Unit : 296 Field Company, Royal Engineers, 8th Army.
Served : North Africa (captured).
Camps : P.G. 85 and 70.
Demolition Tobruck 20/6/42
1st Distillery 15.00 hrs approx
Petrol Tank 16
Bardia W.P. 17
2nd Distillery 17.15
Tower House 17.15
M.T.B. Wharf 18.30
Coal Wharf 19.30
When completed attempt to get away in small motor boat. Row with shovels as far as second boom. All of us very tired and have to come in shore. Decide to try and walk through.
21st Rest in cave & are found by Jerry about 16.00 hrs. Are taken in pen at Tobruck. (The Cameronian Highlanders fought on but were eventually captured. They marched towards the pen with the bagpipes in front then lined up as if on parade. It was heartbreaking.)
Other demo's Tobruck
Wadi Sahil W.P.) Lt Jagger
Derna Rd W.P )
Tower House Sgt Smoker
San Marino W.P.
Tobruck June 21 POW
Lt Cpl Buck
Spr Glyoon, 296 AF Coy
Burk, 13 Corp
Hyndman, 81 CRE
Bird, x, Maj Baker
Last pay 13 June 1942
Termini 22 June (Taken in lorries from airfield in Tobruck)
Benghazi 4 July - 12 Nov (Thought if I stayed here long enough our own troops would advance and would be relieved. 2 of us were the last to go from the camp. Benghazi was an awful camp)
Italy 25 Nov 1942. Arrived PG85
Sgt Holland & Sgt Major Green picked up in Tenna in Feb. (They had escaped and were living in a village but were spotted and picked up)
Mgr Tucky, Mgr Nott, Mgr Hodges, Lt Smith & Lt Bain. Scheme failed party picked up. Lt Bain later escaped from truck. (The party were betrayed by a Contessa who inspired their trust and apparently helped them then did the dirty. They were caught in a trap with both ends blocked and them in the middle. Whilst being transported elsewhere on lorries Lt Bain jumped off the back of the lorry and escaped and we met up with him when Jimmy and I later escaped)
PG70 21 May 1943
September 27 1943
(The Italians had turned it in and deserted the camp leaving only the Jerrys. A motorcycle battalion of Jerrys began to circle round the camp to keep the 8000 prisoners in the camp. The Jerrys decided to move the men out. I saw a chance to escape. I had spotted two tea chests we could hide in inside the refuse dump at the bottom of the camp, which was near to the woods but overlooked by a guard tower. I mentioned the possibility to Jimmy who agree to try. I passed the men sat on their hunkers ready to be moved out. I gave Jock McBride a tin opener and he advised me not to do something stupid at this stage. 4/6 men carrying the boxes on a sedan chair type of arrangement took the rubbish to the dump. 6 of us took it down and Jimmy and I entered the box while the other men returned) James & I enter box in refuse dump 8.30 a.m. Jerry moves remainder of lads. Shots fired through the night. We get out for air in night but soon get back when two guards walk by a few feet away.
Decide to go for the wire. 11.30. No guards in sight so we start crawling for it. Think it is all over when a woman spots us and calls. Turns out OK when she gives us clothing and takes us to a friendly house nearby where we spend the night. (There were trees near the dump, which we aimed for when we left the box. We were in the middle of this when two girls spotted us. We had to decide whether we were willing to trust them or not. They took us to a house and attired us in Italian peasant clothing then we moved to another house with friendly villagers. There were two sides to things - those who didn't like Jerry but also the Fascists who would have been only too happy to turn us in)
Return to camp with several others for loot. (This was one of the daftest things I have ever done. The Italians had taken over the camp when the Jerrys left to protect the contents like medical equipment. I went back with one of the local women, Ricci, hand in hand past one of the guards she knew to show her where the 3 blankets were Jimmy and I had used in the box)
We go on stunt for embarkation - 12 English and several ITIS. (We had a country base and our ear to the ground. Heard news of courier/boat from Porto St Giorgio but did not go for it. Suspected it to be a false rumour spread by Jerry so they could recapture escapees)
Eight Paratroopers leave by boat Capt Chubb M.C. (Met this party wandering behind the lines. They had a rendezvous, which had fallen through and had got a boat. Left a message with us, which they said they would send over radio when they got through but never heard it so do not know what happened to them. Capt Chubb's father was an M.P. and was looking for any information about his son but I was not allowed to say anything.)
Cost of boat 73,000 lire (complete)
15' by 6' cutter rig
Distance travelled 180 - 200 kilo
Sail Italian bed sheets dyed blue
Mast boom, gaff & sails cordage tiller & all stores made & collected from friendly Contadini families (Boat was found by fisherman off shore - looked like the lifeboat of a ship)
(We left the families who had helped us "Churchill chitties" - a note to hide until our troops got through. This was a promissory note to acknowledge the help they had given us and to redeem when our troops came through. We later received a letter back in England from the families passed on to us by one of our advancing troops.)
March 17 1944
The scheme is completed and we decide to leave at night. We leave Giovanni's house while light for "Strada Nat" in parties of three. Fred and I in last party. Made house at dusk on west side of road. Cross road singly at ferry signal station without difficulty to house where at which boat is hidden. Necessary work completed in about ¾ hour. Oxen drag boat about 500' to beach and are away by 9 p.m. Jimmy and I using muffled oars. We hear train pass about 9.30 and at about 10 we hear a water craft pass inshore of our own craft. Waters dead calm and everyone very jovial about the whole thing. Sails are rigged and we make slow progress out to sea with the oars. (Party was myself, Jimmy Sargent (1883041), Sgt. Walt V Ott (American Airborne), Flt Lt Arnold J Mott (ex Lysander pilot) , Lt Ian Bain, Flt Lt G M Carmichael, Sgt Pilot Fred Rawlings, Capt P Matthews (South African Signals))
Wind freshens in morning and we make fair progress South. Slight scare when Jerry plane passes also about 200 mosquitoes. Four of us badly seasick. We again hear enemy craft in near vicinity during night - wind freshens and we make record progress. Flashes of Arty seen and we assume our position to be near the line.
Wind drops again & we take to the oars. Fishing craft sighted & after a debate by our navigators we decide we are in our own waters. We approach shore with a certain amount of anxiety & finally land at PO Penna where the personnel of an RAF control station welcome us. The thrill of English company, cigs & tea and we have photos taken of crew and craft and take cab for Altona. (G & J see Doc)
Change our civvies for army kit & at 3.30 depart for Termoli where we spend the night.
Depart for Napoli after saying goodbye to Walt our USA friend. View the effects of our bombing & Jerry destruction on way down* arriving Napoli around dusk. After a meal and a beer retire to bed at our new billet Torre de Grecco. On arriving Napoli 21st see Vesuvious in action. Smoke and ash rising to a height of 20,000 ft forms impressive sight. Dust & ashes falling like rain on neighbouring village of Torre di Grecco. (Jimmy & I get slightly dusty) *Berevento badly smashed by our bombing
Bath, medical and needle
Jimmy & I spend evening with RE
Visit Napoli with George. 16 more lads arrive through the line tonight among them an old friend Driver House.
A.M.G operating for civilians. Great food shortage amongst civil population.
A few more lads roll in. Meet Maria & spend evening at house.
"This is the Army"
Visit San Sebastian. Lava got high & 440' wide. Half village buried.
Jimmy & I do the rounds & meet Julia. Pay 300 L
Goodbye to Napoli we embark at about 12.00 hrs.
First day at sea. At about 19.00 clock reads 160 naut miles
Land sighted SW at about 10.00 hrs
Land on starboard side. Spain
Pass Gib about 3 a.m.(16 knots)
W. Weather fine. Sea heavy swell
Continue W. Sea still choppy
Leopoldville. 3500 troops
April log readings
3 a.m. 6 a.m.
N miles Land miles
7p.m. 160 200
12th 5 p.m. 400 340
13th 2.15p.m. 172
14th 8.30p.m. (1080) 435
16th 8a.m. 1900 completed
Land sighted port side 5 p.m.
Glasgow for reception. Show in evening
Left Glasgow 9.10 p.m. Visit Jock's people
Arrive Watford 11 a.m. Shock No 1
Jimmy & I go for a stroll around firms
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