- P.G. 55 Busseto during the Second World War -
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P.G. 55 Busseto
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P.G. 55 Busseto
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Pte. John Francis McCarthy Scots GuardsJohn Francis McCarthy was the second son of a WW1 veteran, Patrick McCarthy, who was a member of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. His father was a mustard gas victim but still was able to sire 8 children (with Jessie, nee McKinnon) before he died in 1937, aged 47. Before Patrick died he would often say to his son John, "I'll put you in the army" if John was unruly. On his 17th birthday, 7th June 1938, John enlisted with the Scots Guards and began training in London. He was on guard at Windsor Castle when the Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, would play in the grounds. In 1940 John was shipped to Egypt with his Regiment and saw action at Bengazi and Halfaya Pass. He met Australians for the first time and got a taste for Aussie beer. The A.I.F. mischievously called the Scots Guards, with S.G. on their lapels, "Society Girls". John McCarthy was captured by Italian forces just weeks before his 21st birthday in 1942 and shipped to Camp 55 in southern Italy. He saw a lot of starving prisoners there and decided he couldn't stay. On escape John walked north towards Switzerland before being given up by a Italian farmer. He was then put on a prison train, destination Poland. Stalag 344 was described by John as a large working town or small city. One of John's jobs was to clean the beer vats between brewings. Depleted of good diet, John would eat the residue of the vats for sustenance. Similar to Vegemite. After 3 years John heard that the end to the war was near. He hid in an attic for 4 days and then broke out during a loud nighttime thunderstorm and headed towards Czechoslovakia. When he arrived in Prague he was sheltered by the 'Nazi hating' partisans and was privy to all their activities, which were ramping up. With war's end almost upon Europe, John made his way to the Austrian border and was 'processed' by the U.S. Army. Processing involved an utter physical beating by the yanks because they didn't believe that this disheveled young man with a foreign (Scottish) accent was what he was claiming to be, an Allied soldier. He didn't mind the pain of the beating because he knew that he would be home soon. After reuniting with his family and some recuperating John began a career in policing with Perthshire police. After 8 years John, and his wife Dorothy (nee Haggart) emigrated to Melbourne, Australia where he spent another 28 years with Victoria Police, retiring as a Senior Sergeant of the golfer's paradise district of Cobram, Victoria. John died on 28th May 2002, just short of his 82nd birthday. He was survived by his daughter, Fiona and grand-daughters, Alice and Jen. He was a lovely man. From your mate.David
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