Tag Archives: Yol Prisoner of War Camp India

Yol – Kangra Valley India

George Purves at Yol (photo courtesy of James Purves)

George Fraser PURVES served as an anaesthetist with the British Army at Yol Prisoner of War Camp in India. His son James from Georgia USA has contributed a number of photos taken by his father and three drawings painted by Capitano Luigi Socci.

The photos offer up a glimpse of the British Army Camp: its buildings and its staff; the landscape and geography of the Kangra Valley.

Yol Hospital Staff: George Purves top row centre (photo courtesy of James Purves)

It is invaluable to have this history viewed from different perspectives: the anaesthetist and the prisoner of war.

Thank you James for allowing these memories and items to be shared in our ‘virtual’ museum.

George Fraser PURVES studied medicine at Trinity Hall Cambridge. His photos date him at Yol in 1943. He left Yol in July 1944 and served on a hospital ship HMHS Karapara, then Kuala Lumpur Malaya, Bandoeng Java and IBGH Bareilly India.

George was married before he left England and was initially posted to Scotland to await his journey to India. While in his accommodation awaiting his orders, American war ships which had escorted a convoy across the Atlantic arrived into harbour. The American officers were billeted at the same accommodation as George. James recounts this war time story: “they [Americans] went inside and asked why there was no heat, as the place was so cold. On being told that all coal went toward the war effort, they said that they would fix the problem and left. They returned with a large truck half filled with coal from their ship as well as two boiler stokers. The front room windows were opened, the truck was backed up and the coal was shovelled onto the living room floor. Both alcohol and ‘real’ food was produced. Father said they all slept on the floor of that warm room, the flames from the open fireplace lighting and dancing around the ceiling and walls.”

Soon enough George was on a ship and on his way to India. James recounts, “Sometimes during the voyage the Captain called him [George] to the bridge. There was a telegram for him. In short, a question was put to him, “Is Dr Purves able and willing to join a parachute division as a Doctor?” The Captain apparently told father that there was no rush to make a decision, but father told him he would answer immediately. The wireless officer took down the reply… “Dr Purves is able but not willing.” It was a brilliant answer as father was frightened of heights.”

And so it was that Dr Purves did not spend the war jumping out of aeroplanes, but instead resided at Yol as an anaesthetist operating on Italian prisoners of war and British staff.

Swimming and Fishing: George Purves and friends Yol (photo courtesy of James Purves)

As with all prisoner of war camps, the British Command Staff lived separately from the prisoner of war camp. George’s contact with Italian prisoners of war was from hospitalisation for operations and post operative care.

British Camp Staff, Yol (photo courtesy of James Purves)

While in India and south-east Asia, George suffered heat stroke and malaria. He returned to England fatigued and gaunt. George’s wife walked past him on the railway platform, she barely recognised her husband.

George Purves (standing left) at Yol (photo courtesy of James Purves)

An amateur photographer, George Purves took many walks into the countryside of the Kangra Valley, taking photos of the mountains, the rivers and the valley. A glimpse into the past is the photo below of George in his room.

My Room Yol 1943 (photo courtesy of James Purves)

Yol India

A beautiful spot at the foot of the Himalayas; the best position of all the world’s war prisoners…

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Yol Group V Italian Prisoners of War in India V-P-HIST-03471-02

Very interesting that General Berganzoli “Electric Whiskers” was one of the POW residents of Yol Camp…

Yol Escapes.jpg

1943 ‘ITALIAN PRISONERS ARE ALWAYS ESCAPING.’, Victor Harbour Times (SA : 1932 – 1986), 25 June, p. 2. , viewed 21 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161099018

India: Camp at Yol

Yol Prisoner of War Camp was situated at the base of the Himalaya Mountains.  It housed Italian prisoners of war in four camps: Group V – YOL: Camps 25 to 28. It had its own currency.

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Yol Italian Prisoner of War Landscape Group V

Details of the camps are in the following article: Yol: Once a haven for prisoners of war

Lido Saltamartini was a resident of Yol Camp.  He made a camera and took photos of the camp which are featured in his book: 10,000 in Himalaya 1941-1947

Further information on Yol can be read at:

La storia dei diecimila soldati italiani prigionieri in India(take the time to read the comments at the bottom of the article)

and in Angela Giannitrapani’s book: Quando Cadra La Neve a Yol:

Cosa può mai spingere due uomini anziani a lasciare l’Italia per raggiungere un villaggio remoto alle falde dell’Himalaya? “Quando cadrà la neve a Yol”, nell’eco di una predizione, lo rivela. Racconta del viaggio che porta sulle orme che gli stessi protagonisti lasciarono cinquant’anni prima e che ora, ultra settantenni, ripercorrono. È un viaggio del tutto differente da quello del passato quando, prigionieri degli inglesi durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale, attraversarono quasi tutta l’India da sud a nord per raggiungere il campo di prigionia al quale erano stati destinati. Ora lo fanno da uomini liberi, ma devono ancora affrontare conti in sospeso e incontrare fantasmi sepolti nella memoria.

Quando Cadra La Neve a yol

As a tribute to the Italian prisoners who had been held captive at Yol, is this beautiful memorial:

Yol Monument 2Yol Monument

Yol Memorial to Italian Prisoners of War

(photos from Twitter: hpatil@himan127)

 

A list of Italian Prisoners of War who were sent to Yol can be found in an article by Giovanni Marizza: ALCUNI PRIGIONIERI ITALIANI IN INDIA

Further articles by Marizza: 2a Parte and 3a Parte