Author Archives: Dennis Hill

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.”

Nathaniel Halliday—Bailed from Halifax Bomber, Captured

A Halifax Mk III bomber in flight

On November 18, 1942, Flight Sergeant Nathaniel Halliday (Royal Canadian Air Force) participated in a bombing mission launched from the Royal Air Force station at Graveley, in Cambridgeshire, England—the target: Turin, Italy.

He would not return for nearly two years.

According to an M.I.9 report, the crew of his Halifax bomber consisted of:

Wing Commander W. C. Robinson (pilot)
Flight Lieutenant M. Middlemass (first navigator)
an unnamed Australian wireless operator
Flight Sergeant Potter (fight engineer)
Flight Sergeant Bruce (tail gunner)
Flight Sergeant Butler (mid-upper gunner)

Nathaniel Halliday himself was the flight’s navigator.

Their mission accomplished, the aircraft was hit by flak on its homeward journey, 10 minutes after leaving the target.

The crew bailed out, and the following day Nathaniel was captured just north of Turin.

A detailed account of the Halifax DT488 mission is on Pete Tresadern’s excellent 35squadronresearchgroup website:

Nathaniel was held in Turin for five days. He was then held in an interrogation camp in Rome from November 23 to December 12.

On December 13, he was transferred to P.G. 59 Servigliano, where he was interned until the mass breakout from the camp on September 14, 1943.

“I moved with Flight Sergeant Moran via Santa Vitoria, Monte San Martino, to Montefalcone,” Nathaniel explained in the report.

“We stayed here from 18 September 1943 to June 1944. On 19 June, we moved to Castel di Croce, where we made contact with a British soldier named Brooks, who put us in touch with further help.

“Our route home was Ascoli (on foot), and then by truck to Termo, and by truck and train to Naples. We were flown home from Naples, leaving on 13 July, and reaching the UK on 19 July.”

Nathaniel McClure Halliday was born on September 11, 1915—he was 27 at the time of his capture. His service in the RCAF began on November 5, 1940.

At Graveley, he served in the 35 Squadron Bomber Command.

His “peacetime profession” was salesman, and he lived at 3440 West 22 Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia.

This post is based on a report to M.I.9 (July 20, 1944) from the British National Archives that Brian Sims shared with me several years ago.

For other posts about Italian prisoners of war who were members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, read “John Leon Turner, Royal Canadian Air Force” and “Laurence Barker—Died for His Country.”

Oscar Ruebens—Snapshots from the Past

Oscar Ruebens, wearing round eyeglasses in these photos.

I received a message from Carrie Stevens last year on November 19. She wrote, “I am reaching out to you because I am the great granddaughter of Oscar C. Ruebens.”

Sergeant Oscar Ruebens (SN 12016749) served in the Infantry of the U.S. Army.

His Italian POW card, archived at the U.S. National Archives, indicates he was captured in Tunisia on December 23, 1942.

Given the date he was captured and the fact he was in the Infantry, it seems likely he was taken captive during the first battle of Longstop Hill, December 23–24, 1942.

The POW card indicates Oscar was transferred from Tunisia to PG 98 on Sicily on December 28, 1942, and to PG 59 Servigliano on January 23, 1943.

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Ernest Debenham—Downed after Convoy Strike

Flight Serjeant Ernest Debenham’s daughter Lesley shared this “photo on his wedding day to my mum, Ethel Mary Debenham (née Hoyle), who he had met through scouting before the war.

Lesley Woollacott (née Debenham) wrote late last month, “I have been looking for information about my father, W/O Ernest Debenham RAF 996601, who died in 1979. I know that he was a POW at Camp 59 Servigliano and somehow escaped. He was interrogated on return to the UK at 3 P W Transit camp on 22 January 1944.

“Unfortunately, my dad didn’t talk much about his wartime experiences. He was shot down in the Mediterranean (I think he would have been navigator/gunner) flying out of Malta and walked out across the wing of his plane to be taken prisoner of war.

“I understand that he escaped by just walking out of the camp, probably with another person, and they just kept walking. He could count to 20 in Italian and ask for a box of matches, and said they somehow passed German soldiers. He was assisted by an Italian family I believe, but I’ve no idea how he got back to the UK.

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Serjeant Joseph Groves—Fallen in Pito, Italy

12 Tory, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, UK—the home of Joseph and Phyllis May Groves. The photo is courtesy of Jonathan Falconer, who comments, “I suspect he only lived there briefly after they married in June 1940 and before his regiment was posted overseas the following month to Egypt. Even so, he is commemorated on Bradford-on-Avon’s war memorial in the town centre.”

The Grave of Joseph Groves in Ancona War Cemetery.

The inscription on the marker reads:


11TH FEBRUARY 1944 – AGE 36

[The crest of the Royal Horse Artillery is carved within a cross]


Sjt. Joseph Groves was captured in North Africa, interned in PG 59, and was killed in Italy four months after his escape from the camp. Some records, including the marker at Ancona War Cemetery, indicate he died on February 11, 1944. In fact, he was killed by soldiers of the German Brandenburg Regiment on March 11, 1944, during a surprise ambush at Pito, Italy.

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Edwin Rogers—A Soldier Returns

Edwin Rogers, as a staff sergeant on his return from overseas

I heard recently from Rita Chaney, who lives here in the U.S. in the state of Kentucky.

Rita wrote, “My uncle was a prisoner in CC 59 in Italy. His name was Edwin P. Rogers from Kentucky. His name is on the Dual Deck of Playing Cards.” See “Dual Purpose Deck of Cards.”

Ed Roger’s POW card, kept by the Italian government during the time he was a prisoner in Italy, is on the U.S. National Archives website.

That card indicates Ed was interned in P.G. 98 on Sicily (transferred to that camp from Tunisia on December 26, 1942) and in P.G. 59 (transferred from Camp 98 on July 23, 1943).

Although the date Ed was captured isn’t clear on the card—it’s either December 20 or 22, 1942—it seems likely he was captured at the first battle of Longstop Hill.

On the National Archives site, an additional POW record for Ed confirms the last camp where he was held was P.G. 59. Many escaped POWs were recaptured and sent to Germany. However, Ed seems to have successfully evaded recapture.

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Luther Vaughn’s Daughters Forge A Friendship with the Cesari Family

Luther and Anna Vaughn

Adele, Loredana, and Francesca share old family photos with Judy Ingersoll during Judy and Victoria’s 2006 visit in Italy.

In January 2007, when I first set out to research the story of Camp 59, I made contact with Ian McCarthy of Associazione Casa della Memoria—the memorial association of Camp 59 in Servigliano, Italy.

Ian provided historical background about the camp, and he put me in touch with Judy Ingersoll and Victoria Vaughn, two daughters of American serviceman Luther C. Vaughn. Like my father, Luther had been a POW in Camp 59.

Victoria and Judy had recently been to Italy to see the camp and meet members of the Italian family that hid and fed Luther after his escape from P.G. 59.

On March 8, Victoria wrote, “How thrilling to hear from you! It is like hearing from a long-lost brother, as our fathers were brothers in arms.

“Dad was in the 1st Armored Division, 27th Field Artillery. He was a staff sergeant on a half-track. He deployed out of Fort Knox, Kentucky. His name was Luther Claude Vaughn, and I think his nicknames were “Ark,” “L.C.,” and who knows what else. He was captured at Tabourba, Tunisia, on December 6, 1942.

“On our visit to Servigliano, we met one family member who was living when Dad was there, as well as the descendants who were the warmest and most wonderful people.

“In 1943, Luigi and Lucia Cesari had three children: Renzo, Francesca, and Elena. Their son Pacifico had died in the war.

“Renzo married Adele, and their sons are Claudio and Pierluigi. Claudio is married to Laura, and Matteo is their son. Pierluigi is married to Enrica, and their daughter is Genny.

“Loredana is Francesca’s daughter.

“It was fascinating that everywhere we went in the area, people who heard our story recalled a GI who was with their families for some period of time. The Italians really seemed to embrace our POWs who escaped from Camp 59.

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The Adventure of a Lifetime

This article was published one year ago in the Murray Ledger & Times (Murray, Kentucky). Victoria Vaughn has offered a few corrections, which are in brackets throughout the article.

Victoria Vaughn, far left, and sister Judy Ingersol, middle, are shown during their 2006 visit to Servigliano, Italy with former Italian soldier Minetti Nello, second from left, Francesca Cesari and Adele Cesari, both members of the family that gave help to the sisters’ father, Luther Claude Vaughn, as he dodged the German military in World War II. The Cesari house is shown in the background.

Adventure of a lifetime

Murray’s Ingersoll tells story of meeting family who helped dad in World War II

Murray Ledger & Times
Saturday/Sunday, November 11-12, 2017

MURRAY – On the occasion of Veterans Day, a local woman says she owes a debt of gratitude to the Italian family that kept her injured father safe while he was fighting in Europe during World War II.

Judy Ingersoll said this week that the reason she had not gone public with the story of how her father Luther Claude Vaughn had survived his Army duty of WW II was because she did not think anyone would be interested.

“There are a hundred stories just like this here in Murray alone,” Ingersoll said.

However, there is another part to this story, one that happened about 11 years ago in a small town in Italy, the same place her father had spent a lot of his time during the war. It wouldn’t be called a reunion, because she and other family members had never met the Cesari family of Servigliano, the family that provided safety as Vaughn and others tried to hide from German troops.

“When I told friends about that part, they immediately said, ‘Judy, you have to tell this story! You just have to,’” said Ingersoll on Wednesday, just days before America observed Veterans Day, a day that acknowledges soldiers who emerged from combat alive, as her father somehow did in 1945.

Vaughn had left his home in Webster County to join the Army in 1940, well before the war started. He would marry his sweetheart, Anna May Muye, of Evansville, Indiana while on leave in the summer of ’41, having asked a member of his platoon for $10 to borrow. His bride would eventually work in an Evansville factory helping manufacture airplane wings during the war.

[Judy explains, “My mother, Anna May Muye was actually from Clay, Kentucky, also but was living in Evansville, Indiana, working first as a hospital aid to help pay off her father’s medical bills and later ‘Rosie the Riveter’ working on the wing of an airplane. (My mom is still alive and living in Florida).]

Meanwhile, Vaughn and his outfit, Battery C of the 27th Armored Field Artillery unit based in Fort Knox, were thrust into war preparation after the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. By early ’42, the unit was being shipped by the British luxury liner The Queen Mary to the European theatre of the way to battle Germany and Italy.

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Jimmy Feehan—Enlistment

Jimmy Feehan enlisted in the Australian Special Forces on June 18, 1941, at the age of 22.

Front and side photos of him taken on that day are in his service records at the National Archives of Australia.

Katrina Kittel kindly shared copies of these records with me.

James William Feehan WX14364 was born in Three Springs, Western Australia, on February 10, 1919. His trade is listed as laborer and he was single when he enlisted.

Next of kin listed was Mrs. May Cain of Perenjori, Western Australia—his adopted mother.

Jimmy was one of nine Australians to escape from P.G. 59 in September 1943. The others were: John “Jack” Albert Allen, Thomas David Alman, Arthur George Bell (sometimes known as A. G. Jux), Lawrence Mortimer “Lawrie” Butler, Vaughan Lawrence Carter, Robert Edward Albert Edwards, Ronald James “Jimmy” McMahon, and Leslie Worthington.

See also “Jimmy Feehan and Thomas Penman,” “>Tom Alman—Back Home in Western Australia,” and “Tom Kelly—Escapee from P.G. 59.”

Also, use “Categories” on the home page to search for other “ANZAC Prisoners” posts.

Sixty-eight Australians Who Passed through P.G. 59

Katrina Kittel visits with Bill Rudd, who turned 100 last December, at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance’s “Resistance: Australians and the European Underground 1939–45” exhibition this past summer.

My first post on this site concerning an Australian was in 2009—a short post entitled “Simmons’ Address Book—the Lone Australian.”

Since then, I’ve been contacted by several families of Australian soldiers—and one New Zealander, 3624827 Maurice French—and I’ve added their stories and photos to this site.

Now, thanks to the generosity of researcher Katrina Kittel, I’m able to share the names of 68 Australian POWs who passed through Camp 59—a complete or nearly complete list.

In addition to Australians on Katrina’s list, nine Western Australians were still in the camp at the time of the escape in September 1943.

Those P.G. 59 escapees were: WX12806 John “Jack” Albert Allen, WX14635 Thomas David Alman, WX10180 Arthur George Bell—who sometimes went by A. G. Jux, WX5012 Lawrence Mortimer “Lawrie” Butler, WX11634 Vaughan Lawrence Carter, WX17234 Robert Edward Albert Edwards, WX14366 James William Feehan, WX4445 Ronald James “Jimmy” McMahon, and WX4449 Leslie Worthington.

Katrina’s source has been digitized Red Cross cards at the University of Melbourne Archives and records in the National Archives of Australia (NAA).

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