During my research into the British Free Corps, I had the good fortune to contact Alfred´s granddaughter Katie Minchin. She has kindly made available Alfred Minchin´s statements from 8/9th June 1945, formerly held at the Public Records Office ( PRO Ref: 96519).
Each paragraph is numbered and I have reproduced the statements in full from paragraph 4 onwards. Paragraphs 1 to 3 have been deleted, due to the nature of contents, names of next of kin and contact addresses etc.
The Minchin statements are reproduced with the knowledge and kind permission of Katie Minchin.
8th June, 1945.
4. I was taken prisoner of war on the 28th March, 1942 off Murmansk when I was serving as an Able Seaman on board S.S. "EMPIRE RANGER", after we had been bombed by German aircraft. After our ship was sinking, we took to the boats and were subsequently captured by a German destroyer.
5. We were taken to KIRKENESS in Norway where we stayed about month when we were transported to ROVAHIEME in Finland. After three or four days we travelled by train to Helsinki. From there we were taken by troopship to Stettin and then by train to Bremen.
6. I arrived in Bremen about the 5th May, 1942, and was detained in Milag Civilian Internment Camp. We were behind barbed wire away from the main camp for about a month when the whole of my ship´s company were taken to Wilhelmshaven for interrogation by a German Naval Officer. We stayed there about a fortnight and then returned to the Milag.
7. As I was run down in health I was taken to the Camp Hospital and was under medical care for about five weeks. Then everything was normal until about the 9th July, 1943, when I was asked by a Donkeyman in the Camp named LEWIS, whose christian name is, I believe, Frederic, if I would care to go to a Holiday Camp, which he described as D.3. About six others were also asked by LEWIS if they wanted to go. Their names were MAYLIN, BRYANT but the other names I cannot remember at the moment.
8. On the 22nd July, 1943, six members of Milag, including LEWIS and myself were taken by train under escort to Berlin, Stalag IIID, 517 S at Genshagen, where we stayed together for two months, when BRYANT and two of the others left.
9. MAYLIN, LEWIS and myself worked on the staff at Genshagen until November, 1943, when LEWIS and I left for the British Free Corps.
10. Sonderführer LANGE at Genshagen and an Englishman named Thomas COOPER induced both LEWIS and I to join the Free Corps. COOPER was in civilian clothing and did most of the talking. He told me that there were quite a few men in the British Free Corps and we would have a marvellous time. COOPER showed us a number of large posters with printed matter and illustrations boosting up the Legion of St. George, the name under which the Free Corps was known at the time. Cooper did not tell me what the aims of the Legion were and they were never laid down at any time. I thought it was just a propaganda unit in order to bring Germany and England together. I decided to join to find out what Germany was really like.
11. On the 2nd or 3 rd November, 1943, I left Genshagen with LEWIS and we were taken to the offices of Stalag IIID, where we were given civilian clothing, by a German soldier under orders from Major HEIMPEL, whom I understand supervised IIID and all the people, mostly English, working on the Berlin Radio. I met Major HEIMPEL who gave me a form to sign stating I would not attempt to escape in civilian clothing and I willingly signed this form.
12. From Stalag IIID, LEWIS and I were escorted to Schonholzer Strasse, Pankow, North Berlin, where we were introduced to other members of the British Free Corps. I remember meeting COURLANDER, BRITTEN, McCLARDY, WILSON, COOPER and MARTIN at the time. This address was a private dwelling house where we had plenty of liberty. We were to go out unescorted into Berlin, although I did not have a pass. I believe WILSON, McClardy and COURLANDER had passes as they could speak German. I used to go out to Cafes, Restaurants and Cinemas in Berlin. The cost of this entertainment was paid by the German interpreters who would give us money, such as 20 R.M.´s, when we required it.
13. Sometime in February, 1944, we left for Hildesheim, Haus Germania in order to receive our uniforms. Seven of us went altogether, namely COOPER, COURLANDER, McCLARDY, BRITTEN, WILSON, MARTIN and myself. A senior German Officer, whose name I do not know, gave us each an S.S. uniform, without any markings. This was a pale green colour, with a peaked cap having a scull and cross bones on it. At Hildesheim we lived much the same life as in Berlin until Hitler´s birthday, April 20th, 1944, we were supplied with British Free Corps markings, consisting of a lapel with three leopards, a Union Jack on the right arm with an armband on the left sleeve, with British Free Corps in English lettering.
14. The next thing that happened was that we were moved to a training Camp in Dresden on October 5th, 1944, under the supervision of an American-speaking German, under the name of Captain ROEPKE of the Viking S.S. Division. I found that this place was an S.S. training school. We were given lectures on machine guns, mines, blowing up bridges, pistols and general army equipment. But we were not given any propaganda talks and the fact that we were walking around the streets all over Germany, dressed up as Free Corps men was propaganda in itself.
15. During the time I wore British Free Corps uniform I used to give the Nazi salute, as I had no option. We were instructed to do so by Captain ROEPKE and also the British N.C.O.´s. My rank was the English equivalent of Lance-Corporal, that is Sturmmann, which I held all the time.
16. After the R.A.F. and American bombing of Dresden on February 13th, 1945, all British Free Corps members, including myself, were put under arrest by the Germans, for suspected espionage. After a few days they were escorted to Berlin to defend the capital, but as I was in the Dresden Barracks Hospital with scabies at the time, I did not go to Berlin until I was fit, which was on March 2nd, 1945.
17. I was escorted to the train at Dresden station and travelled by rail in British Free Corps uniform to Anhalter Bahnhof Station, Berlin, where I was met by German officials and taken to the British Free Corps Headquarters at Carmen Sylva Strasse, Berlin, North 113. There I was interviewed by a German officer who immediately sent me to S.S. Hospital Lichterfelde West where I received further treatment for scabies.
18. I escaped from this Hospital on April 21st, 1945, in borrowed civilian clothing. I managed to get through on foot to the American lines at Tangermünde on the 5th May, 1945. I told the American Sergeants that I had escaped from Berlin and I was fitted out with American clothing and fed very well. I told the Americans that I was an escaped prisoner-of-war, but I did not mention anything about the British Free Corps. I have not mentioned it at all until today.
19. I was flown back from Hildesheim to Brussels and thence to Oxford, England where I arrived on 19th May, 1945. Since then I have had hospital treatment for an abscess on my right leg.
20. During the time I was a member of the British Free Corps, that is from November, 1943, until April, 1945, I went on recruiting tours, four in all, three by myself and once with Kenneth BERRY, a merchant seaman. I went twice to Milag and once to an Air Force Camp in Hydekrug in East Prussia. With BERRY I went to Milag. Altogether I obtained four recruits for the British Free Corps. They were VOYSEY, ROWLANDS, PLEASANTS and LEICESTER, all merchant seamen from Milag. On one occasion I recruited VOYSEY and ROWLANDS together and on another PLEASANTS and LEICESTER. I cannot remember the exact dates, but it was about April, 1944.
21. I was asked to do recruiting by the "High-Ups" in the Free Corps, COURLANDER and McCLARDY. I was quite willing to do this as I thought it would give me an opportunity of looking round Germany to find out their military defences, although I had no opportunity of passing any information to England, nor did I know how I could do so.
22. Whilst I was a member of the Free Corps, I chose the name MILTON, and was always known as such. This was a German idea that all members should change their names.
23. During the whole of the time I was in the Free Corps, I received my Red Cross parcels regularly every fortnight and also my private mail from England.
24. I have read this statement and it is true.
( Signed ) Alfred V. Minchin
Statement taken, read over and signature witnessed by me.
( Signed ) P.A. Edwards.
9th June, 1945
25. I have been thinking over what I said yesterday afternoon and would like you to write that the reason why I joined the British Free Corps was because of my state of ill-health. For many years I have suffered from chest trouble and bad blood circulation. At the moment I am still suffering from skin trouble, although the scabies on my body has cleared up.
26. Also I would like to point out that I have been to sea since November, 1935 with the Merchant Navy and rose from deck-boy to Able-Seaman. I started off in the Port Line to Australia, then the Blue Star Line and after, the Union Castle Line.
27. I am a sailor and as such have no hate for anybody, including the Germans. I found out there was no truth in the English propaganda about the living conditions of the German people.
28. I have never been a member of any political party and have never been associated with the British Union of Fascists. I have no political views at all.
29. When I was in the British Free Corps I had my photograph taken with Kenneth BERRY, both of us in Free Corps uniform, at Milag by a German Naval Officer, who told me it would be published in Front Zeitung, a German soldiers´ paper. But I have not seen it myself.
30. I now feel thoroughly ashamed of myself. I realise now that I was a rebel and am sorry for everything that has happened. When I wore the German uniform of the British Free Corps, I occasionally carried a revolver and four rounds of ammunition with me, but I have never used it or threatened anyone with it.
31. There is one thing I forgot to tell you and that is that I suggested that the Unit´s name should be changed from the Legion of St. George to the British Free Corps. I suggested this about Christmas 1943, at Pankow, Berlin, at a conference when COURLANDER, McCLARDY, BRITTEN, MARTIN, WILSON, COOPER and a German interpreter were also present. I got the idea from the Danish Free Corps, which I had read about in the German newspapers. After a discussion, COOPER who was in charge of us all at the time, agreed to the change of name. We also talked about pay and the type of uniform we should wear. Pay came under the same rate as a german soldier which was one R.M. a day. After we got into uniform we were paid at that rate according to rank. I was paid 1 R.M. 20 a day every ten days from the German Paymaster at Hildesheim. I also remember that upon joining the Free Corps I was given 200 R.M.´s in a Post Office savings account by Captain ROEPKE. I drew on this account and spent the money on amusement, such as pictures and drinks. All the time I was in the Free Corps I continued to receive 1 R.M. 20 a day. The German Interpreter usually collected the money from the office for the whole bunch of us.
32. At no time did I do any broadcasting and have never been near any German Radio Station. Nor have I written any articles or pamphlets. That was all left to COURLANDER and McCLARDY.
33. Actually I am one of the "Big Six" of the British Free Corps. That means the six ringleaders, the other five being COURLANDER, McCLARDY, BRITTEN, WILSON and MARTIN. COOPER was the boss of the "Big Six". This name stuck and we were always known as such.
34. When we were in British Free Corps uniform, we had to give the Nazi salue to all German soldiers above and including the rank of Corporal and all German officers. In our barracks at Pankow and Hildesheim as well as Dresden we had photograph displayed on the wall of the Duke of Windsor whom we all admired as he also was a rebel. We all recognised him as the King of England. When we had parties, we always toasted the Duke of Windsor.
35. When I recruited the four men I have previously mentioned for the British Free Corps, there was no compulsion. I saw them seperately and alone in an office at Milag and told them what a wonderful time they would have if they joined, with plenty of forms of pleasure and freedom. They had already seen the Free Corps pamphlets and they volunteered of their own free will. All I got out of it was a trip out across Germany.
36. When I first arrived in Germany in 1942, I could not speak the language, but have since picked up a fair knowledge of it.
37. That is all I think. I have been trying to give you a good reason why I joined the British Free Corps, but honestly the only reason I can think of was to have a grand time at the expence of the Germans. I realise now what I did was wrong, although I never did any fighting or even fired a gun.
38. My Free Corps uniform with all my papers was left behind in the German Hospital at Lichterfelde, West Berlin.
39. I brought 158 R.M.´s back to England with me. This was the balance of the 200 R.M.´s given me by the Germans when I joined the Free Corps, together with other money I had saved out of my Free Corps pay. I handed this money to the Superintendent of the Mercantile Marine of War Transport of Dock Street, Aldgate, London, E. on the 28th May, 1945, and I produce his receipt for the money. I asked the Superintendent to change this money for me and he said he would at 40 R.M.´s to the pound sterling, but have not yet received the English money.
40. This further statement has been read to me and is true.
( Signed ) Alfred V. Minchin
Further statement taken, read over and signature witnessed by me.