Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget...

Harry James Proven
"How did you get interested?" is one of the most popular questions I get asked when someone learns that I have an interest in military history. I don't have a straight answer but my family's military history spans both World Wars and I like to think that is where it starts. In today's post, I'd like to share the brief stories of two of my great-great uncles who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War One and never came home.

Three boys were born to James and Harriet Proven: Harry, Ernest (Ernie), and Sidney. When war broke out in 1914, the three brothers were working at the family farm in Clanwilliam, Manitoba. Harry, the oldest, enlisted with the 45th Battalion in January 1915 at the age of twenty-two. For the next year, Harry trained with the 45th before sailing for England in March 1916. At the same time as Harry's sailing date, Ernest enlisted with the 107th Battalion.

In June 1916, Harry was transferred to France with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles (1st CMRs) as a reinforcement. Six months later, Ernie would join the 1st CMRs also as a reinforcement. Reunited, the two brothers are believed to have served in the same battalion, no doubt Harry trying to protect his younger brother. However, their service together would soon be cut short in April 1917.

Ernest Albert Proven
On April 9, 1917, the four Canadian divisons went "over the top" in what would be known as the Battle for Vimy Ridge. As the 1st CMRs advanced over No Man's Land, Ernie was shot in the shoulder. He was eventually collected by stretcher bearers and transferred back for medical care. On April 12, 1917, Ernie died of his wounds at a Canadian hopsital in Bolougne.

Harry, certainly affected by his brother's death, continued with the 1st CMRs for the next year and a half. Eventually reaching the rank of Sergeant, Harry had beaten the odds and had not received a single wound in over two years of service. However, his luck was about to change. On September 29, 1918, the 1st CMRs attacked the small village of Saint Olle, on the outskirts of Cambrai. German machine guns cut down many of the advancing Canadians, Harry among them. He died at a Canadian Field Ambulance near the small town of Queant.

Lest We Forget...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In the News!

Just a brief post today. For those who missed it, the Winnipeg Free Press published an article last week dealing with PoWs in Riding Mountain National Park and my research made a brief mention!

The link is

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Researching PoW Camps

I have noticed an increased number of posts for people searching for information about PoWs camps in Manitoba so I thought I should address this.

If you are looking for information about an individual or about a camp, please get in touch with me! A very small percentage of my research has been posted online so if you are looking for additional information, please post a comment below or send me an e-mail (link to the right) and I will do what I can to answer your questions.

Most of the searches seem to be about the PoW camp in Mafeking, Manitoba and I do have records of the camp. For the most part, the story of the Mafeking camp remains untold, as does the story of the PoWs in Pine Falls, Manitoba. As relatively few records have survived, there isn't much of a historical record. Though if you have any questions, again please get in touch, I am more than happy to help!

For those interested in prisoners of war or guards at these camps, let me know and I will see what information I can provide. If anyone knows of any guards or PoWs that were at any camps, I would very much like to hear from you!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New Acquisition

Taking a slight detour from my usual postings, I wanted to show one of my most recent acquisitions in my collection. I recently attended an auction here in London where I was very fortunate to be able to purchase a set of World War One and interwar medals, identified to an Lt. Col. H.N. Streight.

Lt. Col. (later Colonel) Harvey Newton Streight was born in Kemptville, Ontario in 1887. In 1904, he came to Winnipeg and later enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles in World War One. Eventually achieving the rank of Lieutenant, Streight began a career in law. He also served as the president of the Manitoba Conservative Party from 1934 to 1938. Remaining in the militia in the inter-war years, Streight progressed to the rank of Colonel. In 1931, while with the 10th Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps in Winnipeg, Streight was awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (medal on the right) for twenty years of service (service during WWI counted as double).

When World War II broke out, he briefly served as the Commanding Officer of the Winnipeg Grenadiers but, in 1940, he joined the regular force and was posted as the District Judge Advocate General for Military District 10. However, in 1941, Streight was appointed the Director of Prisoners of War in Canada. Responsible for all internment operations in Canada, Streight was kept very active in these years, maintaining correspondence with all internment affairs, including those in Manitoba. He remained at this post until his retirement in 1945.

Streight passed away on June 2, 1960 and is buried in Winnipeg.

Needless to say, I am very pleased to have this medal grouping in my collection and it will certainly form one of the centerpieces of my Prisoner of War Collection!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Long Way From Home

Yesterday I took a drive to Kitchener, Ontario to visit the Woodland Cemetery. Here, in a small plot tucked away in the corner, lies the graves of 187 German prisoners of war who died in Canada in the First and Second World Wars.

Like every military cemetery around the world, each of these graves has a story to tell. While many of these stories have been lost to time, fragments have remained. Of the 148 casualties from the Second World War, sixty percent died of medical causes while twenty percent died of work-related incidents and injuries. The remaining twenty percent include five prisoners hung for murder and four prisoners shot while attempting an escape.

I have already shared the brief histories of two PoWs, Max Neugebauer and Walter Wolf, both of which were working at the camp in Riding Mountain National Park, but two more deserve mention. Richard Becker and Karl Karg were also employed at Riding Mountain. While they were transferred from the camp in June 1944, both men died in drowning accidents, Karg shortly after his arrival in Ontario and Becker in 1945.

In 1970, the graves of German PoWs buried across the country were exhumed and relocated to Kitchener, Ontario. However, not all of these individuals were accounted for. At least three prisoners who died in Canada were not relocated to Kitchener. One prisoner lies unidentified in Saskatchewan, one presumably was not found in Ontario, while the body of a drowning victim was never recovered.

Hopefully with some more research, their stories can all be told.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Wolf

Sixty Eight Years Ago
September 10, 1944

On September 10, 1944, a German Prisoner of War in Camp 132, Medicine Hat, by the name of Dr. Karl Lehmann was beaten and hung by his fellow comrades. After a lengthy investigation four German PoWs, Heinrich Busch, Willi Mueller, Bruno Perzonowsky, and Walter Wolf were arrested for the murder. After a trail held in Alberta, the four were found guilt of murder and sentenced to hang.

Walter Wolf (Source: Library and Archives Canada)
Unteroffizier Walter Wolf (ME 42576) was captured at Halfaya Pass in North Africa on 17 January 1942. He was married but had no children. He had received the Iron Cross, Second Class. Before enlisting at the age of 19 in 1937, he was a financial tax inspector. After the French campaign, he was transferred to a unit in the Afrika Korps. Arriving in Canada on 26 May 1942, he was interned at Ozada, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Neys.

What many don't realize is that Walter Wolf spent a few months in Manitoba, working in Riding Mountain National Park.

Wolf enlisted in the Germany army in 1937 at the age of nineteen and after service in the French Campaign of 1940, he was transferred to North Africa. Captured at Halfaya Pass in January 1942, Wolf arrived in Canada in May of that year, first interned at Ozada. In the summer of 1943, Wolf volunteered for a labour project and was one of 440 PoWs that were sent to the Riding Mountain Park Labour Project at Whitewater Lake. His career as a woodcutter was short-lived as Wolf was quickly identified as a pro-Nazi and a troublemaker. Having been accused of harassing fellow prisoners, Wolf was transferred from Riding Mountain back to Medicine Hat in January 1944.

In 1946, Wolf and his comrades were found guilt of murder. On December 18, 1946, the four prisoners and an unrelated sex offender were hung in Canada's second largest mass hanging. The bodies were buried at the Lethbridge jail before being relocated to Kitchener, Ontario where they remain today.

For more details about the crime and trial, please click here.

Summing Up

Well the last two weeks seem to have flown by very quickly so I thought I should give an update about what has been going on!

First, I'd like to thank the Parkland Regional Library in Dauphin for hosting my presentation on August 30 and thank you to all who came out! It is always great to share the story of PoWs in Manitoba and am looking forward to doing some more presentations in the future.

The next event was the Friends of Riding Mountain National Park's "From North Africa to the North Woods Wagon Tour which was a great success! About forty people in total came out for the tour to the site of the Whitewater Lake Prisoner of War Camp. With perfect weather, few bugs, no rain, great food and a great crowd, I couldn't have asked for more! Thank you to all those who participated in the tours this year, they were really great. Made some more contacts who shared their stories with me but that is another story to come later. We should be offering the tours next year so if you missed out, get in touch with Friends of RMNP or me, and we'll add you to the list.

This past week I've relocated to London, Ontario, where I'm starting my Masters Degree at the University of Western Ontario. I'm looking forward to it but most of all, looking forward to doing some more research about PoWs in Canada. Hopefully this means that I'll be updating this more regularly as I get into more of a schedule.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One More Presentation!

BIg thanks to the 26th Field Regiment / XII Manitoba Dragoons Museum for hosting my presentation last week! Had a great crowd and I hope to do it again next year!

In case you missed it, you have one more chance to see the presentation this week. This Thursday (August 30th), I will be presenting "From North Africa to the North Woods: Prisoners in the Park" at the Parkland Regional Library in Dauphin, MB. The presentation will take place at 7:00 pm and admission is free.

See you there!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

From North Africa to the North Woods: Prisoners in the Park

I'm taking this time to invite all my readers to my upcoming presentation, "From North Africa to the North Woods: Prisoners in the Park", this Tuesday in Brandon!

Focusing on the history of the prisoner of war camp in Riding Mountain National Park (Whitewater Lake POW Camp), come out and enjoy a presentation about a little known part of Manitoba's military history. Learn what life was like for prisoners and guards through slides, photographs, and artifacts.

The presentation is being hosted by the 12th Manitoba Dragoons / 26th Field Regiment Museum at the Brandon Armoury (1116 Victoria Ave - corner of 11th and Victoria) at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, August 21. There is no cost and a mini-reception will be held afterwards.

The 12th Manitoba Dragoons / 26th Field Regiment Museum will also be open to visitors and if you have not had the chance to go through the museum, it is well worth your time!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Wagon Tour

I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who came out to this year's wagon tour! The weather cooperated beautifully this year as we took three wagons out to the former camp site. Met some great people and found a few more leads on guards and prisoners!

Thanks to all of the participants!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wagon Tour

Just a quick reminder that the July 21 "From North Africa to the North Woods" Wagon tour is quickly approaching! It's a great opportunity to learn more about the history of PoWs in Riding Mountain National Park and a chance to visit the provinces' largest semi-permanent PoW camp!

Tickets are available at the Nature Shop (RMNP Visitor Centre) or by calling (204) 848-4037. For more information you can visit the Friends of RMNP website at  If you have any questions, feel free to phone that number or to ask me!

The tour will also be running on September 2nd, 2012.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Some updates

It's been a busy summer so far which has unfortunately limited my research in the past few weeks. Thankfully, I've still be able to get some work here and there but not as much as I would have liked. Currently working on building some databases of all the PoWs involved in Manitoba work projects - my last task was transcribing about 1,000 names of PoWs involved in the 1946 Beet Harvest!

I've also been fortunate enough to add some pieces to my collection. Today's post is a Veterans' Guard of Canada officer's cap. With a bit of research and help from the Homefront Museum and Archives, I was able to identify the officer and find his obituary. Turns out he was from Winnipeg, served in the 27th Winnipeg Battalion in World War I and was wounded at Passchendaele. In the Second World War he served with the Number Three Company, Veterans' Guard of Canada. Now for a six-ish month wait from the Archives for his records!

Friday, June 15, 2012

From North Africa to the North Woods

Interested in learning what life was like in a Manitoba PoW camp during the Second World War? Then the “from North Africa to the North Woods” is the trip for you!

Loaded onto four wagons, the visitors become new prisoners heading out to the former site of the Riding Mountain Park Labour Project under the strict supervision of the guards. Learn what life was like at the camp as the guards and prisoners (interpretative staff) bring history to life through stories and photographs. Once at the camp, enjoy a traditional German meal, similar to that served to the prisoners at the worksites. After lunch, explore the site of the former camp with the aid of a GPS and myself.

Since the summer of 2008, Friends of Riding Mountain National Park, in cooperation with Parks Canada and the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve has been offering these interpretative wagon tours to the site of the Riding Mountain Park Labour Project on the shore of Whitewater Lake.  I have been fortunate to be involved with this since the start and it has become a favourite program of mine. If anyone is looking for a true PoW experience, this is definitely worth the trip!

Tour dates are July 21st and September 2nd

Tickets are $59.00 each or $53.10 for Friends members and are available at the Nature Shop (RMNP Visitor Centre) or by calling (204) 848-4037.  If you have any questions, feel free to phone that number or feel free to ask me.

The wagons depart from the north end of the Bison enclosure in Riding Mountain National Park at 9:15am and we return at 2:30pm.

Tickets are already selling and they usually fill up a few weeks in advance!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Veterans Guard of Canada

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the formation of the Veterans Guard of Canada so I thought it fitting to dedicate this post to all those who served in the Veterans Guard.

With the outbreak of war in Europe in the fall of 1939, thousands of Canadians flocked to enlisting stations to do their part in the upcoming conflict. Among these men were Veterans of the First World War, the majority now in their forties. Though these men were deemed to be too old for frontline service, their valuable military experience ensured that they would not be tossed aside. With increasing numbers of veterans volunteering, it was clear that something had to be done and done quickly.

Following the example of the British Home Guard, the Veterans Guard of Canada was created on May 24, 1940. Initially established as a defence force in the case of a German or Japanese attack on Canadian soil, these men were to attack as the first line of defence. However, these men would take on other rolls, such as the guarding of military installation and factories against saboteurs and the guarding of prisoners of war and enemy aliens interred in the country. By doing so, the Veterans Guard freed up the younger able-bodied men for overseas service.

The men of the Veterans Guard were organized into companies of a few hundred men. These companies were designated as Active or Reserve, active meaning that the men served full-time and were rotated throughout the country, while reserve companies were more similar to a militia force and remained in one place.

The Veterans Guard of Canada, with a peak strength of over 10,000 men, recruited from across the country and performed essential tasks on home soil. In addition, a company of the Veterans Guard was stationed in the UK, British Guiana, and the Bahamas.

Struck off active service in 1947, the story of the Veterans Guard has largely faded into history. A fitting quote filled the last lines of the War Diary of the No. 23 Company, formed right here in Manitoba:

“So is written the last page of the record… of a Company that is gone but not forgotten.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Letter from Home

On October 26, 1943, Obersoldat Willi Herold was one of 440 German PoWs that arrived at the Riding Mountain Park Labour Project. Willi was captured in 1942, most likely in the North African Campaign with most of his comrades at Riding Mountain.

Spending years away from their home and their families was a significant adjustment to the PoWs, the vast majority never being away from Germany for this length of time. As such, letters from home were essential in keeping up the morale of a PoW as they had no other means of communication. In Canada, the PoWs were allowed to write four postcards and two letters every month and were allowed to receive an unlimited amount of letters and parcels. Sending and receiving letters to and from Germany could be a lengthy process with some letters taking months to arrive. PoWs did have the option of sending letters and postcards by Air-Mail to speed up the process but had to pay for this service.

All PoW incoming and outgoing mail was censored before delivery to prevent PoWs from sharing military information or to prevent certain information from reaching the PoWs. A censor was employed at Riding Mountain and he was responsible for censoring all of the mail.

Sixty-eight years ago to this day, Willi Herold sat down in the camp’s recreational hall and penned out this postcard to a friend in Germany.

I’ve patiently been waiting to show this postcard since I found it for sale a few months ago. It was quite something to find a postcard written by a PoW at Riding Mountain and it has become a prized piece of my collection. The message is brief, thanking his friend for an earlier letter and mentioning how comforting it was to receive it, having spent two years as a PoW.

Shorlty after this letter was written, Willi Herold and 114 PoWs were transferred to the Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company Labour Project at Hudson, Ontario.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Seeing the Sights

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to do some exploring in the area south of Riding Mountain National Park. As many of you may be aware, PoWs from the camp in Riding Mountain were known to wonder outside the camp boundaries, in this case marked by red flag or paint or trees. Ten kilometers of bush separated the camp from the park boundaries and a small number of prisoners made good use of their days off to try and figure out what was on the "outside".

By early 1944, the PoWs were familiar with the area and had made contact with some of the locals living on the borders of Riding Mountain National Park. In a number of occasions, these locals, the majority of which were Ukrainian farmers, welcomed the PoWs into their homes as liberators. One has to remember that the Ukraine had suffered severely under Soviet occupation so many Ukrainians viewed the Germans as liberators. This we know now was not the case. Regardless, the PoWs became fast friends with some locals and began attending some of the dances and viewing the local attractions.

Trying to find some of the locations that the PoWs visited is a very interesting experience. It is quite something to imagine PoWs wandering through the fields in the middle of winter or during the night. I have some records of the locations and places visited by the PoWs but trying to find them, or trying to find whether they still exist sixty years later, is not always an easy task. After a fruitless search for one location, we stumbled across this: the Zaporoza school.

Unlike many of the schools that were once scattered throughout rural Manitoba, this building has survived. This was just one of the schools visited by PoWs wandering near the village of Seech, usually on their way to see the Ukrainian Orthodox schools.

It was a teacher at this school that was found in the company of PoWs from Riding Mountain. Her story is featured in Bill Waiser's "A Teacher's Tale". The encounter eventually cost her the teaching position and proved that the prisoners were certainly leaving the boundaries of the Riding Mountain camp.

Anyways, shows that there are still lots of history still hiding around!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

VE Day

VE Day - May 8, 1945

Today marks the 67th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE-Day). The news of Germany's surrender rapidly spread across the country and many towns and cities erupted in celebration.

In PoW camps across the country, the news was taken differently depending on the nature of the camp. In larger camps like Medicine Hat, the prisoners were assembled and the camp commander or spokesman read the news to the somber crowd. While many of the prisoners would have been happy to hear the news, positive reactions may have had severe consequences from those who did not feel the same way.

While I have no record of how the news was received in Riding Mountain, Mafeking, or Pine Falls, I'm sure that many of the prisoners shared a common thought: they were one step closer to going home...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Richard Beranek

Through my research, I have been fortunate to come into contact with a number of family members of former PoWs who spent time in Canada and a couple who's relatives spent some time of the war in Manitoba. They have been extremely gracious in providing me with information, documents, and pictures of their relative's experiences and today I would like to share some of this.

A few months ago, Linda ( forwarded me a request for information from an individual in Germany seeking information about his father. I got in touch and was able to provide some information about his time in Manitoba. Anyways, here is his story.

Richard Beranek
Richard Beranek was born on November 8th, 1926 in Mendrik, Czechoslovakia. By June 1944, at the age of 17, he was an infantryman in the 13th Company of the 915th Grenadierregiment. The 915th, as part of the 352nd Division, was assigned to coastal defense duties in the area around what was to be known as Omaha Beach. With the Allied invasion of June 6, 1944, the 352nd was pushed inland and the 915th found itself near St. Gabriel. Here, on June 8th, Richard was captured by the British and a week later, he was transferred to a PoW camp in the UK.

On June 27, 1944, Richard was transferred to Canada aboard the Empress of Scotland and arrived in Halifax. He and his comrades were then loaded on a train for a four-day trip to Camp 132 at Medicine Hat, Alberta. In the summer of 1945, Richard volunteered for farm labour and was eventually selected to assist with the fall harvest. Retracing his path across the Canadian prairies, Richard and the other volunteers were offloaded in Manitoba and began their work on farms in the Grassmere region.

Group of PoWs with Guard at Mafeking
Once the fall harvest was completed, it was requested that thirty men from the Grassmere project were to be transferred to a small lumber camp at Mafeking, Manitoba. The Mafeking camp, originally 100-men strong, required replacements for injured and transferred PoWs. Richard was selected as one of the replacements and arrived in Mafeking in November.

For the next few months, Richard worked at the Mafeking camp until its closure in the spring of 1946. The remaining men were transferred to Monteith to prepare for their transfer to the UK. Eager to be one step closer to home, Richard arrived in the UK in May of 1946. He and his fellow prisoners were put to use in various labour projects in the UK and it was not until the following year that Richard would return home.

A special thanks to Richard's son Lutz for sharing his father's stories and photographs with me and thanks to Linda and Robert for the help!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Camp 132 - Medicine Hat

I must apologize for my absence in the last month but I have been quite busy and unable to post any updates. Hopefully I can make it up to everyone and make posting a regular habit!

One thing that I did get a chance to do this month was to visit the former site of Camp 132 in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Nearly every PoW that spent time in Manitoba, and many that spent time in Canada, also spent time behind the barbed wire fences that surrounding Camp 132.

Camp 132 Today
Built to accommodate the increasing number of PoWs arriving from Britain, Camp 132 as one of the two largest camps in Canada. This one and its sister camp in Lethbridge, were built to accommodate 12,500 German PoWs, almost one third of the total number of PoWs in Canada. The population of these camps usually were larger than the population of the respective communities.

Thousands of PoWs went through the gates at Medicine Hat, some spending short periods of time here while others spent most of the war here. With large grounds, the PoWs were able to play sports and with recreation halls, orchestras, bands, and plays were often held for entertainment. Not everyone enjoyed their time at Medicine Hat as thousands volunteered for labour projects across the country.

Camp 132 Gymnasium
Following the end of the war, the camp was eventually downsized and became unused. Today, the former camp site is now the Medicine Hat Stampede Grounds and little remains of the once bustling camp. A couple buildings still remain, the most obvious is one of the gymnasiums, seen in the picture. Still, I was struck by what it must have been like for German PoWs stepping off of the train and seeing the vast prairie disappearing into the horizon...

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9, 1917

Just a quick post today but one that I feel is very important. April 9, 2012 marks the 95th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It was on this day in 1917 that, for the first time, the four Canadian divisions fought alongside one another to capture this important objective. This was Canada's opportunity to show it's worth, to show what its men and women could do. After a very long four days, the ridge was in Canadian hands. The fighting strength and spirit of the Canadians was clear, they were among the best. It is to these men and women that I dedicate this post.

1917-2012 - Lest We Forget

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A New Addition at the Camp

Camp Mascot
Spring 1944

Wildlife had always been abundant in the area surrounding the small labour camp in Riding Mountain National Park and encounters with elk, moose, deer, wolves, and bears were not uncommon for the prisoners wishing to explore the area. However, in the spring of 1944, the prisoners and the staff were about to come much closer to the wildlife than they had expected.

The bear with a guard and camp staff member
Forty prisoners were hiking along the northwestern shore of Whitewater Lake on a nice spring day in 1944. The hike however was interrupted by the presence of a large black bear with two small cubs. The prisoners managed to scare off the mother bear and one of her cubs while the remaining cub was left to fend for itself. Jumping on the opportunity to adopt a new "pet", the prisoners quickly picked up the cub and brought it to the camp.

Despite the disapproval of some of the staff, especially the park warden, the bear was allowed to remain at the camp. The bear quickly grew on the prisoners as well as the guards and staff. A cage was built in between one of the bunkhouses and prisoners often took the bear for walks, on a leash, with the camp dogs.

The bear would remain at the camp until the next year but that is a story for another day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One Last Goodbye

March 18, 1944
Dauphin, Manitoba

I'm a few days late with this one, but I thought I would show a bit of a before and after scene. As mentioned earlier, Max Neugebauer, a 33-year old PoW at the Riding Mountain Labour Project, died of his injuries on March 16, 1944. On March 18, a small service was held in Dauphin and Max was buried in Dauphin's Riverside Cemetery. The first picture is the funeral procession on March 18 and the second is a shot taken from a similar position in the spring of 2011. By matching up some of the headstones in the 1944 picture,  I was able to roughly take a picture of the same area. Things have certainly changed since the spring of 1944...
Dauphin Riverside Cemetery in 1944 (top) and 2011 (below)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sixty-Eight Years Ago...
March 13, 1944

On this day, tragedy struck the prisoners at the Riding Mountain Labour Project. With cooler temperatures and strong winds, the camp spokesman, Leo Manuel, conferred with his men and decided that the weather was too bad for the prisoners to work. When bringing this up with the camp commander, Colonel James, his request was denied by a visiting officer from the Department of Labour. This officer, Colonel Fordham, ordered the prisoners to work. When Manuel and the prisoners protested this decision, Fordham threatened that if the prisoners did not work, Manuel and his staff would be transferred, canteen privileges would be denied, and a particularly elaborate dessert prepared by the kitchen staff would be cancelled. Under these conditions, Manuel reluctantly ordered his men to work.

While the weather report stated that the temperatures were not overly cold for this time of year and the winds were not particularly strong enough to cause concern, it is needless to say that while cutting down trees, excessive wind was a cause for concern.

Max Neugebauer, who had just celebrated his thirty-third birthday a week before, was one of the men ordered out for work. Married with a wife and family in Munich, Neugebauer had been captured in North Africa like the majority of his comrades.

While cutting down a tree with another prisoner, a sudden gust of wind arose, blowing the falling tree in their direction. Unable to move in time, Neugebauer was struck him on the head, rendering him unconscious, while the other prisoner suffered minor injuries. Taken immediately to the camp hospital, Dr. Fritjof Gress recommended that he be taken to the Dauphin hospital. Escorted by members of the Veterans Guard, Neugebauer was admitted to the Dauphin hospital the same evening.

For three days, Neugebauer remained unconscious. He was never to regain consciousness as in the morning of March 16, 1944, he died of his injuries.

On March 18, 1944, a service was held in Dauphin's St. Viator's Church, attended by a small number of prisoners and members of the Veterans Guard of Canada. His body was buried in the Riverside Cemetery and the Veterans Guard escort fired a salute. A cross handmade by his comrades was placed at the head of the grave.

Manuel had the unfortunate duty of sending a telegram to Neugebauer's wife informing her of the news.

For almost thirty years, Neugebauer's grave stood in stark contrast to those interred around it. In 1970, as part of a program to relocate German PoWs who had died in Canada, his remains were exhumed and relocated to the Woodland Cemetery in Kitchener, Ontario. He remains there to this day alongside 186 of his comrades who died in Canada in the First and Second World War.

For more information on the Woodland Cemetery, check out this article.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Presentation - March 7, 2012

For anyone who finds themselves in the Dauphin area on March 7, 2012, I will be doing a presentation at Dauphin's Parkland Regional Library about the PoW Labour Project in Riding Mountain National Park. The presentation takes place at 6:30 pm and is free to everyone. Come out to learn some of the area's history and to see some artifacts as well!
For more information, visit the Friends of RMNP's website by clicking HERE.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What If...


While "If Day" was a propaganda event designed to increase the sale of war bonds, it gives a look into how life could have been if the Germany war machine had not been halted. Had this happen, I somehow doubt that there would have been any Canadians cutting down trees in the middle of Riding Mountain or working on the fields with little supervision!

For more information about If Day, check out this article or Wikipedia's entry.

Monday, February 13, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Not related to PoWs in Manitoba, or Canada for that matter, but still a good video with an interesting twist!

The German from Nick Ryan on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Some Updates on PoW Research

Today, I thought I would update everyone about some more research being done regarding PoWs in the province. A few weeks ago, I was made aware of another blogger, Linda, writing about one of the farming projects in Manitoba in 1945 and 1946. Having some records of these projects and eager to learn more, I got in contact with her. Linda has been very helpful in sharing what she knows about the project and has found some very interesting contacts. Her posts on the subject can be found on here blog, Her newest post also has some pictures of Robert Henderson's collection, which I can definitely say is the best collection of artifacts relating to PoWs and the Veterans Guard in the world!

It was also with Linda's help that I have become involved with another small project. She had been forwarded an email by an individual in Germany looking for information about his father. His father, a PoW captured in Normandy shortly after D-Day, was captured by the British and sent to Canada in the summer of 1944. Little was known about what happened next other than he spent some time in a labour camp in Manitoba near Lake Winnipeg or Manitoba. Looking through my collection of records, I was able to tell his son that his father was one of 130 PoWs that were employed by the Manitoba Paper Company outside of Mafeking, Manitoba. As I'm still working with him to identify more records and hopefully provide more information, I will keep you all updated!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Leaving the Camp... Again...

Sixty-Eight Years Ago

First off, I would like to point out to all my viewers that there if you would like to receive email notification of new blog posts, please enter your email in the space to the right!

For those who are familiar with the stories from the camp in Riding Mountain National Park, you will certainly have heard how PoWs left the camp boundaries, visited dances, and became good friends with people on the park boundaries. Today, I'll give a brief explanation of how this came to be.

When the decision to build a camp in the park was first made in the summer of 1943, the issue of security was first and foremost to many. How to ensure that the PoWs remained with the camp boundaries and away from summer tourist traffic was something that the Parks Bureau especially focused on. It was eventually decided that the ten kilometers of Canadian wilderness surrounding the camp should be enough to keep wandering PoWs away from civilians. As such, trees were marked with red paint or flags to clearly mark the boundaries.

Despite the efforts taken by various departments and officials, they simply did not work. As I have already mentioned, only five days after arriving at the camp, nineteen PoWs had left the camp boundaries and had gotten lost. Other accounts of PoWs getting "lost" were fairly common and it seems like the warnings were simply ignored by a sizeable number of PoWs.

Among these PoWs was Konstatin Schwarz (or Schwartz). Using his days off at Christmas and New Years, he and some of his comrades decided to see what lay beyond the confines of the camp's borders. Following old logging trails, roads, and tracks, the PoWs found their way to places like the bison enclosure at Lake Audy and a firetower on the southern border of the park. It was this firetower that they were finally able to view the surrounding area. Much to their surprise, the area was primarily farmland.

It was upon viewing the farmhouses that the PoWs decided they needed to take a closer look...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Home Again!

Having returned home from Ottawa this week I can certainly say that the trip was a success! Having spent a little over a week there, Adrian and I sorted through thousands of documents relating to PoWs in Canada. In the end, we took almost 15,000 pictures of documents ranging from pay lists from labour projects in Manitoba to escape reports to orders written by Riding Mountain's camp administrator! Spending between eight and ten hours at the archives made for some very long days but in the end, we just had enough time to document everything we wanted to. However, I am sure another trip is in order in the next year or two!

PoW Work Jacket with "target" - Canadian War Museum
While in Ottawa, we couldn't miss going to the Canadian War Museum which has an absolutely amazing collection of artifacts ranging from Canada's first settlers to the modern day. We had requested to see some of their holdings relating to PoWs in Canada beforehand so we were given special access to articles like PoW work jackets, German uniforms and equipment, as well as Canadian uniforms. After this we were given a behind-the-scene tour of the museum's facilities which was absolutely amazing! To see items like the uniforms of Billy Bishop and Sir Arthur Currie, General Wolfe's chair, and Hitler's telephone up close was something I will never forget! A big thanks goes out to the museum staff!

On a side note, German PoWs in Canada wore a wide range of clothing depending on where they were located within the country and the work they were involved in. For formal wear and while in larger internment camps, PoWs were authorized to wear German uniforms, complete with their insignia, rank, and medals. However, for those participating in labour projects, each PoW was issued a specially-marked set of clothing that included a jacket, pair of trousers, and a cap. To identify these men as PoWs, the jacket had a large circle on the reverse (which the PoWs often joked was a target for the guards to aim at in case they attempted escape, while the trousers and hat had a red stripe sewn down the length. Having seen some examples of this clothing before, it was still great to see these items up close.

Anyways, I will certainly busy for the next few months as I work my way through all of the files!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Better Late than Never!

First off, I must apologize for my very late update! Things seem to have gotten very busy over the holidays and I wasn't able to update it.

Anyways, as for my last post, I left a question unanswered. For those who were wondering what the answer may be, a small number of the harassed PoWs at Riding Mountain had served in the French Foreign Legion in the late 1920s and 1930s. Despite having returned to Germany before 1933, these men were continually monitored by the Gestapo and were unable to find jobs. During the war, these men were placed in the 361st Regiment and were often found in harm's way. As such, a large number of the 361st were taken prisoner and sent to Canada.

Hard at Work!
For the rest of today's post, I would like to update everyone on some of what I have been doing in regards to PoWs in Manitoba. Since Monday, myself and archaeologist Adrian Myers have been in Ottawa visiting the Library and Archives Canada. With the largest collection of PoW related material in the country, the LAC has been on my to-do list for some years! In the past few days, we've copied over 10,000 documents which have helped answered a lot of questions and filled in quite a few gaps in my records. This will certainly keep me busy for a while!

Check back in the next few days for another update!