Arthur Daniels

Royal Army Service Corps

Arthur Daniels was born on 16 June 1916 and, before the war, was a gardener in Hylton, Sunderland. During the war, he entered the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver and was later captured on 22 June 1942 in Tobruk. He moved through different camps in North Africa in the following weeks, first in Derna and later in Bengazi. He was transferred to Brindisi only in August. He then spent some time at PG 8 Benevento, during September and October. In November, he was moved to PG 66 Capua, and then to PG 53 Macerata, where he remained until May 1943. Finally, he was brought to PG 106 Vercelli, a labour camp, where he spent the following months until the Armistice of 8 September 1943 between Italy and the Allies.

The guards refused to let the prisoners go during the two days following the Armistice. Only on 10 September did one group of friendlier sentries agree to turn a blind eye. «We pulled down the wire and escaped. The whole camp got out this way ». Arthur found himself sharing his journey with another RASC driver, Hope, and with grenadier Hollands of the Royal Artillery. The three marched to Villarboit, a village in the Vercelli province, where the inhabitants greeted them, providing food and shelter until the end of November. Later, three more escapees joined them, Hollingworth, a tank driver, Hopkins, RASC, and rifleman Goldin. Because of its proximity to the Swiss border, the area was busy with escaped prisoners who wanted to reach safety. There were also numerous partisans, organized in brigades, who controlled the mountainous territory. 

Thanks to the help of the partisans and the population, the group managed to reach the Swiss border at the beginning of December 1943. However, not all of them crossed it. Arthur, Hope, and Hollands decided to go back «as we did not wish to be interned». The three men moved near the village of Stresa, where a partisan band sheltered them. Two days later, they were again in Villarbot, where they took under their wing another group of seven escapees whom they brought to the border. At this point, they were probably familiar with the local geography and integrated with the Italian community, which was helping the former prisoners reach their safety.

On 3 December, Hollands decided to cross the border, while Arthur and Hope moved near Vercelli and «roamed around the countryside», at least until May 1944, when they joined a partisan band in Suno. The band received airdropped supplies from the RAF and managed to free the villages of Gozzano and Gravellona before the Germans pushed them back into the mountains. Hope died defending Gravellona. Unfortunately, Arthur is imprecise as far as dates are concerned, but his story is coherent with the general trend of the partisan war during the spring-summer of 1944. During this period, the partisans managed to free and administer some “free zones” that were later destroyed by the Germans during the autumn, as the end of the Allied advance in the South allowed them to move back some troops to fight the partisans. 

On 15 September, Arthur ran into a group of British PoWs fighting with the local partisans. However, their ammo and food reserves were almost depleted, and they decided it was better for them to cross the Swiss border. On the 19th, therefore, they surrendered themselves to the border guards and were put into a quarantine camp. On 8 October 1944, Arthur took a train to Marseille and then a ship to Naples on the 15th. His last trip was from Salerno to Liverpool, where he arrived, finally, on 2 November, after more than one year in a prison camp and another as a partisan on the Piedmontese mountains.

  • TNA WO 208/3324/131, Account of escape of 183397 Dvr. Daniels, Arthur, 31 Company., R.A.S.C.