You have a group photo that was submitted by relatives of Bill Wells in which I was delighted to see features my grandfather. He was Gunner R. (Roland) Sykes of the Royal Artillery (service no: 1536602, POW no: 10060, camp: Stalag 344 (VIIIB), and he is at the very left of the back row in the photograph.
He was born in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, and grew up in Blackpool. He was a keen motorcyclist before the war, and was a despatch rider in the army. He talked very little about his experiences, but did tell us that he was captured at Dunkirk whilst “acting as a decoy” away from the evacuation beaches. He learned quite a bit of German as a POW, and played a lot of football.
One story he did tell was about the time he spent building an oil refinery – although this may have been at a different camp – which he said was bombed by the RAF within hours of being completed on several occasions. Another was about the forced march from Upper Silesia to somewhere in Germany, through the Black Forest (I don’t know if this is accurate), on which he said several of his comrades were shot, being unable to keep up.
I would, of course, be interested to hear if anyone remembers him. I visited Lambinowice (Lamsdorf) in 2004, and found the experience extremely moving. The museum staff were very helpful, and arranged for an English speaker to talk to me. She looked at the photo and told me that it was probably taken whilst out on a working party, or possibly even at another camp.
Received: December 2005
From: Ray Newman
On behalf of: Roland Sykes