The Prisoner of War

Roy at El Amarya in Egypt; October 1941

Roy Cawston was 19 when he joined the TA, and in 1939 he joined 4CLY to train as tank crew. He was radio operator and loader in the crew of Count John de Bendern. Leslie Ephgrave was the driver and Bill Cooper the gunner. Leslie wrote later “We saw more of one another in that time then the average married couple see in a lifetime. That we never fell out was quite remarkable and due in no small measure to Roy’s cheerfulness and patience”

In the Western Desert, on 18 November 1941, they experienced their first tank engagement at the Battle of Bir el-Gubi. Their tank’s tracks were shot away, and they were captured by Italians. Roy and Leslie were sent to a POW camp in Chiavari in Northern Italy.  They stuck together, and their friendship enabled them to survive years of captivity, sharing holiday stories of Devon and planning to go there again.  A knife made from a piece of iron hoop and a length of wire was their most valuable possession, and used for cutting bread and carving a chess set. They shared everything including the infrequent but life-saving Red Cross parcels.