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Benghazi POW Camp in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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Benghazi POW Camp




       The prisoner of war camp was just outside Benghazi. It was a transit camp under Italian control, described by many as "a hell hole".

     


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



    Those known to have been held in or employed at

    Benghazi POW Camp

    during the Second World War 1939-1945.

    • Adams Harry.
    • Adams William. Spr. (d.18th Sep 1942)
    • Eisenhauer Wallace J.. Sgt.
    • Flegg Albert.
    • Frizell John.
    • Fyfe William.
    • George F. C..
    • Gorman Terry. Pte.
    • Gorman Terry. Pte.
    • Graham . Sgt.
    • Green .
    • Hall . Gdsm.
    • Harding Robert.
    • Herrage Douglas.
    • Hughes J.. Major
    • Johnstone Arthur.
    • Kelly John Verdun. Sgt.
    • Kerr John Lewis.
    • Khan Nisar Ahmed.
    • Marquet Raymond Thomas. W/O.
    • McDermott . Sgt.
    • Muldowney . CSM.
    • Ninow Frederick George. Pte.
    • Norton Philip Sydney. Sgt Major
    • Ongley Lynn Sarrell . Sgt.
    • Orchard. Peter. WO.
    • Peace Charles.
    • Simpson . Gdsm.
    • Stoltz Coenraad Willem Frederik . Pte.
    • Taylor .
    • Toole John.
    • Wyatt-Mair Claude. This page is new, as yet no names have been submitted.

    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



    Sgt. John Verdun Kelly

    The following extracts are from the YMCA Wartime Log Book supplied to Sgt John Verdun Kelley. Captured at Tobruk he passed through various Camps- Derna, Benghazi, PG60 Lucca, PG70, Stalag IVB and Stalag 357. Some of the entries are by Kelley others by "guest" writers.

    Benghazi

    Barren wastes of stony sand

    Dry infertile desert land,

    Spiked wire on every hand.

    Prisoners of War

    Ill clad ,unkempt and underfed,

    Trading watches and rings for bread,,

    With chilly concrete floors for beds,

    Prisoners of War

    Queueing for hours in blistering heat,

    Receiving a morsal of bread and meat,

    Glad, even of scraps to eat,

    Prisoners of War.

    Crowded together like flocks of sheep,

    Bullied and driven from dawn to sleep,

    Hearts are filled with hatred deep,

    Prisoners of War

    Cut off from the news of the outside world,

    Sifting truth from taunts that are hurled,

    Slightly keeping the flag unfurled,

    Prisoners of War.

    Striving to keep alive their hope.

    Finding at times 'tis beyond their scope,

    Drugging themselves with rumour dope

    Prisoners of War

    Setting new values ion trivial things,

    The smell of a flower, a skylark that sings

    The beauty,the grace of a butterfly's wing

    Prisoners of War

    Finding life without freedom is vain

    'Tis better to die than live ever in chain,

    Thank God! For hope of relief once again,

    Prisoners of War

    Seeing new meaning in higher things,

    In life in Christ and the hope He brings

    Thus did they treat the King of Kings

    Prisoners of War

    Finding at last, if you've the eyes to see

    This glorious truth fixed by God's decree,

    As long as the soul's unchained you're free.

    Prisoners of War

    June 23 .We awoke after a cold hungry night. The compound larger than Derna and as we were about 1000 more room to move about .In a separate cage near the gate were a party of Indian troops, used in fatigue work for strengthening the wire .In the other corner was a 40ft tower with machine guns.. Each corner had a water tank (empty) and guards patrolled all sides. We were ordered to form groups of 50 and we became N0o 22. Nothing else happened-it got hotter, more rings etc swapped across the wire for water. Someone paid £2 for a quart. Around 2pm the tanks were filled and after queueing for hours we were given a quart each., a groundsheet and 2 short poles . Rations arrived at 5pm - a tin of bully each and 2 small loaves between 3 men. Eat it all or save some? We had begun the trek down Starvation Road.

    More new faces arrived and we hoped to move on- we entered hungry men and left weeks later starving wrecks. More searches-this time anything sharp. A few kept back their jackknives or we would have had no way to open the bully cans. Water ration was increased to 3 pint per day, usual ration arrived at 4pm. The cigarette supply started running out!!! Profiteering took over and cigarettes that were selling for 50 piastres for 50 rose to 10piastres each. The guards realized the opportunity and were soon exchanging cigarettes for clothes etc. Sanitary arrangements were just a row of trenches and the smell would become unbearable. Empty day followed empty day ,bored, dirty ad unshaven the main conversation was about food. At the end of the month the Italians issued cigarettes-2 between 6 men!! By rerolling the dogends we made 2 more.

    By July 3 morale was low and sickness high , the MO visited but had nothing to teat anyone. Great excitement on July 6 -the RAF bombed the harbour and again on the 9th , lots of shrapnel falling on the camp but no injuries. Now we were so organised that we could make hot meals at night by soaking dry bread ,adding bully and boiling it up. Fuel was the problem, the guards became unhappy about us ripping pieces off the fence posts. The Indian fatigue troops had plenty but at a cost- 2 cigarettes for a small piece and the price of cigarettes was 5 piastres or a shilling each. Another bombing raid on the 11th and a ship hit in the harbour.

    Sunday 12th and a service from a South African Padre, though it must have helped it brought everyone back to thinking of home as they took part in a service knowing family at home were doing the same. We were all given Red Cross Cards to fill in, they were handed in but to this day I never heard of any arriving. By now health was getting poor, walking an effort and dizziness when standing. We were dirty, unshaven and lice started to appear. One by one those who had kept rings etc swapped them with the guards for food-tempted by guards holding up loaves of bread The minds of the guards needed understanding, a good watch worth £5 would get maybe 2 loaves but a cheap ring from the Souk costing pennies would get 5 loaves easily Cigarettes became THE currency and money was used for card games until we found the guards would sell 40 cigarettes for £1 Egyptian. Ersatz coffee was added to our rations but what was it? A Cookhouse was also built but could only feed one compound a hot meal per day so we hot meals every third day.

    Our first meal was 17 july a pint stodge of rice peas flavoured with olive oil . this cost us half a tin of bully each. The cooks found the dry rice a valuable trade item and were soon exchanging it for cigarettes. Dysentry broke out amongst the weakest but only the worst cases went to hospital I reckon about 60 died. Daily routine- get up when you felt like it, pass the time somehow until rations were drawn at noon, go to bed early to escape the day. Meals were 9am and 5.30pm and a brew of coffee in between (no milk or sugar)..

    July 25 the reality of how weak we had become hit home. New latrines were needed to be dug The labour divided up and each man had 2 minutes of digging to do. Mainy were unable to complete even this.. An escape attempt was made by a couple of guys hanging onto the underside of the rubbish truck, unfortunately this went into the next compound where native SA troops saw the guys and crowding round bending down to look resulted in the 2 heroes retuning in chains for 48 hrs.

    On July 27 groups from the next cage started to be moved out . July 31 we were given English bully 1 tin between 2 . We knew we would be soon and had started pooling our food to sustain us on the journey. We eat as much as we could and for the first time since capture I felt full. We paraded at 0330 next day, we had our food and 2 gallons of water why go hungry and thirsty? We were marched to the docks, the water weighed a ton but it was good to see the bombing damage that had been done We embarked on the Rosalino Pilo , although modern she soon took on the look of a slave ship as we were crammed into the holds helped by the Libyans standing on anyones fingers if they were slow on the ladders. More fun was had by throwing buckets of sea water at us through the gratings . The heat was stifling and we dreaded the night, a meal of cold fried bread,bully and water arrived at 11am and we sailed at noon.

    Next days rationed were lowered in a bucket at 4pm, tin of bully and a pack of biscuits. We were told next stop was Tripoli then across to Naples. The dysentery cases became so bad that in the end they were allowed on deck. We tried to sleep in the heat with the smell of engine oil and engine noise. It was a long night but as dawn approached the hold was silent save for a few groans and moans when I heard an unknown person playing "solitude" on a mouth organ- knowing my feelings and thoughts I could sympathise with him. We were allowed up on deck at 8am and managed to stay there all day, one man was hauled up unconscious and his body was taken off at Tripoli.. Our 11am meal of biscuits and bully seemed good until we saw the meals being taken to the gun crews who were German even though it was an Iti ship. We reached Tripoli at noon

    Sgt John Verdun Kelley

    Names in the log book from Benghazi:

    • Sgt Taylor
    • John Toole
    • Dougie Herrage
    • Charlie Peace
    • Stitch Taylor
    • Dodger Green
    • Bill Fyfe
    • RQMS Bone
    • CSM Muldowney
    • Sgt Graham
    • Sgt Mc Dermott
    • Gdsman Hall
    • Gdsman Simpson

    Peter Mason.



    Sgt. Wallace J. Eisenhauer 5th Btn. East Yorkshire Regiment

    My Dad, Wallace J. Eisenhauer - who is still alive at the age of 86 - was a POW at the following POW camps until the liberation by Russians: Jacobstahl, Benghazi, Tuturano, Stalag IVB. He has much memorabilia including his POW dog-tag from Stalag IVB and a suberb cloth signed by over 100 fellow POW's ! He collected this whilst encarcerated - so they are original names from over 60 years ago! He was a Sargeant in the 5th Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment

    I would love to hear from others who are still with us or their relatives.

    Marty Eisenhauer



    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



    Pte. Coenraad Willem Frederik "Raadjie" Stoltz Artillery Support 2nd Regiment Botha

    I have recently started plotting my grandfather's path through WW2, we knew he served in North Africa but that was it, he never talked about the war. After his death in 1991, I inherited, amongst other things, a stamp collection containing a complete collection of Vatican stamps from 1936 to 1944, a Italian concertina and some letters and photos which turned out to be from his service years. I became really interested and started researching his military career, I found out that information is often scarce even military records are often incomplete.

    Here's what I know up to now; he volunteered at age of 26 and was enlisted as cadet into the 2nd Regiment Botha. Basic Training started in February'41 in the Army Cadet Force in Middelburg, Transvaal. In August he was in Durban,tented down on a race course, awaiting transport. The letter does not mentions which one.

    On 9 October'41 they embarked the HMS Mauretania, with HMAS Australia as escort, in convoy no: CM20. The ship left the harbor at 13:45.In his letter he mentions "the lady in white sang to us from the pier, the lads we shouting, whistling and waving their appreciation" (translation from Afrikaans). I later found out this lady was Perla Gibson who sang to each and every troop ship coming and going, she was very popular and today there is a memorial on the exact spot were she stood every single day to welcome or sent the boys on their way.

    Grandpa disembarked at Suez on 21st and the Regiment was camped at Mersa Matruh. In a letter dated 4 November 1941 he complains about theft "everything not worn on, or tied to your person has a habit of disappearing". He also mentions the dust "the wind pushes the dust into everything, ears, boots, knapsack, even your johns". They where tented up in a "wadi", offering a little protection against the wind and dust.

    On the 18th the Regiment was on the move, right flank to the 5th South African brigade, during Crusader. On 23 November'41, after the 5th Brigade was badly mauled at Sidi Rezegh, grandfather was captured by German Armored section, one of almost 3000 captured that day. By 2nd of December, according to his military records, he was confirmed captured and POW at Benghazi. This suggest he was part of the "Thirst march" and was detained in what become known as "The Palms" camp, a filthy, unhealthy bivouac camp between many palm trees, about 5 miles from the harbor.

    How he was transported, on which vessel and when, still evades me, however in March'42 he is listed as POW, Camp 52, Chiavari, Italy.(Military records). One letter dated June 1942 mentions a "Ernsten" and "Georgie Loyd", he also talk about "Captain Chilly, Dancing Bob, Jannie Smuts" names he had given to his louse! He mentions the river in which they where occasionally allowed to bath in. What happened to him after September'43 until his arrival in England in 1945 is unclear. Some family legend says he escaped and with a few friends hid in the country side until meeting up with some advancing Allied soldiers. I could however, not find any proof of this. Perhaps somebody out there has more information on this period. And, so the research continue in honor of that special, quiet, gentle, hard working farmer that was my granddad and whose names I proudly bear today Africa Star, 1939-45 Star, War medal, SASM Thank you

    Conradt Stoltz



    Nisar Ahmed Khan

    My grandfather, Nisar Ahmed Khan, was a soldier of Britain in Second World War and he fought at Benghazi place as prisoner of the Germans.

    Jays Khan



    Arthur Johnstone 46th Royal Tank Regiment

    On the 20th May 1939, I signed up with the Liverpool Welsh Territorials (46th Royal Tank Regiment) declaring a Welsh grandmother and went to Low Hill Barracks. I was based there until September 1939 when the Regiment left. We were all thinking that we were going to Egypt. All the shawl women were crying outside saying goodbye ‘to the boys’.

    The coach headed up to Gladstone Dock but passed the dock and went onto Blundellsands where the barracks were in a large house. There were no beds and the food was awful. There were also no tanks, and we had to train using commercial vans. Such was the state of things at the start of the war.

    In the winter of 1939/1940 there was very heavy snow and the soldiers were volunteered to help the farmers dig out alongside a group of unemployed folk (who got paid more!). Afterwards we were given a hot pot supper organized by the council.

    On the 21st Jan 1940 I was sent on a wireless course in Bovington Camp in Dorset which is the HQ of the Tank Corps.

    Summer camp 1940 was at Caernarvon we lived in tents for about a month. On returning to Liverpool we were under canvas at Lord Derby’s estate in Knowsley. I used to hide to avoid early morning PT. At some point we had a mock battle with the home guard and there was an invasion alarm.

    During the winter of 40/41, I remember snow and manoeuvres on the moors at Whitby where we were billeted in the Metropole Hotel

    Firing range in South Wales – north of Tenby: My ‘war injury’ was sustained here. I fractured my collarbone when a truck backed into me. I was sent to Haverford West Hospital.

    At the end of l941 I sailed from Liverpool to Capetown where we stayed for two days. Then we proceeded on to Cairo where we were under canvas. Here a tent was stolen from around the six men asleep in it at the time! Finally we were sent into the desert towards the front line. There was no sight of anything or anyone and then out of nowhere Egyptians arrived selling ‘eggs-a-bread’ from cinema sweet-selling trays.

    The Defence Line of El Alamein was not straight and the Tank Corps was sent to straighten it out. We were followed by Indian foot soldiers. The Intelligence said there were no German artillery in that part of the front. However, as the tanks went into the wadi (dried up river bed), the Germans opened fire with 88mm guns. Our tank turret got hit and was immobilized. White fluid starting dripping onto our heads. As lead tank we did not have a Bren gun and so the ammunition box was used for storage of other things, including evaporated milk.

    In June/July l942, I was taken prisoner of war and handed to the Italians by the Germans. I was taken with only the clothes I wore and a fine pair of binoculars which I had to trade with the Italian soldiers for water to drink. Then we were taken to Tobruk by truck. Here we came across South Africans who had been captured in a retreat prior to El Alamein. They were in situ, as it were, so their personal possessions were greater than those of the Tank Corps. They were in an adjoining camp and I was given a blanket by one of them.

    We were taken to Benghazi until ‘the big push’. We had very meagre rations so we slept all day. The ration of water was one pint a day for everything. Eventually I got dysentry and when I reported sick, I was offered Epsom Salts. I got desert sores on my leg and I was in hospital. There was a Siekh soldier in the next bed who was ‘away with the fairies’, chanting, standing on one leg, and who had his eye fixed on the Italian soldier on guard. Suddenly he attacked the guard.

    The German soldiers would visit a brothel opposite the hospital and they would pass cigarettes up in baskets to the patients on the first floor. I met the captain of my own regiment who suggested that the next time the camp moved that an escape could be made by hiding in the open latrines. However the Italian guards were wise to this and shot into the latrines as the camp moved on.

    The POWs were put on a ship and packed like sardines, this was in Septemner 1943. There were no toilets except big drums and there were always long queues. Eventually some POWs found another hold lower down. They found uniforms of the Italian soldiers in the hold and wore these until they were spotted. As a result in the Corinth Canal in Greece all the POWs were taken off the ship. Six were chosen, including me, and taken back on board to stand outside the Captain’s room. We were told we were going to be shot as punishment for wearing the uniforms. This did not happen! Everyone was put back on board and taken to Brindisi where we disembarked.

    At another camp we must have been issued with sheets because the Italians, in order to count the POWs, would hold a blanket parade where each prisoner had to place his blanket on the ground. Friend Reg had used his to make socks from and put out the remains in the size of a handerchief. The Italians were not impressed. The POWs were lent to a farmer for harvest and had to share sleeping quarters with rats. At this time I also remember being entertained by a group of four POWs hanging up a sheet and acting behind it as if it were a radio programme.

    Then I heard from a previous girlfriend who had been transferred with her department to Bermuda and had met and was to be married to an American, it was sad news. She lived happily ever after and had eight children.

    After a spell I was taken near to Porto San Giorgio on the Adriatic Coast. Camp No 85DM 3450

    When Italy capitulated, my friends and I escaped from camp and went to local town where we were plied with drinks. The women were always welcoming to escaped POWs. However we were soon rounded up by the Germans and put on train in cattle trucks for Germany. The train stopped in Austria and then went on into Germany. At one stop we were issued with food by the Red Cross which was soup and bread (made in l937 said the date stamp!). As the level of soup fell the nurse just added more water.

    On the journey we were put in a concentration camp for Russian prisoners where we had bunks – two above and two below. Those below complained of something falling on their faces. It turned out that these bits were bed bugs. There was a lime pit at this camp.

    I met an Italian brought up in Liverpool who went to Italy on holiday and got caught up into the war and was sent to fight on the Russian front for Italy. He was in the camp on his way back from the Russian front to Italy.

    Finally we arrived in Dresden in December 1943 and were put to work in a factory making reinforced concrete for housing. We lived in the factory on the industrial estate. I had found a light blue crepe dress on the train and threw it to a Russian woman in a neighbouring camp. To this day I remember her wearing it. There were many nationalities such as the Dutchman (forced labour) who said ‘B******s’ to a German guard and was put in prison for three weeks. The guard thought he had said ‘Polack’. The Dutchman lost two stone. One POW was getting out at night and was seeing the wife of a German soldier who was on the Russian front. The guards stood waiting for him and shot him. All the POWs had a funeral service for him, dressing up as best as possible to walk through Dresden. This was camp No N95 Arbeits-Kommando near Dresden. Another POW was caught trying to get from Warsaw to England under a train. He had to come out because it was too cold.

    In January l944, we were moved to Chemnitz because the cement factory work was considered war work and were put to work maintaining the railway line, Chemnitz being a railway town. We had to get up at 6 am to walk to the area where we had to work. The POWs were issued with clogs but the snow used to build up underneath them and it was like walking on stilts. The job was to loosen rusted railway couplings (and presumably replace them). It was a long walk to start work and I organized a strike against the sixty-hour week. However everyone eventually abandoned me and I was put on a black list for transfer when one was available.

    A POW captured in Crete came new to the camp and heard the guard saying ‘Morgan fruh’ and thought it meant ‘morning free’ (rather than a simple greeting of ‘see you tomorrow’) and that he could stay in bed. He was not spotted missing for a while but when he was, he got into trouble.

    Unplaced memories:

    Church hall with the stage cordoned off. At curfew time the POWs had to take their trousers off (to prevent escape) and hang them up. The rest of the clothes were locked up. The Commandant there was a young Nazi who had an awful temper and tended, when angry, to foam at the mouth.

    Stationed in a building attached to a speedway track, I talked to a lady living nearby who felt unable to speak out about what was going on as her son was a Nazi and would have reported her. The Americans bombed the pit in the middle of the track, killing six POWs sheltering there. The Germans organized funerals for the men.

    Another escape:

    Friends Paul and Trevor and I and up to three more, took off and headed for a Red Cross depot. One of our number calmly walked past the German on guard, saying ‘Guten Morgen’ and collected two parcels for each of us. We stayed in a pub overnight pretending to be French. We offered to work for our keep and were set to chopping wood. German civilians were being bombed out of the area east of where they were. At this time the Russian front was pushing into East Germany and the pub was full of German refugees. We gave the innkeeper the soup from the Red Cross parcels to cook for our meal. Afterwards we bedded down in the hayloft. The next morning we noticed a policeman outside and thought the game was up but found that he had provided breakfast for all in the inn. Our group set out for Floha, walking the contours of the hills to avoid the road. However it was too cold so we came on to the road to go through the town and it was Paul who did the talking to the soldier who stopped us there. We were keeping up the pretence of being French but Paul’s German was so posh that we were taken to the local station for questioning. There the officer in charge decided that they needed to get the French interpreter and at that point we admitted that we were English!

    Fortunately (and fortune tended to stay with me) instead of being put on report or being sent to the salt mines, we were sent to the local potato merchant to work and were billeted in a factory that made paper. I was given the job of giving out wood to the local German civilians, replying ‘Heil Churchill’ to their ‘Heil Hitler’.

    My Final Escape:

    My friends and I heard that the town ten miles west of Floha was under attack so we headed off there. We walked through the town to the west side and encountered no fighting but met a German farmer who informed us that anything that moved after dusk would be shot. We said we were French but he recognized us as British as he employed British POWs. He housed us overnight. He got us up at 4.00 am and showed us the way through the woods towards the front line. We saw a soldier on duty on a bridge. We assumed he was German. However he spoke to us in English. He was an American. We realized we were home and dry. He sent us down to his camp ‘for a feed’.

    We were given the task of interpreting when German soldiers were brought in for questioning. There was a small camp of Russian prisoners nearby where the conditions were foul.

    Eventually we asked to go to the airport so as to go home. Here we met a high-ranking American who pointed us towards a flight to Paris. It was full of French civilian workers going home and, as we sat along the bench seats inside the plane, they were all very cheerful – until the flight started!

    On arrival in Paris we were sent to the equivalent of the ‘Naafi’ for new kit and were kitted out in American uniforms. As we walked up the Rue de la Madeleine we encountered a group of people around a car listening to Churchill’s announcement that ‘for you the war is over’. Everyone went wild and on seeing us cried out ‘Vives les Americans’ which changed to ‘Vives les Anglais’ when we explained.

    Having made contact with British HQ we were sent to Le Havre and onto Southampton and home. My brother was living in Prestatyn with his wife and two children and at that time they were getting news of the concentration camps. Much was their relief when, unannounced, I bounced in.

    Within weeks I was sent back to Germany, near to Krefeld, to a flame-throwing tank regiment where I worked in an office for six months until my discharge. This was yet another Christmas away from home. Despite a shortage and therefore banned from getting it, I got sent coffee. In Dusseldorf I met Christell, a Red Cross nurse, at a dance. She didn't like ‘Yatz’ (jazz). She told me that the only way to remain sane during the war was to get drunk each night.

    Arthur Johnstone



    Major J. Hughes MC 6th Btn. Green Howards

    In 1942, Major J Hughes had been a Company Commander in the 6th Green Howards, first under Lt Col 'Ted' Cooke-Collis and later, when 'Red Ted' was promoted to Brigadier to Command 69th Brigade, under Major T M S Roberts. On 26th June 1942 whilst moving to a new position to hold Mersah Matruh, the Battalion was attacked by a large force of German Stuka aircraft. The Commanding Officer was severely wounded.

    The Command of 6th Battalion then devolved onto Major J L Hughes MC. After digging in for the night a large column of some 2,000 enemy vehicles were seen moving to the south east of their position, Cooke-Collis issued orders for his Brigade to attack this column. The Battalion was by that time down to only two companies, each with a few anti-tank guns, and Battalion Headquarters.

    Even so, they launched an attack at the enemy sustaining heavy casualties in doing so. A fierce fire-fight ensued before three enemy tanks appeared on the scene spraying the Green Howards position with continuous machine gun fire. The legendary 'Red Ted' appeared on the scene in his carrier, charging through the position and firing his Bren gun at point blank range at the enemy. His carrier received a direct hit but somehow he and his driver survived, although both were wounded.

    In the meanwhile, my father was severely wounded in the stomach. He probably owed his life to his batman who, although ordered to save himself, refused to leave my father. He bandaged his wounds and kept him alive until daybreak when he attracted the enemy's attention and secured proper medical services for my father. After a painful truck journey to the rear. Major Hughes was placed in an Italian POW Camp at Benghazi, before being flown to Italy. He recovered from his wounds and managed to make two escape attempts from POW Camp. Eventually he did escape from PG 136 close to Bologna and make his way to Switzerland. He eventually got back to the UK where he ended the war commanding an Officer Cadet Training Unit

    Trevor Hughes



    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.




    WO. Peter Orchard. Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers

    After active service in Palestine emergency 1936 -39, I was in Malta until 1942, when I was posted to the 8th. Army in the Western Desert , after skirmishes with Rommel we moved to Tobruk. The Army was besieged in Tobruk. We were surrendered into the hands of the Germans. They ordered us to proceed to the POW compound, some 5 miles away. The Germans said we could walk there or go in our own trucks which we had not had time to destroy. We said OK, having made holes in the sumps of the trucks; they just got us there before the engines seized up solid! The next POW camp at Benghazi was under control of the Italians , water was a problem ,they produced it in 44 gallon drums that had been used for diesel fuel and had not been properly cleaned out. Result massive diarrhoea in some 2000 prisoners.

    We were soon taken by boat to Italy, first in Brindisi southern Italy. Then to a camp north of Rome near Ancona. Italy capitulated; Mussolini was killed and the guards smashed their rifles against the nearest post, tore off their uniforms and shouted `the war is finished I am going home to `multi Vino, multi pasta, and multi `Nikki-nick!`. A company of Germans soon arrived and we were on a train through the Brenner Pass to Germany to Stalag “V. POW camp, that was a former concentration Camp for the Jews. We had to strip and tie our cloths in a bundle or bag if we had one, these were put in the Cyanide gas chamber, and we went naked into the showers. Our cloths came out stinking of the cyanide Gas, we had to shake them for some minuets before dressing. My weight had dropped to 7 stone ;at last the Red Cross Parcels arrived to supplement our POW food of a couple of slices of black rye bread, potatoes and turnips, with occasional goat meat in the daily stew. The potatoes were boiled in their skins, we took it in turns to have the skins to make a `biscuit`baked on the top of fire stove each hut had for heating. A corporal of the Australian Army Tom Ward was captured with the resistance in North Italy and was being taken to Berlin for trial as a spy, which meant the death penalty. He was kept in the `cooler`out side of the main camp and was to be bathed and de-loused, before going to Berlin, in the camps big Shower Block (where we had a monthly shower). The key to the gate from the camp to the showers was trusted to a Sgt. Of the South African Army, who spoke German. He locked up at night handed the key to the guard house, and drew it the next day for prisoners assembled from each hut in turn to shower. The Camp held more than 10,000. prisoners of all nationalities! So the shower house was very large and in constant daily use.

    On the day Tom was to be showered and deloused the key was not issued by the Germans, but the escape committee knew this in advance. So the night before it was arranged that the padlock only looked secured before the key was handed in. All was set for the escape into the POW camp proper. The POW camp was for senior Non Commissioned Officers, Sergeants and Warrant Officers. So there were some good brains at work on the escape committee In the morning set for Tom Ward’s delousing and shower, he striped naked and put his cloths in the Gas chamber, now he was the only person in the very large shower room, with the guards on the far tide of the shower room. Outside the gate from the main camp was a rigged party of prisoners supposedly ready to take a shower. The pad-lock was unhitched and into shower room rushed naked prisoners from the main camp. The guards were taken by surprise and shouted `rouse rouse `-get out -they did *with Tom Ward, who was quickly dressed with battle dress supplied by the escape committee ; now they were all including Tom, back in the main camp. The Germans were livid when they realised what had happened, and all hell was let loose!.

    It did not take long for a company of SS to arrive ordering the whole camp out for an inspection count and identification of all Prisoners. Tom Ward was in our hut, the question was where to hide him. Above the ceiling the slanting roof had sacks of straw in the gap between the outside walls the ceiling and sloping roof, Tom got inside one of these. The whole camp was kept outside for some 16 hours and we were checked against the records kept by the Germans. The search included guards from the SS going up above the ceilings and bayoneting the sacks. By the time they got to our hut, which was about the last they were obviously getting tired, and the bayoneting missed Tom Ward.

    This was not to be the end of the searching, we learnt that notices were put up in the surrounding village, offering a reward for his capture, They just did not know where he was and were determined to get him. Two weeks later a Battalion of SS arrived in Armoured Cars, we were ordered out for further checks and the SS. took the place apart. This time we knew they were deadly serious, so Tom Ward got down inside the night latrine, a sewage pit, and stood in the sewage for hours, it was just ghastly, I just don’t know how he stuck it, He got through it with terrible uric acid burns, which took weeks to heal. He finally took over identification of a South African Sargent who had hung himself. The Prisoner records were kept in the German main office by POWs working as clerks, they arranged the switch, even Tom Wards fingerprints.Tom Ward passed subsequent German identity checks, they never twigged it. He remained in the camp until we were freed by the Russian advance.

    In January 1944 I had the misfortune of contracting Cerebral-spinal Meningitis. They had to put me in a straight jacket , because the pressure on the nervous system caused me to thrash about uncontrollable. In the hospital I was treated by a French POW doctor. That night a Red Cross supply of drugs came in from Switzerland, the Doctor said he very nearly did not give me the Sulphonamide drug that eventual cured me because he thought I was `too far gone to save` .I recovered enough for a German medical board who recommended me for POW exchange category `B`, an exchange that never took place; in any case I did make a slow recovery during the next 15 months up to the time the Russian advance caused the Germans to abandon our POW camp. While recuperating in the hospital an American soldier with a serious gun shot wound on the side of his head came into the camp hospital. He was from Texas USA and the Doctor could not understand what he said, so I found myself interpreting broad Texan accent into English! That night before another consignment of Red Cross Drugs came in the Doctor told me he did not think the American Sgt.would live the night out. Early next morning the excited Doctor took me to see the American sitting up smiling. `Its almost a miracle` said Doctor, I just gave him three shots of Penicillin a new drug just out and look at him now! He fully recovered and came back into the main camp with me. I learnt some years later the discovery was worked on by Mrs. Suzian Tritton M.P.S. F.R.I.C. my very good friend and wine making mentor who was an assistant to Dr.Flemming who made Penicillin, but more about her later. Stalag lV was an ex concentration camp. On the exercise field to the north there was a series of humps, our senior representative a WO1 asked the Germans if we could flatten it to make a playing field for games. This was firmly refused by the commandant. It was later learnt the field was a burial ground. The humps were the top of a series to lime pit trenches where it was said were the bodies of Jews who died in a collier epidemic, when the camp was a Jewish concentration Camp. Two years after the British arrived in the camp a reading of the Camps Electric meter showed a 1000% increase in electric consumption! A big raid took place to find out why?.

    This led to tables between the British Sector Huts full of confiscated equipment of all kinds. from electric suites in the RAF. Huts, to numerous Brew kettles to make Tea and coffee from Red Cross Parcels. These were mainly two metal plates, separated by a piece of wood, placed in a brew can, the wires were connected to nails and another piece of wood for a plug. When plugged in the whole thing was alive and very lethal if touched. We had striped the wiring from the outside lavatories that were disconnected anyhow, we wired the mains up to secret sockets behind two tiny holes in the wooded walls of the hut. One thing the Germans never did find was the Radio set in our hut. It was under the seat of a stool our hut commander would sit on as he was allowed to stay in the hut, when a search took place. We had a large home made Map of the War zone, and pinned up little flags to show the Allies and Russian advance from the news we got. The German Sgt Major would come to find out the war situation. He would say `no no, that’s not correct`, knowing full well it would come on the German news sometimes a week later. He was comparatively friendly and we would have a laugh at his expense. In the end he would come in almost every Day.

    The Camps News letter was also compiled from news we got from our Radio Which was made from bits and pieces bought from guards with cigarettes and some times coffee from Red Cross Parcels. The bulk of these parcels came from Canada, mainly because the Canadian Red cross would escort the parcels and cigarettes to Germany. From UK Some 60% of the parcels, especially cigarettes were pillaged first in the UK ports, then across Spain Switzerland and of course Germany. I only got some 15% of the cigarettes Dad & Mum sent me. The distribution depended on how many parcels were available, at the very best it was one food parcels between two of us, They were only available about half the time.

    The end of the War in Europe for us in the POW camp came with the advance of the Russians in 1945. The Germans were fleeing to the other side of the River Elbe, and wanted us to join them. Our `Man of confidence `a Warrant class 1(he was voted to the position and in fact from REME. an ASM, (Armament Sgt.Majors, who were generally better educated than RSM`s,Regemental Sgt. Majors, who were very good in fighting infantry and Guards regiments;) refused the German offer to take us, some 10,000 of us, across to the Other side of the River Elbe.

    The Russian liberation consisted of an Officer on horse back , riding into the Russian compound. `You are liberated in the great name of the USSR` he then said those who are fit can draw a rifle from the horse drawn trucks, and join the front. A prisoner shouted that man is a German dressed as a prisoner; the office drew his pistol and shot him dead on the spot. He continued `The rest are at liberty to go (walk!) home, We did later find some dead on the road side in their attempt to go home to Russia (the Russians sector was quite separate from the European sector of the POW camp, Because they were not protected by the Geneva convention; in fact the Germans starved very many of them to death. They had to pull carts with tanks on them, used to empty the sewage from the night latrines at the end of each hut, they also had to pump this sewage out on their rounds of the camp, using hand pumps. The sewage was taken to the fields to fertilise the turnips etc.used to feed POWs!. Russian officers said soldiers were expendable.

    The Camp was liberated on the 14 April 1945. My friend Eric Skinner D.F.C.,a WO.1 air gunner of the RAF he and I went walk about to the near by villages where we `liberated two bikes!` the houses were mostly empty , just a few very old people who had been left behind the fleeing population. We entered a Villa that had been pillaged by Russian Soldiers, they had just used their rifle butt smashing lovely furniture in wanton destruction.

    Peter Orchard



    Pte. Terry Gorman 5th Btn. Green Howards

    Private Terry Gorman served with the 5th Bn the Green Howards. He was probably taken prisoner as were most of the 4th and 5th Battalions (part of 150th Brigade) when ammunition ran out against Rommel's forces in the Gazala Line. Most went to prisoner of war camps in Italy.




    Albert Flegg DSM. HMS Colombo

    Helen Painter



    Claude Wyatt-Mair British 8th Army

    My Dad, Claude Wyatt-Mair wrote a memoir of his time between 1939 and 1945. He was captured in Tobruk and ended up in Stalag 8c and 8b lamsdorf 344. I am trying to locate anyone who knew him.

    David Wyatt-Mair



    Harry Adams 4th Btn. Green Howards

    Harry Adams served in the 4th Battalion the Green Howards and was a POW in Stalag 8b during WW2.




    Spr. William Adams 233 Field Coy Royal Engineers (d.18th Sep 1942)

    William Adams died at the age of 31, he was the husband of Miriam Adams (nee Robinson) of Primrose Jarrow. William is buried in Benghazi War Cemetery.

    Vin Mullen



    W/O. Raymond Thomas Marquet 75 Squadron

    My father, Ray Marquet, joined the RNZAF in 1940 aged 21. He was trained as an observer (gun aimer) at Jervis 1 Bomber school in Ontario Canada passing as a navigator on Ansons and later Wellington bombers.

    He flew 13 operations before being shot down over Benghazi on 3rd of April 1942. He and all the crew bailed out safely with only the rear gunner Joe Galland spraining his ankle on impact with the Western Desert. They were taken in by the local tribesmen who initially looked after them, but after a few days alerted the local German troops of their whereabouts (an entire Wellington bomber crew would have been a good prize.)

    They were taken to Germany and housed at Dulag Luft where my dad (who was a jazz pianist in his spare time before the war) entertained the troops. He was actually kept there longer than was normal as he was judged to be good for morale.

    He was later sent to Stalag Luft 4B where he stayed for 3 1/2 years until the war ended. He never really talked about this time, but when he was demobbed and sent home to NZ he weighed 6 stone (he was a strapping 6 footer before the war).

    Julie Dunseath



    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








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