Work Camp  561 L

Location: Deutsch-Kaltenbrun

Type of work: Farmwork

Man of Confidence: Pte H. Everitt, Royal Marines

Number of Men: 23

Known to be present

Cyril Ashford Dvr RASC 7796  
John Bell Sgmn R Sigs 4382 Fulham
John Coleman Dvr RASC 7794  
Jack Cook Sgmn R Sigs 4384  
Pat Coughlan Sgt RAC 7815  
Harold Everitt Pte R Marines 6154 MOC
Tich Hart        
Nobby Hall   R Marines    
Bert Jackson Tpr RAC 1250  
Wilfred Jackson Gnr RA 5826  
J. Lawson Sgt RAC 7814  
Sam Pearce   RN    
Harry Reed Cpl   8254 New Zealand
Tommy Tasker SSM RAC 7813 Transf'd to Stalag 344
Syd Weatherill Marine R Marines 6137 London; also 977/L
Neville ?       New Zealand

John Bell is pictured in the first photograph above. Harold Everitt is in the 6th photo. John Bell worked on a farm or farms owned by the Weber sisters, Resi and Nani.

Names and photos supplied by Christine King, daughter of John Bell.

The last flight of the B-24 'Fast Company'

War brings together people in often strange and sad ways. How else might a Signalman from Fulham and a Liberator gunner from Pennsylvania have crossed paths? The Signalman was John Bell, a POW held at Work Camp 561/L. The American was Lawrence J. Shimkus, Radio Operator and Gunner on the B-24 Liberator 'Fast Company' which was shot down over Deutsch-Kaltenbrun on November 2nd, 1943. Shimkus and eight other crew members failed to bail out of the aircraft and were killed in the crash which left the bodies badly burned.

In May, 1945, on returning to the UK, John Bell completed a Questionnaire as a returning POW. This is an extract:

"On the 2nd Nov. 1943, while returning from a bombing raid on Vienna Neustadt, an American four-motored bomber was shot down at Deutsch-Kaltenbrun (near Furstenfeld) Steiermark, Austria. To the best of my knowledge three of the crew jumped (in fact, only the Navigator, Marcus Dekle, got out of the plane), nine remaining in the machine, these being killed and badly burned, and left laying in the wreckage four days, unguarded. We, the English POWs working in the village, applied to the Landgeschutz Battalion, No. 891, No. 1 Company in Furstenfeld, to be allowed to recover the bodies and to bury them in the local Churchyard, and later to tend the grave. They were eventually buried by the local gravedigger, with the Burgermeister and one or two civilians, in one large wooden box. No burial service whatsoever being read, and no military respects being paid. A small wooden cross was made and erected although a proper large oak cross supplied by the German military from Graz was laying in the local Council House for a period of over 12 months and was still there when we left in April 1945. This cross was shown to me by the Burgermeister himself and also to my friend Sigmn J. Cook 2346876 who was with me at the time. We later applied for permission to attend the grave but were again refused, although we did tend it whenever an opportunity occurred."

Mark Bischof

Mark, from New Jersey, USA, has spent years researching the last flight of the B-24 Liberator, number 42-41255, 'Fast Company' and I am indebted to him for supplying the text of John Bell's testimony. For more details on the crew of the 'Fast Company' and their fate, go here.

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