Rifleman Alfred Daniel Shorey

Family/Last name:
Forename(s) and initial(s):
Alfred Daniel
Date of birth:
Military Unit:
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Place of capture:
Date of capture:
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Other Sources (Family member)

My Father was in the Rifle Brigade and he was captured at Calais near Dunkirk in May 1940. Fortunately he survived the war but it was to be 5 long years before he saw England again. Like so many ex servicemen, he was always very reluctant to talk of his experiences. However I managed to obtain small snippets of information over the years which allowed me to piece together a rough outline of what he went through. 

However life at Lamsdorf is only half the story. How did those troops captured at Dunkirk get there, bearing in mind the camp is in Poland, which must be nigh on 800/900 miles away from the Channel ports? The answer to this question can be found in a book which I came across quite recently.

This is entitled ‘Dunkirk- The Men They Left Behind’ by Sean Longden. It is published by Constable of London and I bought my copy from Amazon for £8.99. This book must have taken Mr Longden a considerable time to write and research because it is so detailed. He starts by talking about the long easterly march the POW’s had to endure. The Germans provided little food or water or even medical supplies to tend the injured/wounded and those who fell by the wayside were often shot where they lay. For the last part of the journey the troops were put into enclosed rail wagons or river barges, often for days on end, again with little food, water or sanitation. 

He then covers what life was like in the camps, before describing what happened prior to repatriation. With the approach of the Red Army in the winter of 1944/5, The POW’s were again forced to march, this time in a westerly direction in what proved to be one of the coldest winters on record. Most of the time temperatures were at or well below freezing, particularly at night, and of course many were so weak and undernourished that did simply not make it.

I find it amazing that so many of our guys we able to survive in such harsh and appalling conditions for so long. Indeed it is even more surprising to know that there are actually men, albeit now very elderly, still alive today – 70 years on – who lived through this chapter of 20th century history. 


He was repatriated in April/May 1945 when I was 41/2 years old and this was when I first met him. As I entered my teen years I began to ask questions about being a POW but he was always very reluctant to talk of his experiences. In fact he always played them down. I managed to obtain very small snippets of information over a period of time and this allowed me to build up a very rough outline picture of what life was like. However this is very incomplete and I actually obtained more general information from your website about the camp and the living conditions there etc. All I know about my father is as follows:

He was born in October 1910 and joined the army as a Private in 1928 before leaving the service in around 1936. He became a reservist and was recalled to the colours in early 1940. This was with 1st battalion The Rifle Brigade – an infantry regiment. He spent time in Essex and Dorset (presumably on training) before being sent to Dover – probably sometime in May. He was shipped over to Dunkirk and captured on the beach at Gravelines, a short time in arriving in France. Gravelines is a few miles west of Dunkirk. After that the information becomes very limited. 

I understand he was initially obliged to walk under armed guard with many other captured troops in an easterly direction towards Belgium. I do not know how long this went on for but I think a few nights were spent bedded down in barns etc. Food and water was in short supply and on one occasion the troops walked past a field of cattle which were in severe need of being milked. The guards were asked if the troops could milk the cows into their tin hats but this was denied. This would of course have been of benefit to the German guards too, who I understand were also short of food, but they would have none of it.

At some stage the troops were entrained into locked covered railway box cars but I do not know if they went direct to Lamsdorf or stopped off at other holding areas before arriving there. I was born on 2nd October 1940 and at that point in time my late mother did not know if my father was dead or alive. Eventually she received a letter from him telling her he had been captured. Again I do not know when this was or where the letter came from. However, it was obviously sometime after I was born – at least 5 to 6 months after being captured, and this initial letter may have come from Lamsdorf.

Information on life in captivity becomes even more sketchy after this. Information I do have available is as follows:

  • My father went outside the camp to work locally but I do not know where he went or what he did. I think it might have been something to do with farming/agriculture because he became a keen amateur fruit a vegetable grower after repatriation, and was in fact very good at it too.
  • On at least one occasion I know he helped dig out a train stuck in a snowdrift.
  • Food was very poor and he survived on food sent to him my mother and from the Red Cross.
  • My mother also sent clothing. Food and clothing was of course on ration and home as was knitting wool. However my mother told me darning wool was not on ration and this was what she bought and used to knit socks, scarves, jumpers etc.
  • Initially my father found the German guards to be quite harsh, brutal and unsympathetic to their captives but this attitude softened a little as time went by with some of the Germans. 
  • My father told me he was liberated by the Americans before being flown home in a Lancaster bomber. This landed at Blackbush Airport, near Camberley in Surrey. Again I do not know when this occurred but I think it might have been in April because I seem to remember being told he was home in time for the VE day celebrations in early May.

Until recently I knew nothing about the so called ‘Long March to Freedom’. However, because my father was liberated by the Americans rather than the Russians, it suggests he was involved with this march.

On arriving home my mother was shocked with my father’s appearance. He had lost a considerable amount of weight and had a rather haggard and gaunt look about him. Because the quantities of food had been so small over the space of 5 years, his stomach had shrunk quite dramatically and he was only able to eat very small quantities food before feeling full. However as time went by the situation improved. He began to put on weight and fill out.

After leaving the army in the mid 1930’s my father joined the Post Office as a postman until being recalled to service in 1940. After demobilisation from the army in 1945, he went back to the Post Office. Over the years he began to obtain seniority until his retirement in 1970 when he was 60 years old. By this time he was in charge of a sorting office in west London. He died in September 1983, about one month before his 74th birthday.

I have heard reports about the mental difficulties some captives experienced on returning to civilian life after the war. However I do not know if my father have any problems in this respect. He was always OK with me but I was too young to know any different.

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