Library Reference Number: 029
Captured and the Journey to the POW Camp
The following extract has been taken from the POW Logbook/Diary of former Spitfire Pilot W.Comfort -a member of Scottish Saltire Branch, ACA.
Sunday morning 4th June 1944 was just another warm Italian day, and we took off on patrol. This was more of a bore than anything else, as the Hun was in full retreat to the North. Ten minutes to go and the CO would call up and say "Lets go home boys" then one more landing done, bind a bit to the I.O. and the rest of the day would be mine. However, fate intervened in the form of flak. Light stuff it was, but so thick there was no getting out of it except by climbing. I remember the CO saying, "Climb up - a/c or we will soon be over Rome. Then it happened, Robbie, decent chap, received a direct hit, burst into flames, half-rolled and went straight into the deck where the petrol tanks blew up. Jed called up saying "Christ,Robbie's had it" and at that moment, my aircraft was hit. All I heard was a bang. I opened up the motor, but it sounded so hellish I throttled back. It was then I observed my airscrew was gone. I jettisoned the hood and a.t. tore off my helmet, undid mystraps and started to climb out. However, all this had taken time and on looking at the deck, I knew I had very little height, so I decided to crash land.
The windscreen was all covered in oil, so I stuck my head over the side. Without straps, the landing was risky, however it was too late. Gliding down I crossed over a wood at zero feet, stuck my feet on the instrument panel, checked and shut my eyes. Eventually the aircraft came to a stand still and I got out as quickly as possible and started to run. However, a few bullets whistled over my head and put paid to that idea.
German airmen, I thought soldiers, but they proved to be members of the Luftwaffe, moved towards me as I had no option but stick my hands up. The first one was rather annoyed, fixed me by the throat and tore off my Mae West. The others stopped his antics, and I had a look at my aircraft. The airframe and engine had not parted company on hitting terra firma. The tail assembly was at rightangles to the fuselage but otherwise the aircraft seemed ok.
I was taken by car to an Italian farmhouse where the HQ seemed to be. There, a CO asked me the usual questions and I gave him my name, rank and number. Meanwhile, a Jerry attended to my legs which had been lacerated and bruised. Then all the company had a look at me, some laughing with looks of contempt on their faces. During all this I lay on the grass and smoked all my Senior Service swapping one for a German cigarette. Time dragged on, then came the Thunderbolts etc straffing and bombing the main road only a few hundred yards away.
It was a lovely sight to see them diving down and the bombs being dropped or seeing the flashes and smoke as the guns were firing. The remainder of the day was spent in the stable where I was crowded in with twenty or so Germans.
At last, night came and I was allowed to wash my face and given a plate of soup. Some Germans had tuned in their radio to the BBC and I was able to hear the news from London as well as Vera Lynn singing "We'll meet again". One of the officers allotted me to a truck and kindly informed me that escape would mean shooting. With two guards in front and two behind me all armed with tommy guns, I started off on my trip to Germany.