Lance-Corporal James Robert Speight
POW No. : 226386
Camps : Stalag IVB, IVD/Z
The following is a newspaper article which describes Lance-Corporal James Speight's escape in the final days of the war.
Three Leeds prisoners of war owe the success of their escape to a 25-year-old German girl who warned them after they had broken away that the S.S. were on their tracks and directed them towards the American lines.
The men are Trooper Walter Robert Rowley (27), Clark Avenue; Private Leslie Masterman (23), East Park view; and Lance-Corporal James Speight (24) a Commando, whose home is in Hunslet.
All three stuck together right through their imprisonment in Stalag 4B, and they were repairing a bomb-damaged railway on April 13 when they were told by a British R.A.M.C. major that the whole camp was to be marched east the following day.
"That was a proper Black Friday for us," Trooper Rowley told me (writes a "Yorkshire Post" reporter). The march began. Suddenly the air raid siren sounded, and that was a ray of hope for the prisoners. "Allied planes swooped to strafe the roads and a near-by aerodrome." said Trooper Rowley, "and we three decided to make a break for it. With us we took two of the German sentries, having told them that if they came with us we would make it all right for them, and made our way back."
"In the village of Nienburg we told the local Burgomaster that we had been sent back, but a German girl, who used to cook for the sentries at the camp, tipped us off that the Burgomaster was suspicious and had sent for the S.S. who were to arrive the next morning. She also told us the way to the American lines, so we pulled out quickly, and eventually found an American patrol near Halle."
The two sentries did not go with them, and Trooper Rowley, who served with the 5th Armoured Division in North Africa, learned that the S.S. men caught them and that they were shot for assisting them to escape.
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