A sergeant from Nelson saved the King of Greece from the Germans but in doing so was shot at and spent four years in captivity...
Brenda Middleton - who was just two years old when her father Sergeant William Atkinson Little was called up - tells his story...
William Atkinson Little
My father was one of the first in the Nelson area to be called up in 1938 and was a gunner/driver in the Royal Artillery. He was posted initially to France but was then evacuated from Dunkirk and sent to Egypt. He was then sent to Crete where he chauffeured the 'top brass' as he called them around.
Brenda Middleton - aged two
When the Germans invaded Crete he was told to take a 'special person' to the airport where a plane was waiting to take him to England. It turned out it was the King of Greece.
He drove King George and the crown prince about to the airport and when they arrived the King asked father if he was going with them. His commanding officer said no - he had to take the jeep back to camp.
As the plane took off the Germans reached the airport and fired at my father. Fortunately, the bullets went between his back and the seat. Although he had bullet burns on his back he was lucky the bullet grazed his back. He was captured and taken prisoner and transported to Germany.
In a letter he wrote to my mother dated 24th April 1941 he didn't dwell on being held captive - he talked of his 'great honour' to 'have had the pleasure of driving a king for a day' and how it would give her something to talk about at the Mill!
He was held captive for four years by the Germans although he somehow managed to escape during that time and make his way to France. He was taken in by a family in France who were in the French Resistance. They wrote to my mother Edna from 'somewhere in France' to say he was safe, sleeping well and he had a splendid appetite! Knowing he was safe was such a relief to my mother as by this time he was listed as missing.
Sadly, his time in France was short lived, though, as he was recaptured and taken back to a German Prisoner of War camp. He never talked much about his time in the camps - he didn't like to talk about it. He only talked about the good memories but he did say there was just one guard at the camp who was nasty and they tried to keep away from. He was at the same camp during his captivity as Sir Douglas Bader - the RAF fighter ace - and used to watch him exercise.
While he was a prisoner he drove a steam lorry for a glass company in Germany with an armed guard called Fritz. When he was driving the lorry, there was a raid on Germany by the RAF and they had to take shelter and Fritz told him not to speak because he feared for his life if they discovered he was English.
He received good medical care when he was held prisoner. He had a burst appendix while he was in one of the camps and he was taken to hospital and operated on. They did a great job - he had such a neat scar just two inches long.
William Atkinson Little (right)
Then, when the Germans took the prisoners on long marches to flee the Allies he developed a bad foot. Again he was taken to hospital and operated on. He was in hospital recovering when the Americans liberated them and he was brought back to England to recuperate. He used to joke saying if only the Americans had hung on for a few more days because Leeds Hospital couldn't work out what they had done in Germany and eventually he had to have the bone out.
I'll never forget the day my dad returned home. I was eight years old and can remember running up and hugging him. I was so excited to see him! He was very thin and although there was still rationing my mum soon fattened him up.
----After his return, William and Edna Atkinson Little had three more daughters Sheila, Edna and Sylvia-Ann. William worked for Laycocks transporting woods for Lamberts. He died in 1981 aged 62 of lung cancer.
last updated: 24/11/2008 at 10:42
Ἡ Ἑλλὰς τοῦ ΟΧΙ - Σελίδες Πατριδογνωσίας