William Denton Venables

The following account is taken from a Recommendation for the Military Medal.

7911803 Tpr. DENTON VENABLES, William, 4 Hussars, RAC

Denton Venables was taken prisoner at Kalamata, Greece on 18 April 1941. He first attempted to escape the same day from the compound of the transit camp and, although a guard pursued him for a short distance, he succeeded in getting away.
Shortly afterwards he met a party of men from his own unit, and for the next month they endeavoured to secure a boat. This proved impossible, however, and they were recaptured by a German patrol.

In June 1943 Denton Venables escaped from a farm working party at Graz. He made his way to Klagenfurt but was caught endeavouring to board a train for Innsbruck.

His third and successful attempt took place in April 1945 when he was a POW at Stalag XVIIIA at Wolfsberg. After the withdrawal of POWs from this area in the face of the Russian attack, he stayed behind. He was under the impression that the area would be occupied by the British, and he intended to secure, if possible, control of the Agricultural Plant Breeding Station at Lannach, to prevent the Germans from destroying valuable agricultural material which he knew to be there. When the Germans finally withdrew and the Russians arrived, Denton Venables made arrangements for all the POWs hiding in the district to be housed and fed in the Castle at Lannach.

After great difficulty he succeeded in entering the British area, and, acting on instructions received from a British Officer, he returned to Lannach and supervised the evacuation of all the British personnel.

Denton Venables brought back with him samples of wheat seeds which agricultural experts believe may prove of inestimable value.

Fred Pearce has written an article for the New Scientist which includes further details of Denton Venables' time at the Lannach Plant Breeding Station and his intriguing relationship with Heinz Brücher, the Station Head. The full text of the article is here. (pdf file)

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