Christmas card sent from German prisoner of war camp to Great Yarmouth still intact

The Christmas card sent by Albert Symonds from a German prisoner of war camp

The Christmas card sent by Albert Symonds from a German prisoner of war camp - Credit: David Hannant

Every Christmas card has its own individual journey, whether it is hand-delivered, sent by post or, in this digital age, even emailed.

Albert Symonds' name on the St George's Park memorial

Albert Symonds' name on the St George's Park memorial - Credit: David Hannant

However, few are quite as poignant as this – sent from a German prisoner of war camp to Great Yarmouth.

It was posted on December 23, 1941, from Stalag VIII-B, a Nazi-controlled camp in the Polish town of Lamsdorf (now called Lambinowice), from soldier Albert Symonds, to his parents Albert and Margaret, who lived at 8 Middle Market Road.

It ended up in the hands of his younger brother Frederick, now 91, who held on to it over the years, with the card surviving a number of moves.

It is now in the possession of Greta Barnes, Frederick's daughter and Albert's niece, whose husband Lenny discovered the precious relic tucked safely away in a chest of drawers.

Albert Symonds, who was a prisoner of war during World War II

Albert Symonds, who was a prisoner of war during World War II - Credit: David Hannant


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The couple had been clearing his home, after the 91-year-old moved into Claremont House, when they came across the card.

Mrs Barnes, 68, of Byron Way, Caister, said: 'When we found it I thought it was amazing that something like this was still there after all these years.

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'My father does tend to keep things, but for him to have kept hold of this for so long it must have been very precious.'

The card followed the family from home to home over the years, first being taken from Middle Market Road to Sturdee Avenue, then Braddock Road in Caister, before Mr and Mrs Barnes found it this year.

The Christmas card sent by Albert Symonds from a German prisoner of war camp

The Christmas card sent by Albert Symonds from a German prisoner of war camp - Credit: David Hannant

It is currently kept in a box at the couple's home, along with Frederick's British Empire Medal and a single poppy.

However, Mrs Barnes now intends to send the card on its next journey – to Albert's son Mervyn in Bolton.

Prisoners were not allowed to add personal messages to the recipients, instead, just their names and an address.

On the front of the card was a short poem, written in English.

The back of the Christmas card sent by Albert Symonds from a German prisoner of war camp

The back of the Christmas card sent by Albert Symonds from a German prisoner of war camp - Credit: David Hannant

'I think it's quite a poignant message,' Mrs Barnes added.

Mervyn said: 'When I found out about the card it gave me chills. I had no idea it even existed, so it was a wonderful surprise. It made my Christmas.'

Albert Symonds

Albert Symonds signed up to the army at the beginning of the Second World War - despite being too young to enlist. However, in France and before he could reach Dunkirk, he was captured by German troops and taken to Stalag VIII-B.

His eldest son Mervyn, 69, said said: 'When he was at the camp, he decided he wanted to escape, so tried to find the escape committee. He was only about 18 at the time. One of the jobs he was given was to clear woodlands around the camp, and he and another soldier identified this as a weak spot, so decided it was where they would try to escape from.'

The escape bid was initially successful but Albert was recaptured and taken back to the camp where he and the other soldier were made to run a gauntlet through the German guards, who lined up and beat them. One guard clubbed him on the head with his rifle with such force it severely harmed his brain. However, he survived the war, and returned home to Yarmouth, fluent in German!

Mr Symonds said: 'When he returned he was weak and unwell. He never told me about what happened in the camp, so I cannot imagine what he went through.'

He married Pauline, and had two sons, Mervyn and Paul, who is now 65. Albert died in 1956 in Yarmouth, after the injuries he suffered to his brain took their toll.

In 1995, his name was added to the Second World War memorial in St George's Park, listed as having died during the Korean War, due to the fact he was still enlisted during the time - though too unwell to serve.Do you have a family possession which sheds light on the past? Email david.hannant@archant.co.uk

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