Trooper Victor Kensett Styles
Unit : 4th County of London Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps, attached Headquarters 2nd Armoured Division.
Served : North Africa (captured).
Army No. : 7906218
Camps : P.G. 52
Trooper Styles was taken prisoner in North Africa, 1941. He was sent to P.G. 52 at Chiavari, but, following Italy's capitulation in September 1943, he was aboard a train bound for Germany when he escaped. Until the end of 1944, Styles fought with several Partisan groups in Italy. The following is a copy of his subsequent debriefing by the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
The bearer of this note, Trooper V. Styles, 7906218, RAC, has been i/c of a mixed British and Italian patrol for about 3 months; beforehand he fought with a Russian detachment in the Modena Area. Whilst in charge of his patrol, he took part in fifteen attacks against German motor vehicles, destroying over 10 trucks; his leadership and courage inspired the rest of his men and all partisans in our area. Trooper V. Styles has worked directly under the orders of the British Missions in the field; he has always been chosen for most difficult jobs and has always carried them out in spite of opposition and adverse weather conditions.
Trooper V. Styles, after going through a well earned leave, wants to volunteer either in a Paratroop Division or in a service like ours; could you please give him the maximum assistance.
signed: R. JOHNSTON, Major, 188142.
Extract of Interrogation Report on Major Johnston - BP/20 dated 29.12.44
TPR. STYLES - Described as out-standing among the POW's in the area, most of whom preferred to hide out in safety rather than join Partisan formations. A very reliable subordinate who could be trusted to carry through a mission even in the face of heavy odds.
INTERROGATION REPORT ON 7906218 Tpr. STYLES, Victor Kensett.
1. Personal Particulars
Born: 2.5.1918. Little Tring, Bucks.
Address: 6, Beechwood Close, Mill Hill, London, N.W.7.
Father: William Kensett STYLES. Born: London. Died: March 1940 at Seaford, Sussex.
Mother: Anne STYLES nee PIMM. 50 years. Born: London.
Brothers: William de Tongue. 30 years. Was 1st Lieut in an Infantry unit before being discharged for medical reasons about two years ago. Source does not know the Regiment as he was commissioned whilst source was prisoner of war. Was previously Sergeant in Gloucester Rifles.
Sisters: Cecilia. W.A.A.F. 32 years old. Jane BARNATO. Believed now to be divorced. Thought to be working at Mill Hill Hospital.
Source is unmarried.
Education: Mercer's School until 13 years of age. Finished education under private tutor at Highcliff, Hants.
Called up 12.12.1939 to 4th C.L.Y. Stationed in Devon.
May 1940: Unit posted to 2nd Armoured Div. in Sherwood Forest.
Nov. 1940: Sent to Egypt with 2nd Armoured Div.
April 1941: Captured at El Michili (35 Kms. south of Derna).
Spent 6 months in P/W camps at Derna, Benghazi, Tripoli.
In September 1941 sent to Italian mainland, Taranto, Capua. Finally took permanent camp at Chiaveri, near Genoa. There were some 3,000 British Ps/W in the camp, where he remained for approximately 2 years.
On 9 Sept 43 the camp was surrounded by a German parachute formation and not one man succeeded in escaping. The Germans then proceeded to transfer the men in batches of 1,000 at a time to Germany by rail.
On 13 Sept 43 source was entrained with the last batch. He managed to escape from the train just outside Piacenza.
1936-38: Bambergers & Sons. Timber merchants. 27/28 Finsbury Sq., London E.C. As a clerk.
1938-39: Assistant director to Ferry Lane Wharfage & Storage Co., Tottenham North.
Languages: Source speaks fair Italian, sufficient to make himself understood with the Partisans.
Pastimes: Shooting and Fishing.
2. History of Source's escape from the Germans.
13.9.43. On 13th September, once having escaped from the train, he made for the Allied lines.
Dec '43. In early December he reached the neighbourhood of Castel di Sangro where he ran into a German trap and was recaptured. He was taken to CC.RR barracks at Frosinone which had been taken over by the Germans. Four days later he again succeeded in escaping through a window.
March '44. He then decided to try to reach France, so made off northwards, and hid for three months at the village of Tughacozzo near Avezzano.
April '44. At Easter time he again struck off northwards, and at Gubbic met his first band of Partisans. It was an international band of mixed Poles, Yugoslavs, etc. led by Sam PANICHE, an Italo-American, with an American wife. PANICHE was a small fat man who came from Caglia. In April the Germans attacked the band and they all disappeared and decided to lie low, which did not suit source so he continued northwards to Modena.
May '44. In May he contacted ARMANDO's formation of Partisans, a large and well-organised formation. Here he also met Capt. NARDI, who was acting as Chief-of-Staff to the Partisan Army Corps of the Modena-Emilia area. He spent 2 weeks with the Italians, and then attached himself to a Russian band which was part of the above mentioned Army Corps. The Russians were led by a very capable Russian Captain, whose name source does not remember. He believes the Captain has since been sent to London.
June '44. The Headquarters of the band was near Montefiorino. Here he met Major JOHNSTON, and from that time was more or less under Major JOHNSTON's orders.
31.7.44. When the big German offensive started, source was with a detachment of the Russian band at Monte Cantieri (map reference 3186). The only Englishman with him was A/C MACCORRY, R.A.F. They were all forced to disperse and source made for Major JOHNSTON,
2.9.44. whom he met on 2 September with Captain DAVIES, WILKOCKSON, HOLLAND and LLOYD-ROBERTS at Montefiorino. By that time Villa Minozzo had been occupied by the Germans. Source was ordered to accompany Capt. DAVIES to Zeri to meet Major LETT. On their journey they met a priest who told them that the German offensive had also cleared Major LETT's area, so they returned to Monte Tondo (Major JOHNSTON's H.Q.)
August '44. From mid-August onwards source was engaged on various small operations under Major JOHNSTON's orders.
Sept '44. In early September he was sent to Captain WILKCOCKSON at Lama di Monchio for 14 days, where he was put in charge of a squad of 8 men and attacked German traffic on the roads. He then returned to Major JOHNSTON, who sent him to Capt. DAVIES at Musiara (9553). During September he operated with a squad of 10 men along the Pontremoli road destroying 5 or 6 enemy trucks and engaging various enemy patrols. Source states that Capt. HOLLAND can give a full report on these activities.
Oct '44. During October he continued operating under Capt. HOLLAND.
23.11.44. On 23rd November, owing to the impossibility under prevailing conditions of successfully operating throughout the winter, source asked Major JOHNSTON for permission to cross the lines, which was granted.
26.11.44. He made his way south via Ligonehio, Ospitaletto, Sillano, Cureggia, Colli, where he met Major OLDHAM and stayed for two days.
30.11.44. From there, with the help of a local guide, he crossed the lines about the 30th November by way of Pania Della Croce. He was taken to Pietrasanta, Vis Reggio, Leghorn, from where he managed to get to Florence, where he contacted Special Force, who sent him down to Rome. He is now staying at P/W Collecting Post on Highway 7 just outside Rome.
Just before source was captured in December 1943 he had been in the company of Capt. Alfred Ralph NOYES, Adjutant to 21 R.H.A., captured at El Alamein. He escaped from Moden P/W camp on 8 Sept 43. Source met him near Pistois, and they came south together. Source left him at Capistrello, but heard later from other British Ps/W that Capt. NOYES had been shot by a German patrol early in December, and had been buried at Civitella Roveto near Avezzano.
Source described him as 45 years of age approximately, height 5 ft. 9 ins. Grey hair, well built. Source considers him lacking in personality and not a good leader.
ARMANDO's commissar in July. Communist. A lawyer of Bologna and believed to be quite a rich man. His attitude tended to be anti-British, especially before the arrival of the B.L.Os, after which he refrained from anti-Allied speeches.
4. Interrogator's Impressions.
Source has served under Major JOHNSTON in the Field for some months. In view of the copy of a reference from Major JOHNSTON (attached) a personal impression by the interrogator on a snap judgment would be superfluous. Source has been mentioned in the Field traffic by Major JOHNSTON (26th July and 1st Nov. 1944). The latter message reads:-
"STYLES would certainly have been commissioned had he not been captured so early with the 2nd Armoured Div."
ENVELOPE BLUE (28 Oct) reports:-
"STYLES' leadership, courage and keenness are an example to all and most unusual in P.O.W. We recommend him for B.E.M. Please refer to JOHNSTON."
Source is keen to return to Major JOHNSTON's area with picked, trained squad of 8-10 men to harry German road communications in the area throughout the winter. He would prefer to take trained men with him rather than pick up and train individuals in the Field, where ammunition is so precious.
I told him I would present his application to the appropriate authorities, without expressing any opinions on its likelihood of acceptance.
There are no security problems arising from this interrogation.
Following his return to the UK in January 1945, Lance-Corporal Styles was Mentioned in Despatches for his conduct in Italy, and attached to 161 Reconnaissance Regiment. In September of that year he was posted to 100 Officer Cadet Training Unit. He was released to the Army Reserve in June 1946. His military conduct was recorded as exemplary; "A very capable man of excellent appearance and character. He is meticulous in his work and thoroughly honest and sober." His Mentioned in Despatches citation reads:
As a result of his capture at EL MECHILI on 8 Apr 41, STYLES was, at the time of the Italian Armistice, a P/W in Camp 52 (CHIAVARI). Obeying the instructions of the Senior British N.C.O. he did not try to escape until the Germans had occupied the camp. On 13 Sep 43, during transfer to GERMANY, he and two commandos jumped from the cattle truck near CAORSO, through a hole they had made in the floor. With various companions, and occasionally alone, STYLES travelled to LA META, where he was recaptured on 1 Dec 43. Three nights later he and another prisoner used a blanket rope to leave their temporary prison, which was inadequately guarded. To avoid suspicion they followed various herds of cattle being driven towards the hills, and in this manner STYLES reached CASTELLA FIUME. Early in April 44, he decided to try to reach FRANCE; at PIETRALUNGA, however, he joined a partisan group, but after a week's service this was dispersed by the enemy. At the beginning of June 44, STYLES accompanied a guerilla unit in two raids on Fascist militia posts near MONTE FIOMINO. Transferring to a more efficient group, he remained an active member until the band was attacked for the second time by Germans at the end of July 44. He then became attached to a British group, and after participating in sorties against German transport, STYLES was guided with other escapers to an American unit near AUGSIMA at the end of November 44.
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