Category Archives: ANZAC Prisoners

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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Tom Alman—Back Home in Western Australia

Ray Worthington (son of P.G. 59 escapee Les Worthington) and Linda Veness (daughter of escapee Jim McMahon) discovered and shared this 1944 news article with me this week.

Kalgoorlie Soldier Escaped Twice

Sunday Times (Perth, Western Australia)
Sunday, 24 September 1944

Welcomed home to Kalgoorlie during the week was A.I.F. Pte. Tom Alman, son of Mr. and Mrs. Les Alman, of Egan-street. Tom Alman has put up an unique record for he escaped from Italian P.O.W. camps on two occasions.

Prior to joining up in 1941, Tom had his own carrying business here. He served right though the Middle East and was unlucky to be captured by the Germans at El Alamein, in July, 1942, and taken to Benghazi, Lybia [sic] where he remained five months.

Then taken to Italy, he remained in a p.o.w. camp until December 14, 1943, when in company with four other prisoners of war, all Western Australians—Jack Allen, formerly employed at Masseys, Kalgoorlie; Jim McMahon, from Reedys; L/C L. [Leslie] Worthington, of Wiluna; and J. [Jimmy] Feehan, of Geraldton—he escaped and hid in the Italian mountains. Tom and Jim McMahon joined up with a band of rebels, and stayed with them three months.

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Domenico Mancini—A Key Italian Assister

The letter shown here and an accompanying list of Allied servicemen referred to in the letter are among many documents from the British National Archives that Brian Sims shared with me during our brief two-year friendship at the end of his life.

According to this communication, 51 ex-POWs were assisted by Domenico Mancini of “Monte Falcone” (presumably Montefalcone Appennino in the province of Fermo, in the Italian Marche).

There are two versions of the list, the first a carbon copy and the second a typed copy with some discrepancies and errors. Fortunately, it contains many service numbers that are useful in confirming some of the men’s identities.

The letter makes mention of the murder of prisoners at Comunanza (see “An Execution at Comunanza.”)

Here is the text of the letter, followed by the list of names:

Ref: No.

H.Q., ‘A’ Group, 60 Section,
Special Investigation Branch,
c/o A.P.M’s Office, 61 Area,
Central Mediterranean Forces.

SUBJECT :- Ex-Prisoners of War.

To :-
60 Section, S.I.B.

1. Herewith a list of 51 ex-prisoners of war mostly members of the United States Army. The names may come in useful at some later date as the list was commenced on 2nd October, 1943. MANCINI, now residing at MONTE FALCONE (Italy, 1:200,000. Sheet 14. MR. X(B)5687), lived for over 20 years in America. Some of the names on the original document, which was obtained by Sergeant HOWARTH and BURGESS., are difficult to decipher and other possible interpretations have been included. I am retaining the original as it may be required as an exhibit in file 9A.

2. Reference Progress Report No. 2. on file 9A, paragraph 3, LOUIS LYCKA’s personal number would appear to be 38028716 from the enclosed list (No. 10), and possibly the American authorities can trace him from this and let us have some information regarding his activities.

Check of the other names may reveal some relevant information as it is believed that the British ex-prisoners in this case were exhumed and transferred to another cemetery in August 1944, and that the bodies of the Americans at COMUNANZA have been searched by American personnel. If this is correct the respective Second Echelons may have the names of these people.

D. A. THORN. Lieut.
60 Section, S.I.B.

29 Mar ’45.

Copy to :- File.


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Jimmy Feehan and Thomas Penman


Escaped P.O.W.s arrive at Royal Park, Victoria, Australia, 1944. From left: Private J. W. Feehan from W.A. (Western Australia), Sergeant E. J. Brough from Victoria, Lance Corporal L. Worthington from W.A., Mrs. T. G. McClounan from the Red Cross, Private H. A. Lockie from Queensland, and Private J. A. Allen from W.A. (Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria)

Helen McGregor directed me to the above photo, which she found among the digitalized images of the State Library of Victoria. She had been searching for information on Jimmy Feehan, a friend whom her father, Scottish soldier Thomas Penman, spent time with after the men escaped from Camp 59.

I was pleased to see other P.G. 59 escapees in this photo: Leslie Worthington (see “Les Worthington—an Australian’s Adventure” and “A Timeline of Les Worthington’s Service“, and John Albert Allen (see “Conversations with Vaughan Laurence Carter and “Simmons’ Address Book—the Lone Australian.”

Les Worthington’s son, Ray Worthington, wrote to tell me he has been able to narrow the date of the photo: “I can tie the date of it down fairly closely from my record of Dad’s service which shows:

10/9/1944 – Disembarked at Melbourne (report of 25/9/1944)
14/9/1944 – Entrained at Victoria. Vic L of C Area (report of 25/9/1944).

“So it was between the 10th and 14th of September 1944.

“And Dad then arrived back in Perth on the 17th of September, so the first time 7 years old me had seen him in nearly 4 years!”

American readers should note the day precedes the month in the above dates. For example, 10/9/1944 is September 10, 1944.

Thomas Penman’s Service Record

The following dates and locations for Thomas Penman are from a British military record for Thomas that Helen McGregor shared with me.

This information is in the left column of the form:

Deemed to have been enlisted March 19, 1940.

DSR. – September 8, 1940

Posted I.T.C. [Infantry Training Centre] Royal Scots – Private – March 19, 1940

Posted June 28, 1942 – Pte [Private]

Missing – Pte – June 28, 1942

Prisoner of War (Italian)
Escaped (Now in Allied Hands, S/Italy)

In another area, “Service at Home and Abroad” indicates:

Home – March 19, 1940 to June 25, 1940
Egypt – June 26, 1940 to December 15, 1940
Sudan – December 16, 1940 to July 9, 1941
Egypt – July 10, 1941 to June 27, 1942
ITALY (P.W.) [prisoner of war] – June 28, 1942 to August 10, 1944
NS. Y/167/44 HOME – August 11, 1944 to September 26, 1946

I assume the span of June 28, 1942 to August 10, 1944 is inclusive of Thomas’ time “on the run” after escape from Camp 59—and his involvement with the Yugoslavian partisans that Helen mentions in “Scottish Escapee Thomas Penman.”

The last entry apparently covers the period from his return to the UK in August 1944 through his lengthy recovery at Camp 197 (“The Mount”) in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales.

Maurice French—Prisoner from New Zealand

Above: Maurice French (at center) on top of the Pyramid at Giza. (This photo from the online Cenotaph Database (Auckland War Memorial Museum) was provided to the database by Maurice French).

I received a note on July 9 from Miriam McDonald. “I came across your website looking for more information on my grandfather’s experience in the war,” she explained.

“His name was Maurice Ernest French (known by his army friends as ‘Snow’), a New Zealander in the 27th machine gun battalion 2NZEF.”

Miriam wondered if I knew of her grandfather and if I had any record of his time spent in Camp 59.

I had never heard of Maurice French. In fact, this is the first evidence any New Zealanders in the camp I had come upon.

Part of the difficulty in documenting New Zealanders was the fact they are not listed separately in WW II prison records from that time.

Giuseppe Millozzi, in Allied Prisoners of War in the Region of the Marche and Prison Camp at Servigliano, notes that the Italian military authority list of internees did not distinguish between British and other nationalities (the general breakdown listed only British, Americans, and French). Irish, Canadians, Cypriots, New Zealanders, Australians, Poles, South Africans, Palestinians, Maltese, Rhodesians, and Norwegians, he explains, were included in the British total.

New Zealand WWII veteran and historian Ken Fenton told me he was unaware of any New Zealanders who were interned at Camp 59, although his main research concerns the Italian camps where most New Zealanders were held.

Ken goes on to explain:

“I have also looked at the only known and Official War Office Roll of NZ POWs held in Italian camps, a roll prepared between April and June 1943. It lists each POW by camp of imprisonment. There is not one NZ POW listed as being at PG 59, in fact PG 59 is not mentioned anywhere in the document.

“There is a faint possibility that some NZ POWs may have passed through PG 59 at some stage prior to the preparation of the Roll and ended up at PG 57 as most NZ POWs did. In these circumstances, if there were few involved, PG 59 might have escaped mention in the official history, but I am inclined to doubt it.”

And yet here we have the Cenotaph Database record indicating Maurice French’s presence in Camp 59. Perhaps additional information will surface over time about Maurice French and any other New Zealanders who either passed through Camp 59 or who were present at the time of the breakout in September 1943.

For now, here is a biography of Maurice French, based on the information available on the Cenotaph Database:

Maurice Ernest French

Private Maurice Ernest “Snow” French
Serial No. 36248
27 (Machine Gun) Battalion
Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF)

Maurice Ernest French was born in Hamilton, New Zealand on November 9, 1918.

His record in the Cenotaph Database lists his mother, Mrs. Ella Sarah French, (24 Paterson Street, Sandringham, Auckland, New Zealand) as his next-of-kin during the war.

Maurice enlisted the day he turned 21—November 9, 1939. He was single at the time he served.

He received military training in Trentham and Palmerston North, both in New Zealand.

His ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam, left Wellington, New Zealand on February 1, 1941 for Port Tewfik, Egypt.

In North Africa, Maurice served in the Western Desert, Minqar Qaim, and El Alamein campaigns.

His “action prior to capture” is given in the database as front line soldier. He was captured at Ruweisat Ridge, El Alamein—according to the database—in May or June, 1942.

Maurice was interned in Campo 42 (Italy), Campo 59 (Italy), and Campo in Bay of Venice (Italy). He was free for 7 months before being recaptured and sent to Germany, where he spent another year as a POW in German camps.

In Germany, he was held in Stalag VIIA Moosburg (Germany), Stalag IVB Muhlberg (Germany), and Stalag Esdenmein.

Following his release, he was returned to England in March 1945. He was discharged from service in October 1945.

He later married and had four children.

He received the following awards: 1939–1945 Star, Africa Star and 8th Army Clasp, New Zealand War Service Medal, War Medal 1939–1945, and the International P.O.W. Medal.

Maurice’s postwar occupations listed on the database are “carpenter per rehab” and zookeeper.

A category of “wounds and diseases” in the database lists these injuries: prolapsed invertebral disc, hammertoes (2 and 3 on left foot), and sensory neural deafness.

The database also indicates that Maurice was admitted to New Zealand General Hospital at Sweet Water Canal, Egypt.

The Cenotaph record was prepared with Maurice French in 1999.

Maurice French is No. WW2 3 in the New Zealand Nominal Roll. (The Nominal Roll is a list of all soldiers who embarked for active service overseas.)

R. J. McMahon—Case for A Campaign Star

The three-page letter featured in this post was sent to me by R. J. McMahon’s daughter Linda Vaness. On receiving his WW II service medals, R. J. realized he qualified for one additional honor—an Italian Campaign Star.

This letter explains his justification for receiving the Star. As the text is written longhand in a single block, I’ve taken the liberty of dividing it into paragraphs for ease of reading.

I asked Linda if, in response to the letter, her father had received the campaign medal.

“Yes, Dad did get the Italian Star,” She replied. “We have had all of his medals set into a special jarrah (Western Australian hardwood) frame and his grandson has inherited them.”

7 May 1954
R J McMahon
Yalbra Stn
C/O Glenburgh
Via Mullewa

Dear Sir,

I received my Army medals and I thank you for same. In the box with the medals you forwarded a document with the different medals written on it and on the bottom of one side under the heading of time spent as a prisoner of war, it says, that an escapee or evader who took part in operations against the enemy is considered for the award of the Campaign Star.

Well, sir, from the time I got away from a prison camp in southern Italy in September 1943—the camp, by the way, was PG 59–PM 3300 at Servigliano—I spent nine (9) months behind the lines taking an active part in operations against the enemy. As there were none of my own officers with me I cannot get one to verify any of my statements.

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R. J. McMahon, Part 2—Escape and Beyond

What follows is the second installment of R. J. McMahon’s autobiography, 1939–44. This post covers his experience in prison at Servigliano, escape, his involvement with the Partisans, and his eventual return to Australia.

Inside the prison walls were about 14 huts and each hut contained 50 prisoners. These huts were the most unstable constructions around and would shake with the slightest movement. When we were in bed they would shake us to sleep. The beds were two-tier bunks made with wooden slats about 6” apart. The mattresses we were issued with were a good kapok style, which were fairly comfortable and [we were issued] plenty of blankets. Having sheets on the bed was a big surprise, as we never had sheets in our own army. The last sheets we had enjoyed were prior to leaving Australia. At the end of the first week we had them taken off us and sent away to be cleaned, and we were issued with another set. Our sheet issue ran out at the end of the second week, when we mustered at the collection point waiting for another lot. The Italian in charge informed us there would be no more sheets as they had found out that the Australians did not give their prisoners sheets so they wouldn’t give them to us.

Six mates and I stayed in this prison camp for 12 months before succeeding in finding a way to get out. We tried digging our way out, emptying the soil down the sewage system and flushing it away. It was only sand and you had to take a chance on whether it fell in or not. There were a few blokes who did escape through a tunnel, but they were caught shortly after and brought back.

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R. J. McMahon, Part 1—Battle and Captivity

Earlier this year, I heard from Linda Veness of Perth, Western Australia.

She wrote, “My father was a POW in Camp 59. He and four other Australians escaped together. My father was R. J. (Jim) McMahon WX4445, AIF [Australian Imperial Force]. His companions were Private Tom Alman from Kalgoorlie, Jack Allen from Kalgoorlie, Lance Corporal Les Worthington of Wiluna, and J. Feehan of Geraldton—all from Western Australia. There is an account of their escape in one of our newspapers.

“Also escaping with them was a Scot. He was a man named Tom Kelly (written on the back of a photograph) who was nicknamed “Jock”—how odd for a Scotsman! I have tried to figure out who he was, where he hailed from, and what happened to him, but with no luck.

“My father wrote an autobiography when he was about 70 years old—15 years before he died in 1999.

“I had grown up with stories about my Dad’s war experiences: never the grim bits, just tales of where he had been and the mates he had made along the way. When we lived in Geraldton, Western Australia, he would catch up every couple of years with all the chaps from the 2/28 Battalion when they had their reunions. It was a regular weekend, I can’t remember which month, but the weather was always pleasant. They had get-togethers for the adults and there was always a BBQ or picnic which their children could attend. I loved those days. The men were some of the ‘best blokes’ you could ever hope to meet. It seemed to be a part of my teenage years, waiting for that weekend.

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Ken Fenton on New Zealanders

Early this year I was in search of information about any New Zealand POWs interned in Camp 59. Bill Rudd, a former Australian WWII POW and creator of the excellent web resource ANZAC POW Freemen in Europe, referred me to New Zealand WWII veteran and historian Ken Fenton.

Ken wrote to me:

“I served in Italy during WW2 in the 2nd NZ Division, but was never captured, although there were occasions when I might have come close when on recce [reconnaissance].

“In the last six years I have become interested in the fortunes of NZ [New Zealand] and Aust [Australian] POWs, as I was asked to write a book about those who were detained at Campo 57.

“Most of the NZ and Aust POWs were sent to PG 57 soon after arrival in Italy, following brief stays in transit type camps, but a few drifted in over a period of time as they left Italian hospitals or for other reasons.

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