Sergeant Allan Lee Downed in Greece

Bristol Type 142m Blenheim I aircraft of the Royal Air Forces in flight. Image from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

I heard this week from Thanos Antonelos, who lives in Athens, Greece.

Thanos researches WW2 aircrews whose aircrafts crashed in Greece.

“On 13 December 1941,” he wrote, “Blenheim Z7800 (Squadron 107, Royal Air Force), was downed at Kefalonia Island, west of Greece. Most of the crew were killed. Three survived, were captured, and ended up in POW camps:

Sergeant Allan John LEE, RAFVR (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve), 925684 (Pilot), ended up in Italy, at P.G. 59

Sergeant Richard HAGGETT, RAFVR, 925435 (Navigator), was transferred to Stalag VII-A Moosburg (POW number 132004)

Sergeant Ambrose John COMEAU, RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force), R65203 (wireless/air gunner), was transferred to Stalag VIII-B/344 Lamsdorf (POW number 31613)

Continue reading

Ronald Streatfield in Switzerland

Ronald Arthur Streatfield

The photos in this post were sent to me by Tracy Jayne Streatfield, whose grandfather, Ronald Arthur Streatfield, was a prisoner in Camp 59.

“Ron married Sylvia Shrubb and they had two children—Nigel and Jane,” she wrote. “I am Nigel’s eldest daughter.

“My granddad was in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. He was born 30th December 1919, and died 4th December 1986.

“Along with some fellow prisoners of war, he ended up in Switzerland before returning home.

“Most of the pictures are from Switzerland, as you will see.”

Continue reading

Ronald Bertie Bones—An Album

“A portrait of Bertie from an unknown time,” says Jeremy Bones, “but given he looks young, it could be pre-WW2.”

I received an email last month from Jeremy Bones.

He wrote, “I am currently conducting research into my great-grandfather, Gunner Ronald Bones, who was held as a POW in Camp 59. I have noticed that Robert Dickinson, who wrote “Servigliano Calling,” was also in the camp but, more importantly, was in the same battery as my great-grandfather, 237 Battery of 60th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.”

Indeed, Ronald Bone’s address is one of 20 recorded in Robert’s journal. As such, it seems likely he and Robert were good friends. See “Robert Dickinson’s Address List.”

“My great-grandfather was born on 21st August 1910 in Grimsby and lived in Lincoln his entire life.” Jeremy said.

“I have a number of photos of him in my possession, and a good few are of him in POW camps. I know some of them are from Stalag VIIIA.

Continue reading

Charles Stewart—Mediterranean and Pacific

Charles J. Stewart

I’ve been in communication recently with Donna Stewart Prato, whose uncle, Charles Stewart, was a POW in P.G. 59.

She wrote, “My cousin, Charles Stewart Jr, and I are researching my uncle’s army days.

“Charles J. Stewart [ASN 6973874] served in North Africa with Co. A, 15th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.

“We did not know any of my uncle’s army experience, especially that he was a POW. My father, Charles Sr, and their other brother took their information to their graves.”

Charles escaped from Camp 59 with Anthony Proto.

(See “American Escapers from P.G. 59,” Greg Bradsher’s “Stories of American Escapers from Prisoner of War Camp 59, Servigliano.”)

Greg explains, Private Anthony N. Proto, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, was captured near Tunis on December 23, 1942, when his unit was cut off without ammunition.

Continue reading

Recognition of Bastiano Crescenzi

Sebastiano “Bastiano” Crescenzi

I received an email this week from Maurizio Roscetti, who lives with his wife, Valentina Crescenzi, near the village of Canneto Sabino, between the city of Rome and Rieti.

Maurizio wrote, “I am in possession of a certificate of gratitude signed by Field-Marshall H. R. Alexander, awarded to my wife’s great-grandfather, Crescenzi Sebastiano, called by all ‘Bastiano.’

“I’m a lover of history and I would like to deepen my understanding of the history of this certificate. I was completely unaware of the story behind the certificate until a search on the Internet led me to your site.”

Bastiano lived in Canneto. He was a soldier in the First World War, Maurizio explained. Born in 1885, he was 59 years old in 1943–44. Franco Crescenzi, Bastiano’s son (Valentina’s grandfather), was too young to serve in the Italian army during the Second World War, and Bastiano was too old to fight.

Maurizio wrote, “My father-in-law, Sebastiano—given the same name as his grandfather—said that Bastiano saved a group of English soldiers from an ambush prepared by German soldiers near the city of Fara in Sabina. The English soldiers would certainly have died, if he had not warned them!”

Today, a reminder of the war exists nearby. “Near Canneto there is a street called “the street of the English” (strada degli Inglesi),” Maurizio wrote, “because, during the Second World War, after the liberation of Rome, the Allied forces in order to continue the liberation of North Italy, built a new street where before there was a little muletrack—the English Army had many tanks that needed to pass from there!”

The “Alexander certificates,” signed by Field Marshal Harold Alexander, commander of Allied forces in Italy, were issued to Italians who had risked their lives to protect escaped British POWs and evaders (soldiers evading capture in enemy territory) during German occupation of their county.

Bastiano’s Alexander certificate reads:

This certificate is awarded to Crescenzi Bastiano as a token of gratitude for and appreciation of the help given to the Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which enabled them to escape from, or evade capture by the enemy.

H.R. Alexander
Field-Marshall,
Supreme Allied Commander,
Mediterranean Theatre
1939–1945

Louis VanSlooten’s Story


Louis VanSlooten before going overseas

I have known Louis VanSlooten’s son Tom VanSlooten since 2008.

Tom was one of the first family members of Camp 59 POWs I met when I began my research into the camp’s history. I met him through email the same month I began this site.

Tom’s dad was living and active then.

At the time, Tom wrote, “My father has been writing his story off and on for many years and has recently started writing again. It has been a difficult task for him. He told me just a week ago when we were at our family cabin in Northern Michigan that he has spent 65 years trying to forget what happened, and now is having in some way to go back and relive it again to write it all down.”

Louis came close to finishing this memoir before he died in 2011. His granddaughter (Tom’s niece) Jessica Lyn VanSlooten edited and completed the story, which I am pleased to share in this post.

The story is full of excellent detail. Of particular interest to me are the attentiveness and lifesaving efforts of the camp medical doctors, Captain J. H. Derek Millar and Adrian Duff. In his research, Giuseppe Millozzi references Dr. Duff as having cut his own arm, collected blood, and then donated it to his patient through a rubber tube. As it turns out, Louis was a witness.

Continue reading

The Camp 59 Tunnelers

Thick, well-guarded walls must have seemed an impenetrable barrier to the prisoners of P.G. 59. But miners in the camp envisioned another way out.

In his dissertation on Allied Prisoners of War in the Region of the Marche and Prison Camp at Servigliano, Italian historian Giuseppe Millozzi described a dramatic breakout from P.G. 59:

“Twelve POWs had managed to escape through a tunnel on the night between 11 and 12 September 1942. They were all recaptured and put in close confinement cells for ten days.

“Inspectors also reported that three POWs – Kuhn, Lacey and Well – had been charged with crime and therefore brought to trial. Red Cross delegates would have checked that the court-martial complied with the Geneva Convention.

“Gilbert Broadbent, an ex pow who was interned first at Servigliano and then at Sforzacosta, in his book Behind Enemy Lines, recounts the escape of the POWs in September:

“‘On this occasion, the tunnel started from n. 1 hut on the north side of the camp (…) . Men who had been miners, helped to make the tunnel. (…) The date for the attempt was the 11th and rumour quickly spread around the camp in the familiar words ‘tonight’s the night’. Early the following morning we all knew that 11 men succeeded in escaping. Many more had been ready to go, but Cpl. Holland, a big man, had unfortunately knocked in the sides of the tunnel and it took two and a half hours for the rest of the party to dig him out.’”

(Gilbert Broadbent, Behind Enemy Lines, Bognor Regis, Anchor Publications, 1985, pp 105-106.)

Continue reading