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Solved: The Mystery of Iron Cross given to baby by escaped POW; HERR THOLENS MISSED ESCAPE ON GERMAN U-BOAT OFF GREAT ORME... BUT DID RETURN TO N.WALES TO MEET LLOYD GEORGE.

Byline: JEZ HEMMING Daily Post Reporter jez.hemming@trinitymirror.com

A DAILY Post appeal to find the family of a high-ranking German POW who attempted a daring escape from North Wales during World War One, has tracked down his relatives.

Christian Metz, whose aunt Maria is the daughter of Lieutenant Commander Hermann Tholens, picked up the phone after seeing our original plea to return his Iron Cross to its rightful owners.

Christian, who is 58 next week and lives in Zorneding near Munich, said he only had vague recollections of Lt Cmdr Tholens, who failed to rendezvous with a submarine off the Great Orme in 1915 as part of his escape bid.

Conwy woman Sarah Lesiter-Burgess has the submariner's medal after the German Officer gave it to her then one-year-old grandmother when on the run from a North Wales POW camp.

"My aunt Maria is his real ancestor," said Christian. "He married my grandmother Marianna, her second marriage, and lived with her in Stuttgart. He also lived in Berlin.

"Aunt Maria was born on June 24, 1927, and is the only child of Herr Tholens and my grandmother.

"We visited Aunt Maria several times and when I saw the article I told her immediately that somebody wants to return the Iron Cross.

"Maybe she knows about the medal but so much of the information we got from the Daily Post. "It takes you back through history, it's amazing."

Sarah said: "It's fantastic news that you have found relatives of Hermann Tholens. It's the final piece of the jigsaw really - it belongs to their family history.

"Although it is of interest to our family it is something awarded to him for gallantry and bravery."

Lt Cmdr Tholens wrote about his escape from Bodelwyddan's Kinmel Camp in 1915 and their failed attempt to rendezvous with the U-38 submarine off the Great Orme with two colleagues.

On his travels he met Sarah's great-grandmother Laura Jane Jones walking along the street with her daughter Beti, Sarah's grandmother, in Llandudno.

Lt Cmdr Tholens complimented Laura on her beautiful baby before reaching down into the pram and bidding them good day.

It was only later that Laura realised he had left the precious medal - the Eiserne Kreuz 2 Klasse - with her daughter and the family pieced together who he was from news reports of his recapture.

It emerged that Lt Cmdr Tholens was an official in the Third Reich on his return to Germany, responsible for work, which astonishingly gave him another link with North Wales.

He is pictured having lunch with celebrated politician David Lloyd-George, Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, when the British statesman visited the Berlin in the 1930s.

Christian says he plans to come to the UK and would like to meet up with Sarah and find out more of the story behind Lt Cmdr Tholens, although he feels the journey may be too much for his aunt Maria, 88.

CAPTION(S):

Herr Tholens (far left) and with Lloyd George, Sarah with the medal and Aunt Maria

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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:May 28, 2016
Words:503
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