I was captured at the end of the Sicilian Campaign so I only fought for three weeks. I was taken from Sicily to Italy and because I was only a Lieutenant and therefore not important enough to be taken to Germany, was handed by the Germans, with profuse apologies to the Italians. I was in a very small staging camp in Capua for a couple of weeks and then, with two Scottish Lieutenants, was taken the length of Italy to a very big POW camp (Campo Concentramento PG 66) in Bolongna
O n the ride we travelled (the two Scots Lieutenants and I) in a very clean box car which was the typical European size 40 homes, 8 chevaux. We had eight or nine Italian soldiers as guards who were armed with rifles and at least one machine pistol (like a Tommy gun). We divided the box car 1/3 - 2/3rds and kicked our guards into the 1/3. We traveled in comparative luxury - the Italian railroads were good in those distant days.
C ampo Concentramento AG 66 was huge. It had Allied Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen because, unlike the Germans, the Italians did not divide the services.
I t was here that I met up with Casey Corbett who had been captured a week or ten days before me.
I was in dreadful shape - I had Amoebic Dysentery, Infectious Hepattitis and Impetaigo, all at once. There was no hospital, no medication, no special diet, no nothing. You survived or not. I have believed ever since that dieing can't be all that bad.
I n early September, Italy capitulated - unfortunately we did not know this for 24 hours and when we broke out at night it was only to find that the Germans had surrounded the camp, had mortars going into the neighbouring fields and machine guns down the ditches - it was pretty exciting! In any event we were rounded up, put into box cars and taken up through the Brenner Pass into Germany. It was very uncomfortable to put it mildly - we were fifty five to a box car which means no one could lie down or even sit down without crossing legs over legs. It was also very hot. We had a big sort of milk container in which to pee, when full we tried to dispose of the contents through the very small windows which were covered with barbed wire. Since there was a flat car immediately behind our car with some German vehicles and German Feld Politze, on board, they did not welcome the spray which blew back. In fact when we put some Red Cross cardboard out the window to act as an air scoop the Gerries took pleasure in shooting off the cardboard with their Schmeissers.
E ventually we reached the huge transit camp at Moosberg. This had many thousands of prisoners of every nationality - it was built in concentric rings with the British (English, Scots, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, etc.) in the centre, then the Americans, then the French etc. There were lots of Russians.
W e were divided into about 1200 - 1300 people - 1100 South Africans, 150 Kiwis, 125 Brits, 40 Aussies and three Canucks (Ed Newton from the Loyal Edmontons, Casey Corbet and I). We were taken across Germany and put into an old underground fort in Strasbourg for about three weeks. We then were taken to Oflag VA which was in Wurtemberg (the S.W. corner of Germany). This is where I was for most of the time until April 1945 when we were taken back to Moosberg. We were liberated by the Americans on 29 April 1945.
C asey Corbet and I lived in a bungalow which held 125 Brits we roomed with 10 Brits. We were allowed to write one letter and two or three post cards per month until the War Office forbade us to do so. We paid our gambling debts by writing a cheque on our bank in London using one of the post cards.
T he Germans fed us scarcely anything - we lived on food supplied by the Red Cross. I got Canadian, America, British, New Zealand and once or twice (ugh) Indian Red Cross parcels. Of these the Canadian Red Cross parcels were streets ahead of the others.
W e had one real meal a day supplied by our own kitchen. Our own people took certain things out of everyone's parcel. We got what was left.
F or instance:
|Canadian Red Cross parcel|
|We kept||Our mess took|
|Butter||1 lb||Meat roll||1 lb|
|Jam||1 lb||Salmon||1 tin|
|Klim||1 lb||Sardines||1 tin|
|Bisquits||12||Bully Beef||1 tin|
|Cheese||1/4 lb||Coffee or Tea|
|Soap||1 cake||Raisons||1 packet|
|Chocolate||1/4 lb||Prunes||1 packet|
|Sugar||Salt & Pepper|
|English Red Cross parcel|
|We kept||Our mess took|
|Margerine or Butter||1/2 lb||Meat & Veg||1 tin|
|Jam||3/4 lb||Salmon or Meat Roll||1 tin|
|Soap||1 cake||Sausages||1 tin|
|Condensed Milk||1 tin||Bully Beef||1 tin|
|Cheese||1/5 lb||Porridge or Pudding||1 tin|
T he main stove in the room (like a Quebec Heater) to which we added our own stove, also made of Red Cross tins. Because we were given so little coal we had to improve the efficiency of whatever we burned, which we did.
Click on the Canada Goose|
and follow it back to the Library