Monday, 9 December 2013

Lance Corporal John Thomas Saunders


In April 1940 the 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish (Black Watch) deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. The Battalion formed part of the 70th Infantry Brigade in the 23rd Northumbrian Division.

The TS were  tasked with the construction of airfields in the area of Frevant in Northern France. In May 1940 the Germans unleashed their Blitzkreig and invaded France and the Low Countries. As the Panzers rolled across France, the TS formed a blocking positions at Ficheux, and Mercatel, both near Arras.

The Battalion, along with the rest of the Brigade, had been moving between defensive positions when the Panzers arrived unexpectedly.  There were three separate Panzer columns – one of which was commanded by Rommel - and the Brigade troops, with little by way of transport, no radios or artillery, were both outflanked and outgunned

They held the advancing German armour for vital hours, sustaining heavy casualties and many TS were taken prisoner before the remnants withdrew to Dunkirk. Only around 140 men from 1 TS made it back to the UK. Many of those captured were wounded in the battle before being made PoWs. 

 Amongst those taken prisoner was the Lance Corporal John Thomas Saunders.

Initially held in Stalag VIIB PoW Camp, he was transferred to the Lamsdorf camp, in an area of Germany that is now part of Poland.

Lamsdorf PoW Camp Guards

Lamsdorf PoW Camp

On 21st July 1944 Lance Corporal Saunders was working in woodland with some other prisoners when an argument broke out.  The guard who felt threatened as the workers had saws and axes, shot and killed two men, Lance Corporal Saunders and Trooper  Thomson of the Lothian and Borders Horse.

The men were buried in unmarked graves in Popielow, Poland

Harder Than Hammers - 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish 1947
The Lamsdorf Website

Northern Echo




Lance Corporal Saunders nephew, Tom Hutchinson, worked for several years to have two unmarked graves in the cemetery in Popielow recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission . The CWGC accepted Tom's research and in November 2013 erected headstones to Lance Corporal Saunders and Trooper Thomson. 

CWGC Headstones
Trooper Thomson & Lance Corporal Saunders

CWGC Headstone
Lance Corporal Saunders
CWGC staff erecting headstones

CWGC graves Popielow Poland
Trooper Thomson & Lance Corporal Saunders

CWGC Information