Thursday, September 10, 2015

52 Ancestors No. 35: Still Searching for WW II PoW Stories

My first cousin (2x removed) - RCAF Warrant Officer (Bomb Aimer) Leo Joseph Martin Broderick was born December 22, 1919 and died on 06 September 1943 at the young age of 24.

Leo died while flying in a Halifax aircraft performing air operations over Germany during WWII. There were seven young men on the aircraft

Leo Joseph Martin Broderick
On that fatal night that my cousin Leo died, two other men were killed: the pilot RAFVR Sgt A.C.Brunton and the mid upper gunner RAFVR Sgt G.E.Agate. One man was injured Sgt J.E.Vidler and three were taken as prisoners of war:

  • Sgt C.Hewitson 535857 RAF (Flight Engineer) 
  • Sgt R.Thomson 1550695 RAFVR (Navigator) 
  • Sgt J.H.Briggs 1082027 RAFVR (WOp Gunner)
I have searched previously for these POWs in the hopes of locating their stories so that I could learn more about what happened to Leo and the other young men back in September 1943.

 One Million World War II POW Records Now Online

In September on the 70th anniversary of the end of WW II, "Find My Past" released a million prisoner of war records at

The publication, in association with The National Archives, marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on all fronts on September 2 and the anniversary on September 5 of the liberation of the notorious Changi Prison camp, located on the eastern side of Singapore.

I wondered what the newly released records said and would they help me understand what happened that night? Here is what I found:
  • Sgt J.H. Briggs was held in camp L6 and his POW number was 43105
  • Sgt C. Hewitson was held in camp 4B and his POW number was 222824
  • Sgt R.Thomson was held in camp 4B and his POW number was 222773
I wondered why did the three have different POW numbers and why were they sent to two different camps? To determine information about the camps, I am grateful for the webpage created by the 49 Squadron Association (

POW Camps

Camp L6


L6 stood for Stalag Luft 6 which was in Hydekrug (Silute), Lithuania. Stalag Luft 6 was the northernmost POW camp within the German Reich.

"The opening of the camp was forced upon the Luftwaffe by the large number of PoWs captured during the first half of 1943" (Source:

Sgt J.H. Briggs was seperated from the rest of his crew and sent there for reasons unknown.

Camp 4B


Camp 4B stood for Stalag IVB which was in Mühlberg an der Elbe, Germany. Both Sgt C. Hewitson and Sgt R.Thomson were sent there.  

"This is the location of one of the largest German prisoner of war camps between 1939-1945. In total, approximately 300,000 prisoners from over 40 nations passed through the camp and more than 3,000 Soviet PoWs died here.

When the Soviet Army liberated the camp in April 1945 there were about 30,000 prisoners crowded into the facilities and, of these, 7250 were British."

An impression of Stalag 4B by N Uchtman, a Dutch PoW.

Although I did not locate any detailed accounts from these POW survivors, I have moved closer to knowing what became of them following that fateful September night in 1943.



  1. Hi, My name is Alec James Briggs, son of Wireless Operator James Henry Briggs, who flew on HR810 LQ-X 405 Sqdn with your Second Cousin LJM Broderick. In 2009 my partner Caroline and I went to visit Durnbach Cemetery to visit the last resting place of Leo, Alexander Cunningham Brunton and George Agate leaving a "white Rose" from their pal from Yorkshire who made it home after his time at L6. The reason he was seperated from the other POWs was due to many long periods in hospital to repair a badly damaged back, lower leg and foot and to treat the loss of his left eye. I have pictures of the headstones at Durnbach, in the snow, with the roses if you would like them.

  2. Jim Briggs died aged 49 in 1970

    1. Would love to contact you by email Alec
      You can contact me at cindiforeman(at)

  3. Dear Alec,
    I am on holidays in Cabo Mexico reading this message and it means so very much to me that I am crying as I read it. I would love to make contact it's you and can be reached at cindiforeman (at)

    I am so grateful that you contacted me. So incredibly grateful.