Scottish Aircrew Association Logo

Advision Internet Web Design

Library Reference Number: 208

The Air Defence of Edinburgh - and much more

Squadron Leader Dennis Sawden, Scottish Saltire Branch, ACA

The fame of Maddocks and Dick, the Royal Mile Edinburgh, extended far beyond Edinbiurgh when overseas buyers purchased RAF and military motifs on ties, blazers etc. Many branch members will also remember sharing an ale and conversation with George Dick during our meetings at the Clarendon Hotel Edinburgh. The following account describes some of the experiences of Rolly Maddocks, the other half of ‘Maddocks and Dick.’

Maddocks Witty DrawingRowland (Rolly) Maddocks was born in Bolton, Lancs, on 2 April 1915. After his schooling, he studied at the local School of Art, and in Manchester, becoming a lithographic artist in 1934 and working for a firm of cotton exporters for the next five years.

On 4 September 1939, the day after the outbreak of the Second World War, Rolly volunteered for aircrew duties with the RAF and was called up in 1940 for training as an Observer which he completed the following year. He was then employed as an instructor at No 5 OTU in Fighter Command, flying Bristol Blenheims at RAF Aston Down in Gloucestershire: this is where he first met and worked with Wing Commander 'Sailor' Malan, the famous South African pilot. Next he went on to the OTU at RAF Church Fenton in Yorkshire, flying Boulton Paul Defiants in the air defence of Birmingham, Manchester and Belfast at night. A further move took Rolly to No 54 OTU at RAF East Fortune near Edinburgh where again he and his pilot flew Defiants, intercepting German bombers attacking Glasgow and Edinburgh at night. Whilst there, he met Betty, whom he married in August 1942.

But in March 1942, he was moved south to enter Bomber Command and initially joined No 12 Squadron flying Wellingtons from RAF Binbrook, but, within a few weeks, was moved again to join No 103 Squadron flying Halifaxes from RAF Elsham Wolds near Louth over the next 6 months. By late October 1942, Rolly was a flight sergeant and had completed 28 ops of a 30 ops tour: he had already received posting instructions and had been recommended for a commission. His next posting was to be to the Fighter Command OTU at Sutton Bridge near The Wash, where he was due to serve again under Wing Commander 'Sailor' Malan, who had not only asked for Rolly to be posted to his staff, but had also arranged for an aircraft to fetch Rolly from Elsham Wolds on Monday 26 October 1942. Furthermore, No 103 Squadron was due to stand down for a few days, to convert from Halifaxes to Lancasters, so, seeing his chance, Rolly rang his wife and asked her to travel down from Edinburgh to spend the week-end with him, before he changed jobs.

Link to artindex 3On the morning of Saturday 24 October 1942, ops were called unexpectedly for that night •... the squadron's last op with Halifaxes •... so Rolly was gently invited to go along, but as a bomb aimer, not as navigator, and, as he said: 'It was an offer I couldn't refuse!' The usual crew of seven was to be augmented with an eighth member, a new pilot on the squadron, going as second pilot, to gain his first experience of ops. The target was distant Milan, but the most difficult part of Rolly's preparations was to tell his wife Betty on her arrival for the week-end that he would not be able to meet her until the next morning (Sunday).

They took off from Elsham Wolds at 6.30 pm on Saturday 24 October 1942 with a full bomb load and extra fuel, and because it was such a long trip, they were flight planned to land back at RAF Ford near Chichester to refuel. Just to the east of Paris, whilst climbing to cross the Alps, they were attacked by a Messerschmitt 110 at 20,000 feet. Within seconds, their Halifax was a flaming torch and Rolly and two other crew members in the front fuselage were the only ones able to bale out: the other five were killed.

Rolly landed in a muddy field at about 9.00 pm. He had on him 5 'Craven A' cigarettes, a few Horlicks tablets, some French francs and seven-and-sixpence (about 38p) in loose change, plus a handkerchief map of France. Naturally feeling sorry for himself, and vowing never ever to volunteer again, he realised that he was lucky to be alive and unhurt, so he crept into some woodland, wrapped himself in his parachute canopy and fell asleep. He was awakened at 8.00 am by the ringing of church bells: on studying his map, he decided to head for Switzerland, about 120 miles to the south. Over the next four days, Rolly tramped on by night, and rested by day, but he was by then very hungry. He met a Gendarme and, on asking for some help to find food, he was taken to a tumbledown cottage on the edge of a village. The woman there gave him a very warm welcome with breakfast of egg, mushrooms and bread - but there was a heavy price to pay.

Rolly could not understand all of the conversation between the Gendarme and the woman at the cottage, but gathered that the woman planned to claim the 10,000 francs offered by the Germans for turning in Allied aircrew. Thus the Gendarme was compromised and had no alternative but to arrest Rolly. He was taken via various German Army and Luftwaffe units to Dulag Luft at Bad Homburg, where he spent two weeks in solitary confinement.

He was then taken by train under heavy guard to Stalag Luft 1, Barth, on the Baltic coast, to the east of Rostock, where he says the POWs were well treated. In March 1943, a Canadian POW gave Rolly a hard-backed log book, of blank pages, issued by the Canadian YMCA, in which to write, record his experiences or to draw, the latter suiting Rolly well, so he proceeded to draw in it to his heart's content. He also became popular with his fellow-POWs, drawing portraits of them, or amusing them with cartoons etc.

In October 1943, after a year in captivity, they were all herded into railway cattle trucks and transported to Stalag Luft 6, a new camp at Heydekrug, just over the German border in Lithuania. It had been cold at Barth, but they all experienced extreme cold at Heydekrug and the winter that followed was very hard. In June 1944, they were all amazed to hear the German camp tannoy announce the news of the Allied landings in Normandy on D-Day. Not long afterwards, they heard distant artillery fire to the east, signalling the approach of the Russian armies, so morale amongst the POWs shot up.

On 13 July 1944, they were told that they were to be moved again, westwards this time. Many were to be moved only by train, in cattle trucks, but Rolly was amongst 800 of them who were to be taken 40 miles by train to embark at Memel to sail to Swinemunde near Stettin, but thereafter there would be no transport, so the POWs were told to take only what they could carry.

They were crammed into cattle trucks for the 40 mile train journey to Memel, where they embarked in a smutty 1500-ton collier called 'SS Insterburg', and forced down into two filthy holds, awash with bilge and fine coal dust. The voyage took 3 whole days and nights, during which they were given no food: a bucket of water was lowered to them occasionally, but as there was no sanitation, the bucket was full of urine by the time it was raised. Conditions were intolerable. On arrival at Swinemunde, one of the POWs decided that he had had enough and threw himself overboard, between the ship and the quay, but he was riddled with bullets fired by the guards.

After 3 days in darkness, the. POWs were disembarked into the bright afternoon sunlight and then manacled in pairs and brutalised by guards as they were marched towards cattle trucks, each loaded with 70 or 80 POWs, twice the planned capacity. The air raid sirens then sounded, and with some POWs still in the ship, the American Air Force began a bombing raid on the German naval base. German warships opened fire on the raiding Fortresses and the combined noise of the guns and the exploding bombs was horrific. Rolly admitted that the whole experience was extremely frightening and especially he could not recommended being bombed by one's own side.

The 'All Clear' was sounded, but some POWs were still to be seen standing amongst the debris on the quay, littered with dead and injured, waiting to be manacled and still with nothing to drink. Eventually the line of cattle trucks was loaded and the train moved off for what turned out to be an overnight journey, in vile conditions, still with no food, water or sanitation, and with the POWs unable to even sit down. On arrival at dawn on 19 July 1944 at a small town on the Polish border, the temperature there gradually rose and yet the cattle truck doors remained bolted. There was not enough room to even bend down to tend the sick and conditions deteriorated even further, with many POWs in a state of collapse.

Eventually, the doors were opened. Still manacled, and bursting to relieve themselves, the POWs clambered down, but were not allowed to rest. They were met by additional guards of the Kriegsmarine, with rifles and fixed bayonets, who were accompanied by an unusually large number of Doberman and Alsation dogs. With one guard per manacled pair of POWs, they were formed into columns of 200 and marched off at 10-minute intervals, along a dirt track with wide verges, through dense pine forest. The POWs were prodded frequently by bayonets and then forced to break into a run, carrying their kit in the hot sunshine. Rifle shots could be heard elsewhere in the column and then they saw cameramen on the grass verges, with machine gunners placed near them, ready for a POW making a break for freedom. Eventually they arrived at the entrance to Stalag Luft 4 Gross Tychow, but first they were forced to run the gauntlet between two lines of guards, facing each other, who then stabbed with bayonets at the POWs as they ran by, or clubbed them with their rifle butts. It was reckoned later that over 160 POWs had suffered bayonet stab wounds, one South African counted 17 stabs wound on his body and 90 POWs had been bitten by the dogs. (This terrible experience was later labelled 'The Run Up the Road' by POWs who wrote about their experiences after the war).

Conditions at Gross Tychow were intolerable, with the camp incomplete, so POWs either slept in the open, or in small kennel-like huts. Food was extremely short and they existed on a diet of bread, awful potatoes, soup and occasional meat, to turn the soup into stew. There were also frequent thunderstorms, which flooded the camp area and turned everything to mud. Undaunted, the POWs got their illicit radios working, to keep up-to-date with news of the war. Christmas 1944 (Rolly's third in captivity) came and went.

On 6 February 1945, the POWs at Gross Tychow were given minimal notice before they started what was to become a prolonged forced march, in harsh winter conditions, carrying what few possessions they still owned; in Rolly's case, this included his Canadian YMCA log book, by now full of valuable drawings done in captivity. They were supposed to cover 20 miles a day. At night, they slept in barns, or in woods, but often in the open, with no cover. Gradually their column became mixed up with columns of refugees, also fleeing from the Russian advance. A German Army field kitchen was set up each night, but could provide only bread and thin soup. Some time later, the horse pulling the field kitchen died, so the POWs ate him for supper. Day after day, the POWs trudged westwards, still guarded, but many of the POWs literally fell by the wayside, unable to go further and were left to an uncertain fate. The whole experience was utter drudgery, in dreadful winter weather, still goaded by the guards. Rolly still doesn't know how he managed to survive, but the will to get home again came to the fore - and a sense of humour helped, but it was well tested.

In April 1945, after two terrible months on the 600 kilometres march, their column reached Stalag 11 B Fallingbostel, on Luneburg Heath, south of Hamburg. By then, the camp was seriously overcrowded, as POWs from many camps were being collected there, and conditions were 'far from rosy', to use Rolly's words. It was here that Rolly realised he had lost his log book, containing all his drawings, but of course he had far higher priorities - like surviving. Although they reckoned they could all sit things out, with the Allied armies closing in from both east and west, the Germans then decided to march them all northwards.

However, the POWs noticed that there were fewer guards with them so, one night, Rolly and a few others broke away from the column and headed back to Fallingbostel, as they felt sure they would be safer there. But, on arrival, they found the place was a shambles, most of the German guards having left. They were helped by some Paras who had been captured at Arnhem. Then some British Army tanks arrived at the camp - but soon left to continue their advance!

They were then told that the ill and injured POWs were to be evacuated to UK first and that the remainder should stay put. Rolly and his colleagues didn't like the idea of this, so they walked into the town of Fallingbostel and hitched a lift from the British Army to Soltau, but a battle was still in progress there. They headed to a quieter part of the town and liberated a car parked in a driveway, but it wouldn't start. Then a REME unit passed and helped them with the car, so they were soon driving away in it. They had further help from another REME unit near Nienburg and were advised to head for the Dutch border. But on reaching Osnabruck, they were stopped by a British Army Military Policeman who refused to accept their explanations and they were arrested. They were taken to a Displaced Persons camp, which was terrible, so they complained bitterly to an elderly British Army captain in charge, and he eventually arranged transport to take them to an airfield 5 miles away, at Rheine.

Although the airfield was badly cratered and their hearts sank when they saw it, they then noticed an RAF Avro Manchester aircraft on the far side of the airfield, with its engines running. They asked the American pilot, who had no crew with him, for his help and he obliged by flying them to Brussels within 20 minutes. The American pilot was then told to fly the aircraft to RAF Ford, but didn't know where it was. Rolly quickly said he knew exactly where it is - because 3 years before his Halifax had been destined to land there to refuel after bombing Milan. They reached Ford at 7.30 pm that evening - on 23 April 1945. (They found out later that their POW friends at Fallingbostel were still being marched northwards, and after crossing the River Elbe, they were attacked by Allied rocket-firing aircraft, as a result of which many were killed and injured).

After a good night's sleep at RAF Ford, Rolly and his friends went to London, and then to RAF Cosford, where they were deloused, had a medical examination and were pronounced fit, but Rolly had lost 3 stones in weight in captivity. He then travelled home to Edinburgh on 3 weeks compassionate leave, which he spent with his wife Betty.

Once out of the RAF, Rolly and Betty set up home in Edinburgh and Rolly returned to his profession as a lithographic artist, drawing maps, but he soon tired of this and wanted to be his own boss. In 1948, he met up with George Dick, also ex-RAF, and went into partnership to form their own company, Maddocks and Dick, designing and selling high quality regimental, unit and club ties. Later they secured premises on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, and worked there until they retired in 1979.

During the 1960s, Betty and Rolly visited France, to see where he had landed by parachute. They met a farmer who had found his parachute canopy, hidden in bushes: his wife had used most of the canopy to make wartime underclothes, but they still had a small fragment. Enquiries about the woman who had betrayed Rolly revealed that when France was liberated, the local Resistance had cut off her hair and paraded her through the village, for all to see. She had died in 1958.

The loss during Rolly's final long, forced march of his Canadian YMCA log book, containing all his drawings in captivity, played on his mind after the war, but eventually he forgot the matter. Then, in 1978, the secretary of the POW Association wrote to Rolly and told him of a member in Canada who wanted to trace an ex-POW by the name of Flight Sergeant Lofty Maddocks: furthermore, the enquirer listed all the POW camps that Rolly had been in and gave the names of all his room-mates, so Rolly realised that he was the man concerned. It transpired that the member in Canada had been in one of the POW columns from Gross Tychow, following Rolly's, and that he had found the log book in a barn in northern Germany, as he had been in a later column of paws. Realising the value of the log book to the owner, he had safeguarded the book and kept it with him ever since, but wanted now to trace the owner. Once Rolly had proved that he was the rightful owner, the log book was returned to him and he was of course overjoyed to be reunited with it.

Rolly's wife Betty died in 1970, but later he married again and his second wife's name was Betty, but she died in 1988. When he was a resident at the RAFA's Dowding House, Moffat, he met and married Muriel and they bought their own bungalow and settled in Moffat. Rolly became a member of the Dumfries & Galloway Branch of the ACA and contributed the original version of his war experiences for the branch book 'Valiant Endeavours', published in 1993, Rolly died in April 2003.

(The above narrative is a very condensed version of a 42-page booklet entitled 'Artist in Adversity', compiled as a fund-raising venture for the Dumfries & Galloway Branch ACA by Dennis Sawden in close consultation with fellow branch member Rolly Maddocks in the year 2000. 'Artist in Adversity' is illustrated with many of Rolly's drawings done in captivity. The Dumfries Aviation Museum now holds the master copy of the book).

Top Of Page