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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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My Uncle Cyril

by alisonmallory

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Cyril Maurice Swift and Henry George Swift
Location of story: 
Poland and East Germany
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 November 2004

I want to tell you about my Uncle Cyril who I never met but his story lives on in our family. He was a prisoner of war in Poland during the second world war. He had been a POW for quite a large portion of the War I think. He had a bit of a thing about escaping. From reading the files I have, he clearly resented being a POW and was keen to get back to the real war and do his bit for his country. He was in some kind of POW open camp and was working on a farm I believe. He had come across a local home guard type of officer who was guarding him and other men. I have his name in a file but wont print it here for now. Uncle Cyril seems to have been desperate to escape and had crossed this chap a few times in his attempts. According to our files he had escaped on one occasion and was hiding out in some woods when this Home Guard officer found him. He was shot......there is a story in the file about the Home Guard man saying he 'understood that British men didn't squeal' before shooting him in the head. Uncle Cyril's body was later found but not where he had been shot.How do we know all this? Uncle Cyril seems to have befriended some local villagers who were feeding him whilst he was in hiding. One young woman witnessed his death and told her story to British soldiers later.

My Grandad and therefore Uncle Cyril's dad, was informed of the death and that there were some suspicious circumstances. He received communciation from the War Office and after the war was visited by some men who were imprisoned in the POW camp with Uncle Cyril. They were able to tell Grandad that the Home Guard man was a bit of a brute and had a reputation for being thoroughly nasty. They corroborated the story that Uncle Cyril's body was found in a different location to where the witnessed shooting took place. The War Office got involved and my Grandad went on a personal quest to find the murderer of his son. He had names and places and drew detailed sketches of where everything took place. The War Office looked into the whole story as a potential war crime. They confirmed that there were several men in the german Home Guard with the same name and that it was not possible to trace the murderer. Grandad had to let it go. The file and his records make fascinating reading, a story that it was hard to read, about an Uncle who I never met but I wished I had known.

Uncle Cyril is buried in a cemetary in a war grave in Poland, I have a photo of his grave and one day I will go and see it. No one from my family has even been able to visit but I will one day. Having read the file and his story I feel passionately that I must got there some day. My Grandad was sad that he had to let the matter go. He died about 30 years ago, but if I can go there and say goodbye for him then I will.

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