Merchant Navy Prisoners of War

The Merchant Navy

February 25th, 2012

“Their job was to steam on and on and on, which they did through thick and thin, to their eternal credit and our sincerest admiration”
Anonymous British Naval Officer

Despite being officially classed as non-combatants and hence not liable to capture, the German authorities created a special camp for Allied merchant seamen and their civilian passengers. At first Milag (a Marine Internment Lager) was merely a barbed wire compound (Stalag XB) inside the Sandbostel concentration camp. Eventually, as a result of protests by the Protecting Powers, the seamen were marched away to Westertimke where they had to build their own huts and fence themselves in.

Some 4,500 merchant seamen from the British Empire, the USA and from all over the world, spent up to 5 years in captivity in this camp.

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.



  • RON COPE says on: May 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm


    I am writing a book which includes the outcome of some crew members from HMS Hunter who were captured after the First Battle of Narvik on the 10th April 1940. They were interned in Sweden shortly after. There were a number of them who volunteered for Sir George Binney’s planned breakout from Gothenburg on 31st March 1942. I have the names of 16 Royal Naval ratings involved but there may have been more on the ten ships. I would be very interested to have contact with anyone providing information, especially those 10 or more captured by the German navy and subsequently became Prisoners of War. Thanks Ron Cope.

  • kevin lysaght says on: July 31, 2012 at 10:18 am


    hi my name is kevin lysaght and i am looking for information about the father of my friend, his father,s name was john keevey and he was in the merchant navy and was taken prisoner in 1940 [ we think] we also think he was taken pow of the ship patroclus off the coast of ireland, but i have read somewhere that although the patroclus was sunk all hand were picked up by ships in the area so it would be nice if you can give us any details you have, thanks and regards kevin.

  • Larry Easton says on: September 15, 2012 at 3:32 am


    I’m trying to find any information on my dad, Robert Easton. His ship, the Tottenham , was sunk on June 17,1943 in the So. Atlantic by the German raider Atlantis. His skippers name was Woodcock.

    • Gabe says on: September 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm


      The Tottenham owned by Watts Watts (4762 tons) was actually sunk by the Atlantis on 17th June 1941, Im sure the ’43 was a typo.
      I have limited information but it seems your father was a cadet and his Pow number was 329. My records show him among 102 men and boys who left Milag on 17th June 1943 and were exchanged for Axis PoWs in Lisbon that same month.
      Albert E. Woodcock was the Captain.

      • Larry Easton says on: September 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm


        Gabe, When I was around 7 years old, my dad had a visit from a shipmate and/or fellow p o w while still in Montreal. I remember one of them talking about a prisoner exchange in Lisbon that went badly and led to some sort of conflict. I THINK that it led to a running gun battle with our side having to run from the Germans or be returned to captivity. Any info on that?

        By the way, how do you fit in here? Were you a pow or ????

        Thanks again for what you are doing to help me and all the others trying to get in touch with the realities of war and capture on the high seas.

  • Larry Easton says on: September 28, 2012 at 8:18 am


    Thank you for your response. I know nothing about my fathers family in England before he went to Montreal and met my mom. Do you have any way to find out where his family lived or do you know where I can start searching? Again, thank you very much, I really appreciate the help.