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Gnr. Arthur Bayliss
Royal Artillery 277/68 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
from:Kidderminster, WorcestershireMy late father Arthur Bayliss of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, enlisted in Bishop Auckland in September 1940 as a gunner in the 277/68 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.
In February 1941 he was posted to the Middle East where he fought until he was captured by the Italians at Tobruk in June 1942. As Prisoner Number 247030 he was held for approximately 18 months by the Italians at Campo p.g. 75 PM 3450 and Campo 54, PM 3300 before arriving at Stammlager IVB in December 1943.
He was put to work breaking stone and then transferred to Stalag IVD in March 1944. Twelve months later he was working in a sugar factory making vitamin tablets, which he described as Ďa cushy numberí. That work ran out and he was sent to work in an emergency hospital. Being a bit of a
Fed up with this life he soon decided to try to escape and went through the wire on 25 March 1945. He slept in the woods at Golpa but was arrested by German civilian Police two days later. He was charged at Bittefeld and sentenced to 5 days jail on bread and water. On release he was sent back to work, this time in the penal colony, again with a guard keeping watch over him.
On 4th April 1945, whilst at work, he witnessed Pte W R Devlin, an Australian POW being shot by a German civilian. It was Pte Devlinís 23rd birthday. Dad was a bearer at his funeral 3 days later. On April 13th the Bittefeld area was evacuated and Dad was marched approximately 25 km to camp Schammewitz but he decided to escape again and took off that same night, his objective was to reach Wurzen. Freedom was short lived, he was recaptured on 16 April at Schildan and taken to the cells at Torgau.
Stalag IVD was then evacuated and Dad together with all the other prisoners were marched to Stalag IVB with Ukranians aged only 14 to 16 years. On 23rd April Stalag IVB was liberated when the Russian Cavalry rode into camp and on the 30th Dad left Stalag IVB with the objective of reaching Leipzig. He lived well in various houses en route passing through Torgau, Arzburg, Belgern, and Neusen. He diverted to Dahlen on hearing that the Yanks were there and they took him to Maachern and then on to Halle.
Like so many POWís Dad never talked about his years as a prisoner and so this information is very sketchy. It has been pieced together from letters to Vera, his wife, which of course were censored, his diary, kept only for a short time in 1945 and jottings in his Service Pay book. Hopefully it may add to the knowledge of how othersí family members existed during this time. If anyone knew Dad or recognises events I would be very pleased to hear from them.
I doubt that Dad escaped alone, in fact one of the few tales he told of his escapes was that he and his comrades caught and killed a pig to eat. They built a fire to roast it. However, they were so hungry that they couldn't wait for it to cook and ate it partially raw, with the result that it made them all ill. He also said that whilst in camp they had such little food that he would scrounge potato peelings from the guards.
He had some names in his Soldiers Service and Pay Book which were:-
- Tommy Norfolk of Leicester
- R Douglas of Liverpool
- A Mellows of Nottingham
- K Whittingham of Wolverhampton
Were these people with whom he was imprisoned? Did they get home safely and are they still alive? If anyone recognises the names or has information about them, I would love to know.
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