Falling foul of the war

4391907 Private Douglas Monument joined the Green Howards on 16 October 1939 when he was 20 years old. He was an apprentice plumber, but had hopes of a different profession.

Five days before Britain declared war on Germany, Douglas had signed to play for Darlington Football club. He would be paid £2 10 shillings per week, initially for the period 29 August to 25 September 1939.

In signing for the club, Douglas agreed to play in an efficient manner and to the best of his ability for the club. He also agreed that he would do everything necessary to get and keep himself in the best possible condition so as to render the most efficient service to the Club, and will carry out all the training and other instructions of the Club through its representative officials. Douglas signed in the presence of the then Manager, John Carr (manager between 1939-1942) and Club Secretary, John Kirton Dodds.

Douglas went to France with the 5th Battalion and was wounded and taken prisoner during the confusion of the retreat to and evacuation of Dunkirk. He wrote to his mother on 3 June 1940 to reassure her he was well, but made no mention of having been wounded.

image of a letter written by Monument to his mother.The letter reads:

Dearest mother,

Well mother I hope that this few lines I am writing find you quite safe and I can quite imagine you will have been worrying all this time before this ever reaches you, but mother for your own sake as well as mine, keep your chin up and don’t worry about me, for by this time I presume you have been notified as to me being a prisoner of war.

The only worry I have is hoping you, Harry and Dolly are safe. Tell Harry I am quite well and give all my love to Dolly. It will be no replying until we get settled. I will let you know straightaway. Please don’t worry mother. Cheerio.

All my love Douglas.

We cannot know which notification his mother received first, Douglas’s letter or the official telegram notifying her that her son had been reported missing on 14 June 1940.  On 29 September, Douglas’ family were told that he was indeed a Prisoner of War (PoW), being held in Stalag VIIIB in Germany.

During his time as a PoW Douglas kept in touch with Darlington Football Club, on 18th January 1942.  The letter we have in our collection is from 1942.

Dear Douglas,

Your card of the 16th January is to hand. Needless to say, I was glad to hear from you and I will have your card read at our next Board meeting.  Of course, we are not playing football this season but hope to do so soon.

I am pleased to see that you are in a working party for that will give you some occupation which I am sure is best for you under present conditions.

I saw your mother a month ago and she seemed quite well and in good spirits. We are all well and have not much to complain of. I trust you are well too.

With all good wishes…..

Stalag VIIIB was at Lambsdorf (Lambinowicze in Poland) and was later renamed Stalag 344. His Red Cross Record Card shows that he was put to work in the work camp known as E3.  This was a chemical complex at Blechammer producing synthetic aviation fuel. The camp  became one of the sub-camps to which prisoners from Auschwitz were sent to work, many to death.

Douglas’ Red Cross Record also shows his boot size as 9 and his shorts size as 15½.  It also records the dates on which parcels were sent to him, the first on 20 August 1942, the last on 14 February 1944.

Douglas was repatriated to the UK and alerted his family to his homecoming with a brief telegram dated 12 May 1945.

telegram from Monum

Whether it was his wound, the physical hardships of life as a PoW or the football club starting afresh once the war ended, we can find no record of Douglas ever making an appearance for the Quakers.

Douglas’ Prisoner of War story forms part of our current special exhibition, Great Escapes.