Tholens, who had been 2ic SMS Mainz, with the assistance of the ex-German Consul from Manchester, Capt Theodore Schlagintweit who had broken his parole rules so he found himself at Dyffryn Aled where he took charge of mess supplies and purchases. As an ex-consul Schlagintweit was repatriated to Germany with other ex-consuls in late February and I suspect he took the idea of the escape plan to the German Admiralty. Letters followed, supposedly from some relation, and the final signal was a letter to tell Tholens that some cousin was to be married on a certain day.

I hope this is helpful.

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Censorious

In response to Moonraker in Jan 2012.

The recapture of Homke and Sandhagen was reported in The Times of 6 May 1918 (nearly three weeks after getting out of Larkhill). No place of recapture was mentioned except "South Coast". The comment that someone's Grandfather in 15th Scottish Rifles had captured them puts the location on the Kent coast as that Battalion was at Deal at the relevant date.

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Moonraker

Fuller account of Paul Scheumann's escape

here

Moonraker

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elewis

Three German POWS escaped from Evesham, Worcs, in April 1918. A fuller report of the escape was in the Evesham Journal, (sorry but IF I made fuller notes they are not to hand), the following is the section I put in my documentation about the Stanton, (Glos, postal address Worcs!), War Dead.

About 560 German Prisoners Of War were held in the Evesham area. The bulk of these worked locally often doing agricultural jobs left vacant by men that were in the forces, including on farms at Stanton. Most of them accepted the situation and were probably happy to be away from the horrors of the front. However, there was quite a stir when 3 newly arrived “trouble makers” escaped at the end of April 1918 and were on the loose for a period in the area, after a time they were seen at Laverton and were eventually caught in a wood near Wormington. One POW camp was locate at Toddington, and this is probably where the men that worked in Stanton came from, and 3 prisoners there were fatalities of the influenza epidemic in early November 1918.

[For those who do not know the area to save you reaching for maps Evesham to Laverton is only about 8 miles and Laverton to Wormington about 1 1/2 miles]

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Guest Clin

Thought I better give everyone an update on where this is going. I have decided to look at the thought processes of NZ PoWs. By that I mean things such as why they chose to take the routes they did once escaped and Whether or not they were prepared for escape.

As part of looking at this I was wondering if there would be Escape and Evasion reports about NZers held at Kew? or would they be held here in NZ? I ask this as I have searched our National Archives website without any success.

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Moonraker

Hi Clin; I'm not sure where you think "this is going", but this thread's about escaped German PoWs in the UK, so it's bit of a diversion to start talking about the thought processes of NZ PoWs. And if we're going to talk about two different subjects in the same thread some of us are going to get lost. I wonder if you were thinking of another thread when you posted? If not, far better to start a brand new thread on NZ PoWs. :)

Moonraker

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