Major Jack Prichard
National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3324/112
Name: P.52965 Major Jack Prichard.
Unit: 4th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment, 32nd Army Tank Brigade.
Date of Birth: 17th November 1912.
Army Service: S.R. Commission, 1931.
Peacetime Profession: Regular Army.
Private Address: White Cottage, Iver, Bucks.
On 9 Sep 43 Camp 29 (VEANO, near PIACENZA) (ITALY 1:250,000, Sheet 11, K 51) was taken over by the P/W without Italian resistance.
On 10 Sep the S.B.O. (Cols. FANSHAWE and YOUNGHUSBAND) gave permission for all P/W to escape, and small parties were formed. My party consisted of Major R.E. FRYE, Major R.M. COLE and Tpr. KEMSLEY, all of the 4th Bn., R.T.R.
We decided to go South, hoping to meet our forces advancing North. After a few days the question of food became difficult, and we decided to take the offer of an Italian family, who were then living near VEANO, to feed us. The Germans, however, searched our camp area, and we moved to the village of GRILLE near BETTOLA (Sheet 11, P 5380). In this village we found a small farmer who helped us and several other parties of ex-P/W.
We stayed in the BETTOLA area until the end of Oct 43. Weather conditions were now becoming difficult for living in the woods, and Fascists were more active. We decided to take the offer of the Italian family and go to MILAN. Majors COLE and FRYE went first and I followed a week later (8 Nov 43). In MILAN Majors COLE and FRYE stayed with the Italian family who had previously helped us and I went to another family. Conditions became very difficult the first week after my arrival, and we could not induce anyone to go back for Tpr. KEMSLEY or other parties whom we had hoped to help. We heard in MILAN that escaped P/W arriving in SWITZERLAND were being interned. We considered that the Italian campaign would not last long, and that our best chance to get back to our forces would be to stay in ITALY, and, when our troops were nearer, to go South again.
In Dec 43 Majors COLE and FRYE met an Italian living at MONZA (Sheet 10, K 37) just outside MILAN. He was very pro-British and insisted on helping us and our two Italian families with money. He was, however, too cautious to help us to meet other people. The families with whom we were living would not tell even their closest friends of our existence, and were not very willing to let us out of their houses, owing to the danger of people seeing us. We, however, overcame their objections and from Dec 43 onwards went out every day. Our object was to find contacts and to know our way about MILAN.
In Feb 44 we found a man who said he knew of an organisation helping escaped P/W to the Adriatic coast, where they were being taken off by naval units. Plans were made, but came to nothing.
In Mar 44 I organised a route to a place outside GENOA, and a fishing boat to go to CORSICA. At the last minute the boat was discovered.
In May 44 we found a man who appeared to be in contact with Allied Intelligence. We believed him to be working in a German or Italian H.Q. in MILAN. He spoke English and Italian fluently, and had an apparently efficient organisation in MILAN. We offered to help him, but he refused this and told us that he thought the best for us would be to go to SWITZERLAND. He said that this could be easily arranged and that he would go to make sure of the route beforehand. We decided to accept this offer, as it now appeared that the Italian campaign would last some time.
On 12 Jun 44 Majors COLE and FRYE were caught in MILAN by the Fascists in a cafe. I had immediately to leave the house I was living in and avoid seeing all my previous contacts. I tried to re-establish contact with the organisation but, owing to the fact that the Fascists knew of my existence and what I looked like, I had to be very careful. The cafe in which Majors COLE and FRYE were caught was our only contact with this organisation and I could not visit the cafe again for some time.
I now attempted to join the Partisans. In Jul 44, when I was staying in a house in the suburbs of MILAN with five Partisans on my way to join their band, we were surprised by the Fascists. After a short battle we escaped, but I lost contact with the Partisans. After living in another house in the centre of MILAN I heard that the police were searching for me there. I then went back to the family with whom Majors COLE and FRYE had stayed. In Sep 44 I came into contact with another Partisan group. This group wanted me to go to them. They were, however, a small group near COMO and apparently only required me in order to get arms and ammunition, of which they had very little.
On 10 Sep 44 I got in touch with an organisation, through which my journey to SWITZERLAND was arranged. I reached SWITZERLAND on 26 Oct 44.
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