prisoners

Jan

19

1944

Captured by a German raiding party

British infantrymen travel fast as they seek cover from a German Spandou position.” Ponte, Italy. 15 January 1944

The section leaders who had not been wounded were crawling back from the tent towards their trenches; my sergeant and I had a small slit trench outside the tent which was where we were to go in an emergency. My wounded sergeant had slithered to this and was lying at the bottom so that there was no room for me to get under cover except by kneeling on top of him.

Jan

9

1944

An English PoW at work in Auschwitz

Overview of IG Farben's plant, near Auschwitz" ; circa 1941 Source : German Federal Archive

Behind it all stood the SS and the executives of IG Farben itself. The Kapos, the prisoners put in charge of their fellows, became the focus of my anger. They were evil men and many wore the green triangle of the career criminal. Their survival depended on keeping the rest of the prisoners in line. If they lost their privileged job they were friendless and then they didn’t live long.

Jan

4

1944

Stalag Luft III – work resumes on ‘Harry’

The two foot square tunnel  was just big enough for a man lying down to be pulled along on one of the trolleys. At 336 feet long it was a lot of sand to be excavated and disposed of.

It was now up to Fanshawe to make the plans for transporting the sand from Harry to the theatre, a distance of about 200 yards. There was also still a useful length of tunnel in Dick which could be filled up, but it was decided to use that as a standby only. Communication between the blocks was allowed up to 10 pm, when we were all locked into our respective blocks.

Dec

25

1943

A war barely interrupted by Christmas

Men of the 2/6th Queen's Regiment celebrate Christmas, 25 December 1943.

Next, we were moved into a long low building which contained individual cells. I now saw the truth behind the news about each officer having his own room! No explanation was given as to why or for how long one was being given such personal attention, but by now, since capture, we were becoming used to the devious methods of the “detaining power”. It dawned on me that I was in solitary confinement and that this was a novel way to celebrate Christmas.

Dec

10

1943

Desperate bravery of Australian PoWs on Death Railway

Orderly on his rounds in X Ward, Changi Gaol, Singapore, with POW's suffering from starvation and Beri-Beri.
Leslie Cole, 1945

I have nothing but admiration for these game chaps. One Dutchman I was talking to said neither he or any of his countrymen would even dream of placing their heads on a block, even though such sorties might result in the obtaining of much needed food for the very ill. ‘You Australians beat me’, he said. ‘Only wants one of the guards to change his pattern of patrol, and your friends will die’.

Oct

29

1943

Japanese execute troublesome Hong Kong internees

The Japanese had interned most western civilians after they occupied Hong Kong.

Eventually he was arrested and subjected to prolonged and severe torture by the Japanese who were determined to obtain information from him and to make him implicate the others who were working with him. Under this treatment he steadfastly refused to utter one word that could help the Japanese investigations or bring punishment to others. His fortitude under the most severe torture was such that it was commented upon by the Japanese prison guards.

Oct

24

1943

Japanese execute Australian commando Leonard Siffleet

On 24th October 1943, Australian World War II commando Leonard Siffleet was beheaded on Aitape Beach in Papua New Guinea, along with two Ambonese, H. Pattiwal and M. Reharing.

This photograph,  of  Japanese soldier Yasuno Chikao just before he struck, was taken from the body of a Japanese casualty later in the war.

The Major has drawn his favourite sword. It is the famous masamune sword which he had shown us at the observation station. It glitters in the light and sends a cold shiver down my spine. He taps the prisoner’s neck lightly with the back of the blade, then raises it above his head with both arms and brings it clown with a powerful sweep. I had been standing with muscles tensed, but in that moment I closed my eyes.

Oct

19

1943

Disabled PoWs repatriated in Prisoner Exchange

Wounded German POWs being checked aboard the hospital ship SS TAIREA at Port Said, from where they were to sail to Barcelona for repatriation, 18 October 1943.

Three hours spent among the 1,200 new passengers in the Drottningholm on Monday morning furnished a stimulating and indeed an inspiring experience. Most of them had been prisoners for well over three years; all had endured long and severe hardships; some were maimed and many more had less obvious injuries, yet all of them displayed a buoyant spirit. It became apparent, after on had talked with the men in different parts of the ship, that theirs was not merely the natural cheerfulness of men who were going home. These were men whose confident spirit had remained high and intact through the darkest period.

Oct

2

1943

Nazis order murderous crackdown on all Poles

The shooting of Polish 'hostages' had begun four years earlier, now it became a widespread public practice.

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

Paul Bullard was a young artist learning his trade at the Royal College of Art when the Second World War broke out. His studies were interrupted by his service in the Royal Artillery, during which he was taken prisoner by Axis forces and held at Campo Concentramento PG 53 at Sforzacosta in Italy. It is this camp that provides the setting of this painting, which highlights the stoicism of the prisoners in coping with the boredom of captivity.

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.