This post offers details on several of the men whose war experiences were the inspiration for the Victoria Theatre 1971 musical documentary “Hands Up—For You the War Is Ended!”

I am grateful to researcher Brian Sims for access to repatriation records for four of these men, who were transferred together from PG 59 to PG 146/22 Vairano in the summer of 1943. The British National Archives records provide the men’s imprisonment timelines and details on their escape to Switzerland.

According to the Victoria Theatre playbill, “The prisoners who took ship from North Africa were taken to various prisoner of war camps. Frank Bayley, Bill Armitt, Tug Wilson, and Jack Ford went to PG 59, (Campo Prigioneri etc) south of Ancona near the east coast, and there they stayed.”

Perhaps it was an oversight that Jock Attrill and Jock Hamilton were not mentioned in this list of transferees from North Africa, as the program later mentions their departure from PG 59:

“Sometime in 1943 volunteers were called for from the POWs in PG 59 to join working parties in the north of Italy. Bill Armitt, Jock Attrill, Frank Bayley and Jock Hamilton were amongst those who went. They were transferred to PG 146 at Laclirago some 15 miles south of Milan on the Lombardy plain and in sight of the Alps.”

When the men later escaped from PG 146, Italian Domenico Lunghi was involved in protecting all four. They later arrived in Switzerland on the same date, April 1, 1944, so it is reasonable to conclude they made the cross-border journey together.

Eric “Tug” Wilson and Jack Ford seem not to have transferred from PG 59 to PG 146 with the others. It is possible that they were transferred later, or they may have remained in Camp 59 until the time of the camp-wide outbreak on September 14, 1943. At any rate, Jack ended up in Germany according to the playbill.

Here are details on Bill Armitt, Jock Attrill, Frank Bayley and Jock Hamilton from the repatriation files:

bill-armitt-23-yrs_r72 bill-armitt-oval_r72

William Armitt

Service No. T/165163
Rank—Driver
Unit—R.A.S.C. (Royal Army Service Corps)

Date and place of capture—April 8, 1941, Mechili, Libya

“Surrounded by the enemy at Fort Mechili, and ordered to surrender.”

Where and when imprisoned:
Transit Tripoli—April 8, 1941–January 6, 1942 (forced labor for Germans)
Quarantine Sicily—January 6–30, 1942
PG 59 Servigliano—January 31, 1942– May 15, 1943
PG 146/22 Vairano, P.M. 3100—May 16, 1943–September 9, 1943 (general farm work)

Date and place of final escape—P.G. 146/22 Vairano, P.M. 3100 (near of Ceranova, Pavia)—September 9, 1943

Arrived in Switzerland on April 1, 1944
“Walked from the camp and worked for about three weeks, until the Germans visited the place, and then went into hiding till March 10th 1944. On that date started walking toward Switzerland, arriving there on the 1st. April. 1944.”

Help given by:
Domenico Lunghi
Ceranova, Lardirago, Pavia
Food and shelter, October 2, 1943–March 10, 1944

“On March 10th 1944, left place of hiding, and began walking toward Switzerland, passing all main towns. For three weeks we walked from village to village until we arrived at Elba, we then picked up guides quite by accident who brought us over the mountains, arriving at Chiasso in Switzerland on 1st April 1944.”

Name of the assisting organization not know. Time taken to reach Switzerland was three weeks.

jock-attrill-oval_r72

John Carmichael Attrill

Service No. 1437959
Rank—L/Bdr (Lance Bombadier)
Unit—5th Artillery Observation Battery, Royal Artillery

Date and place of capture—November 27, 1941, Sidi Azziz, Libya
“I was attached to Div recce [division reconnaissance] unit of the N.2. Division. We were attacked by German Tanks while I was at Brigade H.Q. and I was captured.”

Where and when imprisoned:
PG 59 Servigliano—January 1942–June 1943 (not employed)
PG 146/22 Vairano—June 1943–September 1943 (employed at farming)

Date and place of final escape—September 9, 1943, Vairano Nr Pavia (Vairano is in the northern section of the Italian province of Pavia)

“We were released from Camp 146/22 and I then stayed at Ceranova, Pavia until 8.3.44 [March 8, 1944]. We then walked via Melangnano to the Alps, in search of partisans whom we could not find. We then proceeded to Bossissio where we found a guide who took us over the frontier.”

Arrived in Switzerland on April 1, 1944

Help given by:

Reverend Don Mario
Ceranova, Province of Pavia
Food and accommodation, November 1943

Dr. Domenco Lunghi
Ceranova, Province of Pavia
Food and accommodation, December 1943–February 1944

frank-bayley-oval_r72

Frank Bayley

Service No. 7909091
Rank—Trooper
Unit—R.T.R. (Royal Tank Regiment)

Date and place of capture—April 8, 1941, Mechili, Libya

“Surrounded by the enemy at Fort Mechili, and ordered to surrender.”

Where and when imprisoned:
Transit Tripoli—April 8, 1941–January 6, 1942 (forced labor for the Germans)
Camp Quarantine Sicily—January 6–30, 1942
PG 59 Servigliano—January 31, 1942–May 15, 1943
PG 146/22 Vairano—May 16, 1943–September 9, 1943 (general farm work)

Date and place of final escape—P.G. 146/22 Vairano, (near of Ceranova, Pavia)—September 9, 1943

Arrived in Switzerland on April 1, 1944

“Walked out of the Camp and worked on a farm for 3 weeks, when the Germans visited the area, then went into hiding till March 10th 1944, on that date started walking toward Switzerland, arriving there on the 1st April 1944.”

Help given by:
Domenico Lunghi
Ceranova, Lardirago, Pavia
Food and shelter, October 2, 1943–March 10, 1944

“On March 10th 1944 left place of hiding, and began walking toward Switzerland, missing all main towns. For three weeks we wandered from village to village until we arrived at Elba, there we picked up guides, quite by accident, who brought us over the mountains, arriving at Chiasso in Switzerland on 1st April 1944.”

Name of the assisting organization not known. Time taken three weeks.

John Hamilton

Service No. 2937948
Rank—Private
Unit—Cameron Highlanders, 11th Scottish Commando

Date and place of capture—Luigi, Razza, Libya—November 22, 1944

“On the 22nd of November 1941, we made a commando raid on German H.Q., at Luigi, Razza. The raid was successful, but when returning to beaches we were unable to be taken off by sub-marines. We headed for the desert to make contact with the L.R.D.G. [Long Range Desert Group], but were captured by strong Italian and German detachments.”

Where and when imprisoned:
Benghazi—November 22–December 15, 1941
PG 85 Tuturano, near Brindisi—December 17–31, 1941
PG 59 Servigliano—January 1, 1942–May 15, 1943 (office work in camp)
PG 146/22 Vairano—May 16, 1943–September 8, 1943 (farming)

Date and place of final escape—P.G. 146/22 Vairano (Province of Pavia)—September 8, 1943

Arrived in Switzerland on April 1, 1944

“On the 8th of September, the gates were opened by the camp commandant, and we escaped. I was hiding in the fields during the day and nighttime, civilians in the neighbour-hood supplied me with all my needs. I stayed in the district of Pavia up to the 7th of March when I decided to make my way to Switzerland.”

Help given by:
Domenico Lunghi
Lardirago, Cere Nova, Pavia
Supplied me with all my needs as from October 15, 1943–March 7, 1944

“On the 7th of March I started my journey from Pavia on foot. Walked to Villa Ada at the foot of the mountains. I started crossing the mountains, eventually made contact with some Italian Contrabandists who showed me the route. I crossed the border near Chiasso. The time taken was about three weeks. No organization helped me to Switzerland.”

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