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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

SS Batory




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Those known to have sailed in

SS Batory

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

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Sgt. Ronald Mayfield Cridge No8 Coy. N Group 26th Battalion

My Father Ronald Mayfield Cridge enlisted 24/6/1940 in the No 8 Company N Group: initially as Prvte Cridge in Charge - then Batt Corporal, and Sergeant - 4 Service Chevrons as at 3.10.1944 & The Africa Star After enlisting, Ronald was sent to Burnham Camp for initial training before being sent with his friend Brownie Dann to Wellington with the 1st Section of the 4th Reinforcements on the evening of the 7th November on the “Rangitira”.

Embarking the following morning on the Polish ship the “Batory” sailing on the eve of the 8th Nov into a howling gale, they were acompanied by The “Achilles” & the “Maunganui”to Sydney. The troops had 2 ½ days leave then sailed in convoy with three larger ships full of Australian troops escorted by three Australian Cruisers to Fremantle.

The Batory was a liner of 14287 tons and Captained by Deyczakowski, but owned by the British and employed as a troop carrier during the war, also used to uplift the families from Singapore. The Convoy spent 5 days in Fremantle while the cruisers searched for a German Raider in the Indian Ocean. The convoy then departed for Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where they had a days leave in Colombo. While on board Ronald was excused from many duties and lectures as he worked six evenings a week as film projectionist in the ship’s cinema. The Convoy reached Port Tewfik on the 16th Dec. where the New Zealanders disembarked and travelled by train to the Maadi Military Camp a few miles out of Cairo. Christmas Day was spent at Maadi. After further weeks of training and two weeks guarding Italian Prisoners of War, the reinforcements were finally moved to the Helwan Military Camp where they were drafted into different battalions and other support units. Ronald joined the 26th Battalion and Brownie Dann the 20th, separated after a long time sharing the same platoon, barracks and ships. 3rd March the Infantry Battalions moved to Amiriya, about 12 miles from Alexandria and camped. On the 6th March the NZ Division sailed from Alexandria, reaching Greece the following day. Some Convoys took several days due to a storm, therefore arriving in Greece about the 11th or 12th. All Infantry Brigades camped on the slopes of Mt. Hymettus on the outskirts of Athens before moving up to the Front. They were there for about a week.

Ronald was taken prisoner at Kalamata with some 1000 NZers and 1100 Australians and several thousand British. They were forced to marched to Corinth arriving on the 2nd May 1941 when he again met up with his friend Brownie Dann. From Corinth they were moved to Salonika arriving there on the 9th June. Two trainloads carrying most of the NZers left Salonika on the 11th & 12th June. Ronald was on the train to Wolfsberg in Austria. The main camp for all the Allied Prisoners Of War was established at Wolfsberg, Stammlager XVIIIA, attached to Wolfsberg were dozens of different types of working camps all with their own quarters and guards. Ronald spent some 300 days in solitary confinement, generally for endeavouring to escape. He also had to wear a French Uniform as his had been removed from him which meant short trousers and as he had no leggings and only had the “clogs” (boots with a fabric top and a wooden sole, very hard to walk in and NOT waterproof) he suffered from the cold until at last the Red Cross supplied him with a new uniform and boots arrived from his parents.

Some Letters from my Father to his Family:

22nd July 1941: My Dear Folks, At last we have been given the opportunity to write something like a decent letter I do hope that you have received my numerous notes through the Red Cross. Well we have been captured some 3 months now and have seen more in that time than I ever imagined possible. The scenery through the Balkan States is marvellous, but I will tell you more about that at a later date. You may write as often as you like to the given addresss. We are allowed to receive parcels from home amounting to 10lbs per month. The Red Cross officials were around today, they have promised us parcels in the near future, my health is keeping up well so you have no need to worry,Your ever Loving Son Ron.

16th Aug. …Red Cross parcels, received 120 cigarettes this week something we haven’t had for months, a real luxury We are made to work outside the camp, then we are fed, long hours, hard work but at least we see some of the countryside. You’d laugh at their antiquated farming methods, really old fashioned, bullock ploughs, hay carts and the crops are cut by scythe, lots of women work in the fields who look very pretty in their gaudy and quaintly fashioned dresses. The men in short trousers made of leather and as they last up to 6 years are very short by the end. The “Jerry” ration is, 1 bowl of cabbage soup per day and 1 loaf of bread, normal size, among 8 men per day. Once a week, we get a piece of meat, but we don't starve, as some POW camps without parcels do.

Photo POW Camp Austria 18 .1 .1942 Front Row: S. Whittel, T Newton, B. Oldham, D. Duggan. Ron Cridge, R. Jahmeton Back Row: G. Quirk, Q Gray, R. Woods G. McKay, G. Bissel, F. McCallum, S. Ryans, G. Herring 12th July, all in the pink, just received a parcel of winter clothes from NZ .. A scottish chap and I have put together an Act to entertain the guys, had no mail for a while…we do a fair bit of gambling mainly two up or “Swy” and by the way our stakes are cigarettes which hold high esteem in our little circle, mail is very slow lately. We had some reinforcements this week, some more NZers received some news too, big changes in N.Z, keep those Ruddy Japs out is the Big Thing… Moved - part of Work Camp in Klagenfurt 2nd Jan. 1943…Christmas & New Year over, very good, got a bit of a spark up too. Received your Aug. parcel with Boots, grand !! Received some more smokes, they burned down our Concert Hall, but we still carry on, Best of Love Ron

Winter is on the wane, thank god, there’s a Blasted parade on for something may be Armistice ?? am keeping well, short of smokes & food, don’t think it’ll last much longer than 12 months now, my job at present is cutting ice which is a foot thick, just had a “pep” talk from the Officers, been Bad Boys !! no need for concern, I’m OK.. 21st Feb 1943.. have changed my address to Stalag, quite a nice change to see all my Christchurch friends, spring is fast approaching and things in general are brightening up, except the mail which has slowed again, the last one I got was sent in Nov. I came back to the Stalag with more clothes than I ever carried in my life, a great asset here, great to meet up with the old friends, Cranny Hearn & others. I am looking forward to a change. There are about 1000 men here in Stalag with a big percentage of New Zealanders. Hoping to start operating a film & organising a concert soon which is more interesting than pick & shovel especially with the food shortage, we survive on the parcels. Attending lectures mostly on episodes of different chaps lives here. ..

5th April, Mail is infrequent a shortage of sorters here in Stalag, weather is becoming warm yesterday we had an International Boxing & Wrestling match, the French man won after a hard fight, we get some news from the boys working outside when they return, we also have a very good chap as Padre here name of Ledgerwood. My Kit Bag with personal articles & souvenirs may be had on request from the Military Authorities. I hear the NZ Division is keeping up to it’s name, I wonder how many of my (26th) Battallion are left?? Please thank the NZ Patriots Soc I received 200 cigs today. Cranny Hearn broke the 1000 metre Record today 3mins 2.5secs.

11th July 1943 – yesterday we had a Christchurch reunion a few personalities, Vic MacDonald, Maurice Collins, Lance Rankin 26 in all a truly grand afternoon, news is good, but nothing can happen quickly enough for us.

22nd Nov. 1943, I have been moved out of Stalag to this terrible godforsaken hole Luzon , we in Germany are entitled the “Toothless Terrors”, there are exactly 104 but 12 went through, they are doing time in the local “Boob”, there have been more “Captains” here dishing out orders than I have ever seen before even in the front line. by the late Eric Fearnside “At four o'clock in the morning, we heard the cries, "Raus! Raus!" and we were tumbled out of bed for what was to become the last time at Stalag XVIIIA at Wolfsberg. Bewildered and shivering with the cold on the parade ground, we were told by the Commandant that we were being evacuated to a safer area. Taking only the bare essentials, we marched off into the unknown. At first, the going was easy, but as we reached the mountains, it became more tiring. After twenty miles we lay down where we were. Most of our clothes were not warm enough and our shoes were not for marching in, a lot of us had sore feet and blisters. A chap in the engineer's shed at the camp had invented a little stove made from two tin cans soldered together, so it wasn't long before the darkness was lit by little stoves brewing up tea and warming our hands. We scrambled over the Tauern Pass which was 1740 mtrs above sea level, it was bitterly cold walking through snow; we were covering twenty miles every day for eleven days, it was hard going. We finally arrived at Stalag XVIIIC Markt-Pongau prison camp, where the German guards offered us their rifles. The date was the 10th of May, 1945. The war had been over for two days, we could not believe it, we were at last going home."

28th May 1945 – Margate England N.Z.E.F. Dear folks, Reception in this Country wonderful, received cable & letters, I don’t expect to be back in NZ for some time about Xmas I guess. Everything is mighty expensive here, my friend Maurice and I are arranging a flat in Londons West End I shall look up Des Scott and see if he is interested. I landed in England with practically nothing, just ever so relieved. We had a wonderful trip over by “Lancaster” Bombers, boy what a kite. We were with the Yanks in Germany for 3 weeks they gave us a most marvellous time, they’ll do me. Today we are busy getting re equipped, we are almost finished. Just received a ‘tenner” mighty queer to handle real money again. I shall write again shortly . Cheerio, love to all Yours Ron.

Karen McKnight



Sgt. Ronald Mayfield "Buck" Cridge No 8 Comp. N Grp 26th Btn.

POW CAMP XVIII

Maadi Training Camp, Ronald 2nd from Right.

My father born on 19th April 1919. He went to Christchurch Cathedral Grammar School and became a movie theatre manager and cinema operator. He enlisted on 24th June 1940. Although offered training to become an officer he was keen to be away, so he started as a Private Cridge in Charge. He embarked on 2nd July 1941.

After enlisting, Ronald went to Burnham Camp for initial training before being sent with his friend Brownie Dann to Wellington with the 1st Section of the 4th reinforcements on the evening of the 7th November on the “Rangitira”. Embarking the following morning on the Polish ship the “Batory” sailing on the eve of the 8th November into a howling gale, they were accompanied by the “Achilles” and the “Maunganui” to Sydney. The troops had 2½ days leave, then sailed in convoy with three larger ships full of Australian troops escorted by three Australian cruisers to Fremantle. The Batory was a liner of 14287 tons and was captained by Deyczakowski, but owned by the British and employed as a troop carrier during the war, also used to evacuate the families from Singapore.

The convoy spent five days in Fremantle while the cruisers searched for a German raider in the Indian Ocean. The convoy then departed for Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where they had a day's leave in Colombo. While on board Ronald was excused many duties and lectures as he worked six evenings a week as film projectionist in the ship’s cinema.

The convoy reached Port Tewfik on the 16th December where the New Zealanders disembarked and travelled by train to the Maadi Military Camp a few miles out of Cairo. Christmas day was spent at Maadi. After further weeks of training and two weeks guarding Italian Prisoners of War, the reinforcements were finally moved to the Helwan Military Camp where they were drafted into different battalions and other support units. Ronald joined the 26th Battalion and Brownie Dann the 20th, separated after a long time sharing the same platoon, barracks and ships.

On 3rd March the infantry battalions moved to Amiriya, about 12 miles from Alexandria and camped. On 6th March the NZ Division sailed from Alexandria, reaching Greece the following day. Some convoys took several days due to a storm, therefore arriving in Greece about the 11th or 12th. All infantry brigades camped on the slopes of Mt Hymettus on the outskirts of Athens before moving up to the front. They were there for about a week.

Ronald was taken prisoner at Kalamata with some 1000 New Zealanders and 1100 Australians and several thousand British. They were force marched to Corinth arriving on the 2nd May 1941 when he again met up with his friend Brownie Dann. From Corinth they were moved to Salonika arriving there on the 9th June. Two trainloads carrying most of the New Zealanders left Salonika on the 11th and 12th June. Ronald was on the train to Wolfsberg (Stalag 18a) in Austria, the main camp for all the Allied Prisoners Of War.

"From letters home"

Missing: On 29th May 1941 Ron was listed as missing in action.

Many letters of sympathy the family received, mostly saying that “Nothing much could happen to Buck”, and that they all pray for his survival, hopefully as a POW and that news will come soon.

A letter from Mr and Mrs Warren – `We can only hope that Ron is a Prisoner of War and while that is not a happy experience, it at least gives us some assurance that some day he will have the hope of returning to his loved ones. Today we are facing the most powerful and most efficiently equipped war machine the world has ever known and we can only do our best such as the wonderful work our boys did in Greece and are doing in Crete until it starts to run down and when we see a slackening, then we can start to drive it back to where it came from.

At present our tactics are to do all we can to build up our resources until that time comes, and adopt such measures as will tend to hasten its exhaustion. It is very unfortunate that in the meantime we will have casualties, but we must make sure that in winning this war future generations will not have to bear the suffering that our folks bear today. For the present our thoughts are with you and your family and we hope just as earnestly that your son will some day be restored to you all. Kindest regards and best hopes from Gen. Warren.

Prisoner of War:Captured while holding rear guard action at Kalamata Bay,to allow the majority to escape to waiting ships, taking the men to Crete - 29th April, 1941. The ships had gone, we were left and took to the hills where we were captured, carrying our friends we were marched for days to a rail junction, without food or water, we were herded onto cattle trucks at Corinth and shunted on our way, for many days more, still without food or water. I with two friends managed to carry some water with us to share around. We travelled by train to a few miles North of Athens where we had to disembark and walk again as the rail tunnels had been blown up by our engineers on the retreat. From there we were marched for many miles over hills, rather like the Christchurch Port Hills, on very primitive tracks, to a town called Lamia.

We slept on the track where we stopped, exhausted. The nights were cold. From Lamia we travelled to Salonika, we stayed there for a few days before being shunted into horse wagons and went to either Austria or Czechoslavakia. I was sent to Austria. Red Cross managed to get food parcels to us at some of the waiting junctions – arrived at Stalaag XVIII - near the City of Graz.

The “Jerry” ration was, 1 bowl of cabbage soup per day and 1 loaf of bread, normal size, among 8 men per day. Once a week, we got a piece of meat, but we didn't starve, as some POW camps without parcels did.

"19th Oct...snowing like crazy, thank goodness for the clothes from the R.C. We also managed to acquire an accordion and a violin for the concert we are organising, to keep up our spirits and make some fun. Am starting to understand more German...am working this week in the carpentry store under an old chap who was a POW in Italy in the last War, tells some interesting stories."

8th March 1942. Mail today, great to get your news, snow is thawing slowly, we had a great concert and special Sunday dinner of cabbage and potatoes and some horse flesh.

19th April.. my birthday another year gone, still doing OK. Today is the Big International Soccer Game, Scotland & Wales v N.Z. the money’s all on the Pommies. Had several letters last week, you seem to have received very few of mine, I write each week. Hopefully this will all be over soon, I’ve had several invitations to stay with people in London. Our bread rations have been cut again but will pull through.

26th April, Red Cross parcels of cigs today also the YMCA sent us some sports gear, snow all gone, but torrents of rain lately, no need to worry I am in good health.

6th June, beautiful day really summery...twelve months ago we were trekking over Larisa Pass in Greece, 40 miles long and consequently enjoyed a swim in a nearby river, all’s well although food is a bit scarce, my back is giving me a bit of trouble…

12th July, all in the pink, just received a parcel of winter clothes from NZ .. A Scottish chap and I have put together an Act to entertain the guys, had no mail for a while...we do a fair bit of gambling mainly two up or “Swy” and by the way our stakes are cigarettes which hold high esteem in our little circle, mail is very slow lately. We had some reinforcements this week, some more NZers received some news too, big changes in N.Z, keep those Ruddy Japs out is the Big Thing."

5th April. Mail is infrequent a shortage of sorters here in Stalag, weather is becoming warm yesterday we had an International Boxing & Wrestling match, the French man won after a hard fight, we get some news from the boys working outside when they return, we also have a very good chap as Padre here name of Ledgerwood. My kit bag with personal articles and souvenirs may be had on request from the Military Authorities. I hear the NZ Division is keeping up to its name, I wonder how many of my (26th) Battalion are left?

Please thank the NZ Patriots Soc I received 200 cigs today. We had another great sports meeting, I entered for everything consequently as stiff as blazes today. I hope we havn’t to write too many more letters from here, one day I shall write a book instead of these little one eyed things! Cherrio, Best of Love"

27th June, well the word is that we shouldn’t be too optimistic about a peace this year.

11th July 1943 – yesterday we had a Christchurch reunion a few personalities, Vic MacDonald, Maurice Collins, Lance Rankin, 26 in all a truly grand afternoon, news is good, but nothing can happen quickly enough for us.

14 July. A card from my friend John (Jack) Dillon from (Brisbane, Qnslnd.) from Stalaag VIIA Austria with his photo.

7th Aug. Hi folks, another week rolled by with the summer drawing to a close and also this war we hope. I’m still in Stalag awaiting repairs to my hut been here 8 months, finding plenty to do. I can hear the strains of our latest Stalag “Hit” “Land of Begin Again”.

16th Nov. Winter is here, becoming intensely cold again, for the last 2 months I have been out in the forest gathering wood for the winter – Carl Carlisle has just produced his latest pantomime entitled “Lights Life” a great show he is an enormous asset to our Stalag.

22nd Nov. 1943, I have been moved out of Stalag to this terrible godforsaken hole Luzon, we in Germany are entitled the “Toothless Terrors”, there are exactly 104 but 12 went through, they are doing time in the local “Boob”, there have been more “Captains” here dishing out orders than I have ever seen before even in the front line. I am busy at present with the Man of Confidence job on my hands.

8th Jan 1944 Xmas and New Year festivities are over, some quite pleasant memories to relate at a later date. We had a Christmas Pantomime entitled “Aladdin” a superb effort I shall have some photos to show you – every day there are new boys coming to join our “happy band” they do bring some very different stories. Thanks for sending me the cake.

14th June. Well here we go again folks, busy as blazes, I’m 2nd in Comm. Confidence Man at a large Camp of 600 men so you can imagine how much there is to do with all their little troubles with the authorities, works etc. but I do find it interesting, it passes the time quickly. Haven’t had a cigs. Parcel for months. I with two other chaps run a race meeting in aid of the Red Cross which was a big success raised nearly 1000 marks.- Keep smiling Mum, Cheerio.."

Liberated 28 April 1945 - we were marched off into the unknown supposedly for safety, we walked through snow with little clothing and less food over a pass to Markt Pongau some 11 days. Leaving at last. Boarding the Dakota to Britain - departure May 1945.

``LONDON 28th May 1945 – Margate England N.Z.E.F. Dear folks, Reception in this country wonderful, received cable and letters, I don’t expect to be back in NZ for some time about Xmas I guess. Everything is mighty expensive here, my friend Maurice Collins and I are arranging a flat in London's West End I shall look up Des Scott and see if he is interested. I landed in England with practically nothing, just ever so relieved. We had a wonderful trip over by Lancasters, boy what a kite. We were with the Yanks in Germany for 3 weeks they gave us a most marvelous time, they’ll do me.

Today we are busy getting re-equipped, we are almost finished. Just received a ‘tenner” mighty queer to handle real money again. I shall write again shortly."

1st August 1945 –“ Rangitiki”. Well we are on our way to Panama City another dirty place where we will get a few days' leave, the ship is very slow only 14 knots and the engines always breaking down but I guess we shall make it OK. At present she’s rolling like the devil can’t keep the table still. Do you know that of the 5000 NZ troops who were in England on leave 2000 or more got married.

shall never forget the glorious time I had in England and the grand friends I made, this will be the last letter until I reach home, Cheerio, love to all, Yours Ron."

Karen McKnight







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