Signalman Patrick Joseph Harkin


National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3320/57


Name: 2327083 Sgmn. Harkin, Patrick Joseph.

Unit: Royal Corps of Signals, attached G.H.Q. Signals, British Expeditionary Force.

Captured: Calais, 26th May 1940.

Escaped: Working Camp Römerstadt, 24th April 1944.

Left: Stockholm, 4th June 1944.

Arrived: Leuchars, 5th June 1944.

Date of Birth: 12th May 1912.

Army Service: Since 28th March 1938 (Supplementary Reserve).

Peacetime Profession: Telephone Engineer, G.P.O.

Private Address: 51 Woddrop Street, Glasgow, S.E.


(All map references are to series GERMANY 1:100,000.)


1. Capture:


I was captured in CALAIS on 26 May 40 with a party of about ten signalmen from G.H.Q. Sgmn. J.B. O'NEILL, who escaped with me, was also in this party. Sgmn. McCALLUM, who also escaped with me, had been wounded and captured outside BOULOGNE. After capture we were marched through FRANCE into BELGIUM and HOLLAND and then sent by train to Stalag VIII B (LAMSDORF) (now Stalag 344), arriving about the middle of Jun.


2. Camps in GERMANY:


Stalag VIII B (LAMSDORF) (Sheet 117, 658005): mid Jun 40 - Mar 44.

Working Camp (?) E86 (GEROLSDORF) (Sheet 118, 508659): Apr - May 41 (4 - 5 weeks).

Working Camp E80 (LABAND) (Sheet 118, 408756): May 41 - Jun 42.

Stalag VIII B : Jun 42 - 6 Jul 42.

Working Camp E465 at KARLSBRUNN, (Sheet 126, 501457): 6 Jul 42 - 23 Mar 44.

Stalag 344 (LAMSDORF) : 23 Mar - 21 Apr 44.

Working Party E476 RÖMERSTADT (South East of SCHÖNBERG on the German - Czechoslovak frontier): 21 Apr - 24 Apr 44.


3. Attempted Escapes:




4. Escape:


We began our preparations for escape in KARLSBRUNN during the winter of 1943-44. This is a small working party technically for N.C.Os only, and most of the P/W were employed in general farm and forestry work in the neighbourhood. At KARLSBRUNN we bribed the guards with food and cigarettes and were frequently allowed out. On one of our expeditions we stole a radio set from one of the hotels. At KARLSBRUNN we realised that if we wished to travel we would require some sort of papers bearing photographs, and O'NEILL sent home for photographs of himself and some of his friends. His wife sent out a selection, from which we chose one of O'NEILL and two of other people resembling McCALLUM and myself. The pictures arrived while we were still in KARLSBRUNN, but before McCALLUM was able to start forging papers and also before we had obtained civilian clothes we were moved back to LAMSDORF. The reason for our being moved was that the members of our working party had spread so much propaganda in the neighbourhood by showing the Germans our superior clothing, food, and kit that the local Nazi chiefs decided to have the whole party removed and Russians brought in instead.


We arrived at RÖMERSTADT on 21 Apr 44. We had not intended leaving immediately, as McCALLUM had not yet completed our papers, which we was forging on the covers of old exercise books but news reached our camp that 20 more men were being posted to the Kommando, which meant that two more guards would be allotted. At that time there were only two German guards, and as we had bribed them with food and cigarettes, they did not guard us too closely, leaving us to ourselves in our living room. We were living in an old factory which had been converted into very comfortable quarters. Most of the party were working on the railway, but the three of us were together on a farm.


Our living room was on the ground floor of the factory. We removed one of the bars from the window and escaped about 2130 hrs on 24 Apr having arranged with the other P/W that the bar should be replaced immediately we left, so that the Germans would not discover we had gone. We then cut our way through a single barbed wire fence with a pair of pliers which I had obtained in KARLSBRUNN. We replaced the wire as we left. We did this because the Germans now regard the cutting of wire fences as an act of sabotage, and are liable to add five or six days to the sentence of recaptured escapers.


After leaving the camp we made for KARLSBRUNN, passing through the village of KLEIN MOHRAU (Sheet 126, 502406). While at KARLSBRUNN we had been working in the hills and knew the district intimately. We made for a deer-stalker's hut, and decided to lie up there till we were fixed with civilian clothes and forged papers. We had brought with us a good supply of tinned salmon, bully beef, biscuits and chocolate, the other members of our working party having given us extra food for our escape. The chocolate was our mainstay for food during the journey.


We reached the hut early on the morning of 25 Apr. It was some days before we were able to get in touch with a Czech friend who worked in a hotel in KARLSBRUNN. I visited the village on several nights and finally met him coming from the hotel. He was surprised to see me, but expressed his willingness to help if I undertook to keep my mouth shut in the event of recapture. The Czech supplied me with a civilian suit, and another Czech and a French civilian worker gave McCALLUM a civilian jacket and trousers. They also supplied O'NEILL with a jacket. With black dye, which we had got in RÖMERSTADT, O'NEILL dyed his civilian trousers in the hut.


We remained in the hut till 5 May, when we left for FREYWALDAU (Sheet 126, 4065). We had no maps and when we reached a cross-roads we decided to follow the telephone wires, thinking they would probably lead to FREYWALDAU. The road, however, went to WURBENTHAL (Sheet 127, 5550). We went to the station here and McCALLUM, who speaks better German than O'NEILL and myself, enquired about a train for FREUDENTHAL (Sheet 127, 6035). There was no train in the early morning and, as we were tired, we went back into the hills and decided to lie up for another week. Our view was that Saturday was the most suitable day for travelling, as on that day Poles and Czechs are allowed to travel to their homes, and we hoped to pass as Czech workers. We stayed in a deer-stalker's hut in the KARLSBRUNN district till 12 May, being again in touch with our Czech helpers.


On 12 May we set out again for FREYWALDAU, which we reached this time without difficulty, arriving about 0530 hrs on 13 May. With the help of one of the Czechs we had planned out a route from station to station, involving short journeys, with STETTIN as our destination. It was our own idea to try to get out of GERMANY via STETTIN. We knew that P/W repatriated in Sep 43 had been sent to STETTIN and decided from this that there must be boats running from that port to SWEDEN. We knew also that there was another repatriation scheme in progress at the time of our escape, and thought that if we reached STETTIN we might be able to catch up with this party.


On 13 May we travelled by train from FREYWALDAU to LIEGNITZ (Sheet 103, 8075) via ZIEGENHALS (Sheet 117, 5675), NEISSE (Sheet 116, 1153), GROTTKAU (Sheet 117, 5618), BRIEG (Sheet 105, 6335), and BRESLAU (Sheet 104, 3264). We had to change trains at ZIEGENHALS, BRIEG and BRESLAU, but had no difficulty with identity controls. The Czechs and Frenchman in KARLSBRUNN had advised us to seek help on our journey from young Frenchmen and Czechs. While walking round the town in LIEGNITZ we saw two Frenchmen. We followed them into a Gasthaus and, having made quite certain that they were Frenchmen, followed them to another Gasthaus, where we spoke to them. They immediately took us to their camp in the town. There were about 20 French civilian workers living here. We stayed in this camp for the nights of 13-14 and 14-15 May. The reason we stayed two nights was that the Frenchmen advised us not to travel on Sunday (14 May) as they said foreign workers were not allowed to travel on Sundays. The Frenchmen here were extremely kind to us and, besides feeding us well, gave us food to take with us on our journey.


On 15 May we continued on our journey by train to SAGAN (Sheet 90, 2020). The journey took from about 0830 hrs till about 1130 hrs. In SAGAN we met a Frenchman in the street. I spoke to him and told him who we were. He was very scared to help us because of the German reaction to the break-out from Stalag Luft III, but eventually took us to his camp. Here one English-speaking Frenchman was all for helping us, but the leader of the camp thought it too dangerous to keep us, and insisted on our leaving immediately. We then returned to the station, followed by at least two Frenchmen who had apparently been detailed to see that we got on to the train.


From SAGAN we went on to FRANKFURT-AN-DER-ODER. There was no control on the journey. We arrived between 2015 and 2030 hrs. After shaving in the station lavatory we went out into the street. We realised that we would have to act quickly if we hoped to get in touch with Frenchmen, because we knew they would have to be off the streets by 2200 hrs. In the centre of the two we heard two men speaking French. I told them we were English and one of them took us to his camp, a converted tailor's shop in a large building in the centre of the town. There were 10 workmen living here. We were allowed to stay in this camp for two nights.


On 17 May we travelled from FRANKFURT-AN-DER-ODER via FRIEDENWALDE (Sheet 39, 2224) to ANGERMUNDE (Sheet 52, 3376). Before we reached ANGERMUNDE there was a control on the train. The inspection was carried out by an army N.C.O. (probably a Stabsfeldwebel), and an army Private, and a Luftwaffe N.C.O., who had also come from FRANKFURT and had boarded the ANGERMUNDE train at FRIEDENWALDE. These men wore round their necks a chain with a badge bearing the word "Kontrolle". This was entirely a military control for Service personnel and men of military age. Our papers were inspected by the Private, who looked first at O'NEILL's identity card, which bore a genuine photograph of O'NEILL. This card, which was an imitation of a printed card, stated that O'NEILL was a Sudeten German. The soldier asked O'NEILL if he was a foreigner, and O'NEILL replied that he was a Czech. The soldier glanced at McCALLUM's card and handed it back. I held out my card to him, but he said "Alle drei Kameraden" and handed me back my card without looking at it. He asked if we had any other papers, and we said we did not require any. The soldier then went along the train, but returned to our compartment and sat down beside O'NEILL. Fortunately, there was a German woman sitting in the compartment and, as Germans will not speak to foreigners if there is another German near, the soldier did not attempt to enter into conversation with us. The soldier got off the train at a station before ANGERMUNDE and was joined outside the door of our compartment by the two N.C.Os.


In ANGERMUNDE we walked round the town and stopped two Frenchmen in the street. They took us to their camp in the town, where we spent the night. There were about 20 Frenchmen here. Next morning we were given food for our journey.


On 18 May we continued by train to STETTIN (Sheet 38, 7021), arriving about 1800 hrs. We found the railway station in STETTIN completely demolished. There was no cloakroom left at which we could leave our kit, which consisted of two small suitcases and a German rucksack. We were unable to get in touch with any French workers and could not locate any of their camps, so we headed out of the town and slept for the night in a bombed house.


On the morning of 19 May we returned to the railway station and saw two men whom we took to be Frenchmen leaving the train. We spoke to them and they took us to their camp in the Northern suburbs of STETTIN. This camp had been bombed during a recent R.A.F. raid. One Frenchman said that the Germans had turned out the lights in the French camp and put on the lights in the German barracks nearby. Four Frenchmen had been killed during the raid. There were about 2,000 Frenchmen living in this camp. We stayed here for several days, but had to leave the camp during the day-time because the French police in the camp were not trusted by our helpers. The three of us went down o the docks several times, but were not able to get in touch with any Swedish sailors.


On the evening of 22 May one of the Frenchmen took O'NEILL to a brothel in the dock area, where they met a member of the crew of a Swedish vessel. This man was willing to take O'NEILL to the Swedish vessel right away, but on learning that there were three of us, he would not do more than point out to O'NEILL the place where the boat was lying. He told him that the boat was due to sail on 24 May and that if we could get on board alone and hide in the coal bunker he would come down and assist in concealing us.


On 23 May we left the camp with a Frenchman who took us to the docks to within half a mile of where the ship was lying (exact location uncertain). He declined to take us further. We then walked along the railway lines till we reached the dock in which the Swedish ship was lying. The ship had been moved since O'NEILL was there the previous day and we had some difficulty in locating it. It was, however, quite easy to get into the dock, as the gate was open and unguarded, although the dock itself was patrolled by German soldiers in uniform. There were also German soldiers on the ships. After hiding under a truck for some time we came out into the open and stopped two men who turned out to be German sailors. They directed us to the Swedish ship, and we walked quite openly down the quayside, smoking cigarettes.


When we reached the ship we walked up the gangway on board. At that moment there was no soldier patrolling the quay alongside the ship, though there had been one there a short time before. (The soldiers patrolling the docks have Alsatian dogs with them.) When we got on deck a German sentry from the top deck spoke to us and asked if we belonged to the crew. We replied "Ja, Ja", and walked into what turned out to be the Captain's quarters. Here we met one of the Swedes who fetched the sailor whom O'NEILL had met the previous day. This man took us through the boiler room into the coal bunker and left us. We then buried ourselves in the coal.


On 24 May the ship was searched about 1700 hrs by a Gestapo man with a dog. They came right down into the bunker, and at one stage the dog was only about two yards from us, but did not scent us. We had been told by our helper that the Germans generally gassed the hold, but that the gas, being a tear gas, was not dangerous and that if we did not get excited we would be quite safe. The ship sailed about 0715 hrs. Six German soldiers remained on board and continued the search of the ship as it sailed down the bay. The Gestapo man and the dog had left, before the vessel sailed.


On 26 May our helped instructed a trimmer to come down to the bunker and "find" us and report us to the Captain. About 1145 hrs we were taken to the Captain, who asked when and how we had got on to the ship. We told him, but denied having had any help from the crew. After we had had a meal, the ship being then off MALMÖ, we were put on to the pilot boat about 1230 hrs and handed over to a Swedish mine sweeper, on which we were taken into MALMÖ. Here the police put us into a hotel and reported our presence to the Consulate. We were in MALMÖ till 28 May and arrived in STOCKHOLM on 29 May. At MALMÖ the Swedish police asked if we had any help. When we denied this they did not push their interrogation.



Signalman James Bruce O'Neill and Signalman John McCallum


National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3320/54


Name: 2324625 Sgmn. O'Neill, James Bruce

Name: 2326100 Sgmn. McCallum, John

Unit: Both of Royal Corps of Signals, attached G.H.Q. Signals, British Expeditionary Force.

Left: Stockholm, 10th June 1944.

Arrived: Leuchars, 11th June 1944.


Sgmn. O'Neill

Date of Birth: 19th June 1912.

Army Service: Since 1934 (Supplementary Reserve).

Peacetime Profession: Telephone Engineer, G.P.O.

Private Address: 139, Firhill Road, Glasgow, N.W.


Sgmn. McCallum

Date of Birth: 20th June 1917.

Army Service: Since 13th January 1937 (Supplementary Reserve).

Peacetime Profession: Telephone Engineer, G.P.O.

Private Address: 139, Firhill Road, Glasgow, N.W.


Note: Sgmns. O'Neill and McCallum are half brothers.




Sgmn. O'NEILL.


I was captured in CALAIS on 26 May 40 with a party of about ten signalmen from G.H.Q., among whom was Sgmn. HARKIN (S/P.G.(G) 1951). My experiences are identical to those related in his report.




I was wounded and taken P/W at LA CAPELLE (N.W. EUROPE, 1:250,000, Sheet 1, G 75) on 23 May 40.


After capture I was taken to a hospital in BOULOGNE where I remained for about three weeks. I was then transferred to a hospital in CAMBRAI. In Sep 40 I was taken to LILLE hospital and three weeks later I was transferred to Frontstalag 102 (LILLE). In Nov 40 I was taken by train to Stalag VIIIB (LAMSDORF) (now Stalag 344) where I met Sgmns. HARKIN (S/P.G.(G) 1951) and O'NEILL. From this point my experiences are as related in HARKIN's report.




Sgmns. O'NEILL and McCALLUM.




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