Camp 5 Gavi Italy

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by joy, Apr 6, 2011.

  1. joy

    joy Junior Member

    I am attempting some research on my father-in laws (Deceased) time in POW camp.

    At the time of his capture he was with 105 Squadron, he was Pilot Officer Eric William Applebee(wireless operator/air gunner), he was shot down on 11th August 1941 in Italy, the other two crew members also survived, the pilot a Squadron Leader Goodie and Observer Sergeant Nicholls

    I know he spent time in Camp 5 at Gavi Italy, later he was moved to Stalag Luft 3

    I have just noticed a picture in his diary states Gavi June 42 to September 43

    So where was he Aug 41 to june 42

    Would he have spent the whole of his time in Italy at the one camp or would he have been at several different camps.

    He never spoke about the war or being in prisoner of war camp.

    Below is what I have found on the internet about his POW details.

    Camp - L3

    POW No - 228325

    Surname - Applebee

    Initials - EW

    Unit - 105

    A/C Serial - Z7503

    Service No - 44982

    Force - RAF

    Date of Loss - 11/08/1941

    I can find nothing of interest on the internet about Gavi pow camp if any one knows of any websites I should look at let me know. I know I need to go to Kew and will do so next time I am in the UK . But if anyone has any information that will help me in the meantime I would be very grateful.

  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member


    Not sure if this really helps you. But here is your father-in-law listed in the RAF POW's for August 1943. This is from file WO392/21 held at the National Archives, Kew, London.

    It fails to show the camp, unless all the men in the "A" index were held in Camp 75?

    Well I suppose it is something to have and there are others on the forum who have wonderful knowledge on this subject.


    Attached Files:

  3. Varasc

    Varasc Senior Member

  4. joy

    joy Junior Member

    Thanks to you both I can't believe how helpful everyone is on this site

    Thanks again
  5. Varasc

    Varasc Senior Member

    Thanks to you both I can't believe how helpful everyone is on this site

    Thanks again

    You are welcome,

    What a coincidence. Today on the train I was reading "POW" from Adrian Gilbert, John Murray Editor 2006. Very nice book.
    Well, from page 279, the chapter "An Italian Adventure" also gives some info on the Gavi POW camp. Maybe this would be useful. :)
  6. Mags F

    Mags F Junior Member

    Hi Joy
    My father John Le Mesurier was also at Gavi, for over 3 years. Our fathers must have known each other. I have just returned from visiting the castle again ( I also visited in 1965 as a teenager before it had been restored.) Do you have any other info on other prisoners there, or know where I can find more information. Dad was likewise very reluctant to talk about the war, tho he did visit Gavi with me in 1965.
  7. Dave Tooes

    Dave Tooes Member

    My father was in Gavi for some time before making his escape for Switzerland in 1943 after the Germans had taken command. He took me to see it in 1959 and was pretty upset when they charged him admission!!
    He had been transferred there due to his previous escape attempts at other POW camps
    He said he was the only naval rating in Gavi as he was an A/B seaman from a submarine.
    As a a naval rating he refused to be an officers batman and had a great dislike for some officers attitude to prison life
    In his seventies his war experiences took its toll and I advised him to write his time in the navy down as a way to assuage the demons.
    Like most of his time I had no real idea of what he had done or endured as he never spoke about it.
    His writings have now been sent to Submarine Museum Gosport .
    His escape earned him a BEM
  8. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member


    Just for your records, here is all the Naval Ratings held as POW's with surname beginning T. This is from file WO392/21 held at the National Archives, Kew, London.

    PICT0139 copy 2.jpg
  9. Dave Tooes

    Dave Tooes Member

    thanks for that i have that info as well as the BEM records and the inquiry and court martial for the sinking of S/M Oswald. My father kept everything bottled up until well into his seventies. His was a war that had to be fought.
    I kept my war service bottled up until about the same time 1995. I just wish my country as well as others stopped sending young men and now young women to far away places
    bamboo43 likes this.
  10. Dave Tooes

    Dave Tooes Member

    What a coincidence. Today on the train I was reading "POW" from Adrian Gilbert, John Murray Editor 2006. Very nice book.
    Well, from page 279, the chapter "An Italian Adventure" also gives some info on the Gavi POW camp. Maybe this would be useful. :)[/QUOTE]

    Yes a great read I have the paperback. He mentions other POW camps at which my father was at. Some of the other escapees defy description. M dad mentioned one escape were the bloke taught himself to swim on dry land and when being transferred by boat jumped overboard and escapaded. Their courage defies description and nobody knows unless you were there
  11. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972
    Name: J E S Tooes
    Medal or Award: British Empire Medal
    Service Year: 1942-1945
    Campaign or Service: World War II

    Attached Files:

  12. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Dave,

    Where was your father held before being sent to Gavi?

    Apart from a general interest in submariner POWs in Italy (especially Saracen, Sahib and Splendid) I am also now doing some research on PG 52 at Coreglia Ligure near Chiavari where a lot of naval ratings were held and wonder if he had been there at some time.

    Fellow submariner from the Oswald, Albert Penny, escaped successfully, I believe, from PG 68 Vetralla - there's a memo from the camp commander regarding him on website in the Documenti section of PG 68.


  13. Dave Tooes

    Dave Tooes Member

    Thanks for that. However that must show just some of the war time service. My father joined up in May 1936 and left the service in 1959 with the substantive rank of Chief Petty Officer. He was the highest ranking non-commissioned officer on the Australia station 1953-57. by 1959 he was one of 4 highest CPO's having served the last year at Royal Arthur near Bath. To confirm he was on the S/m Oswald when it sank near Italy in 1939. below is a photo taken on the Italian destroyer Vivaldi my father is circled

    Attached Files:

  14. Dave Tooes

    Dave Tooes Member

    After capture he was first taken to Maestri then on to Venice and then an island in Venice lagoon. Here he made is first escape, after recapture and with a number of crew from Oswald was transferred to Sulmona. Picture attached is at Sulmona my father is with the X.

    Then on to Camp 17 "The Nunnery" . I'm not sure about the number as you can see he also called the next camp 17 and the camp list has no "Nunnery"

    Then transferred to Campo 17 "Laterina" after his Italian courts martial he made another escape attempt, for this he was crucified and held chains in the open for 2 weeks in winter.

    From there he went to Gavi. After jumping off the walls he made his way to Switzerland picking up 2 Army escapees. He was then kept in Switzerland for a year or so before marching backdown to Marseilles

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
  15. Dave Tooes

    Dave Tooes Member

    here is a list of officers and ratings after the sinking as you can Penny is there with my father

    Attached Files:

  16. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    You intrigued me with HM S/M Oswald and courts martial etc. I've started a new thread HM S/M Oswald if you're interested in giving us the story.
  17. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Especially for Vitellino, by way of some small recognition for the arduous and superb work you carry out, and for all others that have an interest in Gavi.

    Pages from "FOR YOU THE WAR IS OVER", Gordon Horner, 1946. You may read more of his words concerning his capture, and see more of his enlightening artwork here;

    Gordon Horner 28th May 1942 "FOR YOU THE WAR IS OVER"

    Always remember, never forget,


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  18. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks, Jim, for this interesting post and also for your kind words. I will now look for the graves of Allgood and Ridley.

    I've yet to start on Gavi, but my latest website has a list of escapers as found in Italian documents, and I have also discovered the death of a POW from Gavi who escaped from a train:

    South African mariner Sub/Lieutenant Peter Philip Col Bateman, RN, one of the eighty-nine survivors of HMS Hereward, sunk off Cape Sideros by a Ju 87 on 29 May 1942, was imprisoned in PG 5 Gavi. On 14 September 1943 he met his death along the Alessandria-Piacenza railway line in Fume di Cervino, San Quirico. When no.12 Graves Registration Unit went to collect him from the local cemetery on 11 March 1946 they were given a very detailed account by the local magistrate, part of which is reproduced here:

    Having been informed that a body of an unknown person, bearing injuries provoked by a firearm, was lying on some grass next to the railway line, we went to the scene and report as follows:

    The body of a male person was lying supine on some grass next to the railway line at a distance of about ten metres from the embankment. He was wearing a dark blue woollen pullover over a white vest, long blue mariners' trousers, brown military-type shoes and short underpants. A leather belt on which was written 'Sateman' was holding up the trousers.

    On the body were found: a box containing a block of chocolate stamped with the words 'Emergency Rations – to be consumed only when no other rations of any kind are procurable' etc; a matchbox with a trademark of three heads, containing a copper key, a penknife with a mother-of-pearl handle with the words 'Ricordo di Napoli' engraved on it, and a steel chisel stamped with the letters B.R. 444-3407, a bar of soap with the words Crest Toilet on one side and on the reverse other words of which only the word Canada is legible, a box of 'Ovaltine' sweets (A. Wander, London). Inside the chocolate tin there was a map showing Northern Italy as far as the Swiss border, and next to the locality 'Campo Ligure', written in carbon copy, was the number 472.

    The body was that of a young man of around 24 years old. Blond hair, pale complexion, high forehead, regular nose, grey eyes, height about 1.76 meters, normal stature, left ear lobe attached. There was bruising on the forehead and on the lips which were swollen. A wound with a diameter of about 1 cm. was noticed on the left side of the abdomen with a corresponding larger exit wound with jagged edges on the right buttock.

    The crossing-keeper of section 50-335, 35-year-old Signora Letizia Montagna, daughter of Cesare, from Pietro de Giorgi, alerted us and gave the following testimony: 'During the night at about half past three, a train carrying prisoners of war was in transit, direction Piacenza. At a given moment I heard a series of shots being fired. The train continued on its journey. This morning, when raising the level crossing gates, I noticed that close to the railway line, on the grass, there was a human corpse. At that point I went straight to the
    carabinieri of Casteggio.

    Given that the body could not be identified, once brought into the Prefecture it was photographed (photographer Ernesto Sangiorgi of Casteggio). A copy is attached to this statement.

    Salvatore Gallombardo (Magistrate)

    Giuseppe Fugazza (Registrar)

    Sub/Lieutenant Bateman is buried in Milan War Cemetery.


    Edited to add: I can't find anything at all on Allgood and Ridley except that they were registered as being held in PG 21 Chieti not in Gavi, they died on 13 December 1943 and are remembered on the Cassino Memorial. WIll start a new thread.
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
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  19. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Hello Vitellino, reading your post above literally sent a shiver down my spine as I had just logged back in to post the pages from Gordon Horner's work relating to PG 21 Chieti. The parallels are evident, and I would not discount some juxtaposition on Gordon Horner's part relating to dates, places, times etc when he came to compile his book in 1946 (and of course, escapes and attempts were happening regularly, fortunately not always with fatal outcomes) I'll post said page here, but still include it along with the twenty odd other pages concerning Chieti/Sulmona in an appropriate thread. An already existing Chieti or Sulmona one perhaps? (I'll follow your guidance on that).

    Please keep up your good work, it is very, very much appreciated.

    Kind regards and the very best of wishes to you, always,


    Sulmona 2.jpg
  20. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Here's part of a chapter in my forthcoming book 'Some Corner of a Foreign Field', to be published shortly by Austin Macauley:


    The penultimate chance of escaping transfer to Germany or German-occupied territories – the ultimate being from a train – was to try to get away at the station whilst waiting to be put on board. T/Captain Jack Cameron Short, who had been held in the officers' camp at PG 21 Chieti in Abruzzo, was shot dead whilst making such an attempt at Sulmona Station. The Chieti prisoners had been moved to PG 78 Sulmona to await entrainment. Among those officers who had not managed to slip away in the days following the armistice, or to remain in hiding in PG 21, was Captain John G. O. Miller, Royal Artillery. Here is his account of what happened to T/Captain Short:

    A burst of gunfire echoed through the dust towards a distant line of rolling stock and echoed round the vaults of the station. It strangled the words on our lips as we stood chattering together on the platform and left in its wake a silence broken only by the clatter of boots on the railway line and the bellow of raucous German voices.

    I stepped forward from my place in the queue and stared into the dark recesses of the station from which the noise had come. But I could make out little in the dying light – only the silhouette of a German guard running across the track with his rifle at the ready.

    I sensed a tremor of fear run down our ranks and the spittle in my mouth turned sour. I was one of six hundred prisoners of war assembled in the station of Sulmona, the old capital of the mountainous region of the Abruzzi in central Italy...Our voices were not silenced for long. An angry murmur rose from the far end of the platform and gathered momentum like the chords of an orchestral movement. The rumour passed from mouth to mouth along the length of the queue and reached the point where I was standing...Apparently three officers had made a dash across the lines towards the cover of a stationary carriage. The German guards had opened fire. Their shots had halted two men, hit and killed the third. Confirmation came a few minutes later when two guards carried his corpse past us on a stretcher. They walked with a studied deliberation, as though determined to ensure that the implication of attempting escape should not be lost on us. The head and body of the corpse were covered with a blanket. Only the upraised feet were visible.

    Captain Short is buried in Moro River War Cemetery.

    This and your above account can be transferred to a Chieti/Sulmona thread - the moderators will do it, perhaps.

    JimHerriot likes this.

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