Private John Duffy

 

Unit : 11th Parachute Battalion; 4th Parachute Brigade, 1st Airborne Division.

Served : North-West Europe (captured).

Army No. : 3455512

Camps : Stalag XIB, VIIIC.

 

John Duffy of Rochdale, Lancashire, was born on the 27th July 1916. Before joining the Army in April 1940, he had worked as a concrete foreman. He was captured at the Battle of Arnhem on 20th September 1944.

 

'I was wounded in the arm at Arnhem, captured in Oosterbeek hospital and five days later was moved by train to Appeldorn on 25 Sep 44. Next day I was put in a cattle truck of a train bound for Germany. There were 25 of us in the truck, the door being fastened by a staple pin outside. During a period when we were allowed out, we made a mark inside the truck showing where the outside lock was, as by mutual consent it was agreed all walking wounded should attempt to escape.'

 

'When the train moved off that evening we started to cut a hole in the truck, with hacknives, large enough to get a hand through and pull out the staple pin on the door. We lined up in pairs, and after six men had gone, I jumped off with Sgt. Stone, William, 11 Para. Regt. The train was travelling at about 20 m.p.h. and I landed on a bank of grass and shingle. I joined Sgt. Stone and we decided to make off across country towards Appeldorn. We had a map and compass and walked that night reaching Wilp, (12 miles South-West Deventer) the following evening. We were wet through and spoke to some men working in a garden who directed us to a farm nearby. At the farm was an English speaking student who was in hiding from Nijmegen who acted as interpreter between us and the farmer, with whom we stayed for about five weeks. From here my journey was arranged until I was recaptured about 26 Nov 44.'

 

'After being recaptured at Oosterbeek I was taken via Ede to Appeldorn in Nov 44, where I was questioned by the Gestapo. I was moved to hospital in Lingen with Major Longland (R.A.M.C. Airborne). We were in a ward with 20 British including Major Crawley (2 or 3 Para. Bn., 1 Bde), who made contact with me as I had made a previous escape.'

 

'Two foreign workers in the hospital used to play bridge with us in the ward, and we arranged with one of them to bring us a key of the ward so we could escape, as it was simple to leave the hospital once outside the ward. We promised to take him with us and he collected iron rations etc. for the attempt. On the afternoon before the night we were going, I was sent to another hospital nearby and Major Crawley was sent there later. On his arrival I was returned to the first hospital and we believed the plan had become known. That evening I attempted to get away on my own, by walking out of the ward, down the stairs into the yard, where, however, I was held up by a German orderly who called the guard.'

 

Liberation

 

'I was liberated at Stalag VIIIC hospital on 16 Feb 45 by Russian troops who sent us on the road with a guide. We walked for 18 days on food we killed on the way and the Russians then put us in a castle at Krackowitch in Poland for about 9 days. They then sent us by train to Odessa which journey took 21 days from where we were sent by ship to the U.K.'

 

Thanks to Philip Reinders of the Arnhem Battle Research Group for this story.

 

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