This blog is part of a site named where you can find the stories of more than one hundred planes that during WWII landed or crashed in Portugal. Here I will announce the updates and also publish stories and information related with WWII in Portugal. All the stories will be in English and there another twin blog in Portuguese... forgive if sometimes the English is not always correct...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prisoner exchange in Lisbon

A RAF sergeant leaving the train. 
(Século Ilustrado/ Arquivo Histórico de Portimão)

The transports carrying more than 800 Italian and British war prisoners made the activity start at 9 in the morning in the Alcântara Maritime Station, at the Tagus River, Lisbon. It was at that time that the hospital ship “Newfoundland” arrived. It had left the UK and was waiting for two days on the entrance of the Tagus, for news about two trains, coming for Italy, and that should arrive there also.

On the ship were 409 Italian prisoners while on the train travelled 448 British. On the 18 April 1943, Lisbon, under the surveillance of the International Red Cross, was the stage for the exchange of 857 prisoners, mostly sick or incapacitated men.

The newspaper descriptions of the time leave no doubts about the health situation of those expected that morning in Portugal. Between the Italians, a group of 33 officers (two of them chaplains) and 376 sergeants and soldiers, were, as the newspaper “Diário de Lisboa” states, “11 madmen, 84 mental affected and nervous, some with tuberculosis and many mutilated”. They were being accompanied by one team of 135 doctors, nurses and stretch carriers.

The hospital ship “Newfoundland”, that brought the Italian prisoners (on the back) and one of the trains, that brought the British (on the front). 
(Século Ilustrado/ Arquivo Histórico de Portimão)

In the trains, between the British prisoners, were “289 that could not walk, 3 blinds, 2 madmen and 2 seriously wounded, explains the “Século Ilustrado” another Portuguese newspaper. Between them was a General Willis captured by the Italians in North Africa.

The “Newfoundland” was received by the Portuguese authorities, and representatives from the Italian and the German governments. The ambassador from Mussolini in Lisbon made a welcome speech and so did the German representative, in the building of the Portuguese Cod Fish Comission, where the prisoners lunched.

The newspaper “Século Ilustrado” dedicated two pages to the prisoner exchange, in his 4th April 1943 edition. The title is “Portugal, Europe’s Oasis”. 
(Século Ilustrado/ Arquivo Histórico de Portimão)

The first train with British prisoners arrived before mid-day and the other one hour latter. The most serious cases were transported directly to the ship and those “that could walk were sent to different British organizations”, explains the “Século Ilustrado”. The “Diário de Lisboa” is more specific and writes that they went “in busses to the English Club, to the Seamen Institute and the British Repatriation Office, for lunch”.

By the end of the afternoon the Italians were sent to the trains, for home, with a package containing “cognac, vermouth, chocolate, tobacco, soap” and other products offered by the Italian colony in Portugal.

Italian prisoners leaving the “Newfoundland”. 
(Século Ilustrado/ Arquivo Histórico de Portimão)

Another British soldier leaving the train in a stretcher.
(Século Ilustrado/ Arquivo Histórico de Portimão)

The British ex-prisoners, with “sweets and tobacco” offered by the British community, sailed in the “Newfoundland” at 22 hours, ending – as the Diário de Lisboa called it – “one more admirable chapter of the humanitarian action of Portugal and the Red Cross in this war”.

Carlos Guerreiro

Saturday, April 9, 2011

RAF men remembered in Sagres, Portugal

Two RAF sergeants were remembered on the 9th April “Combatant day” in Sagres, Portugal, where they are buried after their Catalina exploded in the air.

Sergeants Orton and Gibson were members of a Catalina that – as local witnesses remembered a couple of years ago – almost crashed in the small village. In the last minute the aircraft gained some altitude, was able to climb a cliff, but suddenly exploded over the water. Only these two men were recovered from the entire crew (if you want to know more about this event click here).

It was on this day that in 1918 the Portuguese positions in Flanders were overrun by overwhelming German forces loosing thousands of men as prisoners, killed or missing. Since that date Portugal pays homage to all his combatants one this day.

Besides the two RAF men the ceremony also paid homage to five local soldiers that lost their lives in two wars that involved Portugal during the 20th century.

Carlos Sequeira e José Joaquim Abelum died on World War I, in the 9th and in the 12th April 1918. Both were members of the 1st Infantry Regiment, that curiously was at the cemetery as Guard of Honor.

Henrique José de Freitas (1962), Joaquim Pereira Dias Leite e Joaquim António Conceição (both in 1966) died during the portuguese colonial war that killed thousands of men during the sixties and the beginning of the 70’s. Angola, Mozambique, East Timor, Guinea and parts of India were part of the Portuguese empire until 1974.

About one hundred persons were at the cemetery paying homage to these combatants.

The British Consul in Portimão, Clive Jewell, and Major Oliveira pay homage to the Portuguese soldiers that fall in the two wars.

Local veterans put flowers on the graves of the two RAF airmen. Sargeant Correia and the local presidente of the veteran association, Bernardino Martins (on the back), prepare do pay homage to those men.
Major Oliveira (1st Infantry Regiment) pays homage to the RAF Sargeants.

The British Consul in Portimão pays tribute to the two RAF men. Standing beside him is the local Mayor (Sagres belongs to Vila do Bispo), Adelino Soares.

Guard of honour

The graves from RAF sergeants Orton and Gibson.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Catalina crew remembered

The 9th of April is, in Portugal, the official “Combatant Day” were all the fallen Portuguese soldiers are remembered.

It was adopted after the battle of “La Lys” battle on this day in 1918, in Flanders area, where the two divisions of the Portuguese expeditionary force were almost wiped out by a huge German offensive.

This year, in Vila do Bispo, Algarve (in the south) the commemoration will take place at the local cemetery and the remembrance will extend also to soldiers form other countries. There will be made a special reference to the two RAF men buried in that cemetery.

They were members of a Catalina crew that exploded in that area in 1943.

If you want to know more about Catalina FP 154 click here