Gunner John Griffiths

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3324/116

 

Name: 917543 Gnr. Griffiths, John.

Unit: 68th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, 8th Army.

Captured: Tobruk, 25th June 1942.

Left: Algiers, 7th September 1944

Arrived: U.K., 14th September 1944.

Date of Birth: 1st September 1920.

Army Service: Since 24th April 1939.

Peacetime Profession: Confectioner.

Private Address: 19 Grandison Road, Liverpool, 4.

 

1. Capture:

 

I was captured at TOBRUK on 25 Jun 42.

 

2. Camps in which imprisoned:

 

BENGHAZI                       Jun 42.

BRINDISI                          Jul 42.
Campo 65 (GRAVINA)     18 Jul 42 - 18 Jul 43.

Campo 53 (MACERATA)  20 Jul - 15 Sep 43.

 

3. Left Campo 53 (MACERATA):

 

We were not told of the Armistice until 10 Sep 43. The British Medical Officer had ordered British patrols out, as he wanted to keep us in the camp until Allied Forces reached the district. He thought that the advance would be more rapid than it was. On 15 Sep 43 the Italian guards left, and I was able to walk out of the camp, with two other men (names forgotten). We went to LORO PICENO (ITALY 1:250,000, Sheet 24, X 59) and spent a week hiding in a pig sty belonging to some village people.

 

We then went to MONTAPPONE (Sheet 25, X 59). Here the Fascists were searching for escaped prisoners with guns and dogs, and we were advised to move on. We went a little way outside MONTAPPONE and were given shelter for a month by a family who had a farm. We worked for these people, but as they did not treat us well, or feed us properly I decided to leave the others and go elsewhere.

 

I went to SAN GINESIO (Sheet 24, X 49) where I had heard that there were many other English, and where I hoped to join a rebel band. I discovered that this band would not allow the English to carry arms, so I stayed only one night, and returned to MONTAPPONE which was a days march away. This was the middle of Oct 43. I was taken in by another farm on the other side of MONTAPPONE, where I was very well looked after. In Dec 43 I had an attack of appendicitis, and the family brought a doctor to attend me. The Fascists came often to the neighbourhood, and I was several times forced to hide, either in the stable or in a kind of dugout some distance away. I once spent three weeks in this dugout.

 

On 10 Apr 44 about 200 Fascists arrived in this district and began an extensive search. Eight or nine Englishmen were caught in our area, and the Fascists threatened to shoot them immediately. The woman owner of the farm in which I was living was an ardent Fascist, as was also her son. Shortly after the Fascist clean-up this boy wrote to the Fascist leader among them to return to our district to round up the Italians of military age, and the English ex-P/W who were in hiding. By some means this letter was passed to the rebels in the district, and they shot and killed one of the local Fascists in the main street of the village, in front of his wife and daughter. After this episode, the landlord's son fled to MACERATA with his wife.

 

The Allied advance had forced the Germans to fall back along the River CHIENTI, South of MACERATA, and by the end of Jun 44, we had Polish troops in the district. I declared my identity to them, but they were on the move and could not help me. On 6 Jul 44 I left MONTAPPONE with several other evaders, and went to MONTE GIORGIO (Sheet 25, X 6394), and RAPAGNANO (X 6797). Here I met the Poles again and was taken to their camp. They had with them a British Liaison Officer, who had just gone over to MACERATA. I set off to find him, but on the way I boarded a truck and was driven to FERMO (Sheet 25, X 79). I stayed at a farm for the night, and was sent next day to PORTO ST. GIORGIO (X 89). I left for ORTONA by sea, on 8 Jul 44, then went by rail to TORINO DI SANGRO where I stayed in a reception camp. I went by train to NAPLES, arriving on 13 Jul 44. Then I was sent to BARI, to the 8th Army Rest Camp. I was given a pass for seven days, but after six days the pass was renewed for a further week. I hitched back to see my friends at MONTAPPIONE, overstayed by leave, and in consequence missed the boat for ENGLAND. I finally left NAPLES for ALGIERS, and arrived in the U.K. about 14 Sep 44.

 

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