Corporal J. A. Parker

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/41

 

Name: NX.3653 Cpl. Parker, J.A.

Unit: 2/1 Field Company, A.I.F.

Captured: Crete, 1st June 1941.

Escaped: Moosburg, 26th November 1941.

Left: Gibraltar, 6th July 1942.

Arrived: Gourock, 12th July 1942.

Army Service: 2 years, 9 months.

Peacetime Profession: Fitter.

Private Address: Moonbria Street, Naremburn, Sydney.

 

After the evacuation of GREECE I was taken with the remainder of my Coy to SUDA BAY to unload incoming vessels. On 26 May we received orders to move back. Amongst general confusion we followed the crowd and reached the evacuation point on 29 May. Here we were formed into parties of 50-100 under an officer. Major TRAVERS, 8 Fld. Coy was in charge of my party, and at 0930 hrs 1 Jun issued orders to surrender, as the island had been handed over.

 

The Germans took us back to CANEA, where we were kept in the old Italian enclosure (SKINES' CAMP). Here conditions were poor. On 24 Jun we left SUDA BAY for PIRAEUS. We were kept in barracks in ATHENS for a few days and then were marched through the city to the station. On the way we were able to see the very rough treatment that the Germans gave the Greeks. We reached SALONIKA on 6 Jul and we were quartered in old Greek barracks. This was a sort of prison camp one reads about - strict, bullying treatment, even brutality. After a month we left for Germany. The journey was terrible and for six days we were only allowed once out of the wagons for about ten minutes. We arrived at Stalag VII A (MOOSBURG) on about 26 Aug.

 

This camp was full of French P/W from whom we were able to gain considerable amount of information. Two friends, (Bomdr. GLIDDON 2/3 Fld Regt and Gnr. ROSS, 2/3 Fld. Regt.), and myself decided to volunteer for work with a view to escaping. We obtained a number of tools, a spanner, a screwdriver and we made a railway kept out of a door-handle. We also collected money, which we were able to buy for Camp Marks, and overalls I bought from a P/W. We were set to work in a timber yard sorting and stacking timber. It was the custom of the guards to look after 15 P/W. We arranged with two others in the party to keep the German guard occupied if necessary and just before dusk on 26 Nov we clambered over the paling round the yard. It was 6 ft high with barbed wire on top, but we were able to get over unobserved. We crossed a vacant allotment till we came to a main street. As it was now nearly dark we were able to walk along this without attracting any notice. We had a fairly good idea where the station lay, as we had made enquiries. We came to a park adjoining the station yard and climbed into it. We hung around in the park for some time before approaching the railway marshalling yard, which we entered by climbing a paling.

 

The yard was very well lit by arc lights, but we crawled about in the shadows till we eventually reached the ST MARGRETHEN train, which we had been told about by Frenchmen. Unfortunately just as we reached the train a German approached with a lamp. We lay down on the track but he heard us and flashed his lamp on us. He raised a big hammer he was carrying and brought it down, but luckily only hit me on the sole of my boot. Then the German turned and ran one way and we ran the other. The alarm was now given, so we realised that it was hopeless to attempt to get away that night.

 

During this episode we lost ROSS and did not see him again. GLIDDON and I got clear of the yard and went back to the timber yard, where we waited till about 0700 hrs. We then followed the crowd of workers for about five miles out of MUNICH. We hid in the scrub of a big park there and remained there freezing till 1600 hrs, when we walked back to MUNICH. We hung about in the same park for a long time and again crossed the paling into the marshalling yard. We found the ST MARGRETHEN train much more quickly this time, but just before we reached it, we found ourselves crouching under a wagon which the Germans had begun to load. I dashed across the tracks and waited for GLIDDON to follow me. I waited for over an hour but he did not come. Then it struck me that he might have found his way to the ST MARGRETHEN train, and I went there and waited till it was almost daylight. I have heard since that he gave himself up that day. With the coming of dawn I started to look about for some place to conceal myself and saw a ladder fastened on the side of the wagon. I took this off and with the help of rope which I had collected from Red Cross parcels I strapped it across two arms of a steam outlet pipe and lay on it. During the morning men came round and washed the wagon and tapped the wheels etc. At about 1200 hrs the train was moved to the station and someone leaned under the wagon to connect the pipes up. This was a very bad moment. The train left about 1300 hrs and stopped at only two stations, LINDAU and BREGENZ. At the latter station we remained for about an hour and a half while passports were checked. The main discomfort of the trip lay in the fact that I was alternately enveloped in hot steam and then rushing through cold air. We reached ST MARGRETHEN at 1900 hrs. As I had no knowledge of how I would be treated by the Swiss I decided to try to get as far from the station as possible. I called at a Swiss carpenter's who expressed great delight when I told him who I was and fetched an Englishwoman, who in turn fetched her husband. The latter said the best thing to do was to give myself up so I was taken to the Police station. While I was there two Swiss Intelligence officers interrogated me. They were very friendly and put very general questions as to German morale and what I had seen in Germany. From ST MARGRETHEN I was sent by train to ST GALLEN and from there to ZURICH. All this time I was kept in the cells. On 4 Dec I was taken to BERNE, to the M.A., who arranged for the remainder of my stay in Switzerland.

 

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