George Gregson's story Internment at Tost in Upper Silesia
Gregson was a prosperous businessman living with his French wife in
Calais when the German blitzkrieg swept through the Netherlands and
into France cutting off their escape to the south and west. He left to
join the British army while his wife escaped from Boulogne aboard HMS Venomous on the 22 May 1940.
Before describing his internment along with 1,130 other British subject
(including P.G. Wodehouse) it is necessary to start by describing his
early life and explaining how he came to live in France.
Arthur Gregson (1891 - 1963) was born in Preston and graduated from
Liverpool University with a B Eng in 1914. He was rejected by his
stepmother when his father remarried after his mother's death and his record of service in the Great War gave
a home address in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, and a Mrs Forrest as the
person to be notified in the event of his death. He was described as a "non practising" mechanical and civil engineer specialising in automobile engineering with
"motor racing experience". He became a junior officer in the 98th Field Company of The
Royal Engineers, part of the 21st Division established in September
1914, which embarked for France on the 10 September
than twenty five years later while interned in France he described in
his journal an incident in June 1917 which continued to prey on his
mind. The Germans had fallen back on the Hindenburg Line and Gregson
accompanied by a Corporal Twizell of the 16th Battalion, Yorkshire
Regiment "laid out direction tapes from the front line for an attack to
be made about dawn by the Northumberland Fusiliers". They came under fire and both men were wounded, Corporal Thomas Lightfoot Twizell in the lung. The Corporal's wound healed badly and when he came under
gas attack in 1918 it eventually proved fatal and he died at home on
the 13 November 1919. Gregson thought he was in some way responsible
for Twizell's death and the incident was brought back to mind by
meeting his son while interned in March 1944.
George Gregson was attached to the RAF in August 1918 after the
Royal Flying Corp (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) were
merged to form the RAF on the 1 April 1918. He may have
welcomed the opportunity to train as a pilot but had the war lasted
longer he would probably have been posted as a non-flying engineer
officer to an operations squadron. He was "under instruction" on two
seater Avro 540s at 41 Training Depot Station (TDS) in
London Colney to the south of St Albans and at 54TDS at Fairlop north of Ilford, both part of the South East Area
Training Group (and inside London's M25 orbital motorway) and also spent some time at the RAF Armament School at Uxbridge. The
photographs were taken at 41TDS which had two flight groups and an
official establishment, laid down in autumn 1918, of 24 Avro 540 and 24
single seater Sopwith Snipes. He may have
had a minor flying accident as he was admitted to the RAF Central
Hospital from the 2 - 21 February before leaving the service on the 29
Gregson was wounded three times during his wartime service in France.
The loss of the little finger on his left hand was not serious but it
prevented him from playing the violin. He also had a bullet wound in
his right elbow and a shrapnel wound in his back, on the right.
George A Gregson in the cockpit
of a single seater Sopwith Snipe E8275 biplane he flew at 41TSD (London Colney) in late 1918
The Sopwith Snipe came into service in late 1918 a few weeks before the end of the Great War
Courtesy Anne Gregson
George Gregson was discharged on the 29 March 1919 and not having a family decided to start a new life in France. He
settled in Amiens and hired chauffeur driven
cars to church groups visiting the graves of men who died in the war.
He met his French wife, Gisèle Dessaint, about 1921 and they
had two sons, Maurice (1925) and Dennis (1927). The family moved from
Amiens to Boulogne before finally settling at Calais where George
Gregson became the agent for the Automobile Association. His business
prospered. As well as the family home in Calais they had a house in the
country at Escalles and George owned a Rolls Royce which he hired out
tourists. Their two sons were born in France but sent to England to
receive a British education at the Kings School in Canterbury. The
Gregsons were wealthy members of the British
community and had a good life. All of this was threatened when
of Poland led to war. For eight months little changed but on the 10 May
German forces invaded the Netherlands, bypassed the vaunted Maginot
Line and swept on into France encircling and then dividing the British
Expeditionary Force. British subjects living in Belgium and northern
France were trapped, cut off from the south with the only escape being
by sea. If they failed to get away they would be interned as enemy
aliens - just as Germans were in England.
Gregson's tailor made him a khaki uniform (without insignia) and he
left in his own car to join the British Army on the Somme. In 1943 he
wrote a detailed but confusing account of what happened in the month
before his return to Calais and internment.
Friday May l0th, at about noon, I received a message from the
vice-consul in Calais saying that I had to report as soon as possible.
I went into Calais to see him after lunch and told him to tell the
Embassy that I would report at lunchtime Wednesday 15th May at latest. He
could not find the details of his phone call with the Embassy, but said
that I was to report to the RTO at Amiens as soon as possible and in
civilian clothes if necessary. I ordered a uniform from a Calais tailor
that afternoon and he promised to do all he could to have it ready by
I spent the next four days trying to put some of my affairs in order. I
left on Wednesday 15th May, in my own car, without uniform. There,
it appeared that they had expected to put me into battle-dress. But I
weighed 17 stone 10 lbs and nothing would fit. I was taken round the
French barrack rue Jules Barin and at St Rock, but there was no French
stuff to fit me. I was arrested in Amiens for trying to buy a French
uniform in a tailor's shop. Then I was sent up to the QG (?) at GHQ
near Arras, but on arrival found that they were packing up and moving.
So it was decided to send a motorcyclist to Calais on Saturday 18th to
collect the uniform and arrangements were made by phone with the tailor
to deliver the uniform to the RTO at Calais.
Saturday/Sunday night we got orders to move to Beauvais and I was told
I could take my own car. Actually I had two men in the car with me and
probably there would have been no room for me otherwise. We
got to Beauvais at daylight and spent all day there hanging about. Then
Capt. Morgan returned and we got orders to move to near Béthune. The
same two men got into my car and when transports started moving ahead
of me said that it was ours, so I followed. Actually it turned out that
I had attached myself to the Pruvost Compagnie and that the road
control group was behind. We went through Abbeville, Hesdin and St Pôl,
particularly at Hesdin, it was hellish - no lights, roads blocked with
traffic and there is no relief driver as no one was keen on taking over
a left hand drive car at night. About dawn we reached a chateau and I
had 2 hours sleep on the floor of one of the downstairs rooms. Then a
bath. This run up to the East had given me fresh heart and I felt that
it was a sign that things were going well again.
After breakfast we found that we should not have been here at all and
the O.C. and another officer in 2 cars and self and C.SM in mine left
as advance party for Montreuil.
Traffic hellish again: we got there in early morning, found a billet,
had a meal and eventually got to billet and was just getting into bed
when the O.C. rang the bell and told me that we were to move again to
Desvres and that German tanks had cut the Abbeville road. I had to bin
a valise there for the O.C. had no petrol and I had to be prepared to
travel as light as possible and take up as little room as possible also
in some other car. Then the French section gave me some petrol; I got
my car, which I had had to be prepared to abandon. It was too late to
get the blue valise, so I just left it with a note of my name and my
I was told to lead the convoy and did so: we reached Desvres at dawn and the others also soon arrived. I
went out to the forest to pick out parking places for the transport but
the OC decided to stay in Desvres. Then after breakfast, he sent me off
in an Army car with an MP driver, to visit G.H.Q at Boulogne.
We got there and arranged for rations, etc. with the RASC and found
that the Paymaster had moved to Wimereux - no address given. GHQ was
also there as the Imperial had been bombed the night before - I saw the
bombing from Etaples-Neufchatel road. Fruitless hunt for the Paymaster
but saw the Movement Control Officer who sent a message to the OC by me
that it would be best if he came quickly to Boulogne. Then
having had permission from the OC, we carried on to the village and on
arrival found that my wife had left 3 hours earlier for Dieppe by car
with another French family. Returned to Wimereux, was pulled up there
again on account to my uniform - I got this at Beauvais on the Sunday
afternoon and it had no badges, button or indication of rank.
arrested again in Boulogne in the afternoon: but it was cleared up
again at the APM's office in the rue de la Lampe. Then back to Desvres.
On arrival I told the OC about the suggestion of the Movement Control
Officer but he said that the French Commandant was in command of this
Anglo-French group and that we had to follow him and not split up.
We spent the night in a bare château outside Desvres and got a meal at
a café near by. Capt.Morgan, Vermon, Aston turned up later. I saw the
bombing of Montreuil and Samer in the evening and was miserable for the
fate of my wife. Slept on floor for a few hours though disturbed by
thoughts of her plight.
the morning of 22nd, we moved off to go to Steenworde. Found the
Thérouanne road was blocked by felled trees at Desvres level crossing;
so we had to take the St Omer road. I was detached to stay with the
Ambulance section of the group on account of my uniform. Eventually
reached the Boulogne-St Omer road and we went on towards Lumbres. Then
a halt - a long one - we got some bread and coffee in a cottage and
opened a tin of bully. Eventually got the order to turn round. Drove
back a few kms towards Boulogne; then turned left step down hill. Halt
Officers called up to lead the column when OC said that he had been to
Hazebrouck, that there were isolated German tanks and bands of infantry
about, that we were to go on to join the Thérouanne road again and then
turn left there to Steenworde. Personally I would have gone North and
then East to Steenworde rather than South and East - particularly as
the Germans were moving from the South, but opinions were not invited
at all. Went on again.
a halt whilst a German reconnaissance plane flew over us. Then forward
again. Eventually another halt in a village and sounds of bullets
overhead. Saw Capt. Morgan's car turning round in the road ahead of me
and he was leaning out shouting orders as the car came down the road. A
sergeant with me in my car said the order was: "Disperse".
told the men to take rifles and one bandoleer each, put on the
antitheft device on my car and took a map. I did not bother about the
column ahead of me for I knew that there were either 5 or 6 officers
ahead of me of whom two had come back (Morgan and Vermon). Went
back about 50 yards and turned left at the Ambulance along a narrow
lane with hedges both sides. Then left into a field. Other men were
coming up from the rear of the column and turning right into this lane.
Probably 40 men or so reached this lane and the fields. The
German reconnaissance plane began to lap round at once and dived down
using its machine guns. Also heard what I thought were bombs, but which
were probably tank shells, which appeared to come from the village shut.
took 2 shots at the plane, the first from its rear and the second to my
left: the hedge was too thick to get a shot as he dived. Then the plane
having done his job of keeping us in order, whilst a tank was
assembling prisoners, left us for good and I heard Germans shouting out
"Schweinhunder Engländer". Went out of the field into the lane and
found Lt Wilson wounded in throat – two men with him to the Ambulance
but other said:" Lets all go; then we'll be together". I let it go at
that, feeling helpless in the matter – had bestow any quality of
leadership then, more men would have had a chance to run for freedom.
I did not order the men with me to fire at the plane because the CHS on
the previous Saturday night when we were packing up to move from Amiens
said to Morgan that many - or perhaps most - of the men had no rifle
training at all.
watched the tank, which was on the bank of the far side of the road,
assemble his prisoners on the grass on the side of the road nearest to
me; I saw also Morgan and Vermon standing close by; eventually the tank
began to move; previously he had been keeping order by giving single
shots over the prisoners' head from the turret and these shots were
coming unpleasantly close to me. When he speeded up his engine and put
the men to the double, I crossed the lane and got through a gap in the
hedge held open for me by two men. There were 4 or 5 there. I had
looked down the lane and saw a crowd of men at the corner where the
Ambulance was but am quite certain that there were no wounded laying
between me and the ambulance to my right or in the lane to my left.
went through two fields and came to a third field about 40 yards square
with a crop about 18 inches high. There we found the M.D., one wounded
man (2 bullets in the ankle) and about 6 others. I
borrowed the stars from the MD for my tunic. He agreed with me that we
could do nothing before dusk and insisted that we carry the wounded
after I heard the tank moving - it was the first time I had heard a
tank, on the move and it sounded to me as if it was in the field
between us and the village and coming toward us. I signed to the men to
go flat and did so myself: they just kept sitting and evidently knew
better than I did what the tank was doing. When it stopped I said:
"Let's go over to the far corner of the field" and did so, but only 4
or 5 men followed - those who had been with me in the lane. We went to
that corner and sat down and I got the map out and began to study it.
was about 2 yards from the men, head pointing toward the field we had
come, through. I had realised my position and felt that if my uniform
was such as to get me arrested by our own troops, as on the previous
day, it would probably result in my being shot on sight if taken
prisoner by the Germans: I had an officer's pass but this had I think a
note, at the bottom that I was temporarily in civilian clothes. And I
was still more anxious and worried about my wife.
looking through the bottom of the hedge about 40 yards away from me, I
saw what I took for 2 Germans following each other. I signalled the men
behind me to be silent and to lie down, but they took little notice or
did not understand. I had seen that the 2 men were not Morgan, and
Vermon who were both wearing trousers.
just got scared stiff, turned round, back to the enemy and went flat
with my head level with the men; I told them to get flat and to hide
their faces, as I knew that pink faces show up more than anything else.
I was definitely scared stiff and showed it - utter cowardice, which
has no excuse. Though I think I should have behaved otherwise, if I had
not had the fatigue of the time since Saturday and the anxiety about my
wife and about my own uniform. The idea of our two boys being left in
England helpless and homeless with their father and mother dead was
happened and either the two Germans cleared off, or it was a cow – I do
not think so; if it was, it only makes my position worse.
I ought to have posted the men as sentries round about instead of
staying idling as a group. Continued to study the map, and to learn it
by heart as much as possible. The
men told me, quite early on that men had been wounded I think in the
village. I said that we could do nothing for them as they would be
taken prisoners by the Germans at once and looked after by them. I
jumped to this conclusion at once and did not think that anything else
Went on studying the map and also looking out through the hedges from
time to time and I felt certain that there must be men in the village,
who would come out, when the Germans were clear.
decided that, as the German attack was apparently in the direction
Arras - St Omer, we ought to follow such a direction towards the coast.
The map shown that by going slightly west of north we would get the
cover of the forest of Licques and Guines on the way to Calais. I
decided on that and found that we would probably have to do 35kms
during the night to be sure of being ahead of the Germans. About
dusk we moved back across the field to join the MO and the others. I
ordered my men to leave their rifles as I felt that we should travel
light as we had a wounded man, to carry. I did not like the men to
smash them - another mistake.
joined the others and I should talk about the direction to follow - 3
or 4 fingers to the left of the Pole star. I told the MD that we should
have a job to carry the wounded man 35km but he insisted on it and it
was of course agreed. I had previously counted up my cash with a view
to leaving half of it with the RASC men to help out over the few days
probably required before the situation straightened out again.
It was then, I think, that the CSM and other men from the village
turned up; he reported X men killed and Y men wounded, saying that with
our wounded men that made Z men wounded. He went on to say that my car
had been taken and all the others, except perhaps one smashed up. I did
not gather from his report that wounded men were still lying out. Then
I think an ambulance turned up – the MD had sent a man down and the
Germans had left one ambulance intact. The MD, two orderlies and the
wounded men went off at once in it.
CSM may have turned up after the ambulance had left: I cannot be sure
of this. We went out of the fields on the open ground and there I gave
the direction orders: my idea was to lead the party but to give them
this direction in case we got split up. In
the middle of this, Capt. Aston turned up. The CSH reported to him
again and I told him my idea. He agreed with the idea but said that the
men must divide themselves into several groups of two or three and go
for it like that. He sent such groups off at short intervals and
eventually he and I were left.
Aston had a look round and then he and I left going straight across
country. Later we found the men bunching up toward us but Aston said it
did not matter, as he wanted to take their names. So later on, in a
field on bright moonlight, he took names and sent the men off again. Within
a few hundred yards we came to a road, field on the other side and then
a narrow brook. Many men were there. We crossed the brook but found
that there was a wider stream fast deep and strong a bit further on
with a road and houses just beyond it. Aston decided it was too risky
to cross there and he took me upstream along the road; we struck off to
our right toward and the straw again but touched marshy ground and also
got a "Halt" from some sentry - probably German. Returned again to
first field - several small groups still about there and Aston told me
to wait while he spoke to them. Then he took me downstream across
fields and when we had gone some distance I said "What about those men
in the stream?" He replied, "I gave them their orders and in any case
it is too late to go back now". We went on and eventually crossed probably some 2 miles from the first place where we reached the stream.
Aston, who got through to England eventually, can tell our subsequent adventures and our plans. I
cannot believe it to be possible that about 22 men (of whom about 12
came from the village) would move off without a protest if they had
realised that men were being left behind wounded and needing attention.
Aston, I am sure, did not realise it, nor I either - we never even
discussed the question during the three weeks or so we were together."
He returned to their rented cottage at Escalles eight miles west
of Calais on the 15 June, exactly a month after he left to join the British army:
"Returned home, finally, very tired after a long and rather weary walk
of some 27 or 30 km. With my wretched ill-fitting clothes and my
uncut beard, I certainly looked very much like a tramp and my own
family would have found it difficult to recognise in me their usual
George Gregson never received the letter his wife wrote on the 23 May 1940, the day after she reached Folkestone aboard HMS Venomous,
and it was several months before he knew she had reached England safely
and had been reunited with their two sons, boarders at Kings School,
stayed at the cottage in Escalles for six weeks, spending his time
growing vegetables and cycling into Calais to visit friends and find
out who had got away. Mrs Pezron helped look after him and the German
soldiers billeted with them who dragged mattresses from the house into
the garage as beds did not seem too concerned when they found out that
he was English.
He kept a journal, written in English, which has been transcribed by Anne Gregson, the
daughter of of Denis Gregson, the younger of his two sons. The first volume of his Journal, some 20,000 words, ends with these words "These past few weeks at Escalles will probably stand out as
happy ones in the future".
had to register as a British subject at the Town Hall in Escalles and
on the 26 July handed himself in to be interned. After two days his
group was taken by train to Lille and interned in the Négrier
Barracks until the 26 November (see volume two
of his Journal) when they were transported via Berlin to their
permanent place of detention, the internment camp Illag VIIIH at Tost
(Toszek), forty miles north east of Katowitz (Katowice) in Upper
Silesia, now part of Poland.
Volume three of George
Gregson's Journal is a detailed and very interesting
account of his internment at Tost. It provides a daily account of his own personal
experience, describing the daily routine,
food and his fellow inmates many of whom he knew from Calais.
known was P.G. Wodehouse, the comic author of books about Bertie
Wooster and his butler, Jeeves, who was criticised for his Berlin broadcasts including an amusing account of the Tost internment camp. Wodehouse completed his novel Joy in the Morning, and wrote Full Moon, Spring Fever, and Uncle Dynamitewhile interned. BBC Four broadcast a drama "Wodehouse in Exile"
on the 25 March about this controversial period in his life which
hinted that the report clearing him from being a traitor was suppressed
to protect a double agent, Mackintosh, a man viewed with deep suspicion
by George Gregson.
internment camp at Tost was a former barracks used as a "lunatic asylum". When George Gregson arrived on the 29
November 1940 there were 1,130 detainees and he was placed in Room 501
on the top floor with bunk beds for 72 men.
Not all the detainees came from France, the first to arrive were from
the Netherlands and they tended to run the Camp - to the annoyance of
the French. They were, of course, all British subjects.
rheumatism made climbing to the fifth floor difficult and on the 18
December he was allowed to move to Room 309 on the third floor where
his friend Ernest Dutnall slept. He wrote in his Journal that:
have retained my bottom bunk and on the top one there is a big man
named Burke - a real elephant of a man. He has gone through the planks
of two beds up to now, so my position is perhaps one of some danger!
However it is a warm room, good educated fellows in it and I am next to
Dutnall and have only three floors to climb instead of five."
On the 23 December he wrote:
afternoon an American journalist came in to see P.G. Wodehouse, who is
in our room too. He took a photo of Wodehouse and some of us, including
me, grouped round P.G. and also asked me about our supper ration -
Germans were of course present all the time. So, perhaps,
Gisèle will one day see this photograph in the paper - I doubt she will recognise me."
photograph and interview by Angus Thuermer published in the New York Times on December 27 1940 eventually led to the release of Wodehouse and
his broadcasts from Berlin to America in July 1941 describing his internment. Their subsequent
broadcast to Britain, done without his consent, nearly led to him being
put on trial as a traitor after the war and he never lived in Britain again.
was often critical of Wodehouse. On the 26 February 1941 he wrote in is
Journal "we hear that P.G. Wodehouse has - through interviews - told
the world what a splendid place it is and how well we are treated, etc
...! Well, two days ago he told Dutt that he did not mind which side
won as long as the war finished soon - and that shows his mentality as
a so-called Englishman." But on the 2 March he changed his table at
meal times and wrote "am now on the same as Wodehouse, Webb, Davies,
Rainey, [Tom] Sarginson, Dutnall, Youl, Pickard and Baryball. Much better in every way."
was born in Paris and brought up in France by his English father and
French Mother. He was a mechanic in the Royal Flying Corp during the
Great War and returned
to France in 1926 as the electrical engineer at Courtauld's newly
opened rayon factory in Calais, Les Files de Calais SA. Despite having an English wife, Nell, and three young daughters
he thought there was no need to "panic" and return to England. He was
leaving Nell to look after their daughters on her own. The
youngest, Jeanne Gask, tells Tom's story on this web site and the story
of "Nell and the Girls" in a book to be published
in May 2015.
was released from Tost with a fellow internee, Macintosh, who George
Gregson disliked and mistrusted. On the 30 March 1941 Gregson wrote:
don't trust him any longer. Supposedly a professor of comparative
theology at the university of Hong Kong, picked up whilst "on holiday"
at Boulogne, he seems to have achieved popularity with the lower
elements by a liberal use of their vernacular and by being very
anti-German in his behaviour. Now, however, he appears to be turning
"Yes-man" to the Germans. I may well be mistaken of course: there are
many mystery men here and one learns to trust no one and keep ones
mouth shut. My mistrust, however, is based on the fact that he was the
principal instigator of the decision to let 1,000 odd men have 2 Red
Cross parcels each and let another 100 go empty; and that later when I
wanted to run an exchange office free for all, so that men could get in
touch with each other for exchanges of food and clothing, he adopted
the role of an unselfish purist and said that no exchanges ought to be
made but that men should give away articles they did not want. Such an
altruistic attitude coming after the previous attitude, has aroused my
Macintosh referred to is believed to be Noel Macintosh, born at
Southease in East Sussex on the 20 December 1885 and arrested at
Boulogne on the 10 July 1940. He is probably the Noel Macintosh who was
released with P.G. Wodehouse and stayed with him for a few days at the
Adlon Hotel, Berlin, and may have helped persuade him to make the
broadcasts which led to Wodehouse's self imposed exile in the United
Illag VIII arranged for the internees to be photographed
in groups to show how well they were being treated. The photograph
below was probably taken quite early when they still had some
respectable clothes to wear. The men in the front row have clean
handkerchiefs in their top pockets, flowers in their lapels and have
polished their boots.
George Arthur Gregson, with pipe, is third from left in the back row in this photograph taken at the Tost Internment Camp soon after his arrival From left to right, back row: Sarginson, West, Gregson, Goard
Second row: Rainey, Yule, "Stock Keeper SO" (name not given), Pegrum Third row: Pauline, Ernest Dutnall, Harold Ratcliffe, Londoy
Front row: Perry, "chemist SO" (name not given), Lockwood, Larkin, Oliver Holding Courtesy of Guy William Ratcliffe son of Harold Ratcliffe
is a break in the journal between the 31 May 1941 and the 2 November
1943. When it resumes he seems a completely different person, paranoid,
subject to delusions and obsessed with the belief that his fellow
internees are convinced he is a coward who abandoned his comrades while
he was with the British Army in May 1940. He wrote an account of the events in May 1940
which appear to have given rise to his delusions in his journal - see above. This
is detailed but rather confusing and not entirely convincing as an
accurate description of
what happened. The change is sharp and
inexplicable but he has an insight into his own condition and is aware
that his beliefs are not altogether rational.
Eventually, however, he persuades the camp authorities to treat him as
a Prisoner of War (POW) rather than an internee and transfer him to
Stalag VIIIB at Lamsdorf, the largest POW Camp in Germany, where he
feels he rightly belongs. On
the 1 July 1943 George Gregson was moved from the Stalag hospital to the German civilian asylum, Heil und
Pflegeanstalt, at Loben.
Alarmed by the tone of his letters Gisèle wrote to the Red Cross on the 4 December 1943 (and again the next day) and received a reply from Miss E.M. Thornton OBE, the Director of its Prisoner
of War Department at St James Palace, London, on the 23 December which
quoted from the report of the doctor who had been treating him at Illag
Gregson had been in a distressed state of mind for some months so it
was decided to give him a change of surroundings and the advantage of a
thorough medical examination and treatment by sending him to another
hospital which is at Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf. This was done in June."
further letter from Miss Thornton on the 10 February 1944 quoted from
the report of the doctor at Stalag VIIIB, Captain J.A. Mulligan RAMC:
Gregson was admitted here on the 5.6.1943, and on the 1.7.1943 he was
transferred to a special hospital for nervous disorders. I saw him
there on the 4.11.1943. He has lost a lot of weight in the last three
years but now appears to be retaining his weight at a reduced level. He
eats well and has no bodily complaints. He has, however, delusions of a
persecutory nature, which give him great worry and keep him physically
over active. Apart from these delusions he talks quite naturally, and
takes a keen interest in his surroundings. He is very worried about his family, and is afraid that his past actions may harm his sons career."
was classified as "DU" (Definitely Unfit) by the International Medical
Commission which meant that he was likely to be included in any future repatriation of
civilians. A final letter
from Miss Thornton on the 23 February 1944 thanked Mrs Gregson for the
cheque for 10/- she sent to support their work, cautioned against
expecting her husband's early repatriation and expressed her pleasure
at learning that her son was enjoying "his new career as a cadet" and
added "it will give great pleasure to his father to know that he has
joined an officers training unit".
On the 27 June 1944 he left Loben for the
internment camp at Kreuzberg (Ilag VIIIZ) and a week later went by train to Vittel
in southern France. The fouth and final volume of his journal
begins on the 2 November 1943 at Loben and ends on the 29 July 1944
while on the train from Vittel to Lisbon in neutral Portugal with the
words "I wish I could think clearly!" On the 5 August he was repatriated to Britain leaving Lisbon on the SS Drottningholm for Liverpool where he wrote
to his wife from the City of Liverpool Hospital in Walton.
A prewar postcard of the SS Drottningholm, a paasenger liner belonging to the Swedish American Line, which repatriated officials, civilian internees and POW Courtesy of Anne Gregson
Gisèledescribed him "as being almost mad" but
once he was reunited with his family he made a good recovery and not
long after the war ended they returned to their home in Calais and he
once again became the practical hard working businessman supporting the
family. His two sons assumed joint control of the business when he
retired, one running the office in Calais and the other the office in
Boulogne. The events of May 1940 had a dramatic effect on all of them
but it did not destroy the family. George Arthur Gregson was 72 when he died at Calais in 1963. His wife lived
another twenty years and was 81 when she died in 1985. Their grand
daughter Anne Gregson has seen their stories are not forgotten
but regrets not having asked more questions about this critical period
in both their lives. Some parts of her Grandmother's letter and her Grandfather's journal are likely to always remain obscure.
The story of HMS Venomous is told by Bob Moore and Captain John Rodgaard USN (Ret) in A Hard Fought Ship
livre captivant dont on ne peut que saluer la quantité et la qualité
des recherches entreprises par les auteurs. Un must pour tout lecteur intéressé pas l’histoire navale de cette période.’ 39/45 Magazine (Editions Heimdal)
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