Badly Wounded Often Exchanged in World War Two

Excerpts from account of wounding and repatriation by Bill Williams of 50th Royal Tank Regiment from the BBC. The entire piece is here.

www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/86/a2889886.shtml

“At the end of the action (during which his tank was destroyed in an attack in Sicily July, 1943), I was collected by the German troops with one other survivor. They called, ‘Come, Tommy’… I could not raise my left arm and shouted ‘Wounded!’, which fortunately is similar to the German word and we were taken in to their lines.The soldiers were quite friendly… and took me to the dressing station where my wounds were treated….

Account of Bill Williams of 50th Royal Tank Regiment from

www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/86/a2889886.shtml

(Fast forward 18 months to January of 1945)

I was sent to an assembly area for repatriation, where I found quite a lot of Americans and Commonwealth troops.. After a few days we were loaded on to a train which took us through Germany to the Swiss border…. When we reached the border, a train the other direction with German wounded crossed the border at the same time.

Our guards were taken off and replaced by Swiss nurses who looked after us until we reached Marseilles where a hospital ship was waiting to take us to England. We landed at Liverpool and trained to a hospital at Loch Neigh which was rather a gloomy old place but it was home!” 

 

Below is an account from a British Merchant Marine officer about his wartime voyage through German waters to Sweden.

 

1280px-Postcard_RMS_Arundel_Castle

SS Arundel Castle which sailed from time to time during World War Two from Liverpool with her British merchant crew through the Baltic to Sweden to embark badly wounded British soldiers.

It seems odd that in the middle of total war between the Allies and Nazi Germany, that such formalities as exchanging badly wounded prisoners-of-war were not only negotiated but carried out. British Merchant Marine officer Peter Guy, cited in Convoy: Merchant Sailors At War 1939-1945 by P. Kaplan and J. Currie , describes an exchange which occurred in the late December of 1944.

He was aboard the British merchant ship Arundel Castle and their destination was Goteborg, in neutral Sweden where the exchange would take place.

“We were granted safe passage, and it was a treat to have portholes open and lights showing. On Christmas Eve 1944, we lay off Gibraltar after embarking the Germans at Marseilles, and everyone who was able gathered on the deck to sing a grand selection of carols….Later we passed through a narrow channel in the Skaggerak into the Baltic, and we could see the faces of the German gunners looking down on us from their gun positions. They weren’t impressed when some of our crew gave the V-sign. Arriving at Goteborg, we were surprised to get a welcome from a German brass band playing on the quayside…The saddest part was when close on a hundred of our lads who had lost their sight were led up the gangway. The exchange was all over in about three hours and we sailed home to Liverpool.”

It is important to note that both Norway and Denmark were occupied by the Germans at this time so the German gunners he refers to are stationed in those countries.

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[Images courtesy of Wikimedia and Wayne Ray & the Windfield Photographic Collection and Archives) 

 

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/