Rushden Echo & Argus, 27th April 1945
Kissed By Women
Arriving by car, Bdr. Coles had a great welcome from Simpson-avenue and was kissed by 40 or 50 of the women, some of whom were in tears Flags and bunting were displayed in profusion, and a placard inscribed "Welcome Home, Ron"—the work of a little boy—hung from the bombardier's bedroom window. Asked what he would like to eat, Ronald replied, "The first bit of Mother's Yorkshire pudding for four years." He had three helpings.
Captured at El Alamein on July 1st, 1942, he spent 12 months in Italy and was then transferred to Stalag 8B in Upper Silesia, where he received fairly good treatment until January 21st of this year, when Russian guns were heard and the march of 1,500 kilometres, extending over nearly three months, began in deep snow.
Slept In Barns
Ten thousand prisoners, with a strong guard, set out from the camp but presently divided into several sections taking different routes.
Bdr. Coles's section marched to Gorlitz, averaging 25 kilometres a day. They slept on farms in barns and hovels, and a man would sometimes get two or three potatoes off the farmer.
Marching right through Brunswick, the men went into billets outside the town and occupied some days delousing themselves and pretending to work.
"When we reached Brunswick," said Bombardier Coles, "we thought we should be safe from R.A.F. raids because there was not a thing standing of any importance—the place was finished. We heard the Americans were closing in on us."
Leaving on April 9th, they reached a village near Hildeshm, where they heard gunfire in the distance. Informed by a Pole that the prisoners were there, the Americans sent in a message inviting the Germans either to fight or surrender. They surrendered.
Five minutes later the liberated prisoners were hunting for food. A bakery was open, and they secured bread, molasses, eggs and coffee.
Since early in 1944, when they first met at Stalag 8B, Bdr. Coles and Pte. Douglas Mantle have been inseparable companions.
Elder son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Coles, Bdr. Coles is 26 and formerly worked at Rushden for Mr. Ray Robinson, garage proprietor. In 1941 he married Miss Betty Charlesworth, of Leeds. His wife and his three-years-old daughter Sandra, whom he had never seen, were expected to reach Higham on Wednesday.
Pte. Mantle, who also arrived home on Tuesday is in the R.A.O.C. and was captured by the Italians in 1941. He lives at 86, Irchester-road, Rushden, and is well-known as a former Rushden Town F.C. player.
Worked In Mine For Goering
Driver Alfred Watts, R.A.S.C., who returned on Tuesday to his home at 7, Bryant Way, Higham Ferrers, has had the doubtful privilege of working in one of Hermann Goering's iron ore mines near Hanover. He flew from Germany to England on Sunday, having been liberated by the Americans oh April 10th.
Taken prisoner by the Italians at Tobruk in 1942, he spent 16 months in Italy, working in a camp near Rome under good conditions.
When the Allies approached the prisoners broke loose into the mountains but failed to get clear of the district. For 13 days they gave much trouble to the Germans, who sent parachutists over the mountains to find them.
Recaptured, Dvr. Watts was sent to Stalag 11B, where the men who worked well fared satisfactorily until the Red Cross parcels ceased to arrive.
"We must praise the Red Cross," he said. "They definitely pulled us through."
On April 9th the Germans put 250 prisoners on the march, but next day they were overtaken by American tanks. Every village had its white flags out.
For three days the liberated men were billeted on villagers who gave them all available food and good beds. In return the British helped the Germans to obtain coal and milk and kept off marauding Poles and Russians, of whom the villagers were terrified.
Dvr. Watts has maintained fairly good health. The souvenirs he has brought home include a pair of naval dress swords and a saw-edged bayonet—all German.
Dvr. Watts was born at Swineshead, lived at Raunds for a time, and moved to Higham Ferrers nine years ago, working for Messrs. John White until he joined the Army in 1942. He is eager to meet again his brother Percy, who was taken prisoner in North Africa on the same day as he himself was captured.
Release After Five Years
On Tuesday the message, "In England, see you soon," was received from Pte. Francis Bert Hall, of 65, Oakley-road, Rushden, who was taken prisoner while serving with the Northamptonshire Regiment in France in June, 1940.
Unmarried, Pte. Hall is the son of Mr and Mrs. Harry Hall, formerly of Irthlingborough. Before the war he was employed at Burton's Stores, Finedon, and played football with Irthlingborough Thursday.
Atrocities Near Nazi Camp
Captured in Tunisia in April 1943, Pte. Charles Sidney Mackness, Northamptonshire Regiment, of 87 Trafford-road, Rushden, is now home from a German prisoner of war camp.
In Italy until September, 1943, he had no work to do there, and the food was pretty good. Transported to Stalag 4D in Germany, he was put on railway work. After D. Day conditions became "rougher" and food was very short.
This camp was composed of all British men—10 from this district— and was at Konnern. On April 13th, when the Americans were "strafing" the area, Pte. Mackness and the others in a working party of 120 men made use of the opportunity to escape into nearby civilian houses. Here, some of the people were eager for the Americans to arrive, believing they would then be better off than they had been under Hitler's regime.
The Americans soon swept through the village, and from them the British received food and cigarettes.
Pte. Mackness stopped for three to four hours at the Novdhausen concentration camp. He said he was not surprised at the sights he saw there after seeing in the nearest village the bodies of 24 people who had been battered to death by the Nazis. These victims had been called "political" prisoners.
He gathered the impression that the Germans would not give in while the S.S. men were over them—they had been held down for so long.
Pte. Mackness, who is looking well, has 46 days' leave. He has been in the Army since September, 1939, and previously worked for Messrs. Eaton and Co., being a pigeon flyer and belonging to the Rushden Homing Club and also the Band Club. Aged 27, he is the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. C. Mackness. One of his brothers is in Italy and the other in the Middle East.
Glider Man's Brief Captivity
After a short period in captivity Sgt Walter Ashby, son of Mr. and Mrs. T. Ashby, 48, Spencer-road, Rushden, has been liberated and is again in this country.
In March the sergeant, who belongs to the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, landed east of the Rhine in a glider. He was officially reported missing, but his relatives heard from other sources that he had been taken prisoner and was not wounded. Aged 32, Sgt. Ashby has been in the Army 15 years and did much of his peacetime service in Burma. He was born at Kettering, but moved to Rushden when 12 months old and before joining the Army worked for the Tecnic Boot Co., Rushden.
The sergeant's wife, who had staying in Rushden, left for their home in the South of England on hearing of her husband's release.