British POW's in Italy

Discussion in 'User Introductions' started by Fruitbat02, Apr 5, 2015.

  1. Fruitbat02

    Fruitbat02 Member

    Good day. I am new to the site and require assistance on the were about of my father once captured in North Africa and transported to Italy. I believe he escaped twice from the Italians once by default. He also escaped from a transport train whilst being shipped to Germany in northern Italy. I believe he did this alone but again cannot be one hundred % sure. He had a lot of help from Italians one gave him a bike which he used for a while. I also know he waited on a beach for a couple of days waiting for a submarine pick up that never happened so carried on his journey south.

    He was awarded the MBE for services but we have to get the actuals from the national archives.

    His name was George Patrick Dauncey 134452 Royal Artillery He died at the good age of 85 back in 2004. He retired in 1959 as a Major in ROAC. If anyone can help It would great to hear from you.


    Nik Dauncey
     
  2. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member

    Nik,
    Have you had a look to see if he completed a Liberation Questionnaire upon release?
    Not everyone did.
    Regards,
    Nick
     
  3. Fruitbat02

    Fruitbat02 Member

    Thanks for that Nick. I have not seen a Liberation questionnaire so shall start digging.

    Regards Nik
     
  4. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member

    Nik,

    The Liberation Questionnaires are held at Kew but l must tell you that l do suffer in trying to find ex-Italian POW's, especially those captured in North Africa but if you find that, it will answer some of your questions.

    If you can give me a week of so, l will try to dig it out for you next time l am there.

    There is not an Escape and Evasion report for him.

    Regards,

    Nick
     
  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Both,

    I think that with George being an officer, there might be a little more hope with a Liberation Questionnaire. Fingers crossed. :)
     
  6. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member

    I agree with you mate but with my spate of bad luck on that combination, l do not like to over promise. Add South African to it and l would give up now!!!!!! :biggrin:
     
  7. Fruitbat02

    Fruitbat02 Member

    Luckily I can't add South African to it but dads brother emigrated there just after the war. All help is much appreciated.

    regards Nik
     
  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Re member

    http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D7395832

    Reference: WO 373/94/309
    Description:
    Name Dauncey, Patrick George
    Rank: Lieutenant
    Service No: 134452
    Regiment: Royal Regiment of Artillery
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: The London Omnibus List For Gallant and Distinguished Services in the Field
    Award: Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
    Date of announcement in London Gazette: 27 April 1944
    Date: 1943-1944
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Former reference in its original department 68/Gen/7276
    Legal status: Public Record


    TD

    edited to add:
    He also appears here - https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34872/supplement/3593/data.pdf
     
  9. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Nik,

    Welcome to the forum.

    According to WO 392/21 held in the National Archives, in August 1943 your father was being held in Campo PG 35 at Padula, near Naples. I don't know what took place in that particular camp on 8 September, the date of the Italian Armistice, but will find out. He may well have escaped with the other prisoners, been recaptured, the put on the train from which he would have escaped again. He probably then set off on foot to try to reach our lines. As to the submarine, according to the on-line history of 2 New Zealand Division the story about the submarine waiting to pick up escaped POWs was a false one, put out by agents working for the Germans, in order to try to recapture men like your father. http://nztc.victoria.ac.nz. I know of another escaper who was told the same story and at the time - February 1944 - he was in the Appenines near the town of Rieti.

    Lastly, if your father wasn't recaptured after having escaped from the train there won't be a Liberation questionaire for him - they only apply to prisoners released by Allied troops who arrived at the POW camps and that didn't happen here in Italy for a variety of reasons, the main one being that the Germans entrained the prisoners to Germany well before the Front arrived in the vicinity of the camps. Escapers and Evaders who reached Allied lines were questioned and an Escape/ Evasion report was compiled (M.I.9) and we already know from Nick that there isn't one for your father.

    Lastly, what was his regiment? That will help someone on this forum to pinpoint where he was captured,

    Regards,

    Vitellino
     
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  10. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Nick,

    It's Vitellino again. I just had to find out what went on at Padula. Here is the new Zealanders' account taken from the above website:


    "In the last two or three months before the armistice there were a good many transfers of groups of prisoners from one camp to another, and especially of other ranks to working detachments. Most of the permanent camps for British prisoners had for some time been in the central and northern provinces of Italy, and in July and August the last of those still remaining in the south were evacuated and moved north. Officers from Padula (Campo PG 35), among whom there were still a few New Zealanders, were moved during August to Campo PG 19, newly set up at Bologna, where they were joined by officers from Sulmona and more southern camps."


    So your father would have moved up to Bologna from where he may have escaped at the Armistice and been recaptured only to have been put on the train bound for Germany. (I'll next check out what happened at the Armistice in PG 19 Bologna. I happen to know from other research of mine that a train left Bologna for the transit camp at Stalag VIIA Moosburg on 10 September)

    Here is what the New Zealanders have to say about the Padula camp in general:

    "A large medieval monastery building at Padula, in a beautiful valley south-east of Salerno in southern Italy, was converted into accommodation for officer prisoners, the first batch of whom went into residence on 22 March 1942. A high-ceilinged monks' refectory became the officers' mess and served also for entertainments, and there was a two-acre area in grass to provide a playing field, walking space and gardens.
    After a preliminary period of food shortage, it was soon found that some members of the camp staff were willing to act as middle-men for the purchase of black-market goods. By May hams, poultry, cheese, eggs, and large amounts of condensed milk were being smuggled into the mess, to say nothing of private transactions. So that with the Red Cross food parcels which had arrived towards the end of April, the late spring became a period of plenty. Clothing could be ordered from a visiting tailor. The camp soon had a well-stocked library and the lectures and classes common to most camps. There was no difficulty in providing talent for a variety of good entertainment from the 400-odd officers and 140-odd other ranks to which the camp strength had risen by the middle of the year."

    Regards,

    Vitellino
     
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  11. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Here's what happened at Bologna as described by Australian Fred Egglestone:

    http://www.3squadron.org.au/subpages/Eggleston2.htm

    "At Bologna, there must have been at least 600 officers, some quite recently captured, and others from different camps. Nearly all allied nationalities were represented. Officers were housed in six large wings in open dormitories with very good washrooms at the end of each wing. There was a high brick wall surrounding the barracks and a barbed wire fence kept the prisoners from approaching closer than five metres from the wall. Two parallel barbed wire fences, five metres apart, separated the camp proper from the Italian administration buildings on either side of the main entrance.
    BOLOGNA EPISODE, OFF TO THE BRENNER PASS
    The POW officers at Bologna were in an optimistic mood. The news filtering through left us in no doubt that the war was going our way at last. Following the battle of El Alamein and Montgomery's successful campaign across Libya and Cyrenaica, assisted by the American landings in French North Africa in November 1942, the Axis forces had been driven out of Africa and allied landings on Sicily early in July 1943 had met with success. A massive air raid on Rome on July 17th was followed in a few days by the forced resignation of Mussolini and the eclipse of the Fascist Junta. Rumours of a separate peace between the Italians and the Allies were in the air. With their commitments in Italy, the Germans probably would not let the country fall without a bitter fight but the news was very exciting.
    The Americans made a daylight air raid on Bologna during August and it was heartening to see the Flying Fortresses high above the camp with white condensation trails behind them. No bombs fell near the camp. The POW camp location undoubtedly was known to the allies. Some of the locals seemed to be aware of the comparative safety of our location and, after the air raid sirens sounded; we heard them coming towards the perimeter of the camp like a chattering football crowd.
    We began to prepare ourselves for likely possibilities. First we sorted our possessions into three groups. One was to go with us if we were moved to another camp in an orderly fashion. The second was to accompany us if there was an emergency move of uncertain destination with only such things as we could carry. The third was a light pack such as we would need if we escaped and were on the run.
    In the meantime, there were talks between the Senior British Officer and the Italian Camp Commandant. We demanded to be set free in the event of a separate peace being signed. The Commandant was told that his name would be in our Black Book if he did not comply with our wishes. The Commandant was friendly but not prepared to commit himself. We suspected he was under pressure from the Germans. We later learned that the local German Commander believed we had been armed and had told the Italian Commandant he would shell the camp and take it by force if the Italians did not hand it over to them.
    There was a large canteen at the end of the compound which the Italians had allowed us to stock with local wines like sweet Marsala, a popular drink with our craving for sweet things. The canteen was a great place to pick up the latest "Gen" during drinks after six in the evening.
    Things came to a head in the evening of Wednesday 8th September 1943. Walking back from the bar after dinner, I noticed a crowd around the cage gate near the front entrance. Italy had signed an armistice with the Allies on 3rd September - to come into effect when a suitable moment arrived. At 2100 hours, we learned that the Senior British Officer, Brigadier Mountain, had asked the Italian Area Commandant for defence of the camp in view of the large number of Germans in the district. All his requests were turned down flat. There were 30,000 Germans in the Bologna district and our position was not rosy. The Commandant agreed to cut the wire and open the rear gate if the Germans threatened the camp.
    Red Cross parcels were issued and all were asked to sleep in full kit ready for instant evacuation. The Italians asked us not to try to get out as straying officers would attract the attention of the Germans. A German patrol asked an Italian this evening if this was a prison camp and got the answer "yes". The Commandant had patrols out and promised to give us reasonable warning of any move by the Germans.
    At 0300 hrs on Thursday September 9th, we were awakened by the Italian orderly officer screaming, "I Tedeschi sono qui!" ("The Germans are here.")
    We were up in a trice and rushed into the parade ground where the orderly officer directed us to the cage gate. I was in the middle of the pack at this stage but, half way between the cage gate and the main entrance to the camp, I found myself in the front row looking down the barrels of machine guns manned by groups of Germans deployed inside the main entrance. A German voice told us we were surrounded and that we should go back to our barracks. There was instant flight and the rush back to our barracks took no longer than a few seconds.
    As soon as we were in our barracks, all doors were covered by machine guns and German soldiers entered shouting "HERAUS!!" ["Out"] - herding us into the space between the two barbed wire fences at the front of the cage near the main entrance. Some officers, including Skipper Palmer, had slipped out the back gate conveniently left open by the Italians but the Germans were not stupid and all were recaptured except for about sixteen.
    Whilst we were crowded between the barbed wire fences, we could hear bursts of machine-gun and tommy-gun fire outside the camp as the Germans rounded up the escapers. As we listened, the German Lieutenant approached and announced: "one of your officers has been wounded". An English escaper, Captain P. O. ("Podge") Johnson, had been wounded in the hand and thigh by a burst of gunfire as he went down the road to the north of the camp. He died later of shock and loss of blood. He was the only casualty, which was amazing in the circumstances and indicates the excellent discipline of the German outfit that took the camp. Its commander was an army lieutenant aged 22.
    As dawn was breaking, looking at the machine guns pointing at us from either side, I had visions of a massacre and moved quietly toward the centre of the large crowd of prisoners between the wires. I had read a book "Gaspar Ruiz" about a Spaniard who survived a firing squad when he fell down under his dead comrades. After dawn, we were returned to our barracks and Germans took over from the Italians whom they bundled off. After breakfast, life returned to normal except that our guards were now Germans and the camp was under German control. Our position was now "SNAFU" - Situation Normal, All Fouled Up - and we had lots to talk about during the day.
    On Friday 10th September, we learned that the German Company that took the camp had been relieved and that a new lot had taken its place. There was a funeral for Podge Johnson. We learned that the Italian Commandant had double-crossed both us and the Germans. The Germans had had a cordon around the camp since mid-day on September 8th so the orderly officer's show was a "put up" job. The German Lieutenant who took the camp told the Commandant he had put up a shocking and disgraceful exhibition in front of the British. The only Italian officer remaining was Tenente Cassani who organised our rations. Rumour had it that several prisoners had gone out under the ration truck.
    Early on Saturday 11th September, we were told we must be ready to leave at one hour's notice and that we could only take gear we could carry. (Germany ?? ! ! ) We were told we would go in lorries a distance of about 40 kilometres. At 1430 hrs, we were loaded into 4-ton open lorries - thirty officers and their gear per lorry. The whole camp was emptied except far the "hide-up artists" who concealed themselves in various cupboards and crannies. This was foolhardy as they ran a great risk of being shot by German clean-up squads who used their tommy-guns freely.
    At 1650 hrs, we were taken through the city of Bologna. Ignoring our sullen German escort, the Italian people were extremely friendly - smiling and waving to us and blowing kisses. We realised immediately that they would help us if we could get past our German guards.
    Our convoy arrived at the railway station at Modena at 1830 hrs and we were loaded into box-cars (30 per car) for the night. The station yard was surrounded by Germans and bristling with machine guns. It was becoming apparent that our destination was Germany.
    On the Sunday morning, the Germans issued us with Red Cross parcels to serve as rations on the trip - they had no rations of their own to give us. We had been allowed out of the box-cars to stretch our legs etc and several got away from the station yard including Ted Paul, from Sulmona, who grabbed a case of fruit from an Italian vendor and quietly walked to the fence, vaulted over it and disappeared. Jack Kroger borrowed a pair of blue Air Force pants from Robbie and tried the same trick but found himself looking down the barrel of a tommy-gun and decided that discretion was the better part of valour.
    During our period out of the box-cars, we noted that the train was well guarded with a flat car, bristling with machine guns, located between every five or six box-cars. We could not see what was at the rear of the train! The walls of our box-car were timber and there were two sliding wooden doors at the side. The latch looked negotiable, provided it was not to be padlocked or secured with wire. Some of the box-cars were made of steel with wooden floors.
    We were herded back into our box car but the doors were left open and we were able to talk to the boyish German guard armed with a tommy-gun outside our truck. I was reasonably competent in the German language and taunted the lad that the Allies would soon invade La Spezia, the naval base in northern Italy, and that it was unlikely he would reach Germany again because the Brenner Pass would be blocked by bombing raids. I desisted when I noticed his trigger finger trembling and decided I was tempting fate.
    The doors were finally shut and we left Modena at 1300 hrs. It would have been foolhardy for the Germans to place guards in the crowded box-cars so we were on our own. The boards on the doors were soft and we were confident we could cut our way through to open the latch. The timing would be the important thing! We had heard that POW officers from a camp near Modena were in a similar train following close behind. Our itinerary was to be via Mantova and Verona - thence the Brenner Pass unto Austria.
    After a short stop, we left Mantova at dusk. It was a fine night with a full moon. There was some noise of firing guns before we reached Verona about midnight. The Germans were talking about escaped prisoners and the guards were doubled. The train backed down the line at Verona and, thinking the Germans had abandoned the idea of taking us to Germany, we all fell asleep."

    Regards,

    Vitellino
     
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  12. Fruitbat02

    Fruitbat02 Member

    Vitellino Thanks for this. I know dad walked away after switching identities with a corporal so he could load freight for the train. He never looked back.

    Kind regards

    Nik
     
  13. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Nik,

    I hope someone can help you with where your father was first captured,

    Regards,

    Vitellino
     
  14. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

  15. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Nik,

    I'm still thinking about your father and his escape from the train. You say he swapped identities with a corporal but both Padula and Bologna camps were for officials only.

    Regards,

    Vitellino
     
  16. Fruitbat02

    Fruitbat02 Member

    Good morning Vitellino,

    I am only going on what I have been told in the past, I might be wrong. Finding out is the great challenge.

    regards

    Nik
     
  17. Fruitbat02

    Fruitbat02 Member

    Update to my last. My father was captured South West of Tobruk on the 1st of June 42.

    He was then taken via Bari, Gavi and Padula. He was transported to PG 19 Bolongna before the armistice. The camp was surrounded by Germans and he was again captured.

    On the 12th September the prisoners were put on trucks to Modena station. Lt Dauncey changed places with an O.R. and was thus able to go out next day with a working party from Modena station. He slipped away and obtained some civilian clothes and made his way south.

    He met up with Allied troups at Santa Apollinare on the 3rd December 43. This has been taken fron WO 373/94

    He was posted to the Norfolk Yeomanry on his return and then sent out to Burma. Lucky man!!


    Regards

    Nik
     
  18. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member

    Nik,

    On that basis there will not be a Liberation Questionnaire but l am also surprised that there is no Escape and Evasion report but have checked it all through again, nothing showing.

    Good luck with your on-going research.

    Regards,

    Nick
     
  19. Fruitbat02

    Fruitbat02 Member

    Much appreciated Nick.

    Regards Nik
     
  20. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Nik,

    So pleased that you have found out where your father was during his time in Italy. it seems a bit strange that from Bari he was sent right up to Gavi in Piemonte and then back down to Padula, but that must have been the case as then men from Padula were moved to Bologna as I had discovered before you obtained the citation.

    It is clear to me having read the piece written by Egglestone that the men were taken in trucks from Bologna to Modena so that they could join up with POWs of other ranks and from another camp to make up a train load for Germany, and this gave your father his chances to swap places with the corporal who would have previously belonged to another camp.

    It would seem to me that the only thing missing from his story now is knowing which beach he sat on waiting for the submarine which never came and which Italian family gave him the bike.

    I expect you will have found Sant'Apollinare down below Cassino where he joined the Allied Lines.

    Regards

    Vitellino
     

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