Sapper Albert William Benstead

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3324/75

 

Name: 1881786 Spr. Benstead, Albert William.

Unit: 232 Field Company, R.E., 50th Division.

Captured: Galza (Western Desert), 30th May 1942.

Escaped: Campo 53 (Macerata), 15th September 1943.

Left: Naples, 31st July 1944.

Arrived: Liverpool, 11th August 1944.

Date of Birth: 19th March 1918.

Army Service: Since 9th October 1939.

Peacetime Profession: Carpenter Joiner.

Private Address: Elm High Road, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

 

All map references are to ITALY 1:250,000.

 

1. Capture:

 

I was captured with my Company at GALZA, Western Desert, on 30 May 42.

 

2. Camps in which imprisoned:

 

BENGHAZI, Palm Tree Camp: 4 - 9 Jun 42.

TRIPOLI:                                  11 Jun - 3 Jul 42.

Campo 85, BRINDISI:              4 - 10 Jul 42.

Campo 66, CAPUA:                 11 Jul - 14 Sep 42.

Campo 87, BENEVENTO:       14 Sep - 23 Oct  42.

Campo 65, GAVONA:              24 Oct 42 - 18 Jul 43.

Campo 53, MACERATA:         18 Jul - 15 Sep 43.

 

3. Attempted Escapes:

 

Nil.

 

4. Escape:

 

After the Armistice had been declared on 8 Sep 43 the Italian guards were increased in strength at Campo 53, MACERATA (Sheet 24, S 51). On the afternoon of 15 Sep all the guards left the camp. At 1700 hrs on that day Dvr. JOHNSON, R.A.S.C., of SWAFFHAM BULBECK, Cambridgeshire, Gnr. James PEARSON, R.A., of COMARK, Ayrshire, Pte. WILLS, Buffs or Hants Regt., and I walked out of the camp. We walked S.E. across country and arrived at MONTELFONE (Sheet 25, X 6184) on 18 Sep. We remained there until 20 Oct when we met Cpls. WEAVER and BROWN (Commandos or Paratroopers under the command of Captain TIMOTHY). They told us to proceed to ROCCA-MONTE (X 7482) and then to follow the river MONACIO to the road bridge near the Adriatic coast (X 8883). We were informed that we would be evacuated by sea.

 

We arrived at the rendezvous, about 4 km. N. of CUPRA MARITTIMA (X 8982) where we met approximately 400 ex-Ps/W, at 2330 hrs on 23 Oct. Shortly afterwards a skirmish took place between the Commandos and German and Fascist troops. We were then ordered to scatter.

 

Dvr. JOHNSON, Gnr. PEARSON, Pte. WILLS and I walked to ROCCA-MONTE where we arrived at approximately 0600 hrs on 24 Oct. At 1700 hrs Dvr. JOHNSON and Pte. WILLS left ROCCA-MONTE to go to MONTELEONE. I did not see either of them again until I arrived at NAPLES when I met Dvr. JOHNSON, who informed me that Pte. WILLS had been killed by Germans or Fascists (date unknown).

 

Gnr. PEARSON went to a house on the outskirts of ROCCA-MONTE and I stayed at another house nearby until approximately 7 Jan 44.

 

During the first week of Jan Captain FISHER, Italian Army, of PORCHIA (B 7089) called at the house and told me that he had a plan to evacuated ex-Ps/W by sea. On approx. 7 Jan Gnr. PEARSON, 10 others (names unknown) and I were taken by guides to a point approx. 15 kms. West of PESCARA (Sheet 29, C 1829), where we arrived about 12 Jan. Approx. half an hour after our arrival there we learned that the area was being surrounded by Germans and we scattered.

 

I walked North and was captured by four Germans at midnight on approx. 15 Jan, on the outskirts of GIULIANOVA. I was taken to a guard room. The door was locked and a sentry posted outside. At midnight on 16-17 Jan I removed the wedges from the window of the room and was able to raise the lower half of the window. I climbed through and avoided the sentry outside. I crawled for some distance through gardens until I met an Italian who told me that a German Brigade was bivouacked in the area. I crawled for several hours and passed a number of German sentries.

 

At 0730 hrs on 17 Jan I met another Italian who escorted me towards the mountains and gave me directions. I walked at night and hid during the day until I arrived at ROCCA-MONTE on approx. 21 Jan. About five days later I learned that Gnr. PEARSON had arrived back in ROCCA-MONTE and I went to see him. His feet were in a very bad condition due to forced marching.

 

On approx. 25 Jan I called upon Captain FISHER at PORCHIA and he told me to await further orders. I returned to ROCCA-MONTE.

 

On 20 Mar Gnr. PEARSON and I had to leave ROCCA-MONTE due to Fascist activity. We moved about the district, staying at various houses until 19 Jun.

 

On 13 May an Italian civilian (name unknown) from ROME called upon me at RIPATRANSONE (B 8089) and gave me instructions to proceed to ROTELLA (B 6384) as he had a plan for evacuation. On that day Gnr. PEARSON, Pte. RICKETT, Sherwood Foresters, 11 others (names unknown) and I walked to ROTELLA where we were accommodated at various houses. The following morning (14 May) I learned that 12 of our party, including Gnr. PEARSON, had been captured by the Germans during the night. Pte. RICKETT and I then walked to RIPATRANSONE, where we hid in the fields. We received food from an Italian and we remained there until 19 Jun, when we made contact with the Allied forces in RIPATRANSONE.

 

We were sent to various Units and finally to NAPLES, where we were briefly interrogated and sent by boat to the U.K. on 31 Jul.

 

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