Sunday, 26 October 2014


An extract from the diary of Ernest Fisher Lodge – 7th Tank Regiment. 8th Army

Ernest Fisher Lodge MBE, (1906-1998) often known to his friends as Oliver, joined up in June 1940 after returning to England from living and working in Sumatra.  Lodge is the most common surname in Skelmanthorpe where his father and mother, Nee ‘Fisher’ originated, but he was born in Normanton.  He led a most adventurous life from beginning to end and this is just a small part of it as a tank commander with three tanks during the fall of Tobruk.


Rommel attacked on the 26th May 1942 and in fierce fighting in a battle called the ‘Cauldron’ drove us back, again surrounded in Tobruk and drove the rest of our army back to a fortified line only 60 miles from Alexandria.  By this time we were all mighty tired.  At one point I fell asleep whilst standing, fell on my face and broke my spectacles.  Tobruk defences had been neglected; the anti-tank ditch breached in many parts and could not be repaired by the time Rommel attacked in force with his tanks.

When news came through that they had broken through and were heading into Tobruk I was then in the 7th Tank Regt. sent to meet them.  I should say that in the previous few weeks of chasing them here and there, with little rest, our batteries were run down and communication by radio useless.  Whilst concentrating on what was ahead I did not know what was behind me.  After crossing a low ridge I could see a semi-circle of German tanks approaching and went to meet them to close range before opening fire.

As a note, I get the impression from the earlier picture of him in a tank below, that the foremost tank is a Matilda, which was equipped with a two pounder gun.  The Matilda had heavy armour but was very slow and replaced by the Valentine.  If this picture was taken before being re-equipped, which I think it was, he was probably in a Valentine Mark III tank in his final battle when wounded before the fall of Tobruk in 1942, The Valentine Mark III also had a two pounder gun and was manned with a commander and crew of three.  Its limitation was that it only fired solid shell, not high explosive.

Pictures from a book about the 8th Army published by HMSO

Our gun was a two pounder, solid shell, accurate but almost useless against German tanks.  I could see it hit a tank and shoot up red hot from the impact.  We were soon being hit ourselves; the turret jammed so that we could not aim and the engine was out of action.  Only then I looked behind me and was surprised to find that, apart from a knocked out tank behind me, there was no other tank in sight.  The occupants had jumped out and were crouching in a nearby hole some 2ft deep and 10ft square.  We followed suit and my three men made it safely to the hole.  There was no other British tank in sight and it was probable they were hiding hull down as it is called, behind the ridge that we had passed.  In fact one came rushing down in an attempt to help us but rushed back just as quickly.

Whilst my three men ran to the hole – two men died from wounds from the other tank – I myself was hit in the side and staggered backwards until I fell flat on the hard ground.  Not knowing the extent of the damage I stayed there and watched the semi circle of tanks approaching.  It was mid-day, 18th June 1942 and scorching heat.  A German tank commander looked down on me as he passed within a few feet, spoke into his microphone and the whole lot moved on.

About half an hour later a German ambulance vehicle rushed up.  A friendly doctor and orderly jumped out, cut away half my shorts and bush jacket before wrapping a swathe of bandages round me, told me to hang on to be picked up later, and attended to the others in the hole before rushing off again.  I seemed to fry there for a long time before a larger van arrived but I suppose it was maybe ¾ hour.  We were taken to a tented hospital and well treated.  A British sergeant gave me a pair of shorts which, with the remnants of my bush jacket, was all I had for the next year.  Next day we were transported by lorry westward within sight of Tobruk garrison and were fired on by perimeter guns still holding out.  No hits, and we carried onto another larger hospital overlooking the sea.  Meanwhile Tobruk fell and thousands of prisoner, stores, ammunition, taken.


In June 1942 Tobruk fell.

In my previous spell in the desert, throughout the fighting during the break-out from the first besieged Tobruk, I had no camera with me, having got safely out regretted not having had one.  Next time I had my Leica and I suppose that some Jerry salvaged it from my tank.  He in turn will probably have lost it again to British troops in Montgomery’s next push.  At the same time I lost my pair of Zeiss binoculars, a beautiful pair, which I had got from a German officer in the first push.  He was a dead one actually and I got them from an infantryman who lifted them off him.  I could have lifted several expensive cameras from German officers when they were taken as prisoners to Halfaya prison camp had I been thick skinned enough.  As it was I complied with the regulations, took cameras away and stored them until the end of the war, giving an official receipt.  I doubt that they will treat us the same.  As prisoners the Germans are orderly, disciplined and respectful, whilst the Italians are just an undersized, scrounging, disorderly mob – worse than Egyptians and that’s saying a lot.  The Germans despise the Italians more than we do if that’s possible.

Our tent had a pebble covered floor, two-tier metal bunks down each side, about 12 in all, and we were under and Italian doctor and 2 Italian orderlies.  Being less damaged then most I took a top bunk and was mobile enough to help the orderly dress the badly wounded; lost limbs etc..  About a fortnight later – it seemed like months- we were put aboard an Italian hospital ship, which was like heaven with a fine operating theatre, doctors, nurses, a cabin each and even an Italian princess handing out chocolates.  In peace-time it was a tourist liner, now painted white, and had a large red cross on each side.  I was shocked to read later it was sunk by one of our submarines because of information that it was carrying enemy troops.

We disembarked in Naples and were transported to a very big hospital staffed by captured British doctors, male nurse, etc., on top of a mountain range, Caberta, on the map.  There were some really bad casualties here, among them airmen shot down in flames, and I felt almost like an impostor to be with them.  After a few weeks I was put on a train, along with 24 walking wounded, and taken to Bergamo, near Lake Como, at the very north of Italy.  Here we were comfortably housed in an old monastery, with nuns as nurses and an excellent Italian doctor.  The food though good, was hardly sufficient for convalescent patients but on suggesting this to the matron she firmly told us that we were getting more than the Italians outside.

In the next bed to me was Jack Storey, the officer in the tank behind me, also knocked out, who lost two men as they made for shelter in the hole I mentioned earlier.  We became friends and wrote to each other for some years after the war.  He settled in Rhodesia.  We became separated on leaving hospital, being sent to different POW camps.  He also escaped, was returned to his unit - tanks - and was one of the first into Berlin at the war’s end.  Another inmate I shall never forget was Captain Walters, Royal Navy, who was senior Naval Officer commanding Tobruk when the Germans attacked.  He organised the escape of his men, under heavy tank fire across the harbour, and with another Naval Captain was hit, the latter killed. Capt. Waters himself suffered serious wounds.  When it became possible and he could sit up, I played chess with him on his bed although one arm was still in plaster pointed skywards.  He was full of wry dry humour and naval yarns.


In December 1942 from my comfortable bed in Bergamo I was transported by train to an officers’ prison camp called Chieti, near the port of Pescara on the Adriatic, some 50 yards from the sea.  It was built by Mussolini for political prisoners before the war, M.P.s etc., who didn’t share his views.

Surrounded by a 20ft brick wall, with barbed wire and sentry boxes on the top, enclosing an area of about three acres, it contained several well built barracks.  They had red tiled floors and adequate toilet and lavatory sections, all clean and well maintained.  An 8ft gangway ran down the centre of each block, with open room branching from each side.  Each room contained 10 wooden double bunks, being five on each side, thus taking 20 men per room.  There were simple glass windows, easily opened on all sections.  A simple mattress supported by wooden slats and a thick dark blanket completed the fittings.  Food, usually rice or spaghetti, was basic but as much as one could expect.  We were paid the same as an Italian officer of the same rank – low on our standards – but with it we were able to buy ample supplies of fresh food brought in trucks by Italian farmers, in season, particularly grapes and luscious figs straight from the tree.  We missed all that during the early months until Red Cross parcels – one parcel for two men – began to dribble in.

We were completely free to do what we wanted during daylight hours and at the left hand side of the NW compound was a well cut area of grass as flat as a pancake, suitable for football, baseball etc..  Mostly it was occupied by small groups of men sitting in circles, with a lecturer or teacher standing in the middle.  War-time army is leavened with a mass of civilians from all walks of life: lawyers, engineers, architects, teachers, oil-men, stockbrokers and even planters.  Amongst these one may learn almost any trade or profession and a choice of languages.  For instance one man was the son of the Ambassador to Japan, had been born there, and was teaching Japanese.

We also had, apart from men from all over the Empire and Dominions, around 20 American airmen who had been shot down over the desert or the Mediterranean. These were fine young chaps who, when war broke out in Europe, went over to Canada and joined the Canadian Air Force, being moved to the UK as soon as trained and joined the RAF in Hurricanes and Spitfires to help fight the battle of Britain.  I became great friends with two of these, of whom I will tell you more later.  These teaching groups, mentioned above, were able to have text books sent out from the UK, continued the same studies when transferred to Germany, and were ready to pass the required exams when arriving back in the UK

On arrival at the camp, some 6 months after the fall of Tobruk, I was placed along with a few others, into the last available room.  There was a sound of cheering throughout the camp.  The reason became clear when an inmate entered the room carrying about a dozen rolls of toilet paper for issue to each inmate.  This was the first seen in the history of the camp – about three months.  As I was the oldest in the room they handed it to me.  At the same time a young well built Yank, Claud Weaver, arrived in the camp and was put in my room.  We introduced ourselves and I handed him a roll telling him how lucky he was.  He turned it down, took the last remains of a roll from his hip pocket and said, ‘I won’t need it. I shall be out of here before I have finished this!’  Although moved to separate rooms next day, the Yanks being placed in a separate block, we became good friends.  He was a Spitfire pilot and had shot down 14 German fighters in the battle of Britain and Mediterranean and was decorated twice, still only 18 years old.   After being shot down in Sicily, before he was captured, he had fought off the Italians with his pistol until he ran out of ammunition. Soon after, he was badly beaten up by guards whilst stuck under barbed wire but he kept on trying. He was an ‘Ace’ of the war. 

Moved to a permanent berth I found myself in the top bunk over another Yorkshireman, Jack Kemp, from Bradford.  He was Royal Horse artillery – the oldest regiment in the British Army, as he frequently reminded me.  He had been badly wounded against Rommel and his tanks in the battle of Sidi Rezegh, a costly struggle on both sides, in which Rommel was driven back.  Jack, however, was captured and after months in hospital landed at Chieti where we first met.  We didn’t go for study but became regular bridge partners and managed to reach the final once.  Our regular opponents were a couple of pilots, RAF, Rupert Law, Hurricanes and a bomber pilot called Wyley.  We were about equal but Kempo, as we called him, tended to brag a lot and finally got us into trouble.  It happened, about half way through our stay that the first issue of Red Cross parcels arrived in camp, to be issued one parcel between two men.  When Kempo was in his bragging mood, Rupert suggested we have a bet on the next game, the stake being a Red Cross parcel.  We had to accept, and lost, becoming the butt of all and sundry.

Amongst the inmates were brilliant musicians, and even a London bandleader, who could put on professional shows.  Musical instruments were supplied by the Ites.  Our own bugler sounded ‘Lights-Out’ at night.  Various plays were put on which a few Italian officers also attended. All our food, fairly Spartan, was cooked by British ’other-ranks’ who were housed and did the cooking in the bottom left hand corner of the camp.

During all this time certain groups were organising escape tunnels and I was invited to join one group of about 20 men.  The starting point was an iron grating just under the number 3 on Block three, and the tunnel was to head for, and under, the wall.  It was hard going to begin with.  We drew lots for first man down the hole and I ‘won’.  The square hole was brick lined, with a cast iron lid, about 2ft square and 3ft deep, with a valve of some sort at the bottom operated by a circular grip.  With a small home made chisel and hammer I sat on the latter whilst they closed the lid.  In this cramped position I was able to knock some of the mortar out from around one brick in a 2 hour shift, my chest being only about 9 inches from the wall and only able to tap the chisel like a woodpecker.  However, after a week the wall was cut out, progress was rapid and a chamber 5ft square and 6ft deep was dug out.  A tunnel just high enough to kneel in and about 2ft wide was started, bellows made for pumping air into the tunnel, a trolley for hauling back earth etc., and 8-hour shifts of 3 men per shift working day and night.  Constant watch had to be kept on the movement of the guards whilst changing shifts, passing out excavated earth etc., and ingenuity stretched to dispose of it.

Tolerance of other camp inmates was stretched even further as alternate wooden slats supporting mattresses were progressively removed for supporting the walls and roof of the tunnel.  Illumination came from a cigarette tin containing olive oil and a bootlace through the lid as a wick.  Engineers, I learned later, had their own tunnel, illuminated by tapping the camp mains.  Also it eventually came to light that a total of four tunnels were well advanced by the time the Ites surrounded.  My Yank pal was on one which I knew of by the time the Ites surrounded because I took him down ours to show him the works. 

Claud Weaver was involved in one of the tunnels in the ‘other ranks’ cookhouse where theoretically he was not allowed to be as an officer.  He frequented this area as he was able to supplement his rations that way.

He cookhouse tunnel was progressing when they came across a horizontal drain and decided to break into it to see if it could be used as the escape route.  Opening it up from the top, two of them crawled into it, with Claude in the lead.  With a light positioned between his legs he was sliding along but quickly became overcome by fumes and was fortunate enough to be dragged back out.  It was decided to try again, perhaps because the tunnel that was ventilated by the home made bellows and can piping would have cleared some of the fumes.  This time a colleague went first with Claud behind.  The candle used for illumination ignited the now explosive mixture of gas in the system, badly burning the chap in front who had to be hauled out semi conscious.  His burns were explained away as a cooking accident as he had to spend some time in hospital.  As a consequence it was decided to carry on over the top of the drain, which was sealed back up again.  Of all the tunnels, this one was reckoned at the time to have the best chance of success.

British pilots were moved from Chieti to a camp called Fontanellato further to the north.  On hearing this move, Danny decided his best chance to escape was during transit if he could get on it but, being American was not part of it.  He persuaded an English pilot to let him go in his place, dying his blond hair with boot polish.  He was accepted.  He set off with the idea of jumping off the train en-route.  He decided against this when one of the British pilots attempted to escape while the train was still in the station to be promptly shot and killed.  Claud took great pleasure whenever he saw the guard who did it, in gesticulating towards him and announcing to the world what he had done.

Claud tired of Fontanellato, so he revealed his true identity and that he was there as a result of a mistake, managing to wangle his way back again.

All the tunnelling came to naught when we heard that Italy had surrendered and we assumed we should all be freed which, I heard later, happened in some camps.  To our amazement the senior British officer in the camp had a notice out on the board saying that all POWs had to stay put and that anyone trying to escape would be court martialled after the war,.  To enforce this, a roster of officers detailed for night patrols was posted for this purpose.  About half the Italian garrison instantly deserted.  However our Italian senior officer was a Mussolini man and kept the wall look-outs in business.

From the link below -

P.G. 21
Old convent; Officers Camp. After the Armistice, anybody wishing to leave the camp was forcibly prevented from doing so by the orders of the Senior British Officer who was following to the letter the orders of Allied HQ to remain in the camp and await the arrival of Allied forces. Consequently the Germans were able to capture them all. They were subsequently transferred to P.G. 78, just outside Sulmona, and thence to camps in Germany where they remained until the end of the war.


The first night Claud Weaver and another Yank Spit-pilot went over the wall.  Danny Newman told me this and the second night, 20th September 1943, he and I went over the same corner, south east. 

Quote from saved

‘The Italians saw which way the wind was blowing and sued for an armistice. The uncertain period that followed was called the Imbroglio and represented a unique opportunity for many POWs to escape as their Italian guards abandoned their posts. Such was the case at Chieti. Indeed, an old Italian, a friend of Eric had asked him to go with him before the Germans came. Going to seek permission from the Camp Commander, he was told that they were in a state of Martial Law and as such everyone should remain where they were. The actions of the senior officer later drew much criticism from the POWs present, not least Larry Allen, an Associated Press correspondent captured from HMS Sikh in Sept. 1942. According to Foot and Langley's 'MI9 Escape and Evasion 1939-1945', the AP correspondent 'protested when he got back to the U.S. that Colonel Marshall, the senior British officer in the huge camp PG 21 at Chieti had been too strict and that the War Office's orders had been too inflexible' (pp.161-2). No sooner had the Italians left, than the Germans rushed to fill the vacuum, surrounding the camp early one morning.’

When the armistice was signed on the 8th September, - that is when we first heard of it, we all thought that we were free at last and there was wild rejoicing throughout the camp.  Chaps were racing around hooting and yodelling and there were fierce arguments as to how any days it would be before we should reach England.  Some were calculating on being with their wives for the weekend and most of them did not sleep that night.  During the next few days disillusionment slowly set in when it was found that we still had Italian guards around the camp.  Most of them had deserted immediately on hearing that an armistice had been signed but there were still enough to man a skeleton sentry system round the camp.  We were ordered to remain put and told that anyone attempting to escape would be shot.


Monday, 20th September 1943

Saw Danny Newmann in the morning, after receiving a negative reply to my invitation to join an escape to Paul Landswell, and arranged to leave camp tonight. 

Danny Newman, who only met me one day before we went over the wire, was an American who had gone to Canada at the outbreak of war to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force.  When trained he was sent to the UK to the RAF and was a fighter pilot who was shot down over Libya.  In fact Danny had intended going out with a Canadian Captain, but before he made it out the Captain was put under house arrest.  Danny had been the first to get out of that camp but then had to retrieve his gear. Then after he found his buddy the Canadian had been arrested he climbed back into the camp again over the rear wall, the one their tunnel went under.  An Italian guard saw him and told him not to go back in.  When he got back in the rest of the boys who had been at a ‘Show’ came back and said – ‘But you escaped we saw you!’  ‘Not me,’ he said, ‘There is an order and no one escaped.’  They said Claud Weaver was so mad that he and Mouse had gone over the side wall.

I had received a Red Cross parcel today and obtained a small Ite Pack.  I sorted out my gear and explained things to Kempo.  At 9pm I began to dump things near the wire.  I lost Danny and hid in a latrine until after 10pm waiting for him.  At lights out I went to Danny’s bed and was told that Danny was through the wire and had got his stuff through with him.  I went out of the window and rolled up to the wire while a Yank talked to the Italian in the guard box.  I crawled through the wire and took some time to locate Danny.  There was a lot of light about.  I collected my gear but could not find my best pack and water bottle so had to leave them. We stood upright and walked into the Italians’ quarters through the strong light and the POW ‘guards’ stopped talking to look at us.  We stole across the thinly occupied barracks without seeing anyone that mattered and onto a sentry box we could see was unoccupied.  Below it was a small room containing a buggy.  There were some Italians by the main gate who were busy and not looking our way so we rushed for cover and managed to get in unobserved.   We had hardly got in when the Italian guard came strolling in with his rifle over his shoulder.  There wasn’t much time to think.  We stood tight against the wall on the door posts and grabbed him tightly as he came through, a hand over his mouth.  He was obviously scared to death, had no intention of taking any action, and told us the Germans were right then marching alongside the wall outside to take over the camp.  Further, that he had watched Claude Weaver and his pal get over the wall at the same corner the night before.  In addition that if he wasn’t soon in his box there would be some reaction at the main gate.  We gave him his rifle and a bar of chocolate and sent him up to his box from where he signalled us a favourable time to head for the corner.  We did so.  The shafts of a horse wagon were leaning upwards at this point I ran up first and hauled myself up the shafts to reach the top of the wall.  I got up first and pulled Danny up and then I dropped down and ran to some bushes, looking round to see Danny stuck in the barbed wire on top of the wall.  He threw himself down the 14 foot drop bringing wire with him, disentangling himself, joined me, and then ran down a ditch until we were puffed.  Unknowingly he had injured himself somewhat causing pain later.  Our antics would have been impossible before the surrender.  In the previous history of the camp two inmates had succeeded in escaping from the camp, hiding under a lorry or amongst camp rubbish, but were quickly given away by civilians and returned to the camp.  As we later learnt from some of our tunnel friends in Taranto, they hid in their tunnels whilst the Germans took a roll call of the others, having to come out as soon as possible or suffocate.  The Jerries evacuated the camp two days later and many of the tunnellers managed to make it to Taranto.  I never heard of anyone being court-martialled. In fact I was given some rapid promotion.

Two of the best know inmates of the camp were Freddie Brown, the late captain of the English Test team and Bill Bowes, Test bowler.

 We walked south all night, up and down very steep slopes giving me a raging thirst and making me a physical wreck.  We found a deep narrow well, as grapes we found only increased our thirst.  We set our course by the stars and as dawn arrived we descended an eroded precipice into a wooded ravine giving good cover with Buccianio to the left and the Chieti road in view.

Tuesday 21st September 1943

We lay up in a stream bed and slept a little.  We ate 3 biscuits, a little margarine, 1/8 lb of cheese and 1/4lb of chocolate, rationing ourselves for along hike.  I found the one water bottle I still had insufficient.  At dusk, we set out following a country track down the valley, hoping that it would lead us around a nasty headland jutting across our route.  It didn’t!  We spent all night crawling up and down what felt like precipices feeling dead beat with frequent stops and naps and much swigging of dirty water from a stream.  We ate stacks of unripe tomatoes and soon began to know about it.  We climbed a mountain to a small stone village and did everything to find water except knock on doors to ask.  1000 dogs began barking.  We found a small well with a long stick managed to get some water up.  We ate grapes we found then descended to find a hide out in a creek-bed with small pools of water.

Wednesday 22nd September 1943

We slept a little and had our first brew up which was good.  We dug a hole for water and had a bath.  People passed by but did not see us and we stopped until dusk before setting off again to a good start.  We had bad luck right away getting cut up in some dense brambles.  So we went to the creek bed and followed it for miles until it petered out in a small canyon.  We climbed up the slopes through vineyards guzzling grapes and apples to find a track and then met some Italians.  They directed us to a farm where an old couple gave us water and we gave them Red Cross soap.  We climbed again and found a country road giving a wonderful view of the mountains and sea.  We began to descend but then decided to wait for the moon and slept soundly in a small ‘goeboek’ alongside the vines.  It was a great wrench to break sleep and start the hike again and we made little progress.

Thursday 23rd September 1943

We came to a wayside fountain and horse trough.  Whilst filling the water bottle some Italians came out of a neighbouring farmhouse and warned us that the district was lousy with Jerries.  We left and hid in a large ravine for a day and were found by a kid looking after sheep.  We ate two biscuits each and an American emergency ration which was difficult to swallow as we again had no water.  We returned at dusk to the fountain and were surprised by the Italian inviting us in for bread, macaroni and wine.  Wonderful stuff!  We felt like new men and gave him Navy Cut tobacco, soap, matches and a little chocolate for the kid.  Heading out for the mountains we crossed flat olive groves with soft brown loamy soil and soon came to rough slopes and stone walls, but could no longer move in the dark.  The cold gave us hell on the mountainside and I lost my last handkerchief.

Friday 24th September 1943

We started off at daylight hitting a road in search of water and got some from a surly peasant and daughter.  We came across a ruined castle and found a large cave with water and a small cave as a hideout. We had a good brew and it was a god camp in a wooded creek with a straw hut.  We decided it was a good place to stay for a few days until our troops arrived, foraging the neighbourhood for fruit and vegetables at night.  We were almost spotted by a goatherd and dogs.  We made a cache for food then had an unsuccessful night’s forage.  The country is broken by colossal river beds, dry but thick with massive boulders and precipitous banks, with treacherous stone terraces separating fields.  We returned to the straw hut and had a cold sleep.

Saturday 25th September 1943

Had usual brew or water from Goat’s Piss Cave and sat in the sun outside Sheep Shit Cave when a shot rang out nearby shaking us more than somewhat.  We retired quickly to a gully then spent another night foraging, collecting grapes, tomatoes and turnip.  It was another cold night’s sleep disturbed by quick moves owing to rain and Danny is pissed off.

Sunday 26th September 1943.

Had our usual brew then moved into Sheep shit cave and found an emergency water supply, and had Bully stew.  A dog and some boys looked us over.  We spent the night sleeping in Sheep Shit cave which was cold and damp and had to brew half way through the night to warm up making a dense smoke screen.

Monday 27th September 1943

We were taking in the sun when we were spotted by a peasant who gave us his lunch of bread and offered to bring us more.  He showed us another arched roof stone hut filled with ferns and we looked forward to a better night but it was cold and draughty so we had a bad night .  We picked some wild apples.

Tuesday 28th September 1943.

It was raining and in a lull we made a rush for Sheep Shit Cave and had a brew then went down to Goat’s Piss Cave for water and found two Italians there, a cadet and a civilian, who had run away from Chieti.  Next there came a whole tribe of nondescripts and adolescents running away from the Germans.  Its Captain arrived in civvies - an impressive type who made a speech at the mouth of the cave.  There were all kinds of arms present in the mob and all kinds of itchy fingers, one type having already taken a pot shot at us earlier on, now friendly giving us lots of bread, cheese and chillies.  The mob continued to grow in spite of the rain and we retired to Sheep Shit Cave and our fire, cornstalks and ferns for another cold night that compelled a midnight smoke-brew.

Wednesday 29th September 1943

The riff-raff continued to arrive at the grotto. Two better class youths arrived, well dressed and practising English and French on us.  They were running away from German forced labour squads and had a gun and binoculars.  An ancient labourer called Philedelf gave us his lunch.  We shaved in the gulley.  Joe Mesicoli (Fu) Repino, Dist. Chieti turned up with bread, cheese, salt, tomatoes, apples, vino, and offered us some lire as well.  Then it was back to the damp fern bed with the usual midnight brew.

Thursday 30th September 1943

We had hardly finished breakfast when a swarm of adolescents arrived, bringing two Jugoslavs called Richter and Watchmaker, a well dressed couple who brought jam, cheese sausage and a fine guide book of Abruzzi.  They left early but the youths hung on for most of the day. Sergeant McKirdy of the 5th Green Howards turned up wearing white gym shoes, had a cup of tea and left within two hours.  (He escaped successfully).  He was from Whitby area and I subsequently wrote to his wife when I got back to the UK to tell her he was on his way.  He wrote to thank me when he got home.  The Jugoslavs returned in the evening bringing an answer to our note requesting news and also a blanket and a sheet, underpants and more jam.  We now had plenty of food and slept much better with extra clothes.  Previously I had stuffed my shirt with grass and ferns to help to keep warm.

Friday 1st October 1943

Having shaved again we packed up for a move to another cave suggested by the Jugoslavs who promised us clothes but failed to appear. It was a quiet showery day.  Then more Jugoslavs arrived, one an innkeeper, bringing another blanket, a hot meal and plenty of sugar.  We returned to the cave for the night.  We heard that the Germans were thick in Guediegrele and using the road between there and Chieti for mein transport.

Saturday 2nd October 1943

Eating early we cleared out of the cave to avoid the crowd and had bath in the grotto. Three Italians appeared, Palmino and two Jewish types who offered us food and money before leaving and an old Italian gave us figs. A young Italian gave us walnuts.  Palmino returned with 6 large eggs and some grapes.  The Jugoslavs arrived bringing a two litre bottle of water.  There was plenty of rain and the sky was illuminated by flashes for hours.  The local Italians have hundreds of plans to help us but nothing material results.

Sunday 3rd October 1943

It rained all night.  We had hardly finished eating when the biggest invasion ever arrived.  There was a Russian captain who had been a Jewish internee with a red head Jewess and child and bringing with them British Sergeant Turmayne of the 1st Buffs in company with a Yank Top-Sergeant Wright, dressed in civvies and undecided as to head south or join the maquis gang.  The internees brought blankets, sardines, bully etc and offered us hand grenades, guns etc., and also a house to live in.  We turned down all these offers as the Jugoslavs had promised us a house and a plan to get away.  They tried to persuade us to join the guerrillas – but there was nothing doing with that undisciplined mob.   The Sergeants, dressed in civvies, and carrying nothing said that the going was easy and that they were heading for the frontier. (Turmeyne was retaken prisoner and spent the rest of his war as a POW in Germany).  Their talk turned out to be baloney and the Yank actually stole my underpants when I lent him my roll to use my sewing kit – the louse!  The Rapino Town treasurer then appeared with a lieutenant and offered to help us in any way which we declined.  Palmino then arrived with an Italian farmer, a sturdy young chap, and at dusk we were conducted secretly into Rapino, first of all edging around the town and then apparently walking straight through the centre of it.  After along wait we had spaghetti, wine eggs and grapes and were then taken to a small granary at the far side of town for a night’s sleep.

Monday 4th October 1943

Yokels soon began to push their noses around the door.  Hot milk was provided in a neighbouring house with pieces of dry bread.  It was a hovel of the usual type with a huge fireplace, scrappy fuel and barefoot women dressed in black with an old Italian man present who spoke a couple of words of English.   We sat around for a while then Palmino come in with civilian clothes.  Danny got a complete blue suit and later I was also fitted out.  We then walked up the main street to meet the Mr and Mrs Glavan and their daughter and also to the house of Constantin to hear the wireless but had no luck with that.  Then we were taken by Palmino and Constantin to an empty farm house owned by Angelo which had a cow, chicks, rabbits etc below on the ground floor.  Angelo was an elderly man who became a particular friend.  Like thousands of Italians he had emigrated to America, solely with the object of saving enough money to return, buy a small farm and live happily ever after.  It was easily our best billet to-date.  There was plenty of fruit around and we gorged on some juicy figs burst by the rain.  There was a wonderful view of the mountains and neighbouring hill top towns.  We had to listen to Angelo could speak pidgin English (‘I give my life for you’), shouting his views for two hours.  He was a very excitable type.  We had a hot lunch in an oak plantation brought by Mrs Gavan and the girl. At dusk we fetched clothes from the last hang-out and on our way back were invited into the Glavan household where we had coffee and met the rest of the family, Old Lady, Mrs Glavan’s sister and son, and young Glavan.  Supper of Italian bully and bread and the Italian innkeeper came with cheese butter and jam. .

Tuesday 5th October 1943

My birthday.

We got up late to a pleasant smell of hay and dry leaves, went to the well for water, had breakfast then gave the house a general clean up.  We washed our clothes and socks at the spring.  A local woman came to draw water from the well.  At the request of the Glavan kids I drew a Union Jack, Danny the Stars and Stripes.  Palmino and Richter arrived with two Italian officers in civvies and I ploughed along in Dutch with Richter in German.  He has plans worked out for a retreat into the mountains when the Germans arrive and invited us to accompany him.  Palmino brought lunch and later the Glavan kids turned up.  My Italian pants were beginning to fall apart already.  We had a brew over the open fireplace being entertained by Angelo then after a shave and cleanup went to the Galvan’s’ for supper and a yarn.

Wednesday 6th October 1943

The 8th army reached Termoli.  Palmino brought milk.  Richeter and a Padre arrived with a Yank Sergeant pilot who they were trying to persuade to stay.  He left south bound south.  Another Italian took away my pants to be patched, a typical Italian job which I had to completely re-sew later.  I learned from the Padre that apart from a few escapees the bulk of the Chieti camp had been removed by the Germans.  Meat and potato lunch was from the Galvan’s.  Then two larrikin type BOR’s arrived in battledress being drunk in town last night and we were glad to see them away.  Richer arranged to take us in the afternoon to see an English girl internee but she failed to turn up.  We had the evening chez-nous with a stew of spuds, peppers, bully and tomatoes, roast spuds with bread and jam, in addition to the lot of walnuts we ate today. When we had turned in the Padre arrived with a mattress but we didn’t use it.

Thursday 7th October 1943

Had the usual fig hunt.  Whilst having breakfast Palmino arrived in a flap and said the Germans had posted proclamations in the town stating that all Italians found to be helping POWs would be shot etc., followed by Angelo in a state of nerves asking us to beat it.  We packed up and evacuated to the hills in mist and drizzle and just got into a ‘dome’ hut before heavy rain descended.  A peasant handed us bread, apples and walnuts.  Palmino gave me an automatic earlier in the morning.  We went down to Sheep Shit Cave as the rain abated and laid in wood and water. We found an upper cave which was small and dry but had no water supply but an excellent view., so we were able to watch our ‘War Hawks’ shooting hell out of a German convoy on the road to Guardiagrele. We had a cheerful fire with dense smoke which dried us out somewhat and kept a log fire going all night sleeping on a fern bed.

Friday 8th October 1943

After breakfast we carted our gear up to the top cave and sat there for the day, looking at the wonderful view and having no visitors.  We mulled over our situation and decided to beat it south for our lines, first of all calling in on Palmino to return his gear.  We had two quick brews and then were away at dusk, locating Angelo’s house pretty quickly.  We dumped our gear there in his barn and went to see the Galvans, explaining our situation to Palmino and exchanging addresses.  He’d got wind of a scheme for removing POWs by sea and had already collected five POWs to take to the coast.  We had dinner with Constantini, who had apparently arranged the move, and his sons and daughters, dumped more gear and set off at around 10pm for the mouth of the river Foro, just below Franceville.  There were seven of us all scattered and with Palmino ahead to scout with a small red torch to signal any danger at cross roads.  Roughly 20 miles along a good flat road, having two short rests, we arrived at the main coast road at about 4pm and walked down it for another mile or so, crossed a huge bridge, turned right and sat down in a damp cold field waiting for daylight in the drizzle.

Saturday 9th October 1943

At daylight Palmino took us to a house by the side of the sea road where we hung around, gradually learning that in the vicinity around 350 POWs had been collected who were waiting with some 50 heavily armed S.A.S. men for the arrival of a destroyer.  They had been waiting three days and this was the last chance.  Pennycook and Weymouth emerged from a side room doss-house and we got our first news of Campo 21.  The Germans had taken over the same night as we escaped and then began moving the POWs three days later, Yanks first.  Some 40 stayed in tunnels and slid out later.  We slept in an opium den atmosphere for most of the day and then had dinner with Penny and Wey.  There was signalling from sea at 9pm which turned out to be a German patrol.  Four Germans who were sent ashore in a dingy to see what all the signalling was about were promptly killed by the S.A.S. men, but not before the Germans had heaved off a couple of hand grenades causing general panic and chaos among the Jugoslav element who had rushed to be first into the boats.  Captain Bailey, commanding officer of the S.A.S. men advised all POWs to disperse and to make their own way down Italy.  After a short conference with Bailey, Danny and I decided to hoof it.  This was a big disappointment as we had done 20 miles in the wrong direction.  We met Gordon McFall and then hit the trail alongside a river.  At midnight after ploughing along for some time through muddy lanes we turned off into a brushwood shelter and slept until morning.

Sunday 10th October 1943

Somewhat discouraged at yesterday’s fiasco and the prior jettisoning of our kit we trudged on eating apples all day, going on the main road to pass Migianico and were accosted by a middle aged Italian on a push bike.  We tried to shoo him off but he insisted on taking us home for a meal.  Another Italian drew up and stated that he was a colonel and suggested that we escape with him by sailing a boat from Franceville which sounded good.  We had a hearty meal, a wash and shave before a whole gallery of peasants.  During the meal our host grew very cold on the boat deal and urged us to hurry up and thankfully put us on our way to a sheep track.  So more hopes crushed by the excitable Italians.  We hit the road immediately and found the big sheep track which was a terrific switch back trail and meeting a lot of weeping Italian peasant women.  Near Gugliano we were intercepted by a young girl and side tracked to end up in the company of a young English speaking Italian who took us down to a farmer’s house after feeding us some big juicy grapes.  There we met 5 ‘other ranks’ and had a meal of bread, cheese, nuts, wine and bed with seven in a row.

Monday 11th October 1943

We had breakfast in the open of bread, nuts and cheese and were away by 8:30am on the sheep trail.  We passed through a succession of terrific ravines as it was real cross country mountainous going with a little rain mid day.  We found panicky citizens at Arelli who caused us to make a wide detour.  We found hospitality at One-eye’s place of chillies, bread and grapes.  We then crossed the Ortone-Orsongna ‘strade provinciale’ and the railroad, having a temporary fright when a German lorry stopped alongside us at the crossing. We were again hailed by a farmhouse where there was a very fine Italian woman with a baby and had a pleasant half hour eating grapes out of the rain.  Three young Italians on the trail were also stopping here.  Away again we set off up the mountains, plugging along in the heavy going mud, especially hard for Danny with blisters and a bad knee.  With all the Italians around being very windy of the Germans it was hard to find a bed for the night and we were turned away from several places but eventually found a young soldier type who was willing to help us.  There was plenty of food, vino and a large crowd looking us over and talking 50 to the dozen.  Turning in we slept through a few panics on the part of the neighbourhood.

Tuesday 12th October 1943

We had a cup of hot coffee and a dawn start with rain and a heavy overcast.  We crossed the road and railway in between the Castel Frentano and Lanciano which was tricky and hit the long falling track down towards the river Sangro.  There we sheltered in a barn from heavy rain before setting off again and arriving at the small one horse village of Pasquini where we were fed and made very welcome by all and invited to stay.  Tony, the unofficial mayor, took us in tow and allotted a roster of houses to bed and feed us.  The school mistress and daughter were very interested in us.  We ate with Tony and slept at the house of Camillo, a young Italian deserter living with his wife and mother, being entertained beforehand by Tony and his accordion.

Wednesday 13th Ocotober 1943

We took a walk to view Sangro before breakfast and then set to work with Camillo felling an oak tree and drinking new sweet wine.  It was a typical Italian farmhouse with stables below and living room above approached by a set of stone steps at the side of the house.  The living room had a brick floor.  Chickens roam at will; neighbours walk in and out and will spit on the floor.  With no lavatories everyone uses the byre.  We were shown family photographs.  In the evening a German car shot into the village looking for supplies and I shot out of an upstairs windows like a dove and hid under brushwood while Danny beat it out into the country.  The Germans took some cattle and pigs.  After the panic we were collected again and an old lady gave Danny’s knee a massage with luke-warm olive oil, incantations, white of eggs, round spinning sticks and the sign of the cross.  We had our meals at Camillo’s but were now located in a depressingly gloomy cottage with an old boy sitting in the chimney corner by the small remnants of a fire and steeped in poverty.  A crowd of spectators of all ages were sitting on decrepit chairs exuding a general feeling of misery because Badoglio has declared war on Germany.  Everyone hoped the Allies would get a move on.  In fact the Germans had decided to fight to the last ditch

Thursday 14th Ocotober 1943

We had breakfast at the schoolmistress’s house but it was supplied by a farmer with a toe-less son.  We spent time sawing and splitting the felled tree.  Danny got more massage for his knee then it was to bed early alongside the apples and figs. Although didn’t sleep well.  A big crowd fills Camillo’s room each night to hear the news and they spit all over the floor and hang around until far too late.

Friday 15th October 1943.

We had our meals today with Tarzan in a straw hat and then went splitting logs all day with Camillo.  I had a most gruesome shave with an ancient blade and got the rough off first with Danny’s cut throat.  The Germans are taking cattle and pigs from neighbouring farms so there was a weeping farmer and the schoolmarm is depressed at the slow allied progress.  They cannot understand the miserable show of the allied troops.  The B.O.R. Durham chap, who was with Pennycook and Weymouth, arrived to pay us a call and is staying with the local Italians and waiting for our troops to pass through..

Saturday 16th October 1943

We fed at an old couple’s house today and found time hanging heavy.  We decided to head south east again tomorrow and head for our lines. We enjoyed newly baked corn cake and the old girl gave us a hanky each, a shirt for Danny and underpants for me.  We got our hair cut by Tony, and clothes mended and socks washed.  We gave him a chit for our men when they arrive.  A young Yank who is being cared for by the miller came to see us.

Sunday 18th October 1943

We were away by 5am with food (chicken) and an escort from Tony, Caillo and others, down to Sangro.  We shall never forget the hospitality of those poor Italian people, willing to share what little they had with us.  We always left some message with them to let our oncoming troops know the story.  (Some years after the war, Danny and his wife tried to find some of them to reward them with gold American dollars but had difficulty finding many).  Hissing rain soon made us wet through, apart from a river crossing.  We sped South east crossing the main highway without difficulty and then descending a mountain with Altessa on our left.  Heavy mud made the going difficult.  We struck a sheep trail and by mid-day had gone 15 miles meeting plenty of Italians walking in the opposite direction.  Then we began to meet all kinds of scaremongers and windies who delayed our progress to zero.  We met a young Yank from Chieti who had with him a B.O.R and Italian guide.  He had come down from Bologna and gave us more news about Chietiites.  From PG21the POWs were moved to Salmoa and many escaped from there, Mordle being killed in the attempt.  Then entrained for Germany when lots more jumped the train and Jock Short was killed. 

After a long climb, when we almost walked into a farm occupied by Germans, and passed over many of their telephone lines, we crossed the Vesto road and got quickly into a sparsely populated valley.  We collected water from a farmer who had just been robbed of his total stock.  We ate tomatoes, grapes bread and meat and then slept alongside a haystack, some of which we dismantled for bedding

Monday 10th October 1943

According to the locals we were now within 10 Km of our troops.  They said that the Trigno river is the line at this point.  We made our way slowly towards the river by walking down the banks of its tributary with Lentella on the left.  We found a very wide open river bed. There was a lot of firing and troop movement so we decided to travel only at night. We lay up in a wooded part of the river bed and studied maps minutely for a night hike.  We ate the last of Danny’s Chieti home made ration and scrounged a few tomatoes.  As soon as it was dark we took off our boots and crossed the tributary, some 150 yards wide. After proceeding S.E. for a short while we found that we had to cross and re-cross it again in order to get round a cliff.  It was an excellent starry night to set a S.E. course.  We came across German posts on the north bank of the Tringo and luckily heard them first and lay quiet whilst they searched around for something with torches.  We crawled through them to the river bank and crossed the Trigno feeling like a conspicuous target against white stones of the river bed.  It was a wide river but not more than thigh deep so we plugged along in good light, the moon having risen, following a course leaned by heart from the map.  We crossed the Mafalde-Montenero road OK and hit some devilish country thereafter, real mountain goat work but had plenty of incentive.  We hit the river Sinarce valley and followed this until daylight to come to a recently vacated German gun position near a farm house.  There was a heavy barrage going over us through the night, particularly around 4am.  Unknowingly we had passed close to a German tank division.  I guess this is one reason why the outposts on the Trigno were taking things easy.

Tuesday 19th Ocotober 1943

We slept an hour in the farmer’s flea ridden loft, the farmer ruined and miserable, then plodded wearily down the valley, eventually spotting a B.O.R walking across a field.  He took us to a forward anti-tank post on another farm where we had beer and a big meal, thence to Bde.H.Q. Guglionese, Div H.Q. at Termoli.  We were sent on to sleep at Comemario with a bunch of other ranks, drawing blankets and sleeping in the school house.  Some Jugoslavs and two Russians were with us.

Wednesday 20th October 1943

Hanging around, the only help available was from Padre Pike who gave us a wash, shave and breakfast.  We were then taken to Major Tilly who saw us off in a Jeep to Foggia, very different country with extensive flat areas.  There was gross inefficiency at Foggia transit camp but we got away eventually at 2:30pm with a lorry load of other ranks for Toranto.  We went through Bare and Brindi without stopping, had two fat Jewish looking Italians with us and so got to the N.Z. transit camp at Taranto arriving at 9pm, where we got the usual bully beef where we found McKie, McDermott, and Jimmie Clemonson.

Thursday 21st Ocotober 1943

Battle dress was provided and one shirt following a cold bath and dumping the Italian clothes.  Our treatment was poor though.  I went to Taranto to get the battle–dress altered, and got fed there being Chinese waiters in the mess.  A major from the Recce Corps was stuck here unable to get away.  We met Bennet, RCAFO and Dr Martin

Friday 22nd October 1943

Hung around in the morning and collected a little pay which was £6.  Went to the docks in the afternoon and boarded an almost empty transport, the Aronde, a B.I. Nice ship.  The drinks were expensive, the food good but got a cold at last and so took aspirins and went to bed for a bad night.

Saturday 23rd October 1943

Passed Sicily (Augusta) and picked up more convoy.  Played in a bridge four at night with McDermott and two colonels then aspirins and bed.

Sunday 24th October 1943

Passed Cape Bon, Biserte, and a huge convoy of Victory ships.  More aspirins and suffering bad throat

Monday 25th October 1943

Cold and blowy.  Played chess with Bennick and went to bed early.

Tuesday 26th October 1943

We arrived at Oran, which was a mistake as we should have gone  to Algiers but instead went on a further 200 miles, and tied up to a buoy and I was on the only ship in the convoy that did that.  There were lots of warships including the French Strasbourg sunk by the British.  We were taken off by lighter to large Yank trucks and trailers that then took us through long tunnels blasted out of the rock to Oran station.  It had oriental architecture.  There was much hanging around in the station before the train finally got away with two Yank colonels with mountains of luggage.

Wednesday 27th October 1943

Had a bad night on the train then travelling all day to Algiers.  It was flat open country fading away into the mountains both north and south.  Big farms were cultivated on a large scale in the modern way with no hedges or walls.  There were large olive groves, everything clean and regular including vineyard.  I had a drink at one stop with a French woman and daughter.  It was a bumpy train ride with American compo rations supplied which were good.    Arriving in Algiers at night we were taken to a transit camp on the race course with tents and the usual barren atmosphere.  Doc Martin met an old school pal here who was acting commandant whilst recovering from many wounds, hence much rum and food etc.

Thursday 28th October 1943

I lost Danny here as he was taken over by the RAF and flown directly home to England.  Had breakfast and went down town with McDermott and Martin to the officer’s shop which was cheap.  Had a haircut by a Frenchman and walked around town which was almost like a small piece of London except the buildings are cleaner and there were large stores like Selfridges.  I went to the Officer’s Club then back to the camp in a hurry to see the Adjutant about a move home.

Danny Newman who was hit in his Spitfire over Tobruk but struggled back as far as Sidi Barrani, nearly ending up in the Med. He was soon back on operation duties after a few weeks home visit to Fort Worth, Texas, as a skipper in the UK of a Lancaster bomber doing 23 Ops, the last being with 130 others in a raid on Bertesgarten, ‘What a beautiful spot in the Alps with the sun coming up. Hate to bomb it!’  He then went on to drop supplies to the starving Dutch as the Germans had blown up their dams.  He was lucky to survive the war. After he got home to California he bought a ‘dude Ranch’ consisting of about 90 acres with a lot of rocky outcrop and cactus. The house had an old Indian watchtower on it surrounded by a large circular lounge overlooking several chalets and a swimming pool. He celebrated his 80th birthday with a parachute jump. 

 In more recent times Ernest ‘Oliver’ Lodge subscribed to the Monte San Martino Trust which was formed in 1989 to award bursaries for study to the descendents of Italians who put their lives at risk helping POW’s escape.  In 1998 the Trust already had 50 books in its library written by ex-Italian POWs.  Churchill, in his history of the war, estimated there were 60,000 allied men on the run in Italy and some 10,000 were guided to safety thanks to the risks taken by the locals in the Italian countryside.


Friday 29 October 1943

Had breakfast and was eventually packed away to the docks at 11pm to board the battleship HMS Rodney and left for Greenock in the company of HMS Nelson and six destroyer, zig-zagging around the Atlantic and then home.

Arriving home I was given 28 days leave and went to School House in Skelmanthorpe, my brother Bert’s place.   Whilst visiting London I called at the War Office to find out what happened to my kit which I had left in Cairo when going up to the desert for the last time.  They were able to tell me that it had been put on board ship for England some time ago but the ship had been sunk on the way home.  So I not only lost my camera in the desert but all the films I had taken with it whilst in Palestine and Syria.  I get compensation for the clothes but not the camera.

We had a thinnish time during the early months of prison life before the Red Cross food parcels began to trickle through from home.  The food supplied by the Italians was hardly sufficient to feed a small dog and we were pretty ravenous from morning until night.  We reached a peak of hunger when they cut down our so called meals of two per day to one and we could not get a hot drink because there was no fuel.  We developed some hard feelings for the Italians during this period and groaned to think of the good treatment that their soldiers were getting in England and South Africa.  We spent the winter in shorts and shirts that we were captured in – tropical clothing worn in the Western Desert.  Then clothing and food arrived through from the British Red Cross and life became more reasonable.  The grubby crowded living quarters we got used to and were more or less content so long as we could get enough food to support a boy of ten.

On the credit side we had the Mediterranean climate, which they could not take away from us, and I must say it made all the difference in the world.  Last summer was just one long sunny day after another and we often just wore a pair of shorts.  Even the winter wasn’t bad although it did freeze now and then.  There was no heating of course, but although we were often starved to the marrow it was surprising how few colds were about.  There was a lot of talent and to some extent the terrific boredom was alleviated with jazz bands and orchestras formed, theatricals performed, etc and some first class entertainment provided.  We were able to get Italian newspapers most of the time and after wading through the usual scum of Fascist propaganda, drag out a little out-of-date news.  Our main source of news was the constant trickle of pilots who came into the camp. Mostly Americans, which was a bit of a change.  They helped to relive the boredom of the place especially as they introduced us to some of their rowdier games such as baseball.

 From the Daily Mail at the time

Getting ‘home’ I was put on double rations for a month and had no difficulty getting an extension and so managed to get three months leave.  The War Office has treated me well.  During the last three weeks I have been down to see them several times about my future employment in the army and I am now back again in Skelmanthorpe awaiting developments.  I don’t know exactly what it will be, nor could I tell anyone if I did, but it is almost certain that I should have to go on some type of refresher course as I am eighteen months out of date with modern weapons and tactics.

Of the twelve hundred British and American officers who were in Chieti camp with me more than eleven hundred are now in prison camps in Germany.  Wives and relatives of these chaps were naturally very worried about them and wanted to know what sort of treatment they had been having during their prison life.  Consequently I was inundated with letters on arriving home.  I have had one or two pleasant visits to the wives of some of the chaps who were in the same room as me.  They find it a little difficult to understand why their husbands didn’t get away and I must admit I find it equally difficult to understand myself why they didn’t have a go at it, although I try to make some explanation to cover the case.  You would think that some of those chaps who are married and have been separated from their wives for two and sometimes three years would have sufficient incentive to take more than the normal risks in order to get home.

Needless to say my leave has been a very enjoyable one, the best holiday I can ever remember in spite of the fact that I have spent almost all of it in Skelmanthorpe. I guess being cooped up within four walls for so long has taught me to appreciate simple things that didn’t appeal to me before.


Being unable to get the comment reply system to work for me and in  response to the question - What is my relationship to EFL? the answer is as follows.

He is one of my mother's four brothers. 

After this escape he was landed by submarine in Sumatra and lived there clandestinely under the Japanese occupation. SOE and all that  Maybe more on this later. Post war he also survived the insurgency in Malaya in Pahang, despite being ambushed.  I also featured him on here with his account of 'Surviving the Great Depression in Australia' (25 August 2016)

One brother died on 21st March 1918, probably at Cambrai during the German Spring Offensive.  One lived in Hawaii and witnessed and photographed the attack on Pearl Harbour of the 7th December 1941, and he became a Major in the Oahu Defence Volunteers.  One was a local Headmaster.

Sequel - Skelmanthorpe to Sumatra