Avey, Denis George (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 22065
Production date
Subject period
  • whole: Duration 300, Number Of Items 10
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview


Purchase & License
Object description

British NCO served with 5th Bn Rifle Bde in GB and North Africa, 1939-1942; POW in Camp PG 65 Gravina, Italy and E715, Stalag VIIIB, Poland, 1942-1945

Content description

REEL 1 Recollections of life in Essex, pre-1939: life on farm, Northwold; leisure activities; description of farming methods; education; opinion of father; awareness of events in Europe; attending technical college; employment as apprentice at Tate and Lyle; visit to Germany, 1938; social life; outbreak of war, 9/1939. Aspects of joining London Rifle Brigade, 9/1939 and training. REEL 2 Continues: training; condition of troops returning from France, summer 1940; reunion with friend. Recollections of posting with London Rifle Brigade to Western Desert: journey to Middle East; desert training at Bitter Lakes; war situation in Western Desert, 1940; opinion of Italian artillery; conducting inventory on section of Italian guns; adapting to life at war. REEL 3 origins of name 'Desert Rats'; attitude towards Wavell; bombing of dummy tanks and vehicles by Italian Air Force; operation to recover disabled tank; description of night patrols; duties; description of operation into desert where 3 out 10 men survived; story of waking from dream to find comrade urinating on him; operation to cut road from Fort Meikeli and Agidabir; number of Italians taken prisoner; story of conducting inventory on Italian goods and using money found to buy bar near Benghazi; coping with lack of water in desert. REEL 4 Continues: patrols to assess German strength outside Tobruk; story of rescuing officer from sea and reward of 'cushy' job in South Africa; physical impact of life in desert, desert sores; living conditions and duties in South Africa; sight of troops bound for Western Desert and decision to return to 7th Armoured Div; action in El Adem area; wounding and capture by Germans; treatment at German Advanced Dressing Station; being put on cargo boat bound for Italy; torpedoing of ship; escape from sinking ship. REEL 5 Recollections of period on Akritas Island: physical condition; being taken in by Greek farmers; capture by Carboneri, Italian Secret Police; physical and mental condition; imprisonment in Pilos outdoor camp; living conditions in camp; move to Italy. Recollections of period as POW in Italy and Austria: conditions at outdoor camp near Bari; move to Camp 65 at Gravina; physical condition; interrogations; move to camp on Italian/Austrian border; living conditions in camp; being sent to Graudenz punishment camp for not saluting German Officer; interrogations; attitude towards Geneva Convention. Recollections of period as POW in Katowicz, and E715 Workcamp, Stalag VIIIB, Poland, 1943-1945: forced labour at coalmine at Katowicz; physical condition and treatment of Russian POWs; move to Auschwitz complex. REEL 6 Continues: journey by cattle truck; living conditions for POWs in barracks; move to E715 camp and less comfortable barracks; duties working for I G Farben; organising sabotage; methods of sabotage; gaining information from Ukrainian slave labourer; treatment of POWs and slave labourers by guards; psychological impact of time in camp; treatment of political prisoners in camp; attitude towards organisation of I G Farben factory; products produced by I G Farben. REEL 7 Continues: methods of sabotage; morale; reaction of father to learning of his imprisonment; gaining information on situation in Auschwitz and Birkenau; receiving Red Cross parcels; camp food rations; story of prisoner that smuggled chicken out of I G Farben; physical condition; lack of medical treatment; organisation of British POWs in E715 camp; 'Ferrets' planted in camp by Germans; use of British POWs for German Propaganda. REEL 8 Continues: POWs football matches photographed by Germans for propaganda; killing of 'Stripey', political prisoner?, by female guard; bombing of camp and deaths of 38 POWs; burial of dead POWs in mass grave; story of how this grave was bombed and the bodies was reburied post-war in Krakow; tracing the graves post-war; contrast between conditions in Birkenau and Monowitz; hearing of Australian POW that worked as stoker in crematorium; question of pay; attitude towards reports written about conditions in Monowitz post-war; question of compensation; writing letter of complaint to Prime Minister Tony Blair. REEL 9 Continues: reads SS Edict published in German newspaper; bombing of camp, late 1944/early 1945. Recollections of march from Poland to Germany: conditions on march; escape attempts; accommodation in farm billets, Regensburg; escape; meeting up with US tank squadron; journey to Brussels and interrogation by US military; journey to Britain by aircraft. Recollections of life post-war: inability of him and his father to talk about their POW experiences; mental condition; lack of interest from authorities in his experiences as POW; friends killed during war; career in engineering. REEL 10 Continues: career in engineering; physical impact of war; loss of eye post-war due to beating when POW; war pension; psychological impact of war; problems with nightmares; method of coping whilst in Camp E715 difficulties in talking about experiences; coming to terms with wartime experiences; memories of grandfather.

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