Category Archives: Albert Douglas

The Sunday Telegraph Covers the Returned Bible

The returned POW Bible story made headlines in both England and Northern Ireland. (See also “Bible Returned to Family after 70 Years.”)

A comfort in battle and prisoner camps, pocket Bible lands home after 70 years

John Bingham and Mary Blaxland
The Sunday Telegraph (London, England)
7 March 2015

Newspaper captions:
Clockwise from left: the Bible’s inscription alongside a picture of L/Cpl Albert Douglas and wife Ellen; the Italian Servigliano labour camp; Sapper George Alan Boanas; and Mr Douglas and his wife on their wedding day

IT WAS a special delivery more than 70 years in the making—from the battlefields of North Africa and a series of Prisoner of War camps to a village social club in Hampshire.

When Margaret Boanas handed over a small leather-bound wartime copy of the New Testament to Paddy Douglas last month, it marked the fulfillment of an undertaking linking both of their fathers since 1943.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

Albert Douglas—First Letter as a Prisoner

Albert and Ellen Woods (née McConnell) Douglas, wed in 1936

Here is a letter from Albert ”Paddy” Douglas to his wife Ellen—his first letter sent as a prisoner of war.

Albert’s first letter from POW camp

050993 L/Cpl. A. Douglas
Prisoner of War
14/4/41 [14 April 1941]

My Dearest Darling,

I am now a Prisoner of War. I was captured in Lybia [Libya] but I am keeping very well and am getting treated alright. These people are very good to us, and you have no need to worry about me. I am O.K. and I hope this war does not last much longer, so that we can be together again in a very short time.

Tell my father and mother I am doing fine.

If you have not had word from the War Office, get in touch with the International Red Cross London.

Your Loving Husband
L/Cpl. A. Douglas Prisoner of War

Continue reading

The Nightmare Journey of Albert “Paddy” Douglas

Article from The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), circa May/June 1975

In May or June 1975, an article in The News Letter (Belfast, NI) featured Albert “Paddy” Douglas’ exciting POW internment and escape saga.

It’s interesting to compare Paddy’s account with that of Robert Brawn’s in “Escape to Happiness.

In 2012, researchers at Northwestern University shared a study in the Journal of Neuroscience that indicates when a person remembers an event, their brain network changes in ways that alters later recall of the event; the next time the event is remembered, the person might recall what was remembered the last time rather than the original event.

Over the years Paddy would have shared his story many times, so it’s understandable he might recall details a bit differently by the 1970s, even if the story as a whole is consistent with the story as told by Robert.

Also, in the article Paddy recalls Robert’s surname as Brown, not Brawn, and gives a different street name—which, sadly, led to his failure to find Robert when he searched for him in Sheffield after the war.

Here is the text of the article:

Nightmare journey of a missing ‘desert’ rat

Posted as ‘missing’ in 1941, Belfastman Albert Douglas was actually on the terror trail to freedom. To-day he is spending his holidays retracing his wartime route through Switzerland and Italy where he was on the run from the Nazis. Before he left he told his story to ERIC WILKINSON.

For two days and nights German Panzers had saturated Mechili, a desert fort in North Africa, with shells until very little of it was above ground. In the morning like the “desert rats” they were, 500 men crawled out of their holes and were ordered to surrender. Outnumbered, bewildered and disheartened they stood wondering what the following years held for them.

Continue reading

Robert Brawn—the “Escape to Happiness”

Robert Brawn

Tim Brawn shared with me this narrative written by his father Robert.

Escape to Happiness

When reading this, remember I was a young man when it all happened, I was unarmed and therefore any risks taken could have had no repercussions—and the events took place in a world at war.

Firstly, I must stress that I’m no hero and therefore the story contains no heroes, but it is the truth. 

Secondly, if from time to time I say we and not I, it is because for part of the journey I had the company of an Ulsterman, (Paddy) Albert Douglas.

At the time of the overthrow of Mussolini and the return of the monarchy, I was in charge of a working camp of 100 British POWs at a small village on the banks of the river Po in the fertile Po valley, growing crops and rice. The POWs worked on local farms, and as camp leader (capo banfo) it was my job to act as liaison with the detaining power, see that what the POWs were asked to do was within the terms of the Geneva Convention referring to POWs—and what I didn’t know about the Geneva Convention I made up! How I came to be in the north of Italy is another story. 

In September 1943, the Germans were pouring vast numbers of troops into the north of Italy under Field Marshal Kesselring to fight the Italian Campaign, and to keep as many Allied troops occupied and therefore away from the European second front—which was overdue.

Continue reading

Brawn/Douglas—A Reunion of Families

In 1943 Robert Brawn and Albert “Paddy” Douglas escaped through the Maloja Pass (pictured here) into Switzerland. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Böhringer.

This story begins with two POWs during wartime whose lives became intertwined, and who formed a tight friendship in Italy.

Corporal Robert Brawn (1433896, Royal Artillery—from Sheffield, England) and Lance Corporal Albert “Paddy” Douglas (T/150993, Royal Army Service Corps—from Belfast, Northern Ireland) were both captured in North Africa. They were interned in Feldpost 12545 and P.G. 59 Servigliano before being transferred north to the Po Valley working farms of P.G.146/25 Chignolo Po. 

They escaped captivity on 8 September 1943, met up again on the run, and then made their way together to Switzerland—arriving on October 30. 

After the war, the men returned to home and family life. 

Robert married his fiancée, Betty Wray, in 1945, and together they had two children—a a son, Tim, and a daughter, Debby. Betty had had her own war service at home—she was cited in Sheffield newspapers as a hero for collecting the dead and injured in an ambulance during the blitz on Sheffield when she was aged 17.

Albert and his wife Ellen had their son Albert, who like his father also goes by the nickname of Paddy. 

The two POWs never met again. 

Continue reading