I recently saw on Facebook an image taken from the Evesham Journal of British prisoners of war in Stalag VIII-B (Stalag 344) Lamsdorf, Germany, in the 1942 (see image). Amongst the prisoners in the photo was Corporal Nelson George Thacker from Evesham (back row 3rd from left). The post piqued my interest as I have researched some of the men from the area that have served in either the First or Second World War so I decided to see what I could discover about Corporal Thacker.
Nelson George Thacker (1915-1994)
Known as George, he was born in Evesham on 28th September 1915. His parents, Percy John Thacker and mother, Sarah Jane (née Hampton), had married in Evesham late in 1914. His mother was from Bengeworth in Evesham and worked at the local jam factory. His father was a journeyman baker and the family lived at 4 Mill Street, Evesham. George had a younger brother, Frederick born in 1917 who died, aged 7, in 1924. His mother gave birth to a third son, Douglas, in 1927 but he also did not survive infancy.
George was named after his father’s brother Nelson Thacker (1892-1915). Just before George was born his Uncle Nelson had embarked for France having enlisted as a Private with the 1st Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). Less than two months’ later, whilst fighting on the Western Front Private Nelson Thacker was killed in action on 13th October 1915, and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial and the Evesham War Memorial.
After the outbreak of the Second World War, George enlisted with the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and in 1942, whilst in France, was captured by the German Army. The Evesham Journal reported on 21st March 1942 that George was a Prisoner of War in Stalag VIII-B Lamsdorf.
Around 210 men from the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment are known to have been imprisoned in Stalag VIII-B at some point during the war. The stalag was the largest German Army prisoner of war camp in the Third Reich with thousands of prisoners, mostly Russian but with a smaller camp of some 16,000 prisoners from Britain, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa. The camp was located in the north east near Oppeln on the River Oder in Silesia near what was then the German Polish border. At the end of 1943 Lamsdorf was designated Stalag 344 and a sub-camp at Teschen, some 125 km to the south east, became the new Stalag VIII-B.
According to the Worcestershire Regiment’s records Lt/Cpl 1873046 Thacker was imprisoned in Stalag 383 as PoW 15320. Fellow serving soldiers from his battalion; Corporals H.H. Taylor, D.E. Williams, R.P. Evans and Sergeants C. Sargerson and R.W. Seager are recorded as being PoWs in the camp at the same time as George.
It was not unusual for prisoners to be transferred between camps. Private Les Foskett who served with The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, had been a prisoner at Stalag VIII-B in 1941 and was transferred to Stalag 383 a few months later so it is likely that George and a number of others were transferred between the two camps at some stage and that he may not have been in Stalag VIII-B for long. Click here for Les Foskett’s story.
Stalag 383 was located in Bavaria between Nuremburg and Regensberg in Germany. Until late 1942, the prisoners in the camp endured conditions what have been described by another PoW as bad but once the Swiss Red Cross became involved, and Red Cross clothing and food parcels supplemented PoW camp rations, the lives the PoWs improved and the camp was described as “far less depressing than Lamsdorf”. A Swedish delegate who visited the camp on the occasion of the centenary of the YMCA in July 1944 stated that he had seen “no better camp in Germany” (see extracts from the Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945 for prisoners’ descriptions of the camp). The PoWs were released from Stalag 383 in early May 1945 by the American Army.
After his release, George returned home to Evesham. Following his discharge from the army in he started working as a Postman with Evesham Post Office in 1946 and he later joined the Evesham Town Silver Band. He married Gertrude Cynthia Padfield, known as Cynthia (of Burford Road, Evesham), at St Lawrence Church, in 1947. George died in 1994 and his wife, Cynthia, died aged 87, on 26th January 2012 and is buried in Waterside Cemetery, Evesham. Before her death Cynthia lived on Isbourne Crescent, Evesham.
If anyone has any information about George Thacker that could be added to this article then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.