brian conyngham

My POW Collection

56 posts in this topic

ID: 51   Posted (edited)

Corporal William Graham Fairbairn

2nd Divisional Signalling Company

S.A.C.S. (South African Corps of Signals)

Wounded at Fordsburg during the 1922 Miners Strike, serving with the RDLI.

(POW Tobruk repatriated via Sweden)

Fairbairn was born in London, England on 19 January 1902 the son of John George, a Timberman, and Jane Anne Fairbairn.

At some early stage of his life he immigrated to South Africa. He joined the DLI soon after the end of the 1st World War. He served for four years in the ACF and during this time was called up with the rest of the regiment to assist in putting down the Miners Strike of 1922. During the strike that had turned violent Fairbairn was wounded at the action at Fordsburg on the 14th March 1922. It is undocumented in the official history of the Durban Light Infantry exactly the circumstances surrounding Fairbairn injury, except to say “wounded” and “Fordsburg”. It must therefore be presumed that as he was the only member of “A” Coy wounded as they did not take part in the attack on the 14th, Fairbairn must have been on detached duty with either “C” or “D” Company who were involved in the fighting at Fordsburg?

On 1 April 1939, we find him passing his Drivers Test which licences him to drive petrol driven light vehicles on South African roads.

According to records held in the South African National Defence Force Archives, in August 1940, Fairbairn was a Sales Manager with Lever Brothers in Salt River, Cape Town by profession.

On attestation he was 38 years 6 months old, stood 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 136 pounds and had blue eyes, a fair complexion and brown, slightly greying, hair. By religious affiliation he was Church of England. His next of kin was his wife, Edna Audrey Fairbairn of “Sherwood”, Corniston Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town. This was later changed to P.O. Box 20 Cape Town.

In the records Fairbairn claimed to have seen 4 years of Active Citizen Force Training and to being a Reservist with the Durban Light Infantry (see section on “Miners Strike” section).

On 22 July 1940 he attested at Potchefstroom for the duration of the war, as Signaller, number 17371 (V), with No. 3 Divisional Signal Company, South African Corps of Signals. On 1 August 1940 he is taken on strength of No. 1 Divisional Signal Company, South African Corps of Signals ex No. 3 Divisional Signal Company.

Admitted to S.A. Military Hospital at Potchefstroom with “flu” on 25 August 1940 being discharged from hospital on 1 September 1940

Fairbairn was then promoted to Lance Corporal and posted to No. 2 Divisional Signal Company on 12 December 1940 and promoted to War Substantive rank of Corporal on 1 March 1941

On 2 June 1941 he obtains a Certificate from “Q” Services Training Centre at Sonderwater, Premier Mine, confirming that he attended a Mechanical Transport Course (“Q” 47 – qualifying) from 21 April – 12 May 1941. He qualified in all the prescribed subjects with an overall pass mark of 73%.

On 10 June 1942 Fairbairn embarked at Durban for the Middle East per S.S. “Ile de France” disembarking at Suez 10 days later on 20 June 1941

Commenced operations against the Axis Forces in North Africa. (Egypt)

On 30 July 1942 he is admitted to hospital with an undisclosed ailment and discharged from hospital on 2 August 1941

Fairbairn is re-mustered as an “A” Class Artisan Fitter (Mechanised Transport.) - 12 April 1942

On 20 June 1942, exactly one year after disembarking in North Africa, Fairbairn is “Missing believed P.O.W.” and posted to the x3 list. being confirmed as a Prisoner of War on 18 August 1942

Fairbairn, like thousands of others was “in the bag” at Tobruk where, with the garrison hopelessly surrounded, General Klopper ordered the Surrender of the Allied Force under his command. 20 June 1942, the “Battle of Tobruk” has a deep significance among South Africans.

On 18 November 1942 he is transferred to Campo 65 at Gravina in Italy, fifty kilometres south – west of Bari on the heel of Italy.

Like many P.O.W. camps in Italy, Campo 65 was ill prepared for the influx of prisoners and had only half finished bungalows and very rudimentary facilities to meet them with. It is said that, had the conditions and the diet the men were fed, not improve drastically, there would have been many a death from starvation.

The Italians surrender to the Allies on 8 September 1943 - With the capitulation of the Italian Forces, the Italian guards deserted their posts at the various POW camps. Unfortunately for most, the German army arrived almost at the same time to take over the camps. Before long the majority of Prisoners, Fairbairn included, were transported east to Prussia for incarceration there.

Fairbairn was held at Stalag 344 (VIII B) at Lamsdorf in Poland. He was allocated No. 31803.

On 1 October 1943 he is admitted to the sick bay at Stalag VIII B with Chronic Nephritis. His Blood Pressure at the time was 150/95. On 1 November 1942 he is transferred to the Convalescent Block to await the decision of the Medical Commission Authority.

On 24 December 1943 Fairbairn receives his kit issue of one pair of pants, one pair of underpants and one shirt.

On 26 April 1944 he is recommended for repatriation and appears before a Commission where his repatriation is authorised by the Chairman of the Mixed Doctors Commission.

On 3 July 1944 Fairbairn signs for receipt of a Next of Kin parcel issued via the London Committee of the S.A. Red Cross Society. (Parcel was sent on 24 January 1944)

On 7 September 1944 Fairbairn leaves Germany for the UK for purposes of repatriation on medical grounds.

He receives a letter dated September 1944 from the British Legation in Stockholm, Sweden which reads as follows:

As His Majesty’s representative in Sweden it is my proud privilege to extend to you personally on behalf of my wife and myself, the staff of the British Colony in Sweden our friendliest greetings on your arrival in this country. You can depend on it that a great welcome is awaiting you at home after the years of separation from your loved ones and the sacrifices you have made for them.

You are returning home at a moment when the enemy you have so stoutly fought is broken and on the run and when you can look forward to the early enjoyment of the peaceful and happy days, which you have so richly earned. God bless you and good luck. Victor Maller

Fairbairn was repatriated to the UK via Sweden and taken on strength of the Repatriation Unit (Released POW’s) on 20 September 1944

On 29 September 1944 he is taken on strength, UDF Repatriation Unit and embarked for South Africa disembarking at Durban, ex UK, and is taken on strength at Base Depot, Durban.

Reclassified medically as “D” - 18 October 1944

Fairbairn is taken on strength at Base Depot Voortrekkerhoogte ex Base Depot, Durban on 20 October 1944 and, after a spell of leave, is told to report to B/D Voortrekkerhoogte on 7 January 1945

On return he is posted to the S.A. Military College to attend Course 1415 P on 8 January 1945 but he is destined not to make it as he is admitted to Voortrekkerhoogte Military Hospital the next day, being discharged from hospital on 15 January 1945

Soon after, on 18 January 1945, Fairbairn is admitted to Wynberg Military Hospital being discharged from there and taken off strength S.A. Military College to Dispersal Depot at Westlake, Cape Town two months later on 18 March 1945

Taken on strength at Westlake Dispersal Depot, Cape Town - 19 March 1945

Fairbairn is issued with an Invalidity Badge Certificate in respect of Badge No. 40260 on 22 March 1945 and is discharged and demobilised from the army having been declared Medically Unfit by a Medical Board on 23 March 1945

William Graham Fairbairn was allowed to reckon service of 4 years and 245 days, many of which were spent as a Prisoner of War. His Character on discharge was rated as Very Good. He was regarded as Efficient and Sober. Now aged 43, Fairbairn was granted a civilian clothing and cash allowance of 15 pounds. His address was now recorded as Roxburgh Flats, Meadow Road, Rosebank, Cape Town.

Fairbairn completed the Application for Medals form on 6 September 1945. He was awarded the 1939/45 and Africa Stars with the War and Africa Service Medals. These were despatched to him 16 years later on 11 February 1961.

On 27 December 1945 Passport No. C 18835 is issued to Fairbairn at Cape Town. This was applied for to enable Fairbairn to take up a transfer with Lever Brothers to Southern Rhodesia. He had returned to their employ after discharge.

A letter is received from Mr. A.D. Courley, the Chairman of Lever Brothers, to Fairbairn in Salisbury, Rhodesia informing him as follows:

‘In view of your good work and the recent increase in your responsibilities I am glad to advise you that the Board has decided that your salary shall be increased by 250 pounds per annum to 1 250 pounds per annum as from the 1 April 1947. It gives me great personal satisfaction to be able to be able to advise you of this recognition of your services to the Company, and I would like to take the opportunity to extend to you the best wishes of my colleagues and myself for your continued success in the future.’

In 1964 William Graham Fairbairn passed away, aged 62, survived by his wife Ivy Myrtle Fairbairn, born Glover, and his children.

Brian

do you have his documents? Can you provide pictures of his passport(s)?

Best regards

Tom Topol

Expert In Passports And Their History, Passport Collector & Editor

www.passport-collector.com, passportcollector@gmail.com

The ONLY website for historical travel documents

News & Collectibles direct into your email box? Click here!

Member of Ephemera Society of America & Ephemera Society of United Kingdom

Edited by passportcollector

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William Dunne

141638, Corporal, South African Engineering Corps

 

Williams father, Michael, was an ex-soldier who had served in the Anglo-Boer war but subsequently worked on the mines near Johannesburg. William was one of three brothers and all three volunteered for service. William was 23 and single when the war broke out and living with his parents at the married quarters of Knights Deep Gold Mine near Johannesburg and working there as an electrician. He joined the South African Engineers on 22 June 1940 and became Corporal after a year or so. They left South Africa on 10 June 1941 and landed in Egypt 20 June 1941. They joined the forces fighting the Germans and Italians in North Africa. He went missing on 20 June 1942 and was confirmed a prisoner of war on 28 July 1942. The 20 June 1942 was the fall of Tobruk  - Rommel capturing a huge number of South Africans in that action which lasted two days – well described on many websites. I think most South African prisoners of war were captured at Tobruk and then taken to Italy.

 

The army records simply say he was “shot whilst POW – Europe” on 23/24 September 1944. In the confusion after Italy surrendered - September 1943 - and Germany took control I understand it was not that difficult to escape – so I’m guessing he did so at this time. He joined some partisans in the mountains (Grappa – not far from Venice) and lived(fought?) with them for a year before being caught up in an operation by the Germans to clear out this area. A number of atrocities were committed and documented in a book “Il massacro del Grappa by Sonia Residore and published in 2008 (in Italian only). Some 286 partisans, civilians, allied soldiers were killed. Of these 19 being taken to a small town Carpanè and shot near the railway lines. On October 4 2008 the mayor of Carpanè put a memorial, at the place of shooting, in memory of every soldier killed – including William Dunne – my great uncle. Unfortunately I do not have his medals but have some photo’s (that I seem unable to upload as too large).

 

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On 12/30/2015 at 19:49, JonT said:

William Dunne

141638, Corporal, South African Engineering Corps

 

Williams father, Michael, was an ex-soldier who had served in the Anglo-Boer war but subsequently worked on the mines near Johannesburg. William was one of three brothers and all three volunteered for service. William was 23 and single when the war broke out and living with his parents at the married quarters of Knights Deep Gold Mine near Johannesburg and working there as an electrician. He joined the South African Engineers on 22 June 1940 and became Corporal after a year or so. They left South Africa on 10 June 1941 and landed in Egypt 20 June 1941. They joined the forces fighting the Germans and Italians in North Africa. He went missing on 20 June 1942 and was confirmed a prisoner of war on 28 July 1942. The 20 June 1942 was the fall of Tobruk  - Rommel capturing a huge number of South Africans in that action which lasted two days – well described on many websites. I think most South African prisoners of war were captured at Tobruk and then taken to Italy.

 

The army records simply say he was “shot whilst POW – Europe” on 23/24 September 1944. In the confusion after Italy surrendered - September 1943 - and Germany took control I understand it was not that difficult to escape – so I’m guessing he did so at this time. He joined some partisans in the mountains (Grappa – not far from Venice) and lived(fought?) with them for a year before being caught up in an operation by the Germans to clear out this area. A number of atrocities were committed and documented in a book “Il massacro del Grappa by Sonia Residore and published in 2008 (in Italian only). Some 286 partisans, civilians, allied soldiers were killed. Of these 19 being taken to a small town Carpanè and shot near the railway lines. On October 4 2008 the mayor of Carpanè put a memorial, at the place of shooting, in memory of every soldier killed – including William Dunne – my great uncle. Unfortunately I do not have his medals but have some photo’s (that I seem unable to upload as too large).

 

Jon that is an interesting story, yes have heard of it but not sure who was involved. Any idea where the medals are? Resize the pictures and try and post.

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Hi Brian,

Such a great collection and especially so with the excellent research.  I look forward to your next posting.

All the best,

John

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On 17/02/2013 at 16:34, brian conyngham said:

5544 Sgt Kenneth Thomas Wilkinson MID
Umvoti Mounted Rifles
POW Tobruk
Received MID for escaping


Kenneth Wilkinson had been born in Durban on the 13th April 1921 and worked as a Salesman. He attested for full time service on the 26th September 1940. He had served with the Cape Garrison Artillery in an A.C.F. capacity from the 22nd February 1939 until the 11th May 1940 with the service number 77992. His father F. L. Wilkinson was his nominated next-of-kin living at 272 Bree Street, Johannesburg. He came from a family who had a long line of military service, his father F L Wilkinson had been a member of the Natal Police in the 1906 Bambata Rebellion and his grandfather had been a member of the Natal Royal Rifles in the 1880’s.

After attesting he was posted to the Umvoti Mounted Rifles as a private. On the 21st July 1941 he embarked per SS Elizabethville for the Middle East. He disembarked at Suez on the 14th August 1941. He spent a number of days in and out of hospital from the 26th October 1941 until 11th March 1942; the last stay in hospital was due to a sprained ankle whilst skating off duty.

He was taken POW on the 20th June 1942 at Tobruk along with thousands of other allied troops. Nothing is known about the various POW camps he was interned in whilst held in Africa and his early stay in Italy. However on record at the National Archives at Kew in London is his citation for his MID, it appears he teamed up with a fellow South African Gunner Theodore Nel of the Transvaal Horse Artillery and after the capitulation of the Italians on the 8th September 1943 they construed to get back to allied lines at all costs, and here is their story care of the citation and it makes interesting reading:

NEL and WILKINSON were captured at TOBRUK on 21st June 1942, and were released from Camp 120/IX (Chiesanuova, San Marino) in September 43. Recaptured on 13 Nov 43, they succeeded in crawling under the fence and escaping six days later.

They attempted to reach allied hands, but owing to the snow did not proceed beyond AQUILA. They spent four months at SEVELLE before they were recaptured on 26 Apr 44.

Seven weeks later NEL and WILKINSON escaped from PERUGIA wearing German uniforms and accompanied by three German deserters. After reaching SPOLETO in a German convoy, they took refuge in the mountains until Allied forces arrived.


They rejoined the allied lines on the 19th June 1944. He was placed “On strength released POW list” on the 24th June 1944.

He emplaned for the Union on the 29th July 1944. On his return to the Union Wilkinson was granted leave from the 1st August 1944 until the 22nd October 1944. He reported to the Military College on the 23rd October 1944 until the 30th November 1944 attending course 1415 P. He was then taken on strength with the GSC/NEAS. On the 2nd December 1944 he was promoted to T/Sgt and on the 22nd December 1944 to A/S/Sgt.

He was finally discharged at Durban on the 27th February 1946.

His full medal entitlement was a 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, War Medal with MID emblem and Africa Service Medal.

Wilkinson%20gp.jpg

Hi Brian,

I absolutely love this group, brilliant multiple escaper group!

I wonder how did you find the Mention In Despatches recommendation?

Rob

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