Douglas John Paterson
Information supplied by Keith Paterson, New Zealand, September 2014:
My father (Doug Paterson) was born in Hamilton, New Zealand on 2 February 1918. At age 21 years, he enlisted along with many friends at the outbreak of the 2nd World War with the New Zealand Army in 1939. His army number was 2704.
He left New Zealand in January 1940 on the SS Orion bound for Egypt via Perth and Aden as part of 1st Echelon, 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force, 18th Battalion. Following training in Egypt, the battalion was transported to Greece in March 1941, but was soon evacuated to Crete in April 1941.
Crete was attacked by airborne German forces in May 1941 and Doug was captured along with many other allied troops at Galatas west of Chania and placed in a Transit Camp as POW on Crete. The POW’s were later transported via ship to Greece, then by train from Greece to a Transit POW camp in Germany. A letter written home in October 1941 indicates he was still in the Transit Camp as a Prisoner of War.
In November 1941, he was transferred to Stalag VIIIB POW camp located near Lamsdorf, Opole Germany. This is now part of Poland. Stalag VIIIB was renamed Stalag 344 in 1943.
Stalag VIIIB was a working prison, and many fit and able prisoners were conscripted to work in factories and forests. Doug worked in a sugar beet factory, an engineering works and the Siemans paper factory in Cosel Hafen. The latter also had its own prison barracks (E155) where Doug injured his knee while playing rugby with another POW team. Letters home in 1942 indicated he was in good spirit in the camp and fit & well, although was concerned he could not play any further rugby or box because of the knee injury. A photo of the E155 rugby team taken in April 1944 is shown below.
In June 1944, he escaped from the paper factory working party at night with another New Zealander (Merv Stewart from Aria) and an Australian. They caught a train to Kattowitz, then to Sarki and onto Poland where they joined the Polish Partisans living and fighting in the forests. The escape was assisted by a Polish conscripted worker (Henryk Zelichowski) who Doug remained in contact with via letters for many years. Eventually, the Germans overwhelmed the Polish resistance and Doug was recaptured and returned to Stalag 344 December 1944 after some 6 months freedom.
In January 1945, the Germans forced many fit prisoners to march away from the closing allies in what was termed the infamous ‘Lamsdorf Death March’. However, because of his knee injury, Doug was not forced on the march and was subsequently released by the American allies. British surgeons operated on his left knee in Germany late January 1945 and after several months recuperating in Germany, he was repatriated to England in May 1945 and arrived back in New Zealand in July 1945.
He was discharged from NZ Army in December 1945 after 5 years and 196 days on overseas service with the rank of Corporal. He was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ in 1945 and was awarded the Africa Star.
Doug died in Tauranga New Zealand in January 2010 aged 92 years.
Names included on the E155 Working Camp Rugby Team, Cosel Haven 1944 photo are:
- W Manning (NZ)
- R Sanson (NZ)
- P Askew (NZ)
- N Horsfall (NZ)
- E Collier (NZ)
- N Dunn (NZ)
- G Coughlan (NZ)
- B Fulwell (UK)
- W Vaughan (UK)
- D Dunn (NZ)
- P Bartlett (UK)
- W Booth (UK)
- M Stewart (NZ)
- P Darrow (NZ)
- P O’Neil (NZ)
- D Paterson (NZ)
- D Crossman (NZ)
- N Durie (NZ)
- P Lynch (NZ)
- D Miller (NZ)
- P Casey (NZ)
- M Adam (UK)
- P McDonald (UK)
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