Gunner Laurence Joseph Holmes
Unit : 68th Medium Regiment, RA.
Served : North Africa (captured).
Army No. : 914229
POW No. : 55021
Camps : P.G. 53, 60, Stalag VIIIB
Gunner Laurence Holmes was awarded the Military Medal for his repeated attempts to escape. His citation reads:
Holmes was captured at Tobruk on 21 June 1942 and subsequently imprisoned in various camps in Italy.
His first attempt to escape was from P.G. 53 on 13 September 1943 but this was unsuccessful owing to Italian officers hearing of the plan. Four similar attempts were made during his period of captivity.
On 15 September 1943 when the Italian guards started to desert their posts, Holmes with several companions made their escape through an unguarded side door. They travelled on foot southwards and then towards the coast with a view to getting a boat on the Adriatic. The plan did not materialise however and the party split up. Holmes and his two companions heard that the British had reached the South Bank of the River Sangro and so set off to reach them travelling on foot and sleeping in huts, houses and haystacks. They were captured by a German patrol, however, on the morning of November, 26, 1943 whilst attempting to cross from one wood to another on the North Bank of the Sangro.
On 28 February 1944, Holmes, together with about 400 men, was entrained at Aquila station. During the journey he cut the wire covering the window of the truck and jumped from the train together with one other man. The jump was made under cover of darkness when the train was travelling at about 20 m.p.h. up a gradient. Both men were captured in the Aquila valley the following day by 3 armed Fascists.
On 3 March 1944 Holmes and 2 companions again jumped from a train on the outskirts of Arrezzo after forcing the window covering of the truck. The speed of the train was approximately 25 m.p.h. at the time. Although the guard was only 6 or 8 feet from the window and it was a bright moonlight night, they were not seen. After obtaining help from Italian civilians they made for Rome under the guise of being Fascists but were captured at a road block on the outskirts of the town whilst travelling in a truck.
Holmes' ninth and last attempt to escape was made during a march from Nuremburg to Munich in March 1945. Together with 6 companions, he hid in a haystack during a halt, waited for the column to move, and then made for the American lines which he succeeded in reaching a few days later.
His brother-in-law, Joseph Oswald Hall, 910624, was a prisoner of war in Stalag 344, and was one of those who jumped from the train.
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