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P.G. 54 Fara-in-Sabina in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

P.G. 54 Fara-in-Sabina




    28th Jan 1944 POW train bombed


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



    Those known to have been held in or employed at

    P.G. 54 Fara-in-Sabina

    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 Major Philip Sydney "Syd" Norton HQ Supply Co 4th Infantry Brigade

    This story is my late fathers. Born in Peckham, in the London Borough of Camberwell, in 1907, Philip Sydney Norton (known as Sydney, or Syd) was living in the Cape at the outbreak of WW2. Having lost his eldest brother, Teddy, in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 a week after his 21st birthday, my father wasted no time in enlisting in the South African Army, originally in the Umvoti Mounted Rifles. In July 1941 he embarked from Durban on the S.S "Dilawa", having been transferred to Supply Company, 4th Infantry Brigade HQ, on 1 January that year. He served in the Western Desert until 21 June 1942, when he was captured in Tobruk and taken Prisoner of War by the Italians and taken, initially, to a prison camp in Benghazi. Like so many other POWs, he suffered a severe bout of amoebic dysentery and was duly taken by hospital-ship to Naples. From there he was driven by ambulance to a hospital in Caserta, where he remained for five and a half months before being discharged on 31 December 1942. Next day he was taken to Campo PG 54, Fara-in-Sabina, where he remained until he escaped in September 1943. My father wrote his own story of his POW experiences, which can be read here: In 1946, after the war, he left South Africa for New Zealand, where he remained for the rest of his life.

    Blanche Charles



    L/Cpl. Fred John Wright 2nd Battalion Queens Own Cameron Highlanders

    My father, Fred Wright was in PG54 from August or September 1942 until Sept 1943 when Italy capitulated and he escaped. He was harboured by an Italian family for about 9 months and was was then re-captured. We believe he was injured when he was re-captured as he ended up in the hospital at Stalag 7A (Moosburg) and lost a lung as a result. During his time at Moosburg he be-friended two NZ soldiers, one of whom he said was from Invercargill. I assume he remained at Moosburg until the end of the war. After the war he emigrated to NZ where he spent the rest of his days. He passed away in 1991.

    I am now trying to put together the story of his time in the war so if you know of Fred, or have any stories that mention him, I would love to hear.

    Julie Henderson



    Pte. Terry Gorman 5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment

    I spent quite a lot of time with my Dad, Terry Gorman recording his stories in the year before his death in 1996. Before then he never really talked about it – tho’ I knew he had fought in the Western Desert and had been a POW for a few years.

    We were watching TV together in 1995 and there were several programmes commemorating the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. There was a shot of the train tunnel and guardhouse leading into Auschwitz Birkenau 2 and Dad said "I used stand just there and warm my hands on a brazier as the trains came in." After the initial shock, and disbelief, we began to talk and piece together his story.

    Dad was born in 1920 and conscripted into the Army in 1940. He joined a Yorkshire Infantry Regiment – The Green Howards – and after training sailed around Africa and got stuck into the enemy in 1941. At first he was based at Ismailia taking ammunition up to Mersah Matruh by train. At Mersah he had his first meeting with Australian troops who had been pulled out of the front line and were on their way to protect the oil fields in Iraq. He was very impressed with the Australian troops who seemed taller, fitter and better equipped than the British Army. They were also far better paid – about £2 per week (Dad got 14 shillings). When Dad and his best mate approached the Australian lines there were several wolf whistles and a loud voice shouted out – “look out – the poms have sent the boy scouts!” – a reference to the ill fitting shirts and shorts which had been issued to Dad’s unit. He got on very well with the Australians who shared their (far better) rations.

    In May 1942 Dad was moved up to Gazala and a great tank and infantry battle took place which ended in the loss of Tobruk in June. Dad was wounded and captured on 2 June and spent a brief time at a transit camp at Derna, then some months at a terrible open air POW camp at Benghazi. The camp lacked even basic sanitation and the Italian guards were trigger happy and brutal. Eventually they were loaded in the hull of an Italian freighter and sailed across the Med all fearing that they would be torpedoed (as some POW ships were) by the Royal Navy.

    Dad got to an Italian POW transit camp at Brindisi and then he was moved to Campo 7 at Capua near Rome. Later he was moved north to Campo 54 at Chiavari near Genoa. Life in Chiavari was relatively good. There was food, Red Cross parcels and plenty of sport and books. Dad, and his friend Charlie Murphy, were experienced with horses so got out on a small work detail to work on the estate of the Marquis of Turin – he looked after a string of thoroughbred race horses and was allowed good grub and plenty of cheap wine. Then Marquis hated Mussolini and wanted the Allies to win the War.

    In September 1943 events took a turn for the worse. The Italian Army gave up the ghost and the Germans took over in Northern Italy. The POWs were rounded up and moved to Germany. Dad’s camp was sent to the Juventus football stadium in Turin. Dad spent three nights sleeping in the goal mouth whilst the Nazis sorted themselves out. They were then taken to the railway station where they were crammed into wooden cattle trucks and set off for the East. Dad remembers stopping at Innsbruck station, in Austria, where they were allowed to get some water and a little food. After a couple of days they arrived at a grim railway halt in Silesia and were marched up the road and into Lamsdorf POW camp, Stalag 344/8B – the most easterly of all POW camps in the Reich.

    Lamsdorf was tough, violent and very large. The Germans segregated POWs according to ethnic origin. There was a very large compound for Russians who were treated terribly (they did not have the protection of the Geneva Convention) – many living in the open or crude dugouts in the ground. There was an outbreak of typhus in this compound and Dad witnessed the Germans spraying the area with petrol then setting light to it – any POWs who survived were finished off by guard dogs.

    With the large influx of POWs from Italy the main allied compound was full and Dad was placed in an Annexe reserved for French Canadians who had been captured at the raid on Dieppe in 1942. They were a ruthless lot and had managed to cut the throat of a couple of guards (or goons as they were known). As a reprisal all the Canadians were chained to their bunks or radiators and Dad had to do this whilst waiting for transfer to the main compound. Of course, the Canadians thought he was a stooly – a plant put in by the Germans to get information about possible escape plans etc – and they threatened to kill him. Fortunately, for my Dad, they had been based in Manchester for part of their training and he was able to answer questions about the city. One question was “What is the Band on the Wall” which Dad knew to be a jazz club (which many of the Canadians had visited). After a few weeks Dad got to the main compound. There was very little food and nothing to do. One option was to join working parties outside the camp which gave you double rations (800 calories a day) and a chance to relieve the boredom. Dad signed up and was put on a train which took him to Katowice – about 90 minutes south east of Lamsdorf.

    He was given a donkey jacket with KG stamped on the back – KG stood for Kriegsgafangene or Prisoner of War (POWs often referred to themselves as “Kriegies”). He worked as a mate to a German electrician, then laboured in a sugar beet farm, then ended up in an arbeitskommando (work camp) in the Auschwitz complex. What he saw there haunted him for the rest of his life. Auschwitz is a 25 square mile concentration camp complex with four separate camps: Auschwitz 1, Birkenau, Auschwitz 3 and Monowitz. Allied POWs worked in many small work camps, and there was also E715 (E stands for Englander tho’ that included Australians and New Zealanders) at the infamous Buna camp at Monowitz. About 1000 POWs existed here and were forced labourers in a plant which was supposed to produce oil – not one drop was ever produced as many acts of sabotage were undertaken by the POWs.

    Dad worked mainly at E727 – the Power Station for the Auschwitz complex. It was coal fired and his job was to clear out the old “clinker” from the grates under the large furnaces and boilers – his only protection was pieces of sacking with which he covered his head and body. The shifts were very long and he got little food. The Red Cross parcels, which he still got even at Lamsdorf, were now very infrequent and often looted by the German guards. Dad was 11st 5lbs when he left England – he was less than 5st 11 lbs when he returned. Food and tobacco were the gold dust of the concentration camp and could be bartered and exchanged for anything.

    He worked alongside Poles, Ukraines and Jews. The Jews lived in terrible concentration camp compounds and were treated like dirt by the Germans who thought nothing of shooting a Jew for minor infringements. Some of the Allied soldiers also had little time for the Jews and felt they had “got it coming to them”. Dad had little time for this - he had witnessed the Blackshirts organising in Manchester before the War and had little truck with them or their ideas.

    The Germans found out that Dad had worked for the railways before the War and, together with a New Zealand soldier, was detailed to move some bricks along rail tracks into Birkenau 2. It turned out that the bricks were replacement fire bricks for the gas chambers and crematoria used to murder and incinerate Jews by the thousand. The Germans didn’t trust Jewish labour to perform this job as they feared sabotage. He was allowed one communal shower per week to keep the lice and sores under control. On more than one occasion emaciated Jewish women were shoved into the shower blocks by the guards - nobody, as far as Dad knew – ever molested them.

    He lived in a small wooden hut with an iron stove in the middle for heat. The men slept on bunks and the man below him was a South African who had been put “in the bag” (captured) at Tobruk. His surname was Silver. One day there was a routine inspection - the POWs came to attention and the Guards had a look around. This time they were accompanied by a man in the dark blue uniform of the SS. He walked along the line and stopped in front of Silver. He shouted, “Your name isn’t Silver, it’s Silberstein – you are a Jew! Take him out!” The Guards grabbed his lapels and dragged him outside where he was shot through he head by the SS man.

    In January 1945 the POWs became aware of the heavy fighting to the East. The sky was lit up at night as the Russians advanced. It was a particularly harsh winter, and one night in early January the men were ordered to gather there belongings and line up outside – they were going to march West away from the Russians. Dad looked around and could see three columns – Allied POWs, Russians/Ukraines and Jews. This was the start of the infamous “Death Marches” – POWs marched West for the next four months through the worst winter of the last century. Many died and any who dropped out were left for dead or shot. Dad remembers pulling over to pee in a hedge and seeing many Jews who had been shot and lay frozen stiff in a ditch.

    The POWs trudged, day after day, for weeks on end. Food was almost non existent or they got watery potato soup. They slept in rat infested barns. Dad’s column marched from Silesia, into Czechoslovakia then Bavaria in Germany. In late April 1945 the weather improved and they reached a large railway junction at Plattlin. As they sat on a hill near the town they saw allied planes come in and bomb the station – the POWs were set to work pulling the bodies from the wreckage of passenger and freight trains that had still been in the station. A couple of days later the guards simply disappeared and Dad took refuge in a pig farm, sleeping with the pigs. He heard the roar of a powerful engine and realized a tank had driven into the farm yard – and an American tank at that. He stood up and shouted “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” The Yanks were amazed to see the emaciated and starving POWs emerge from the pig sties and hedgerows. They handed out cigarettes and chocolate – and many of the POWs were sick as they had not had such rich, sweet food for years. They were moved back to the US Army echelon and deloused, fed and given new kit. Some were given weapons and drove off to wreak revenge on the local population. Dad remembers walking down to a local German village. Many homes had been looted with men making off with local delph china (Dad wondered how they would get it back via Army transport). He walked into a large house to see if he could get a cup of tea and bumped into a German woman. “Take me, take me” she said in German – behind her was her daughter who she thought Dad was going to rape. He asked her to make him a cup of tea then get upstairs and hide – many German women in the village were not so lucky.

    After a few days a British Army Sergeant Major turned up and told them they were going home. They marched to a local airfield and were loaded, 20 at a time, on to Dakota airplanes and flown to Antwerp in Belgium. The plane in front of Dads crashed on landing and all were killed. He was then transferred to RAF Lancaster bombers and flown to Guilford in England – flying straight over the White Cliffs of Dover. He was debriefed and given leave to go home. Then transferred to Ireland to fatten him up… but that’s another story.

    One brighter story from Auschwitz. One of Dad’s colleagues was Arthur Dodd who came from Northwich in Cheshire and had been put in the bag at Tobruk in June 1942. Arthur eventually ended up in E715 at Monowitz. One day he was marching back to camp and he noticed some Jews digging a ditch by the road . As they got closer one of them shouted – “I’m English mate, I shouldn’t be here, help me!” Arthur reached into his pocket and threw a packet of cigarettes at the man as they passed. Many years later Arthur was giving a talk about his experiences in Manchester Town Hall. He had written a book, “Auschwitz: Spectator in Hell” and made a programme about E715 for the BBC. After the talk he was signing copies of his book when, from behind, he heard a voice - “I’m English mate, I shouldn’t be here, help me!” It was Leon Goodman, who had been picked up by the Nazis in Holland and was the only English Jew in Auschwitz. He survived and, some fifty years later, and amidst many tears, was able to thank Arthur in person for the cigarettes he had given him in 1944.

    Michael Gorman



    Sgt. Lynn Sarrell Ongley

    Sergeant Lynn Ongley was held in P.O.W. Camp, Derna, Libya. P.O.W. Camp, Benghazi, Libya. PG 54, Fara Sabina. PM 3300, Rome, Italy. Stalag 4B Mühlberg-on-Elbe, Dresden, Germany and Stalag 357. Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany. Whilst held captive he wrote a number of poems:

    Red Cross Parcel by L.S. Ongley, 7 October 1942

    • The Red Cross keep us fit and well
    • With many a tasty dish
    • No sooner is the issue made
    • We fry up spuds and fish
    • The chocolate lasts a little spell
    • Our prunes we soak and stand
    • Twelve biscuits spread with butter thick
    • My word they do taste grand
    • The meat roll fried in margarine
    • With Yorkshire salt and milk
    • While toast and butter heaped with jam
    • Slides down like folds of silk
    • The bully smeared with mustard
    • Between two hunks of bread
    • Can be described as having
    • All powers to turn the head
    • The oatmeal mixed with rasins
    • Makes porridge sweet and stiff
    • Our breakfast cheese warmed on the toast
    • Gives a savoury niff
    • Pork sausages baked in eggs
    • Mixed veg with Irish stew
    • Sweet custard smoothed o'er apple duff
    • At last we rest and sip our brew
    • The creamed rice sweets and apricots
    • We hold for yet a while
    • While cocoa in the evening hours
    • Completes the welcome pile
    • Maybe I've missed the honey sweet
    • The golden syrup two
    • But if their are some missing tins
    • I leave the rest to you
    • Without the Red Cross helping us
    • Our lives we might have lost
    • So when the war has passed us by
    • We help what e'er the cost
    • The cigarettes we cherish most
    • Their help is great indeed
    • When food is short we pull the belt
    • For nicotine is feed
    • My text to you is finnished
    • No more there is to be
    • The weekly Red Cross parcel gift
    • To you I bend my knee.

    Campo Concentranamento 54. P.M. 3300. Fara Sabina. Rome. Italy.

    My Wife by L.S. Ongley 30 May 1943

    • You are my own, my very tower
    • My work, my play, my trial, my power
    • Your truthful lips, and gliding grace
    • Those ways, those acts, my thoughts embrace
    • All you I love, my hearts refrain
    • My hope, my fear, my joy, my pain
    • Your thoughtful eyes and redgold crown
    • Those pools, those strands, my sorrows drown
    • In you I find my whole domain
    • My left, my right, my quest, my claim
    • Your simple faith and girlish pride
    • Those aims, those traits, with me abide

    Concentration Camp 54. Fara Sabina. PM 3300. Rome. Italy.

    Stalag Exercise by L.S. Ongley 15 April 1944

    • Twenty times a day I walk
    • Around the compound square
    • Twice to a mile is ten of the best
    • Quite a fair jaunt without any rest
    • A deed not common but rare.
    • Rainy days I do the same
    • The lads just stand and smile
    • On the third time round they point and nod
    • While I race faster across the sod
    • A picture of ease and style.

    Mühlberg P.O.W. Camp Dresden. Germany.

    I Would Like by L.S. Ongley 16 August 1944

    • I would like to have a four pound loaf
    • Of steaming snow white bread
    • A vat of butter rich and fresh
    • Enough to turn my head
    • A china plate piled high with steak
    • Six soft fried eggs on toast
    • Tomatoes in their dozens
    • With a chunk of fatty roast.

    Stammlager 4B, Mühlberg-on-Elbe. Dresden. Germany.

    Prison Bread by L.S. Ongley 22 Feb 1945

    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread

    • An oblong lump of sawdust and rye
    • Cut into sixths by an expert eye
    • A slip of the knife and we moan and we cry

    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread
    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread

    • A choicer food can never be found
    • With a basic content of wood and ground
    • We wonder they don't make them square or round

    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread
    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread

    • A four pound loaf at two pound size
    • Always too heavy, it never will rise
    • Yet we never complain for it pays to be wise

    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread
    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread

    • Crusts make a cake for the afternoon brew
    • While slices we have with our evening stew
    • The only complaint is the loaves are so few

    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread
    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread

    • It may be hard and heavy as lead
    • But no bread at all would cause tears to be shed
    • So though it may be ersatz we have to be fed

    • Six to a loaf of bread we are
    • Six to a loaf of bread

    Concentration Camp 357. Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany.

    Sidelight by L.S. Ongley 24 Feb 1945

    • Patience is a virtue to prisoners its true
    • But four long years of waiting
    • Leaves them feeling awful blue
    • What with grumbling and bickering
    • There's nothing left to chew
    • The age long days of hardship
    • And the never ending queue

    Concentration Camp 357. Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany.

    Mind Over Matter by L.S. Ongley 3 March 1945

    • He placed a plate upon the table
    • Just in front of where I sat
    • Boiled potatoes, pork and onions
    • With a great big chunk of roasted fat.
    • The steam rose up, I could but simper
    • Streams of gravy, brown and hot
    • Lay there piping with the onions
    • Still I sat a drunken sot.
    • Heaps of bread strewn on a napkin
    • Inch thick slices, white and fresh
    • Mounds of butter, lay there gloating
    • Underneath the oval mesh.
    • Then the vision slipped and wavered
    • Up and past, the screen slid by
    • Now my eyes could see those turnips
    • All that passed was just a lie.

    Stalag 357. Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany.

    Our Bungalow by L.S. Ongley 13 March 1945

    • Bare brick walls all cold and damp
    • With freezing stony floor
    • A tiny closet wet and foul
    • The lighting system poor
    • Shaky beds of nails and plank
    • No mattress can be seen
    • A draughty roof of timber logs
    • The dripping rafters green
    • A smoky stove burns twice a day
    • The atmosphere is dead
    • One table is the furniture
    • Reprisal it is said
    • Some window panes are missing
    • The door wont fit the frame
    • Two heaters never operate
    • For coal is just a name
    • Fifteen feet by twenty
    • Is the length of our prison hut
    • Eighty men packed sardine tight
    • With every window shut

    Stalag 357. Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany.

    Starvation

    • Theres nothing left in the larder
    • Not even a crumb of dry bread
    • The knock in my stomach grows louder
    • Repeating the throb in my head
    • The coffee is tasteless and bitter
    • No breakfast of hot eggs and ham
    • Meat is a dish quite unheard of
    • Including the butter and jam
    • One parcel is all that is needed
    • Canadian or British will do
    • I would finish the lot in an hour
    • Excepting the milk and brew

    Concentration Camp 357. Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany.

    Good Friday by L.S. Ongley 30 March 1945

    • (Five weeks of starvation rations)
    • To-day is Good Friday the Day of our Lord
    • At home the hot cross buns are eaten
    • Out there they strive with gun and sword
    • Until the foe is surely beaten
    • Last night I prayed to the one above
    • To send us help in bread and meat
    • My prayer was held how great his love
    • I kneel in silence before his feet
    • Day by day they said there was none
    • Our hunger made us droop and sag
    • We join you with your hot cross bun
    • Each one with his red cross bag.

    During the days of hunger, trial and tribulation, parcels arrived to-day, after weeks of gradual starvation. Half a parcel per man.

    Stalag 357. Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany.




    Rfmn. A. Leckenby 2nd Btn. Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)

    A Leckenby and the 2nd Battalion joined Montgomery's 8th Army for the invasion of Sicily and the battle for Italy in 1943, and from there was involved with the Garigliano Crossing. Unfortunately, he was captured and ended up 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 A Leckenby, 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. Leckenby was uninjured in the train crash, but was captured at Garigliano. He was sent to POW camp Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S Flynn



    Fus. Jack C. Tilley 2nd Btn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

    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 Jack Tilley, 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.

    Jack had survived the train wreck with a possible forearm fracture, yet was captured at Garigliano and sent to POW camp Stalag 344 Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S Flynn



    Pte. Jack H.D. Futter 2nd Btn. Wiltshire Regiment

    Jack Futter fought with 2 Wiltshire Regiment at Cassino as part of 5 British Infantry Division, where they were involved in the crossing of the Garigliano. After being captured Jack was most likely taken to a transit camp at Frosinone, south of Rome. From here he was loaded onto a POW train bound for Germany on 26th January 1944, and 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 Jack Futter, 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.

    Jack Futter escaped the wreck with numerous slight wounds for which he was treated in Orvieto Hospital after being captured in Garigliano. He was then sent to POW camp Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S Flynn



    Pte. Alfred King 2nd Btn. Wiltshire Regiment

    Alfred King fought with 2 Wiltshire Regiment at Cassino as part of 5 British Infantry Division, where they were involved in the crossing of the Garigliano. After being captured Alfred was most likely taken to a transit camp at Frosinone, south of Rome. From here he was loaded onto a POW train bound for Germany on 26th January 1944, and 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 King, 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.

    Alfred escaped the wreck, but was then captured in Garigliano and sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    s flynn



    Pte. A. Stamp 2nd Btn. Wiltshire Regiment

    Private Stamp fought with 2 Wiltshire Regiment at Cassino as part of 5 British Infantry Division, where they were involved in the crossing of the Garigliano. After being captured he was most likely taken to a transit camp at Frosinone, south of Rome. From here he was loaded onto a POW train bound for Germany on 26th January 1944, and 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 Stamp, 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.

    Private Stamp escaped the wreck but was then captured and sent to POW camp Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    s flynn



    Pte. George Mason 3rd Btn. Green Howards

    George Mason was a POW and was one of many POWs who were on a train on 28 January 1944 having been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. They had mainly come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome. The Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, became the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river

    George, who had been captured at Garigliano, survived the wreck with a probable fractured left foot and was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S Flynn



    Pte. Clifford Ogden 1st Btn. York & Lancaster Regiment

    On 28 January 1944, during World War II, the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, was the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group of a train filled with Allied prisoners. Most of the POWs had come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome, and had been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.

    Private Ogden was Captured at Garigliano. He survived the wreck with wounds to his left ear and left hand. He was then sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

    S. Flynn



    Pte. Noel Cox 2nd Btn. Northamptonshire Regiment

    On 28 January 1944, during World War II, the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, was the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group of a train filled with Allied prisoners. Most of the POWs had come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome, and had been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.

    Noel Cox was captured at Garigliano. He survived the wreck with a probable fracture of bone in foot. He was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

    s Flynn



    Fus. H. Cameron 2nd Btn. Royal Scots Fusiliers

    On 28 January 1944, during World War II, the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, was the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group of a train filled with Allied prisoners. Most of the POWs had come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome, and had been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.

    He was captured at Garigliano. He survived the wreck uninjured. He was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf

    S Flynn



    Albert Billingham 6th Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

    Albert Billingham and the 17th Infantry Brigade including 6th Seaforth crossed the straits of Messina and landed in Italy on September 3rd 1943. By 2nd January 1944 they had returned to the west of Italy to take part in the operations to cross the Garigliano River. Unfortunately, Albert was captured in Minturno on January 18th and ended up 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 Albert Billingham, 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 wounds to his head, right hand and left leg. Once recovered he was sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S Flynn



    Pte. Andy Carruthers 6th Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

    Andy Carruthers and the 17th Infantry Brigade including 6th Seaforth crossed the straits of Messina and landed in Italy on September 3rd 1943. By 2nd January 1944 they had returned to the west of Italy to take part in the operations to cross the Garigliano River. Unfortunately, Andy was captured in Minturno on January 18th and ended up 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 Andy Carruthers, 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 bruising to his left leg. Once recovered he was sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S Flynn



    Pte. William Gilmour 6th Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

    William Gilmour and the 17th Infantry Brigade including 6th Seaforth crossed the straits of Messina and landed in Italy on September 3rd 1943. By 2nd January 1944 they had returned to the west of Italy to take part in the operations to cross the Garigliano River. Unfortunately, William was captured in Minturno on January 18th and ended up 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 William Gilmour, 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 slight wounds to both feet. Once recovered he was sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    s flynn



    George Guess 6th Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

    George Guess and the 17th Infantry Brigade including 6th Seaforth crossed the straits of Messina and landed in Italy on September 3rd 1943. By 2nd January 1944 they had returned to the west of Italy to take part in the operations to cross the Garigliano River. Unfortunately, George was captured in Minturno on January 18th and ended up 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 George Guess, 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 upper left leg. Once recovered he was sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S. Flynn



    Pte. John Hornby 6th Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

    John Hornby and the 17th Infantry Brigade including 6th Seaforth crossed the straits of Messina and landed in Italy on September 3rd 1943. By 2nd January 1944 they had returned to the west of Italy to take part in the operations to cross the Garigliano River. Unfortunately, John was captured in Minturno on January 18th and ended up 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 John Hornby, 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 but was captured once more and sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S. Flynn



    L/Cpl. Reginald Rawlings 6th Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

    Lance Corporal Reginald Rawlings and the 17th Infantry Brigade including 6th Seaforth crossed the straits of Messina and landed in Italy on September 3rd 1943. By 2nd January 1944 they had returned to the west of Italy to take part in the operations to cross the Garigliano River. Unfortunately, Reginald was captured in Minturno on January 18th and ended up 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 Reginald Rawlings, 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 but was captured once more and sent to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland.

    S Flynn



    S/Sgt. Joseph Barratt 6th Btn. Cheshire Regiment

    Staff/Sergeant Joseph Barratt was an employee of the hat manufacturers Christy & Co. Ltd. when he joined the Army in May 1939. Joseph left Britain in 1942 and ended up as a POW in Italy. He was on a POW train en-route from Italy to Germany when 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 Joseph Barratt, 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.

    Joseph suffered bruising to his chest whilst escaping from the train, and was admitted to hospital at Orvieto. From there he was sent on to Stalag 344 in Lamsdorf, Poland. His wife received notification of his detention on 21st February 1944. Tony Barratt, their son, reports that during the action in which his father was taken prisoner in Garigliano, the commanding officer was killed and so his father took command. He was debating the best course of action (to wave the white flag or run) when the Germans captured them.

    S Flynn



    Pte. A. Lishman 6th Btn. Cheshire Regiment

    A Lishman was a POW and was one of many POWs who were on a train on 28 January 1944 having been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. They had mainly come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome. The Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, became the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.

    He was Captured at Garigliano. He survived the wreck uninjured and was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf

    S Flynn



    A/Sgt. James W. Thomas 6th Btn. Cheshire Regiment

    James W Thomas was a POW and was one of many POWs who were on a train on 28 January 1944 having been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. They had mainly come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome. The Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, became the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.

    He was Captured at Garigliano. He survived the wreck with a fracture to his left upper arm and facial wounds. He was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf

    S Flynn



    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



    Harold Davis Royal Army Service Corps

    Harold Davis was a POW and was one of many POWs who were on a train on 28 January 1944 having been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. They had mainly come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome. The Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, became the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.

    He survived the wreck with a slight calf wound and was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

    S Flynn



    Ange Thomaso

    Ange Thomasco was a POW and was one of many POWs who were on a train on 28 January 1944 having been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. They had mainly come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome. The Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, became the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.

    Described by hospital authorities as Mauritanian. He survived the wreck with wounds to his head and left hand and was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

    S Flynn



    L/Cpl. Harry Clark 2nd Btn. Wiltshire Regiment

    Harry Clark was Captured at Garigliano and was on his way from Camp PG 54 to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf on 28 January 1944 by train. Whilst crossing the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, they were subjected to an inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group hitting a train filled with Allied prisoners. Most of the POWs had come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome, and had been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris recalled that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.

    s Flynn



    Pte. Frederick J. Ellis 1st Btn. York & Lancaster Regiment

    Frederick Ellis was captured at Garigliano. He survived the train wreck on the the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, on the 28th of January 1944 with bruising and multiple abrasions and was then sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

    s flynn



    Pte. Harold Baker Gordon Highlanders

    Harold Baker was captured at either Tunisia or Salerno. He survived the train wreck on the 28th of January 1944 on the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy and was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

    s flynn



    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



    Sgmn. James Ryan Union Defence Force

    James Ryan was captured in the Desert campaign and survived the train wreck on the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, with multiple wounds to the lower back.

    s flynn



    Pte. Rice Mnise Native Military Corps

    Rice Mnise was captured in the Desert campaign. He survived the train wreck he Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy with a fractured left forearm and wounds to his eyebrow. He was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

    s flynn



    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 Devlin’s 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 POW’s 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



    Gnr. Alfred Robinson Light Anti-Aircraft Royal Artillery

    My father Alfred Robinson joined the Royal Artillery (light anti-aircraft) in Liverpool on 22nd June 1939 and began service abroad as a gunner on 16th February 1940 to 31st May 1942 where he served in Egypt until he was captured and sent to Italy to POW Camp 54 (Passo Corese/Fara in Sabina, Rome).

    He escaped from Camp 54 twice, but was recaptured. The second escape lasted three months. He and some other prisoners hid in a field at the back of a little farm. The lady of the farm, Mrs Martino, brought them food whenever she could. They were eventually recaptured and sent to Germany on 10th November 1943 to a POW camp. (I am still currently trying to research which POW Camp.) My father remained in that German POW Camp from 11th November 1943 until 21st May 1945. He escaped once when his name was mixed up with a person (who was not at that camp) who had one leg and was being sent home. My father managed to get on the train and pass as a one-legged man for half a day, until one of the German officers realised he had two legs. Sadly he was taken back to the camp.

    Wendy Sicari



    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 “that’s 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, don’t 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 POW’s 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 goat’s 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 o’clock 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.W’s (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 ½ 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




    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







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