Warrant Officer Claude Weaver
National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3315/6
Name: R.83374 W.O. Weaver, Claude, D.F.M. and Bar.
Unit: 185 Squadron, Middle East Command, R.A.F.
Captured: Comiso, 9th September 1942.
Escaped: Campo 21 (Chieti), 17th September 1943.
Left: Gibraltar, 15th October 1943.
Arrived: Hendon, 16th October 1943.
Date of Birth: 18th August 1923.
R.A.F. Service: Since 13th February 1941.
Peacetime Profession: Student.
O.T.U.: No.59 O.T.U. Sutton Bridge.
Post in crew: Pilot.
Private Address: 1201 N.W. 38 Street, Oklahoma, U.S.A.
On 9 Sep 42 I was pilot of a Spitfire engaged over SICILY. I was hit by A.A. fire and forcelanded on the beach at COMISO. My aircraft was damaged, but I was immediately arrested by Carabinieri and did not have time to destroy it. I was very thoroughly searched on the spot, and my compass (a small round one) aids box, and food pack were taken.
I spent five days living in the joint German-Italian officers' mess at COMISO. I was not interrogated, even informally. The treatment was good.
2. JOURNEY AFTER CAPTURE.
On 14 Sep I was taken to the interrogation centre at Campo 50, POGGIO. I was given five days' solitary confinement. I was given a straightforward interrogation two or three times by an Italian officer, and for a time an Australian R.A.F. sergeant shared my cell. I suspected him from the start, as in talking about shows and women it appeared that he had seen no shows in ENGLAND subsequent to 1937, and he used the expression "preservative" instead of "preventative". He got nothing out of me. Before leaving POGGIO I filled in a genuine Red Cross form.
3. CAMPO 21 (CHIETI).
I was moved on 29 Sep to Campo No.21 (CHIETI) under guard of two carabinieri. On arrival I was very drastically searched. All my clothes were removed and my person was examined in detail.
4. CAMPO 49 (FONTANELLATO).
I left CHIETI about the middle of Mar 43 for Campo 49 (FONTANELLATO), 10 miles N.W. of PARMA, with about 40 others, including four officers of the U.S.A.A.F. Three of us made an abortive attempt to jump the train on the way.
After three months at Campo 49 I managed by special request to get myself sent back with other Americans to CHIETI. I arrived back there about the middle of Jun.
5. ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE.
(a) First attempt. From CHIETI. I tried to get out through the wire in Mar 43, but was hung up and after half an hour discovered. I was severely beaten up by the sentries, one of them breaking his rifle over me. I was given 30 days in cells as punishment. Parcels were smuggled in to my cell.
(b) Second attempt. From Campo 49 (FONTANELLATO). I attempted with Sgt. W. WENDT, U.S.A. of 249 Sqn. R.A.F. to escape through the camp sewer. We got some distance down the pipe, but then found that the contents had caked and blocked the exit, so that we had to come back. We were not discovered.
6. ESCAPE FROM CHIETI.
Lt.-Col. RIDEOUT and I escaped from CHIETI early on the morning of 17 Sep. By that time the Germans had entered the camp. The Senior British Officer had given the all-clear, and the Italian guards had largely deserted. We went over two layers of wire and a 6 foot wall. We were challenged once from one of the raised sentry boxes (I think by a German), but we pretended to be drunk, called out "Amigo", and were not fired at.
We wore British battle dress, and little blue skull-caps. We were posing as Spanish workmen. Our passes had been forged by Lt. GOLDINGHAM and the photographs used on them had been taken by the Italians in Campo 21. We were wearing blue battle dress tunics when photographed, but we pared the photographs down to show only part of the collar. The passes were over-stamped BRENNO-INTRETA.
In addition, we each had a tracing from a silk map obtained in the camp, and home-made compasses. We intended making for the 8th Army on the East side of ITALY.
We covered 17 miles Southward across country on the morning of 17 Sep. On the evening of 17 Sep we reached FARA S. MARTINO (EUROPE AIR MAP 1:250,000, Sheet CHIETI), which we found full of European civilian internees. We were given 100 lira by a Russian woman. Two Italian youths wanted to attach themselves to us, in the hope of reaching the Allied armies with our assistance. We decided that the assistance should be mutual. We left FARA on the evening of 17 Sep and were guided over fields by the two youths to an electrified railway station, where we caught a train at 0400 hrs on the morning of 18 Sep. On the train we exchanged clothes with some Italians, who were glad of our warmer battle dresses. We left the train at VILLA S. MARIA (EUROPE AIR MAP 1:250,000, Sheet FOGGIA) at 1300 hrs on 18 Sep, and at 0200 hrs, reached AGNONE, where we slept in straw stacks outside the town.
On 19 Sep we walked all day to S. ELLENA. On 20 Sep we by-passed CAMPO BASSO, where we learned German Staff were installed, and walked to near RICCIA.
On 21 Sep we went on to MOTTA (N. of VOLTURNO). At this point we decided to push on without our guides. At 1400 hrs on 23 Sep we had reached a position just East of LUGERA from where we could see FOGGIA. We heard that FOGGIA was still in German hands. We had acquired by now shepherds' crooks, floppy hats, and a great growth of beard.
At noon on 24 Sep we reached MELFI, where we heard that the Allied Forces were at LA CAPISCOLA, some 20 miles distant. We decided to push on, but between MELFI and RIONERO I sprained my ankle. We saw some German patrols along a railway track. I struggled along for about three miles and we reached RIONERO and broke into an empty house.
RIDEOUT went out to scrounge for food and then started off through the German lines to get help for me. He was back within 12 hours, bringing with him a mile which he had obtained from two Canadian engineers. I rode on the mule into LA CAPISCOLA on 25 Sep with RIDEOUT from whom I then parted.
I was taken to 8th Army H.Q. I was interrogated by several Intelligence and Staff officers on General MONTGOMERY's staff.
On 27 Sep I was flown to MALTA where I was interrogated and taken before Air Vice-Marshal PARK. I was kept in MALTA about a week in a rest camp and was then allowed to rejoin my squadron, where I did some practice flying.
On 6 Oct I received instructions to return to U.K. I was four days in ALGIERS where I was interrogated by Major HOLDER and Colonel HUFFER (Combined Allied H.Q.) and P/W Centre, C.S.D.I.C. I flew to U.K. in a Fortress, leaving ALGIERS on 14 Sep.
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