Author Archives: Dennis Hill

Following the Trail of Bernard Evans

Bernard Evens beside an ambulance he drove in North Africa

In the Alphabetical List of POWs in Italy published by the British during WW2, Lance Corporal C. Bernard Evans, T/115699, Royal Army Service Corps, is listed as having been interned in P.G. 53 Sforzacosta.

However a single card sent home from P.G. 59 is evidence he was also interned in Servigliano. A drawing on the card is dated 26 November 1942.

“We don’t have any letters that my grandad wrote home—just the postcard,” Bernard’s granddaughter Clare Mason, of Staffordshire, England, wrote to me.

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Capture and Escape of Carl Valentine

The following POW repatriation report was prepared by MIS-X Section, POW Branch, of the U.S. War Department.

The report is courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine

EX Report No. 55
10 December 43

Escape by Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine, 14052008, AC, 376th Bomb Group, 514th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 16 July 43
Date of capture – 16 July 43
Reported P/W – 24 August 43
Escape – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 20 October 43 at Marrone
Previous in interrogation- British I.O. Casacalenda; Am. I.O. 12th Air Force Headquarters, Tunis
Arrived in USA – 14 November 43, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 720 Dehli Street, Bossier City, Louisiana
Age – 21
Length of service – 2 years, 9 months

EX Report

Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine – Radio Operator, B-24

On 16 July 1943, Sergeant Valentine left his base at Benghazi as radio operator of a B-24 of the 376th Bomb Group, 514th Bomb Squadron. The mission was bombing an airfield near Bari. The other members of the crew and the information concerning them are:

Pilot – 1st Lieutenant Samuel D. Rose – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany

Co-pilot – 2nd Lieutenant Ralph O. Grace – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany

Navigator – 2nd Lieutenant Millard John Kesler – P/W Stalag Luft 3

Bombardier – 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Madgley – believed to be a P/W

Engineer – Technical Sergeant William S. Nelson – P/W Italy, unstated

Assistant Engineer – staff sergeant Joseph E. Maleski – escaped but recaptured

Right Waist Gunner – Captain Nicholas Cladakis – believed KIA

Left Waist Gunner – Technical Sergeant Clarence H. Guyder – P/W Italy, unstated

Turret Gunner – Technical Sergeant Jackson M. Hughins – P/W Stalag 8B

As the plane was 20 minutes off the target, flying at 22,000 feet, and, with one engine not functioning, it was attacked by ME-109’s. The bomb run was made and the aircraft was hit heavily by ack-ack and was being followed by pursuit ships which knocked the other engine out and set the wing on fire. One of the pursuit ships also hit the left stabilizer. The signal was given for the crew to bail out. Sergeant Valentine’s foot was caught in the tail turret and Lieutenant Rose, who had set the controls to keep the ship from spinning, assisted him in bailing out.

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Four American Airmen Cross the Lines

The following POW repatriation reports were prepared by MIS-X Section, POW Branch, of the U.S. War Department.

They are courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Staff Sergeants Everett C. Shelby, Jr.
and Anthony T. Fryt

EX Report No. 51
9 December 43

Escape by Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr., 6954930, AC, 17th Bomb Group, 34th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 17 July 43
Date of capture – 18 July 43
Reported P/W – 24 August 43
Escaped – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 6 November 43 at Villa Santa Maria
Previous interrogation – British 8th Army at lines – 12th Air Force
Arrived in USA – 7 December 43, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 511 Hobson Street, Weatherford, Texas
Age – 24
Length of service – 3 years, 11 months

Ex Report

Staff Sergeant Anthony T. Fryt – Engineer and Gunner, B-26
Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr. – Tail Gunner, B-26

Sergeant Fryt was engineer and gunner of a B-26 of the 17th Bomb Group, 34th Bomb Squadron based at Djeida, south of Tunis. The other members of the crew and the information concerning them are:

Pilot – Flight Officer J. L. Weaver – returned to USA
Co-pilot – Flight Sergeant Theodore A. Helterbrand – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany
Bombardier – Staff Sergeant Joseph Teresi – returned to USA
Radio Operator – Staff Sergeant John C. Cannon – P/W Italian camp, unstated
Tail Gunner – Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr. – returned to USA

On 17 July 1943, the plane left its base to bomb a target in Naples. The target run was made and the plane was hit by flak from anti-aircraft batteries. The left engine was hit and was feathered but the plane began to drop in spite of the fact that the crew threw out everything they possibly could. They continued on for about 45 minutes and were forced to come down in the Tyrrhenian Sea some miles off Naples. They got out the life rafts and climbed on board just before the plane sank. Sergeant Fryt was suffering from cuts and bruises and had a wrenched knee.

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Sergeant Theodore A. Sanning

Over the past several months, I have been in touch with Andy Beckerson. In his initial email, he wrote, “I am researching Theodore Sanning, now dead, who is my wife’s father. My wife is named Theodora, but everybody calls her Teddi, after her father.”

Andy and Teddi live in Taunton, Somerset, in the UK, but they have grandchildren and other family members in the U.S.—in Illinois, and in Jefferson City and Kansas City, Missouri.

Andy explained early attempts to trace Theodore through military records “met with the standard response regarding the great fire at the St. Louis Army Records Office in 1973.”

“The attached photograph is of Theodore, his wife, and first-born daughter,” Andy wrote. “We estimate the date of this to be around March–May 1944. The little girl was born three days before Theodore’s capture on December 6, 1942.”
 
Following the war, Theodore worked in manufacturing in Winsfield and Kansas City, Missouri. He died on November 16, 1981, and is buried in Marys Home, Missouri.
 
Theodore is survived by three daughters, one son, six grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
 

This picture of Theodore and Evelyn, both in uniform, was taken on their wedding day.

Theodore Adolph Sanning was born March 24, 1919. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 6, 1940, shortly before the draft commenced. He signed up at Jefferson Barracks at Lemay, Missouri. Basic training was also conducted at Jefferson Barracks.

On Theodore’s enlistment record in the National Archives, his education is listed as “grammar school”; civilian occupation—“semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor”; marital status—“single without dependents.” His Italian POW card indicates he was a farmer.

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Wartime Wanderings, 1939–1945

Loftus Peyton Jones during the war

James Peyton Jones wrote to me last month about a recently published memoir of his father’s military service during the Second World War. First Lieutenant Loftus Peyton Jones was captured at sea and for a time was a prisoner of war.

“He was a POW in Italy, first at Camp 35 in Padula and then at No. 19 in Bologna,” James explained. It was from P.G. 19 that he escaped in September 1943.

“My father wrote this memoir primarily for family members in 1993. After he died in 2000, we received a number of requests for a copy from other friends and people he had known, and thought it might have more general interest and value as a way of honoring those of his generation (both in the services and the Italians who helped them during their escapes). We didn’t have the original files, so I re-created them and added some additional photos and copies of documents I found in my father’s archive in an appendix.”

James published the newly-edited memoir this spring.

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Tom Lockett’s Escape

Historian Richard Pursehouse sent me the news article I’m sharing in this post, published in The [Cannock] Advertiser in December 1943.

Parts of the article are included in a previous post on Frederick Thomas Lockett, “Tom Lockett—Two Months To Freedom.” Thanks to Richard, I’m sharing the article in its entirety.

Also, I’m sharing more images of Tom and a postcard from his daughter, Josie Shemwell.

Repatriation papers for Tom and his friend Tommy Knight shed further light on their path to freedom.

Exciting Escape from Italy
Penkridge Man Hid in Oven from Germans

The [Cannock] Advertiser
Saturday, December 18, 1943

A SERGEANT IN THE PARATROOPERS, whose home is in Penkridge, and who was a prisoner in Italian hands for nearly a year, escaped from a camp in the north of Italy in September, and arrived home recently.

He is Sergt. Thomas Lockett, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Lockett, of Teddesley-road, and when an “Advertiser” reporter interviewed him this week he was wearing physical training plimsoles. He explained that from the time he escaped until reaching the Allied lines he covered between six and seven hundred miles on foot. His feet were still too sore for him to be able to wear boots with any comfort.

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P.G. 59 Internee’s Home to be Featured on A House Through Time

David Olusoga presents the history of A House Through Time.

A new season of the popular British television series A House Through Time begins tomorrow, April 8, on BBC 2 TV.

Each year the series focuses on one house, telling the story of all the individuals who have lived in the house since it was built, as a way of exploring both British and world history.

Episode 4 of this season, airing on Monday, April 29, will feature the story of Camp 59 internee John Bell.

I first became aware that John Bell’s home would be featured last July, when I heard from an archivist at Twenty Twenty Television, which produces the series. Tracey Li wrote, “The house we are focusing on in this series is in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.

“During part of the first half of the twentieth century the house was occupied by an individual called John Bell who fought in the Second World War and was held as a prisoner of war in various locations in Europe, including Camp 59 Servigliano.”

I had no documentation of John Bell having passed through Camp 59, but Tracey and Hugo MacGregor, production director for the John Bell episode, kindly answered my questions.

John Bell arrived in P.G. 59 on January 29, 1942, and was held there for 13 months before being sent to Camp 53 (Sforzacosta) in February 1943.

Hugo said John Bell kept extraordinary diaries of his time as a POW, with an entry for each day from his capture in 1941 to his release in 1945.

“John Robert Bell,” Hugo wrote, “was in the Northumberland Hussars C Squadron. He was captured in North Africa at the end of Operation Crusader, in December 1941, as part of the 7th Armoured Division.

“He was sent to Benghazi briefly, then to Tripoli (by boat), then to Capua (in a holding camp for a week), then finally sent to Camp 59 (Servigliano), then on to Camp 53 (Sforzacosta). After the Italian surrender, he didn’t escape and was surrounded by German forces.

“He was then sent to Stalag XVIIA near Vienna, with a brief spell in Stalag XVIIIA, before finally being sent to Stalag VIIIA (Gorlitz).

“As the Russians approached, he made the Long March back to West Germany, where he was rescued and flown back to Britain. All this is described meticulously in his diaries.”

In writing last week to let me know the date the episode on John Bell would air, series producer Mary Crisp said, “His story is amazing—so powerful.”