Looking in the desk for something else I came across a POW letter of my father's which mentioned Campo PG70 in Italy, where he was held before being shipped to Stalag IVB in Germany. He always got on well with Germans and Austrians after the war but he never forgave the Italians.
A quick search came up with this history of another POW on the same trip from North Africa - more below the fold.
The prisoners were formed into long columns. Some had watches, rings and items of value taken from them. The prisoners were initially in the hands of the Germans but were handed over to the Italians.
The men were moved eventually to a large barbed wire enclosure on the outskirts of Benghazi. By this time the death toll was rising as dysentery, exposure, malnutrition and diphtheria took an increasing toll. They had to sleep in the open and were given very little food or water. At first there was no shelter at all for the men. During the day they were burnt by the hot sun and exposed to the cold during the night.
The men were eventually issued with groundsheets which some tried to make into rough shelters. Their latrines were open shallow trenches dug in the sand, which frequently became full and overflowed. When one became full a fresh one was dug using up precious space and causing more overcrowding. Seventy five percent of the prisoners had dysentery. Washing was impossible because the small ration of water given to the men was not enough to even quench their thirst. Some of the men were in this camp for about 3 months and were half starved and had very little or no resistance to infection.
It was eventually decided to move the prisoners to Italy and they were transported in the holds of cargo ships. The men were cramped into the dark holds of these ships with very little space per man. Men were allowed to go 6 at a time onto the deck to go to the toilet so you can imagine the conditions considering so many men had dysentery. In addition these boats were often attacked by the RAF who were unaware that they were carrying prisoners of war and so many men died during these voyages.
The men were disembarked and had to march through Italy making several stops along the way until they reached their final destinations.
During this march dysentery took the biggest toll for with no medical attention men were dying every day. After a few weeks it was malnutrition that was the biggest killer. The men became walking skeletons — in fact they often found it very difficult to walk due to their emaciated state.
The men were growing weaker every day and many were on the verge of giving up hope. The thing that raised their spirits and also helped to save their live was receiving Red Cross parcels although these were supposed to be issued at the rate of one parcel per week per man the first issue was one parcel amongst six men.
They eventually reached Campo PG70 at Monturano near Fermo in Italy, which was a disused factory with large concrete warehouses standing in a large field surrounded by high barbed wire fencing. The men were billeted in the warehouses which had 3 tier bunks with straw filled palliases. The men had all their hair shaved off. It was many weeks before the men saw any more food parcels and when they did arrive it was usually at about 6 week intervals and was one parcel between 4 men.
The discomfort of the men was added to by fleas, mice and lice which infested every inch of their clothing and laid eggs along every seam so as soon as they got rid of one lot the next day as many again had hatched out.
The prisoners got news of how the war was progressing on a homemade radio which the Italians never managed to find. In September Italy surrendered and the men were virtually free. However, a message was received from our High Command saying it would cause confusion if the men tried to move south to join them, and the men were ordered to remain in the camp and wait for our forces to arrive.
For several weeks the men fended for themselves until one morning they discovered that German parachutists had dropped around the camp and a machine gunner was in every sentry box and the men were once again prisoners.
A couple of days later the men were informed they were to be taken to Germany. They were marched to some railway sidings where there was a long train of cattle trucks and the men were crowded into them with 40 men to a truck. There was not enough room to lie down so they had to either stand or squat on the floor leaning back to back. There were 2 buckets in each truck, one for drinking water and the other to be used as a lavatory. It was a long and tedious journey, which lasted 7 days 6 nights. It was extremely hot in the trucks and many men died of heatstroke and dehydration.
They finally arrived at their destination, a massive complex containing hundreds of wooden huts. A barbed wire fence surrounded them with sentry boxes about every 25 yards. This was Stalag IVB and was situated at Muhlberg-on-Elbe. Each hut held 200 men.
The next morning the men were given a shower, had their heads shaved and were photographed. The British Section of the camp was for NCO’s only and all other men were sent to working camps. Following the bombing of Dresden by the RAF they were involved in digging out/rescue of victims. This must have been a horrendous task as it is estimated in some circles that about 200,000 people died here as the city had been crammed full of refugees. There had been a firestorm and most of the victims had been cremated where they stood.
Stalag IVB, along with its various surrounding working camps, was eventually liberated by the Russians in early April 1945 and the prisoners of war were eventually handed over to the Americans and were flown to Brussels where the British Army took over and the men were then flown back to England.