An Athlete: Leutnant Hilmar Schmidt

Continuing my last post’s brief discussion of sports in PoW camps in Canada, today’s post showcases a few pieces in my collection relating to the sporting achievements of one German officer in Camp 30.

Camp 30, located in Bowmanville, Ontario, was among the many camps to have organized sporting events. The camp was built around a former boys’ school and housed German officers and their orderlies from 1941 until its closure in 1945. Among the PoWs who spent some years here was Leutnant Hilmar Schmidt.

Leut. Hilmar Schmidt was a navigator and bomb-aimer in the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force. Fortunately for me, Schmidt kept a diary of his time in the Luftwaffe and a number of excerpts were published in Kenneth Wakefield’s The First Pathfinders. While they provide no information regarding his later internment, the diary entries provide a good sense of lives of Germans flying sorties over Britain.

Wakefield describes,

“Schmidt, a graduate in Classical Philology at the University of Jena, had served with the Luftwaffe from 1935 and after training as an observer (navigator/bomb aimer), flew with III./KG152. He left the German Air Force in 1937 to resume his studies but was recalled for duty in August 1939. He was posted to LnAbt 100 and from then until June 1941 kept a diary which today gives an interesting insight into the life of a German airman in the early war years.” 1

On the night of June 14, 1941, Schmidt’s military career came to an end. As he described in a later interview,

“We had been over England only a few minutes when suddenly there were several explosions in our aircraft. Paul dived away at once, at the same time telling me to open the radiator flaps because the engine temperatures had shot up alarmingly. I gave him a heading to fly for Calais and dropped our bombs at random. Then the left engine stopped and almost immediately the right engine caught fire, so I gave the order to bale out. There was time for me to clip on my chest parachute – the complete parachute and harness was too much of a burden, but I always wore the harness. And out we went.” 2

Schmidt, along with pilot Ofw. Paul Wiersbitzki and crewmen Fw. Herbert Schick and Fw. Kurt Braun, were taken prisoner. Following his interrogation and a brief time as a PoW in Britain, Schmidt eventually found himself in Canada by the 1942.

In April 1942, Schmidt arrived at Bowmanville where he remained for at least the next year. As the following documents suggest, he excelled at the sporting events, participating in a number of activities.

5th Place in high-jump with 1.57m. Camp 30 – Bowmanville, September 1942.
2nd Place, 300-yard freestyle swimming, 4:15.4. Camp 30 – Bowmanville, November 1942.
1st Place Handball, “Gau Mitte team”, Camp 30 – Bowmanville, August 1943.

Traditionally, “gaue” refers to the administrative regions of Germany but in this case, I believe it may refer to divisions or areas within the camp. The team name appears to be “Gau Mitte” which would translate to the middle or centre area/region. Team members include Hauptman Bräuer, Hauptman Ganzert, Hauptman Code, Oberleutnant Einicke, Oberleutnant von Krause, Oberleutnant Marx, Ft.z.S. Happel, Leutnant Schmidt, Leutnant Wüllenweber, Stabsgefreiter Nowsky, and San. Soldat Mochalski.

For those who may not have noticed, the triangular cut-out at the top of each certificate is not original. The cutout area once featured the German Eagle clutching a Swastika, the symbol of Nazi Germany. I found it quite interesting that presumably Schmidt or a family member was willing to erase this element of camp life but valued the rest of these documents enough to preserve them.

In April 1945, Schmidt was transferred to Camp 44 at Grand Ligne, Quebec. He was here for only a year before he was again transferred in April 1946, this time to Camp 40 at Farnham, Quebec before being sent to Great Britain.

1. Kenneth Wakefield, The First Pathfinders: The Operational History of Kampfgruppe 100, 1939-1941 (London: William Kimber & Co. Limited, 1981), 32.
2. Ibid, 173.

Published by Michael O'Hagan

Historian studying German Prisoners of War in Canada during the Second World War

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