British Bad Schmiedeberg POWs: Arbeits Kommando W603 in Detail

When I began to research this project way in 1995, the 1944 POW photograph of Arbeits Kommando W603, featured on the preceding page. was the starting point for everything which I have subsequently researched for this web site..

My father had a few names and address written on an old sheet of paper, those of his old POW friends, none of whom he had seen since 1945. And, in the taped interviews we did just before he died, he could remember a few more names, all told about a dozen.

Researching German numbers, into the long consecutive listing which is now here on the site, I narrowed down the possibilities of these 12 surnames to those with POW numbers near to his, 227987. To cut to the chase, after a huge amount of research, this enabled to establish telephone contact and then to actually meet and interview at length two of the men featured on the photographs:

Pat O’Sullivan in 1998 and Alywn ‘Nev’ Chamberlain in 2001. Pat and ‘Nev’ confirmed my father’s identifications and added more of their own, so that I now have a near complete caption, with only a couple of identities to fix.

I subsequently interviewed both at length for the Imperial War Museum’s Oral History project and these interviews can now be listened to online at the IWM site. I also donated my father’s informal interview to the IWM. See the links below to the IWM site where there interviews can be listened to freely online.

I was not so lucky with the other POWs. I managed to trace the families of Alfie Granger, Brendan Greene, Benny Lewis, Frankie Rolfe and Joe Washington, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but all had died prior to my starting this project.

The advent of casualty listing and other military records becoming newly available, from the early 2000s, notably the Returned POW, ‘Liberation’ questionnaires, has produced further insights, thought I was disappointed that only eight of the 24 men in camp W603 seemed to have completed such a questionnaires. Below, in alphabetical order, are what I now (March 2022) know about these 24 men: To see the men within my consecutive POW numbers section input their POW numbers into the search engine at right, or begin from this page of the listing, which includes the lowest POW number in the group, namely that of William Woolley.

There's still the identity of one man to clear up, at first left, back row of the photo, vaguely remembered by Pat O'Sullivan as being called either Evans or Davis/Davies.

The others are:

28992 3A Greene, Fus Brendan, 6976222, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. From Cavan, Eire. A professional soldier pre and postwar. Present at Bad Schmiedberg workcamp W603 in 1943-45. See 1944 group photo.
Served with 1st Bn R Innis Fus pre-war, including service at Singapore.
Reported missing, Tunisia, 23/12/42, serving with 6th Bn R Innis Fus.
Previously POW at PG 70, 1943.

It's unusual that Greene's POW number is so far out of sequence from the other W603 POWs. See it in sequence here.. However, he seems to have assumed the rank of Sgt while at Stalag 8B after transfer from Italy. If this was subsequently questioned by the German authorities, it might explain his consignment to the Stalag 4D workcamp W603 (only POWs at rank Cpl and above were excused work).
Latterly, he was recorded as a Pte, at Stalag 4D, and at Stalag 3A, Luckenwald, near Berlin where the Germans attempted to concentrate British soldiers of Irish origin.
Served postwar in Palestine with Royal Army Veterinary Corps at No 4 Base Remount Depot, 25/10/1946 to 07/11/1946 and 19/12/1947 to 25/03/1948. Awarded General Service Medal with Palestine Clasp.

The 1945 'care of' address in my father's papers, 60 Main St, Cavan, turned out to be that of his sister.

In the summer of 2004, while on holiday in Ireland, I travelled up to Cavan from Westport one Saturday, walked down Main Street past No 60 and then adjourned for a pint in Brady's Bar, further up the street. 'Are you on holiday?' said the sociable Mr Brady behind the bar as he pulled me a pint of lager. He was a big, bulky man in his late 60s or early 70s. In rude good health, a classic Irish bar proprietor, straight out of Central Casting: in his earlier life you could imagine him as a boxing referee, a professional wrestler, or something equally tough.

'No,' I said, 'I'm trying to track done an old friend of my father's from his time as a prisoner of war in Germany: Brendan Greene, lived at 60 Main street.' 'I knew him! Died a long while back.' said Mr Brady, in commanding stacatto style. Then his wife, also serving behind the bar, chipped in, 'He was a real gentleman!' Mrs Brady then recounted that she used to regularly play bridge with Brendan after he retired to Cavan from the Army postwar. He died in 1975. They told me about the cemetery in which he was buried and exactly where his gravestone was in relation to the main entrance. The next morning I took a taxi from my hotel and paid my respects there. An amazing piece of luck on one level, sad on another. A big belated thank you, then, to Mr and Mrs Brady of Brady's Bar, Cavan, for resolving that part of the story.
Returned POW Liberation Questionnaire extant and researched.

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