David Thomas Griffiths

Royal Army Ordinance Corps

David Thomas Griffiths was born on 28 June 1916 and, before the war, was a truck driver in Bankyfelin, in Southern Wales. During the war, he served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, the logistics branch of the British Army. David was captured in Tobruk, on 21 June 1942, during the North African Campaign. He probably spent the next few weeks in Libya and was transferred to Italy in the PG 51 (Altamura) in August. In October, he was moved to PG 73 Carpi, where he remained until March 1943, when he was moved again, this time to PG 53 Macerata. Finally, in July 1943, he was transferred to PG 133 Novara.

«We remained in the camp for two days after the Armistice. On 10 Sep 43, the whole camp was moved by the Italian guards to a point some distance away, where they left us». The prisoners, thus, escaped from captivity without much effort and decided to disperse. David formed a group with four companions: the drivers Fraser, Cottington, Lord (RASC), and Findlay of the Royal Signals. They managed to exchange their uniforms for civilian clothes with the local farmers and spent the following two weeks in the area, hidden in small copses, «living on raw fruits». At the beginning of October, they were discovered by a woodcutter. However, this improved their condition rather than spelling their end: «[he] brought us clothing and kept us continually supplied with food for about four weeks».

In November, the friendly woodcutter told them that the Germans had been alerted about their position and were preparing to catch them. He guided them to a village near Borgosesia, where the five came under the protection of the local partisan band. The following month, they moved to Varallo, where they lived «in a dugout for about three weeks». In this period, they were also joined by two Australians, Jockomson and Murray. Despite the precarious situation, the partisan band had actually grown in size and moved back near Borgosesia, where they ambushed a Fascist patrol, killing 45 enemies and routing the rest.

However, at the end of January 1944, the Germans assaulted the area with some 3,000 men, burning villages and killing many partisans. During the fighting, Findlay was captured by the Germans, who then killed him in Varallo. The partisans were forced to retreat to the mountains, while the group of escapees managed to find the help of a local farmer, who hid and fed them until May when David and his companions were able to rejoin the partisans.

In June 1944, the partisans went back on the offensive as the Allied advance in the South gained ground. They liberated Borgosesia, but their ammo reserves quickly dwindled, and they were forced again to retreat to the mountains by the end of the summer. The band moved to Valduggia but were eventually forced to disperse because they were not in any condition to fight. Thus, in September, David and his companions decided to march toward the Swiss border; with the addition of driver Daniels and rifleman Duff. After months in the mountains, their knowledge of the area was probably good enough for them not to need a guide. They reached the border on 19 September 1944, and, after they were identified, they were able to leave Switzerland on 8 October, reaching Marseille and then Naples. David had spent 14 months as a prisoner and one year as a partisan in Italy before regaining his freedom.

  • TNA WO 208/3324/128, Account of escape of 7627917 Pte Griffiths, David Thomas 32nd A.T.B. Workshop, R.A.O.C.