Remembering a war veteran who survived the horrors of life as a PoW

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Patrick South, a Second World War veteran and former production manager at Holbrook Works, has died aged 96.

Pat grew up in Southwater and worked at the brickworks there until 1963, when he moved to work, and later live, at Holbrook Works near Warnham.

Pat South

Pat South

He retired in 1983.

Pat’s widow Carol told the County Times that her husband had been through terrible experiences as a prisoner in German-occupied Poland, but rarely spoke about it.

One of six children, he joined the TA in 1936, and was called up in July 1940.

He was in Belgium when Germany invaded, and was captured on May 28, after all of their units had been isolated and lost contact with one another.

Taken to the German front line, he spent a few days carrying the wounded in a military hospital before joining a PoW column to Luxembourg.

There they were put on a train, 72 men to a cattle truck, for the four or five day journey to Poland. He spent four years at Stalag XXA.

During the first winter frostbite was a common problem, and there was very little food. Red Cross parcels would arrive, providing one item for every two prisoners - he recalled having to share some custard powder with another camp inmate.

Pat said he only survived because of Trevor, a friend he met on a march.

Trevor looked after him and taught him carpentry, making him a more valuable prisoner and giving them an excuse to stick together for several years.

In 1944, with the Russians advancing, the prisoners were taken on a death march towards Germany, with stragglers being shot.

Pat spent that Christmas at Fallanbostel, in a huge but overcrowded PoW camp, he was marched off in another column.

After losing a lot of men when they were fired upon by the US Air Force, they came across a British Army scout car.

Freed and given directions to the British front line, four of them got hold of a German vehicle and had the satisfaction of finishing their journey to the safety of Luneburg Heath, near Hamburg, in style.

“He went through a hell of a lot, but he never talked about it a lot,” said Carol.

“He used to do a lot of caravanning, and he managed to meet up with three of his prisoner of war mates.

“One of them was Trevor. He lived in Wales, so we went there many times to visit him and his family together.”

She said her husband was a sociable man who loved the outdoor life, and was always outside making things, taking things apart, or sawing up wood.

He liked football and fishing - he once caught a 30lb cod that was a local record.

“We’ve always had dogs, he loved his dogs, liked to walk them,” she said.

“He loved his whisky, with the caravan friends particularly.”

Pat also loved reading books. In recent years he had lost his sight, but took advantage of audio books from the RNIB.

He is survived by Carol, by his sister Yvonne, daughter-in-law Judy, granddaughter Michelle, great-grandson Thomas, and great-great-granddaughter Lily.

The funeral will be held at Surrey and Sussex Crematorium, at 11.15am on Friday.

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