by F.W. Haynes

Jack Haynes was a prisoner of war in Italy

Jack Haynes was a prisoner of war in Italy

This is a short story of the war years of my father J.W. Haynes.

When world war two started I was only 3 years old. Later in life and with some
encouragement over my father’s lifetime I managed to get him to tell me some of his
adventures and escapes from Italian and german prisoner of war camps.

In 1940 father volunteered tojoin the Essex Regiment as an infantryman at Warley
Barracks. He passed out with the second battalion. As he did his training he was
proven to be one of the best shots in the regiment. With his knowledge of field craft and
cunningness of camouflage he was given the chance to train as a sniper. He knew it
was a great risk and declined.

Why? My father was married and had three children. When you finish training as a
sniper you were sent behind enemy lines. You were told to shoot the enemy officers
which left the other men with no commanders. If you were captured you were killed.
As father had three children he was excused this offer and went on to be a Bren gun
carrier driver.

In late 1940 father was sent to the Middle East. There was a new group of men called
the Long Range Desert Group who were given special dispensation to go behind
enemy lines to pick up the founder members of the Special Air Services (SAS) and
bring them back to safety and plan for the next assignment.

My father told me about a rear guard action in Benghazi Egypt. Only 13 officers and
men were in the team (Two units each comprising of 2 officers, l l other ranks one of
whom was father). The C/O of the panzer tank formation approached them under a
flag of truce and three times asked them to surrender. On the third time they did
surrender as they had run out of ammunition.

The men were handed over to the Italian army and sent back to Italy. On this march
they had no food or water for 4 or 5 days. Some men were drinking their own urine.
The rear guard action is well documented in the Essex Regiments Museum Colchester.
I gave the museum several artifacts concerning this action. They were very grateful.
They are now on display in the museum.

When they landed in Italy father escaped. In just 6 weeks he managed to get to the top
of Italy. He was on a steep slope and could see an infantry battle-taking place in a
valley. He made his way toward the British lines; unfortunately he and one other were
captured by a German patrol. Father was wounded on his left cheek caused by a
bayonet causing a deep wound. This was treated and he was made more comfortable.
The scar was there for the rest of his life and on cold days you could see the scar quite
clearly about 4” long.

Father was sent to Stalag 125a a prisoner of war camp that was near Dresden in East

The food was very limited for most of the time. There were a few Americans as well,
but as they were used to good food a lot of them keeled over and died, more so when
they were on the toilet.

In the latter part of being a prisoner of war food became scarce even the German guards
had very little food. Once again father escaped with three other men. Two of the men
were captured very quickly, WHY? They decided to walk straight across a field and
were spotted. Father and his companion skirted round the fields using the hedgerows
as cover making their escape possible. Two days later they split up and went their
different ways making it easier to travel alone. My dad reached Czechoslovakia and
one night went into a farmer’s barn there he found a few apples and other fruit. But
better than that he found a tethered cow, being an old fen tiger he lay down and milked
the cows udder into his mouth and had a good drink of milk. He then climbed a ladder
into the hayloft and making himself snug curled up and went to sleep.

In the morning the fanner came early to tend to the cow and unbeknown to father the
farmers dog smelt father and warned the farmer of dads presence. The farmer could
speak broken English asked whom he was and what he was doing in his barn. Father
taking a chance told the farmer his story. Luckily the farmer who did not like the
Germans, they had invaded his country 5 years earlier. Took dad under his wing and
feed and clothed him for a few weeks As time went on father did some small jobs for
the farmer who even let dad ride his old bike. It was one of these days when father was
on his own with the bike he saw a small cloud of dust being disturbed on the dirt track
As it approached father he could see a man in civilian clothes The man stopped and
asked father in English who he was and where am I? Father took a chance and said he
was an escaped P.O.W. from deep within East Germany Stalag 125a Dresden. The
civilian said he was a South African major in the intelligence corps. After more
questioning the major told father to go with him and guaranteed to have him home in
England in two or three day’s time.

Father borrowed a pencil and piece of paper and wrote a note to the farmer and left it
with the bike. A few months later they corresponded with each other and sent Christmas
cards every year for about 20 years. When the cards stopped coming father assumed the
farmer had died.

The major was as good as his word, He was driven to Prague where he was de briefed
given clean clothes then flew to Antwerp in an American Dakota He found a place on
a Lancaster bomber to Brize Norton Oxfordsbire. He sent my mother in Little
Thetford Cambridgeshire a telegram via the army to tell her he was back in England.
He obtained a lift to Cambridge: Drummer Street bus station and caught a 108 Ely bus
asking what time it would be at Little Thetford corner. We lived nine houses from the
main Ely/ Cambridge Road. John my younger brother went to meet the bus, seeing
father he said ” are you Jack Haynes” if so I’m your sun John. Father kissed him
picked him up and put him on his shoulder to carry him home to number 9 Council

John was eight Jill was seven and I was nine years old. Where was I? I was up
Merrivel farm with dad’s stepbrother uncle Ern to get some milk. As soon as I arrived
uncle Ern made his oldest daughter get a score (20) of eggs to help build father up. He
said this is what he’ll need for a time. I carried the milk and eggs home where
somebody I had not seen for five years greeted me.

This is some of the stories and tails I have been told by my father over the years.
Dad died in 1993 it is now 2008 15 years have gone by and I felt it was time his story
was told. It will give an insight to future generations of John William Haynes exploits
in world war two. I have stuck to the words he related to me to the best of my ability.

His Oldest Son
Fredrick Haynes
17 November 2008

The above text has been digitally converted from images into words using scanned pages of printed text. Some errors may remain.