Thu 26th September 2013
Harry Buckledee "For you, the war is over"
Harry Buckledee, a sprightly nonagenarian, spoke about his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II. He joined the army in 1939, volunteered for overseas duty and was sent to Egypt, serving with the armoured car division. He saw action at El Alamein and was part of the long range desert group. It was on one of their sorties that he was captured. He was put on a ship for Italy but this was torpedoed and he had to take to the lifeboats. He was picked up by one of the German escort vessels and returned to Tunis where he was interrogated, and threatened with death if he did not co-operate but he did not divulge any information and was eventually flown to Naples. From there he was sent to Germany by train and thrown into a cell without clothes, interrogated again, but the Germans could get no useful information from him and he was sent to a prison camp near the Polish border where he and many others were handcuffed from 8am to 8pm every day as a reprisal for the Dieppe raid. In 1944 he was moved again to a camp near Auschwitz where he worked with Jews and witnessed first hand their cruel treatment. As the War neared its end, the Russian advance caused the evacuation of the camp and a forced march of many days in midwinter from January to April. The snow was deep, there was little food, no washing facilities and prisoners became lice-ridden, very cold, hungry and deprived of sleep. At one stage Harry collapsed but was revived, and eventually reached Brunswick where he was liberated by the Americans. He was treated in hospital by the Americans before being sent home where he needed a long recuperation to recover both mentally and physically. However, he did regain his fitness and served in the army until demobbed in 1946.
It is a tribute to his strength and fortitude that he is still able to stand up and deliver such a talk today.