prisoners

Oct

2

1943

Nazis order murderous crackdown on all Poles


2nd October 1943: Nazis order murderous crackdown on all Poles

They were clad in civilian clothes, and sometimes their hands were tied behind their backs. However, as the victims thus brought to the place of execution usually shouted ‘Down with Hitler’, ‘Long Live Poland’, ‘Down with the Germans’, and similar things, the Germans took steps to prevent the possibility of any such disturbances and began to fill their mouths with cement, or seal their lips with adhesive tape. The victims were brought from the ‘Pavwiac’ clad in shirts, or in clothes made out of paper.

Sep

30

1943

A PoW escape goes wrong in Italy


30th September 1943: A PoW escape goes wrong in Italy

We both knew that, if we were not to spend the rest of the war in Germany, we must make a break in the course of the journey on which we were now embarking. Under my battle-dress I was wearing civilian clothes, which I had obtained from a friendly Italian guard in exchange for cigarettes and a packet of tea. Michael carried a crowbar secured inside his trouser leg. I tapped his thigh and it emitted a reassuring twang.

Sep

28

1943

Escape from unspeakable horror of Camp Syret


28th September 1943: Escape from unspeakable horror of Camp Syret

At last the Germans understood what was happening and all the guards got to their feet. They started pursuing us on cars, motorcycles and with dogs. The ravine was lit with flares. The shooting remained in front of us. The pursuers did not know where to aim their shooting since all the prisoners scattered in different directions. Some of them ran off with a chain still clamped to one leg, since they had no time to unchain it.

Sep

21

1943

Wehrmacht massacres Italian soldiers on Cephalonia


21st September 1943: Wehrmacht massacres Italian soldiers on Cephalonia

My companions were loaded onto trucks and taken somewhere: I won’t see them anymore. My friend, the second lieutenant Giampietro Matteri – from Dongo (Como), twenty-two years old – is killed on September 24. The same destiny for another friend, the second lieutenant Pillepich, from Trieste: I still remember the terror in his eyes when, together with eleven companions, he was dragged from the group. Few minutes later we heard the shots of machine guns, followed by cries of pain, yells, invocations. And then other shots. The finishing strokes.

Sep

10

1943

Germans turn against former Allies and Italian civilians


10th September 1943: Germans turn against former Allies and Italian civilians

So they stayed in shelters while the Germans stripped their homes of silver, linen, food, wine, and anything else of value they could find. The people cheered the troops as their liberators and they were bitter toward their former Allies. Unarmed Italian soldiers wandered about the streets or gathered to talk with British Tommies and exchange souvenirs.

Sep

1

1943

Last notes of a Prisoner of the Japanese


1st September 1943: Last notes of a Prisoner of the Japanese

Mud is everywhere. On the second day we get soup. After three days we start work on the drome. What a sight – two hills of solid coral that we have to level. We work in two shifts – 750 men – 6 a.m. until 12 p.m., and 750 men – 12 p.m. until 6 p.m.
Diarrhoea increases. Dysentery starts. Men going down right and left. After ten days, work at the drome is abandoned. Deaths several each day. The camp is split into two. One half a hospital, all men with dysentery and diarrhoea are taken in.

Aug

26

1943

Barbaric Japanese punishment for PoWs seeking food


26th August 1943: Barbaric Japanese punishment for PoWs seeking food

Meanwhile, in his solitary confinement, the PoW involved was being systematically starved by the Japanese, who reduced his ration to one small dish of cold rice a day and one cup of water. No arrangements were made for washing or tending his many cuts and bruises, and his cell — none too clean on his arrival — became progressively filthier.

Aug

25

1943

A letter from a Bomber Command Group Captain


25th August 1943: A letter from a Bomber Command Group Captain

Experience up to the present has shown that quite a fair proportion of our flying personnel who are reported missing in operations against the enemy have managed to make a safe descent by parachute or in the aircraft itself. Therefore I am able to assure you that there must be some hope that your son is safe and a prisoner in enemy hands.
 Your son was very well reported on by his Squadron Commander, and I am sure that he and his companions gave a very good account of themselves under whatever circumstances prevented them from bringing their aircraft back.

Aug

9

1943

War artist Edward Ardizzone takes Italian surrender


9th August 1943: War artist Edward Ardizzone takes Italian surrender

In the meantime Geoffrey had sent a message by the hotel manager to the Italian commander, an Alpini Colonel, telling him to report at once to us alone with his Adjutant. I was on tenterhooks in case he should call our bluff and know more of the situation than we did, we had learned that he had four hundred men under his command. To my surprise he turned up with the Adjutant. We told him that the town was surrounded and that he must surrender and ordered him to disarm his troops and march them away southward. Over a glass of champagne he meekly and sadly complied.

Jul

31

1943

Troublesome British POWs in Germany


31st July 1943: Troublesome British POWs in Germany

But the General, brimming with self-confidence, said, ‘No, no. The driver will keep watch.’ Like his boss the general, the driver didn’t know much about POWs; he was far too polite, fielding a constant stream of questions from two German-speakers while the rest of the rabble scrambled over the car, in evident awe and admiration. After giving the driver some cigarettes the crowd dispersed, together with the general’s gloves, torch, maps and tool-kit, and a handbook optimistically marked ‘Secret’.