Pte. Joseph Jerome Deponio
British Army Royal Artillery
My Grandfather, Joseph Deponio from North Wales, was of Italian descent and became a gunner with the Royal Artillery. He was captured shortly after landing in France when he was driving a lorry full of officers away from the front line. They rounded a corner and drove straight into a German ambush. He was marched to Poland and stayed there for the whole war. He played guitar, but was so tired from days of marching that he threw his guitar over a hedge because he simply couldn't carry it any more.
He was at Stalag XXB for the whole time, although he said he did escape often so that he would be put to hard labour where you got extra food.
One time he escaped with a couple of friends... he is no longer alive to ask, but I am pretty certain that their names were Bill Williams and Frank Nuttall. They were walking through deep snow and were exhausted and the guards were taking their time re-capturing them. One of these two couldn't go on and urged my grandfather and the other chap to carry on without him. Apparently my grandfather carried him until they were captured shortly afterwards and thanked him later as he simply would have died that day.
He learnt fluent German and exchanged things with the guards for extra fags or other bits and bobs. His knowledge of German came in very handy with my homework! He also mentioned another chap, I think he was a Frenchman, named Felix - (or that may have been his surname) and they exchanged letters after the war. After the war, he arrived somewhere in Sussex or Hampshire and was stationed in or near the small Sussex village of Billingshurst. The details are unclear, but I assume he was waiting to be demobbed or something like that and return to his hometown near Rhyl, North wales. However, whilst there, he met Marjorie Gravett and married her and settled in Sussex. He sadly died in 1996 aged 77 from cancer.
I have always been interested in his war story, although he rarely talked about it, and I got the feeling that he saw and went through some terrible things. My Mum says as a young child she can remember him sitting staring into the fire with tears rolling down his face silently. I would like to hear from anyone who knew Joseph, or Bill or Frank. I think one of them was actually writing a book, but I haven't a clue where they live, or if they have since died. My grandfather would be nearly 93 now, as would they, but if by small chance they, or their children or grandchildren stumble across this memoir, then please get in touch.
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