Tom Kelly—Escapee from P.G. 59

Scotsman Tom Kelly

I heard this week from Linda Veness, daughter of R. J. “Jimmy” McMahon. Her father’s story is covered in two posts on this site, “R. J. McMahon, Part 1—Battle and Captivity” and “R. J. McMahon, Part 2—Escape and Beyond.”

Jimmy McMahon said in describing his escape from P.G. 59, “I suggested to my mates, one Scot and five other Aussies, that instead of digging our way out we should try going over the top. We nutted this plan out and thought there would be enough time while the guards, patrolling the wall, were having their halfway talk and smoke, giving us about five minutes.”

Linda wrote to me that the Scot was Tom “Jock” Kelly. According to Linda, four other Australians who made this break were Tom Alman (from Kalgoorlie) Jack Allen (Kalgoorlie), Les Worthington (Wiluna) and J. Feehan (Geraldton). The men went over the wall on a ladder constructed with nails smuggled into the camp by a visiting priest.

It seems most likely this escape occurred in early September 1943.

This week Linda sent me a photo of Tom that she found. She wrote, “It looks to me as though it has been taken at ‘home.’” Whether it was taken before or after the war is unclear.

On the reverse side of this photo is written: “Trooper T Kelly / 7904262 / Camp 59 (?) 8th 3300 / section 48 hut 14 / Italia.”

Tom Kelly is among the men recorded in the “Alphabetical List” (“The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers K–M“). His service number in the booklet matches the number on the back of the photo. He is identified as a trooper in the Royal Armoured Corps.

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