Monday, April 21, 2014

More men escaped late in 1941

Even in Greece, there were still Australians who were looking for a way to North Africa or Turkey. In the Peloponese, near Neapolis, there were men, some even from Crete, who wanted to find transportation. One group decided to commandeer a fishing caique and sail to North Africa. They tried with one caique, but the captain was able to fool them into allowing him to escape. They tried again and succeeded. They sailed from Greece on 10 October and arrived west of Mersa Matruh a week later. They had been bombed by both German and British aircraft during the voyage. Another man, Lance Corporal Welsh, eventually wrote of his adventures. He had gone to Crete as part of the 17th Brigade Composite Battalion. His actual unit had been the 2/6th Battalion. He and another Australian, Lance-Corporal Welsh, had escaped from a prison camp at Skines. That was southwest of Canea. They had taken a rowboat, but were attacked by aircraft that drove them ashore and destroyed the boat. For now, they had gone back to the prison camp. By early July, some three thousand prisoners were shipped to Salonika. He was part of a group of thirty men who escaped from a very bad camp about 13 July 1941. Another group had gone out the sewer drain pipe from the latrines. The thirty men broke into three groups. Lance-Corporal Welsh led his group of ten men. He was making progress until he found a dead Cypriot lodged in the pipe. He struggled to either get past or to dislodge the body. They finally backed out of the hole, after fibbing that the Germans were ahead. Fifteen men got out of the manhole, but then one dropped the manhole cover and alerted the guards. They later found that the Cypriot had been shot six times. After a struggle, Welsh was hit on the head with a rifle butt and lost consciousness. He woke in the guard room. The men were against the wall and were being questioned by the camp interpreter. No one would give any information. He was released from the hospital after five days. He had to endure questioning by two men with the Gestapo. In August, he made a successful escape by having Greek clothing under his uniform. He got out of the camp with a working party with many prisoners who were employed grooming horses. He removed his uniform and looked for somewhere to go. He thought if he could find a woman with many children, that would be good. He did and she got him into her house and got her husband. They were not able to converse very well. He was taken to another house where there were six Australians. A priest helped them to escape to Imbros. In Turkey, they joined another group of men who had escaped. They eventually were able to cross the Turkish border to Syria, which by then had been occupied by the British. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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