The Wormhoudt massacre, the mass murder of 80 British and French POWs by Waffen-SS soldiers from the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
Private Robert Wildsmith and Alfred Tombs of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment were captured during the battle of Wormhoudt, Tombs a mortar man in the 2nd Battalion had been holding a line in front of the village when he and his company were overrun by tanks. The nine survivors, led by captain James Lynn-Allen and the remnants of D Company Headquarters, tried to reach their Battalion HQ by crawling along the ditches. A tank caught up to them and, after forcing their surrenders, handed them over to the German infantry. Along with a few other prisoners they were marched to the rear. Tombs remembered: ” We were taken to a field and on the way I saw Private Gould, who had been wounded previously, shot dead by one of our guards as he lay on the ground, another wounded man was shot as he lay on the road. Three of our trucks were damaged each with a body laying alongside dresses in khaki. Two had been completely burned and one was still burning. “When we arrived at the field we were joined by about 40 other soldiers…all members of my regiment with the exception of a Royal Artillery Dispatch rider who was already wounded. We were taken to a large barn and left in charge of two guard. These, as well as the ones who had originally escorted us, were wearing camouflage capes covering their uniforms but I could see that they had collar badges which resembled forked lightning, SS. ” One of the guards called four men out of the barn and shot them deadoutside. Then the other guard called for more men out, took them around to the other end of the barn and shot them. Captain James Lynn-Allen went outside to protest and was shot dead. I saw his body laying on his face outside. He had been shot in the neck. Wildsmith continued the story: ” We were driven to the rear of the barn. I was one of the last in. Two Germans guards came forward and each threw a grenade among us. The grenades caused many casualties. The Germans then opened fire on us with Tommy-guns, two firing from the front of the barn, two from the side and one from the rear. I heard a scream from outside…through a crack in the side I saw thet the German who had been firing from the back had been wounded. While the Germans went to attend the wounded guard I escaped out the front, crossing the field and into a ditch.” Tombs, who had been wounded in the leg, escaped too. Eventually both were recaptured by German artillery soldiers who treated them decently . Neither man mentioned the incidents to their captors and both were interned for the duration in a prisoner-of war POW camp. Only five of the 45 men in the barn survived. It was alleged from post-war testimony that it was specifically soldiers of the 2nd Battalion under the command of then Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Mohnke (see Mohnke) that carried out the atrocity.
Bert Evans, who has died aged 92, was one of the last survivors of the massacre at Wormhoudt, near the border between France and Belgium, during the withdrawal to Dunkirk.