AB Wilde had this to say about interrogations on the camp. Here is an extract from 'The Broken Column. The Story of James Frederick Wilde's Adventures with the Italian Partisans'
Sometimes, as though to break the monotony, the captain would interrogate them. He invariably apologized for doing so, explaining diffidently that it was a task he found unpleasant, embarrassing, and regrettable. He limited himself to just one question: ''What did you do in the submarine?'' The rehearsed answer was, ''I was steward for the seamen'',or ''I was a steward for the stokers'', and the captain would sigh, shake his head, and reply,''Never before have I heard of a submarine run only by stewards."
Every evening he would allow just one senior petty officer to listen to the nine o'clock news from London. Even for this there had to be an apology: more could not listen in case there was a Fascist Party member among his men who would report him. It was over the radio, in June, that the prisoners learned that the island of Pantellaria had surrendered. There was great elation: the Allies seemed poised to invade the Italian mainland, and it would not be long now before they were freed.
Then the Germans arrived.
Their coming was preceded by a lorry piled high with barbed wire and fencing equipment. As it was erected round the villa Wilde reproached himself for not having attempted to escape while he had had the chance.
''In a way,'' he says, ''the trouble was that life had been too easy, too quiet. We'd been able to shut our minds to reality and take life as it came, eating and sleeping and sitting in the sun. But the presence of the Germans put an end to all that.''
On 21 June 1943 Able Seaman Wilde and the other mariners from Sahib and Splendid were sent to Germany for questioning. Afterwards they were returned to Italy - some to PG 52 Pian di Coreglia (Chiavari), including Wilde, and some to PG 70 Monturano. Wilde escaped from the train which was taking him to back to Germany after the Armistice and joined the partisans in the Voghera-Varzi area. In 1945 he worked as intepreter for the British Mission 'Genesse' and also with the American Mission 'Cherokee'.
Ldg. Stoker Flood remarked that when two German officers arrived at Campo No.1 Marina things changed drastically. He said that until then the prisoners had enjoyed relative freedom, even being allowed to go on an excursion to gather hazel nuts, but the Germans put an end to their privileges, locking them in their cells. On the fourth day after the Germans' arrival the guards started taking the men out singly for further interrogation, after which they did not return to the hut but stayed over in the house.
The Liberation Reports of some of Saracen's crew
(report details in brackets)
The initial interrogations had all been carried out by the Italians.
Ty/Lt. Carrington described the interrogation methods used as apathetic, adding that it was easy to stick to giving just name, rank and number as they had been instructed. His liberation report shows that he was sent to Campo PG 50 in Rome on 23 August (WO 344/56/1).
Ty/A/Warrant Engineer Chown described his interrogation as being in the form of a casual conversation. After a week he too was transferred to Campo PG 50 in Rome,where he was interrogated by German naval officers. The same officers who had interrogated him in Rome questioned him further on his arrival at Marlag und Milag Nord (WO 344/61/2).
Crew members who specifically recorded having been interrogated by German officers at Manziana were
P.O. John William Charles Davis (WO 344/85)
Sto. 1 Claude 'Bill' Miseldine (WO 344/220/2)
A/Ldg. Smn. Charles Edward Nicholas (WO 344/234/1)
P.O. Percy William Prince (WO 344/259)
A.B. James Alfred Sheldon (WO 344/284/29)
A.B. Lewis Victor Smith (WO 344/285/1)
Ldg. Stoker Vivian Raymond Tallis (WO 344/311/1)
Tel. Hubert Jack Watson (WO 344 /335/2)
A/C.E.R.A. Hine was questioned initially by the Italians and then by the Germans, four occasions in all (WO 344/145/2).
As to the methods used, individual testimonies seem to indicate that not all the men were subjected to the same treatment.
A.B. Ernest Percival Bell recorded that no threats were used where he was concerned (WO 344/24/1)
E. A. Reginald Derrick Curtis commented that the methods used were fair (WO 344/80/2)
P.O. Leonard Clarence Roberts said that he was put under no pressure on refusing to answer (WO 344/269/2)
P.O. John William Charles Davis described being interrogated by means of a friendly chat (WO 344/859)
A/Ldg. Smn. Charles Edward Nicholas corroborated this version (WO 344/234/1)
Ldg. Stoker Oldfield described the method used as being 'conversational (WO 344/238/2)
Ldg. Stoker Tallis was given cigarettes and was enticed with promises of women (WO 344/311/1)
A.B. George Arthur Whitehead was asked for his views on the Russians and the Jews (WO 344/343/1).
E.R.A. Morris commented that he was shown blueprints of the same class of submarine as the Saracen for confirmation, but he received courteous treatment and he was shown no brutality (WO 344/225/2).
Other men were subjected to harsher treatment, some of which contained veiled threats and some of which was intended to disturb them psychologically.
A.B. Currie recorded that he was questioned about submarines for almost three weeks.
A/P.O. Prince (344/80/1) and Sto. 1 Miseldine (WO 344/220/2) recorded that they had been threatened with being sent to Germany by both Italian and German officers ).
A.B. Sheldon reported that the German and Italian officials who interrogated him threatened him with a 'bad camp' should he not satisfy their curiosity about Asdic (WO 344/284/2)
Sto. 1 Freer recorded that his interrogation moved abruptly from questions about his home life to those concerned with obtaining naval information, including that regarding engines (WO 344/113/1).
In his memoirs Ldg. Stoker Flood also described questioning which switched from his family and home life to military matters, and records being taken out of the camp into the woodland to be interrogated, as does A.B. Whitehead (WO 344/343/1).
Only E.R.A. 'Paddy' Neill was subjected to physical maltreatment. In his liberation report, in answer to the question 'Were you specially interrogated by the enemy? (State where, when and methods employed by enemy)' E.R.A. Neill simply replied 'Yes. Manziana, Italy'. (WO 344/323/1)
However, his son-in-law Christian Narkowicz wrote: 'Paddy also said a few things about his experiences in the camp in Italy. Upon capture they were interrogated by the Germans. When he was interrogated, they were able to tell him a lot of the details of Saracen's mission and her operations. He refused to tell them anything and was subjected to cigarette burns on his penis as encouragement to answer questions.' His daughter Sheenagh Neill indicated that by the time he filled in this report he was very wary about what he wrote. Hence there is often a discrepancy between his personal diary and the official form.
Janet Kinrade Dethick
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