Flight Lieutenant Ralph Henry Lucky

 

Unit : 311 Squadron, Bomber Command, attached to X Troop, 11th Special Air Service Battalion

Service No. : 79272

Awards : Military Cross

 

Flight Lieutenant Lucky was a 43 year old R.A.F. officer who was attached to "X" Troop for Operation Colossus as an interpreter, as he was fluent in Italian and several other languages. "Ralph Lucky" was in fact a nickname which he had acquired whilst serving in the British Army during the First World War. His real name was Raoul Lucovich, and he had been born in Bosnia where his father, an engineer of Montenegrin descent but who had been born and raised in Britain, was working on railway construction. The following is Lucky's M.I.9 report, which describes his involvement in the operation, his capture, and the events leading up to his repatriation to the UK in 1944. 

 

Left: Gotenborg 12 Sep 44.

Arrived: Liverpool 18 Sep 44.

Date of Birth: 4 Mar 96.

R.A.F. Service: Since Mar 40.

Peacetime Profession: Inspector of Agriculture.

Private Address: 24 Park Way, Weston-Favell, Northampton.

 

1. Capture

I was an Intelligence officer interpreter dropped with approximately 30 parachute troops at Calitri (Italy, 1:250,000, Sheet 36, O 2156) at approx 2359 hrs on 11 Feb 41. I damaged my left knee on landing. I threw my parachute harness and mae west into a nearby river and a few minutes later met the other members of the party. We proceeded together to near Cresta-di-Gallo (O 0849) where we blew up the aqueduct at approximately 0130 hrs on 12 Feb. We then split into parties of ten and attempted to reach our rendezvous on the coast some distance South of Naples.

 

I was with 2/Lt. Jowett, L/Cpl. Crawford and seven other paratroops (names unknown). We walked to Pescopagano (O 1849), where we arrived before dawn. We hid on the outskirts of the town until evening (12 Feb) when the others left me as my progress was too slow owing to my leg injury.

 

I walked West to Castelnuovo (O 1147) where I stayed until evening of 13 Feb. I then walked to Santomenna (O 1146), where I remained until the following evening (14 Feb). I then walked to Laviano (O 1043) where I was challenged by an Italian civilian at approximately 2300 hrs on 14 Feb. I answered the challenge in Italian but as I was in uniform I was surrounded by a number of Italian civilians who beat me and then held me until the arrival of the police.

 

I was taken to the police station, where I met the other nine members of my party. They were in chains and two of them were wounded. A few hours later the ten of us were taken by lorry to a railway station (name unknown), where we met the remainder of our original party of thirty on the morning of 15 Feb. We were taken by train to Naples and kept in the civil prison. We were briefly interrogated and the officers:- Major Pritchard, Capt Lee, Lt. A.J. Deane-Drummond, S/P.G.(-)801, 2/Lt. Jowett, 2/Lt. Patterson, all of Parachute Regiment, and I were taken to the aerodrome of Capo-di-Chino near Naples. We remained there for approximately three days and were re-interrogated. There I met P/O Wotherspoon, R.A.F., and his crew.

 

On 18 Feb P/O Wotherspoon and I were taken to Rome to the aerodrome Cento-Celli. We were kept there in solitary confinement until approximately 28 Feb. During this time we were interrogated at length by S. Marino, former Italian Consul in Afghan and Brazil and Oberleutnant (now Major) von Muller Sum Aldkirch.

 

On 28 Feb P/O Wotherspoon and I were taken to the P/W camp Sulmona (Sheet 29, G 9382).

 

2. Camps in Which Imprisoned.

Campo 78 (Sulmona)

Campo 27 (San Romano di Pisa)

Campo 35 (Padula)

Campo 5 (Gavi)

Stalag XVII A/Z (Spittal)

Stalag VIIA (Moosburg)

Stalag Luft I (Barth)

Stalag IV D/Z (Annaburg)

28 Feb - 23 Dec 41.

25 Dec 41 - 30 Apr 42.

30 Apr 42 - 25 May 42.

25 May 42 - 13 Sep 43.

17 Sep 43 - 20 Oct 43.

22 Oct 43 - 31 Oct 43.

5 Nov 43 - 20 Jul 44.

20 Jul 44 - 8 Sep 44.

 

3. Attempted Escapes.

        (a) On approximately 9 Jan 42 at Campo 27 (San Romano di Pisa) I sprinkled mustard powder inside my underwear which I wore for three days and nights. I then had my back scrubbed until the flesh was raw. On approx. 13 Jan I reported sick and the Italian doctor diagnosed scabies. He sent me under escort to Florence for treatment.

        I was dressed in an Italian-made R.A.F. uniform which was easily convertible to look like that of an Italian Air Force officer. I also wore a beard.

        On the journey to Florence I persuaded my escort to take me round Florence to see the sights before we went to the hospital. On arrival in Florence I got my escort to carry my suitcase which was very heavy. We walked round the city until dusk, and in a crowded main street I spoke to a woman while my escort was momentarily separated from me. I asked this woman to get me a taxi and meet me outside a nearby barber's shop. She mistook me for an Italian Air Force officer.

        A few moments later I escaped from my escort and went to the barber's shop, where I had my beard removed. I had only a 500 lire note and the barber had no change. I then said that the lady waiting in the taxi outside would have change and the barber sent his son to her. The woman came to the door of the shop which was left open and my escort, who had raised an alarm, happened to pass at that moment and saw me. I was then recaptured.

        I was taken to the hospital where I was brought before the Colonel and accused of an attempt to escape. I denied this and stated that as I had been a P/W for two years I only wished to have the company of a woman. The Colonel sympathised with me and said he would sent me to another hospital where there were Red Cross nurses. I was sent to the Careggi hospital on the outskirts of Florence.

 

        (b) I made a rope of my sheets and fastened them to my bed placed across the window. I tested the rope before attempting to lower myself from the window, but the sheets broke as the fabric was rotted with bleaching chemicals. I was not punished for damaging the sheets but a guard was placed on the room until my discharge from the hospital and return to Campo 27 (San Romano di Pisa) on approximately 17 Jan.

 

        (c) At the end of Jan 42 I investigated the possibilities of escaping from Campo 27 (San Romano di Pisa) by attending the Roman Catholic Church services in the monastery adjacent to the camp. I reported my discovery to Cmdr. Brown, R.N., the S.B.O. Cmdr. Brown took charge of the preparation of a hole through the wall from the camp into the monastery.

        A few days later Cmdr. Brown and Lt. Deane-Drummond began making a hole. They made some noises and an alarm was raised, but they were not discovered at work. In the subsequent investigation I was suspected of being the instigator of the attempt and was sentenced to thirty days solitary confinement.

 

        (d) In August 42 at Campo 5 (Gavi) I rubbed blue ointment on my face for about a week and then reported sick, stating that I had a sinus. I was taken to the hospital at Alessandria (Sheet 10, J 75705). I was x-rayed and the film of mercury appeared on the plate in such a way that sinus was diagnosed. An operation which was later performed spoiled my chances of escaping from the hospital, and I now have a sinus.

 

        (e) On 19 Sep 43 at Stalag XVII A/Z (Spittal) I obtained a French forage cap. At approximately 1200 hrs. that day I walked through the gate of the camp wearing the cap, battledress trousers, a dark blue pullover and a dark blue raincoat, and I had a false French P/W working pass.

        I walked South from the camp and crossed the river Drau. I then walked West across country in an endeavour to reach Switzerland. On 22 Sep I arrived at Fiestritz (Sheet 7, X 5003), where I met a French P/W. I pretended that I was a Frenchman and asked him where I could obtain work. He advised me to go to the Burgomaster. I did so and said that I was a voluntary French worker. The burgomaster sent me to a farmer named Hans Steiner on the outskirts of Fiestritz. This man gave me work as a dairyman at 20 R.M. per month. I worked at the farm for three days, taking care of twenty-two cows. On 25 Sep the farmer asked me for my papers. I told him that I had left them with a French friend of mine in Villaco (Sheet 7B, C 8980) and that I would go there on the following day to get them. The farmer offered to take me there in his car.

        During the early hours of 26 Sep I left the farm and walked across country to Kolbnitz (Sheet 7, X 4811) where I went to another farm (name unknown) and asked for work. I stated that I was a voluntary French worker. I was employed digging potatoes until 29 Sep, when the farmer sent me to a miller in the district. I worked in the mill as a labourer for two days.

        At approximately 0100 hrs on 1 Oct I left the mill where I had been sleeping in a loft, and walked towards Villach. I saw many German guards on the road and I decided to travel across country. I swam across the Drav River on the night of 1 Oct. I arrived in Villach at 1100 hrs on 2 Oct. Later that day I climbed into the marshalling yard, which was guarded, and spent the remainder of the day cleaning carriage windows as though I were a French P/W working there. That night I slept in a wagon. I spent the following day (3 Oct), in the same manner.

        At approximately 1700 hrs. I jumped a train passing through the marshalling yard and hid in an empty third class coach. I had overheard some railway officials saying that this train was going to Italy. Some time later the train stopped at a station (name unknown) and the carriage filled with German soldiers and civilians. My presence was discovered and the alarm given. Two S.S. guards appeared and I was kicked on the head. I then stated that I was an R.A.F. officer whereupon the guard stood to attention, and my treatment afterwards was fair.

        I was kept on the train until we arrived at Malborghetto (O 5969). I was then transferred to another train with an escort of two guards, and taken to Villach. Then I was kept in the civil prison for two days. During this time the cut on my scalp was stitched.

        On 5 Oct I was escorted to Stalag XVII A/Z (Spittal) where I was kept in solitary confinement awaiting sentence for five days. At the end of that time I had persuaded the camp authorities to send me to the camp sick quarters. The medical officer's diagnosis was that I was suffering from a strained heart.

 

4. Final Repatriation.

        At the beginning of Nov 43 at Stalag Luft I (Barth) (Germany, 1:250,000, Sheet N.55, P 25) I decided to put myself in a condition to pass the repatriation medical board. I did not acquaint anyone of my intentions.

        On approximately 23 Nov I began to smoke cigarettes containing crushed aspirin. A few weeks later I was taken into the camp sick-quarters suffering from palpitations and a murmur of the heart. During the time I was in sick-quarters I stole a small quantity of ephedrine tablets and two caffeine capsules, which I kept for use prior to the electro-cardiogram test, which I knew to be the basis of heart trouble diagnosis.

        In Jan 44 I was taken by ambulance to Stralsund (Germany, 1:100,000, Sheet 10, 7121) Hospital for an electro-cardiogram test. Several hours before the test I consumed six half-grain ephedrine tablets, and a few minutes before the test I crushed one of the caffeine capsules in my handkerchief and swallowed the contents. The electro-cardiogram test showed that I suffered from myo-carditis. Later that day I was taken to the sick-quarters of Stalag Luft I (Barth) by ambulance.

        I remained there until 20 Jun when I was passed by the repatriation medical board who accepted the results of the electro-cardiogram test. Later that day I was discharged from the sick-quarters into the main compound.

        I stayed there until 20 Jul when I was taken with the repatriation party to Stalag IV D/Z (Annaburg) (Sheet 88, 7233). I remained there until 8 Sep when I was taken with the other repatriates by train to Sassnitz (1243) then by boat to Telleborg (Sweden). We travelled by train to Gotenborg, where we remained for two days. On approximately 13 Sep we were sent by boat to the U.K.

        On arrival at Weeton, R.A.F. Hospital I was examined by S/Ldr. Dawson, the heart specialist, who found no sign of heart trouble. I appeared before a medical board at Weeton on 23 Oct and was placed in medical category A.4.B.

 

Interviewed: 17 Jan 45.

 

 

The following is the first letter which Flight Lieutenant Lucky sent home after being taken prisoner:

 

From: 79272 Fl/Lt R.H. Lucky RAFVR, Prisoner of War, c/o Ministerio del Aeronautico, Roma, Italy.

To: Officer i/c of Records Air Ministry, London, W.C.2.

Date: 26th Feb 1941

Subject: Notification of Next of Kin,

 

Sir,

        I have the honour to request that my Next of Kin be informed that I fell in enemy's hands on the 13th inst. and that I am unhurt except for a badly bruised knee.

        I have been well treated and have been given to understand that I shall be allowed to write one letter per week through the International Red Cross.

        No.83283 P/O Jack Waterspoon RAFVR who has been captured on the 11th inst. is also safe and sound.

        We would both be very grateful if the Accounts Department and our Bankers could be informed accordingly.

        I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient Servant

        [Signed R.H. Lucky] Fl/Lt.

 

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