How a Black Country soldier thwarted Heinrich Himmler's escape bid at the end of WW2

Military artefacts belonging to the Oldbury-born soldier who helped thwart evil Nazi mass murderer Heinrich Himmler's escape from Germany are up for auction.

Himmler was one of the 20th Century's most notorious mass murderers
Himmler was one of the 20th Century's most notorious mass murderers

As well as medals going under the hammer, so will Himmler's toiletry bag which Grenville Grayer "liberated" from the dead Nazi's belongings.

Grayer was part of the team who interrogated the head of the SS - Hitler's elite bodyguard - at the end of the war and had spotted the notorious war criminal as he tried to blend in with normal POWs.

The intelligence officer gave Himmler a piece of paper to get a sample of his handwriting to prove he was the architect of the Holocaust. Hours later he committed suicide with the aid of a hidden cyanide capsule hidden in his tooth.

The British Empire Medal archive of Grayer and a photocopy of Himmler's arrest warrant are just two of the artefacts going under the hammer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers at The Tamworth Auction Rooms, Church Street, on Thursday, March 24, starting 10am.

Mr Grayer joined the Army in 1939 aged 22 and initially served with the Royal Army Service Corps before joining the newly formed Army Intelligence Corps, completing training in Scotland attached to 45 Field Security Section with the rank of sergeant.

It was while serving with 45 FSS in Germany following the Nazi surrender he encountered Himmler who, after Hitler's suicide, attempted broker a truce with the Allies which would see him installed as a post-war German leader.

Grenville Grayer in his garden in Great Barr

The Allied rejection was sent to Himmler and on May 22 1945, a group of soldiers was stopped at the Bremervorde bridge and handed over to 45 FSS for identity checking.

One, purporting to be a Sergeant Heinrich Hizinger, proved especially suspicious as his papers bore a stamp known to be one used by fleeing SS members.

Nick Thompson, militaria specialist at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, said: "Mr Grayer would often chat with his family how one of the soldiers looked uneasy and out of place.

"When the prisoners were checked, some were in possession of documents which the Intel Corps knew were being faked to cover up real identities."

Grenville Grayer's medals are up for auction

He added: "One of these was a Sgt Heinrich Hizinger. Mr Grayer and another sergeant by the name of Britton became even more suspicious and the suspect was ordered to write lines to confirm and ascertain his handwriting.

"Soon the game was up, and the man identified himself as Heinrich Himmler."

Within hours he would be dead, using a ‘SS Cough Drop’ – cyanide secreted in a tooth.

The date was May 23 1945, two weeks after the German surrender and three weeks after Hitler’s own suicide.

In the hours that followed Himmler’s demise, Mr Grayer liberated the handwriting samples and a silk toiletry bag which belonged to the SS chief as ‘tropaion’ – trophies of war – and the items remained in his family ever since.

Grenville Grayer in 1945

Mr Grayer’s medals archive, which includes his British Empire Medal in original box of issue, named to 135702 AWO CL 2 Grenville Grayer of the Intelligence Corps, plus Africa, Italy, France and Germany Stars, Defence and War medals, all un-named as issued.

Other trophies of war from the collection of Mr Grayer, who died in 1995 aged 78, will be sold separately. After the war Grenville lived in Great Barr and became a successful businessman before moving to Lichfield.

Mr Grayer’s nephew Martyn Grayer, from Lichfield, said: "It has been a fascinating experience to revisit the extraordinary story that relates his wartime experiences and the event of Himmler’s capture that with recent events seem to resonate even more."

For auction information, viewing and valuation enquiries call 01827 217746 or email

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