Jack Calder - POW

Running time
4 min 1 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Over a period of six months, it took the Italians to get us to Italy. We went from camp to camp from Mersa Matruh right along the whole of the coast until we got to Tripoli. And we got to the Tripoli on New Year's Day. They decide to put us into an old tramp steamer. Gave us one days' rations and set off to Sicily. It took seven days to get from Tripoli to Sicily, which was a distance of about... Equivalent to Tasmania to Melbourne, 7 days. The reason, of course, was the British submarines. I was fortunate, I got to Sicily.

The people, some of our fellows that went before us were torpedoed by a British submarine and most of them killed. So we were fortunate in that respect. We got to Italy, eventually they sent us to a camp in Northern Italy, which was specifically for Australians and New Zealanders. The Commandant was an ex, well known, Italian policeman. I say no more. When the Italians capitulated in September 1943, the German army came in, took all the Italians away, sent them up to the Russian front and told us fellows that if any of us had thoughts of moving, this is what will happen. He set a Spandau machine gun up and fired a couple of bursts into a sentry box and blasted all the windows out.

That's how accurate we are, the Germans, so naturally we went to Germany. That was in cattle trucks. Nevermind, it was an overnight journey and it wasn't seven days like the cesspot of a boat. In Germany, we got transferred from certain camps to another. The Germans were very astute. They'd set up what they called Stalag 18A. Stalag 18A consisted of probably 40 or 50 smaller camps. Might be only 10, might be 20, might only be 5. They sent them out, get rid of them and also assisted the German to use up all his old 1914, 18 men as guards. All our guards were 14-18 men. And most of them were very sympathetic.

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