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Der Kriegsgefangene Leutnant Fritz Eberhard trifft in Australien einen Australier, den er zuvor selbst gefangen nahm.

Der Kriegsgefangene Leutnant Fritz Eberhard trifft in Australien einen Australier, den er zuvor selbst gefangen nahm.

"DIGGER AND GERMAN CAPTOR." Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954) 1 Dec 1942: 1. Web. 31 Aug 2014 .



An Australian captured outside Tobruk early last year saw his German captor at Heidelberg, not in the Heidelberg where the German was horn, but in the Australian Military Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria.

A few days after taking the Australian prisoner, wounded and uncon- scious, the German lieutenant com- manding the company that captured him was wounded by an Australian sniper and himself taken prisoner.  

The Australian, Private Alan Alway, of Caulfield, was repatriated from an Italian prisoner of war camp; the Ger- man came eventually to a prisoners of war camp in Australia. The German is a few months older than Alway, who will be 21 next February.  

They arrived almost together at the  plastic unit, Heidelberg. Operations for similar face and jaw repairs to both of them were arranged for the same day.  

A dental sergeant recognised the German officer, as a patient he had helped to treat in the Australian Hospital in Tobruk. He told the German that Alway in another bed in the unit was also wounded at Tobruk. The officer, curious, asked when Alway was wounded.          

The sergeant inquired, and took back the answer.      

They met.

"I took you prisoner," - the German told Alway, when he explained that he was taken at Post S 4 on May 1, 1941.

Not until the German told him what had happened on the other side of the action did Alway know the whole story.

When "Jerry" started his offensive  and overan the perimeter defences, Alan, was overrun too. The Germans picked him up in his forward post, his jaws smashed by a bullet. They took him to a German casualty clearing station, and after a couple of days hand- ed him over to the Italians. From an Italian casualty clearing station he was sent on to Derna, having had little at- tention.

He and his companions captured with   him found themselves much better off there than many of the Italian and Ger- man wounded. A party of Australian Field Ambulance who had been taken prisoner earlier were manning an Italian hospital ward full of British wounded. After a few days Alway was flown in an Italian Red Cross plane to Benghazi.

He was there for eight days at the wrong end of incessant bombing by the R.A. and shelling by the British   Navy.        

Water was desperately scarce. He got none to wash his face or hands un- til three weeks after he was taken. All the water the hospital patients saw was brought round in goatskin bags and they were given two glasses to drink each day.  


An Italian hospital ship took him to Naples. He was put into a hospital 15 miles out of the city on May 16. the day of which the German lieutenant, still at Tobruk, had his jaw smashed   by an Australian sniper's bullet.

A month later Alway was discharged into the prisoners' camp - his wounds superficially healed, but his jaw almost useless. He was moved from camp to camp, living generally on very short rations made adequate only by fairly regular Red Cross parcels. One camp was 25 miles from the Brenner Pass. It was cold - once 25 degrees below, zero. When a board of Swiss doctors and one Italian decided that he would   not be fit for future military service, they recommended Alway and some others for exchange.

He left Italy on April 4 this year for Smyrna, where he was picked up by a British ship.  


Most of those things Alway knew. What he did not know was the enemy side of the action in which he was   captured. He was in a forward machine-gun post with 14 other Aus- tralians. In the night, about 50 Ger- man tanks came up. They let them pass, knowing that they could do little against them in the darkness, and be- lieving that they would have an op- portunity to attack more effetively the infantry they thought would be follow- ing the tanks.

But they saw no sign of infantry, yet in the night they heard sounds of dig- ging in front of and behind them. What had happened, the German officer ex- plained, was that instead of following the tanks, his infantry company rode forward on the tanks, and dropped off on both sides of the Australian post without knowing it was there.

With the break of day, the 16 Aus- tralians opened fire both ways, know- ing that they were surrounded.

They did not know then the results of their fire, but the lieutenant told Alway that before the enemy were able to capture Alway and his companions they had killed half of the German infantry, company, including an officer.

The German marvelled at the accur- acy of Australian rifle fire. A big per- centage of German casualties around Tobruk, he said, was the work of Aus- tralian snipers.

When he got his wound that way he was packed up by Australian stretcher- bearers and taken to the Australian   General Hospital in Tobruk. After treatment there he was passed on to a British General Hospital in Egypt From there he was brought to Aus- tralia. From a prisoner of war camp he was brought to a plastic unit for special surgical treatment of the scars left by his wound. An armed guard is kept constantly within sight of his bed, which is in a spearate room.  

Generally, the German lieutenant has had far better treatment and in- finitely more comfort in Australian and British hospitals and prison camps than Alway had at the hands of the


"But I've got it all over him now." Alway said. 'Tm home and he's a long way from his home in Heidel- berg."

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