Emotional journey to concentration camp

THE family of a war veteran whose life was spared after he sketched portraits of German officers have made an emotional pilgrimage to his former concentration camp.

Dave Gooderham

THE family of a war veteran whose life was spared after he sketched portraits of German officers have made an emotional pilgrimage to his former concentration camp.

The late Brian Stonehouse spent three-and-a-half years imprisoned during the Second World War before becoming a celebrated artist, twice painting the Queen Mother.

Now his sketches of guards drawn during his time in a concentration camp have been given to a German memorial museum following a moving trip by his family to where Mr Stonehouse was held.

His brother, Dale, 87, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, said: “It was a very good day but very moving. I have always wanted to carry out some kind of pilgrimage to my brother's memory.

“Brian was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 and his final concentration camp was Dachau before he was released so it was somewhere I have always wanted to go.

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“To be on the same ground as where he was held was extraordinary although I didn't want to dwell on it too much.”

Brian Stonehouse, who lived in Stowmarket, was an agent with the Special Operations Executive during the war but was imprisoned held in concentration camps after he was arrested by the Gestapo.

It was during his time in the camp, in southern Germany, that he began sketching his guards - which his family believe saved his life.

The pictures were then used after the war to identify the guards when he gave evidence at the Nazi war crimes trials.

Mr Stonehouse, who took the trip to Dachau with his son, Robert, said: “Brian went to a succession of concentration camps and did a lot of sketches and portraits of his fellow soldiers, the German officers and their families. I truly believe this skill is what saved his life.”

After the war, Brian, who had studied art in Ipswich, went to New York to work for Vogue and other top fashion magazines before returning to Stowmarket.

He worked as a portrait painter and was commissioned to paint two pictures of the Queen Mother. He died in 1998 aged 80.

Unaware of the value of his war pictures, Dale Stonehouse unwittingly took a couple of drawings to a Royal British Legion meeting last year.

They now reside in London's Imperial War Museum, along with his brother's post-war letters from surviving operatives and letters and photographs from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Mr Stonehouse said: “I think Brian would be tickled pink by all this interest - I can imagine him now grinning away.”

Mr Stonehouse was accompanied on the trip to Dachau by Anglia TV presenter Clare Weller and the emotional journey will be shown tonight and tomorrow on a special feature on Anglia Tonight.

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