Frank Cox O.A.M. Signals 1 Australian Corps
Service No. VX 42634 P.O.W. Number 3332 1941‑1944
After being withdrawn from The Desert Campaign in 1941, my unit (Sigs 1 Aust Corps) were sent to Greece to join elements of the 6th Division. W hen Germany attacked Greece we were heavily outnumbered, I was seconded to the 16th Brigade under Brigadier Allen.
After the Battle of Tempy we were to retire south of Larisa, but were cut off by German Airborne troops just before Larisa. We retreated to the hills in an attempt to reach a small port on the Aegean Sea.
We did not reach our objective, and were trapped at a small village trying to get to Turkey, by German troops, aided & abetted by Greek police & on April 25th 1941, we became Prisoners of War.
We were taken to Saloniki & joined other POW's in atrocious conditions, & after some time there, we were loaded into cattle trucks, 40 to a truck.
What followed for 5 days was sheer hell, the weather was warm, & only one small wire covered opening for air, small amount of dry bread, and odd stops for water & toilet, most suffered a form of diarrhoea & with no means of sanitary disposal the smell was unbelievable.
When we finally reached Wolfsburg in Austria, (Stalag XVIIIA) we were very weak & in a state of near collapse & infested with lice. After a few days at Wolfsburg with better food, showers, & sleeping arrangements we felt better physically, but not mentally.
In the next two weeks we were to witness Man's inhumanity to Man, something I have never allowed myself to go back on until now and even now I tremble at the thought of what actually transpired when Russian Prisoners started to arrive. They were a combination of Military & Civilian and had been in trucks as we were, but had been paraded around Germany as animals for some weeks.
The sight of these poor people still sickens me today, some died as they were unloaded from the trucks, and others were stripped of their rags & pushed under showers & collapsed & died, where they lay. Many were suffering from Typhoid fever (lice infected) and when they were injected for their fever, most never survived, their condition had deteriorated so badly.
When we left Wolfsburg we were taken to a road construction job at a place called Groppenstein, which was previously a Nazi Youth Camp. At Groppenstein the roadwork was hard, pick & shovel, mixing cement etc. The days were long and exhausting, but the conditions got worse when we endured that first winter in captivity, it was unbelievably cold. The civilians were extremely arrogant & at times quite vicious, and the guards were little better. I could elaborate on many incidents but find the memories far too painful to go back on.
After approx 12 months, Red Cross parcels started arriving which made life a bit more bearable.
Shortly after I returned to Spittal (Stalag XVIIIB) where sometime later a number of us were forced to work in a quarry & later in a timber camp.
Most of the remainder of time as a POW was at Spittal (Stalag XVIIIB) where I spent considerable time in hospital. Late in 1943 I was brought before an International Medical Commission after which I was advised that I would be sent home as medically unfit. An exchange of POW took place in Goteborg, Sweden, and then I went to England to a camp just outside London.
I left England with the 14th Army on the troopship 'ORION' to India from where we came home on the American Warship the 'General Anderson'.
After some time in Heidelberg Hospital, & also Ballarat Convalescent Camp I was discharged on a small pension. I am now on a T.P.I. Pension living in a retirement Village & those years spent as a POW are long gone, however they are, & always will be, with me forever.
This is a very brief summary of my life as a POW, but what of others in Germany itself & places like Poland? where it was common knowledge they were forced to work in coalmines, saltmines, etc.
POW's & others under the Japanese rule have been awarded compensation of $25,000 of which we wholeheartedly agree, it is well deserved, but sadly long overdue.
This raises the issue of other POW's of other conflicts & in my case Germany where large sums of money have been made available by Germany to compensate persons who were forced to work at the point of a gun while they were detained, but does not seem to include POW's, only the Jewish race.
While we do not wish to disagree with that pay out, POW's while detained were forced to work at the point of a gun so in fact they also were 'slave labour'.
I would like to ask what action has our Federal Government taken to see that all our POW's are adequately compensated. Has pressure been brought to bear on Germany to compensate for hardships & 'slave labour' for our POW's. IF NOT, WHY NOT?
Finally I wish to pay a very sincere thank you to the Australian Red Cross, if it had not been for these people with their parcels of food etc. I & many others probably would not have made it back home. So to the Australian Red Cross we say THANK YOU.