Evan Llwellyn Edwards
II Batallion Welch Regiment
Sergeant Edwards, belonging to the II Batallion Welch Regiment, was captured in Tobruk, Libya, on 11 February 1942. He was transferred to Italy and transited through PG 85 Tuturano (Brindisi) and then PG 65 Gravina. In June 1943, he was transferred to PG 52 Pian di Coreglia (Genoa), where, on 8 September, he learnt about the Armistice.
On 15 September, German forces took control of the camp. The PoWs were grouped in their huts, and some were immediately selected to be deported to Germany. Evan was among the first NCOs who were forced to march to the Chiavari train station and then loaded on a departing train.
However, he decided to escape during the transfer. At two in the morning, on 16 September 1943, Sergeant Edwards was the first among three soldiers (with Sergeant MacNeil and Irvine, RAF) to climb down from the wagon’s window.
Evan Edwards during the Dachau War Ttrial, December 1945
Source: J. Kinrade Dethick, La lunga via del ritorno
They were successful: the men discovered they were a few kilometres north of Cremona. They decided to head south. They passed by Mantova and Modena during the following months and swam across the Po River. They then traversed Bologna, where they met four Italians who were friendly to them. When they arrived at a tunnel on the city’s outskirts, they chopped up a tree blocking its entrance.
Their journey continued towards Forlì through Lugo, where they often ran into the German military. To avoid raising suspicions, they decided to split up. Evan headed towards the Umbria region. Everything went well until he reached the outskirts of Terni, where the Germans were doing training exercises. Hoping to find a hiding place, he approached a man along the road, but he betrayed Evan.
He told me he knew a “club” in Terni, but I had to wear civilian clothes. He went away and returned after about one hour with trousers, a coat, and a shirt. We got on a train to Terni, and after a few minutes, he went to the toilet. A few seconds after his return, an officer, a sergeant, and two men of the Luftwaffe came to me pointing their revolvers. They demanded to see my documents in Italian, and since I had none, I decided to bluff. Then the officer spoke to me in English and warned me not to try and trick him “as the English do”. I was searched in front of all the people in the wagon, and they found my matriculation sheet and my attestation papers: I was handcuffed and brought to Perugia.
He was questioned in Perugia but refused to give any answers to his captors. To extort some information, he was tied down to a chair. At the end of the questioning, the Germans saluted him, saying: «we love our Fuhrer». Evan’s witty answer, «when we catch him, we’ll show him another kind of love», gained him a few violent slaps on his face.
He was brought, always handcuffed, to another building and handed over to the Fascists. They pushed and kicked him for about 10 minutes before sending him to Perugia’s prison, where about 200 handcuffed PoWs were held, waiting to be transferred to Germany.
That evening, they were taken to the station and loaded on a freight train; it was 5 October 1943. The train brought them to Bologna and then to Dachau camp on 11 October 1943, where Evan was interned as a political prisoner. He spent eight months in the camp, where he was regularly beaten and lost half his weight. Finally, he was transferred.
Evan Edwards was the only British PoW to testify during the trials on war crimes after the war. His deposition about the treatment he received in Dachau during the American trial led to the conviction of some of the culprits.
- Steve Duffy (29 aprile 2020), Dachau concentration camp: How WW2 survivor helped convict ‘sadists’, BBC news, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-52444284
- Janet Kinrade Dethick, The Long Trail Home, Lulu.com, 2016 (trad. it., La lunga via del ritorno: i prigionieri alleati in Umbria (1943-44), Perugia, Morlacchi, 2018).
- Testimonianza di Evan Edwards al Dachau War Trial (8 December 1945): http://iwasindachau.blogspot.com