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Battle of Tobruk in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

Battle of Tobruk



1st Feb 1941 Into Tobruk

17th Feb 1941 Withdraw to Palestine

9th April 1941 Return to Tobruk

23rd April 1941 On the move

12th June 1941 Operation Battleaxe

27th September 1941 Return to Egypt

7th Sept 1942 Aircraft Lost


If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.



Those known to have fought in

Battle of Tobruk

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

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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Sgt. William Griffith James R.A.S.C

Bill James on the right

My Dad, Bill James, like many who caught by the Japanese never spoke much of their nightmare as FEPOWS. He was in the Tank regiment at first, I've shown his photos to a Tank expert and they say he was involved in Burma, North Africa, El Alamein and Tobruk then Singapore where he was taken by the Japs. I've sent away to the MOD for his war records, still waiting, patiently. So I was wondering if anyone might have info on my father's FEPOW nightmare?

Hugh James



Tony Foster Browne Royal Artillery

My Hero. My Dad, Tony Browne was a Desert Rat in 1941 in Tobruk, Africa, serving as an anti-tank gunner, he fought against Rommel. The gun was hit and he was wounded and everyone else on the gun was killed. He continued to fight on with a damaged gun. Eventually he was captured and managed to escape back to friendly lines. He continued to fight through the war including El Alamein. Thanks to all that have served and are serving today.

Anthony Browne



Cpl. John Hutchinson 2nd Btn. Northumberland Fusiliers

John Hutchinson is my grandfather's brother and he was born in Throckley, Northumberland in 1913. He worked in the mines from leaving school about 1928 then joined the 2nd Bn Northumberland Fusiliers about 1932 aged 18years old. He did 16 weeks training at Fenham Barracks in Newcastle and was allowed home every weekend. He claims his Drill Sargeant from Walbottle and Corporal Cook from Throckley gave him bus fare home in exchange to drop letters off at home for them. His other Drill Sargeants were "Paddy" Cogan (Irish) and Martin (Monty) Bartlett from Hull. The P.E. Instructor was Mick Muldoon. Three of the most sadistic men he had the pleasure of enduring. Others he mentions there were L/Cpl David Allen from Cork and Cook Sgt Taffy Evans from Tonypandy Wales. After basic training he was posted to Fulford Barracks in York. Here the Battlion changed from a rifle battalion to a Machine Gun Battalion. They trained on the .303 Vickers water cooled machine gun in 4 man squads. No.1 carried the gun, No.2 the tripod. No.3 the ammunition and water can and No.4 more ammo boxes. He palled up with another Geordie, Taffy Watson who was the Battalion Butcher. Only 5'5" he fought Fly-Bantam Weight. They spent weeknights in the NAAFI and weekends in the White Swan (Mucky Duck) and a cafe called Jocks run by a scotsman who had left the Fusiliers and stayed in York. They went on Manouvres in Rippon and the Dales and were camped in tents in Rippon in June and woke up to snow. At this time they were horse transport. The MG was in a cart with one of the crew riding the lead horse. Sgt Bell was the Platoon sgt and also ran the company football team who were very successful againt the Yorks & Lancs and the West Yorks regiments. He got his 1st stripe and became Batman to Lt Dudley Smith. Lt Smith came from a landed family in Hessle and L/Cpl Hutchinson would go to shoots on the estatenbabout once a month and sometimes attended the hunts. He was later (1935)transferred to Borden Camp in Hampshire where Lt Smith and his wife Penelope (nee Hill)rented a large house outside the Barracks. Here they became a Motorised Battalion with 15cwt trucks with MG mountings and a 30cwt truck for rations and gear. They were backed up with 2 Tracked Bren Carriers. In 1935 L/Cpl Hutchinson was selected with 49 other soldiers to represent the Company at the Coronation of King George V at Westminster. They were camped in Kensington Gardens. He went off to train for 10 weeks on the new vehicles Driving and Maintenance with the Army Service Corps. In 1936 he had been recommended as Batman to Lt Maurice Lynch a French-Canadian Surgeon in the Medical Corps. They travelled together on the SS Dillwara on its maiden voyage from Southampton to Haifa. They were attached to Company HQ and billeted in a school in Beit-Jalla north of Haifa with a Rabbi and his family. All the post was censored but one of his friends wrote home "Dear Mum, I cant tell you where I am though Im in the land where Christ was born, wishing to Christ I was in the land where I was born". The return trip home was 1st Class on the good ship Athenia where they landed in early 1937 and parted from the good Doctor. For this campaign he recieves the Medal No.2 Blake Capp Palestine. Late in 1937 he is posted to Abbrasia Barracks in Egypt to support the 1st Btn with about 150 others. They were the 1st motorised vehicles to travel on the Great Western Desert Road past the Sphinx and Pyramids. His commander was Captain Jackman who later won the VC.

The vehicles required a lot of maintenance due to the sand blocking the carbs. They were sent to the Egyptian-Lybian border and Italian troops had infiltrated into Egypt and made a push towards Alexandria and Cairo. The Btn was placed with the ANZAC force under Gen Archibald Wavel. This combined force was known as "Wavels 30,000". They went up against 150,000 Italian troops. This group consisted of artillery, Long Range Desert Group, Australian and Kiwi forces. He was at Haffaya Pass nicknamed "Hellfire Pass". The only route to the plateau to Libya. The Italians suffered heavy losses and surrendered in their thousands to a handful of Allied troops. Some Italians made it to Bardia Garrison and held out for a while but were no match for the desert rats. After Bardia he went to Derna then Tobruk. He describes hundreds of Italian POWS being escorted by 3 or 4 allied soldiers. They were glad to be out of the war. He escorted a an Italian POW General Bergorzili of the Alpine Corps after his plane was shot down trying to leave the airfield at Tripoli. Soon after he became Corporal Hutchinson responsible for the Vickers, 2 trucks and 4 gun crew. His crew were Jimmy Bell, gunner from Nth Shields, Tripod was Willie Armstrong from Sth Shields, No3 was Joe Smith from Heaton and No4 Tommy Bell from Gateshead.

Their next encounter was against the Panzers of Erwin Rommel. The Afrika Korps gave then a run for their money until they reached the Salt Flats that held them up. The 7th Armoured Division got little sleep. They made their way back to Tobruk where they held out for 9 months under the Australian General Moreshead. He recalls the Easter weekend of 1941 as particularly heavy bombardment from Stukas.

The Northumberlad Fusiliers had been in Egypt so long the other regiments had nicknamed them King Farouks Bodyguard and Queen Feridas Own. The Btn then joined Aukinlecks forces outside Tobruk and the Germans threw everything at them. Whilst defending the airfield west of Tobruk the Germans broke through their lines and Cpl Hutchinson was knocked out waking up to German Panzer Lieutanant saying in perfect English "Your war is over Georgie lad" Lt Hans Seckel was the Grandson of Joe Seckel who was a respected gentleman from Scotswood Road near Scotswood Bridge who owned a pork butchers shop. Hans had spent a lot of time in Newcastle and had attended Newcastle Technical School but returned to Bavaria when old Joe died. He was conscripted when Germany invaded Poland. Security around the POW's was lax and he was able to escape met up with some Australians who guided them through the minefields back to Allied lines. Only to be captured a 2nd time.

As a POW he was shipped to Brindisi. From here to Bari, Capua, Mazarata, Benebanto and Gravino where he was seriously ill with jaundice. After 12 months in Italy the Germans moved them through Genoa, Turin, Milan, Lombardy, through the Brenner Pass into Austria. Then to Linz in Czechoslvakia to Prague and on to Dresden then Liepzig on to East Prussia, Stalag 7B Lamsdorf. At the end of 1944 with Russian Forces moving ever closer they were moved again ending up in Memingen in Bavaria for about 4 months before being liberated by American forces. Within days they were trained to Lille then flown home and billeted at an army camp in Aylesbury. Cpl Hutchinson was posted to the REME Depot at Siddles Road, Derby on guard duty. After 13 years service he was discharged and went back into the mines but struggled to find work and became a 10 pom.

Alan Barnes



Albert Flegg DSM. HMS Colombo

Helen Painter



Eddie Eccles 31 Field Regiment, 105/119 Bty. Royal Artillery

This photo was possibly taken at a works station, Eddie is positioned front row seated 3rd from right.

These photos from the camp include my father in law Eddie Eccles (105/119 battery of the 31 Field Regiment R.A.) who was caught at Tobruk on 15th Dec 1941 whilst taking part in the great Battle of Halem Hamza in the Libyan Desert.

Understandably Eddie was reluctant to talk about his experiences so I would love to hear from others who may have knowledge of the battle and times of this Field Regiment during this period in the Libyan Desert and also at Stalag 8B.

Gwyn Hughes



Pte. Harry "Sonny" Walker Royal Army Service Corps

Taken in Rome, Private Harry

My Grandfather was in Stalag VIIIB. He was Private Harry "Sonny" Walker and was in the RASC, from Rawcliffe (nr.Goole). He was captured around the battle of Tobruk and was sent to Italy. When Italy capitulated he escaped for 8 weeks before been recaptured. Then he was sent to Stalag VIIIB. If anyone has any more information I would love to hear from you.

Stephen Walker



L/Cpl Cyril Tracy "Ginger" Cheesman 613 C(M)T Coy Royal Army Service Corps

My dad, Cyril Tracy Cheesman, nicknamed ''Ginger'' was in 613 C(M)T Coy RASC. He was in the Eighth Army. He wrote down on the back of a photo to my mum all the places he visited during his time during the North African conflict.

I assume due to German activity in the Med, his convoy went to Cape Town first. I'll now mention some of the places on his very comprehensive list:

  • Port Taufuq,
  • Port Said,
  • Cairo,
  • Tahag,
  • Beersheba,
  • Gaza,
  • Jerusalem,
  • Tel Aviv,
  • Jaffa,
  • Jericho,
  • Tiberius,
  • Beirut,
  • Alexandria,
  • El Alamein,
  • El Dhba,
  • Sidi Barrani,
  • El Adem,
  • Tobruk,
  • Benghazi,
  • Marble Arch,
  • Sirte,
  • Homs,
  • Tripoli,
  • Gabes,
  • Sfax,
  • Naples,
  • Anzio,
  • Pompei,
  • Rome,
  • Perugia,
  • Florence,
  • Rimini,
  • Bologna,
  • Ravenna,
  • Venice,
  • Trieste,
  • Udine,
  • Villache.

I've noticed on various sites that its very difficult to find details about soldiers that served in the RASC. I cannot find any reference to his company, I'm assuming that C(M)T stands for Corps of Military Transport??

Andy Cheesman



Gnr. Edward Weightman 51 (Westmorland & Cumberland Yeomanry) Field Regt Royal Artillery (d.22nd Apr 1941)

Edward Weightman, son of George and Mary Weightman and husband of Eva Gwendoline Weightman of Jarrow, County Durham, died aged 25 during the Siege of Tobruk. He is buried at Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya and is commemorated on the WW2 Roll of Honour Plaque in the entrance to Jarrow Town Hall.

Vin Mullen



Pte. Alfred Harris 1st Btn. Worcester Regiment

In the summer of 1942 Alfred Harris and the 1st Battalion took part in the Gazala Battle and in the defence of Tobruk, Libya. on 20th June a general surrender was ordered following attack from the Germans and Italians. Alfred was made a Prisoner of War in Tobruk and ended up in Italy bound for Germany on a POW train. It was on this journey that the Allerona tragedy took place.

On 28th January 1944 at the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, a train full of Allied prisoners, most of whom had come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, north of Rome, was hit by friendly fire from the American 320th Bombardment Group. U.S. Army member Richard Morris was on the train and wrote that the journey was stopped on the bridge over the river, and that the German guards fled as soon as the bombs struck. The prisoners were left locked inside the carriages. Many, including Alfred Harris, managed to escape through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. It was a great tragedy of the war resulting in the deaths of hundreds of men.

He survived the wreck with a fractured left leg and upon recovery was sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

S Flynn



Sgt. Ernest H. Price 1st Btn. South Wales Borderers

The 1st Battalion lost around 500 officers and men captured or killed near Tobruk, Libya when it found itself cut off by German forces during a general retreat. Sergeant Price was made a Prisoner of War in Tobruk and ended up in Italy bound for Germany on a POW train. It was on this journey that the Allerona tragedy took place.

On 28th January 1944 at the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, a train full of Allied prisoners, most of whom had come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, north of Rome, was hit by friendly fire from the American 320th Bombardment Group. U.S. Army member Richard Morris was on the train and wrote that the journey was stopped on the bridge over the river, and that the German guards fled as soon as the bombs struck. The prisoners were left locked inside the carriages. Many, including Ernest Price, managed to escape through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. It was a great tragedy of the war resulting in the deaths of hundreds of men.

He survived the wreck with multiple slight wounds to his head and lower left leg. Upon recovery was sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

S Flynn



Sig. Andrew Ambrose 2nd Div. South African Corps of Signals

In 1942, Signaller Andrew Ambrose was taken prisoner at Tobruk by the Italians. He was wounded at Tobruk, and so was shipped to a hospital at Caserta in Italy. After he recovered, he was sent to a POW camp near Florence, and soon thereafter to a camp in Sardinia (his POW number was 223281). He was then moved to Stalag 4C, Wistritz, where he worked underground in the coal mines.

At the end of the war, the Russian forces came upon them in the now unguarded camp. The Russians left them unattended for a short while during which time the Americans shipped the prisoners out to safety. Apparently, the Russians wanted to swap British POWs for Russians. The French forces then moved them to Britain to be "fattened up" before being demobilised.

Bruce Ambrose



Patrick Mahoney Royal Army Service Corps

My Dad, Patrick Mahoney served in the RASC. Here are his words from a piece he wrote for a computer course he did when he was 80 years old. My Dad is now 92 and has just gone into a nursing home. I so hope this may be of interest to people finding out information from the whereabouts of the RASC.

'In 1938 got my first driving licence and with the threat of war with Germany, joined the Territorial Army giving a false age. Called up in 1939 I found myself for a short time riding a bike commandeered from my firm. Being too young(even with my false age) to be sent abroad, was posted to another transport unit and was in Manchester until 1941 including the blitz when we were supplying the gun-sites with ammunition and other supplies. After the Battle of Britain most of our unit were posted to the Middle East, where I was sent to an independent transport company. With this unit I was to travel many miles and do a variety of jobs. These included twice crossing the Arabian Desert, first from Suez to the Iraqi oil wells at Kirkuk in winter, lots of snow and bitterly cold, second to Persia (now Iran) in summer in extreme heat. This trip saw us bringing back Polish women refugees who had crossed the Caspian Sea and were en route to Palestine. Soon after this Tobruk had fallen and we arrived in the Western Desert, where we carried troops, ammunition and all manner of supplies in preparation for the well known Battle of El Alamein. When this was won we followed the Axis troops across North Africa to Tunis, again doing a variety of jobs from carrying front line infantry to a field bakery. After this all our vehicles were given to other units for the invasion of Sicily and we had to take a load of worn out lorries to Egypt for repair. We made tow bars from railway lines, anything that would run towed those that would not and from Tunis to Suez was a long long way!! We then went to Italy, landed in Taranto but our repaired vehicles went to Naples from where we eventually sailed home to prepare for D-day. From D day + 10 until demobilisation in 1946 it was service across Europe from France to Germany, the main job being a shuttle run carrying coal from the Ruhr to Hamburg'.

I truly hope this gives some history to people tracing the foot steps of relatives and of interest to others. My dad is a remarkable man and I wish him a happy and long stay in his new home.

Amanda Hayes



Pte. T. Fieldson Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Douglas Mallett was captured at Tobruk and survived the train wreck on the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, uninjured. He was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

s flynn



Cpl. Ronald Mcfarlane 2nd Battalion Royal Durban Light Infantry

My Grandfather Ronald Mcfarlane was a POW at Stalag 4B he was captured at Tobruk on 21 June 1942.

Rene Walker



Pte. Henry Charles Foster Royal Artillery

My dear Dad Charlie Foster was captured at Tobruk North Africa by the German Afrika Corps, taken as prisoner to Benghazi, then by boat to Brindezi, and to Bari. Onto PG70 Prison Camp near Porto St Georgia and Fermo, then to Germany, Stalag IVB Dresden. He never spoke to me about this but I have a diary he kept. The last entry reads -

Sunday 13th, I am writing this in the plane I have waited so long for. We are having a glorious run, just passed over Stuttgart, the 2nd pilot who is American says we shall be in Rheims by 12.30am and perhaps tomorrow we shall be in England....

He sadly passed away in 1997.

Julie Wilkinson



Gnr. Arthur Bayliss 277/68 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment

My late father Arthur Bayliss of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, enlisted in Bishop Auckland in September 1940 as a gunner in the 277/68 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.

In February 1941 he was posted to the Middle East where he fought until he was captured by the Italians at Tobruk in June 1942. As Prisoner Number 247030 he was held for approximately 18 months by the Italians at Campo p.g. 75 PM 3450 and Campo 54, PM 3300 before arriving at Stammlager IVB in December 1943.

He was put to work breaking stone and then transferred to Stalag IVD in March 1944. Twelve months later he was working in a sugar factory making vitamin tablets, which he described as a cushy number. That work ran out and he was sent to work in an emergency hospital. Being a bit of a

Fed up with this life he soon decided to try to escape and went through the wire on 25 March 1945. He slept in the woods at Golpa but was arrested by German civilian Police two days later. He was charged at Bittefeld and sentenced to 5 days jail on bread and water. On release he was sent back to work, this time in the penal colony, again with a guard keeping watch over him.

On 4th April 1945, whilst at work, he witnessed Pte W R Devlin, an Australian POW being shot by a German civilian. It was Pte Devlins 23rd birthday. Dad was a bearer at his funeral 3 days later. On April 13th the Bittefeld area was evacuated and Dad was marched approximately 25 km to camp Schammewitz but he decided to escape again and took off that same night, his objective was to reach Wurzen. Freedom was short lived, he was recaptured on 16 April at Schildan and taken to the cells at Torgau.

Stalag IVD was then evacuated and Dad together with all the other prisoners were marched to Stalag IVB with Ukranians aged only 14 to 16 years. On 23rd April Stalag IVB was liberated when the Russian Cavalry rode into camp and on the 30th Dad left Stalag IVB with the objective of reaching Leipzig. He lived well in various houses en route passing through Torgau, Arzburg, Belgern, and Neusen. He diverted to Dahlen on hearing that the Yanks were there and they took him to Maachern and then on to Halle.

Like so many POWs Dad never talked about his years as a prisoner and so this information is very sketchy. It has been pieced together from letters to Vera, his wife, which of course were censored, his diary, kept only for a short time in 1945 and jottings in his Service Pay book. Hopefully it may add to the knowledge of how others family members existed during this time. If anyone knew Dad or recognises events I would be very pleased to hear from them.

I doubt that Dad escaped alone, in fact one of the few tales he told of his escapes was that he and his comrades caught and killed a pig to eat. They built a fire to roast it. However, they were so hungry that they couldn't wait for it to cook and ate it partially raw, with the result that it made them all ill. He also said that whilst in camp they had such little food that he would scrounge potato peelings from the guards.

He had some names in his Soldiers Service and Pay Book which were:-

  • Tommy Norfolk of Leicester
  • R Douglas of Liverpool
  • A Mellows of Nottingham
  • K Whittingham of Wolverhampton

Were these people with whom he was imprisoned? Did they get home safely and are they still alive? If anyone recognises the names or has information about them, I would love to know.

Graham Bayliss



William John Turrell 1st Battalion Royal East Kent Regiment

William Turrell is centre of back row.

My uncle Bill - William John Turrell was born in 1919, Bromley Kent. I have been told he was with the royal east kent regiment (the buffs). Sadly, my uncle passed away in 1983. He never really spoke of the war days, but I guess, knowing what I know now, I can see why he never spoke about things.

I have just been given a photo of my uncle. I believe the photo was taken in a prison of war camp in september 1944 at Molln, I believe that this was in Pupping Austria, camp number Stalag 398. His POW number was 155006.

My uncle Bill is the big man in the centre of the back row, I don't know who the other men are but it would be nice to find out.

David Turrell



Gnr. Walter Shearwood Royal Artillery

I'm trying to find any information about my Dad, Walter Shearwood. I know he was captured in Tobruk, I think in 1941. He was transported through Italy to Stalag 1Vb by train. He did tell me that a lot of POWs tried to escape and were shot. About Dad's time in the camp we know very little and I was wondering if anyone may be able to shed some light on this please. The only information I have been able to discover is of a man of the same name and service number who apparently was a Colonel! Dad was definitely only a Private. Any help would be much appreciated as I'm hoping to visit the site in the near future.

Editor's note: If the information you found was on Ancestry, the ranks have all be incorrectly transcribed from the POW lists. Your Dad's rank is listed as Gunner and he was held in Stalag IVb and Stalag IVg.

Clara Smith



Norman "Nookie" McCarthy

My Dad Norman McCarthy was in Stalag 4B after capture in Tobruk (via a short detention near Brindisi in Italy). He was a South African volunteer driving trucks for the allies in the desert with the Tiffys. He lost his best friend from Benoni who was killed, right next to him, by shrapnel from a Stuka bomber which attacked their convoy. He didn't talk about Stalag 4B much except to say that 'Brindisi was better' and that 'th Russian prisoners had a harder time than us'(he noticed them fighting each other for potato peels). He also told me that one day the German guards disappeared and that they wandered off through much farmland wreckage until they were found by Americans. He was demobilised in Britain where he met my English mother Eileen Mary Gallet, who later joined him in SA after he mailed her an engagement ring in the post! I now live in France and think I owe it to his memory visit the Stalag 4B site some time. He did not hold grudges against the Germans, but that was also the kind of person he was.




William Hamilton Royal Artillery

William Hamilton joined the Royal Artillery and served in Tobruk where he was captured. Made to walk the thousand mile march from Palermo to Brindisi then all the way to Stalag 1Vb where he was prisoner for four and a half years. He worked in a ball bearing factory. He was liberated by the Russians and came back in a Lancaster. He left his engagement ring and watch hidden in rocks before being taken prisoner. His back was badly damaged by the constant rifle butt by Italian soldiers who marched him up the length of Italy. He never collected his medals as he thought he had let his country down, but his daughter sent for them.

Ian Reid



L/Sgt. Alfred Davies MM. Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

Alfred Davies was born in 1920 and enlisted in the TA at Horwich and then the regular army whilst still only seventeen. He served with 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers regimental number 3d 50th in India, Iraq and North Africa. He won the Military Medal in June 1942 during the withdrawal from the Tobruk area. In August of the same year all but 19 of the survivors were transfered to the Kings Own Royal Regiment.

In November 1943 Sgt Davies was part of the ill-fated garrison occupying the island of Leros when it was invaded by an overwhelming forces of German infantry and paratroops. Other regiments involved included the Royal East Kents (Buffs) and the Royal Irish Fusiliers. After five days the garrison was forced to retire. Alfred was among the hundreds wounded and taken prisoner. He was treated at a German military hospital in Salonika and then taken by cattle truck to Austria and eventually to Stalag 357 Oerbke. He remained in captivity until April 1945.

Kathleen Walsh.



Gnr. Peter Bailey 107th (South Notts Hussars) Regt. Royal Artillery

My father, Peter Bailey, was conscripted into the Royal Artilery in 1939 aged 21. He was sent to Catterick Garrison for basic training. After this he was posted to Ipswich where he was involved with anti aircraft gunnery. Sometime later he was re-posted to Woolwich to await a troop ship bound for Egypt. I think it was around this time he learned he would be attached to the South Notts Hussars, a TA unit. After six or seven weeks at sea they arrived in Egypt and were sent on to somewhere near Tobruk where the whole regiment was overrun by Field Marshal Rommel's Africa Corps.

Some time later he found himself in POW camp 53 at Sforza Costa near a larger town called Macerata in Italy. When Italy surrendered my father and many others, although not all, escaped to the hills and managed to survive by foraging and stealing until they came across a farmer who took them in and kept them hidden whenever any Germans were about. I think there were only three or four people in my father's party and they helped out on the farm in exchange for food until they were found by US troops.

After this it's pretty much blank as I don't know how he got back to the UK, nor do I know any names of his companions or indeed if all of them survived whilst on the run. The last six months of my father's service were spent in hospital in Sheffield with PTSD, and then medically discharged just as the war ended. I am pleased to say he completely recovered and lived to be 78 years old.He rarely talked about the war but one thing he did mention was the harsh conditions in camp 53 and the brutality of some of the guards, his biggest complaint though was the fact that his army boots fell to pieces and it left him barefooted for around two years.

Ray Bailey



George Farquar "Curly" Castel Royal Army Service Corps

My grandfather, George Castel, was born in Inverness, Scotland on January 29, 1908. He was the son of George Farquar and Kate Castel. His father was originally from Peterhead, Scotland, with his mother hailing from Boston, in Lincolnshire. George had three siblings sisters Jean and Lillian, and brother Norman. The family lived in Inverness until 1921, when they moved to Bradford, Yorkshire. Grandad was sent to Birmingham to the Dunlop tyre plant for training in vulcanizing and tyre fitting. After completing training, he moved back to Bradford to work for the City Corporation transport system. He was made redundant in 1931 and then got a job working for Model Milk Co. from 1931-35, delivering dairy products house-to-house, first using a horse and cart, then later a truck. In 1935, he became a driver for the Bradford Dyers Association where he stayed with BDA until 1937. He then moved to Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire, to run a boarding house.

When World War II began on 3rd of September 1939, George volunteered for the Air Raid Precaution unit in Cleethorpes, where he was assigned to be an ambulance driver. In May 1940 he volunteered for the Royal Army Service Corps. He left behind his wife and a 10-year-old daughter when his unit was sent to Egypt. The unit served there for two years before its men were just a small part of the 30,000 personnel captured after the Battle of Tobruk in June 1942.

After being captured and interned, grandad found he was the oldest man in his camp, was at Stalag 4-B, though he was only 34 years old. He and several hundred other men were transported from Carpi to the camp in late 1943. He eventually ended up at a work camp in Halle. He kept a journal of his time from being captured until his liberation. I have turned this into a blog Home by Autumn.

Mark Townsend



Gnr. Dennis Bulmer Thompson 25 Field Regiment Royal Artillery

My grandfather enlisted in the Royal Artillery on 18th October 1937, where he was posted to 2nd Training Brigade. At the outbreak of WW2, he was stationed in India with 25 Field Regiment RA. My grandfather was taken prisoner at Tobruk on 20th June 1942. He was imprisoned at the following camps:
  • Camp 68 Vetrella - 4.12.42 to 30.11.42,
  • Camp 70 Porto San Georgio - 2.1.43 to 1.5.43,
  • Camp 62 Begarmo - 1.5.43 to 21.5.43,
  • Camp 62/33 - 21.5.43 to 27.8.43,
  • Camp 62/51 Plemo - 27.8.43 to 11.9.43: Work on a canal.

    After 11th September 1943, my grandfather stayed in the village of Plemo until 18th September 1943 where he was put in touch with an organisation. The padre of Plemo was part of an organisation which arranged a party of 30 POWs and an Italian guide, who took the group via train to Sondrio. The guide then led the group across the border, arriving in Switzerland on 22nd September 1943. Grandfather arrived back in the UK on 24th October 1944, after spending some months in internment camps in Switzerland.

    My grandfather was then posted to 1st Air Landing Regiment and was deployed to Norway from 11th May to 30th August 1945.

  • Stephen Camm



    Pte. David Walker

    My Grandfather David Walker was captured at Tobruk and was prisoner of war in Italy and then he was taken to Germany. In Germany he was held in Stalag 4D. He never talked about his time in the POW camps. I am researching our family history and if anyone has any information about his time in either the Italian or German POW camps I would be grateful. He died when I was sixteen so I was never able to ask him about it

    Karen Maloney



    L/Cpl. William Arthur Holder MiD. 1st Infantry Btn. Royal Natal Carbineers

    William Holder was taken prisoner in Tobruk. He was on the roll call list of Camp 10 in August 1943, but I am still trying to find all the other camps he was in. He aided a POW to escape and made it back to Allied lines.

    Memory Mustard



    Pte. William Frank Rootes Royal Army Service Corps

    Bill Rootes was captured on 21st July 1941 at Tobruk by the 21st and 25th German Panzer divisions at 11am. He was forced to march to Tobruk in the heat of the day and only given one pint of water, no food, all day.

    I have many scans of Bill's diary pages. If anyone related to him would like them please email me with proof of your relationship. Bill was my grandfather's brother.

    Paul Roots



    Sgt. Victor James Butcher Royal Army Service Corps

    Excerpts from a Diary of a Soldier 1940 – 44 ….

    ….as lamp signaller from the bridge, passing many messages to our convoy of seventeen vessels, excluding the cruiser ‘London’ and six destroyers. Once out to sea we were told our destination was Basra, Iraq. The convoy zigzagging continually, moved through heavy seas to off Greenland, then turned south towards American neutral waters. After ten days at sea we sighted the Azores, and on the 26th August we put into Freetown, East Africa for refuelling. The temperature was humid and it rained for all the three days we laid there. We were not allowed ashore owing to the many diseases rife in this hellhole of the Empire.

    Once again, more and more sea with temperatures of 110 in the shade, and food steadily getting worse, until we sighted one day the 2nd September 1941, a great range of mountains, and later, Cape Town, South Africa looking like a scenario of New York, with a huge flat topped mountain (Table Mountain) behind.

    Here we stepped ashore for the first time. It was indeed a very modern city with skyscrapers, wide streets and American sedans and limousines everywhere. Here, Jack and I first had a huge meal, afterwards having several beers on a jovial South African, and later visiting a dance, and walking in the Orange Grove Park by the Governor’s residence. The native quarter was out of bounds to troops.

    On the second day ashore Jack and I met Mrs Jackson, a charming South African who took us for a drive to a seaside resort along the coast called Mueyenberg. Here we had an enjoyable day finishing at a dance, where I was in some demand because I knew the new dance steps from England. The girls were very attractive and much better educated than the average English dance hall crowd. The next day Mrs Jackson met us in her Packard 90 and took us for a mountain drive into the Hottentot ranges, through the native village of Paarl, which owes its name to a pearly coloured mountain behind the village. Here fruit is the industry, mostly controlled by the Boer South Africans, descendants of the originals, and mostly anti-British. We had tea in a roadhouse high in the hills and returned to dinner in the evening. Mr Jackson had arthritis, a remainder from the last war. I enjoyed their company and I never felt as if I was accepting charity in going out with them. Later that evening we went to a show. The next day another long drive into the mountains always amazingly beautiful. The climate was just right. Actually they thought it was rather cold, (it was Spring there). We drove to Capetown in the evening and stopped in the dark on the side of Table Mountain to look at the city blazing with lights, and the numerous large liners that had formed part of our convoy, including Britannic, Andes, Stirling Castle, Windsor and Warwick Castle, Valiant and many others. Looking down on the city alive with neon and blue lights was a wonderful experience. We went to a big hotel for supper, and then very reluctantly said goodbye to the Jackson’s and went back on board.

    The following morning we up anchored and amid great enthusiasm we sailed out of the harbour attended by tugs and pilot boats, while aircraft roared overhead. I continued my work on the bridge and learned that our next port was Bombay. The weather aboard got more and more humid, and in a temperature of 110 in the shade we docked in at Ballard pier, Bombay. Here we disembarked and left for good our luxurious home, Strathallen. In full marching order, with rifles and carrying kitbags, we marched across Bombay to another docks, indescribably filthy and amid smells which the traveller always associates with Bombay. The heat was intense! We were kept waiting for hours before we eventually climbed aboard a disreputable looking steamer called ‘Neamalia’ (9000 tons) a troopship. Built in 1908 and manned by a dirty native crew, and a few tough looking whites, our first look at this ancient craft did little to revive our dropping spirits. Our mess deck happened to be the first one down, which gave a little more air - electric fans whirred stale air from above, and the whole looked indescribably filthy, after our hospital-like quarters on the ‘Strath’. We stowed our kit and were allowed ashore in the evening to walk and sweat in the dock area only. We never had a good look at the city, which appeared to be very modern and planned. The Malabar Hill region (a waterfront of luxury hotels) compared favourably with Capetown. The following day we moved out into midstream (probably to stop troops deserting the hell ship!) and the food was putrid. The bread was sour and maggots were rife in meat, potatoes and everything. Tons of food was thrown overboard and only after four days lying at anchor, the food began to improve. This brings me right up to date.

    Today, 25th September 1941 we sailed away from the smells of Bombay for Basra. We are doing no work on this ship and it is impossible for everyone to sit down on the decks, so overcrowded is it. The air system is antiquated and insufficient and the only saving grace is plenty of cold seawater showers. I am doing nothing but reading (there is a small library) and showering. We cannot sleep on deck every night - no room, and can only do so every third night. The other two, we swelter below, where lifting an arm causes a fresh outbreak of perspiration. I never sweated so much in all my life - it just drips from everyone and a shirt is wringing wet in no time. Now there is a bit of sea breeze we are a bit easier, but the temperature is still well over 100 in the shade. There is a good deal of moaning about the appalling conditions - one could stand the heat if we had more room and better food. However the worst is to come, as Basra possesses an even hotter temperature and with arid burning sand. We shall see, as Baldwin remarked.

    Incidentally, I learned today that this troopship was sunk in the last war, and was on the bottom for two years, which would account for the pitted eaten appearance of all the ironwork aboard her. The officer’s cabins are much better but Mr Woollet told me their food is also uneatable in the main. What I could do to a good Sunday dinner, at home with bags of gravy, and later apple pudding! But I digress. The food is getting shorter but on the 30th September in the evening we start sailing up the Persian Gulf between rows of coloured lights.

    On 1st October 1941 we docked at Ashar just wide of Basra. Great activity getting all the kits off but we are at last ashore and on a lorry bound for what is promised as a rest camp. What a place! Imagine miles of tents, on a flat plain, with no living plant or grass, and everything covered in a white dust. This is what met our gaze. A wind blows the dust through clothing and into our eyes, mouths, everywhere. We get four tents, twelve men in each. After a look around we find that we are the first white regiment to land here. Food is cooked in the open on wood fires and so far consists of stew and rice.

    8th October 1941. Our transport has arrived. My W/T Bug has had a bashing. The frame is bent and all the tools have been pinched the locks being broken. We are waiting for our W/T supplies and then moving up country to Baghdad. The guns are here also a light AA Brigade and many Indian troops, Ghurkas, Sikhs etc. Water is now scarce - no washing facilities and we shave in a mess tin. No blackout. We have had a look at Ashar, typical Arab town. Dirty with scores of beggars yelling for ‘baksheesh’ and selling dates etc. The shops are just holes in the walls. In them one can see the most exquisite silverware being made by bearded Arabs. They look like a page out of the Bible. Most of them wear robes and burkhas but a few use western dress. An incongruous note is struck in the bazaars by Arabs in robes driving big American cars, and taxis are everywhere, very cheap. Petrol is easier to get than water. We are accosted by guides and they speak rough English asking us to visit brothels etc. 1000 fils is the admission (25/-) and they are legalised. We went to a café and had a bottle of English beer which cost about 3/- a bottle! There were some dancing girls there - Armenians and Russians, really lovely girls who get a commission on all drinks bought at the tables, also we presume open for other trade. Beyond our reach on our pay! The Arab and veiled women about the town are all as white as I am and resemble Jewesses. Most of them were evacuated however when we took Ashar from the rebel Iraqis.

    I am writing this in Baghdad. We came up from Ashar to Habbaniyah in a twenty mile long convoy with R/T control. I was the last vehicle in the convoy and sent news of breakdowns forward by radio. A hazardous journey across open desert with deep sand and hard bumpy places that soon found the weak spots in Army transport. Two men were unfortunately killed and one injured when a lorry loaded with 3.7 ammo overturned (this was easily done) and the men were crushed beneath the ammo. On the way we passed through the ancient city of Ur of the Chaldeans, birthplace of Abraham and Babylon, the ancient city of Biblical times. Nothing left now but ruins which are interesting. And so to Habbaniyah. Imagine coming to a modern village, blazing with electric lights, in a desolate desert! Habb is a camp for RAF drome. Swarming with RAF troops. We are not camped at the drome but in tents on a vast plateau overlooking it and in the position enjoyed by the Iraqi troops while storming the drome early this year. They lost 30,000 men when making the attempt.

    We stayed at Habbaniyah for one month, and enjoyed it. Pictures, baths and a social club in the drome all added to our comfort. During this time I made several journeys across the desert to Baghdad on shopping expeditions. Then on the road again to move up to Quiara an oil centre forty five miles from Mosul. Quiara is a centre for a pipeline oil well. It is a village and under the shadow of two great pylons, we are living in what were German engineers’ bungalows. Here we spent a comfortable Christmas and I had to tackle exchange duty when Sewell got shot. I was now receiving mail fairly regularly. Mr Woollett left us in a blaze of glory, and after hearing that my brother was married, I went into hospital with bronchitis - not serious, and out on the 4th February 1942.

    11th February 1942 - a fortnight after this we learnt with considerable relief that we were leaving Iraq for somewhere in Syria. The only information led us to believe the place would be the coastal town of Haifa. We started on convoy, the whole regiment split into groups and we worked wireless traffic control. Day in and out we travelled, vast distances with every possible discomfort as the weather was poor. Before striking Rutbah we lost half the convoy owing to rain turning the desert into a sea of mud. Vehicles stuck up to their bonnets and for twelve hours I drove back and forth in the dark flashing my headlights in an effort to guide the lorries in to the beginning of a road. It was a nightmare journey and its says much for the Major who was with me when I say he never turned a hair when I drove clean off a raised road with a fifteen foot drop. Luckily the old bus landed on all fours and was none the worse!

    After we struck the road things improved. We got the scattered remnants together and proceeded until one day we crossed the mountain ranges of the Trans-jordan. How can I describe it! Grass and trees again, and fruit growing in profusion. The mountain road, winding and twisting up and down, with sheer drops over the side and one skid meaning curtains. After we crossed the range came the river Jordan, now a muddy stream set in orange groves.

    Later we reached the city of Haifa but did not stop driving on along the coast of the Med until on 29th February we wearily came at last to Beirut or Beyrouth on the shores of the Med, a pretty town backed by snow capped mountains set in a natural bay. We slept under canvas but soon moved to Caserne Joffre, a big white barracks left by the French after their sudden departure from Syria and the Lebanon. Here we revelled in baths, comfort and good food.

    On looking around Beirut we decided that it was a welcome change from the desert, with its fine modern buildings, boulevards and cafes. It is very French. All the Arabs or Lebanese are of fair skin and dressed in the western styles. The use French a lot and the atmosphere of the estimets and cafes is very French. We took on a big job in running the communications of this town and our linesmen are busy laying miles of cable. In wireless too we are second line and stand by at gun sites whenever trouble threatens.

    We decided to have a look at the brothel area. There are over one hundred licensed brothels, the biggest being Marica’s. Picture a large building with a hall, rather like a theatre, and a neon sign outside. Inside, a staircase and wide marble stairs to the assembly room. Here you choose your lady. Many soldiers, airmen and naval men besides civilians stand in a foyer. Rows of doors stretch down a corridor and presently a young girl comes out smiling. She is a Greek. Young, attractive, she wears a silk dressing gown and sandals. Her face is beautifully made up and her toe nails enamelled. She walks swaying gracefully up to us. “Allo boys, you want me? Very nice, very clean, very hygienic, I make you lof me, yes!” She advances to Jack, “Oh, what a beeg moustache”, she pulls it, “You want me?” Four pounds Syrian (about 10/-). We smile at her sheepishly and she laughs. “Shufte!” (look) and she whips the robe open. Under it she is quite naked. Her body is pink and lovely. Small firm breasts and long thighs. We don’t get another look. “Maybe tomorrow, yes”. She smiles and leaves us to walk over to some Aussies. We gape. Other women are doing the same thing. We turn and trail downstairs, our heavy boots clattering on marble. Outside in the fresh air Bill voices our thoughts. “God, she was lovely! I could easily have let her lead me to a bed after all this time”.

    Afterwards we get the hang of it and decide it isn’t worth it. Love for money is always a business transaction - and we agree that quite probably the fact that she is only a machine would rob the moment of all feeling, and leave us unable to have her. For often the best part of a sex union is the leading up to it - this of course the prostitute has no time or use for. Also we are most of us engaged - and I for one, though no prude, want to return the same as I went out. Not pure - but no worse. The women in brothels are clean - sometimes.

    In the cafes, there is always a bit of variety. One evening we were having a beer when that fool Jack told the waiter I was a swing drummer. He returned with a request that I play a couple of numbers with a five piece band. I couldn’t refuse and chose a couple of rumbas. The drummer watched me closely asking many questions and the floor was packed. Later a soldier took over the piano and ‘we went to town’. I had loads of beer lined up from ‘fans’ and finally we drove home to the barracks in a gharry with a load of beer and the manager’s blessing.

    17th May 1942: We are still here, and life is much the same. We keep out of the cafes now - it has become more expensive, so we usually go to the pictures and have an egg sandwich when we come out. This suits me - the summer is here and most evenings we go swimming in ‘Signals Bay’ a sheltered bay between towering cliffs. I have also driven up into the mountains to the snow line. Seventeen miles of climbing turns and no fences! But from the top what a view! Beirut as big as the palm of a man’s hand with the coastline stretching on like looking down from a plan and even clouds below us. Wonderful! I am enjoying being here. About now I went on leave to Jerusalem. Then I got a septic foot which put me in the New Zealand Hospital for a month. Recovered thankfully none the worse.

    25th October 1942. We moved from Beirut to Zahlah near Ba’labakk for manoeuvres.

    We heard that the 87th was going into action, and we left Zahlah on 24th November 1942. Followed a long convoy, destination probably Tobruk! However the W/T Section was taken away from the 87th during this convoy, and we pushed on ahead to Mena, Cairo. We stayed seven days and I was made Lance Corporal.

    On again, to find the 57th - somewhere in the Western Desert! At Tobruk we saw the 87th again and spent a day with them. The 57th were still way ahead and we drove 1000 miles past Musa, Salum, Halfaya (Hellfire) Pass, Bug.Bug, Darnah up to Benghazi. The road and descent was littered with German tanks, lorries, guns, bearing witness to their hurried retreat. About this time I came under fire for the first time, when six Stukas had a go at the road. They dropped bombs and one bug had a narrow escape, but we got through.

    We arrived at Benghazi, a modern Italian colonial town on the night of 14th December 1942 and had a heavy raid on the harbour that night. The 57th were still ahead, so we pushed on again to Ajdabiya where we at long last found the 57th Signals and Regiment. No rest was ours however, for the Regiment was protecting landing grounds in forward areas, and with the retreating Axis just a few miles in front we moved every few days until at last we had a whole fortnight in Castel Benito - the large drome serving Tripoli. The rest was welcomed and we had had no Christmas to speak of. No cigarettes and food and water is very scarce. However on the second days after Tripoli fell, I went in and had a look. It is very modern, wide streets and big buildings and a wonderful harbour which was full of sunken ships. Shops began to open and the Italian civilians began to come out, once they found we did not intend to rape and pillage as the Germans told them we would. Then Mr Churchill visited us and I saw the great procession and heard him speak.

    On 20th February 1943 we moved again to Zuwarah, the batteries protecting the landing ground there.

    On 28th February 1943 I was promoted Corporal chiefly because of some quick thinking I did. A line truck got lost, and was heading over the border into Tunisia and enemy territory. I chased the truck in a car and caught them just through Ben Guerdane. Back to Libya again in victory!

    On 2nd March we pulled out and into Tunisia, the Regiment having one battery in Medenine, one right up in the line, and one at Zarzis. The Regiment had a bashing and heavy raids were taking place. One battery was shelled out of Medenine with casualties and it was most unpleasant. However the push started and we moved with it, arriving on 7th April once again in Medenine with Jerry in full retreat. All the way up we were passing lorries laden with enemy troops captured in the push. One of our batteries was in the thick of things again at Gabes. We had W/T trucks with all batteries and my job now is to look after them all - I don’t do any operating personally which is rather a pity but more restful. In this push we have had AA right forward - a very different arrangement, but landing grounds (our speciality) must be protected.

    NB: About this time I got a 3rd tape - now W/T Sgt 1/0. On up to Sousse, and we hadn’t been there long when we heard that the enemy was finally routed in Tunisia - Tunis and Bizerte had fallen and the enemy was being exterminated as he tried to get away from Cap Bon. So it was over. For six weeks I was at a rest camp established at Monistare, and had a good time swimming, dancing and getting pretty sozzled! Then we were told we were going to Cairo again - the less said about the journey the better, but our transport was buggered when we reached Egypt, camping at Quassasin. There among other things I met C. Surridge - we had a celebration and went for a week’s leave at Cairo on the SIGs houseboat on the Nile. Great fun with the ATS next door! Newly equipped, we went back up the Western Desert to Tripoli, and started practising on ‘wet’ landings - this means business - the main 8th Army was fighting in Sicily.

    On 6th September 1943 we embarked on LCIs and LSTs - and were told our destination - the mainland of Italy, at Salerno, with ten Corps to stiffen the US 5th Army. We landed at 0900 on 9th September - ‘D’ Day. On shore, there was confused organisation. We were under heavy fire and all traffic was told to get inland. I got separated from the Commanding Officer and with two ops and a Morris we tried to find him, as we comprised an advance party. We went three miles inland, when I was turned back to the beaches by a harassed Colonel. It appeared we were behind the enemy. There was a great deal of gunning and the truck was hit by splinters. We met the CO’s party and then followed a hectic fortnight. Weary from lack of sleep, and moving back and forth day and night as Jerry broken through and we counter attacked. On once occasion the SIGs and RA went into action as infantry, and I fired my first angry shot of the war. We were relieved by Krr’s after forty eight hours being part of a force holding one side of the vital aerodrome. I saw a lot of men killed here and it shook me a bit. To keep it brief, on the 18th September the 8th and Monty joined us from the South and the siege was over. From here I went on to Pompeii and saw Vesuvius glowing away in the dark. The Jerries were going back fast, and we drove through Naples with cheering crowds lining the streets and throwing fruit and flowers.

    After Christmas 1943 at Capua came the battle of the Volturno. The regiment played a big part here and I nearly got it. I stepped out of a jeep holding a W/T set, and an airburst exploded 70ft above. The jeep was hit and I didn’t get a scratch - I was deafened by the bang!

    By February 1944 we were at Cessa on the Gangliano, and then our brigade was transferred back to 8th Army and we eventually got to Venafro. We stuck here some time and made friends with a civvy doctor, whose house we were in. Here I finally got transferred to 14LAA and went up route six passing through all the well known places until we reached Cassino. It was in a shocking state, completely flat. At Terni, I was recalled to Brigade - SIGs in AA were disbanded and I left 12AA for ever. I went back to 8th Army SIGs - one hundred and twenty miles back! And then one hundred and thirty miles forward again to 6th Armoured Division. Arriving I was sent to 26 Armoured Brigade at Perugia, and found life very difficult. I was working as an operator to the Brigadier, on a Sherman tank in which he insisted in charging about the battlefront. We hardly ever were out of S.A fire and mortars, and shelling made life grim. There was no sleep to speak of - about two hours in twenty four. Then I got a break, and came back to Brigade HQ to be I/C ACV operator. This was more settled, but hours were still long - four hours in twenty four when in action.

    After Perugia we came on slowly working through Arezzo where we were the first troops in, and were shelled horribly by 105mm, an electrician being hit 50 yards from me. Then came Castiglione, and Montosi, Montevarchi, San Giovanni, Figline Valdarno and Diacetto. At Figline Valdarno we stuck, and were able to get a week’s leave in. I went to Rome, over two hundred miles, and had a good week, described in detail in letters home.

    So we butted up against the Gothic Line and stuck again. We took the opportunity to have day leave to Florence now relieved and clear. 3rd September 1944. The attack in Europe goes well - our troops are threatening the border of Germany itself - over on the Adriatic here the 8th have broken through the Gothic Line - opposite us the Country is totally impossible for armour.

    22nd September 1944. Now at grips with the Gothic Line. Mountainous Country and we are having a quiet time. Heard today of demobilising scheme and increased pay! Roll on. Victor James Butcher Driver and ACV Operator Royal Army Service Corps

    Julie Jesse



    Spr. Percy John "M.V. Brown" Wraight MiD. 1st Field Squadron Royal Engineers

    My father, Percy Wraight, joined the Royal West Kent Regiment underage and was hunted down by his mother, God Bless her, and returned home but turned around and enlisted under his nephew's name Michael Victor Brown in the Royal Engineers.

    After training he was posted to Iceland but after the Americans took over he was posted to the western dessert with 1 Field Squadron and was involved in the back and forth battles with Rommel's North Africa Corps. He was involved in several battles, Gazda, Mersah Matruh, Tobruk, apparently a very fluid time with both gains and losses for the Allies. He was captured and escaped by virtue of being released by Romels troops for lack of water, severely wounded, actually died and resuscitated according to my mother and returned to England and hospitalized for 2 years. My father did tell me that he remembers stumbling through the dessert with others and recycling their urine in order to stay alive. Pretty grim but he retained an absolutely marvelous sense of humour, he very seldom removed his shirt because front and back were covered with shrapnel wounds. Dad lived a good full life and died in Comox B.C. in 2004.

    Interesting to note is that I have his service record book and his entire war record is under Michael Victor Brown with at the end of war the name penned out and Percy John Wraight written above it. I recently found dad's record online in WO417/47 and it is still under M.V. Brown. it shows him missing in action then corrected under casualty #893 incident date 4 Aug 1942 Cyrenaica.

    Peter Wraight



    L/Cpl. Geoffrey Hyde 4th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment

    The tank crew he served with for a time taken I believe in 1941 near Tobruk

    A photo of a group in Stalag 4F Camp PG70 my Dad Geoff Hyde is on the extreme right back row

    The map he used during his escape from the Germans.

    My Dad, Geoff Hyde served in the 4th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment from February 1940. He has documented his experiences in a War Diary which he compiled shortly before his death in January 2009.

    My Dad was captured during the battle for Tobruk in June 1942. He was wounded as a result of an argument with a German guard during a move from a POW camp in Benghazi to a camp in Tripoli and ended up in a military hospital in Caserta. He always said he had good memories of the way the Italian military treated the wounded and POWs. When his condition improved he was sent to a POW camp PG60 near Capua and then to one known as PG70 near to Fermo in a small town called Valtenna. The camp was across the road from a small chemical plant which is still there. When Mussolini surrendered they were all transferred to camps in Germany and he went to Chemnitz and eventually escaped from a cross country march as the Allied forces advanced on the Germans in April 1945 and met up with a group of American forces who he had a hard time persuading to accept he was British.

    During his time in Camp PG70 he was involved in the production of a Camp 'magazine' called Lager Life. I have almost the full set of copies of this. Fortunately, he took a Kodak Brownie camera with him when he was posted overseas and somehow this made its way back to his parents home when he was hospitalised in Cairo during the breakout from Tobruk in 1941.

    Steve Hyde



    Pte. Harold Percy Spencer 1st Btn. Sherwood Foresters

    Harold Spencer served with the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters in Palestine in 1939 and in Cyprus in 1940. He was taken prisoner by the Germans at Tobruk, North Africa on 20th June 1942. He was held in various POW camps, but the last known was Stalag 17a at Kaisersteinbruck bei Bruck. Harold was repatriated in 1945.

    My great-uncle never recovered, emotionally, from his experiences as a POW and never once told his family about what happened. My mum says that he had been a very outgoing man, always playing with his nieces and nephew before the war, but was definitely a changed man when he returned home. He was single when he joined up and remained a bachelor his whole life. He died on 14th January 2004.

    Denise Wynn



    L/Cpl. Edward Robert "Ted" Scarth 1st Battalion The Buffs East Kent Rgiment (d.9th December 1941)

    This is in memory of my Uncle Ted, who I never met as he died in WW2 only 21 years old. He was my father's older brother. He believed really strongly in fighting Fascism. Mosley's Blackshirts used to march through east London where his family lived and hold rallies. My grandmother Millicent {Ted's mother} used to tell me stories of having to go the the local police station to bail Ted out after getting into fights trying to break up the rallies etc.

    Both my grandmother and Ted were members of the Communist Party during the war as were lots of people at the time as they believed Communism was the antidote to Hitler and Facism. Ted had been learning Russian at night school because of this. He was proud to fight in the war, and with The Buffs East Kent Regiment was sent to the Western Desert to fight. I have read letters that he sent home, obviously no content about details of where they were etc but he believed in the war he was fighting and also wrote of how much he missed everyone back home. He and his wife Edie had a daughter Edith born in 1940. He spoke of maybe going to live in South Africa after the war.

    He was killed in action on 9th December 1941 in Tobruk, Libya and is buried in the Knightbridge Cemetery at Acroma, Libya.

    I think of how awful it must have been for my grandmother and father and his wife to hear that news so close to Christmas. My grandmother placed a memorial in the local Hackney Gazette which read "We are still fighting, Ted". She wanted the inscription on his grave to be written in Russian and the War Graves Commision have translated it for me. It reads "The most holy and heartfelt tears that I have seen in this world are the tears of poor mothers".

    I am very proud of Ted and I am told I look like him.

    Dorothy Scarth



    Pte. A. Marks Sherwood Foresters

    My grandfather, Pte A Marks of the Sherwood Foresters, was held in Stalag IVB. He was captured at Tobruk.

    Denise Marks



    Sgt. William John Thomas Turner Royal Army Service Corps

    Section

    Section

    Tank transporter

    William Turner served with the RASC in N. Africa at the siege of Tobruk and the Battle of el Alamein also in Italy, France and Belgium.

    Mel Turner



    Pte. Frederick George Ninow B Coy 2nd Transvaal Scottish

    Memories of Frederick George Ninow - North Africa - ACROMA< GAZALA TOBRUK Submitted by nephew Gregory Ninow'since his passing.

    There were rumblings of war in Europe, Hitler was taking over little countries and this greatly upset me. I decided I needed to go to war to help stop this mad man. I was only 17 and when I tried to enlist. The officer told me to go and join the boy scouts. I went around the block and went to see him again, this time I said I was 19, and he said thats better and I was enlisted in the 2nd division of the Transvaal Scottish attached to the British 8th Army.

    This was the 5th of August 1940. We trained in a place called Zonderwater near Pretoria. We left South Africa on the 19th April 194l on a 42,000 ton ship called the Mauretania which had been converted for military use. I was thoroughly sea sick and spent most of my time on deck; when I had to eat I would take a deep breath and dash downstairs where the food was, grab what I could, and then back upstairs, it was a miserable trip. The ship stopped at Haydon on the Indian Ocean to refuel, we then sailed through the Red Sea to Port Said and docked at Alexandria, Egypt, on the North African Coast.

    We traveled into the desert about 17 miles where we joined with the British Forces and received further training in desert fighting. That night the German Air Force came over and dropped their bombs; we rookies made for our trenches only to discover that the bombs were being dropped 17 miles away on Alexandria but it sure sounded like they were being dropped in our trenches.

    Life in the desert was very challenging. We dug a hole in the sand to act as a kitchen, a couple of days later we were standing watching this thin black line from the sky down to the sand little realizing it was the Gumseen Winds (Egyptian word); within 30 minutes we were in the middle of a massive sand storm. We quickly crawled into our tents and when the storm was over we had to dig ourselves out as the sand had covered all the tents. We did not find the kitchen again and there was sand in everything even our food, I think this is the reason I do not like to go camping.

    Our food was very meager and only a pint of water a day for drinking, shaving, washing etc. If we complained the British soldiers would say Hey mate, dont you know there is a war on.

    We served in different lines of defense and eventually got close enough to the enemy and went on fighting patrols. We built the El Alamein defenses that would eventually stop the Germans advance; it was important to keep this line open because it was situated near the port which was used to bring the soldiers, food and guns, If Germany had taken that port they would have had total control of the area and they already had north of the Mediterranean and Italy. We had to cling to Malta as it was a vital spot. We patrolled right along the Egyptian Coast, Mersa Matruh 240 km (149 miles) west of Alexandria and 222 km from Sallum and 145 km (91 miles) west from Tobruk, and Darnah (also Spelled Derna), west of Tobruk.

    We got leave twice during my stay in the area. Once I went into Alexandria, and the second time I went to Cairo. The trip to Cairo gave me the opportunity to go through the Sphinx and the Pyramid, to ride a camel and observe the Egyptian way of life. There was an epidemic of flies that would settle around any moist area of the face; the poor little children had to pull the flies away from their eyes if they wanted to see, and their nostrils and sides of the mouth were also full of flies. The male children were always trying to rent their sisters out to the soldiers.

    We were guarding Tobruk one of the main shipping areas. The Germans had already taken the Australian section of the army as prisoners and we were sent to replace them. The Indian section of the army went on patrol outside the gap with 16 infantry tanks; they were captured by Rommel and his forces that put on the Indian uniforms and used the tanks to go through the gap and took control of it.

    The Germans surrounded us and we had no defense; our officers had slipped away in the night knowing the end was there. We were left with just the non-commissioned officers who informed us in the morning of the 21st June 1942 that they had surrendered. We were told to destroy as quickly as possible anything we could lay our hands on including the canned food, this aggravated the Germans who marched us 25 miles without stopping to the coastal area with no food or water.

    When we arrived at the sea they allowed us to swim in the ocean and the salty sea water increased our thirst. When we finally arrived at the camp they gave us no food or water in an effort to destroy our morale and hopefully stop any desire to escape. This created a certain attitude in my mind and I became somewhat rebellious and after two days I said to my friend Please come with me; we walked out of the camp, passed two German guards to an enclosure opposite us where the Germans kept their water supplies, picked up a two and four gallon cans of water and walked straight out past the guards who were so shocked they did not even stop us. We shared the water with as many as we could; I think I got about a half a cup of water out of it.

    We were then taken from Tobruk to Benghazi where there were two tanks of water, one for the white soldiers and one for the black soldiers. The men had not had water for many days and some of the white soldiers became frenzied, they attacked the tap and tore it right out of the tank causing the water to run into the desert. These men then made for the tank of water that had been allocated for the black soldiers who said "if you want water behave like gentlemen and form a line and we will see that you get water". I was so disgusted at the behavior of the men that I went to my cover and decided it would be better to die than to act like an animal.

    We remained in the desert for about 40 days after which we were taken to Italy on Italian cargo ships. They put us in the hold of the ship like a lot of animals and wired the hatch down so that we could not get out; if the ship had been hit there would have been no hope for us. This was a terrible experience as there were no toilets and after about three days the smell became unbearable; add to this my nausea and my sea motion problem which did not help matters.

    After a few days we arrived at Brindisi on the western Italian coast, we were transported in cattle trucks to Bari and then to a prison camp called P.G.54 - Fara in Sabina located in the town of just west of Rome (Fara in Sabina is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Rieti in the Italian region Latium, located about 40 km northeast of Rome and about 25 km southwest of Rieti. The Camp was in the town of Passo Corese) - See Appendix for more on P.G. 54

    Our food was very meager and consisted of about 7 grains of rice and a quarter leaf of cabbage boiled in water. If one man received more grains of rice than another he went to the grievance committee to complain, we received a slice of bread a day and once a week we got a little piece of butter and a little piece of cheese. Occasionally we got packages from the Red Cross (most of the packages were stolen by the Italians).The packages weighed about I0 lbs. and were divided into four. The dividing would almost cause murder and they would count every raisin. We were not used to much food so when one man ate his entire share at once it killed him. Another man was so hungry he ate grass and died.

    We lost so much weight that one day when the men were taking a shower l started laughing - they looked like an H. I happened to look down at myself and stopped laughing as I looked the same. Although we were weak three of us tried to keep our minds clear and our bodies fit by wrestling on a fast mat, taking cold showers and keeping our clothes clean we did everything necessary to prevent us from falling apart. Some of the POWs sat on rocks near the camp gates day after day; being curious I would ask them "Hey Jack what are you thinking about?" They would answer "Nothing", What are you looking at", answer "Nothing, they were like the walking dead and we called them "Gloompers".

    The Italian soldiers were a joke. They were afraid of us. One day they had to count us three of the prisoners had escaped. They made us march around the camp between the inner and outer fences. We did it once and when they ordered us to do it again we decided that was enough. The Italian Officer in charge of the soldiers told them to load up their rifles and fix bayonets and instructed them to charge. We were completely at their mercy as we were tightly hemmed in between the two fences. We said come and try. They put down their bayonets and stood like scared rabbits. We just walked back to the main camp.

    I was in this camp for about twenty-three months. On 11th September 1943 Italy capitulated to the Allied forces. When we woke up in the morning there were no guards as they had all gone away. During the period before the Germans arrived to take over the camp twenty of us walked away from the camp. The next day the Germans recaptured 18 of the men who were down by the river enjoying themselves and took them back to camp. Tom and I were watching this and at the first opportunity we took off walking away from the camp in a westerly direction.

    My friend Tom spoke fluent Italian as he was married to a lady from Malta who spoke Italian. We arrived at a freeway and I decided to go across first to see if everything was O.K., as I stepped onto the freeway I saw a German convoy coming around the bend; I jumped back quickly not realizing I was over a ravine and fell straight down through the trees ripping my clothes and body as I fell. When I arrived at the bottom I was scratched all over and naked. Tom went to look for some clothes for me and brought back some pants and a shirt that were on a line near by. We were trying to get to the Allied lines. Some of the Italian people were friendly but I cannot remember what all we ate during the seven months.

    One evening we visited a couple of the Italians we knew in a village, we knocked, they said "Avanti" (come in) as we opened the door we saw two German soldiers at the table so we took off. Another time we were at the table eating when two German soldiers came in and sat down to eat, there was nothing we could do, fortunately they took us for Italians as every one was speaking broken Italian, it was a scary experience.

    One day a lady had just killed a pig and there were sausages hanging in the rafters; she offered us something to eat but when we saw her pour pigs blood in the pan we took off as hungry as we were. Another person asked us if we were hungry and when we said yes she told us there was a vineyard down the road where we could pick some grapes and a stream where we could get water. Another time a lady offered us some food which consisted of polenta (Polenta is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal) with fresh goats cheese on the top and we got up and ran. The Italians would scrub the table and pour the polenta (like a stiff porridge or what South Africans would call mealie meal) directly on the table and then pour a tomatoe sauce over it. Each person was given a fork and you cut out pieces in front of you and ate it.

    When we left camp the weather was still warm but we were not adequately dressed for the severe winter as it progressed; we were dressed in very light weight summer clothes and not suitable for traveling in the snow of the mountains. We would have to wade through frozen streams, sleep in shepherds cabanas on straw and have to break the ice off our clothes in the morning. One evening after visiting some friends they gave us two paper sacks; we had not traveled far when a German soldier asked us for our papers. We replied in Italian that we had left them at home. He wanted to know what was in the paper sacks and we told him that it was just some old clothes. The soldier did not have a flash light and ordered us to report to the work camp the next morning with our papers. As we left one of us replied O.K. in English, he realized we were not Italian and called "halt" but by then we had run off to the cave we were staying in which was under the road and covered by trees. When we opened the paper sacks we found they contained German uniforms and German food. We buried the uniforms and ate the food. If we had been caught with these things we would have been shot.

    The next day a battalion of German soldiers with dogs were searching for us, fortunately the dogs were on leashes making it awkward for them to find us. They spent half the day looking for us then went away. We continued up the mountain until we arrived at an abandoned monastery where we took refuge for some time. Tom was a Catholic, but to protect us he said we wanted to be Catholics and needed god-fathers who he knew would not betray us.

    In March 1944 at four oclock one morning I awoke to the sound of "raus" to find a gun at my head. Some Italian had sold us to the Germans for four thousand lira each. The Germans took us to a village where they interrogated us. I received such a shock that I lost my memory. They took us back to the Italian Camp. The Allies were advancing so they put us in lines of five and marched us out of the camp; when one fellow tried to escape they shot him in both shoulders and forced him to keep his arms up. We marched about 25 miles and those who tried to escape or were even a foot out of line were shot dead. The next morning they marched us back again and we could see how many they had killed. They had not moved the dead and the convoys had run over them and all that was left were their uniforms.

    On our return to camp they prepared us to go to Germany in cattle trucks. The first train of P.O.Ws (prisoners of war) was blown up as they crossed a bridge by the Allied forces, who did not know what they there were in the cattle trucks. Some of my fiends were in that train. We went from Turin through Insbruck, Bremmer Pass to Muizeburg (actually Moosburg) near Munich to the camp known as Stalag VIIA (See Appendix for Stalag VIIA).

    Some of us were transferred as a working party to Munich where we stayed on a train going from on Marshall Yard to another eventually staying at a school at Versailler Strasse (See Appendix - Google Earth Images) which was next to a Marshall Yard. The Germans asked for someone who understood German to assist in getting the rations for the prisoners. I put up my hand and when they discovered I could not speak German they put a luger to my head and said you have six weeks to learn the language. Of course I learned in a hurry.

    This assignment gave me a bit of freedom as I traveled with a guard around the city. The bombing of Munich by the Allies was very heavy and everyday the German guard and I would go to a Shelter during the Air Raid; this one day during an air raid he was talking to a friend and decided we were not going into the shelter, I was not very happy but he carried the gun and I had no option but to stand while he visited with his friend. I suppose without knowing it the Lord was protecting me as the shelter had five direct hits and everyone in it were killed. I seemed to have someone looking after me as bombs were flying all over the station. We were speaking to a party of about 50 Italians and had just moved away from them when they took a direct hit were all killed; around another corner a bomb came through the ceiling and did not explode.

    One night I was brazen enough to get in civilian clothes and take a French girl who was forced labor to the Atlantic Palace to a concert. There where German Office all over the place. When I returned to camp I was whistling one of the tunes from the concert; The German Officer in charge called me and asked where I learned that tune apparently it was a new song. They interrogated me and said they had already interrogated the girl but did not get any information from her. Of course I lost my privileges and had to go out on work parties after that. We went to various areas where the Allies had bombed to clean up. Having learned the language I could understand what was going on and volunteer for the right places to go.

    The skies over Munich, Germany, were black with Allied planes dropping, bombs. It looked like Munich was on fire with shaking buildings that crumbled. Three quarters of Munich was destroyed. After the air raids the German soldiers and prisoners would bring large boxes of the dead who had been blown up to a mortuary where I worked, we had to put the parts together and put them in boxes and bury them. The ground was frozen and we dug trenches 3 foot deep to put the boxes in. This was terrible work as the stench of burnt flesh is awful.

    The German citizens could request prisoners of war to help repair the damages of the air raids. An old lady (I called her Hackle tooth as she only had one) signed me out to kill a rabbit; I told her she was crazy that I could not kill a rabbit. We became friends and she would sign me out, she would lend me her husbands bicycle and we would ride around Munich looking at the damage done during the air raids. One evening she signed me out telling me that her friend across the river had some American soldiers in her house. She called the friend who let me speak to one of the American soldiers who said he would liberate us in the morning. Sure enough, early next morning they were there. It was a strange sight- one minute the prisoners of war were peeling potatoes with the Germans having the guns, the next the position was reversed and the German soldiers were peeling potatoes and the prisoners of war had the guns.

    I was released 7.30 a.m. on May 6th 1945, and weighed about 128 lbs when I arrived home. We left Munich on a DC3 and went to Brussels for a day and arrived in England on the 28th of May 1945. On my return to South Africa the airplane stopped at Khartoum in the Sudan to refuel. As I walked away from the plane I bumped into someone in the dark only to discover that it was my brother Raymond whom I had not seen for 5 years. I resumed my journey home and arrived in Johannesburg on the 10th of June 1945.

    At that time my family lived in Cape Town and my father had also joined up, I had not seen him for 5 years as well. I went into the Victoria Hotel to have dinner and as I went through the revolving doors to my utter amazement I bumped into my father. I then went to Cape Town by train to see my family after that long absence.

    Summary of Official War Record of Fredrick George Ninow Frederick George Ninow

    Union Defence Force 2nd South African Division serving under English 8th Army

    • Scottish
    • Rank Private
    • Company B Coy
    • Force Number 221527
    • Age 09-01-1924 19 Years
    • Enlisted 03-08-1940
    • Embarked Durban S.S.Mauretania 08-06-1941
    • Disembarked Suez 20-06-1941
    • Confirmed Missing in action 20-06-1942
    • Confirmed captured Tobruk 21-06-1942
    • POW Italy PG 54 Fara in Sabina (town of Passo Carreso)
    • Escaped after Italian capitulation 8th September 1943
    • Captured interned in German Stalag VIIB (located Moosburg near Munich)
    • POW # 132847
    • Re-Patriated 15-05-1945
    • Total Time 4 years and 276 days
    Discharged 10-08-1945

    Medals: Serial 7381, North Africa Star 1941-1942, 1939-1945 Star, The War Medal 1939-1945, Africa Service Medal




    James Balfour Irvine

    My grandfather was a South African soldier who ended up at Stalag 4B via an Italian camp after he was captured in Tobruk. I have all his letters, including telegrams from the Vatican radio listeners that they posted to my grandmother whenever they heard news of him. I have found the rehabilitation booklet which POWs were given on their return to civilisation.

    Philippa



    Cpl. Daniel O'Leary South Wales Borderers

    My granddad - Cpl Daniel O'Leary, South Wales Borderers - was held at Stalag 4b. He was originally captured at Tobruk. He was sent there after escaping from an Italian camp and being recaptured by the Germans. He had his uniform taken from him by the Italians. On his escape and recapture (with his best friend), they had to tell the Germans they were RAF aircrew in order to save their lives. They were taken to Stalag 4b where the RAF officers vouched for them and looked after them. He spent his 21st birthday at Stalag 4b. He also became a boxing champ there. My granddad made two further escapes, and was finally successful. The Germans used the camp - in 1943 - for propaganda to show that they treated the British prisoners with due respect and care - this was, of course, not true.

    Damian West



    Les Sysum

    My grandfather's name is Les Sysum, and I want to know if anybody remembers him. He was captured at Tobruk, spent time in Stalag IVB and was in the RAF.

    Mike Sysum



    Sapper Sedgwick Royal Engineers

    I am trying to trace the movements of my late father. He was a sapper in the Royal Engineers and was captured at Tobruk in 1943. He was transported to a camp at Emilia in Italy, escaped and spent time in Costa de Aviano. He was recaptured in the summer of 1944 and sent to Stalag 8B. He returned home to Haxey, near Doncaster, Yorkshire in the winter of 1944/45. I am looking for information on the period he was in Stalag 8B and how he managed to get home.

    Ivan Sedgwick



    Jack Jollands 8th Army

    My great uncle was in the Desert Rats. I was told he served on horseback. He fought at Tobruk, Jerusalem and (I think) Tel Aviv.

    Sarah Stead



    Slater Worcestershire Rgt

    My dad was a POW in Stalag 4c from 1943 to 1945 after being in camps CC55 and CC70 in Italy. He was taken prisoner in 1942 by the Italians and Germans at the Battle of Knightsbridge (south of Tobruk).

    Keith Slater



    Herbert Victor Stockwell

    My grandad was captured near Tobruk and sent to Stalag 7a.

    Ian



    Capt. Fulvio Cameli

    My father was commandant of the English and Australian POW camp in Tobruk in 1941. He was responsible for the transfer of the same POWs to Italy via Triploi on 8th March 1941.

    He had such good relations with the POWs that they presented him with a Leika camera on their arrival in Naples. He was arrested and imprisoned for three months pending investigation for his alleged "association with the enemy". He helped them build a chapel, organised football matches, distributed double rations of cigarettes and tea (which was prohibited), and much more)

    Leonardo Cameli



    Bert "Cush" Richings

    I was a POW captured at Tobruk. I was always known by the nickname "Cush". I was in PG70 in Italy in a group of 26 until the Italians capitulated and was then taken by the Germans, by cattle truck through the Bremmer Pass, I think, to Stalag 4b, where all our heads were shaved. I was then sent in a party of 50 men to work in a quarry at a village named "Klinga". We 50 men spent the next three years together. I would love to hear from any of those chaps or their relations. I have two good photographs of PG70.

    Bert Richings



    Pte. John Anderson MID. 2nd Btn. Cameron Highlanders

    Pte John Anderson

    I knew very little about what my father John Anderson did in the War. He died in 1993 and he would not talk about his experiences. All I have managed to find out is that he was Mentioned in Dispatches in October 1945. I know he was also a POW in Campo PG60 and Stalag IV-C. It was at some stage reported to his parents that he was missing in action. He was awarded the Africa Star and I believe he fought in Tobruk before being taken POW. He brought back a strange plate with his name and service number. This could never be explained as it was such a strange item to be given. However, Stalag IV-C was a former porcelain factory so does look like he could well have made this himself. I am sure you can see why he never took this up as a future career.

    Steve Anderson



    John McCornish 8th Army

    My father John McCornish was captured at Tobruk while with the 8th Army. He received systematic cruel mistreatment in an Italian camp. He reported the war crimes but the Italians had switched sides, so nobody want to hear about Italian death camps.

    Update

    My father was in three Italian POW camps between 1941 and 1943 - Montalbo, Padula and Bologna. He has died now and never spoke to me about his experiences there. But I spoke recently to his sister about this period, and, while emphasising her memories were rusty, she did recall hearing of abuses. (Ian Campbell)

    Kenneth Mc Cornish



    Pte. A. Marks Sherwood Foresters

    My grandfather Pte A. Marks was a Sherwood Forester, captured at Tobruk and taken to Stalag IVB. He was involved in an escape, and he and some others got as far as Lake Geneva before being recaptured by Italian soldiers (Italy had not yet surrendered). They were taken back to the camp.

    Denise marks



    Jim Lambert 17th Coast Rgt. Royal Artillery

    I served in the 8th Army, `Desert Rats', 17th Coast Regiment Royal Artillery F Coast Battery during the Seige of Tobruk.

    Jim Lambert



    Pte. Kenneth Eynon 8th Army

    My grandfather served as a Desert Rat during the Siege of Tobruk.

    Kate Vugts



    Harold Derrick Norton 8th Army

    My uncle Harold Derrick Norton was in the 8th Army Desert Rats. He would not talk about the war, although Tobruk has been mentioned.

    Patricia Rose



    Sgt. Leslie Kingsley Royal Army Service Corps (d.16th March 1942)

    Buried in Tobruk War Cemetery.




    S/Sgt. John Farish

    My father served as a Staff Sergeant with the 8th Army as a Desert Rat in North Africa, India, Ceylon and Burma during WWII. I know he was in Tobruk, at El Alamein, in Calcutta and in Candy (Ceylon).

    Ann Farish



    Robert Sealy

    My uncle Robert Sealy was in Tobruk and I am sure he was at El Alamein.

    Tony Sealy



    Driver John James Knight Royal Army Ordnance Corps

    My father was a driver in the RAOC and was captured at Tobruk. He was sent to Italy and on to Stalag 7a.

    Chris Knight



    Driver Frederick Herbert Pollard North Staffordshire Rgt.

    My father, Frederick Herbert Pollard, joined the North Staffordshire Regiment and was attached to the 8th Army in North Africa. He saw service at Tobruk and El Alamein, then Italy and Germany. He was a driver in the 8th. He lost two brothers - one in Italy, and one on an Italian POW ship which had been torpedoed by a British submarine off the coast of Italy.

    David Pollard



    Cpl. Charlie Victor Oldfield 8th Army

    My grandfather served in the Desert Rats and was captured at Tobruk. He was interned in Stalag 344 (Stalag 8b).

    Carol Haddon



    Dvr. Ted "Sonny" Thornton Royal Army Medical Corps

    My father, Ted Thornton, was in the 8th Army and the North Africa campaign. He was at El Alamein, Tobruk, Anzio and Salerno. He was a driver who doubled as a surgical assistant.

    Jill



    Frank Kitchener "Darky" Saunders Sussex Rgt.

    My grandad was in the 8th Army and fought at Tobruk, El Alamein and Monte Cassino.

    Glen Saunders



    Driver Chris McNally 8th Army

    My father was a driver/mechanic in the 8th Army and fought at El Alamein, Tobruk and Monte Cassino. He served from 1939 until 1946.

    Pauline



    Ronald Douglas "Bruce" Woodcock Parachute Rgt.

    My father was in a parachute regiment and saw service in the 8th Army up until 1945. He was at El Alamein and Tobruk and was one of the first of 36 parachutists into Sicily. He trained in the desert for the first unofficial SAS and was involved in the mopping up work at the end of the war in France. He was also one of six on an operation in Czechoslovakia that neither the British or the Russian Army wanted to be associated with.

    P Woodcock



    Herbert Powell 46th Div. Royal Signals Corps

    My grandad served in the 8th Army from 1939 until 1946. He did not speak about his time with the 8th. He was in the campaigns in North Africa, Tobruk, Sicily, Italy and Monte Cassino.

    Tina Stephenson



    Harry Dahill Leicestershire Rgt.

    Harry Dahill served with the Leicestershire Rgt with the 8th Army at Tobruk and El Alamein.

    Gail



    Cyril "Jack" Barker 8th Rgt. Royal Artillery

    My grandad was in the Desert Rats and, although he didn't talk much about the war, I know he was at Tobruk. He was a gunner with the 8th Rgt. He was also a POW at Stalag XIA.

    Karen



    Samuel "Stan" Clulow 8th Army

    My grandfather was a Desert Rat and taken prisoner at Tobruk.

    Michelle



    Sgt. Francis Ernest Brown Royal Artillery

    My grandfather was in the 8th Army Desert Rats in Tobruk. He received a medal but wouldn't say why.




    Sgt. James Joseph Martin MM 1st Btn King's Dragoon Guards

    My father Sgt James Joseph Martin, 1st King's Dragoon Guards, Royal Armoured Corps (Luton) was awarded the Military Medal for service in Egypt. The award was posted in the London Gazette of 16th February 1943. Other corps members awarded with him were:
  • Cpl. William Thomas Hadlow (Chatham)
  • Sqd Sgt Mjr. Norman Henry Morgan (London)
  • Sgt. Benjamin Joseph Hogarth (Bradford)
  • Sgt. William Lay (Birmingham).

    He sailed on the HMT California in 1939 and was in a cabin with `Johnson'. He was at Tobruk, El Alamein and Cario and went to Cape Town on the hospital ship Queen Mary in 1943.

    Does anyone know why they received their MMs?

  • Ann Ghailan



    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



    Robert Wands Cameron Highlanders

    My grandfather Robert Wands was part of the Cameron Highlanders and was taken prisoner, I believe near Tobruk, in 1940 and remained a prisoner for five years. I am looking for information.

    Kathryn Glennie



    Edwin Alfred Downing Royal Army Medical Corps

    My father Edwin Downing was with the RAMC and was taken prisoner in 1942 at Tobruk. He was on the march from Poland through to a camp in Germany. He never spoke of his experience. Does anyone remember him?

    Gordon Downing



    Dvr. Harold Jones Royal Army Service Corps

    My dad, Harold Jones kept his experiences during the war mostly to himself, but we know he was rescued at Dunkirk and brought home to Berkshire. I believe he had a break of about six months and then went to Scotland and was trained prior to being sent to North Africa. He was captured at Tobruk and imprisoned in Italy then Germany where I believe he stayed until being released at the end of the conflict. It certainly would be nice to learn more about his movements during both campaigns.

    Dad was 20 when conscripted. He died in 1985. Our mum is still alive at 93 and was a barrage balloon operator on Wandsworth Common for the duration the balloons were operational. She has met her surviving WAAF girls every year following VE day and has missed only one meeting. This year, when the five surviving girls meet up, will be their 70th year.

    Mark Jones



    Arthur R. Perry Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry

    My Dad, Arthur R Perry served at K camp_ 2 baseworkshops. REME M.S.F. Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry, which was part of 8th Army Tobruk. He sailed from England on the SS Volendam. He was a dispatch rider and looked after a dog named Topper that had belonged to someone who must have passed away. Dad survived the war and passed away in 1991.

    Bob Perry



    Trpr. Bernard Edward Mead HQ Squadron, 1st Army Tank Bgde Royal Tank Regiment

    My father Bernard Mead enlisted on the 18th of April 1940. He served in North Africa and Europe, he was involved in the Siege of Tobruk; in 1979 he was sent the unofficial Tobruk Siege 1941 Medal (as a then member of the Rats of Tobruk Association, London Area Branch). Other medals that help to mark out his army service are the 1939-45 Star; the Africa Star; the France and Germany Star; The Defence Medal and War Medal.

    I have several photographs which feature North African locations. These include Rafa, El Adem, Sidi Bishar, Sollum Hill, Petra, the road to Akaba, Siniai, Nuseirat, Sphinx, Sidi Aziz, and Sollum.

    He suffered with poor health and at some point in his army service was hospitalized back to the UK. During the last months of the war he was posted to Germany; working as part of the Military Government of Germany.




    Pte. Frank Elie Marett Transport Div. Imperial Light Horse (ILH) Rgt.

    Our father, Frank (Francis) Elie Marett lived in Benoni, South Africa at the start of WWII. He married Ethel Bamford in Pretoria and had a daughter Patricia Anne born September 1940.

    He signed up for duty and did his basic training at Zonderwater military camp in Cullinan east of Pretoria and in Barberton in the Eastern Transvaal. Sadly, as the saying goes: Old Soldiers never die, they slowly fade away - he left us at the age of 99 in 2008.

    Although he did not relate too much of the war days he did give little snippets from time to time. As far as can be remembered, he and his regiment left South Africa at the beginning of 1941 heading for Bulawayo in Rhodesia where they took possession of their Bedford Trucks that they would drive through Africa to Eritrea, Abyssinia and Somalia. Here they were loaded onto vessels to take them through the Suez Canal to Alexandria North Africa where they disembarked and regrouped. Their task was to supply the ground forces in the desert with provisions and ammunition against the German "Desert Fox" - Rommel.

    He did mention on one occasion their convoy stopping in the desert. The drivers and crew then lying on top of their vehicles which were loaded with explosives to watch a dog fight taking place above them.

    He was taken prisoner at Tobruk, along with many others, and marched through the desert to Tripoli. They were herded into the dirty holds of vessels and shipped across to Sicily then Italy.

    He was sent to a POW camp in Italy where he spent a short time working on vineyards before they were evacuated and transported north to Germany, ending up in Stalag IVB as a prisoner.

    He was fortunate to be sent to work underground on the coal mines shovelling the coal onto the conveyors which moved the coal to the surface; this was used to produce fuel for the German cause. He survived the ordeal and was released with the others at the end of the war. He was on the last train to arrive at Pretoria Station where he was reunited with his wife and daughter who was then five years old.

    John Marett



    Lt. Thomas Arthur Nicol MC. Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

    I really don't know too much. But I do know that my uncle, Thomas Arthur Nicol, escaped when Tobruk fell to the German's and travelled over 300 miles to Alexandria. He commandeered a German truck with a knife and drove part of the way. My father says he also shared food/water with some Germans he met in the desert going the opposite direction.

    My dad says there was a plaque for him in Buckie. He was called the Buckie hero. My Grandmother was send a Missing in Action letter, but she never gave up hope. And, he survived. He passed away several years ago from melanoma. His back had been so badly damaged those days in the desert.

    Margie Walser



    Pte. George William Taylor 505th Field Company Royal Engineers

    George Taylor served with 505 Field Company Royal Engineers. The story of my father's wartime experiences from Dec 1940 to Jan 1946, created from his Service Record, letters, diaries and photographs by his son Norman Taylor.

    My father was born in Finchley, North London in Nov 1912. He married in June 1939 and moved into a new house in Barnet, Herts the same year. He was conscripted into the Army in Aug 1940, passing his Medical A1 in July of that year. Training for the Royal Engineers took place at Clyst Hydon in Devon from where he passed as a Sapper in December 1940. He joined C Company, the 505 Field Company, Royal Engineers, part of the 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division and was based in Slaithwaite in West Yorkshire until being sent to the Middle East in May 1941. So began a two and a half year adventure for a recently married Bus Conductor who had never been further afield than Margate in Kent.

    The Convoy WS.8 departed Glasgow in May 1941. They travelled via Freetown in Sierra Leone and Durban in South Africa before arriving in Egypt in the middle of July 1941. The travelling didn't end there, since they continued on to Cyprus and Palestine before entering Iraq in Nov 1941. George's diary shows that the winter in Eskilich, Iraq was very cold and the ground hard making the burying of mines on the border with Turkey very difficult.

    In Feb 1942 the Company moved to the Western Front near Tobruk. This was a 10 day, 2000 mile journey by trucks and trains, passing through Tuz Khurmatu, the RAF base at Al Habbaniyah, Tel Aviv, Ismailia, Cairo, over the Nile and passed the Pyramids before moving through the desert to the Gazala line west of Tobruk. George worked on laying mines around the defensive Boxes for the next four months. This was combined with Guard duty since they had captured several hundred prisoners of war. In June Rommel attacked and swept round the Southern edge of the defensive line and George's diary reports that they were surrounded. However, their Company of the 505th were facing an Italian section of the line which they attacked, escaping to the West!

    They followed Rommel's forces round to the south and east before eventually arrived back at Mersa Metruh. George reports that they had left some of their fellows behind (to be captured by the Germans) but it was the quick thinking of their Captain that had saved them! However, Rommel attacked again and surrounded the Allied forces a second time. Once more they managed to escape, this time eastwards, back towards Alexandra and the Nile. Here they regrouped for what was to come El Alamein.

    During the preparation of a defensive line, they were heavily bombed by Stukas which George refers to as coming over in a regular parade. Other German heavy bombers joined in and there is reference to George being knocked up with his nerves being shot to pieces because of the bombing. However, by September, the RAF got the better of the Germans when he reported watching 10 planes being shot down within the day.

    The 50th Division where in the middle of the El Alamein line when Montgomery attacked the Germans, and George reported that the Barrage that we put over for a whole week was terrific! As the Allies pushed forward George was on Salvage Duty and by the time the 505th reached El Daba, some 50km west of El Alamein, they were able to go through the battlefield of Tanks and recovered sufficient to make up for all our previous losses. Every step of the battlefield was covered in shrapnel a dozen pieces to every step and this covered several square miles! On the push west George reports that they were involved in clearing mines and other likely objects, spending Christmas just south of Tobruk. They continued their push until Tripoli, where George reports seeing Churchill who was visiting the town. It was on the following forward push that George was thrown out of a jeep he was travelling in and ended up being out of it for three weeks. The Germans then established the Mareth Line between Medenine and Gabes in Tunisia. George was a recce sapper during the subsequent attack on the Mareth line and reports that things hummed that night things did. But after further attacks he wrote that his nerves were very ragged after the two innings that they had had. The 505th pushed forward towards Tunis but on the 20th of April 1943 they were withdrawn from the front back to the Nile Delta; a journey of close on 2000 miles.

    Unfortunately, Georges diary for 1943 has not been found, but his letters home reflect that he did participate in Operation Huskey the invasion of Sicily. However, he had several bouts of malaria during this time. By Nov 1943 he was sufficiently ill that he was evacuated back to the Military Hospital at Netley, Southampton and discharged from the 505th Field Company. He continued to have bouts of Malaria through the first half of 1944. Eventually he joined 4th Mechanical Equipment HQ in Jul 1944 and was sent to France. The HQ moved with the 8th Army through France, Belgium and Germany as they advanced. George was mainly involved with administrative work during this time. He ended up in Bas Salzuflen (Germany) until he was discharged in Jan 1946.

    Norman Taylor



    Pte Paul John Leonard Randles Umvoti Rifles

    Paul Randles(19), former Head Boy of Hilton College, volunteered to fight for the Mother country. The Randles family had come from Shropshire and his mother's (Tweedie) from Peebles.

    He was sent to Egypt for army training. Fighting in the desert war in North Africa Private Randles was taken prisoner at the fall of Tobruk in July 1942. He was taken to Italy where he was held prisoner in Montalbo (PG41) in September 1942. In March 1943 he was transferred to another camp, Fontanelatto (PG49).

    On 9th September 1943 he was one of the 536 prisoners released by the Camp Commandant. He and his compatriots made their way south through the Apennine Mountains with the aim of joining the Allies. They covered 700km on foot. He was sheltered by a family called Vincenzo in San Donato in Frosinone. He was recaptured by Germans while attempting to cross to the Allied lines. He was entrained to Germany where he saw out the war in POW Camp Stalag VIIa, near Mooseburg northeast of Munich.

    Having survived the war Paul studied Law and became senior partner at Randles Davis and Wood in Pietermaritzburg, Natal. Paul played rugby and cricket for Natal and got a trial as wicketkeeper for the Springboks.

    While under the protection of the Vincenzo family he was invited to attend the christening of their youngest child. He made too merry after the service and slipped out of the haystack where he had been hiding and landed at the feet of a German officer. Quick thinking Ma Vincenzo took off her belt and scolded him shouting "Off to your room now and sleep it off - the young today just do not know how to behave". The officer roared with laughter and suspected nothing.

    Alexander Irvine-Fortescue



    Gnr. Kenneth Francis McGurk Royal Artillery

    My grandad, Kenneth Francis McGurk, was a POW in WW2, his POW number was 22208301. He was captured on 21st June 1942 at Tobruk and was taken to Italy, first to Camp 75 then to Camp 54. He escaped while in Italy after cutting the fence wire and remained free for three months, but was recaptured by three Italians and two German soldiers.

    He was then sent to Germany and was a POW from 7th March 1944 until 15th May 1944. He was first in Stalag 1VB then he was sent to Stalag 1VC where he worked at the Petrol Works, Brux from May 1944 to May 1945 and at an Air Raid Shelter, Halle from March 1944 to April 1944. He left the camp on a motorbike on 15th May 1944 with another man until they found some American soldiers.

    The names of other men he mentioned, although I am unsure if they were in his regiment at Tobruk, in Italy or in Germany with him, are Frank Revel, Ken Poulden and Kenneth Rochford.

    Eleanor J Paul



    L/Cpl. Hugh White Muirhead Royal Army Service Corps

    My father, Hugh Muirhead, was captured at Tobruk in 1941 and was a POW until the camp was liberated in May 1945.

    Robert Muirhead



    L/Cpl. Robert Howard "Smudge" Smith 2nd Btn. Cheshire Regiment

    My dad, Robert Smith, enlisted in the British Army on 29th December 1929 at Seaforth for seven years with the Colours and five years with the Reserve. He was born the 31st December 1911 in Ainsdale, Lancashire. He was two days short of his 19th birthday when he enlisted. Dad did his training at Chester, then was posted out with his Regiment to India where he spent seven years, returning home to the UK. As he then had completed his Colour Service, he went into civvy street and worked for Cheshire Lines Railways.

    Not long after, he was recalled for war service, going to France with his battalion the 2nd Cheshires. He was a machine gunner. Eventually, like many others, he was harried to Dunkirk. His first try at escaping from Dunkirk was thwarted by the ship he was on being bombed, but eventually he made the return back to Blighty in a small craft.

    Dad then served in North Africa, before being caught in the bag at the fall of Tobruk. He was shipped to Italy as a PoW to a place called Bars. When the Italians surrendered, he and others made a break for it, but later were given away by a young fascist lad. The Germans then imprisoned Dad and he was sent to POW Camp Stalag IVF located at Hartmannsdorf Chemnitz. Whilst Dad was there he was put on work details in the fields, and he also did some boot repair work.

    He and another lad had some Red Cross rations issued and decided to make a cake with some of the items. The German cook let them bake it in some of the hot ashes in the cook house but they couldn't wait so decided to eat the mixture as it was. Shortly afterwards they were both very sick, their stomach had shrunk so much they could not hold it down. My dad spoke of an old German sergeant who had lost four sons on the Russian Eastern Front, and who had only one son left who was serving in France. My dad got gangrene in his right hand. A German doctor saved it by scraping it out with scissors whilst dad was held down by two medical orderlies. The doctor poured pure iodine into the wound - it saved his hand, but he said he cursed that doctor while he worked on that wound.

    My dad made it back to Blighty after the Americans freed them. He was discharged from the Army as being B1 Ref fitness. My father weighed less than 5 stone when he got back home, he was only 5ft 3 inches in height. My mum had to buy him youth's clothes, he was so light. Dad passed away in September 1990. The doctor said Dad did not want to go and fought all the way until his heart stopped.

    Robert C Smith



    Pte. John Stanness 9th Btn. Durham Light Infantry

    My uncle John Stanness was captured at Tobruk and taken to Tripoli then shipped to PG70. I don't know how long he was there. Then he was moved to a camp in Czechoslovakia, 1vc Wistritz Bei Teplitz (Rozenthal-Brux). He spent the rest of the war there until liberated by the American Army.

    Hilton Stanness



    Cpl. John Arthur Howorth 4th Queen's Own Royal Hussars

    John Arthur Howorth, POW number 263889, was captured in 1942. I believe he was captured during the battle for Tobruk. This is my dad. He remained at Stalag IVb until the end of the war. Later he was in Malaya. Latterly he was to become a Staff Sergeant at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. I believe he joined the Army in 1930 and completed his service in 1958 having chosen not to accept a commission. He was in the 4th Hussars which was being amalgamated with other regiments at that time. After 28 years service, it was time for a change of career! He was a very proud soldier and like many others never talked in any detail about his wartime experiences. My dad sadly passed away in April 1978.

    Judith Howorth



    Tpr. Samuel Gill Royal Armoured Corps

    Sam Gill and friends in Egypt

    My uncle Sam Gill spent some time at Stalag IVb having been captured at Tobruk fighting against Rommel troops. He also travelled to other camps, amongst them Stalag IVg Oschatz, Germany. I am reading notes that he left at his passing away about his experiences in these camps. He was away from home in Sheffield for about four and a half years.

    Terry Gill



    Sgt. Joseph Boyd Henderson Royal Army Ordnance Corps

    My father, Joseph Henderson, served with RAOC and REME. He died when I was fairly young. Before that he never spoke of the war. There were no medals - nothing. Years after he died I decided to research his records. What I found out blew me away.

    He was in the BEF and was one of the last out on 17th June 1940. By December he was posted to the Middle East and then North Africa. In October 1943 (I was told by my mother) that he was in Tobruk and went missing for six months when it fell, living off the Germans. He made it back. His hearing was damaged at El Alamein when the guns went off. He then went with the 8th Army across North Africa, Sicily and Italy and after four years solid he returned to the UK.

    My father was in a heavy tank recovery unit with the first Armoured Division and then with the 8th Army as a driver/mechanic. In civvy life he was a staff nurse. He never drove - none of the family knew he could - and he couldn't hold a screwdriver correctly.

    I have received his medals: the 1939-45 Medal, 1939-45 Star, African Star with 8th Army clasp, Italian Star and the Defence Medal. I will wear his medals with pride on Remembrance Day on my right side, and my Falklands medal with rosette on my left.

    Alan Henderson







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