A Father's Day Remembrance at Stalag 383
June 18, 2013
Hohenfels, Germany -- Steve Foster's retirement from the Royal Navy was the beginning of another journey that led him to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) to uncover his Father's past.
Traveling from the United Kingdom to Hohenfels with his wife Chris on board their Triumph motorcycle, the Foster's are retracing the steps of Steve's late father, British Army Sgt. Fredrick Foster.
It was during World War II that Sgt. Foster spent five years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in a German prison camp known as Stalag 383.
Though the physical remains of Stalag 383 are sparse and nearly covered by the buildings that make up the Hohenfels Military Community, the story of Fredrick Foster has risen from the past as a reminder of what happened here over seventy years ago.
Fighting as a British Territorial Sergeant in Norway, in the earliest days of World War II, Foster was captured by the Nazis after five days of fighting.
He was sent to Poland as a POW in Stalag 20A. After a bold escape attempt which brought Foster and a close comrade as far as the Swiss border, he was recaptured by the Germans and sent to Stalag 383, at Hohenfels, for the remainder of the war.
For Steve, finding out what happened after his father's capture in Norway was a challenge that that he undertook with passion and commitment.
"He talked more about his five days of fighting in Norway than he did about his five years as a POW," remarked Steve, who discovered a suitcase of post-war letters his father had written after his release from Stalag 383.
Motivated by a desire to honor his father's service to his nation while uncovering his hidden past, the younger Foster arrived at Hohenfels with a photo album filled with pictures and letters from his father's time at Stalag 383.
What he did not expect was the warm welcome that awaited him.
Over thirty motorcyclists from the military communities of Hohenfels and Vilseck, along with riders from local German towns, were staged at the post entrance in order to escort the Fosters by motorcade to the former site of Stalag 383.
"It was a great surprise," said his wife Chris, "we appreciate all the moral support. It was absolutely marvelous!"
As the motorcade came to a halt at the former site of the Stalag 383 barracks, the riders disembarked and circled around Steve as he told the story of his father's imprisonment and the five hard years he spent as a POW so long ago.
"Hohenfels has a lot of history and it's great to let people know what it used to be like here," said James Kincaid, Senior Vice President of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter and organizer of the Foster's motorcycle reception.
Learning about the personal stories of Soldiers like Sgt. Foster and the hardships they endured before the United States liberated Hohenfels in 1945 sheds new light on this shared history and gives new meaning to the mission that is carried out on a daily basis.
"It all comes to life when you're walking through the footsteps of seventy-three years ago," said Steve, who admitted that though it was emotional, the trip was definitely worthwhile.
"This was a way to find out about my father, I'm grateful to my colleagues and the military for making it possible," remarked Steve as he thanked the crowd that had gathered to hear the story of his father.