- Royal Sussex Regiment during the Second World War -
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Royal Sussex Regiment
- 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 5th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 6th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 8th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 10th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
- 30th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
The Royal Sussex Regiment can be traced back to the Earl of Donegall’s Regiment, 35th Regiment of foot which was raised in Belfast, in June 1701. The title Royal Sussex Regiment was adopted in 1881 through the Childers Reforms when the 35th (Royal Sussex) Regiment of Foot and 107th (Bengal Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot amalgamated to form the new regiment. They saw action during both World Wars. The regiment was amalgamated with the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment, the Queen's Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment and the Middlesex Regiment to form the Queen's Regiment on the 31st of December 1966.
The 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment was raised in 1940 due to the huge expansion of the Army and spent until 1942 on home defence. In 1942 the battalion was converted to armour as the 160th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps and joined the 267th Indian Tank Brigade, which included other infantry units converted to Armour. As with all infantry units converted in this way, they would still have worn their infantry cap badge on the black beret of the RAC. However, the 9th Battalion returned to the infantry role in 1943 and was sent with the 72nd Infantry Brigade to fight in the Burma Campaign with the 36th British Infantry Division, previously 36th Indian. The battalion saw action in the Arakan, was airlifted into Myitkyina and fought its way to Mandalay by April 1945. The battalion was in Burma when the Japanese surrendered.
1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was in Egypt when war broke out in September 1939, they were serving with 23rd Infantry Brigade. In October 1940 1st Sussex transferred to 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, 4th Indian Infantry Division. They saw action in the Western Desert Campaign and the Italian Campaign, including Battle of Monte Cassino. In late 1944 the battalion moved to Greece with III Corps, returning home in 1946.
2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was based in Northern Ireland when war broke out in 1939. They joined 133rd (Royal Sussex) Infantry Brigade, 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division and went to France in April 1940, to join the British Expeditionary Force, seeing action the Battle of France and the retreat to Dunkirk and the evacuatation to England. They were sent to North Africa in May 1942 and saw action in the Battle of Alam el Halfa in September 1942 and the Battle of El Alamein in October 1942. In 1943 the 2nd Battalion was redesignated 10th Parachute Battalion, Parachute Regiment. 2nd Battalion was re-raised and joined 133rd Brigade. In 1943 they were sent to Iraq and Persia as part of 24th Indian Infantry Brigade, 6th Indian Infantry Division and remained there until the war ended.
4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was a unit of the Territorial Force formed in 1908. They were sent to France with the BEF and saw action during the Battle of France and the evacuation from Dunkirk serving with 133 Brigade, 44th Division. They saw action in North Africa from May 1942 In 1943 volunteers from 4th and 5th Battalions transferred to 10th Parachute regiment on its formation and the remainder of the two battalions merged to become the 4th/5th Battalion join which joined 27th Indian Infantry Brigade.
5th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was a unit of the Territorial Force formed in 1908. They were sent to France with the BEF and saw action during the Battle of France and the evacuation from Dunkirk serving with 133 Brigade, 44th Division. They saw action in North Africa from May 1942 In 1943 volunteers from 4th and 5th Battalions transferred to 10th Parachute regiment on its formation and the remainder of the two battalions merged to become the 4th/5th Battalion join which joined 27th Indian Infantry Brigade.
6th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was a Territorial unit which served with 37th (Royal Sussex) Infantry Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division. They saw action in France with the BEF and the evacuation from Dunkirk. 6th Battalion served in a home defence from mid June 1940 onwards and was disbanded in 1946.
7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was a Territorial unit which served with 37th (Royal Sussex) Infantry Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division. They saw action in France with the BEF and the evacuation from Dunkirk. In 1940 they converted to artilley and were redesignated 109th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.
8th (Home Defence) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was raised in late 1939, from the Sussex National Defence Companies. It was mainly made up of older and less fit men who undertook a defence role in the United Kingdom. The battalion was redesignated 30th Battalion in 1941.
30th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was formed in 1941 by the redesignation of 8th (Home Defence)Battalion. They under took a home defence and training role in the UK until the battalion was disbanded in 1943.
10th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was raised in 1940, they served with 219th Independent Infantry Brigade in the defence of the UK and later transferred to 203rd Brigade.
19th Oct 1939 Signalling Instruction
27th May 1940 Under Attack
28th May 1940 In Action
If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.
Those known to have served with
Royal Sussex Regiment
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Beeton Charles Alfred. Pte.
- Borrow George Henry. Capt.
- Borrow George Henry. Capt. (d.24th March 1944)
- Brown Frank Albert. Warrant Officer
- Burrough David Michael Charles. Lt.
- Bysouth Frank.
- Copping Clifford Frederick Lewis. Pte.
- Coughlan James Roland. Pte.
- Cowell Alfred Graham. Pte (d.21st May 1940)
- Cowell Alfred Graham. Pte. (d.21st May 1940)
- Cox Leopold.
- Duggan John Anthony. Pte.
- Etherton Robert.
- Filmer Ronald. Cpl.
- Gain Bernard Arthur. Cpt. (d.16th Feb 1944)
- Giddings William Charles. S/Sgt.
- Gower Alfie.
- Gregory George James William. Pte.
- Hawkins George. Pte.
- Hooker David Walter. Pte.
- Maher Paddy . Gnr.
- Marchant Eric. Pte.
- McLoughlin George Edward. Pte.
- Morley Sydney James. Pte.
- Obermeister Roy.
- Rogers Ernest Harold Raymond. Pte.
- Rogers Raymond E. H.. Pte.
- Rumsey Charles Herbert William. Pte.
- Sandalls George Gaston. L/Cpl
- Saunders Frank Kitchener.
- Waugh Edwin. Pte.
- Webster Albert Eric. Pte.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Robert Etherton Royal Sussex RegimentMy Dad was captured in Dunkirk and spent the rest of the war in Stalag V111 B. He didn't like to talk about it but I do know that he managed to escape with another prisoner near the end of the war. Did anyone know him? I have photos of him playing the trombone. I have lots of photos, letters, postcards etc that he sent my mother. Very emotional stuff! I would love to know if anyone can tell me anything about him.Jenny Gibbons
Pte. Ernest Harold Raymond Rogers Sussex RegimentMy father, Ernest Harold Raymond Rogers, known as "Raymond" served in the Royal Sussex Regiment in North Africa and Italy. They arrived in Algiers and travelled across to Tunis and Egypt, before travelling to Sicily and Italy. They were joined by the Eighth army and later by the 36th infantry brigade before embarking at Monte Cassino to attack the german stronghold in the monastery on top of the hill. He told me that there were very heavy losses before the monastery was finally overcome with the help of the RAF.
In 1946 they were posted to Klangenfurt in Austria where my father trained as an equestrian until his release in 1947. I remember him mentioning his comanding officer as being Lt Col A J Odling Smee who had his own stables in the UK.
The only other peoples names I can remember him mentioning were Ray Taylor and Dante and I have a few photographs from his time in Austria. I would be interested to know if anyone else was in the same area or can remember my father.Harry Rogers
Warrant Officer Frank Albert "Topper" Brown MID. 5th Battalion Royal Sussex RegimentI am currently researching my late father's army history. He enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment on the 24th February 1933 at Chichester. He was then transferred to the Indian Army Ordinance Corps on 7th August 1943. He was at El Alamein and was then transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps on the 6th October 1944
I would love to hear from anyone who knew or served with my father all those years ago. He was mentioned in despatches but would never divulge what he did to get this. I have been in touch with the records office in Glasgow and they are assisting me. Sadly my father passed away recently and I would love to hear from anyone who might of known him or served with him all those years ago.Kim Elizabeth Brown
Pte Alfred Graham "Fred" Cowell Royal Sussex Regiment (d.21st May 1940)My grandfather Fred Cowell was a drummer with the Royal Sussex, I would love to hear from anyone who knew him, all I want is a photograph of him, I am so desperate for any information.Elizabeth
Pte. Alfred Graham "Fred" Cowell 2nd Btn. Royal Sussex Regiment (d.21st May 1940)Unfortunately I have a short story to tell, my grandfather Fred Cowell was killed at Dunkirk and my mother never knew her father. I know he was born in Wales in 1920, my grandmother was Irish, as far as I know he stationed in Victoria Barracks in Belfast in 1939 when he was the called for war. I know he had 2 brothers and 1 sister all from Wales. I have visited his memorial stone in Dunkirk Cemetery, column 64. I would like to hear from any one from the same regiment or any information which would be very helpful.Elizabeth Mcevoy
Pte. Clifford Frederick Lewis Copping Royal Sussex RegimentIn April 1940, my father Clifford Frederick Lewis Copping of Southcroft Rd Tooting, South London lied about his age to join the army and enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was just 17 and had become Private 6405092 Copping. He spent the first few weeks training (I think) near Wincanton and then six weeks guarding a railway tunnel and had a short spell in Northern Ireland.
One incident that happened during this period was when a barrack bully kept picking on someone for no reason and my dad didn't like the way it was going, so he floored the guy with one punch. Just as the guy hit the floor the Regimental Sergeant Major happened to pass by and asked who was responsible for the blow. My Dad owned up and was immediately placed on the regimental boxing team! A few days later he found himself in the ring sitting opposite someone by the name (I think) of Tonner - who happened to be from a family of very good amateur boxers on civvy street. All my Dad can remember is the bell sounding for the first round and then the lights suddenly went out! His budding army boxing career had sadly been terminated.
Back to the war his unit was posted to HMS Peregrine RNAS Ford Aerodrome in Sussex. Here he was stationed in an anti-aircraft gun pit and assigned the job of radio operator. Whilst at Ford - he volunteered to undertake "Glider Pilot Training" which I understand went on near High Wycombe. Had he been accepted and completed the training he would almost certainly seen action in both Normandy and Arneham.
During the Battle of Britain, on 18th August at about 4.30 pm the airfield was attacked by a squadron of Junkers 87B "Stuka" divebombers. The Germans had mistakenly thought it to be an operational base rather than the training station it was. One of the Stukas attacked his gun pit and dropped its bomb just short of its target. The explosion killed the British officer in charge of my father's pit instantly and when the rescue party arrived they found my Dad buried up to his neck in sand from the punctured sandbags surrounding him. He recalled them saying "Here's Copping's head -where's the rest of him?" After digging him out he was found to have numerous shrapnel wounds all over his body and some burns to his back. As he lay on a stretcher waiting for transportation to hospital he heard the "last rights" being read out and thought he was going to die - only to realise that it was in fact some poor devil next to him instead. Altogether 18 people were killed in this air raid and there were a number of casualties. He later found out that the pilot of the Stuka was killed in action whilst flying on the Russian Front.
He spent the next 11 months in hospital at Chichester (where unbeknown to him at the same time his future wife Mavis was evacuated in a house whose garden backed onto the hospital). During his time in hospital he was given a lot of quinine which rotted his teeth and caused him to be toothless by the time he was 21! Having also been burned he also received treatment at the famous burns centre at East Grinstead and received pigskin grafts pioneered by the famous Dr McEndoe.
At the end of his hospitalisation he was deemed "unfit for service" on health grounds and honourably discharged. He spent the rest of war working for the London County Council LCC driving bombed out families and their possessions to safer parts of the country.
In 1948 he married my mother Mavis Woodard, also of Tooting and they had three children. He worked for both Martin's and Barclays Banks and retired early to care for my mother who had MS. He died in June 2000.Gary Copping
Pte. Albert Eric Webster 4th Btn. Royal Sussexmy Dad Eric was captured at Dunkirk on May 29th 1940, Royal Sx fighting the rearguard. He saw friends blownup.
I have copies of the lusseetter posting him missing believed killed, also one from his commanding officer stating he died bravely etc.
He told how they were marched and on cattle trucks on the way to the 1st prison camp. He mentioned that they went past Austwich at some stage. He told of German brutality, how men were shot whilst on the march. The very poor food including coffee made from acorns, soup consisting of a potato floating in water and the awful blackbread which was strictly rationed. This had a profound effect on him, he did not like to talk about it and during his last months had terrible flashbacks.
He did, however, undergo a successful hernia repair by a Canadian surgeon although as he was coming round he was dropped on the bed and banged his head, He saw the funny side of this though. He died on 27th January 2000. He lives on in the hearts of all his descendants.M Roberts
Roy Obermeister Royal Sussex RegimentLooking for information on the gentleman. His son wants to buy him a membership into the American Legion for Father's Day, but wants to surprise him. He is also wanting to join the Sons of the American Legion so he and his father can share something in common. Thank you for your time and considerationReverend Jack Le Roy
S/Sgt. William Charles Giddings Royal SignalsAll I know is my father William Giddings joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and transferred to the Royal Signals and served in Burma and India.Kevin Giddings
Pte. Charles Alfred Beeton 2nd Battalion Suffolk RegimentMy granddad, Charles Beeton who is sadly no longer with us, joined the Suffolk Regiment in 1938, and was sent to India in 1940. He trained there before he was sent to Singapore. He was captured in Singapore by the Japanese and sent to build the death railway in Burma, were he spent the rest of war as a POW. He returned home after being liberated by the Americans in late 1945.
He lived a full life until his tragic death in 1966 when he knocked down by a motorbike.J
Pte. James Roland Coughlan Royal Sussex RegimentMy uncle was James Roland Coughlan. He was a private in the Royal Sussex Regiment, Army no. 6401956. He was a POW at Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg, Elbe, and was there until the liberation. If anyone remembers him or has any memories to tell of him, I would be most interested in hearing them.Kathleen Gaskell
Pte. Sydney James Morley Royal Sussex RegimentI have just found out my great uncle Sydney Morley was a Prisoner of War All the information I have is his rank, army number and his POW number was 1505. He was at 9c Stalag Muhlhausen. Any information or photos would be greatly appreciated and I would like to learn more about his life during the War.Karen Morley
Pte. Raymond E. H. "Wiskers" Rogers 5th Battalion Royal East Kent RegimentMy Father, Ray Rogers, sometimes known as Ernie or a nickname of Wiskers, came from the small village of Hackleton in Northamptonshire and was a groom for a local farmer in the next village of Piddington. He was called up for service in February 1943 and his original regiment was the Royal Sussex, but later joined 5th batalion, The Buffs in October 1943 where he spent the rest of his time in service. During this time they went to many places in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. I have a diary of all the places he went to, but too numerous to list. They became part of a group known as the 36th Infantry Brigade, which included the Buffs, the Royal West Kent regiment and the Arggll and Sutherland Highlanders. His commanding officer was Lt.Col. A J Odling Smee and the Brigadier was R D Musson DSO. The brigade were later joined by the Eighth Army with Gen. Montgomery, before embarking on Monte Cassino in Italy. My father was wounded and hospitalised twice while in Italy, and would liked to have known who saved his life, by carrying him back from being hit by a German hand grenade. The only name of a colleage I remember him mentioning from his days in action was someone called Dante.
After Italy, they travelled again to many places, including Malta, but they ended up in Klangenfurt in Austria, where he stayed and trained as an Equestrian until his release in 1946, he also met a lifelong friend in Austria called Ray Taylor, who stayed in touch until 1999 when my father passed away.
The 36th Infantry Brigade had a small magazine called "Hopps and Haggis" and I have the final victory edition that lists all the places that they visited, which tied up nicely with my fathers service records, there were two other editions, which I would love copies of, but have never managed to find.Harry Williams Rogers
L/Cpl George Gaston Sandalls 5th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryMy Dad George Sandalls, joined the 4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regt on the outbreak of war and went to France with the BEF. Dunkirk was the only time in his life he swam. Back in the UK he transferred to 5DCLI, going back to France on D-Day +2, I believe. He then stayed on active service (as a Signaller) through to the end of the War, in N Germany, finally discharging via Shornecliffe in April 1946. I'd love to hear from anyone who can fill in the bits of the story I don't know.Bill Sandalls
Pte. George Hawkins 2nd Btn. Royal Sussex RegimentMy father George Hawkins, 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, was in working party E72 for the duration of the war after being captured near Hazebrouk in 1940. It was the Hohenzollern coalmine at Beuthen. He was marched out on Jan 22nd 1945 and "walked the whole length of Czechoslovakia". The Americans eventually picked him up and took him to Erfurt. He returned home via ship to Tilbury, in April 1945. We would be pleased to hear from anyone who remembers him.Chris Parry
Pte. Eric "Blondie" Marchant Royal Sussex RegimentI was a private in the Royal Sussex Regiment when I was captured in Belgium in May 1940. I had been part of the rear guard action for Dunkirk when my unit were surrounded by German tanks and infantry, near Poperinge in Belgium. The officer with us, Lieutenant Fuller, negotiated the surrender and then told the men to ditch their weapons and we lined up on the road. We were marched with many other British and French prisoners from Poperinge through Belgium to Maastricht. Even before we were captured the soldiers had been hungry and as we marched through Belgium we would dive into gardens we passed to grab any fruit or vegetables, even raw potatoes. As prisoners we were allowed to stop at Ghent where the Red Cross representative went round to all the men and asked them if they wanted to write home. I wrote a note to my parents to let them know I was all right, but it did not get back to Sussex for 6 months, during which time I was posted as "missing."
The march continued to Maastricht where as captured men we were told that we must walk three abreast and not to walk out of our positions, otherwise we would be shot. Dutch people watched from the side of the road. One man took pity on us and threw us some food. The Germans arrested him and made him march with the captured soldiers. The soldiers were made to march on to near Aachen where they were put on a train to the Polish border, and a place called Lamsdorf. ‘Till we got on the train exhausted, we had had to march almost 300km from Poperinge to Aachen.
We arrived in Lamsdorf at the end of June 1940. Lamsdorf was a big prisoner of war camp, with around 10, 000— 15, 000 inmates housed in many concrete huts. It was the central prison camp for a large area and men were sent out from here to work on the various labour camps in that region. The first thing the new prisoners had to do when they arrived was take a shower to get rid of their lice. There was warm water but no soap. Then all the prisoners were finger printed and photographed with a Stalag label around their neck. My label read: STALAG VIIIB N14049, and prisoners had to wear their ID all the time.
There were more than 200 prisoners in a hut with bunks arranged three tiers high. Each bunk had straw sacking for a mattress and one blanket. The huts also had a big concrete basin like a trough. You could turn the water on for a while each morning and then everyone washed in the same water. There was a large toilet block for every 7 or 8 huts. In the toilet block there were 4 rows of seats in the open over a very deep pit. There were rats running around everywhere. Local Poles would come in to empty the cess pit, and they would pump out the sewage into a barrel on their horse-drawn cart.
Food was limited but the routine was always the same. The men would line up and get one loaf of bread between 10 prisoners each morning. Then someone would cut the loaf into the 10 pieces needed. My friends and I had a system for making sure no one could always get the biggest piece — we would draw cards and picked our pieces of bread in order, the man with the highest value card choosing first. Lunch was a bowl of soup— really just cabbage water, with some boiled potatoes in their skins. There was no dinner.
However, Lamsdorf was just a holding camp and from here we were sent out in working parties to wherever we could be put to work. It was only the ordinary soldiers, without rank, that had to work in the labour camps. Sergeants were sent with the privates, but the sergeants only had to make sure everything was in order and keep the billet clean and tidy — all the heavy labouring was done by the private soldiers.
At the beginning of August 1940 I was sent to Raciborz on the Polish border, and billeted in an old brewery. The brewery housed about 50 men who were sent out everyday to work as diggers, clearing a silted up overflow from a sewerage works. The men worked up to their knees in water, but this was all right as it was summertime. Germans guarded the men all the time and they would shove their rifle butts into the back of any man who did not shovel hard enough, otherwise the billet was not too bad. One of the guards, a German or Pole, whittled birds out of wood while he was supposed to be looking after the prisoners. At the brewery the men slept upstairs on the straw covered floor, where they became infested with lice. At night time they picked the lice off their skin by hand, and ended up with fingers dripping with blood from squashing the lice between their thumbs. We were given old Polish clothes and for shoes we were issued with Dutch style clogs. We were also given a piece of cloth called “footslappen” to cover our bare feet so that the clogs were a little more comfortable. Each morning we started the day with a breakfast of bread and ersatz coffee, which was made of acorns. At night, when we came home from work we had a meal in the damp kitchen. The meal was cooked by a Polish or German man, and it was a soup with a mixture of onions, potatoes, cabbage, and every now and again lungs or other cow offal.
In October I was sent with the other prisoners on to another job. This time we were sent to the river Nysa in Poland, near the Czech border. Here we stayed in a pub or dance hall in which the Germans had installed two tiers of bunk beds, enough for up to 50 prisoners. I had noticed that at the last camp some men had been given carpentry jobs, mostly this involved mending the shovels and sharpening tools. These men were able to work inside and the job seemed easier. So when some German guards came into the hall asking for carpenters, both myself and a friend volunteered. This turned out to be a very wise choice. Whilst the rest of the men were digging soil from one place along the river bank, and then loading the soil into railway trucks which had to be pushed to the place where the river had been flooding, we helped to construct a wooden framework that would support the new soil. The work was hard, and in the winter very cold. Both of us working on carpentry duties were working in an unheated shed, but outside it was freezing and men quickly became ill.
By January 1941 there was so much snow and the river was frozen so hard, that the men could not work there anymore, and so the German army lent the men out to contractors. Our new job was clearing snow in the streets of the local village. However food rations were cut in half, and so the bowl of soup we’d once got for supper became half a bowl of soup. The men felt that they needed more food than this and so we refused to go out and work. There were only six or seven guards looking after us, not enough soldiers to make us go out. However, then a lorry pulled up outside their billet and more soldiers jumped out. I was in the hall, standing near the doorway talking to an Irish man. German soldiers came in and grabbed me and the Irish man and took us outside and put us up against the wall. We were told that we would be shot two at a time, starting with myself and my comrade, until we all went back to work. The men immediately agreed to go back to snow clearing. The German soldiers demanded to know why we had gone on strike, but our rations were not increased. Our rations only finally went back to normal when the weather improved and we went back to work on the river.
I received my first Red Cross Parcel while I was living on the river Nysa. The parcel came with a prisoners’ newsletter and inside the newsletter was a sheet of poetry. The poem I found I learnt off by heart, and it kept me going through the many years as a prisoner:
- It’s easy to be nice boys when everything is OK
- It’s easy to be cheerful when you're having things your way
- But can you hold your head up and take it on the chin
- When your heart is nearly broken and you feel like giving in
- It was easy back in England amongst your friends and folk
- But now you miss the friendly hand, the joys, the songs, the jokes
- The road ahead is stony and unless you're strong in mind
- You will find it isn’t long before you're lagging far behind
- You have got to climb the hill boys it’s no use turning back
- There is only one way home and that’s off the beaten track
- You know there is a saying that sunshine follows rain
- And sure enough you’ll realise that joy must follow pain
- Let patience be your password, make fortitude your guide
- Then instead of grousing remember those who died
- They died to earn your freedom it was not too great a price
- If only you are worthy of such a sacrifice
- They bore their cross in silence they sort not wealth or fame
- And you must try to emulate and glorify their name.
The men were also issued with a sheet of paper once a month, and we were allowed to write home. I still have the postcard I sent home from Stalag VIIIB. In October 1941 orders came from Lamsdorf to move some of the prisoners to new labour camps, I was moved to a cement factory in the town of Opoleonoora, Poland- camp number E196. The cement factory was a massive complex with many different jobs. I got a job as a painter working with a Polish civilian painter. The civilian was a nice man who also looked after the chief engineer’s rabbits and chickens. Between the painting tasks the civilian painter and myself would go out into the nearby field and feed the engineer’s livestock. We would cut the grass, feed it to the rabbits, and would also collect eggs. Every now and again the engineer would ask us to kill a rabbit, and so we would kill one and I would then skin it. This was a very lucky job as the painter was a good boss and we were able to get out of the giant cement factory to attend to the engineer’s animals, and also sometimes to paint one of the local houses. When the civilian painter got called up I took over not only all his painting tasks, but also the job of feeding the rabbits and chickens, and collecting the eggs for the engineer.
The cement factory had its own cookhouse and the prisoners were also fed there. Again they had bread and ersatz coffee for breakfast and lunch was a sort of gruel, but there was no evening meal. The men by now had been kitted out in British uniforms with proper boots instead of clogs, but the German guards usually took our boots away each night. However, after a while the German guards got more relaxed and stopped bothering to take our boots when they locked us in for the night. It was now, decided a group of men, time to try and escape. So 15 of the 50 English prisoners in my room hatched an escape plan. The men were billeted three stories up but there was a sloping roof underneath which they could jump onto if they could just get out of the barred window. So Harry Peach, a Londoner who was working as a joiner, managed to sneak some tools back and started work lifting the metal window frame out from the inside. He then had to cut through the top of two of the bars on the outside of the window. At the end of each cutting session everything had to be put back exactly as before. It took a fortnight for the work to be done, then the bars were ready to be bent back for the men to escape.
The 15 escapees were all recaptured quite quickly and sent back to the main camp at Lamsdorf. There they were put into the punishment block and had to stay inside and did not receive their Red Cross parcels. New prisoners were sent out from Lamsdorf to make up the numbers at the cement factory. The new men were from Australia and New Zealand, and had been captured in North Africa or Crete. By this time we were now getting a Red Cross parcel every week. The parcels included cigarettes, soap and chocolates. The men exchanged soap and chocolates with the Poles and got eggs and any other food that could be bartered for. Two of the Scottish lads in the room, one named Dundee, and the other a tall, young man with a friendly face called Tommy, shared all their parcels and one day swapped some of their gifts for locally made wood alcohol. That night they sat on their bunks and started drinking the evil brew. My friend said to me that someone should warn them not to drink it. So I went over and told them not to drink the alcohol as it was “poison.” Tommy looked at me and said “Look Blondie, you can have your years but we want our moments.” A little while afterwards Tommy was screaming with hallucinations. The men laid him out on a table in the room and tried to hold him down and calm him. He died there on the table.
The men put Dundee to bed as he was unconscious, and during the night he woke up screaming that he could not see. By the morning he was completely blind. When the guards unlocked the door that morning the men told them that one man had died and another had gone blind. The guards brought a doctor to have a look at Tommy. He looked at the dead body and saw that the whites of his eyes were completely black. The doctor said that the men had been poisoned, but as no one knew who they had bought the alcohol from nothing was done. The Germans let the men bury Tommy in a cemetery by the Oder River.
A short time after this a German guard shot one of the Australian boys dead just outside the toilet block. There seemed to be no reason for the shooting. There were no witnesses, but one of the men heard the shot and ran to see what had happened. He was threatened by the guard, and so left the scene.
In June 1943 I and 12 others were sent to camp number E702 at the coal mines in Sosnowiec in southern Poland. The mines here were deep, going down four levels, and it was frightening as the cage plummeted down to the shafts. The prisoners of war worked as the labourers for the Polish men working in the mines. The prisoners did the hardest tasks, and conditions were not pleasant — the mines were damp and wet, and there was water everywhere. Each man was issued with an ID tag and a carbide lamp every time he went down into the mine. The lamp had a flint on it so that it could be lit, and it made a gas that burnt when water from the mine dripped onto the lamp. There were three shifts each day, each shift being about 8 hours long: 6am ‘till 2pm, 2pm ‘till 10pm and then the night shift which was 10pm until 6am the next morning. The morning and afternoon shifts dug out the coal, and the evening shift moved equipment and supports into position for the next day’s work. I worked at night moving equipment and putting in new support structures, it was unpleasant and dangerous work. Prisoners thought about trying to sabotage the mine, but there were always men working on the lowest levels so any attempt would inevitably endanger many prisoners. On occasion the lift was damaged and men in lower levels had to escape by a complex system of ladders, but nothing more extensive was done because the resultant loss of life would have been great. The men lived in huts beside the mine. There were 10 to 12 men in each hut. Men on different shifts were billeted together, this made it very difficult to get any real sleep. The food was the same as at the other camps— bread and coffee for breakfast and one meal a day of soup. Thankfully the men were still able to receive their Red Cross Parcels. I am sure that without them we would not have survived.
After a short while I got bronchitis and was sent to the infirmary. The infirmary was run by a Jewish prisoner John Gotea, who had joined the British army but was from Athlith near Haifa. I always felt very grateful to John because he persuaded the German doctors that I was too ill to work and should be sent back to the main camp at Lamsdorf. Without this help I might not have survived. Back at Lamsdorf I was allowed to stay in a convalescent hut for a couple of months. This hut was not really any different from the other huts. Like the other huts it had fires but they never worked. However, with the help of his Red Cross parcels I did recover and once well enough was sent off again this time to work at a limestone quarry in Saubsdorf in Poland.
At the limestone quarry in Saubsdorf the prisoners of war dug limestone out of the ground, and then it was moved to the works and burnt for lime. Some of the limestone was also cut into slabs to make gravestones. Each day the prisoners at Saubsdorf were given a target for the amount of limestone they had to get out of the quarry, and work did not finish until the target was reached. Enormous boulders of limestone were attached to a pulley and six men would work the winch to ease the limestone out of the quarry. Smaller lumps of stone were dug and then broken up and loaded onto flat wagons that were pulled out of the quarry by men. It was while I was pulling a wagon laden with stone out of the quarry that I said to my companion, an Australian P.O.W., that I was going to get away. Mickey Bell, from Melbourne, said that he would like to escape with me.
The camp was on the borders of Czechoslovakia and Poland and we could see the Czech mountains in the distance, and thought that if we headed in that direction then we could escape. The camp was surrounded by barbed wire, but the toilet block was up against the wire fence and there was a spot behind the toilet block that the guards could not see. Over a few days I dug out the ground beneath the hidden area of fence, and Mickey kept watch. When we were ready to go Jack Jones, a New Zealand P.O.W. gave me a haversack so that we could take some Red Cross parcel provisions with us, and we left at dusk. Mickey and I climbed up over the wooded hills and into Czechoslovakia. On the second day we were very lost and didn’t know which way to go so decided to head south. By the third day we had seen no one and run out of food. At the end of the day we came down from the hills and into a village. A band of Russian prisoners was passing along the road and we decided enough was enough and fell in with the Russian prisoners and gave ourselves up. We were able to show our ID tags from the labour camp, so that the Germans knew that we were prisoners of war and not spies. We were concerned that we were not sent back to the quarry as we thought the guards at the quarry might want to take revenge. We were lucky as one of the German guards had been captured in World War I and had been well treated in England, he spoke a bit of English and I spoke a bit of German. The guard gave us a bowl of soup each and agreed to send us back to Lamsdorf the main camp for the area, and not to the quarry.
Two days later we were taken back to Lamsdorf. There we were sent to the punishment block. This meant we were kept in a separate area to the other prisoners and were not allowed to walk around the camp. A German officer then interviewed us and asked us why we had escaped? We said that it was “Because it was a soldier’s duty.” This was deemed an acceptable and understandable excuse, as you could not say you had escaped because the work was intolerable or the guards were unkind. Mickey and I each got put in solitary confinement for seven days. However, as the prison was so full, 'solitary' turned out to be two prisoners to a cell!Eric Marchant
Cpt. Bernard Arthur Gain AAC (d.16th Feb 1944)Captain B.A. Gain was killed in close combat with German paratroopers at h 593 16/2 1944. He was from AAC and dressed in a new Sussex uniform, how did an airman get into an Infantry close combat? I´m a Swedish documentary filmmaker and I had an interview with the German paratrooper who shot him at point blank range with his pistol, and we visited B.A Gain's grave. After 65 years the German was wondering who he was.Ki Michael Johansson
Cpl. Ronald Filmer Royal Sussex RegimentCorporal Ronald Filmer served with the Royal Sussex Regiment during WW2 and was interned at POW Camp Stalag 8b.Jason Packard
Pte. John Anthony Duggan 9th Battalion Sussex RegimentMy grandad Jack Duggan was posted to Burma with the 9th Battalion Sussex Regiment to "fight the Japs". We know he loved animals, and he boxed. I am trying to find some photos or if any ones fathers spoke of him. He was from east London, and when he came home married Theresa, had 3 children and settled on the Isle of Dogs.Jack
Lt. David Michael Charles Burrough 7th Btn. Royal Sussex RegimentDavid Michael Charles Burrough enlisted on the 1st September 1939 and was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant on the 1st October 1939 into the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 1st April 1941. He was captured in May 1940 while serving with the 7th Battalion Royal Sussex and interned as Prisoner number 2602 until 1945. (follow external link above for action on 5th May 1940 involving 7th Btn RSR - there were only 70 survivors)
After the war he transferred to the Royal Army Pay Corps and retired as Staff Paymaster Welsh Territorial Division in the rank of Lt. Col in Feb 1967. Mike was born 10th August 1915 one of three sons of Rev John Burrough and Grace Winifred Norris. He married Eileen Lawley Dayrell and they had two sons. He died on the 15th Jan 1997 at Uckfield District Sussex.
Capt. George Henry Borrow MC. Royal Sussex Regiment (d.24th March 1944)George Borrow was the son of Edward and Alys Mable Constance Borrow, of Diss, Norfolk, England. He served as A.D.C. to Major General Orde Charles Wingate with the Chindits. He was killed in an aircrash, along with 8 others including British General Orde Charles Wingate, in India on 24th of March 1944. He was buried with the others in a mass grave in Section 12, Coll. grave 288 in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.s flynn
Pte. George James William Gregory 2/6th Battalion Royal Sussex RegimentMy father George Gregory served with The Royal Sussex Regiment in World War 2 after joining from the West Kent Territorials. My mother thinks he first was with the Royal West Kent Regiment not sure how he then saw service with the Sussex Regiment. We know he saw service in Italy/Austria, was in Egypt at some time and in Malta he was in 2/6 Battalion Queens and 56 London Division - Black Cats. He also spent some time on the ski slopes in Corsair.
If anyone remembers him, Private George James William Gregory, or knows anything about the war time service of his units please let me know.Linda Roake
Pte. David Walter Hooker Royal Sussex Rgt.My father was captured by the Italians in 1942 and then handed over to the Germans and sent to Stalag XVIIIA.Paula E Heard
Frank Bysouth Sussex Rgt.My father served in North Africa during the war. He never talked about it.Ray Bysouth
Alfie Gower Royal Sussex RgtMy grandad, Alfie Gower, served in the Royal Sussex Regiment from 1936 to 1944 in Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus, the Western Desert and France.Cath Gower
Leopold Cox Sussex Rgt.My father-in-law was in the Royal Sussex Regiment, then the RASC and was based in Belgium, Egypt, Italy and Bavaria.Christine Cox
Frank Kitchener "Darky" Saunders Sussex Rgt.My grandad was in the 8th Army and fought at Tobruk, El Alamein and Monte Cassino.Glen Saunders
Pte. Edwin Waugh 1st Btn. Royal Sussex Rgt.My father was a private with either A or B Coy 1st Btn Royal Sussex Regiment and was evacuated from Tobruk.David Waugh
Pte. Charles Herbert William Rumsey Royal Sussex RegimentCharles Rumsey was wounded and captured in France. He was sent to Stalag XX1A in Schilberg, and moved to Oflag XX1D 64Z. He suffered physical and mental abuse which would effect his whole life. Charles died in St Charles Hospital, Westminster, with his brother Jack and niece Eithne by his side.Chris
Pte. George Edward McLoughlin Queens Royal West Sussex RegimentI believe George McLoughlin joined the Queens Royal West Sussex Regiment on 10th May 1939. About 1940/41 He transferred to the Middlesex Regiment. George served in the British Army until about 1966. No other details are known. Any information would be gratefully received.P McLoughlin
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