In the soup

Readers with fine memories will recall that Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler and Young David Evans are looking into the dark history surrounding Colenal James Kilian, and his cruelty and subsequent disgrace following the mistreatment of soldiers at the U.S. Army base stationed at Whittington, near Lichfield, during the war.

This was quite a scandal at the time or the American forces, but is barely recorded in our collective history at all. Both Peter and David (and myself of course) are eager to document this before the history is lost.

While the chaps work on this, Peter noted in the Lichfield Mercury of 25th January, 1952, Walsall Councillors and officers were less bothered about the Colenel’s crimes than they were about offloading a £200 soup tureen.

It was later sent on to the disgraced Kilian by post!

Walsall has always had odd priorities. Plus ça change, etc.

Thanks to Peter for the spot. Only in Walsall…


Well, you would… wouldn’t you? Image from Bryan Douglas.

Silver Tureen Problem Solved



Lichfield Mercury, 25th January 1952. A rather salty broth.

The presentation of the tureen to Col. Kilian, then commandant of the U.S. Army camp at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield, was to have been one of the highlights 0f Walsall’s Anglo-American Friendship Week In February, 1945.

For three years Col. Kilian was “fairy godmother” to Walsall. He “gave” the band of his unit the 1oth Replacement Depot, toplay for the town’s dances and socials and he raised two baseball teams to play before the Duchess of Kent in aid of the Red Cross.

When the Friendship Week was celebrated, however, inquiries were being made into allegations of cruelty to prisoners under the colonel’s commend.

Then, Col. Kilian was court martial led at Bad Nauheim, Germany, fined £125, and reprimanded for authorising the cruelty- and the tureen, with its inscription, “…token of goodwill and esteem and in appreciation of his ever ready helpfulness and co-operation…” was locked in the strong-room of Walsall Town Hall.

On December 16th. 1944, Col. Kilian received on behalf of the 10th Replacement Depot, U.S. Forces, the honorary Freedom of Lichfield, which was the first city in the country to give civic honour to American Allies in the Second World War.

The same year, in recognition of his achievement in making the Lichfield Depot one of the smoothest functioning U.S. Army installations n the United Kingdom, Col. Kilian was awarded the Legion of Merit, a high American honour.

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2 Responses to In the soup

  1. morturn says:

    I am always amazed at how good you are a spotting these historical gems, excellent work, thank you.

  2. Jim Kilian says:

    I’m a grandson of Col. Kilian, formerly of 10th Replacement Depot. I just came across this reference while browsing the internet. While it was kind of your city fathers to extend the invitation to my grandfather, it might have been just as well to let it lie. It might interest you to know that the conviction specified “unknowingly” permitting cruelty to prisoners. My dad, Col. Kilian’s eldest son, discussed the matter quite openly with us. He used the conviction to emphasize to us, his sons, the responsibility born by an officer and a commander for “everything his unit does or fails to do,” no matter what, and that care for the soldiers under our command was an utmost duty. Much of what happened in the confinement facility, which represented about 1/16 of his command responsibilities, occurred while he was in the United States attending to his recently deceased wife’s affairs. While responsible for the confinement facility, as commander, he also did many constructive things out among your communities to help sustain morale. You have only to look at the post chapel’s stained glass windows to be reminded that he wasn’t just the “Lichfield ogre.”

    As with many, many people everywhere, this was a very difficult time for him. While he commanded the 10th Replacement, his wife, back in the U.S, died after a short battle with leukemia. After court martial proceedings were instituted, his second son, a B-24 navigator during the war, serving in the U.S Constabulary in Germany, died of a sudden physical ailment. My father, his oldest son, served as an enlisted men in combat in Germany. When he returned to the United States, Col. Kilian, while still under court martial, encouraged him to attend officer’s candidate school. He earned his commission and served until retirement. His third son, too young to serve in the war, also became an Army officer. Of six grandchildren, four became officers in the US Army and one in the U.S. Navy. Whatever his faults, Col. Kilian imparted to his family the importance of serving our country with complete dedication. Colonel Kilian, the son of an Army officer who served in the Spanish-American War and the Philippines Insurrection and died on active service, himself served in both world wars, was a hard-working, conscientious officer, and was profoundly affected by the court martial accusations.

    While openly acknowledging my grandfather’s conviction, we would like to remind everyone of his positive contributions to the surrounding communities of Whittington Barracks, as noted in the newspaper article. We deeply appreciate the notable English hospitality shown my grandfather and the 10th Replacement by the City of Lichfield during the war years and regret very much any shadow that his association with your community has cast on it.

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