Tyne & Wear

Tynemouth WW2 soldier's grave finally marked

Thompson's missing sheet and his grave Image copyright Green Howards Museum
Image caption POW George Thompson is believed to be the unknown English soldier buried in Wittenburg cemetery

The grave of a solider killed in World War Two has finally been recognised more than 70 years after his death.

Pte George Henry Thompson was 26 when he died near the German town of Wittenburg in 1945.

Thompson, from Tynemouth, had been captured five years previously during the Allied forces' retreat to Dunkirk.

His final resting place has been confirmed following research by the Green Howards Museum in Richmond.

The Long March

Thompson joined the 4th Battalion of the Yorkshire regiment and was deployed to France in February 1940.

He was captured by German forces at Athies and imprisoned at Stalag XX(A), a camp south of Torun in occupied Poland.

In 1945 and with the Soviets closing in, the Germans moved their POWs further west in what became known as the Long March.

Forced to walk up to 28 miles (45km) a day through snow with scant clothing and only four potatoes to eat, many prisoners like Thompson succumbed to disease, hypothermia or cruelty of their guards.

Where he was buried was a mystery until a researcher, Steve Foster, who was looking into his father's time as a POW, found a grave in Wittenburg cemetery marked "unbekannt Englische soldat" (unknown English soldier).

'Final whisper heard'

Steve Erskine, assistant curator at the Green Howards Museum, said: "No military action had taken place at Wittenburg, there were no records of any British soldier being involved in a fatal accident in the area; the only explanation was that a POW from a column on the Long March was buried in the plot and, given this logic and the circumstances, we concluded this must be George Thompson's last resting place."

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has now agreed to replace the German headstone with one saying the grave is believed to be that of Thompson.

Mr Erskine said he had hoped to find relatives of the soldier but none could be located before the grave was rededicated on Friday.

He said: "Soon, George's name will be removed from the wall of missing servicemen at the Dunkirk memorial.

"It's taken some unrelated family history research, more than 70 years, and a certain amount of persuasion, but Private George Thompson's whisper has finally been heard."

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