Entries tagged as 'Canada'

Bill Hillman, Bob Henderson and AirMuseum.ca

Link to Bill Hillman, Bob Henderson and AirMuseum.ca

William G. (Bill) Hillman runs a large military tributes site and is the Webmaster of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum and the related "Official Publication of the RCAF Ex-Air Gunners": Short Bursts edited by John Moyles from March 1983 through December 2007.

To tie 2 threads together, here are several contributions from Bob Henderson:

(*) An amusing note:

If you have trouble turning your monitor upside down to read the topside of the match cover, just stand your grand child on his or her head.

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Book (1993): German Prisoners of War in Canada and Their Artifacts, 1940-1948

Link to Book (1993): German Prisoners of War in Canada and Their Artifacts, 1940-1948
Henderson and Madsen

Bob Henderson also co-authored a book in 1993: German Prisoners of War in Canada and Their Artifacts, 1940-1948

by Robert J. Henderson and C.M.V. Madsen
ISBN 0-9697888-0-0
SOFT COVER,  6" X 9",  203 pages

Details from AirMuseum.ca:

The definitive book on the history, activities and collectable artifacts of German Prisoners of War (with some Veteran Guard of Canada) ... from the Second World War.

Documented details including photographs, locations of branch camps, Labor Projcts, Military Hospitals, and Detention Centers. The book includes a special section on the collecting of artifacts relating to these Prisoners, including eighty photographs of "Collectibles" currently held in the Homefront Archives & Museum at Regina, Saskatchewan.

The book provides the historian, the researcher, and the colletor with details not found in any other publication!

There's a listing at Amazon but no copies available there or via AbeBooks.

Chris Madsen is also the author of another book on the period: The Royal Navy and German Naval Disarmament 1942-1947.

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Veterans Guard of Canada

Link to Veterans Guard of Canada
Canadian Military History Gateway

Although I mentioned the Veterans Guard before, the article linked yesterday has a description that's worth a post by itself. (paragraph breaks added)

As early as May 1940, the Department had created a new organization called the Veteran Guards of Canada. They assumed responsibility for guarding the captured soldiers in May 1941. The Veteran Guards consisted mostly of First World War veterans too old for battlefront duty. The maximum age for duty was fifty, but many slipped in despite their age.

Veteran Guard units were formed across Canada and they were assigned several different tasks ranging from guarding military targets, dams, bridges, power plants to government installations. The most important assignment, however, was guarding POW’s. From an initial limited recruitment of a few hundred men, the Veteran Guards of Canada expanded to over 10,000 by 1943 and was 15,000 strong by 1945.

At first glance, the aging First World War veteran seemed an unlikely candidate for guarding extremely well trained battle hardened enemy soldiers. Yet the guards possessed experience, and many had been POW’s themselves in WWI. They understood the prisoner mentality and the regimen of a controlled life. The Veteran Guards were used extensively in all parts of Canada including the bush camps located on Lake of the Woods.

(The image is from a history page that mentions the Veterans Guards, and isn't related to the Lake of the Woods article.)

Related Posts:
   1. War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan 5-11, 1945 (Apr 19, 2010)
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Six POW logging camps in Ontario

Link to Six POW logging camps in Ontario
Lake of the Woods

Last Friday's book excerpt mentioned that many POWs worked in the logging industry. Fawcett Lake is in Alberta; here's some information from the other side of Canada.

The Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company (O&M) built six camps in the Lake of the Woods area. Five camps were nestled throughout the bays and islands of Lake of the Woods. Two camps were situated on the Aulneau Peninsula. Camp 56 (Alfred Inlet), and camp 57 (Ghost Bay). Camp 61 was situated at Oak Point on the western peninsula. Camp 52 was at Red Cliff Bay (now POW Bay); and Camp 43 was on Adams River near Yellow Girl. The last work centre, Camp 60, was on Berry Lake. Each of the camps contained between 100-125 men and the POW’s were a mix of navy, air and army personnel with a few from the German merchant marine.

When the prisoners had cut their quota, usually by early afternoon, the rest of the day was spent on leisure activities. The range of leisure options seemed impressive. Soccer, hiking, and swimming. Building dug out canoes and kayaks and racing them passed many summer hours. The prisoners were allowed on fishing trips in the immediate vicinity of the camp. On these excursions it was not uncommon to meet US tourists and sell them handicrafts which they made over the winter. In the evenings, books, movies, cards, board games, music either played or from a gramophone, and letters from home or news from an illegal radio helped relieve boredom and loneliness. In the winter months ice soccer and ice fishing were enjoyed, as were hobbies such as wood carving and painting.

It's a long article, with lots of historical details.

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Big red circle

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David Carter

Although German POWs often wore their military uniforms, it was important to have distinctive work clothing to make it harder to blend into the population if they escaped.

From David J. Carter:

The author holds a shirt as worn by internees and combatant POW during the Second World War in Canadian camps. ... The red circle was fabric as sewn into the space which had been cut out of the original shirt.

Jill Browne (and Robert Henderson in the comments) offer some additional details (and a fun cartoon) on The Uniform of the German POWs in Canada:

the uniforms had a big red circle on the back and a broad red stripe down the pant leg ... 11 cm wide

Related Posts:
   1. Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135 - more details (Sep 27, 2010)
   2. Book (1980, 2004): POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire (Apr 27, 2010)
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Audio (1981): Escape from Camp X in Angler, Ontario

Link to Audio (1981): Escape from Camp X in Angler, Ontario
CBC Digital Archives

In 1981, CBC Radio's Morningside interviewed author John Melady. On the show, he detailed the escape of 28 German POWs from Camp X in Angler, Ontario during WWII.

The prisoners dug a 150-foot tunnel through the camp's exercise yard.

From the summary page:

It took a week for the escapees to be tracked down...two were found in downtown Montreal, while one was discovered in a barbershop in Ottawa and two others made it as far as Medicine Hat [Alberta].

Listen to the Escape from Camp X (5:17)

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Video (2003): Behind Canadian barbed wire

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The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Digital Archives includes a 2003 clip from the television show Country Canada.

According to the CBC:

The first boatload of 3,000 German officers arrived in Canada in June 1940. Canada had been accepting captured German merchant seamen from England as early as Sept. 1939.

The clip, Behind Canadian barbed wire (3:54), includes commentary from writer David Carter and former German POW Max Weidauer.

Related Posts:
   1. Book (1980, 2004): POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire (Apr 27, 2010)
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Book (1980, 2004): POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire

Link to Book (1980, 2004): POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire

David J. Carter's book "POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire" is subtitled "Alien, Refugee and Prisoner of War Camps in Canada, 1914-1920 and 1939-1946". There are lots of details on his site.

The book consists of 254 pages packed with information, plus 8 pages of glossy photos. The appendix has lists of the camps, a sample daily routine, a weekly list of rations for POWs, and more.

Among countless other stories, here are some excerpts from page 80 regarding an escape from the Angler POW camp:

Horst Liebeck and Karl Heinz Grund were both Luftwaffe pilots.... [They] reached a curve in the railway line where a freight train had to slow down and they climbed aboard....

There were still hoboes riding the rails and so the escapees didn't look completely out of the ordinary.

"By the time we reached Saskatchewan we realized people took us for tramps. We weren't even attempting to hide."

Five days after their escape, near Medicine Hat, Alberta their luck ran out, almost twelve hundred miles west of Angler.

(Wikipedia has an overview of the escape.)

You can order the book directly from Eagle Butte Press (in Canada but ships worldwide), or from Amazon -- including one seller in Montana that offers signed copies.

Related Posts:
   1. Big red circle (Jul 21, 2010)
   2. Karl Rabe's 4 escape attempts from Lethbridge (May 19, 2010)
   3. Video (2003): Behind Canadian barbed wire (Apr 28, 2010)
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Documentary (2003): The Enemy Within

Link to Documentary (2003): The Enemy Within
National Film Board of Canada

Here's another good documentary: The Enemy Within (52:04).

Filmmaker Eva Colmers follows her father's story - Theo Melzer - who spent three and a half years in a POW camp in Lethbridge, Alberta. Growing up in Germany, she had always been puzzled by her father's fond memories of his POW life, so when she moved to Canada, she set out to rediscover this story. What she found surprised her. Watch as Theo Melzer, along with other POWs, recount how their lives were changed by the unexpected respect and dignity they received at the hands of their Canadian captors.

Lethbridge, AB is about 500 km (310 miles) south of Wainwright, AB.

Watch online for free, courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada. It's well worth your time.

title: The Enemy Within
filmmaker: Eva Colmers
release date: 2003
list price: free!
run time: 52:04 minutes

Related Posts:
   1. Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135 - more details (Sep 27, 2010)
   2. "Epilogue" (Sep 13, 2010)
   3. "A Brilliant Escape" (Jul 12, 2010)
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Video (1981): Canada's Posh PoW Camps

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In 1981, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television show Front Page Challenge featured Ed Billet, a German POW held in Canada during WWII, and author John Melady.

Included in the clip:

[Billet] looks back at his time in a camp in northern Ontario, where he was paid for his work in a lumber camp, chummed around with the guards and even romanced a local girl


author John Melady recalls as a young boy seeing PoWs working on his father's farm with red circles on the back of their jackets

Watch the clip: Canada's Posh POW Camps (5:32)

Interesting to note: Ed Billet was one of the first Germans to emigrate to Canada after the war.

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Video (1989): The remains of Camp 70 in Ripples, New Brunswick

Link to Video (1989): The remains of Camp 70 in Ripples, New Brunswick
CBC News

In 1989, CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) featured author Ted Jones during an investigative look at a former WWII Camp in Ripples, New Brunswick.

Interesting to note: Camp 70 was actually split into 2 camps, one for German POWs and the other for Jewish refugees.

Watch the news clip (3:19).

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Website: The German Prisoners of World War 2

Link to Website: The German Prisoners of World War 2

We came across a bilingual website that documents the history of WWII German POWs all around the world.

There is a page for Canada which mentions escape attempts:

600 prisoners tried to escape...in 1947 still 17 [were] not recaptured. 2 were alleged drowned, 1 in the U.S.A., 1 in Mexico and the rest still in Canada.

and a page for the USA which includes a quote about escapes:

Provost Marshal General noticed: "1369 escape attempts were made until March 1st, 1945 but only 12 prisoners of war (6 Germans and 6 Italians) were in liberty to this day."

More details:

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Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135, then and now

Link to Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135, then and now
ASU Wainwright

Page 1 of Canadian Escapades opens in POW camp Wainwright, officially known as "Internment Camp No. 135". The camp is located in the village of Denwood, Alberta, very close to the town of Wainwright.

(The above image include a reproduction of the POW camp guard towers.)

Some history:

In 1944, it was decided to site a POW Camp here and on 29 January 1945 the first 523 German prisoners arrived. At its peak, the POW Camp accommodated almost 1,100 German POW's, consisting of Officers, enlisted men and a few civilians, and operated until 24 May 1946 when the last of the POW's were returned to England for demobilization. The Camp staff and Guard company were reduced to nil strength a few weeks later, marking the end of this chapter of CFB/ASU Wainwright's history.

Note that POWs were held for a year after the war ended. That's a story in itself.

This part will be familiar to those who have read the book!

During the 16 months the POW Camp was in full operation, only two prisoners made a successful escape. These two bold individuals were recaptured just over a month later, but not until they had reached Gary, Indiana!

(That passage also made the Wikipedia page for CFB Wainwright.)

The military base now includes the Canadian Forces Base/Area Support Unit (CFB/ASU Wainwright), the Land Force Western Area Training Centre (LFWA TC) and the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre (CMTC).

Oh, and what came before the POW camp? Buffalo National Park from 1909-1939.

Going back to the beginning: On 8 July 1940, a little less than one year after the closure of Buffalo National Park, Dr. Middlemass, the Mayor of Wainwright, travelled to Ottawa and persuaded the Department of National Defence to take over the vacant park as a military training area. His efforts were successful and in 1941, the first military forces arrived to establish a permanent camp at the site of the park.

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Documentary: Hitler's Canadians (with video excerpt)

Link to Documentary: Hitler's Canadians (with video excerpt)
Hitler's Canadians

In 2007, Storyline Entertainment released a documentary called Hitler's Canadian's. From the press release

This one-hour documentary tells the little known story of German POWs in Canada during WW2. It features dramatic re-enactments of brilliant and hilarious escapes, the biggest prison rebellion in Canadian history and surprising interviews with former prisoners.

They explain why POWs were sent to Canada:

In 1940, before the U.S. entered WW II in 1941, the growing ranks of German prisoners in Britain presented an urgent problem. Straining to meet the Geneva Convention standards for POW treatment and with Nazi armies nearing their shores, Britain saw the POWs as a potential threat on their own soil and opted to send them to Canada.

Here's a theme that will be encountered often:

Without exception, the former POWs seen in “Hitler’s Canadians” were grateful for Canada’s hospitality and treatment. All of them realize that if it weren’t for their time behind Canadian barbed wire, they might not have survived the war.

And some hard data:

Between 1947 and 1960, 265,000 Germans immigrated to Canada. 6,000 of them were former POWs.

Klaus Conrad was one of the POWs interviewed in the documentary.

I enjoyed the video and will have more in a future post.

Meanwhile, here's an intro (1:03).

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