Corporal J. H. Fleming

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/47

 

Name: 536803 Cpl. Fleming, J.H., Armourer

Unit: 211 Squadron, R.A.F.

Captured: 27th April 1941.

Escaped: 10th August 1941.

Left: Port Tewfik, 30th August 1941.

Arrived: Liverpool, 21st December 1941.

Army Service: 5 years.

Peacetime Profession: Clerk.

Private Address: 61 Carrington Street, Belfast.

 

I was captured on 27 APR 41, when the Germans took over the 26 GEN. Hospital, KEPHISSIA, ATHENS, where I was a patient with malaria.

 

The Germans did not interrogate our ward; our numbers, names and ranks had previously been taken, as well as the addresses of N/K, by the M.O. i/c hospital. My paybook never left my possession and was not seen by the Germans - we destroyed all personal and service papers before capture. Treatment was fairly good, particularly the food, although there was little of it. Two days later I was moved to the Greek hospital in Athens, formerly known as "American College". On 17 May I was transferred to 5 AUSTRALIAN Gen. Hospital at KOKINIA, PIRAEUS, and was discharged a fortnight later, when I was taken in a motor to the P/W Camp 400 yards away and overlooking PIRAEUS harbour.

 

The hut, in which I was accommodated, was about 60 yards from the barbed wire fence with two German Sentries, 25 yards apart, posted in this intervening space. The Sentries were armed with rifles, carried in the slung position. An Australian Pte A. J. RICHARDSON and I decided to make a break for it. We left our hut, when it was dark, with our socks over our boots, and lay down outside. When the guards were looking the other way, Richardson and I sprinted for the wire, passing between them. We got to within 15 yards of the fence, before the guards started shooting. We separated, Richardson to the right and I to the left, and both clambered over the wire unscathed. Richardson ran off in the direction of PIRAEUS and I followed suit but did not catch up with him and never saw him again.

 

As I was wearing a khaki shirt, K.D. slacks and leather shoes (obvious British kit) and the curfew came into force at 2300 hrs., I went up to a Greek woman, in a quiet district of PIRAEUS and asked for shelter. She took me to her house, where food and civilian clothing were given to me. On 12 AUG I was taken to another house, stayed there 10 days and then for 7 days at another. On 29 AUG I was identified by the Organization, which arranged for my subsequent escape and found me various lodgings during the next four weeks. Meanwhile they provided me with a Greek identity card, which enabled me to move about the town fairly safely. On 26 SEP in company with 2/Lieut J. A. CRAIG and Cpl. HAYCOCK (22 BN. N.Z.E.F.), P/O H. DASTON (30 Squadron R.A.F.), Lt. COOPER (5 FLD. ARTY. N.Z.E.F) and Lt. ATKINSON (R.A.S.C.), I left ATHENS, guided by two members of the ORGANIZATION. We made our way to a Caique, which was engaged on the repatriation of Cretans, in whose guise we appeared as passengers. We embarked at a secluded spot on the Coast and had an uneventful voyage to the island of ANTI-PAROS, which we reached at 2000 hrs on 28 SEP. We went ashore and were hidden in the Captain's house, remaining there until 2 OCT, when we sailed to CRETE. An Italian patrol paid the Caique a visit, before it left ANTI-PAROS, but apparently all the Italians wanted was someone to cook some fish, which they had just caught. One of the crew obliged. We made Crete at 2100 hrs on 4 OCT, disembarking at PLACA on the N.E. corner of the island. Here we were taken to a house, the following day leaving again for Egypt. The party now included 8 Greeks. The Egyptian Coast was sighted at 0600 hrs, 60 miles off the port of ALEXANDRIA, which we entered at dusk.

 

During the entire voyage we did not see a/c or patrol boats.

 

On arrival at ALEXANDRIA we reported on board H.M.S. VALIANT.

 

I was later interrogated by Naval Intelligence and by S.I.O., R.A.F. H.Q. M.E.

 

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