Vichy French Prison camp in Timbuctu

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Roy Martin, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    From my Book, Ebb and Flow:
    Mr Thomson then joined the WALLSEND. He was torpedoed and landed at Cape Verde island of San Antonio, after a boat trip of more than a week. The Portuguese brought him and others back to Lisbon, from where Mr Thomson and some of his colleagues volunteered to join the TAKORADIAN, which had been released by the Vichy authorities in Dakar. He wrote:

    "The Vichy French puppet Government in West Africa had captured a great many British Merchant Seamen, some from captured ships and others from torpedoed ships which had managed to land on the coast. The French had a large prison camp at Timbuktu on the Niger River, and the captured seamen were confined in this prison. With the fall of Dakar and the collapse of the Vichy regime, the seamen got liberated, and some of them were sent to Freetown, to stay at the Grammar School (where Thomson and the other crews were billeted) while awaiting repatriation. They had gone through great privation. One chap told of being torpedoed on the coast of Africa, and after several days in a lifeboat they landed on the coast where they were found by the natives, who took them to their village and treated the well, until the French authorities got to hear of them and came and collected them. They were put on a train and were four days on it and then for eleven days in canoes down the Niger River to the prison camp at Timbuctoo. When they arrived at the Grammar School they were in a half starved condition, skin and bone."

    The RINGULV's crew, who had helped in the evacuation of Le Havre, were moved from camp to camp by the Vichy French, being imprisoned in nine in all. They met other merchant seamen, and Jews, Spaniards and Poles in the camps. ‘The condition of the Jews was particularly pitiful; they were being used as slave labour building a railway in the desert.’ They were described as being ‘starved, sick, with only a few dirty rags as clothes.’[ii] RINGULV's crew were understandably bitter about the treatment they received from the compatriots of those that they had so recently saved.

    Two British merchant seamen died in this camp and are buried in what must be the smallest CWGC cemetery.

    [ii]Warsailors website, diaries of members of the Ringulv's crew.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
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  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Never heard about this before - so went digging

    MN PoW-2 – Gordon Mumford

    Aces, Warriors and Wingmen

    Timbuktu, a poem by Peter Crews





    Timbuktu : Wikis (The Full Wiki)
    World War II
    During World War II, several legions were recruited in French Soudan, with some coming from Timbuktu, to help general Charles de Gaulle fight Nazi-occupied France and southern Vichy France.[18]
    About 60 British merchant seamen from the SS Allende (Cardiff), sunk on the 17th March 1942 off the South coast of West Africa, were held prisoner in the city during the Second World War. Two months later, after having been transported from Freetown to Timbuktu, two of them, AB John Turnbull Graham (2 May 1942, age 23) and Chief Engineer William Soutter (28 May 1942, age 60) died there in May 1942. Both men were buried in the European cemetery - possibly the most remote British war graves tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.[25]
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  3. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Thanks TD,
    I have been going through Ebb and Flow, with a view to a new edition. This story was one of several that I thought might be of interest.

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