Sunday, 3 September 2017
The men in this photo look happy enough despite the fact that it was taken in a prisoner-of-war camp on Christmas Eve, 1941. These 13 men were in a work camp that typically accommodated about 220 but for a time held almost 400 prisoners. The camp was located in the Austrian city of Klagenfurt, the capital of the southern province of Carinthia. The men were a mix of British, Australians and New Zealanders. Most went 'into the bag' on 29 April 1941 at the port of Kalamata in Greece during a failed Allied evacuation. A few were caught during the military campaign itself and the remainder were caught in Crete.
It was a cold winter that year but the men were optimistic. They thought it would be the only winter they would spend in Austria. Sadly, this wasn't to be the case. In fact it was just the first of four that they would spend as prisoners of the Third Reich.
My blog site is intended as a tribute to the more the 400 or so Allied soldiers who were interned in the Klagenfurt camp. Most spent 4 years and 8 days as prisoners; the men captured at Crete a month or so less.
Six of the POWs, three Brits and three Australians, were killed by 'Friendly Fire' when on Sunday, 19 February 1945 when an Allied bomber dropped its bombs on the Camp. Three more died from industrial accidents and disease and another was shot by a civilian guard ten weeks before the war ended.
It also commemorates the life of Michael Cister, the first of the 12 Klagenfurt POWs to be killed. Michael was not even a soldier. He was a South African galley boy, a crew member of a Merchant Ship that was sunk during the evacuation of Crete. When Michael arrived at the Camp he was just 16 years old. You can read how he died in "Bomb Raid on the Lend Canal."
If you think you might be related to a Klagenfurt POW, I recommend that you begin with the Roll Call. If not, you might like to read some of the profiles anyway. You are free to view the photo galleries and read the stories.
My father, Kevin Byrne was a Klagenfurt POW. There is a link to his memoir. Should you wish, you can contact me, Michael Byrne, by email: email@example.com