Cpl. Skinner prison Escape, Allied Bombing & Liberation (ITALY) Sansepolcro

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by brithm, Mar 2, 2021.

  1. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Sgt. Spittle of No. 2 AFPU photographed Cpl. Stanley Skinner escaped twice in Italy after being taken prisoner outside of Tobruk. Skinner was interviewed by I.S.9(W) on 12th December 1944
    WO 208/3325/48

    SECRET

    M.I.9/S/P.G.(It)2815.

    ESCAPED FROM GERMAN HANDS IN ITALY.

    The information contained in this report is to be treated as

    SECRET.

    ACCOUNT OF ESCAPE OF 2580647 Cpl. SKINNER, Stanley, 2nd Middlesex Yeomanry, 7th Armoured Div.

    Captured: Near TOBRUK, 8 Apr 41

    Escaped: SAN SEPOLCRO, 18 JUN 44.

    Left: NAPLES, 18 Sep 44.

    Arrived: U.K., 23 Sep 44.

    Date of Birth: 6 Feb 20

    Peacetime Profession: Bank Clerk

    Army Service: Since 19 Apr 39 (Territorial)
    Private Address: 168 Stavey Park Road CARSHALTON BEECHES, Surrey.
    1. Capture. 8 Apr 41, Captured, TOBRUK.

    I was captured just outside TOBRUK on 8 Apr 41 at about 1100hrs. All the P/W were concentrated in MEKILI, S.E. of DERNA, until 14 Apr, when we were moved to DERNA, where we remained until 21 Apr. During our stay there we had to work on the local aerodrome.

    On 21 Apr we were taken to BENGHAZI, where we remained until 10 ay, during which time we worked at the docks unloading petrol. From there we were taken via TRIPOLI, where we remained only a few days, to Camp 66, near CAPUA.

    2. Camps in which imprisoned.

    Campo 66 (CAPUA): 20 May 41 – 20 Jun 41.

    Campo 78 (SULMONA): 21 Jun 41 – 8 Sep 43

    Campo 102 (AQUILA): 18 Nov 43 – 8 Dec 43

    Feld Lazarett 350 (AQUILA): 2 Jun – 7 Jun 44

    Feld Lazarett 200 (ASSISI): 7 Jun – 12 Jun 44

    Emergency Lazarett (SAN SEPOLCRO): 12 – 18 Jun 44.


    3. Left SULMONA before German occupation. 12 Sep 43, Left SULMONA.

    On 8 Sep 43 the armistice was signed. On 12 Sep a German motorcyclist arrived and demanded the surrender of the camp. We received orders from the S.B.O. to go into the mountains and hide, as we knew that the Germans would arrive shortly. The Italian Guards had disappeared. On 18 Sep the Germans sent up a very strong patrol to search the mountains and many of the ex-P/W (about 1800 out of 2600) were recaptured.

    18 Sep 43, ROCCACARAMANICO

    Some of us moved across MONTAGNE, DEL MORRONE (ITALY, 1:250,00, Sheet 29, (R)G 99 and found shelter in a small village ROCCACARAMANICO((H)R 08). The people were very friendly and we decided to wait, as we expected our troops to advance towards PESCARA ((R)C 12).

    10 Oct 43, Return to Caves.

    We remained in ROCCACARAMANICO until 10 Oct, when we were surprised by some Germans and had to return to the mountains, where we lived in caves. We received blankets and food from Italian peasants. The Germans realised that we were at large and sent out patrols regularly, but our hiding place was a very good one and we were not discovered.

    Late Oct 43 PACENTRO

    By the end of Oct we became worried and impatient as the expected push through to PESCARA had not come off. We received reports that the SANGRO river was in flood and could not be crossed by swimming. All the bridges were very well guarded. It began to snow and we were forced to abandon our caves, which were at an altitude of over 4000 ft. We tried unsuccessfully to cross the SANGRO river near QUADRI ((R) H 26), but had to return across the mountains to the village of PACENTRO ((R) G 89), not far from our former P/W camp. The people took us in and gave us every possible assistance. On 11 Nov the Germans decided to search the village for men to work on fortifications, so we had to go into hiding again. There were nine of us at that time. We had met four other British soldiers in the caves where we were hiding.

    4. Recapture. 11 Nov 43, Recaptured.
    We had only been in the caves about an hour, when a German patrol entered with an Italian, who seemingly had sold the other four soldiers for 1800 lire to the Germans, who were very surprised o find 13 of us.
    18 Nov 43, AUILA.

    We were all put into a gaol for two days and then returned to the P/W camp in SULMONA ((R) G 98), from where we were moved to Campo 102 in AQUILA (Sheet 28, (R)B 51) on 18 Nov.

    5. Attempted Escape. 8 Dec 43.

    I remained at AQUILA until 8 Dec 43. Escape from this camp was practically impossible, as were extremely well guarded. On 8 Dec there were about 1000 P/W in the camp and new ones were coming in every day. The Germans decided to send a number of us to Germany and after being searched for knives, etc., we were taken in batches of 100 to AQUILA station and locked into cattle trucks, 44 in each truck. I was in the third batch.

    Bombed by Allied planes.

    The Germans had overlooked a small penknife which I had and I started to cut a hole through the floor in an attempt to escape. I had not progressed very far when we were bombed by Allied aircraft and our train had several direct hits. I was flung out of our truck and lost consciousness. When I came to, I found myself amongst a heap of bodies and pinned down by a piece of rail. I tried to get up, but found it was impossible. The station was a heap of rubble. Many of the trucks containing P/W were blazing and the whole station was littered with bodies. The munition dump near the station had been blown up.

    I had several wounds on my body and head. I remained pinned down for about four hours, when I saw two German, soldiers, to whom I called for help. They released me and went away to help others, as they thought that I was unable to move I thought this was good opportunity to escape and hoped to reach a civilian doctor.

    After crossing a field I came to a main road, where I met an Italian. I asked him to take me to a civilian hospital. I began to feel very weak owing to loss of blood but I new that this was my only opportunity to get away. I heard later that 127 wounded P/W were taken to a German hospital and that 89 prisoners who had been killed were buried near the station. There were about 300-400 P/W on the train at the time of the bombing and many who are not accounted for were burned in the trucks.

    Civilian hospital.

    I was in a very bad condition when I reached the hospital. A piece of shrapnel penetrated the passage of my rectum and I was also badly hurt in the back, near my lungs. I was operated on on the same day (8 Dec) and the shrapnel was extracted. On 9 Dec a colostomy operation was performed and five days later I was operated on again to relieve the pain and to drain my stomach.

    After about a week I was put into a small room with two other British soldiers, Sgt/Major. Hugh Edwards, R.A., and Cpl. Lawrence RICHARDS, Northumberland Fusiliers. The latter had a slight leg wound and the other a terribly mutilated arm. The Italian professor in charge of the hospital did all he could for us and our presence in the hospital was kept a secret from the Germans. On about 23 Dec we tried to send a message home to the U.K. through the Vatican by a priest, but the message was never received.

    8 Jan 44, Discovered by German N.C.O.

    On 8 Jan 444 a German Sgt. Major walked into our room with a woman interpreter. I was in the first bed and he asked me if I was an Italian or an Englishman. I answered in Italian and tried to bluff him, but it was useless, as he knew all three of us were English I felt sure that someone had sold us.
    The German W.O. said that a German doctor would visit us the following morning to see whether we could be moved to a German hospital. That nigh Cpl. RICHARDS, who was only slightly wounded, escaped from the hospital with the help of an Italian girl, who brought civilian clothes for him. The following morning the Germans arrived with an M.O. to find only two of us. Our Italian doctor and two nurses were put into prison but released the same day. The Sgt. Major was transferred to a German hospital, but I was left, as I was in too serious a condition to be moved. They threatened, however, that I escaped the Italian professor would be shot.


    I progressed very favourably and the Germans visited me each month. I had a talk with the professor and he assured me that he would do all he could to keep me in the civilian hospital. We decided to leave the colostomy wound open and when the German came he assured them that I was not ready to be moved.

    2 Jun 44, Moved by Germans to AQUILA

    On 2 Jun, just after the offensive at CASSINO, the Germans came for me and I was transferred to Feld Lazarett 350, at AQUILA, where I remained from 2 Jun to 7 Jun, when I was again moved, this time to Feld Lazarett 200 at ASSISI (Sheet 24, (W)W 88).
    12 Jun 44, SANSEPOLCRO
    I remained there until 12 Jun. I was then moved farther North to the emergency hospital in SANSEPOLCRO (Sheet 23, (W)R 44).

    6. Escape.

    18 Jun 44, Escape from SANSEPOLCRO

    On 18 Jun 44 I heard that our next destination was GERMANY and that we were to leave on the following day. I also heard that our troops were at PERUGIA (Sheet 25, (W)W 69), about 80kms. South and made up my mind to escape that night.

    I went to the surgery to be dressed, as my colostomy wound was at that time still open. When the medical orderlies were not looking I stole from the room I was in and went downstairs. I walked casually with my hands in my pockets, expecting to be challenged at any moment. My clothes consisted of a Jugolsav grey military jacket and pair of German green trousers. I hoped that I would be taken for an Italian who worked in the hospital, as they were all sorts of odd clothing. I went down three flights of stairs and out into the street, passing several German officers and soldiers without being spoken to. Once in the street I made my way through the town, which was full of German troops and entered a big church. I thought that my best plan would be to find refuge again in a civilian hospital, for I was in constant need of dressings and the effort of walking to our lines would have been too great in my condition. I received information from an Italian woman, who was sweeping in the church, that there was a civilian hospital nearby.
    At dusk I made my way to the civilian hospital and approached the professor in charge. He received me in a very friendly manner and promised me all possible help.Sheltered in Civilian hospital.


    He said, however, that he was taking a great risk and was afraid that some spy or fascist might give us away. He told me never to speak English and that he would tell anyone who might enquire that I was an Italian soldier. I was put amongst the old men and stayed there seven weeks waiting for our forces to arrive.
    8 Aug 44, Contact with British troops.


    At the beginning of Aug 44 the Allies drew near to SAN SEPOLCRO and the shelling came unpleasantly near, but instead of taking the town the Allies passed by. The town was filled with Partisans who fought the few remining Germans and drove them out of the town. I sent an Italian across to the British Command with a message asking to be taken into or lines, but I was told to wait. The following day (8 Aug) I met a jeep with two sergeants of the Photographs Corps (AFPU), who took me to the British lines. I was evacuated from the Casualty Clearing Centre by air to NAPLES. I left NAPLES on the hospital ship ORANGE on 18 Sep 44 arriving in the U.K. on 23 Sep.
     

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  2. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Sgt. Spittle of No. 2 AFPU

    NA 17728
    When this scout car stopped outside a farm near Sansepolcro, the occupants were given a grand welcome by the Italians from the farm.
    NA 17729
    Townspeople of Sansepolcro at the entrance to the town, where the Germans had blown a huge crater. At this time, armoured patrols only had entered the town.
    NA 17730
    Townspeople of Sansepolcro at the entrance to the town, where the Germans had blown a huge crater. At this time, armoured patrols only had entered the town.
    NA 17731
    Cpl. Skinner, Royal Signals, a British soldier who was in Sansepolcro. He believes he is the only survivor of a trainload of British wounded caught in a rail yard which was bombed by the Allies. He had been in this hospital for two months and is here seen with two of the nurses who cared for him.
    NA 17732
    The cameraman's jeep was leaving Sansepolcro when it passed a party carrying an Italian who had been injured by an exploding mine. They had intended to carry the man on a hand cart to Citta Di Castello, a distance of 8 miles, and by the appearance of his wounds, he would have bled to death before he arrived. Picture shows the man being lifted onto the cameraman's jeep.
    NA 17733
    The civilian casualty is carried into the civilian hospital at Citta Di Castello.(12th Lancers)
     

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