A HISTORIAN looks to have won his campaign to have his uncle’s grave in a Polish cemetery officially recognised.

Tom Hutchinson has been working for several years to have the War Graves Commission accept an unmarked grave in the Polish village of Popielow is that of his uncle, who was killed while a Prisoner of War (PoW) in the Second World War.

The War Graves Commission has now accepted the evidence collated by Mr Hutchinson.

Loading article content

Lance Corporal John Thomas Saunders was shot by a prison guard on July 21, 1944, along with another British PoW. L Cpl Saunders, known as Tommy, was captured by the German forces at Arras, in France, on May 20, 1940.

A month later, he arrived at Stalag VIIIB PoW camp and, in 1942, was transferred to Lamsdorf, a large camp in Germany, now part of Poland.

On July 21, 1944, L Cpl Saunders, who was 25 and a member of the Tyneside Scottish Black Watch, was working in woodland with some other prisoners when an argument arose between the workers and a guard about how much work was being done. The guard, who felt threatened as the workers had saws and axes, shot and killed two of the men, L Cpl Saunders and a member of the Lothians and Border Horse called Henry Thomson.

Mr Hutchinson has gathered a file of evidence that he says proves his uncle, who came from Bishop Auckland , is buried in one of two unmarked graves in the Polish cemetery, with the other grave believed to belong to Mr Thomson.

He has travelled to Popielow to see the graves, which are rumoured locally to belong to two British soldiers, and gathered personal accounts from villagers supporting his theory.

Mr Hutchinson said: “I am very pleased that the commission has accepted my account and is now preparing a headstone for my uncle’s grave.

“It will come as a great relief for our family and my mother, who was Tommy’s sister, and I look forward to returning to Popielow for the dedication.”

The commission is still trying to contact the family of Mr Thomson, whose identity was discovered by another Bishop Auckland historian, John Dixon.