Bible Returned to Family after 70 Years

Richard Minshull, a member of the family of P.G. 59 internee Albert “Paddy” Douglas, sent me the Sunday Life (Belfast, Northern Ireland) article featured in this post.

Richard explained:

“The one strand/theme that appears to come through Albert’s story is his commitment to faith. During his period of time as a POW in Campo 59, he became friends with Sapper George Alan Boanas (1907665) and passed his Bible on to him.

“George looked after this Bible throughout the rest of his time as a POW and vowed to give it back. Later, George’s family pursued Albert’s family, and in 2015 they met up to hand back the Bible to Paddy. When they met, George’s family gave their story.”

Dad’s Wish Has Been Granted

Family’s Joy · Our Appeal Was Successful

By Brian McCalden

Sunday Life
Belfast Telegraph (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
1 March 2015

Newspaper captions:
MEETING: (from left) Paddy Douglas with the Bible In his hand, Maggie Boanas and Roly Clarke
INCREDIBLE STORY: Writing on the inside of the Bible, the pic of Albert Douglas and his wife, and the POW camp in Italy

A precious Bible belonging to an escaped prisoner of war from Belfast has found its way home more than 70 years after he left it behind in a camp in Italy.

An appeal by Sunday Life for help in tracing relatives of former POW Albert Douglas resulted in the late World War Two soldier’s son contacting us within 48 hours of our story appearing last month.


“I had never seen that actual picture before,” said Paddy, who was born in the family’s wartime home in the Glencairn area of West Belfast.

“It was a great joy to me to see my mum and dad looking so happy,” he added, also confirming that the return address that his dad had written into the little New Testament was indeed his former family home.

“I was amazed that after all these years, my dad’s wish to have the little Bible returned to him—or at least to the family—was being fulfilled, after he had to leave it behind when he escaped all those years ago.

“I am very grateful indeed to the anonymous person who sent me a copy of the Sunday Life article, as I have not lived in Northern Ireland since the 1970s.

He said this wasn’t the first time his dad had made the media either, as his ‘great escape’ had been featured in a full page article headline ‘Nightmare journey of a desert rat’ in the News Letter, back in the 1980s.

That highlighted the epic journey my dad and his fellow escaper, an English soldier, endured to find their way through enemy territory and then to cross the mountains in early winter with no proper kit to speak of and make it to neutral Switzerland and finally home.

‘Paddy,’ who followed his dad into the Army by joining the Irish Rangers, said that his dad didn’t speak much about the experience overall, but did explain the catalyst for the escape.

He said: “My dad’s unit was heavily bombarded and then captured by Rommel’s forces in North Africa before being shipped to the POW camp in Italy.


“From the day he was captured, he was looking for a way to flee which I think is why the Bible was left behind, as it was an ‘opportunistic escape’.

Also, until a letter was delivered via The Vatican in Rome, he had received no communication from home in more than 18 months and was aware of the German’s Easter Blitz on Belfast, so naturally feared that his family back home had been involved and his home destroyed,” the soldier’s son explained.

“My dad wanted to escape and get back home as soon as he could, despite the obvious dangers and hardships,” he said.

Of course he had to travel light and the picture of Albert Douglas and his wife, Ellen, which was kept inside the leaves of the little New Testament, stayed behind. It was taken to Stalag 4 in Germany when the Italian camp closed, by an English soldier, George Boanas, a driver with the Royal Engineers, who was originally captured with the Belfast man.

“It was with him until the war ended and brought back to England,” said Paddy.

Amazingly it turned up all these 70 years later thanks to the work of a neighbor of that serviceman’s family in Winchester, Roly Clarke, who wrote a letter seeking its return to the Royal British Legion magazine earlier this year.

He added: “That appeal sparked the Sunday Life coverage and as a result, I have just enjoyed the highly emotional experience of having the little Bible presented to me. Dedicated researcher, Roly said: “After Sunday Life got in touch we met up at a local sports and social club in Kingsworthy where Albert [Paddy] Douglas received the little Bible from Maggie Boanas who is the English POW’s daughter.”

See also “The Sunday Telegraph Covers the Returned Bible.”

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