Friends while prisoner of war at Barth. Ian Shore, son of John TL Shore, recalls his meeting with Bertram "Jimmy" James a friend of his father while they were prisoners of war at Barth
John "Death" TL Shore left and Bertram "Jimmy" James standing in front of the incinerator at Stalag Luft I - Barth (courtesy of the Shore family)
Ian Shore writes: Jimmy James’ name has been frequently mentioned in my family. He was a friend of my father, John Shore, in a prisoner of war camp in Germany in 1941. I had never met Jimmy James so I was highly delighted to discover in early 2006 that he was coming to Headquarters Strike Command, where I then worked, to give a talk of his wartime experiences.
Jimmy’s exploits are legendary and, as my father died when I was less than 2 years old, it was an enormous privilege to meet with Jimmy and learn a little more of my father from someone who knew him in such difficult and testing circumstances.
My father, an RAF pilot serving on 9 Sqn, was forced down over Holland with his Wellington crew while on a bombing raid in Mar 41. After being apprehended, interrogated and recaptured following his escape from a train, he was placed in Stalag Luft I POW camp at Barth. There he soon linked up with Jimmy, a fellow 9 Sqn member, who had been forced down the previous year. I learnt from Jimmy that they formed a team responsible initially for dispersing the sandy soil from a tunnel being dug, which they did by spreading it under the huts which had been built on supports with boarding to hide them.
A later picture of Stalag Luft I - Barth (courtesy of the Shore family)
After a few months, my father persuaded Jimmy to join with him in digging a tunnel from the incinerator to beyond the wire (approx 25ft). Fellow POWs gave cover by watching football matches as my father and Jimmy entered and exited the tunnel via the incinerator for a week as they ‘moled’ their way taking turns to dig the soil out with a knife and their bare hands, disposing of the soil in the other half of the incinerator, trusting that they would have escaped before it would be found.
Apparently, part way through digging the tunnel they were aghast to see a local worker wheel a trolley up to the incinerator to clear it out. They were convinced that their plan would be discovered. However, to their vast amusement, the worker merely filled his trolley up with all the results of their hard labours and wheeled it away, so removing all the evidence of their activity!
John Talbot Lovell Shore's medals (courtesy of the Shore family)
Jimmy then told me that, having dug the tunnel, they waited for the next air raid, when they left their huts and, one at a time, made for the incinerator. En route Jimmy was spotted by the guards and despite taking evasive action Jimmy was re-caught. My father was more fortunate and after waiting for Jimmy to no avail, he made his own way through their tunnel to freedom. After a number of adventures en route, he successfully made a ‘home run’, getting back to England via Sweden. Subsequently he was awarded the Military Cross for his escape.
Jimmy reminded me that he was moved from Stalag Luft I and had a number of his own escapades culminating in his involvement in the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III at Sagan. Although modestly Jimmy made no mention of it, when he got back to England, he was also awarded the Military Cross for all his escapes. Jimmy did tell me, however, that after the war he had a re-union with my father, who, by then, was OC Admin at RAF Halton.
It was a great thrill being able to talk with Jimmy James after all these years. His memories of my father and their exploits in digging a tunnel under the noses of the guards at Stalag Luft I were very moving. We shook hands as he departed and I was very conscious that my own existence, having been born after my father returned, owed much to Jimmy James’ hands’ hard work all those years ago!
Page created by Aircrew Remembered on behalf of John Talbot Lovell Shore's family and sons Rex, Mark and Ian Shore ©
Also read: Loss of Wellington IC R1335. Parachute landing to Amsterdam, Escape from Bath 1941. A Journey of discovery. The loss of Avro Lincoln RF511. John TL Shore MC AFC record of service with the RAF. Acknowledgement from Mark and Ian Shore