WOI Jack Elworthy
Unit : 16th LAD, attached to 5th Field Regiment, 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Served : Greece, Crete (captured)
Army No. : 22820
POW No. : 24202
Camps : Stalag VIIIB / 344
John (Jack) Elworthy was in the regular New Zealand Army when war broke out. He left New Zealand with the Second Echelon in early 1940, leaving his wife and a six month old baby son. He fought in Greece and Crete, and was taken prisoner in Crete following the German invasion of May 1941. He was sent to Lamsdorf, where he remained until the camp was evacuated to Nuremberg in 1945. When the camp there was liberated by the advancing US troops, he joined (unofficially) with a field artillery battalion of the 7th United States Army and traveled around Germany with them, before hitch-hiking to Paris, and returning to the UK. He came back to New Zealand in 1947. He and his wife had two other children, daughters, after the war. Jack stayed with the New Zealand Army for 10 years after he returned to New Zealand, then joined the Justice Department and worked as a Probation Officer. He died on 3 January 1999. His account of his prisoner of war days in Germany begins in Salonika. Captured New Zealand troops were transported from Suda Bay in Crete to Athens and then to Salonika where they were held for three weeks before being sent to Germany.
We were taken to the railway yards at Salonika to entrain for the trip to Germany. We were split into groups of forty men and pushed into a cattle truck where we were issued with a small tin of Italian cooked ham and three large bread buns. This was the ration per man for the next three days. The door was slid shut and padlocked, and the only light came from a small opening about shoulder height at one end of the truck, which was so thickly criss-crossed with barbed wire that it was difficult to see out of it.
As soon as we were in the truck, problems arose. We were a mixed bunch - English, Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Cypriots and Palestinians. We were so crowded that there was not enough room for everyone to sit down at the same time, let alone lie down. It was not possible to move from one end of the truck to the other. Some organisation was necessary if we were to survive the week's trip. In fact it took us ten days to reach Lamsdorf. By shouting until we were nearly hoarse from our end of the truck, we arrived at a set of rules acceptable to all. We would get ourselves into small groups of about ten, and arrange with each other to take it in turns to sit during the day and to lie down at night. We would make groups of three, so only one tin of meat needed to be opened for the next three days, and it would not be necessary for each man to keep a tin of meat opened for three days with the risk of food poisoning.
No man was to relieve his bowels in the truck. The first man who had to urinate would use one of his boots, and that boot, and one from the second man to go, were the only two urine receptacles to be used, to keep down the smell in the truck. Within an hour or so of our leaving, there was a commotion at the far end of the truck. One of the Cypriots or Palestinians had opened his tin of greasy cold bacon and was eating it. He was yelled at to stop, but ignored the calls, and he finished the tin in a couple of minutes. The results were predictable. The rich greasy meat opened his bowels. He was told that if he or anyone else did this, he would be killed, because it was out of the question to allow everyone to relieve themselves on the floor of the crowded truck where we were to be for days without any ventilation. The other Cypriots defended the right of their friend to relieve himself if he wanted to, but the general and freely expressed feeling was that if there was going to be trouble, we might as well have it now and get it over with. Reason prevailed, and things quietened down. It was decided that if this man, or anyone else, could not help their bowels moving, they must do it in their shirt, singlet, towel or similar, and pass the bundle along to the men nearest the window opening, who would throw the bundle out. Using just two boots for the whole truck to urinate in worked quite well, although it was a damn nuisance. Always it seemed, night or day, someone was calling out "I want the boot, I want the boot" - and it had to be passed down, or passed back to the man nearest the window, to be emptied by being tipped out.
There was little chance of making a break on this trip as the Germans now knew what to look for. Once a day when the train was stopped, a squad of Germans went to each truck to turn everyone out, while they threw all our gear down one end of the truck to check there were no loose floor boards. The gear was then hurled to the other end, and the rest of the floor boards were inspected. When we returned and were locked in, all the gear had to be sorted out. Other Germans got on to the truck roofs to test security by thumping with their rifle butts. Whenever the train stopped the Germans lined each side of the track, facing the trucks. After the third day we were allowed one comfort stop a day by the side of the tracks. The guards would mount a heavy machine gun, then ring the area, before allowing one truck of men out at a time. The whole situation was very inhibiting, but the worst was when we stopped just outside a big town where the civilians passed the other side of a low wire fence. Young women, with children and babies in prams with very high wire wheels stopped to lean over the fence, chatting to the guards and watching us. That was totally inhibiting, and everyone decided they would wait till the next day.
We had absolutely no exercise. The rations were very light, although one night the Serbian Red Cross gave us two large buns of fresh white bread each. For most of the time we had little idea where we were, as the train had low priority and was just routed on whichever lines were clear. From what we could see of the sun and stars from the ventilator of the truck, it appeared that we were making many sweeping curves. One man at the window said we were stopped at a station called Ausgang. Later when we stopped at another station, again we found it was Ausgang. The third time it happened, someone remembered that Ausgang meant Exit. Another day we saw a lot of high spires, and were told it was Vienna.
Everyone was lousy and sleep at night was difficult with the lice biting. Our trip took longer than forecast as we were side-tracked and remained stationary in sidings for long periods, and did much of our traveling by night. With only the small opening for air in the cattle truck, ventilation was poor, and when we remained in the sun without moving, the temperature got high and some of the men collapsed with heat exhaustion. When this happened, we banged on the side of the truck to attract the Germans' attention, and the men were taken out. What happened to them I do not know. This generally occurred near a station, and the guards would come with two British medical orderlies and a blanket. We would roll the man on to the blanket, and the two orderlies would carry him away. Maybe the men went to a hospital, or perhaps they were just taken to another part of the train where there was more room and air and a doctor. This was discussed as a possible means of escape, but the general feeling was against it; we had no idea where we were in Europe and after the first break had been made, we felt it would be most unlikely that that the Germans would be willing to take out any more men who we said were sick.
At night when the train started rolling again, our problem was not being too warm but too cold. Our breath would condense and long icicles hung down from the roof. It was too cold to sleep and some began to suffer from frostbite. With the heat by day and the cold by night, the lack of exercise, the crowding, the shortage of food and water and the restrictions placed on our bowels, it was a most unpleasant trip. But later we saw how we could have been much worse off. If we had been going to a concentration camp or an extermination camp, many of those prisoners were packed even more tightly into open sided trucks, and they experienced rain, snow and biting winds, with no shelter at all.
Near the end of the trip, we stopped at a railway station to be fed at a German Red Cross canteen. We filed past a counter and got hot soup in a white bowl. The canteen was staffed by German girls, clean and neatly dressed, wearing clean and very white smocks and hats. We were hungry, but were reluctant to go in and file past them, as we were unshaven, dirty, and had not washed our faces or hands for over a week, and nor had we had our clothes off. We smelt and we were lousy, but the girls were quite good. They filled the bowls without chucking the soup in and handed the bowls to us, rather than just pushing them in our direction. They made no comments, and did not wrinkle their noses or turn their heads away. But nevertheless, it was an embarrassing and humiliating experience for us, although, judging by the manner of the guards, it had been intended to feed us, rather than a propaganda exercise.
We arrived at Lamsdorf Station about dawn. Snow was falling as we left the trucks and formed up in threes to be counted. A German officer came out, clean and immaculately dressed, down to brown leather gloves. He lit a cigarette, took a couple of puffs and then threw it on to the ground in front of us. It was too much to hope that everyone would be able to ignore it, and I was hoping that there would not be an undignified free-for-all scramble, but that one man would be able to pick it up, take a drag and pass it around. What happened exceeded my wildest expectations. A soldier smartly stepped forward two paces, put his foot on the cigarette, rubbed it into the ground, then stepped back smartly into the ranks without even looking at the officer. I wished I had had the brains and the wit to do it. It was beautifully done - and it made us all feel more like men again.
After we were deloused, we had a big argument with a Russian trusty who had the job of shaving off all our body hair with a cut-throat razor, and who insisted on shaving our heads as well. This led to a long and noisy discussion with the German running the delousing plant. Body hair yes, that could carry lice eggs, but while we were agreeable to having our hair cut short, there was no way, short of knocking us out one at a time, that we would let our heads be shaven smooth.
From the delousing centre, we were dispersed to our different compounds. I finished up in the nonworking WO and NCO compound. Many of those living there were British troops captured in France in 1940, and they had themselves quite well organised. They were very good to us, and a general request by the barrack commander produced sufficient spare shirts, singlets, jerseys and socks to see us warmly dressed. The British were responsible for the internal administration of the compound, and generally the only Germans inside were guards for security purposes.
The British Camp Leader was a senior British warrant officer from the regular army, and normal army discipline prevailed. By and large the camp functioned very well. There were a few rackets flourishing with food supplies, but they were minor and kept well under control. Rations were issued very fairly, as were the Red Cross parcels and British uniform parts as they came to hand. There were practically no genuine complaints. The Germans varied between being very passive when all was going well, and being highly excited whenever they launched one of their numerous purges and searches.
In time, one or two criminal gangs were formed, using stand-over tactics to invade barrack rooms to steal food and cigarettes, or to waylay small groups outside to rob them. One was the Liverpool Gang, and another the Glasgow Gang. The Liverpool Gang used the buckles of their web belts with one end sharpened like a knife and also their boots; a favourite tactic was to have one man hold another from behind while a second butted the held man in the face really hard with his head, generally causing a broken nose at least, and broken teeth. The Glasgow Gang carried razor blades in their berets or bonnets, with just a small corner protruding, and in a fight they would swing their bonnets in their opponent's faces, slashing them to the bone. Our Military Police were too few in number, and still bound by Army rules and regulations, and they could not handle these gangs. So, with unofficial approval, the Canadian POWs formed themselves into vigilante groups. They were fairly brassed off with the war anyway; having been in England training hard for many months, they then went on the Dieppe raid, which was a fiasco and lasted about four hours - and then the war was finished for them. With their fitness, because they had been in action for only a short time, and their angry mood, those vigilantes with their baseball bats soon sorted out the gangs and anyone who looked as if he belonged in a gang.
Some time in 1942 I was asked by the Camp Leader to take charge of a working party in Poland. This was E72 at the Hohenzollern coal mine, one of the largest and best equipped mines in Europe (reputed to have been financed with English money before the war). Scotty Galloway, who mucked in with me and who I had known since 1933, offered to go with me as my 2i/c [Second in Command]. E72 was the working party from which Richard Pape, author of Boldness Be My Friend had escaped with his Polish mate. There had been considerable trouble on this party, and when we arrived there in the middle of a cold and snowy winter, we saw why. The men were really tough, mostly coal miners from the north of England, who had been captured at Dunkirk and Saint Valery in 1940, and who had since then worked six and sometimes seven days a week in the coal mine. There were quarrels, and they sometimes fought amongst themselves.
The German officer in charge of the prisoners was someone we called Unter Offizier John the Bastard. He had already shot dead with his pistol two British soldiers on this working party who did not move fast enough for his liking. At first I thought there could be some good in him as he had in his office three canaries in cages. I soon found out that these birds are very sensitive to poisonous gases in coal mines, and if it was thought that gas was about, a canary was taken down the mine. If it died, there was gas about. I had daily rows with John the Bastard, who knew some English but pretended that he didn't. My English interpreter was a man called Gibbs, and I had to listen carefully to every word he said, as he would alter what I said if he thought it would make the German angry. I sympathised with him, as if something he translated annoyed John, the German would hit him. The slaps were really meant for me but my military rank as WO was senior to his, which was the equivalent of our Corporal, while the interpreter was only a soldier. According to military discipline, a junior rank must not hit a more senior rank. A senior should not hit a subordinate either, but we noticed that the Germans sometimes slapped their men around. Hardly a day went by when I was not involved in an argument with the Unter Offizier about my complaints about how he ran the camp, about the number of men I allowed to remain in barracks as sick or unfit to work, the rations, or the long hours they had to work. Eventually he told me he had no alternative but to send us back to the main Stalag to be punished for refusing to cooperate with the German authorities. He said he was sorry to do so because he knew I was only doing my duty by my men, but he also had to do his duty. There was a strong rumour that the civvy management of the mine gave him a secret payment for every man he got out to work each day. John the Bastard was on the wanted list for war criminals for the Nuremberg Trials, but it was later ascertained that he had been sent to the Russian Front where he had been killed.
Escapes from Stalag VIIIB were few and very difficult. As it was situated in the middle of Europe, assistance from underground and resistance groups was necessary, and it was very dangerous to those people if they were found out. An Escape Committee decided who may escape and receive assistance to do so, and an escapee had to be someone pretty important or with vital information before the application was considered. I never did ask, and still do not know, who comprised the Escape Committee, as with 12,000 men in the camp, of a dozen nationalities, it had to function on the need to know basis. All I knew was that, one day, I was asked if I would assist. There was only one answer I could make - and I wondered what I was letting myself in for. I heard no more for some time.
As the camp became over-crowded, the Germans made available half a barrack room to store the spare gear and suitcases of the men in barracks and on work parties. I was asked to take charge of this, which I did along with two other WOs. One of them, Alfie Burns, was an infantry WO3. He came from the east end of London and was a most plausible and likable rogue. The other WO was a small alert and cheerful south of England man, Wee Willie Weaver; he was a WO in a Scottish regiment. Once we were organised, suit cases and kits started arriving from the men - and the Escape Committee started to use the room to store their escape clothing and a wireless set. All I knew was that my contact brought up suitcases at different times and told me to take good care of them, and that he would be back when necessary to collect one or other of them. This he did, asking, for example, for a green suitcase, taking it away, and returning it the next day with no questions asked.
Occasionally I was asked to get everyone out of the barrack, generally around lunch time, to post observers to watch for guards, and not to look at anyone in British uniform who entered or left. About an hour later my contact would approach me, thank me and tell me we could return to the barrack. The radio set was cared for by a different group, and at about ten to nine each night, a man crawled under the barbed wire between the compounds, got the brown suitcase and disappeared. He would return with it about 9.30 pm and sneak his way back into his own compound.
By that time the BBC news of the day, concealed in a copy of a German newspaper, was being read out in every barrack room. No one asked how this was achieved as to do so would have meant being called on to explain this interest. Whatever system was used, it worked well. We were very lucky with the German searches of the building, as the only thing they ever found was a camera soldered into a water bottle. That was the man's own fault as he had not told anyone about it, so no special precautions were taken. Alfie Burns and Wee Willie were ideal people for such a situation. They were so helpful to the Germans in getting things down from the long racks that they completely confused and bewildered the guards. Alfie must have at some stage worked the three thimble trick at fair grounds, and he would bring my heart to my mouth as he offered a guard a hot suitcase, stumbled and lifted down a completely different one. As the senior man, all I had to do was remain cold, aloof and watchful, then offer their senior man a cup of real English tea or coffee. When he went with me, the others just loafed and smoked English cigarettes supplied by Alfie and wee Willie. It was just as well that Alfie and Wee Willie were so good, as possession of a radio set and the type of escape gear we were holding, carried at least a long prison sentence in a civilian prison, if not worse.
Evacuation from Stalag VIIIB
Early in 1945 the Russian armies were advancing fast and we could see the artificial moonlight from the searchlights directed on low clouds, and hear the sound of the guns. One day some Russian troops passed the camp, but later withdrew. We were told that instructions had come from the War Office that we were not to break out of the camp, but we were to remain in it until liberated. This caused much dissatisfaction generally, especially amongst those who had been in Italian POW camps when Italy had capitulated, and as a result of remaining had been collected by the Germans and were still POWs two years later. But orders were orders, so we stayed.
The Germans suddenly decided to evacuate the camp with the RAF POWs leaving first, on two hours' notice. It was a cold night when they moved off; there was snow on the ground and snow was still falling. They were told that they could take all they could carry and that they would need to march, possibly several hundred kilometers. We watched them disappear into the dark and a snow storm. Some were pulling quickly made sledges, and all were surrounded by the German guards who were anxious to leave, and get as much distance as possible between them and the Russians. The rest of the camp moved off in a similar manner over the next few days, and only about 100 POWs remained.
We had plans to remain hidden when the final clear out took place, but the Camp Leader advised us not to. We took his advice and were glad that we had done so, as on the last day a squad of Germans advanced in line right across the camp, tossing grenades down chimneys, into man-holes and down sewers and drains - everywhere in fact that we had considered good hiding places.
The total evacuation of Lamsdorf continued, and the rear party, which was what we had become, loaded up railway goods wagons with Red Cross parcels, British Army blankets and the remaining clothing; then three of us were locked into one truck. Physically we were quite comfortable with bales of clothing to lie on, sufficient head room, and a bucket as a toilet - but the trip was long and boring as it took days and at no time did we have any idea where we were. The nights were the worst, as the train stopped, probably to let troop trains travel in safety, and our train always stopped in marshaling yards which were at this time a very popular target for the RAF and their fire bombs. We were in several night fire bomb attacks; the worst night was when we could see, though a crack in the locked door, flames from burning railway trucks, and we realised we were stopped beside a train load of petrol tankers.
Comment: This camp was not named by Jack Elworthy in his memoir, but is likely to have been Stalag XIIID.
We got as far as Frankfurt, where we were turned away because there was a spinal meningitis scare, and we finished up in Nuremberg at the time that the RAF was having nightly raids there. We lived in large tents and slept on large boards laid on the ground. During the nightly raids, fragments of the shells fired by the German ack ack guns came though the tent fabric as if it were not there. The guards took cover in slit trenches outside our tents, with orders to shoot to kill anyone leaving the tents. We slept on the ground with the heavy boards on top of us for protection.
Each day working parties were sent from the camp to help clear up the city after the raids, and they would come back with cheering reports of the low morale of the German civilians. Seemingly salt was one of their greatest needs, and they tried to exchange watches and valuables for salt, but we did not have any either.
I was taken to the camp hospital with a badly infected left thumb, starting from a most painful whitlow, and with a high temperature which they said could be from the infection or from typhus. Typhus was becoming of epidemic proportions in some parts of Germany and was causing alarm. Wee Willie and Alfie visited me regularly by the simple expedient of tying a strip of white cloth around their left upper arm, and carrying a large rubbish tin. With their confidence and these props, they could spend the whole day walking in and out of any compound, with the guards opening and closing gates for them. One day they did not appear, and I learned that their part of the camp had been suddenly moved on. That was the last I saw of my two good friends.
When the hospital discharged me I was moved to the convalescence compound run by British medical officers, where most of the men were amputees. The majority of them appeared to have been captured in Arnhem where our air-borne landing had been such a failure. There were also numerous American POWs.
Adjoining our compound was a Russian POW compound, and anyone who believed that full equality existed in that army would have had some sobering news coming to them. The Russian prisoners sat in the sun to delouse themselves, but did only one garment at a time, which was useless, as the eggs hatched out and the lice spread again. There were numerous amputees in the compound, but crippled or not, no Russian would move, even to take himself to the toilet, unless he took with him all his possessions, as to leave them unattended meant their immediate loss. The fit men rushed any rations coming into the compound, pushing the one legged and legless men over.
Just before our camp was liberated, there was an artillery duel between the American guns and the German guns, and quite a few rounds fell short to land in our compounds. It was too near the end of the war to be killed, so we hurriedly dug slit trenches with our tin plates. The Russians did not bother and several of them were killed. Days later their bodies were still lying where they had fallen. No one there seemed to care enough to bother to get them buried.
On 17 April 1945 we saw our first American tanks. One nosed up to one of the big posts holding the main gate, nudged it over, then moved to push the other one to the ground - and we were free. Most of the guards had left and only a skeleton guard remained, as required by the Geneva Convention to protect the prisoners from hostile civilians and wild animals. Naturally enough, the bad guards who were disliked and therefore in danger, had left and only the decent ones who had volunteered to stay remained.
A jeep with American infantry officers pulled up outside the compound gate and the German Unter Offizier in charge of the camp took off his leather belt with his holstered pistol, opened the gate, and handed over the belt and the pistol. He was marched up to us and we were asked if he had been a son of a bitch to us or not. If so, they were quite happy to shoot him there and then. We protested he was OK, and the American turned his pistol on the other guards and asked the same question. When we said that they were also OK, the officer turned very nasty and wanted to know what kind of goddamn soldiers we were that we did not want to see as many krauts dead as possible no matter what reason for killing them. The officer sounded really disgusted and contemptuous of us as he turned away, leaving us somewhat quiet, confused and mystified. We just could not understand his thinking.
Over the past four years, we must have built up some kind of love-hate acceptance of our captors. We had a feeling of sympathy for them as we heard of their homes being destroyed or over-run, their families and relations killed, and the knowledge that they were going to be really defeated and in a worse situation than us. The greater majority of the guards were reasonable people. They had their job to do, just as we had ours. Ours was to cause them as much trouble and work as we could, mess them around as much as possible, sabotage all we could, and contribute our best to the defeat of their armies and their war effort, while their job was to prevent us if possible and punish us when they caught us. As soldiers we by and large understood each other's role and generally there was little ill feeling. Putsch and some others in Lamsdorf, John the Bastard on E72, those who gave us an unnecessarily hard time in Salonika and others of the same type were in a different category, but we did not want them cold-bloodedly shot by strangers. They should have a trial, know why they were being shot and then be shot by us, or at least by those of us who had lost good mates unnecessarily. Or perhaps it was simpler than that. It could have been that in the situation we were in, we had an aversion to seeing unarmed men shot just because they wore a different coloured uniform. Whatever the reason, that scene made our release a flat and sobering affair, an anti-climax to all the expectations we had built up about the moment of release.
It was, however, a joyful sight to see American infantrymen advancing with fixed bayonets in extended line though the outskirts of the camp. After my experience in Stalag VIIIB, when the Russians passed our camp then withdrew, leaving us still POWs, I was determined it would not happen to me again. I got a German rifle and several pouches of ammunition, so that, if I saw the Yanks pulling back, I would be out and on my way with a reasonable chance of survival. Someone in the barrack room saw me cleaning and stripping the rifle and told the senior British Medical Officer. He was most displeased with me, and said the place was still a hospital with red crosses on, and if the Germans retook it, then my possession of the rifle could endanger everyone there. I agreed to leave it in his possession, on the firm understanding that I would get it back if the situation changed. There was a row when I took out and retained the bolt, without which the rifle was useless. It was not that I did not trust him, it was just that I had grown up a bit, and did not trust anyone in a matter like that. If the rifle was to be used, I was making very sure that I would be the one who used it.
We received American Army rations of food packs and white bread. The bread was fresh and dazzlingly white, and the novelty of it inhibited us from eating it at first. We were so used to the hard, at least three days old German brown (nearer black) bread that we saw the white bread as some sort of special cake. We were told that as soon as a nearby air-field had been made safe and places could be spared we would be flown back to England, and were told also to be patient, as this could take three days to a week.
In the meantime, I was back again as senior warrant officer of all non-medical personnel, responsible for their discipline etc, and in addition I was to compile an embarkation roll in duplicate and by nationalities. This did not take long, as I received the fullest cooperation from everyone, possibly because they were aware that unless their names, numbers, ranks and units appeared on the appropriate roll, they would not get aboard the plane.
We were allowed out of the camp, provided that we did not move far from it, as the call for evacuation could come at any time. A mate and I went outside for our first free walk for four years. At first we could not go further than out of sight of the camp before we turned to go back. On our next attempt we managed to go further, and turned several corners before we felt uncomfortable and returned. After one or two more exploratory journeys we felt confident and free, and before long we were wandering all over the Nuremberg Sports Platz where the big Nazi rallies had been held. We climbed to the top of the stand where Hitler and his entourage harangued the devoted and fanatical followers. We went down into the labyrinth of dressing and other rooms, and marveled at the amount of possessions the retreating Germans had left. Fortunately they had left before they had had time to booby-trap it, or our stupid rummaging would have had us killed.
Right through the time when I was a POW, we had talked of the strong distaste we felt about going straight home from a POW camp, after having left home to be soldiers and defeat the enemy. Some of it was pride and self-respect, but much of it was anxiety about how we would be received when we got back, as we had spent four years in reasonable safety while many thousands of soldiers had been fighting and being killed to get us out. There may have been a few cases of cowardice when men gave themselves up to the enemy, but the greatest majority, at Lamsdorf at least, were men from Norway, Dunkirk, St Valery, Greece, Crete, Tobruk, the Western desert where they were overrun, and Dieppe, where they had been abandoned, and nothing more could be done for them to continue fighting; and all the air force personnel had been shot down over enemy territory. Nevertheless, there was a feeling of shame among many about not having done as much as others, and many said that they wanted to go home, but not direct from a POW camp. That feeling was quite strong with me and my mates and we tried several American units to see if they would accept us, but without success.
On the second or third evening we walked near an American field battery position and gave the gunners a hand to unload a truck load of ammunition. They asked if we would like to fire some shells into the middle of Nuremberg as each gun was firing every two minutes. We did, and after a while we were invited to help them drink some schnapps. We drank for a while, and when they said they wished they were us and flying home in a couple of days, we said we would like to be going along with them to see something of the war first. A few more bottles of schnapps were drunk, and my mate and I were cordially invited to join them and help finish the war. They were moving out early the next morning, so we made firm alcoholic arrangements to join them at first light.
We returned to the camp where I packed up my kit, handed over my command and the embarkation rolls to my next in command who was an RAF Warrant Officer. I told him all that was to be done, and above all to make sure he told someone in authority where I had gone and why. He promised he would, but he did not, probably because he was displeased about having the responsibility of looking after the men and their evacuation thrust on him. The result was that I was once again described as "Missing, believed killed" and my wife Lilian in New Zealand was notified and received a War Widow's pension for some time to come. Meanwhile, I was traveling around Europe with my new American friends.
Wellington, New Zealand
From a document held by the Elworthy family.
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