In 2006, Ray Worthington had two conversations with Vaughan Laurence Carter, a former Australian POW at Camp 59.
The two conversations were on June 23rd and June 30th. I am grateful to Ray for sharing his notes from those conversations with me for this site.
Vaughan had responded to a request for information on Ray’s father, Leslie Worthington WX4449, posted by Ray in Tobruk to Borneo, a quarterly journal of the Australian 2nd/28th Battalion and 24th Anti-Tank Company Association.
At the time of these conversations, Vaughan was 85 years old and was being treated for pancreatic cancer, but was still very alert and demonstrated an excellent memory. He served as WX11634 in the 2nd/28th Battalion and was one of the 490 taken prisoner at Ruin Ridge on 27 July 1942. [Miteirya Ridge, near El Alamein, Egypt, was known to the Australians as “Ruin Ridge.”]
Although he had not met Les earlier (Vaughan was in D Company; while Les was 8 Section, 12 Platoon, B Company), he remembers Les because they were in the same POW camp. Vaughan’s memory of Les is as a “good bloke.” He also remembers Les as fairly old—Les turned 39 in 1942, while Vaughan only turned 22 while they were in the camp at Servigliano.
After they were captured, they spent four months in an Italian camp at Benghazi. This was known as The Palms Prison Camp (aka, Palm Tree Camp or The Palm Grove). Vaughan rates the four months he spent there as the most miserable time of his life.
Eventually they were put on a ship—Vaughan didn’t remember the ship’s name—for Taranto, in Italy. They were in the last group to leave and on the day they left the Australian troops captured Benghazi. (Other records say British troops recaptured Benghazi on 19 November 1942; so they probably left on that day.)
They went from Benghazi via Athens, Piraehus, the Corinth Canal, Patras (all in Greece) and then across to Taranto. Although it was supposed to be a three-day trip, it actually took nine days. At this time, they were still wearing the clothes—shirts and shorts—that they were captured in.
They were then taken to Campo P.G. 59 P.M. 3300 at Servigliano.
Only nine Australians were in this camp—four from the 2nd/28th and five from the 2nd/32nd Battalion.
Apart from Vaughan and Les, the other 2nd/28th members were Jimmy (actually Ronald James) McMahon WX4445 and Lawrie (actually Lawrence Mortimer) Butler WX5012.
The 2nd/32nd members were John (Jack) Albert Allen WX12806, A. G. Bell NX10180 (but that number comes up as A. G. Jux on the World War II Nominal Roll—see the note at the end of this post for an explanation), Thomas David Alman WX14635, James William Feehan WX14366, and Robert Edward Albert Edwards WX17234.
There were also some Americans in this camp.
Italy capitulated on the 3rd of September 1943 and this led to the Australians escaping. (Les Worthington’s record indicates they didn’t hear of the capitulation until the 10th September, and they actually escaped on the 14th). After escaping, the nine Australians split up to avoid recapture and Vaughan spent time around the village of Comunanza (about 18 kilometres northwest of Ascoli Piceno) and around Amandola (a further 5 kilometres northwest).
Vaughan and Les were among those who got into an Italian’s wine cellar and got drunk; this would have been around February 1943. Vaughan remembers it as being cold and snowing, and about carnivale time in the Settagarpeni area [not certain of this place, which we cannot locate on maps].
After he escaped, Les was involved with a patriot group that captured and executed an Italian officer who came home on leave. Vaughan doesn’t know anything about that and he thinks that the partisans were generally pretty useless.
After Vaughan was sent home, he took the train from Melbourne to Perth. At the change of trains in Kalgoorlie, the train to Perth was very crowded and someone suggested that Vaughan ride in the guard’s van, which he agreed to. Unfortunately, the sergeant in charge of the train, who was riding in first class, did not agree with this. Words were said and that ended up with Vaughan being marched off to the Kalgoorlie jail at bayonet point.
Jim McMahon’s service record is available on the Internet, and from this it looks like he and Les stayed together after escaping. They reached the Allied lines on the same day and came home together.
Sad to say, Vaughan passed away on 25 October 2006, just four months after these conversations.
Additional note by Ray Worthington:
A. G. Bell was actually Arthur George Bell on the 2nd/32nd nominal roll, but his father’s name was Jux and he sometimes used that name.
When I asked Bill Rudd about NX10180 being both Bell and Jux, here was his answer:
“You were not the only one to question NX10180 Arthur George Jux aka Bell or vice versa. Liz Hegley of the Ballarat Memorial Wall has him as Arthur George Bell, as that is his entry on the Nominal Roll of the 2nd/32nd Batallion in which he served. But he was sometimes known as Jux, as that was the name of his father, Richard, in England.”