Throughout the first week in March 1943 the small Axis ship in Ferryville harbour gradually filled up with British POWs from various units until there were around 200 men held in its damp, dark hold. Pte Syd Shutt of B Company who was also from Tom Tunney's home village of Thornley and Pte Norman Cook from his Platoon were also aboard and went with him to Camp PG 66 at Capua. Some DLI POWs however were taken to Sicily, carried on the deck of an Italian destroyer. Sgt Charles Bray of D company was one of these men. Pte Pat O’Sullivan of the 2nd/5th Sherwood Foresters was on another ship at Ferryville which landed its mixed bunch of POWs in Sicily for Camp PG 98. So it seems there were at least two merchantmen and one destroyer involved in this evacuation.

Tom Tunney

'It was just like a big lake. There was a gravel pit on the side of it, I can remember that. Used to wake up every morning and we used to go on deck. They used to let us up on deck and if you wanted to go to the toilet, they had these like chutes out into the sea. Used to have to sit on that bugger. I never got the name of it. It was only a small ship. We were on the bugger ten days. We got took on the 2nd of March and we got to Italy, into the camp in the 13th of March. Why, it only took about a day and a half's sailing to Naples.'

Several POWs remember that scraps of bread were thrown to the starving men while the ship was docked at Ferryville. The scenes of them struggling and fighting for it were filmed by an Axis newsreel cameraman.

'It was German crewed. All the officers were German. There were Italian guards. We were down in the hold there. But I think the British knew. They'd see a ship like that, they'd know what was on it. But on the deck, there was these planks of wood, stacked up at each side. And I says to one of the Jerries "Do you speak English?" I says, "What's them for?" He says, "If the ship goes down, grab one of them!"'

That was the only life saving provision. 'Aye--for their use an' all.' Was the boat armed? 'Oh, they were armed but it was only a little coaster.'

And how many POWs were aboard?

'Couple of hundred.' And when the ship got in Naples, you all threw your tin hats into the harbour. 'Aye!

So what gear did you have with you then?

'I left everything. When he told me to stand up I took everything off. Small pack, even my belt. It was the worst thing I ever did. I just undid the belts, took the pack off and just dropped it and left it. I should have gotten it. There was a mess tin, knife, fork and spoon and everything in. It would have come in handy in a POW camp because we had nowt to drink or eat out of. We had to make our own plates out of empty tins. Bloody tin bashers!'

Did everyone have to do that?

'There was a few of them kept hold of it, small pack and things like that.'

And when you got off the ship in Naples?

'They just marched us up to this special train--old wooden seats and that--and we got on there and they took us up to a place called Capua. And we got off the train and they marched us through the little village and there was this big POW camp and we got in there.' Run by the Italians?

'Oh, aye. Oh, there was all sorts in there. Every regiment there was. Camp 66. They had these wooden huts, double bunks, blankets, such as they were, a couple of blankets. And we hadn't been there long and we got a Red Cross Parcel. We used to get one a week. If it hadn't been for them we'd have never gotten back.'


In the Bag: Prison Ship at Ferryville
Pte N Cook of Wheatley Hill
Pte Syd Shutt POW
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