A pictorial record

October 3 1944

Colonel Killian at the Freedom of the City award event (see text) – image posted and shared from the Lichfield City Council Flickr stream.

Readers may well recall the awful and largely forgotten story 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, duringWorld War Two – it’s a subject we’ve touched on occasionally and is little known about here in the UK, but somewhat notorious in the USA.

Tony Briggs, St. Matthews Hospital researcher and Lichfield City Council Deputy Town Clerk has written to me with some interesting hostorical finds relating to Colonel Killian and alerting us to a large gallery of Lichfeldian material curated by the Council on Flickr.

Tony Briggs wrote:

Hi Bob,

I have written to you before about a couple of family history pictures and also St Matthews Hospital.

In my professional capacity I came across some historic photographs in Lichfield’s Guildhall, all neatly stacked in a box. I have no idea how long they had been there, but I have scanned them and added them to a Flickr account. I have contacted Kate at Lichfield Lore about the photos but thought one or two in particular may be of interest to you.

Some time ago there was discussion on your blog about Colonel Killian of the 10th Replacement USA Forces based at Whittington during WW2 and the article featured a cutting from the Tamworth Herald of the Freedom of the City of Lichfield being awarded to the 10th Replacement USA forces in 1944. Along with the other historic photos were a few from that event, plus another event dated a couple of months earlier when there was a presentation to Colonel Killian (unfortunately I can find no further detail on this event).

Click here to see all the photos (mostly historic but with some more recent events also added):

The Freedom album in particular can be viewed here.

Col. Killian can also be seen in other photographs from the time, including the unveiling of the City of Lichfield train at Trent Valley Station in 1944:

City of Lichfield  LMS Engine unveiling 20 June 1944

More generally, help with or corrections to any of the City Council’s photographs would be greatly appreciated.

Best wishes


Tony Briggs
Deputy Town Clerk
Lichfield City Council
Donegal House, Bore Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire, WS13 6LU
Tel: 01543 309852
Fax 01543 258441
email: tony.briggs at lichfield.gov.uk
The City Council website is at www.lichfield.gov.uk

Thanks to Tony for a very thought-provoking find, and for all he and the Council are doing to preserve the city’s pictorial history – were that other authorities were so adaptive to new media.

Comments, clarifications? Please feel free, either here, or mail me. BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

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12 Responses to A pictorial record

  1. Pedro says:

    Many commentators on the history of Lichfield and the surrounding area seem to steer clear from the subject of Colonel Kilian and the 10th Reinforcement Depot at Whittington. So it is refreshing to see that subject is not totally taboo.

    There were allegations of physical brutality and even murder (Probably Eril Bolton, who later died a massive intercerebral haemorrhage), atrocities said to have been committed by Americans against Americans, who were prisoners in the guardhouses. Nine prison guards faced seperate trials on charges of cruel and inhuman disciplinary treatment of stockade prisoners during the winter of 1944-5. Some of the prisoners were combat returnees recently discharged from army hospitals; some had been transferred from guardhouses in the US, their sentences having been automatically commuted when they sailed to England (the Stars and Stripes GI newspaper had reported they were put on board ship under gun), but when they arrived they were billeted in guardhouses.

    The account of the trial, firstly held in London, is told in the book “Lichfield: The U.S. Army on Trial” by Jack Gieck who had spent some time at the trial. It includes a gripping account of cross-examination of Colonel Kilian by Capt Earl J Carroll.

    Gieck had arrived when Sergeant Judson H Smith, the provost sergeant in the guardhouses, was on trial and Colonel Kilian had been called as a witness. Colonel Kilian was to spend seven days on the witness stand under Captain Carroll’s cross-examination, it seemed that Carroll was shifting the blame from the defendant to the administration headed by Kilian.

    On the final day of the trial Carroll appealed that the Court recommend that charges be prepared against the officers “properly responsible” for the acts of mistreatment at Lichfield. Five months later Colonel Kilian and five of his officers were formally charged with having conspired to inflict cruel, unusual and unauthorised punishment on prisoners. The trial was taken from London over to the Continent, many believing that it was an attempt cover from the stateside press.

    Colonel Kilian was found guilty of “aiding, authorising, and abetting” the cruelties which nine enlisted guards and three subordinate officers had been convicted, but not guilty of “knowingly” condoning brutality, but guilty of “permitting” it. Kilian was fined 500 dollars and issued a reprimand.

    He stated “I have a clear conscience about what happened at Lichfield. I wouldn’t have been tried at all except for the antics used by Captain Earl J Carroll.”

    The story had broken into the open on the front page, 5th December 1945, of “The Stars and Stripes,” an outspoken GI newspaper. It was the beginning of a series of trials with repercussions felt all the way to the White House. The author says that there was a torrent of public outrage which many believe changed the US Army, and it’s judicial system for ever. However Carroll had his doubts.

    No one will know the extent of Colonel Kilian’s involvement, but surely the brutality at Whittington should not be covered up in rememberance of Eril Bolton who lost his life.

  2. Pedro says:

    I think the caption below the the first picture may be wrong for the following reasons…

    On the table there is a plaque that looks very much like the one presented to Kilian around the 3rd of October 1944 by the Lichfield Savings Commitee in appreciation of his assistance during the “Salute the Soldier” campaign between 1st and 8th of July. It was presented by the Mayor at the Guildhall.

    The Blog has a picture from the Tamworth Herald of 23rd December 1944 when Kilian was presented with a cask containing the Deeds of the City, the highest honour the City could bestow.

    Mayor Miss AM Thompson…Mr W Malin (Chairman of the entertainments committee)…Mr AL Ward (Chair of executive committee) may be in view?

    (The description of the plaque is given)

  3. Pedro says:

    The second picture is something to do with the LMS Loco that was built in May 1944…The City of Lichfield

    Train enthusiasts will no doubt be able to give more info

    • Pedro says:

      The Lichfield City Council site says that it was the unveiling of the engine on the 20th June 1944. The Lichfield Mercury had previously stated that Lord Roydon (Chair of LMS) would preside when the Mayor AM Thompson named the engine, supported by Cpt CC Poole MP, Mr Alan Chorlton MP and Sheriff CH Craddock.

  4. Ian Pell says:

    “Engines or Locomotives pull trains which stop at Railway Stations”.
    There I’ve got that one off my chest.
    The locomotive in the picture is “Coronation” class 4-6-2 6250 (later to become 46250 in BR days) “City of Lichfield”. The class was introduced by William Stanier of the LMS in 1937. The inital batch were “streamlined”.
    “City of Lichfield” was dedicated at Lichfield Trent Valley station in May 1944, after which the locomtive entered traffic. It was initially outshopped in wartime livery of unlined black with a streamlined tender. In 1946 it was given LMS colours and fitted with smoke deflectors (3/46) and a fully “de-streamlined” tender.
    The locomotive was repainted in BR blue (5/50) and Green (2/53) before finally being outshopped in BR Standard Green (4/57).
    It was one of the last batch of 9 locomotives for the class and had a double chimney throughout its life. It was withdrawn from Carlisle Upperby (12B) in 9/64.
    There are several preserved locomotives of the class; “City of Birmingam” is currently entombed in a “box” in Birmingham.
    They were a delight to watch speeding through Lichfiled TV Low Level station on the crack expresses to or from London..
    Happy days.


    • Tony Briggs says:

      Thank you for the detail, Ian – I have added this to the Flickr album.


    • Pedro says:

      An anecdote from the Lichfield Mercury report…

      The prototype of this class 6220 “Coronation” one of the streamlined series toured America with its train in 1939, and after was exhibited at the New York World Fair. The train was stranded in the USA at the outbreak of war, but the locomotive was brought home specially in February 1942 to play its part in the war effort.

  5. Pedro says:

    For the record the best description of the ceremony occurs in the Lichfield Mercury Friday 23June 1944.

    The Mayor was presented with a bouquet of roses by Miss Patricia Williams, who is a pupil at the Friary school and the 11 year old daughter of Signalman Williams of Lichfield…

    Present on the platform were Lord Roydon, the Mayor, the Sheriff and his lady and Colonel James A Kilian…

  6. Ian Pell says:

    Minor correction and update.
    The locomotive entered traffic in May 1944 and was dedicated at Lichfield Trent Valley Low level Station on the 20th June 1944, not the other way round as I previously stated. Please correct as appropriate.

  7. Phil Beal says:

    What a great find surely there must be a hoard of other photographs of American GI’s in local family photo albums from the time the US Army were stationed at the barracks – 300k troops in the area from 1942 to the end of the war wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. Also where’s the commemorative plaque to remind us of their presence?

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