Stanley George Musgrove was born in January 1919 at 45 Golborne Road, North Kensington - not far from the slums of Southam Street where other Musgroves were living at this time. His father's occupation was 'newsagent', so at least they must have had some income. It was one of the poorest, most populated, roads in London with many large families sharing one or two small rooms. Like his brothers, I guess he signed up for service in order to escape the poverty.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that Stan had been taken prisoner of war in Japan and I have spent some time trying to either prove or disprove this. Trouble was, there were two Stanley Musgroves listed as having been POWs during WW2 and neither was prisoner in Japan.
Having been so successful in finding out as much as I had, I confidently requested this chaps service record, only to find he was Welsh and had a different date of birth to mine. Not the right person at all !
Prior to signing up for service, Stan was a railway worker with Great Western Railway, probably working at Paddington, which was where his grandfather had worked up until his death.
On 4th December 1942 he was awarded 7 days leave, during which, on 10th December, he married Joan Haynes from Dagenham who was a munitions worker. Less than a month later, the Regiment set sail for Africa. They disembarked in Algeria as part of the 1st Army on the 17th January 1943. The 56th was equipped with the 7.2" howitzer and may have been the first heavy regiment to see action with guns of that caliber.
Three months later, on 21st April 1943, the service records record Stan as "Missing" and two days later "believed POW". It was eventually recorded that he was "Captured Tunisia 20th April 1943". What was the Regiment doing around that time which led to his capture ? Headlines say "In Tunisia... The British 8th Army (Montgomery) launches a series of unsuccessful attacks on Axis positions near Enfidaville. The Allied forces suffer heavy casualties." We will probably never know the details of his capture but at least he was still alive.
The Italians capitulated in October 1943 and he must have then been captured by the Germans as the records say on 6th January 1944 he was transferred to Stalag 17A in Kaisersteinbruck, Austria.
At the beginning of April he was then transferred to one of the most notorious camps, Stalag 17B, in Krems, southern Austria, where he would remain for the next 12 months. Another prisoner in the camp, Howard Thornley, wrote "Near the end of March 1945, the Germans marched us out. We could already see the Russian tanks in the valley below our camp. Only the most sick and wounded prisoners were allowed to stay. On the march, it seemed that we wandered aimlessly in all directions, but mostly west toward the American and British Armies. The Germans were terrified of the Russians and did not want to be captured by them."
Stanley was "released by Allied Forces" and arrived back in the UK on 10th May 1945. Before being demobbed it looks like he was transferred to 523 Coast Regiment in Plymouth where he undertook some training with the Coast Artillery School, presumably to help him adjust to working life as a civilian. His testimonial at the end of the rehabilitation says he was "an intelligent and thoroughly reliable man ....... honest and sober he is recommended with confidence as a capable and willing man who will always do his best."
He was demobbed on 13th August 1946. You will remember when he signed up, having spent the first part of his life in the slums, he was just 120 pounds. After six years in the army, he had fattened up to 143 pounds - an extra one and a half stone !