Corporal Robert Avis Doubleday

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3315/61

 

Name: 5384613 Cpl. Doubleday, Robert Avis.

Unit: 1st (Bucks) Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 145th Brigade, H.Q., 48th Division.

Captured: Hazebrouck, 28th May 1940.

Escaped: Stalag XXA (Thorn), 7th September 1943.

Left: Stockholm, 25th October 1943.

Arrived: Leuchars, 26th October 1943.

Date of Birth: 5th August 1920.

Army Service: T.A. since May 1939.

Peacetime Profession: Insurance Surveyor.

Private Address: Monks Risborough, Aylesbury, Bucks.

 

Name: 7607836 Cpl. Curry, Joseph Henry.

Unit: 14th Army Field Workshop, R.A.O.C., attached 2 Corps Troops.

Captured: Watten, 29th May 1940.

Escaped: Stalag XXA (Thorn), 7th September 1943.

Left: Stockholm, 25th October 1943.

Arrived: Leuchars, 26th October 1943.

Date of Birth: 6th May 1915.

Army Service: Since 6th September 1939.

Peacetime Profession: Adding Machine Business.

Private Address: 45 Galton Road, Warley, Birmingham.

 

Cpl. DOUBLEDAY.

 

1. CAPTURE.

 

I was in the Brigade Anti-Tank Coy. attached to the 1st (Bucks) Bn. Oxf. & Bucks L.I., when we were surrounded at HAZEBROUCK on the evening of 28 May 40. Most of the battalion was captured there. I was wounded.

 

2. CAPTIVITY.

 

On 29 May I was sent to a hospital in ARRAS run by nuns, and there for about ten days. The Germans then took the patients to LILLE, where I was a few days in the camp. After that we joined the column of 51 (H) Div. P/W from ST. VALERY, and went with them through BELGIUM into HOLLAND, and thence by barge to EMMERICH. From there we were sent in cattle trucks to the transit camp at HE[?]. I was there for about four days before being sent to STALAG XXA (THORN) POLAND. At THORN I was working for a time on working parties from the camp. For the last twelve months of my captivity I was working in the parcels department in the Kommandantur.

 

Cpl. CURRY.

 

1. CAPTURE.

 

About 180 of us were ambushed in the grounds of a chateau at ST. MARTIN-AU-LAER, N.W. of ST. OMER. Some of our lorries got away, but I was in a party of about 16 which tried for 8 days to reach the coast without transport. Eventually a German found us asleep in a wood near WATTEN, N.W. of ST. OMER, about 29 May 40. I was among the prisoners who were marched to CAMBRAI and sent from there by train to TRIER. From TRIER we were moved in cattle trucks to STALAG XXA (THORN). I was in the camp hospital for five months suffering from a septic leg. After that I did not work for quite a time, and then went to work in the book parcels department, and later in the pay office, where I was working when I escaped.

 

Cpls. DOUBLEDAY and CURRY.

 

1. Escape from STALAG XXA (THORN).

 

We began our preparations for this escape about six weeks before we actually came away, and considered various schemes. Finally Cpl. DOUBLEDAY got in touch with a Pole outside the camp. This man was a lorry driver employed with a firm of contractors for whom one of the camp Arbeitskommandos also worked, and he used to go to the Kommandantur once a week with N.C.Os from the working party for supplies. He was not the first Pole we had approached, but he was the first to offer any definite help. He said he had friends in GDYNIA, and would enable us to escape to that port. He guaranteed that once we got to GDYNIA we could get away. This was about the end of Aug or early Sep. We did not want to go at once, as we did not know the Pole well. Also our German was not very good, and another man in the camp had been given priority for an escape scheme.

 

We asked the Pole whether he could arrange road transport as we knew that the trains were being very closely checked. He agreed to bring his lorry to THORN on 7 Sep. We also arranged to get assistance from Signalman CLANCY (S/P.G.(-) 1522) and Pte. HUTSON (S/P.G.(P) 1514) whose job as rabbit keepers at the KOMMANDANTUR gave them scope for moving freely about the camp and the surrounding area. In this area there was a small wood which GLANCY and HUTSON frequently visited in order to cut grass for the rabbits. We arranged with the lorry driver that he would pull up on the road beside the wood between 1400 and 1500 hrs on 7 Sep as though to adjust his engine. We were to climb into the back of the truck and be taken to BROMBERG.

 

On the morning of 7 Sep GLANCY and HUTSON went out with scythes and hid our civilian clothes and a supply of chocolate in the wood, which was about three-quarters of a mile out of the camp. The civilian clothes had been made for us in the camp from cloth which we bought from a Polish lorry driver who had obtained it from the Black Market. We also had sports shirts and civilian shoes, and had bought hats from two other Poles. We had small fibre attache cases which we had bought in the camp canteen.

 

At 1130 hrs GLANCY walked over to the wood with CURRY as though going to cut grass. This was late enough in the day for CURRY not to be missed at his workplace at the Kommandantur. Cpl. DOUBLEDAY left work about 1200 hrs and walked to the wood with HUTSON. In the wood we changed into civilian clothes.

 

At 1430 hrs the lorry arrived. We got in and covered ourselves with a tarpaulin. GLANCY and HUTSON had been cutting grass by the roadside and were keeping a lookout for Germans. They signalled to us when it was safe to leave the wood. The Pole took us to BROMBERG by the main road along the West bank of the VISTULA. He stopped about half way to BROMBERG, and we uncovered ourselves.

 

There was another Pole on the front of the lorry. We got out and they brushed down our clothes. We then sat in the cab of the lorry for the rest of the journey to BROMBERG. We got out of the lorry in a suburban road, and went to the home of the second Pole. We were there for nine days. We wanted to go, as we were anxious for the safety of our hosts, but they insisted on our staying. We had heard a rumour in the camp that Swedish ships were no longer visiting GDYNIA. We told our host of this rumour, and his wife said she would go to GDYNIA and see if there were Swedish ships there. She also promised to book accommodation for us if we were likely to have a wait in GDYNIA.

 

On 8 Sep our hostess visited GDYNIA by train and ascertained that there were Swedish ships there. She booked a room for us for ten days in GDYNIA, paying 300 R.M. We had brought 1700 R.M. with us. We had obtained this money by buying and selling piano accordions to Germans. We bought the accordions in the camp with Lagergeld, and it was always possible to sell them for German money, and also at a profit. The people with whom our hostess booked accommodation in GDYNIA knew we were escapers of some sort, but did not know we were English. Our hostess said she did not think we could go by rail because of the controls, although we had an Ausweis. Her husband then said he would arrange road transport all the way within a few days.

 

After nine days he was able to obtain the use of a lorry belonging to his firm. His employer, a German, thought he wanted to go to GDYNIA to fetch some coffee, and made a job for him there collecting aircraft parts from the aerodrome. We were concerned about the safety of our helpers, and said we would go alone by "stealing" the lorry. Our host, however, insisted on taking us. We left BROMBERG on 18 Sep in the afternoon, and were taken to GDYNIA, where we were put on board a Swedish ship in the early hours of 20 Sep. We were taken on board the ship separately by a dock worker who had given each of us a set of overalls. We had also blackened our faces and hands.

 

We both got into the forward hold of the ship which was about half full of coal slack. We worked our way back into a compartment of the hold which was almost full and crawled on top of the coal. The Pole had given us a candle, which we lighted. We scooped a place for ourselves in the coal, and then completely surrounded ourselves with coal. The Swedish sailors told us later that the ship was searched by twenty Gestapo men and two dogs.

 

The ship, the MIRA of HÄLSINGBORG, sailed from GDYNIA about midday on 20 Sep. We remained hidden till the night of 21 Sep. We were under the impression that the Polish dock worker had told the crew of our presence on the ship, and that the sailors would come and tell us when to get out. We were cold and hungry, and dug our way forward into the main hold, where there was a ventilator shaft, up which we shouted until we were heard by one of the sailors, who spoke a little English. This sailor dropped us a bottle of water and a loaf down the ventilator on a rope and told us not to make so much noise, as we were still near the German coast, the ship having been hove to because of bad weather.

 

At 0400 hrs, 22 Sep, we asked for an oilskin. The sailor tried to get one down the ventilator, but the ventilator was too small. At 0600 hrs, the sailors undid the hatch and we dug ourselves out of the coal. The crew told the captain there were two English stowaways on board, and he told the crew to leave us down there. The crew eventually told him that one of us was half dead, and he allowed the hatch to be moved. We were taken into the forecastle and given a bath, coffee and bread.

 

We reported to the second mate who took our names and birth places, and asked for identity papers. Cpl. CURRY had an A.B.64, Part II with him. The second mate sent us back to the forecastle. He told us that previously the whole crew had been interrogated by the Gestapo in STETTIN, and two had been detained for spreading Communistic propaganda. The officers were afraid of the ship getting a bad name. For the rest of the journey we did some trimming for the engineer.

 

On the morning of 23 Sep we were put off at SODERTÄLJE. We were taken to the Police Station and kept there for about three hours, being well treated. A plain clothes policeman then took us to a passport control office in STOCKHOLM, and we were put into a taxi and sent to the British Legation. We remained in STOCKHOLM until 25 Oct. We left STOCKHOLM on 25 Oct arriving LEUCHARS 26 Oct.

 

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