Soldier of the Month
Frederick Edward Sheady
The full story of Fred Sheady was unknown in the UK until 2016. Until then British records show him as “Killed Whilst Escaping,” with no known grave. We gratefully acknowledge the help and assistance provided by Mr Marcin Grybos and our Polish friends who worked tirelessly with us to help piece together this sad but amazing story of determination and human spirit.
4189938 Fusilier Frederick Edward SHEADY. 1RWF
22 April 1933. 4189938 Frederick Edward Sheady attested into the Royal Welch Fusiliers, joining the 2nd Battalion on their Foreign Service tour. Fred was from Flint, North Wales.
December 1938. Fred returns to the UK as his military service starts to draw to a close, and he’s posted to 1RWF, based in the UK. In Sept 1939 at the onset of WW2, 1RWF is deployed to France as part of the BEF. Fred goes with them. By now he’s a married man of only eight days, with a family home at Prince of Wales Avenue, Flint.
16 May 1940. 1RWF come under sustained German attacks whilst defending the River Dyle at Ottenbourg on the French/Belgian border. At 2200hrs following the collapse of French Forces further along their line, they are ordered to withdraw. A few days later Fred is reported missing, later he’s reported “Wounded” and confirmed to be a Prisoner of War. He was being held at Larmsdorf, Southern Poland, within Stalag VIIIB. His allocated Prisoner of War number: 16929.
Over the next two years, Fred, makes at least seven attempts to escape from the camp, his Polish companions later confirm his prime motivation was to get back to his family in Flint.
7 Sept 1942. A group of twelve POW’s including Fred managed to escape from a workcamp. Literally minutes before the attempt, Fred partners up with a member of the RAF of Polish/Jewish extraction, they escape together. This airman spoke fluent Polish and had family near Krakow. Fred’s name later appears on a German Police “Wanted” poster. We know the Jewish airman was captured four months later, and then escaped again, this time making a homerun back to the UK.
The picture now gets murky and we temporarily lose track of Fred’s movements.
November 1942. Polish documents record that he was hiding in Krakow, in the care of the Polish Partisans (AK). The Gestapo is closing in on him; they have already caught a doctor who had been hiding Fred. His continued presence in Krakow was putting the local resistance network at risk, so the local partisan commander ordered that Fred was to be moved to Bystrzyca Szymbarska, to the house of a female partisan Stanislowa Groblewska (Codename: Joanna). She uses a horse-drawn wagon to make the journey (150kms), as the trains are considered too risky. Fred pretends to be mute and has documents to suggest he is John Cislaka. He now has the partisan codename: “Alliant”
9 November 1942. Stanislowa and Fred arrive at her home in Bystrzyca. He spends Christmas with her and her family, hiding in the attic room.
The Groblewska House today. The attic room can be seen.
28 February 1943. The Gestapo is now looking with suspicion at the Groblewska family, Fred is quickly moved to a partisan hideout, deep in the woods in the Gorlich District. He now gaining the trust of his fellow partisans and beginning to speak polish.
10 March 1943. Fred is killed at the village of Stróże, being summarily shot by German Railway Police as he attempted to surrender. Fred’s group had arrived at a house in the village the day before they were due to purchase ammunition. However a local man had informed on their operation. The Germans surrounded the house, and then using grenades, launched their raid. Only a couple of the partisans were armed, and of the six men, two managed to escape, the remaining four, including Fred, were killed inside or in the vicinity of the house.
We know that Fred initially escaped from the house, but still weak from years of captivity, no exercise and a poor diet, he was quickly chased down by the German Police, he then attempted to surrender and was killed on the spot.
The German unit then burned the house to the ground. One of the escapees, the group leader, Franciszek Paszek (Codename: Kmicic) hid in a nearby farm shed and later escaped during the night by climbing through the shingle roof. His testimony was recorded in a Polish book about the Partisans, published after the war, and also in the biography of Stanislawa Groblewska, with whom he spoke with a day or so later.
On the 12 March, Groblewska wrote in her diary "The bodies of the partisans were buried in one grave .., Fred Sheady from Flint in Wales who was buried in a cemetery in Stróże will remain with us forever” She also added in her diary on March the 12, 1944 the memories of "Kmicic" who survived and she concluded: " All the partisans were buried in a cemetery in Stróże "
The other partisans killed and buried with Fusilier Fred Sheady were:
A short while later the Partisans exacted their bloody revenge. The partisans gunned down the man who informed the Germans of the Stróże partisan operation to purchase ammunition. Then a few weeks after Fred was killed, an escaped Canadian Flying Officer Hubert Brooks, and his British Co-Pilot, who were involved with a nearby partisan group, attacked the German Railway Police, herding a number of them into a room and shooting them dead.
Immediately the war, during the Stalinist purges, the Polish Partisans (AK) were treated as a threat to the State, imprisoned and often killed. The local government therefore ordered the bodies of the men to be exhumed and reburied outside of the district. Sadly, we have not been able to locate the final resting place of Fusilier Fred Sheady and his fellow partisans. The villagers at Stróże erected a memorial to the four men at the location of their original gravesite. This is now the focus of their remembrance.
Peter Sheady at the Stróże Memorial 2018
Recently Peter Sheady a member of the present-day family travelled to Poland, met and thanked our Polish researchers and laid a Royal Welch Fusilier wreath at the memorial in the village of Stróże.
- RWF Regimental Enlistment Registers
- Y Ddraig Goch. December 1938
- RWFRR Vol 5(Draft)
- War Office Casualty List 236
- War Office Casualty List 316
- War Office Casualty List 385
- German Police Bulletin. IWM: HU47081
- Rod Barron
- Ralf Brooks
- Manuscript by Stanislawa Groblewska
- Marcin Grybos
- Peter Sheady
- Jacob Gewelber. RAF