- Contributed by
- BBC LONDON CSV ACTION DESK
- People in story:
- Stan Kendrick
- Location of story:
- North Africa and Italy
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 08 December 2005
This story was submitted to the Peoples' War site by Morwenna Nadar of CSV/BBC LONDON on behalf of Stan Kendrick and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
In 1943 I was on my way to fight in North Africa which had been invaded by the Germans. We boarded a troopship in Liverpool and travelled in convoy via the Clyde. Our destination was Algiers. As the West coast of Britain was mined, we had to swing out into the Atlantic. The Germans were constantly attacking but we were surrounded by the Navy and the RAF was above us, so we had a lot of protection. We halted at Tangier and in order to reach Algiers, we would have had to go through the Straits of Gibraltar. However, this would have been too risky as there were too many German aircraft flying over, so we moved South and reassembled off Cape Town. After 4 days there we moved North with destroyer and aircraft cover, through the Straits to Algiers where we arrived safely. Although the Germans were there our arrival was unopposed by them.
One day. German prisoners were ordered by American soldiers to unload ammunition from ships for use by the ground infantrymen. The German officers refused to accept these orders because it was against the Geneva Convention to make prisoners work against their own people. The US troops surrounded the prisoners with light tanks and armoured cars, and it seemed that there would be trouble. I went to the American officers who were nearby and reminded them about the Geneva Convention and was told, "Mind your own bloody business, Sergeant." "Thank you, sir," I replied, and then went straight to our headquarters where I reported what was happening. (I was a dispatch rider so had transport.) By the time I got back, the American troops were moving away so I think our officers had intervened. There were many Germany and Italian prisoners and they were being sent on troopships to any country in the British Empire that would take them in. After the war, the Germans managed to trace dispatch rider S. Kendrick and gave me the German Afrika Medal in appreciation of my intervention in the situation.
The main British invasion of Italy took place on the South-West coast. Our troops landed almost unopposed on Malta, then crossed over and invaded Sicily, which we captured, and from there went on to land on the foot of Italy. We arrived on the heel of Italy 4 days before the invasion. 3 days later we were on our way to Bari when some Italians came running towards us, begging us for help. By then, Italian troops in Tunisia were already negotiating with the Allies, which did not please the Germans, and the latter were being ruthless if they came across any similar situations. 4 other dispatch riders and I dashed off to the village in question (about 80 miles away) and as we arrived there, more Italians came running up to us, shouting that all the villagers had been rounded up and forced to go to the square to watch the execution of the Mayor and his officials. The Italian police were powerless to do anything as they had been disarmed by the Germans and forced to watch too. The German firing squad soldiers were already lined up with their weapons over their shoulders so I immediately opened fire with my tommy gun and the squad went down. A German officer saw what I had done but before he could shoot me, I gave him a 'figure of eight' burst and down he went too. The mayor of the village was fastened to a chair over at the other side of the square with a German soldier standing over him. As soon as the German realised what was happening, he reached for his gun, but he too received a 'figure of eight' from me. The villagers and the police all came up to me, saying, "Multi bene." Although readers of this story may think it was harsh to kill those enemy soldiers, I had no choice - they were about to kill innocent people and would have shot us too. Soon after, my British convoy arrived at the village and the Italians arranged for the officers to stay in the hotel overnight, while the other slept in the vehicles. The next day we continued on to the big port of Bari. The people of Bari were pleased to see the Allies and free accommodation was provided for both the officers and men in the local hotels. 3 days later, my commanding officer sent for me and said, "The Italians want to decorate you, but I'm not letting you go alone - I'm sending 3 Italian officers with you." General Bolomo, Commander in Chief of the Italian Forces in Southern Italy performed the decoration ceremony and gave me the Merito Di Guerra. We stayed in Bari until we ensured that it was safe in Allied hands.
The war progressed and eventually the whole of Italy had been captured, the Americans controlling the West coast and the British the East of the country. We advanced towards Austria where we ran into the Russians who turned us back to Bari as they wanted to occupy Austria as well as Germany. A week later, my commanding officer became involved with the first war crimes trial, which was about to take place in the Palace of Justice. When the trial started, the surrounding area and the building were very heavily guarded, and part of my responsibility was to ensure that the guards were properly positioned to give maximum security to the vehicles in the car-park, the building, and the people within. I went inside the building and sat for a little while at the table with the senior American, British and Russian officers! When I was wandering around checking that the security measures were still in place, I heard the chairman bang on the table. The door opened and to my amazement and shock, in came General Bolomo between 2 Allied officers. He was charged with shooting an SAS officer in 1942. The incident occurred when he was in charge of a prison camp in South Italy. 6 members of the SAS had been trying to capture the German General Rommel in Tunisia, and 4 out of the raiding party had been killed. The remaining 2, both big men of 6 foot or so, were captured and sent to General Bolomo's camp. Being SAS men and therefore full of initiative and bravado, they soon escaped but were recaptured. General Bolomo ordered his Italian soldiers to make the 2 British officers show their way of escape but when the Italians advanced towards them, Captain King squared up to them. General Bolomo was so disgusted with the Italians' behaviour that he said he would shoot the first man to show such cowardice if it happened again. It did occur again, and General Bolomo took out his revolver and fired into the air. As his arm went up, he must have squeezed the trigger a second too soon - the bullet went through Captain King's head, killing him instantly. He was being charged with shooting an unarmed British officer prisoner of war and faced the death sentence for this act. The British and American officers said he had co-operated with and aided their troops during the invasion of Italy and that therefore, under the circumstances, the death penalty was inappropriate. The Russians, however, strongly disagreed on the grounds that any leniency shown at this first trial would ruin future trials. He was sentenced to death was taken to a prison camp in Western Italy where he was shot. I was in court when he was sentenced and felt sad that the general who had helped our troops and who had decorated me, should come to this sad end.
I became an unarmed combat instructor and in 1957, when I left the army after 22 years service, I was a warrant officer. Somewhat against my wish, I was put on the army officers reserve list and it was not until nearly 14 years later (23/11/59 to 13/8/73) that I finally resigned, and finished my military career at the age of 64. As well as receiving the Italian decoration, I was mentioned in dispatches on 21/5/46 and also received 2 Commander-in-Chief's special citations. I still have the certificates for these.
I am now 94 years of age and have been living in the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, for 12 years. When I first came, I had a job in the gym with 2 charming young ladies. Unfortunately, after 2 years one of them fell out with her husband and left her job, so the other one left too. I found the new man difficult to work with, so I also left. Because I worked in the gym, I was given the rank of sergeant, and I retained this rank when I resigned.
My unarmed combat knowledge stood me in good stead one day when a man came running out of a shop in Kingston. I was waiting for my daughter and I heard her shout, "Stop that man - he's robbed the till." I took a short cut to intercept him and grabbed his arm in a deadlock, which caused him to gasp out, "Bloody hell, mate! Where did you learn to do that?" I then marched him to the supermarket and handed him over to the police who had arrived by that time, and who asked me to go to the police-station to give a statement. Parking was not allowed outside the station but as the police said it would all right to do so, I did. When I came out, I had been given a parking ticket! Luckily, the police promptly cancelled it! I later received a letter of thanks and a certificate from the supermarket for my citizen's arrest, and also a letter of thanks from the police.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.