Merchant Navy Prisoners of War

The MILAG Camp Site

May 6th, 2012

The MILAG site has been frozen in an unfinished state for many years due to our inability to access it via our previous ISP.
It has just moved to a new ISP and will need to be rebuilt
The new format will be easier to maintain and for you, our visitors, to make comments direct to the site

Thank You

Gabe Thomas
President Merchant Navy POW Association

We would love to hear from you if you have any more information or if you have questions. Complete the form below to get in touch.



  • Phil Frost says on: May 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm


    My father was at Marlag & Milag Nord camp from 1939 to 1945 and I have recently obtained a postcard / photo he sent to my cousin in 1943. There are also some letters from the camp which I would be pleased to copy for you if you are interested.



    • Gabe says on: May 18, 2012 at 8:53 pm


      I have no record of a Frost in Milag, the Merchant Navy camp, so I assume your father was in the Royal Navy and in the Marlag part of the camp.
      I would be very pleased to see any records you may have and if you agree, may post some to the web so others may see them

  • Gabe says on: May 19, 2012 at 7:53 am


    was one of the few survivors onboard the A D Huff after it was shelled by the German
    Battle Cruiser ‘Gneisenau’ and sunk in the Atlantic. He was picked up by a German warship and later transferred to a prisoner of war camp,
    although he escaped en-route with a Canadian prisoner and managed to reach Spain,
    where they spent six months in prison presumed dead, before returning to Britain. Peter Coe sadly died in 2008 whilst Sebastian was at the Beijing Olympic Games.

  • Michelle Wilson says on: May 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm


    Seeking information about my uncle Commander John Croasdaile Royal Navy Reserve who was captain of the British ship the “Vandyke” that was sunk duringthe battle of Narvik in 1940. He was imprisoned for 5 years at Marlag. His wife and two children were killed during his imprisonment while attempting to come to America for the remainder of the war,to join relatives here. They were aboard the “city of Benares” the last ship bringing children to Foster homes in Canada for the duration. It was torpedoed and sunk.
    I am doing the family genealogy book and would like to contact any that knew John in camp.

    • Gabe says on: May 28, 2012 at 8:28 pm


      I’m afraid I don’t have as much information on Marlag as I do on Milag but every thing I learn builds up a better picture that I can pass on to others. My information is that Captain G.E.Wilson R.N. D.S.O. was captain of the Vandyke but I am always willing to be corrected.

  • David Aitken says on: June 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm


    reading the various posts reminds me of the stories my farther used to tell me about Sanbostal and Milag norde,especially the hospital.

    • Gabe says on: June 12, 2012 at 8:01 am


      Dear David,
      I have a record of a George Aitken, POW no. 89979, an Engineer from the Lustrous and who was held in barrack 15a, room 3. If that’s your father do please make contact as we may be able to swap information.

  • Jos Odijk says on: June 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm


    I’m still working on the PQ13 convoy and I wonder if you know something more about POW 1506 (Robert Blake) and 1507 (John Brown)
    Were they crewmembers/passengers of the SS Empire Ranger?

    I’ve visited the National Archive at KEW and and found out mr Blake missed the HMS Shika and was about to join them for the return trip but never reached them.
    But in his files nothing is written about the Empire Ranger?

    Regards Jos

    • Gabe says on: June 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm


      John Brown was an Assistant Steward on the Empire Ranger. He died in captivity on 26th June 1942, almost exactly 3 months from the date his ship was sunk. He was the son of John and Mary Borthwick Brown of Knightswood, Glasgow.

      Having spoken at length to the late Dai Lovering, who was a cabin boy on the Ranger, and who spent 12 hours sitting in a flooded lifeboat in sub zero temperatures, it is suprising that any of the Ranger’s crew survived to reach captivity.

      I have no information on Blake. As he missed HMS Shika, perhaps he was a DEMS (Naval Gunner) and would not have appeared on the ships Articles. I can find no record of his death in WW II.

      I have a photo of Brown’s grave in Becklingen War Cemetery

  • Jos Odijk says on: June 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm


    Thanks Gabe for the info,

    The files ( I’ve send you by mail) of Robert Blake speak about him being a steward.
    I couldn’t find any info in the crew arrangements of the Empire Ranger, so I hoped the BT 373/2392 of Blake would give me a clue, but it’s still not clear.

    According to my papers The John Brown I’m writing about is POW 1507 as John Brown of the EMpire Ranger is POW 1474.

    Greetings Jos

  • kevin lysaght says on: July 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm


    sir, i wonder if you can give me some info on a prisoner named john keevey who was taken prisoner about 1940, he was a merchant seaman and we [my mate and i my mate is patrick keevey john,s son], originally he was told his father was sunk of the coast of ireland while seving on the ;patroclus; but i have since read that although the ;patroclus; was sunk all hands were saved, im sorry i can,t give you much info because apparently john did not talk much about his time as a pow but i can tell you he was from birkenhead, merseyside, and before the war he worked at buchanans flower mill in birkenhead, thanks for any help you can give me, regards, kevin lysaght.

    • Gabe says on: July 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm


      Kevin, I’m sorry but I dont have any record of John Keevey as a POW in the
      The Patroclus was completed in March 1923 as steam passenger ship for Alfred Holt & Co, Liverpool. On 12 Sept 1939 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to the armed merchant cruiser HMS Patroclus until she was sunk on 2 Jan 1940.

      Not everyone survived the sinking of the Patroclus but the surviving 33 officers and 330 ratings from HMS Patroclus were picked up by HMS Beagle (H 30) (LtCdr R.H. Wright, RN) and landed at Greenock. The Uboat net web site lists 57 names of those who survived but Keevey’s name is not among them.
      For more information go to

      From the above I think it likely that Keevey was a merchant seaman serving under a T124 Agreement in the Royal Naavy and if subsequently captured would have been treated as RN and could have been in Marlag or elsewhere.

  • Jeanne Price says on: July 28, 2012 at 10:50 am


    my father John George Proud POW no: 89503 survivor Afric Star, he sadly apssed away in 1985, I am having difficulty trying to obtain WW2 service medals can you please advise furthetr, also my eldest brothet was named after my fathers friend during his this as a POW his name was Kenneth and I am sure that my father told me he was from Aus, any information about me father and his Merchant Seamen records would be greatly appreciated, I would love to pass onto my family Jeanne

    • Gabe says on: July 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm


      Dear Jeanne,
      Thanks for your query. I have your father listed but as George so Ive added John to his record. He was in Barrack 12 and I have searched in case there was a Kenneth in the same barrack but no luck. Neither could I find a Ken among the crew of the Afric Star.
      As far as his medals are concerned, if he did not qualify for a particular medal because he hadnt got enough sea time then his capture would automatically qualify him.

      If his medals haven’t already been issued they can be given to his next of kin (If you aren’t the oldest surviving child then your brother/sister is the person who should apply
      As a resident of Australia, The Aus authorities should be the ones to give out the medals. I cant remember which Government Department but I’m sure if you contact a Veterand association they should be able to help.
      In the UK the medal records and sea service records have been taken from my old office and given to the Public Records in Kew. A UK applicant now has to search or pay for a search to prove entitlement but since this shameful state of affairs came about after I retired, I dont know the arrangements for Commonwealth.


      • Jeanne Price says on: July 30, 2012 at 7:18 am


        Hello Gabe, yes my father was known as George, although christened as John George, he was in the British Merchant Navy and joined around 1939, although according to my father put his age up for entry, he left home around 15yrs old, I also now that post POW he continued as a Merchant seamen until migrating to Aus in 1949 with my mother and eldest brother Ken b1947. As far as I am aware he was awarded service medals and these were issued in 1985, the year he passed away, also dad had no next of kin in the UK that these would have been issued to, I did try a few years ago to access these medals and had difficulty with who I was dealing with in the UK. Do you have any other suggestions as to how I can get these medals? Cheers Jeanne

  • Howard Bartley says on: July 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm


    Gabe I contacted you by email some time ago and you kindly sent a barrack (14) room (4) list containing my fathers info. Do you intend to publish a full barrack list for reference? Also, I emailed a barrack room(?) photo which, if you received, I would be happy for you to publish on this site. If not could you supply a contact email where we could send photos etc to be published. Regards Howard

  • keverton says on: July 31, 2012 at 10:37 am


    hi, om looking for any info about a merchant navy seaman named john keevey from birkenhead merseyside who was taken pow in 1940 after being sunk on the patroclus [ i think] thanks for any info you can supply, regards, kevin.

  • Jeff Hutson says on: August 23, 2012 at 1:31 pm


    Dear Gabe,

    My father, Fred Hutson was the acting acting Royal Navy A/B gunner on the (D.E.M.S vessel ) A.D. Huff sunk by the Gneisenau in February 1941. I made initial contact with Murray Armstrong in 2005 and subsequent dialogue between him, my father and me led to my father’s story being published on which was a link within Tommy’s Log Web site. In one of Murray’s letters to my father (February 2006) he says “I understand that my friend Gabe Thomas has spoken with you recently”.
    One can no longer access Murray’s site; my guess is he has passed away – I did find an obituary some while back to a Gordon Murray Armstrong who died on May 22 2008 whose life profile looked as he could be the same person and also I found that the domain is now up for sale
    The reason for making contact is that my father is still alive (now 91) and it would be a pity to leave things until a later date only to be told that it would have been very useful to you or whoever to tap into his knowledge / memories while he was still with us and maybe you might be able to tell me who would now have all the files / paperwork / documents in connection with Murray Armstrong’s work or others involved in the same field so that I and family could access the same on the Internet.
    For the record I have a few hard copy items including a letter from George Shaker to my father, a print out of my father’s story on Murray’s site and a (scanned copy) group photo of my father with fellow POW’s of Bau und Arbeits Batallion 21 in Upper Silesia in1942. He was at Marlag & Milag Nord during 1941 and transfered to Silesia in ’42.
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Thanking you in anticipation,
    Jeff Hutson
    P.S. Would you know if there is anyone else that was on the Huff that is still alive?

    • Gabe says on: August 23, 2012 at 9:30 pm


      Unfortunately you are correct, Murray Armstrong died unexpectedly last Autumn.
      I was proud to have called him a friend even though we had never met but corresponded by Email and occasional phone call. Shirley, his widow has sent me Murrays files and I am slowly getting to grips with the information he had.
      It wasn’t until I was reading some of his letters that I learnt that his father in law was the Tommy of Tommys Log and had been in Milag.
      The MN POW’s owe him a great debt for his work on publising information on his web site. Hopefully this site will eventually incorporate much of Murrays work but I’m sure that despite our best efforts it will fall short of the standard that Murray had achieved

  • Jonathan Kealy says on: August 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm


    My great grandfather Valentine Harris was kept here after the Afric Star was sunk. Having difficulty finding info on him and was wondering if you can help in any way.

  • Ronan Grew says on: August 28, 2012 at 8:52 am


    Dear Sir,
    I appreciate the efforts made by Mr Thomas and others to provide information about the Milag & Marlag camp.

    My father – Donald B.L Grew (1913-1974) – was a prisoner in the camp from 1944-45. He served as a Radio Officer aboard the SS Phemius which was sunk off the west coast of Africa on 19 December 1943 by U-515. He was taken aboard U-515 and eventually ended up in Milag.

    Unfortunately I do not know much about his time in the camp but if anyone can provide me with any information I would be eternally grateful.
    Many thanks
    Ronan Grew

  • R.Grew says on: August 30, 2012 at 9:01 am


    My father – Donald B.L. Grew (1913-74) was a POW in Milag from 1944-45. He served as a Radio Officer aboard the SS Phemius which was sunk off the west coast of Africa on 19 December 1943. My father was taken prsioner and eventually ended up in Milag.

    I know little about his time in the camp so if anyone has any information that possibly relates to my father I would be very interested to hear/receive it.
    Many thanks
    Ronan Grew

  • Howard Bartley says on: September 7, 2012 at 3:50 pm


    Hi Gabe
    I am interested to know if there will be more photos, information etc added to the site. I have a barrack room photo which I would be pleased for you to add to the site if you could let me know where to email a copy.

    Thanks and kindest regards

  • Larry Easton says on: September 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm


    Hello everyone!
    I,m collecting data and info for a documentary on the German sea raiders of WW2. My dad was made a PoW at Milag-Nord by Atlantis. Any information or leads on this subject from allied OR axis POV will be appreciated and treated with EQUAL RESPECT for the courage of the men who put their lives on hold and in harms way for their countrys. On my honor as a former United States Marine. Sempre Fi. And thank you.

  • Joanna Burroughs says on: September 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm


    My grandad George Smith was a prisoner at Milag from the age of 16 to 21. He was in the Merchant Navy and was on board The Orama when it was torpedoed. Would be great if anyone has information about him. He was also held at Sandbostal before building the Milag camp.
    George was held at a camp near the Swiss boarder. As he was only 16 he was supposed to be sent home along with the elderly British prisoners. He was not sent home but to Sandbostal and eventually to Milag-Nord.
    While he was at the holding camp near the Swiss boarder he meet a young 16 year old British Jewish girl being held with her
    Mum and Dad. She too was told she would be sent home. (she and her family had been living in Germany at the out break of the war). Do you know what happened to the Jewish people held in these holding camps in the earliest part of the war? Were they sent back to Britain. My Grandad is still alive and would dearly like to know what happened to Alice Mary Price. Thank you.

    • Gabe says on: October 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm


      According to my records A George smith was an Ordinary Seaman on the Orama but I’m not sure a 16 year old would have had sufficient experience to have been employed at this rank. As far as being held in a camp near Switzerland,
      “The 19,800 ton Orient Line troopship, Orama, had been sunk in action with the Admiral Hipper on the 8th June 1940, and two hundred and eighty of her crew taken prisoner.
      The prisoners were landed from a destroyer at Trondheim and held for several days in the Citadel, an old fortress, sleeping on a straw-covered concrete floor. After a rail journey of several days, travelling in cattle trucks, they arrived in Oslo to be allocated accommodation in an imposing complex of buildings occupied by the German command. Their conditions were however similar to those at Trondheim. Again their bedding was a straw-covered floor and during their three day stay here, no food was provided. On the 15th June they embarked on a British built ship, the Westsee, destination Aalborg in Denmark.
      Arriving at Aalborg on the 16th June they boarded a train of cattle wagons, which took them to Nuremburg, stopping en-route at Flensburg in Schelswig, for feeding and watering by the German Red Cross. On the 20th June they arrived at Nuremburg. They were housed in a separate compound in a large distribution camp recently vacated by the Hitler Youth.
      The seamens’ next move, was to Stalag XIIIA, an internment camp located at Wulzburg Castle at Weisenburg, just a few miles away. The castle was a medieval building built high into the hillside, and surrounded by a moat. Wulzburg castle, a PoW camp, where de Gaulle had been held during the First War, had been a mental asylum pre-war. Here they were accommodated in rooms holding some forty prisoners in three-tier bunks, the other inmates of this camp were political prisoners and British subjects who had been trapped in Germany at the outbreak of hostilities. These included staff of various British Embassies and War Graves Commission personnel. The well known harmonia player Tommy Reilly, and Giles Romilly, a Daily Express staff reporter and nephew of Winston Churchill, were amongst these “Prominente”. Also amongst this motley crew was Cecil (Vic) Hammett, the organist, who, like many other entertainers, had left it too late to leave Europe.
      After a couple of months at Wulzburg, the German authorities asked for volunteers for a project in Upper Silesia. Not getting volunteers, they picked Bill Evans and eighty-seven others of the Orama crew and transferred them to a temporary work camp in Upper Silesia. Arriving in Poland they found themselves housed in barracks and put to work clearing tree stumps from river banks—hard dirty work in freezing cold conditions. Despite the hard physical work they were forced to carry out, they were given only bread and sauerkraut in inadequate quantities to replace their lost energy. When, on occasions, a jacket potato or a bowl of thin barley soup was issued, they were regarded as a luxury. The quality of the sauerkraut was so bad that when the infrequent Red Cross parcels arrived, the PoWs only ate the bread provided by the Germans. However, the PoWs still collected their rations of sauerkraut but buried them, in case the supply might be stopped if they were seen to be able to do without it.39
      After three months in Poland, the working party returned to Wulzburg but, fearing trouble by having so many prisoners from one ship in one camp, the Germans split the Orama’s crew, sending half to Ilag VIII, Tost, in Bei Gleiwitz, where, for a time, they shared their captivity with the author P.G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse, had been interned while broadcasting on the German overseas programme. Several issues of a typewritten camp newspaper were produced by the inmates and Wodehouse wrote and published in ‘The Tost Times and Advertiser’, a short story in three parts entitled “All’s Well with Bingo.”
      On the 4th July 1941, almost twelve months after their arrival, those who had remained at Wulzburg, were again en-trained in the now expected mode of travel – cattle trucks. Their destination, Sandbostel Prison Camp, known as Stalag XB. They arrived at Sandbostel two days later, where some months later, they were eventually joined by the Ilag Tost section of the Orama’s crew. On 4th February 1942, they left by lorry for Milag Nord.” Extract from “Milag-Captives of the Kriegsmarine”
      Although my research had uncovered that British Civilians were also held in Wulzburg Castle, I have no information on any internee but I have a contact who may be able to help.

      • Joanna Burroughs says on: October 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm


        Gabe, Thank you so much for your reply. I have spoken to Grandad this evening and he has explained that he was indeed an Ordinary Seaman. He had started with the Orient Line as part of the Shore Gang but could only do this from the age of 15 to 16. When he was put to sea at 16 he was made an Ordinary Seaman. Your account of what happened to the crew of the Orama matches his exactly except he was not sent to the interment camp at Wurlzberg Castle but was taken to an old college in Lake Constance. This was due to his young age. It was from here that he believed he was to be re patriated and indeed recalls that they were guarded only by police and not the German guards. It was here that he meet Alice Mary Price and her parents. There were also 300 other women being held of many different nationalities. From here he was not re patriated but sent to Tost and from there to Sandbostal and then eventually to Milag Nord. Interestingly he recalls the harmonica player Tommy Reilly and is still in contact with Bill Evens! He would love some information on the female captives of Lake Constance as he fears that perhaps Alice Mary Price may not have been re patriated either.
        Very grateful for any information you may have. Joanna

  • Joanna Burroughs says on: December 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm


    Hi Gabe, I was wondering if you have the original file for the photo of “the smelly nelly” photograph on the website. ( The photo if the men on the toilet).My Grandad has a scrap book of photos and documents from his time at the war camp and we would like to print this photo so he can add it to his book. Thank you. Joanna.

  • Jos Odijk says on: September 16, 2013 at 10:44 am



    For the POW of the SS-Raceland, a couple were send to another camp as Milag Marlag Nord. Do you know how I can obtain info about Stalag IX-9

    A Swede, A Norwegian and a Pole were sent to Stalag IX-c
    Andre Ekstrom was number 39638
    Jens Jensen was number 39639
    The polish (or Russian) crewmember is the problem. There are 2 names Kerstik or Kisiel

    I think he must be mentioned as number 39637 or 39640

    Greetings Jos

    In Milag und Marlag Nord were POW:

    No 700 Samuel Hickman
    No 701 Nicolas Madison
    No 702 Antonio Barcia
    No 703 Herman Torgersen
    No 704 Rasmus Mogensen
    No 705 George Godtfredsen