Lt Basil Turner was captured 13th April 1943 in Tunisia. By the 21st he was in Capua PoW Camp with Red Cross Parcels. He was moved to Fontanellato 2nd June. He experienced some harsh conditions in his various camps and thought Fontanellato was the best. He was free between 9 September to 6 November 1943 and describes many Italian villages and ways of life that he encountered. After he was re-captured he was transported to Germany. His story ends in 1944.
The full story follows, in two versions. The version in the first window below is the original scanned version of the story. In the second window below is the transcribed version in plain text.
[Digital page 1]
Account of Lt Basil Turner and Captain Gatenby. Sent in by Nick Young, son of Major J.C Young, whom they both met on the way.
Lt Turner. Captured 13th April 1943 in Tunisia in Capua PoW Camp by 21st with Red Cross Parcels. Moved to (excellent in his opinion) Fontanellato 2nd June. Had soon learnt that the Italians were called ‘I Domani’ . In the ‘Bund’ (area to which all PoWs marched when they left the camp on 9th Sept. The awful tangle of misleading rumours, which influenced all our future decisions.) Friends come and go. After working on a farm for a while they decide to move off on 10th October but after wading 15 rivers and living in strangely behaving and poor Italians or oxen etc ‘the party was not a happy family’. They move on towards Switzerland but get recaptured 6th November and taken to Germany.
[Digital page 2]
Lieut. B.D. Turner 184487
POW 13 April 1943
Cpl. Owen. The motor cycle ride with Jimmy and Porky and CSM Winder. Ferryville jail first night.
Reg Kelly turned up in the morning.
Taken to Biserta with some Americans.
BELONA – FORT DE FRANCE, TONY EMERY, ALEC HYDE, TAFFY EDWARDS, IAN FENTON, JACK WRIGHT, DICK WINDER, REG, PORKY
TUNIS – RUBBER FACTORY
Surprised at being handed over to the Italians (Ities).
Porky and the soap.
George and his cookies
Monty approaching but too late, taken to Tunis harbour (called gangsters on the way, which amused us) on board. Saw a fleet of 6-engined barrier aircraft leave. Enormous things.
CAPUA PG 66, Near Naples. April 21-May 31.
Transit camp, mainly QRs. Officers compound of about 150 including 50 French. Very small and cramped. Hygiene and sanitary nil, six lavatories only. Flies everywhere. Bed bugs for night companions. 30 books for the whole compound, food negligible. [1 word illegible] cooking but fuel difficulty. Poor Eyetie cooperation, always ‘domani’.
However Red Cross parcels regularly, sent letters home, sheets, single beds, play readings, lectures, canteen. P.T. Started piano accordion.
Severe thunder storms with very vivid lightning silhouetting the hills.
Choir, Padre Collins, 6’4” Oxford Rowing Blue. [illegible]
Had squitters and piles badly.
[Digital page 3]
Vino and vermouth times.
‘Opportunities’ Ltd. Walks about once a week. Sunbathing. The Goslings. After ‘Benito Finito’ rumours thickened until the great day which not only freed me but completed four happy years of contented married life – Army style!
FREEDOM. September 9-6 November 1943.
The Bund. The difficult decision. The awful tangle of misleading rumours, which influenced all our future decisions.
The walk with Porky – and return. Separation from Porky and so to Mrs Bice alone.
Barshall and Frank ‘2 bubs’. My ‘albergo’ tree. Work in the fields with the girls. The flaps.
I join Peter Board and Paul Holm and Colter with mama, old man tedeschi, Ave, Gideo, Gino, Amando, Enio.
We sink a lot of vino nightly. My river bath. The wireless. Still rumours, still optimism. Decide to push on eventually and get a tremendous send-off. Genuinely, they were very good people. Considered Switzerland.
THE TREK. 10 OCTOBER 1943.
15 rivers waded. Strange manners, customs and conditions of the many houses and farms we stopped at, spitting, child suckling, no lavatories. Slept in the hay or with the cows, latter preferable for warmth in spite of smell and noise. Met plenty of American Italians and all very helpful!
The party not a happy family.
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Kept off roads and out of towns, this meant very hard work. 20 miles on the ground might only be 10 miles on the map. Only the sun to guide us, no maps or compass.
Met Jerry at Bologna, digging at road crossing near HQ, both very narrow escapes. Further excitement at dawn crossing.
First time Paddy and I lost the other two, after we had stayed with the old woman and young boy. Held up by rain. The very posh house and wonderful Sunday lunch.
2nd time, set out to cross the Bologna valley, had a road and railway and five big hills. Lost them right at the beginning, walked hard all day and arrived within 10 minutes and 200 yards apart!
‘Petit Musso’ his very good vino, his nuts and the unfortunate effect on my stomach (empty) and a singing evening.
The Sunday 6000 feet walk with a magnificent 10-mile view each side. Lovely dawn and dusks.
3rd time on Mount Falterona in drizzle and fog. Lost them. Continued alone. That awful night. (Met again at VIII F)
Trudging on, poorer food, more difficult to find somewhere to sleep. The ‘over to you’ afternoon ending with a dash up 1000 feet in 20 mins beating the dark. We made it.
Good progress until we go round in a complete circle and tired and disheartened called at a main road café but OK. Stayed the night and did another circle in the morning. Then on and OK.
15 minutes’ grace at Padre’s house. Collect one OR and continue with him.
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Difficulty with Paddy. The large house (Countess ….) 100 lire and good directions and so the man on the wire, and recapture at St Anguistino by two Fascists, who were not looking for us but had called for a sister. Very small village about 12 houses. Some tricky moments follow on the walk with Peckeur.
RECAPTURE. 6 NOVEMBER 1943.
One night in carabinieri jail. Then by private car to Perugia. After seeing some Fascists, to an Italian barracks for a week.
This was an astonishing position. The Eyeties were mostly from Sicily and had full sympathy with us but they could not escape the Germans or Fascists. 5 ORs [Other Ranks] with us. By coach to Spoleta with Paddy, Peter Johnston and Gill Roberts. The marriage argument. Fitted up with boots, shirts and greatcoat English, just what could not be obtained at Moosburg. Many people suffered an awful journey in cattle trucks to Germany. We went in a coach and were quite well off. Journey took 4 days, through the Brenner, Bolzano heavily bombed. Stayed at Innsbruck one night and a morning at Munich, saw Soviet women working.
STALAG VII-A MOOSBURG. November 19 1943-December 8, 1943.
I can never decide whether Moosburg was worse than Capua or not. A transit camp again, 10,000, mostly French. Officers’ compound [illegible].
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Fleas, dirt, lavatories, no walls or doors, poor washing. 12 bunker beds and a lot of old faces collect. Flourishing black market with the French. Necessity of getting up at least once a night. American parcels for a change. The Ruskies and the Dog. Film Ginger and Fred. Met Chris Holliday and join him as good partner.
2 days’ cattle truck journey.
OFLAG VIII-F MAHRISCH TRUBAU. December 10 1943-1 May 1944.
Paid in Germany from 19 November. Innoculations T.A.B January.
Met Teddy Crouch and Ned Collins so completed my battle history. Jimmy followed later but not Reg. Many old faces from Capua, Lt. Col. Webb, Weir and Butch. 47 John Wiggin and Toney Emery. Many from 49, John Blyma, John Eyre, Gutteridge, Barney, Jonah, George Scott.
Similar to Fontanellato large building and additional outbuildings. 2,000. Ken W. arrives. ‘Dip’ query. 300 Indian officers, Sikhs, Gurkas, also French, Greeks, Senegalese and Imperial forces. Padre Thomas’ lecture.
My louse. Photo and finger print of Prisoner Turner 1346/VIII (563).
Hotel society and its activities, Ted Roberts, Bill Pollock, George Stormont, George Marfell, Hal Roach.
Lecture Lt. Col. Webb. Kitchen work, cakes and special dinners.
Leslie Montague Jones. Fielden. Bridge, rugger skating, swimming.
Cannot overpraise the theatre. ‘The Gate’ and ‘The Little’. Snow. Cold but not too bad. Pleasant surroundings.