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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

Laghouat POW Camp, Algeria.

Laghouat POW Camp was run by the Vichy French in the Sahara Desert, about 240 miles south of Algiers, in Algeria. It was notorious for poor conditions, the men were given very little food or water.

List of those who were held at Laghouat POW Camp during The Second World War

Jack Mitchell HMS Manchester

Jack Mitchell served on HMS Manchester and was on board when they took part in Operation Pedestal, the largest convoy of the war, bringing vital support to Malta, which was facing the possibility of surrender to Italy. The convoy included 13 large merchant ships, five aircraft carriers, two battleships, eight cruisers, 36 destroyers and nine submarines. Only two of these vessels actually reached Malta.

In an interview in 2005 Jack said: "Before the convoy left, Churchill sent a signal to the officer commanding to say that, should just one merchant ship arrive in Malta and all the others sunk, it would still be deemed a success. Malta would have had to surrender if no-one had got through."

The Manchester was torpedoed in the convoy on the 13th of 1942. Jack Mitchell and the rest of the crew abandoned ship and the vessel was scuttled. Jack and his crewmates were taken prisoner by the Vichy French and spent four months at the infamous Langout POW camp in Algeria. Conditions were vicious. A book was written about the camp and it said "Let us never forget the extreme privations suffered by the crew of the HMS Manchester and others in Langout." After Jack was freed from the camp following the North Africa landings, he returned to sea on aircraft carriers.

Ldg Stoker Charles Ernest Spooner HMS Manchester

My father-in-law, Charles Spooner was a stoker first class on The Manchester at the time that she was sunk. He was then held in a POW camp by the Vichy French and after his release with the other prisoners he was returned to England where he was hospitalised in either Hastings or Wales. This was around 1942/3 As my Husbands parents separated he has very little knowledge about what his Father went through during this time and as I am doing a web page I would appreciate any information that anyone can give me such as how many men were on the HMS MANCHESTER, how many survived and how many days were the survivers in the water before being rescued and does anyone have any idea what the name of the POW camp would be and what kind of conditions would be there I understand that it was in North Africa.

June Spooner

Stoker 2nd Class. Norman Greaves HMS Manchester (d.20 Oct 1942)

Norman Greaves was 22 years old whne he was interned by the Vichy French in the Laghouat Camp in Tunisia, after surviving the torpedoing of HMS Manchester. On 20th October 1942 he attempted to escape through the perimeter wire after bribing the Arab sentry with a wristwatch, the Arab sentry took the watch then double crossed him and shot him in the back. A riot by the PoW’s was de-fused by Captain Drew R.N. demanding of the French Commandant that medical attention be given to Greaves. However, he was unconscious and never recovered. His burial service was conducted by the Reverend Donald Bruce Walker, the R.N. Chaplain of HMS Manchester

Chaplin Donald Bruce Walker HMS Manchester

Donald Walker was the R.N. Chaplin of HMS Manchester, after the ship was torpedoed he made it to the Tunisian coast and was taken POW by the Vichy French along with many of the crew.

Pte. William Ranner HMS Manchester

My Grandfather served on HMS Manchester. His name was William (Bill Ranner) Private Royal Marines. His service docs show that he was interned after the sinking of the Manchester. I can only assume he made it ashore and was captured and held as a POW.

Steve Ranner

Ray "Taff" Davies HMS Manchester

My first ship was the destroyer HMS Cossack (LO3)and I was aboard when she was sunk by a German U-Boat in the North Atlantic in 1941. I was one of 58 survivors out of a ship's complement of 240. I spent 6 hours in the water and was able to help rescue a young Lieutenant who went on to become Rear Admiral Anthony Davies. Rear Admiral Anthony Davies eventually became the President of the Swindon Branch of the RNA and stayed in contact with me and my family until he passed away a few years ago. We were eventually rescued by HMS Legion, which was under the command of Commander Jessel.

My next ship was the cruiser HMS Manchester that was sunk whilst escorting a Malta convoy in August 1942. We were in the water for 12 hours and eventually picked up by an Italian E-Boat and taken to Tunis. We were then tranferred by train to Algiers and truck to Laghouat POW camp, which was 320 miles into the Sahara desert. I spent 5 months in Laghouat and was then repatriated to Algiers where I took passage aboard the troopship Arundel Castle back to Rosyth in Scotland. I then travelled back to RNB Portsmouth before taking 2 weeks leave.

I then joined the light cruiser HMS Emerald and sailed for the Far East in January 1943 and patrolled the Indian Ocean for about 18 months before being recalled post haste back to the UK. We went straight back to Rosyth, we were not allowed any leave and once back at sea the ship's company was informed that it was D-Day - Operation Neptune to the navy. Our beachhead was 'Sword' and 'Juno' where we were attacked by a German bomber. The bomber dropped 5 bombs, 2 to port and 2 to starboard, buckling the port and starboard plates. The fifth bomb landed on a gun deck and remarkably did not explode. We spent 10 days on the beachhead.

In 1944 I joined the Hunt Class destroyer HMS Talybont (L18) and saw out the war in Europe. We then sailed to the med' for 2 1/2 years service on Palestine patrols. After the war I was called but because of the Korean war and I saw out my service until 1951 on HMS Battleaxe.

R Davies

Able Seaman Reginald Leonard Bryan HMS Duncan

I have strong reasons to believe my father, Reginald Bryan, was captured and taken to Lagouat POW camp and would like any information available about him.

Terry Bryan

Able Seaman Douglas Campbell Burns HMS Havock

My father was the only New Zealand seaman on the HMS Havock when it was wrecked off the Coast of Northern Africa and he was taken to Laghouat POW. He was reported missing presumed dead to his parents in New Zealand. They did not know of his fate for 7 months. After being freed from Laghouat he joined the HMNZ Achilles and HMNZ Gambia and fought for New Zealand for the rest of WWII.

He is still alive and lives in Foxton Beach New Zealand and is 88 years of age and in good health physically and mentally. I am in the process of typing the story of his life and most of it is taken up with serving on board English Merchant ships during the early part of WWII.

Yvonne Baylis

Kenneth George Uttley

My father Ken Uttley was aboard HMS Manchester when she was sunk by the Italians, and was interred by the Vichy French. I do not know his rank at the time, but he survived the war and had attained the rank of QMS on his retirement from the Marines.

Mark Uttley

Daniel Gillespie HMS Manchester

my father was on HMS Manchester at the time of its sinking in October 1942 and was interned at Laghouat POW camp in the Sahara Desert. He served in the Royal Marines.

Alan Gillespie

Lt. Leslie Gustave Read HMS Manchester

My Grandfather Leslie Gustave Read was held as a POW in Laghouat, Tunisia after he fortunately survived the sinking of the ship on which he proudly served, HMS Manchester. We have numerous photos if him and several of his friends whilst still at the camp. Upon being liberated from the camp my grandfather served as Commanding Officer on HM LCT 644 and was mentioned in dispatches after his ship and his crew assisted in the rescue of survivers of HMCS Regina sunk by torpedo in the Plymouth area 08/08/1944.

Simon Read

Ord. Sea. Andrew Leslie Morgan HMS Havock

I know very little about my grandfather's wartime activities as he talked very little about them. One of the few facts I am sure of is that he was serving on HMS Havock when it was sunk of the Tunisian coast on 6th April 1942. I have a copy of the letter my grandmother received informing her that he was interned at Laghouat. After their repatriation, my grandfather spent the rest of the war in northern Scotland.

David Proffitt

Lt Cmdr. Eric Cole Sutton HMS Manchester

Account of the sinking of the HMS Manchester and following journey to Laghouat POW camp by Lft Commander Eric Cole Sutton dated from the 13th of August 1942

Thurs August 13th

    0013 Torpedoed. Pathfinder came alongside and took off casualties and non essential personnel.
  • 00430 Jumped over port side of Quarter deck. Picked up by a whaler and hung on for a while and then got in. Navigator at helm (Gill).
  • 0530 Just after it got light an Italian plane let go torpedoes at the whip, but missed.
  • 0540 Ship sunk
  • 1100 Landed
  • Two tribal destroyers arrived and picked up remaining fellows in rafts and Carley-floats. We just missed them.

My father told us that he was ordered to scuttle the ship and on opening the valves to sink the ship faster came back on deck to find that all life rafts had gone. Before this the six ‘scuttlers’ had looked for rum from the stores for ressusification but the cupboard was bare!

He said he swam for about ten hours and spent sometime floating on the surface due to torpedoes being fired in the vicinity to avoid being crushed by shock waves in the event of an explosion.

On arriving in Tunisia he said that they walked into an aerodrome and at first were not stopped as their uniforms were similar to the German Luftwaffe’s. Hence they gave themselves up.

We were taken to a nearby fort and had some chocolate, Horlicks tablets and biscuits to eat. During the afternoon we were driven to another camp called Bou-Fischa. We were given supper, sardines, tunny fish and brown bread and went to sleep in a wood hut, being supplied with one shee,t sleeping bag plus one blanket. Approximate distance from Tunis 70 kilometers.

Two Italian E boats were anchored inshore, plus two Italian planes were flying around where we landed. We saw one Stukka in a field, probably out of action.

The inhabitants of the villages we passed through came out to see us in force and appeared quite friendly. The French troops were definitely anti Italian and German. The troops were obviously frightened that we were all going to make a break for it.

Fri 14th–Sun 16th Spent in Bou-Fischa. Bathed in the sea twice. American consul took all our names, next of kin and addresses and sent them off to the admiralty.

Food consisted of macaroni, soup, one or two hunks of some meat, onions, potatoes, spaghetti, all mixed up and stewed hot. Some tins of sardines and tunny fish. A lot of brown bread, plenty of cheap red wine. Grapes and figs.

Routine- get up around 7.00 AM. Hot black coffee, very sweet. 12.30 lunch as above. 19.00 Supper as above. 22.30 Lights out. Washing from a few jets in a pipe. Heads squat, or preferably in a field, no paper. Only two meals.

I didn’t feel well for two days. Dog is rampant.

Mon 17th 11.30 thanked the American consul and the French for our treatment. Marched to a railway station about two or three miles away, and went to Tunis arriving 14.30 Changed trains.

The people were very pro allies, V signs everywhere. American consul had arranged crate fulls of beer, and between that and wine we did very well! The new guards taking over were in far greater force and not as friendly.

Tues 18th Train journey was terribly hot; dusty, no sleeping room and filthy heads

Weds 19th –Thurs 20th About twice a day we were given food in one of the stations. Usually consisted of bread , wine in large quantities and salads of onion, tomatoes, Swedes and sometimes soup.

We arrived at Djelfa at about 0800 We were then put into buses and driven to Laghouat after the usual shouting and gesticulating. We arrived here at 1200 and were searched, they found my £4 in the lining of my hat, and also took my French money. After lunch, Malin, Fletcher, Rambart, Cooper and I took over a room at the south west corner of the officers block. At the moment we are sleeping on double tiers of beds.

Fri 21st Issue of Red Cross stuff. (Perhaps this is a reference to the fact that my father told me that Red Cross parcels used to arrive full only of sand having been pilfered on the way)

Sun 23rd Display by Spahis (?)

Tues 25th Pillar of gate broken down and Cooper rung the bell (?)

Mon 24th Wrote home ………….

Nov 24th released from Laghouat and arrived home

My father later joined the Birmingham and sailed into Alexandria for repairs. He was in Copenhagen for VE day. His account seems similar to Ray Davies’ account on this site. Ray’s email on his story does not work. Does anyone know if he is still alive and contactable?

Julian Sutton

PO. Sidney Charles Albert Lansley HMS Manchester

My father Sidney Lansley served aboard HMS Manchester at the time of it being scuttled off the North African coast having been disabled by the Italian Navy attacking Operation Pedestal. He along with the ship's Commander were one of the last to leave the sinking ship having to swim to the coast line some 8 miles. Once ashore the crew were rounded up and taken by rail to the POW camp at Laghouat.

We have a telegram received from the Camp on 27 Aug 42 saying safe & well. My Mother was informed by the Commodore Naval Barracks Portsmouth 8 Sep 1942 that her husband was a survivor & had been interned at Laghouat.


Of.Tel. Kenneth Edgar John Trott HMS Manchester

Ken Trott served on HMS Manchester, was torpedoed and sent to Lagouat Internment Camp. I Would like to hear of any facts concerning him.

Maria King

Able Sea. Ronald Rowland HMS Manchester

HMS Manchester was Ron Rowland's first posting when he joined the Navy at the age of 19 in 1941. After the ship was scuttled during Operation Pedestal, Ron became a prisoner of war at Laghouat camp. He said that the guards told them not to bother trying to escape because they were surrounded by desert and there was nowhere for them to go. But if they did try to escape, the guard said, they would be shot. Ron stayed at the camp until they were liberated; he said they woke up one morning and the guards had simply gone, having got word that the Allies' arrival was imminent. He brought back some sand from the Sahara in the broken off neck of a bottle. After a short leave of two weeks, Ron returned to duty aboard HMS Grenville, where he served in the British Pacific Fleet until the end of the war.

Donna Rowland

AbleSea. George Henry Wall HMS Manchester

My Father, George Wall was on HMS Manchester when she was sunk. He told me he was a POW and they had a very hard time of it. I have his certificate of service, which says he was a POW between the 14th of August and 24th of November 1942.

Paul Wall

CPO George William Sleet MID HMS Havoc

Following is a synopsis of my uncle's wartime experiences in the Royal Navy up to and during his capture and internment in the POW camp in Laghouat in Algeria. George William Sleet was a career sailor; eventually rising through the ranks to become Chief Petty Officer.

Everyone in the family was having narrow escapes. The radio news bulletins had mentioned that Uncle George’s ship, H.M.S. York, had been torpedoed and run aground in Suda Bay, Crete, where the crew had scuttled it and got ashore to hide in the caves. His ship and sister ship, H.M.S. Exeter, had chased the German pocket battleship Graf Spee to the River Plate and had seen it scuttled before joining the Mediterranean fleet. Now they were holed up and waiting for rescue. The Germans had invaded Crete and were trying to find the source of the radio messages Uncle George was sending to Alexandria. As they were deep in caves, bombing was useless, and eventually the crew was rescued by the destroyer H.M.S. Hero and taken to Alexandria where he was put on the battleship H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth. He was Mentioned in Dispatches for his part in the rescue so my grandparents were very proud of him.

Later, Uncle George sent a letter from Alexandria to say he was now serving on H.M.S. Havoc and protecting the Mediterranean convoys. Then there was word that H.M.S. Havoc had been sunk and the survivors had managed to get ashore at Tunisia, where the Arabs had turned them over to the Vichy-French army who sided with the Nazis. Grandma was to get a censored postcard later from a POW camp in Laghouat in Algeria, so the news was confirmed.

As the North Africa campaign wore on, Uncle George was freed from the POW camp by the invading English and American troops and made his way home. When he did finally arrive, the family was shocked at how thin he was. His shin bones stuck out on his legs, and he had lost a lot of teeth through bad food and lack of it. He said everything was soaked in olive oil and solid food was rare, hence the bad teeth. He also had sand sores where they had to sleep and sit on the desert sand as no chairs or beds were available. The POWs were treated abominably, but he did say that they all felt a lot better after they had gone down to the Arab villages and given the inhabitants a beating up for their part in the treatment they received. Apparently any escape from the camp was doomed, because the Arabs caught the escapees and returned them to the Germans.

He was home for sometime and the family did its best to make it enjoyable for him. He wouldn’t go into the shelters at night, though, but the air raids had lessened considerably anyway.

Barry J. Page

WO. Arthur Kitchener Coulson HMS Manchester

My Dad Arthur Coulson served on HMS Manchester during WW2. He was a warrant officer, I believe, in charge of the weapons control systems and was involved right from commissioning in Newcastle (the shipyard had to use Glaswegians to translate as the southern officers could not understand the local accent) He was one of those who managed to swim to shore when the ship was torpedoed and ended up in the prison camp. His views of the Vichy French were unprintable but beyond that he wouldn't talk about it. He was also in Scapa Flow over Xmas when the fleet was expecting war to be declared and said that it was one of his most miserable Xmas's ever.

Alan Coulson

Able Sea. Charles Robert "Chas" Walther

My father, Charles Walther, served in the Merchant Navy till joining the Royal Navy at the start of the War. I have no service records apart from his interment at Laghouat camp Algeria 11/04/1942.

Robert Walther

Ord.Tel. Alan Charles Thomas HMS Manchester

My dad, Alan Charles Thomas, served on HMS Manchester, as an Ordinary Telegrapher, from April 1942, until its torpedo damage, and resultant scuttling in Aug, later that year. His time on Manchester, of which, I can state he was extremely and enduringly proud, started with Arctic Convoy duties inculding Spitzbergen and the notorious convoy P17, and culminated in Op Pedestal, and his imprisonment in Laghout in Algeria.

His description of that legendary swim to the Tunisan coast, fired my youthful imagination given its humorous detail, a ship-mate enduring the swim, with my dad's help as a very good swimmer, all the while clutching his knife and fork only to discovery that his POW diet was mostly a sand based soup! Typical British gallows humour, hiding from a small child the reality of his father being starved to half his body weight in just 3 months. Suffice to say that my mum refused ever to visit France because of the 'hospitality' of the Vichy French.

Adrian Thomas

Able.Sea. Reginald Victor Harrison HMS Manchester

My father, Reginald Harrison, now deceased, served on HMS Manchester and was in a North African prisoner of war camp. He spoke very little of this time but we understand they were treated badly. He did not talk very much about his service. He also served on HMS King George V. but we have little information.

Barbara Hopkins

Able.Sea. Norman Milnes HMS Manchester

Norman Milnes was my father. He told me of his experience during the sinking of the Manchester, which very much accords with the stories here. As a radio operator, he had to go down to the radio station and retrieve the secret code books for wrapping up, weighting and dropping into the sea. He was one of those captured by the Vichy French and imprisoned.

Paul Milnes

John Thomas Brown HMS Manchester

My father Jack Brown was a seaman on board the HMS Manchester. He is still living today but I do not know a great deal about his time during the Second World War. I do know he was on the Manchester when she was torpedoed and that he survived to go to Lagouat POW camp. I believe he was in one of the life boats along with the captain after the ship was abandoned. After being rescued from Lagouat he ended up in the army and took part in various theatres of war until 1945.

I have just learned recently that during preparations for the D Day landings he took General Patton around the UK coastline looking for suitable places to practice the landings. I have searched web sites but I can not find any photos of this but it would be terrific to find a photo of my dad with Patton.

Alan Brown

Able Seaman Joseph Allcock HMS Manchester

My Dad, Joseph Allcock, having already survived the sinking of HMS Ark Royal survived the sinking of HMS Manchester and was taken prisoner of War and held by the Vichy French at the Laghouat Internment Camp in Algeria. He was hospitalised for some time with yellow fever and spoke very highly of the Red Cross and all they did for them. Upon his release, he was asked to speak at a fund raising dinner for the Red cross and I have a copy of his typed speech.

Irene Day

Able Sea. Thomas "Ron" Hall Gunner HMS Manchester

Thomas (Ron) Hall was born in South Shields, Co. Durham on 11 April 1917, the family home being in Hebburn-on-Tyne. Although christened Thomas, he was always known as Ron by his RN friends and his wife's family - no-one knows why! At the age of 16 he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Sailor. After training at the shore base HMS Ganges, he was sent for gunnery training at HMS Excellent, Portsmouth.

At the outbreak of war, he was serving on HMS Glasgow, but was transferred to HMS Barham, where he was wounded in May 1941. Barham had been assisting with the withdrawal of Allied forces from Crete, during which time she was subjected to almost constant German attacks. The gun turret in which Thomas was serving was hit, and he was the only one to emerge from the wreckage.

Posted ashore in Alexandria on 2nd July for rehabilitation, his next ship would be the Cruiser HMS Carlisle. On 9th April 1942, Thomas joined HMS Manchester, which had been assigned the role of escort to convoy WS-21S - better known as Operation Pedestal - the convoy which would save Malta from starvation and surrender. On 13th August, whilst rounding Cape Bon, Manchester was crippled by Italian torpedoes and was later scuttled off Kelibia Roads, Tunisia. Thomas survived and was taken prisoner and interned by the Vichy French at Laghouat in Algeria.

With the landing of British and American troops in Morocco and Algeria as part of Operation Torch on 8th November 1942, Thomas and his shipmates were able to return to England in December. After 8 months ashore, Thomas was assigned to the Destroyer HMS Janus, which provided artillery support for the Allied landings at Anzio on 22nd January 1944 under Operation Shingle. Janus was sunk the next day by a German air attack. Thomas was again saved, but the experience of being sunk for a third time would have a lasting effect on his nerves. He was invalided out of the Royal Navy in November 1945, and died in 1973, aged 55.


Albert LeRiche HMS Manchester

My father Albert LeRiche was on HMS Manchester in WW2, he then became a Prisoner Of War.

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