My dad is John Kelly although everyone calls him Jack, or Spider. He’s from Sheffield, was in the Royal Engineers during the war, and was captured in France. Here is something he wrote about it:
“We sailed out of Newport, Monmouthshire on the 14th of Sept.1939 and three days later, we arrived in St.Nazaire, France. Then it was a lovely war in a nice part of the world. However, when the real thing started, we were blowing up bridges in and around the the town of Douai, close to the Belgium border. We had explosives on a large bridge over the river in the centre of the town. But we were never able to blow up that bridge, as hundreds of women and children were fleeing ahead of advancing Germans, as well as some British soldiers, who were retreating. If I had known where they heading I would have joined them. We learned later it was Dunkirk.
“We were ordered to the town of Cassels where hundreds of British troops were holding out. That was another mistake, as the Germans were already behind us. However, we had to follow orders. I was stuck on a mounted Bren gun, to fire at the low flying German planes. One time during a lull in the scrap, a bunch of French people who had been sheltering in a nearby building came out, screaming at me that I was just drawing more fire on them. I think they were ready to Kill me. I stuck to my post, but never did shoot down a plane, although I felt as if I could reach out and touch them.”
Dad stayed the entire war as a POW first at Stalag V111B, then Blechammer and finally at a paper mill in Opeln, where he set out on the death march, and was finally liberated by the Russians in 1945.
He had a good mate called Jimmy Parr from Liverpool who he has tried hard to locate or find out what happened to. So if anyone remembers my dad, or knows what happened to Jimmy Parr, please contact us. He’s always complaining that everyone who he knew is dead and I would love to prove him wrong!
Received: December 2004
From: John Kelly (son)
On behalf of: His father, John ‘Jack’ or ‘Spider’ Kelly