POW’s photos in album discovered in Bexhill set to be auctioned off

A selection of photos from the album under the hammer. Picture courtesy of Rowley's
A selection of photos from the album under the hammer. Picture courtesy of Rowley's

An album of photographs taken by a British prisoner of war held at Stalag XX-A and discovered in Bexhill will come under auction next week.

The pictures taken by Royal Engineer, Company Sergeant Major Joseph William Newton, between 1942 and 1945 are an extraordinary record of life in the German prison camp and were passed to his son, who lived in Bexhill.

Very little is known about Sergeant Major Newton, who may have been captured at Dunkirk.

The black and white photographs show everything from prison working parties in the fields of Poland to the musical, sport and theatrical events that prisoners organised to keep up morale.

In sharp contrast Sergeant Major Newton also took photographs of the prison checkpoint not long after his entry into the camp in Thorn (Torun) in Poland, German SS officers dinning in one of the rooms in the camp and images of the funerals of British soldiers who were shot while at Stalag XX-A.

The album will be sold by Rowley’s in Newmarket, Suffolk on Tuesday (September 5).

William Axon, Rowley’s senior valuer, said: “This album gives lots of details and the photos are really good quality. It doesn’t look like he used an improvised camera and you wonder if it was given to Newton, either by the Red Cross or perhaps by the Germans to prove that conditions were tolerable at the camp. If it didn’t meet with German approval it would seem very odd he would be able to photograph SS officers dining at the camp.”

Stalag XX-A held more than 5,000 British prisoners, as well as other POWs.

In 1945 as the Germans retreated from Poland the prisoners remaining at Stalag XX-A were forced on a march through winter and early spring, covering more than 700 miles as they headed towards the German border to a new camp. Some were shot during the march, or died of starvation, exhaustion, exposure and dysentery, but the survivors were eventually rescued by Allies in early April.

Mr Axon added: “We know Sergeant Newton survived the march because the final camp he is listed at is in Germany, Oerbke near Fallingbostel, which took prisoners in from Thorn, but we don’t know much more about him after that other than he survived and had a son.”

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