Army Chaplain’s Prisoner of War Diary Brought to Light 70 Years Later

Blogger: GemSen With war comes bravery and here at Forces War Records we are constantly exposed to moving stories, war diaries and personal accounts involving lashings of courage.There’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war, as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. One diary in particular that stands out is the account of Reverend Alan Maitland Fairweather, an Army Chaplain taken prisoner by the Germans during World War II -  now available for you to read on the Forces War Records website, free of charge.

Reverend Fairweather joined the Royal Army Chaplains in 1941 and during World War II, just after D-Day, he was posted to France during the North West Europe Campaign. It was during his time in France that he was captured by the Germans and reported missing. The Allied invasion of southern France in the late summer of 1944 marked the beginning of one of the most successful campaigns of World War II. As the German defence lost control, isolated groups began to surrender, with Paris becoming liberated on the 25th August 1944. Fairweather’s son, Kenneth who passed the diaries on to Forces War Records said: “When we received a telegram reporting that he had gone missing we presumed the worst, but rather miraculously he turned up two weeks later”. Reverend Fairweather was then reported as an escaped prisoner of war and his diary enshrines his personal account of the events surrounding his capture, almost 70 years ago. “I’m not sure whether it is true, but our understanding was that my father went to get some men that had gone missing at the time. He was told not to but disobeyed orders and ended up walking straight into German patrol and that was when the diary started.” The account talks about how the Chaplain had to spend his time in various cowsheds and barns by the Germans – often walking for miles and going without food. One exert from Sunday 25 August 1944 says: “Warned at midnight to be ready for a quick move. Marched 15km to another cowshed and warned that guards would shoot if we broke formation.” The diary also talks about the “excitable Nazi temper being much in evidence”. Kenneth Fairweather told Forces War records that: “One morning the German’s just vanished. My father was in a cowshed overnight and by the next morning they were gone and he escaped.” Luckily for Reverend Fairweather at the time of his capture in August 1944 the allies were closing in with a powerful offensive, and the Germans were on the retreat with isolated groups beginning to surrender. “I think my father and the fellow prisoners felt extremely lucky that the Germans didn’t throw a couple of grenades in before they left,” said Kenneth Fairweather. Reverend Fairweather who passed away in August 1978 was Mentioned in Dispatches (MID) three times for recognition of his gallant action in the face of the enemy, Fairweather also had four medals including the 1939-45 Star and War Medal 1939-45. See the original war diary and many others for yourself by visiting the ‘historic documents’ section under the War diaries category on the Forces War Records website. Who knows, you may even have an ancestor who had similar experiences to Reverend Fairweather, or some of the other individuals featured in our new ‘war diary’ section. You can also interact with Forces War Records online - we have a daily blog and social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ where you can keep up to date with all the latest military genealogy news and war features.
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