A few weeks ago, I wrote about an aspect of the WWII Black March of prisoners of war of Stalag Luft IV, the Combine. My father, George Edwin Farrar, who was a waist gunner in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England, was one of the prisoners on the March. Dad’s B-17 went down on September 28, 1944 and after a lengthy hospital stay, he was placed in Stalag Luft IV around Thanksgiving.
I have found that when the prisoners of Stalag Luft IV were marched out of the prison camp on February 6, 1945, Dad, RAF airman Laurie Newbold, and 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil McWhorter likely made up a three-man combine. This is not information that my dad shared with me. He never mentioned these men when he told me stories of the POW camp and March. These things I had to find on my own, but as a place to start, he left a clue, a letter he had saved since 1946.
Most of the letters in the bundle my dad saved since the war were written by the families of my dad’s crew between the time the crew went missing and the end of the war. But this one was dated July 15, 1946 and it came from England. It was from Laurie Newbold, an airman with England’s RAF and it was clear that he had been close to my father when they were prisoners of war. In his letter, Laurie mentioned another airman, this one American.
Have you ever come across any more of Room 12. Old Mac Whorter lives down south at East Bernstadt, N London, Kentucky but I forgot that your states are as big as England.
This one letter my father saved added to the little detail I knew about his time as a POW:
- My dad, Laurie Newbold, and a man Laurie called “Old Mac Whorter” roomed together at Stalag Luft IV and likely marched together in the Black March. Laurie also noted that this man lived in East Bernstadt, Kentucky.
- Dad, Laurie, and “Old Mac Whorter” were assigned to Room 12, hut number unknown, compound unknown.
Gregory Hatton runs a memorial website on Stalag Luft IV. Among the interesting information Greg presents is a document that contains a “Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross Visit of Oct. 5 & 6, 1944 by Mr. Biner, Stalag Luft IV.” In a section describing the accommodations at the camp, the report notes that there are four camps or compounds within Luft IV: A, B, C, and D.
A, B, and C contained Americans only. Camp D contained American and British. I must assume that my father and “Old Mac Whorter” were in Camp D as they were housed with British RAF POW Laurie Newbold. I don’t know how many barracks or huts were built in Camp D and haven’t yet found a way to determine which one they were in, but apparently they were in Room 12 of their hut.
I wanted to know more about the two men my dad spent his darkest days with in the prison camp and on the March. Since “Old Mac Whorter” was an American, I thought I would research him first since I am more familiar with the American WWII airman websites and genealogical sites.
To discover the real name of “Old Mac Whorter,” I had to make a few guesses. First, the man’s last name was probably MacWhorter or McWhorter. Searching the National Archives database of WWII prisoners of war in Stalag Luft IV, I found him. Not easily, but I found him. For some reason, the database listed his last name as Mc Whorter, with a space after the “Mc.” But here was a good candidate, Cecil C. McWhorter, and his home was in Kentucky.
Cecil C. McWhorter’s Army Air Forces serial number was 6285927. He was a staff sergeant in the Air Corps, had become a POW on October 3, 1944, and served with the 351st Bomb Group. The 351st was a B-17 group based in Polebrook, England, not very far from my dad’s group, the 384th in Grafton Underwood, less than fifteen miles away. Cecil’s plane went down just five days after my dad’s.
Continuing my National Archives search, I found Cecil’s enlistment record. It revealed he was born in 1918 and he resided in Laurel County, Kentucky. The city Laurie Newbold mentioned in his letter, East Bernstadt, is a city in Laurel County.
Cecil enlisted in the Air Corps on December 19, 1941. I realized Cecil must have also served in another capacity or he would have finished his tour and returned home long before he became a POW in 1944. I did not discover how or where else he served at this point in my research.
Next in the search, I turned to the American Air Museum in Britain’s database. Here I found that Cecil served in the 511th Bomb Squadron of the 351st Bomb Group, based at Polebrook, England. His page confirmed how Cecil came to be in Stalag Luft IV,
Prisoner of War (POW) Crashed near Stellnau on 10/3/44 in B-17 #4338518
When I followed a link to the page for the aircraft (unnamed 43-38518), I learned even more details: where the ship crashed, the names of the crew, and the Missing Air Crew Report number, 9358.
Now that I knew which bomb group of the 8th Air Force Cecil served in, I searched for more information for his group, the 351st. I found they have both a website and a Facebook group page. The 351st Bomb Group’s website contains detailed information about Cecil’s last mission, the crew he flew with, their target for October 3, 1944, the B-17 they were aboard, and the number for the missing air crew report, MACR9358.
If you are a relative of 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil C. McWhorter or RAF airman Laurie Newbold, please Contact Me.
To be continued…
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018