“New” Tymbakion Shorts Special Project 2021

127 Prisoners of War and One Pair of Shorts

Can you help us give life to these 127 World War II soldiers and the story of the pair of shorts?

Tymbakion shorts project by Andrew Holyoake NZ

A pair of shorts professionally crafted was brought back from WWII by Private Albert (Bert) Edward Chamberlain. As a civilian he was a tailor and would have had little trouble turning a sheet of canvas into a pair of shorts. Bert was a driver in the 2NZEF and was captured in Crete sometime in 1941.

In the later months of 1941, the Luftwaffe set about developing an airfield in the south of Crete, close to the town of Tymbaki (Tympaki). This airfield, Tymbakion, still exists today. An Allied Air Intelligence report from 1943 suggests that the airfield was developed rapidly in the autumn of 1941 by utilising British and Greek POW labour gangs, who worked day and night. We think Bert was one of the men who was working on this aerodrome as a Prisoner of War.

At the beginning of 1942 Bert and others were shipped off to Germany and spent most of the remaining war years interred at Stalag VIIIB, Lamsdorf (also known as 344). He survived the war, returning home to New Zealand.  

The shorts contain the signed names of 127 men.  A couple of men, whose names appear on the inside rim of the shorts are men whom Bert was friends with at Lamsdorf. The others, however, in addition to the inscription “Prisoner of War Camp Tymbakion Crete” are an enigma.

One of the aims of this project is to find out if these shorts represent a partial list of those Allied and Greek POWs who laboured to build the Tymbakion airfield in late 1941. We are seeking evidence from written anecdotes and diaries, in addition to compiling circumstantial evidence, for example:

      Within the Australian Red Cross POW cards that are held in a University of Melbourne Archive there are a few references of Australian POWs sending mail home from a camp at Tymbakion in September 1941. The majority (but not all) of these men’s names are on the shorts. www.archives.unimelb.edu.au 

     The majority of allied POWs captured on Crete around 1 June 1941 seemed to have been shipped to mainland Europe by August or September, 1941. We are looking for any information about these men and the dates they were transported from Crete.

Below is a list of the men from the shorts, that we have basic information on, who may have been involved at Tymbakion (excluding those who were Bert’s friends at Stalag VIIIB, Lamsdorf (also known as 344). The names are arranged alphabetically in the following format: (surname, initials or first name, service number, POW number, country of service).

There are a few other names on the shorts that we are still working on.

From top left to right top to bottom:

Molloy, John Joseph, QX7772, 4603, Australia

Buirchell, William Roy, WX2280, 4562, Australia

Smith, Loris Richard, NX15308, 4521, Australia

Leviston, Aubrey Reginald, VX7803, 4568, Australia

Ring, Cyril WX2058 Australia

McInerney, John Patrick, NX8406, 4519, Australia

West, Leonard Gordon, VX5561, 4586, Australia

Main List Below

Ainsley, John, R, 105991, 4556, England

Armitage, Thomas Washer, 33221, 5252, Sapper NZ Engineers,New Zealand

Baker, Edward, 2065377, 4596, England

Banner, Ernest Ambrose, 7502, 5012, New Zealand

Barnes, Harry Holcroft, NX32898, 4534, Australia

Barrow, William, 14244, 5458, New Zealand

Beacham, William Albert, 23275, 5227, New Zealand

Bennison, Avery Francis, 5353, 5350, New Zealand

Bentley, Reginald Guy Arthur, NX13532, 4549, Australia

Bissett, Thomas Alexander, NX13592, 4546, Australia

Bowden, Kenneth Frank, 30242, New Zealand

Bowen, George Stanley, CH/X101376, 4606, England

Bristol, Reginald David, VX26839, 4512, Australia

Brodie, Charles William, 13803, 23552, New Zealand

Brown, George Robert William, 2393, 5441, New Zealand

Brown, Norman McLeod, VX31518, 4559, Australia

Brownlie, Robert Bould, 4446, 5409, New Zealand

Buchanan, Roy Douglas, VX32961, 4607, Australia

Buirchell, William Roy, WX2280, 4562, Australia

Bunyard, Claud Stewart, 865679, 4604

Busby, Ponaute, 25823, 5443,28th Maori Battalion, New Zealand

Carter, Edward S, S/94334, 4560, England

Chappell, Ronald John, 7347150, 4510, England

Christiansen, Harold (Harry) Anthony, 30695, 5419, NZ Petrol Company,New Zealand

Collins, Andrew Walter, 5721, 24196, 2 Divisional Employment Platoon,New Zealand

Coombs, Gordon Maxwell, 22262, 5082, 21st Battalion,New Zealand

Cooper, Charles George, 5566, 5164,19th Battalion, New Zealand

Cooper, Hans John, 7347238, 4509, England

Craig, James Colvin, 34623, 4602, New Zealand

Crawford, J, 408857, 4578, England

Davenport, Joseph, 7259305, 4555, England

Davis, J. R, England

East, Edward, 29292, 5201, New Zealand

Face, Edward John Sydney, NX11441, 4585, Australia

Foley, Zamoni James Joseph, 2996, 5200, New Zealand

Forbes, Archibald Henry, 6912, 4511,30th Battery NZ Artillery, New Zealand

Foxon, T.V, 890183, 4582, England

Fraser, Anthony Alexander, 30024, 5417, New Zealand

Freeman, Clifford James, 148521, 4545, England

Gaudion, Eric John Robertson, 10356, 5203, New Zealand

Giles, C, 3964606, 4530, Wales

Goodwin, Edgar G, 1428576, 4565, England

Gorton, John, T/190420, 4544, England

Grimsey, Cyril James G, 148404, 4516, England

Gusscott, Louis Patrick, 33096, 5017, New Zealand

Hardie, Ian Alexander, WX2371, 4507, Australia

Harman, Geoffrey Bertrand, 4321, 5396, New Zealand

Harrington, Stanley Richard, 32257, 5412, New Zealand

Hastie, Alexander Brown, 33750, 5257, New Zealand

Heenan, Colin William, 8571, 5411, New Zealand

Herbert, Cyril M, S/154217, 4539, England

Hewett, Arthur, 2197321, 4576, England

Hodson, Herbert Joseph, 20661, 5437, New Zealand

Holmes, Howard John, 37054, 5119, New Zealand

Holt, Walter Gerald, NX12348, 4501, Australia

Howes, George Richard, NX2918, 4580, Australia

Hurren, Frederick Henry, S/94377, 4504, England

Jackson, Alexander Peter, 1769, 5424, New Zealand

Johnson, Henry, 888099, 4563, England

Johnstone, Robert Aitcheson, VX8887, 4550, Australia

Jones, Frederick Cyril Charles, 34810, 5302, New Zealand

Kirk, James, 30071, 4593, New Zealand

Kollias, Anastasios, Greece

Lechmere, R.J, T/203874, 4616, England

Leviston, Aubrey Reginald, VX7803, 4568, Australia

Lythgoe, Frederick (AKA Rocky), 4915533, 4547, England

Magee, John James, 32086, 5496, New Zealand

McDonald, Leonard Edwin, 22289, 4566, New Zealand

McInerney, John Patrick, NX8406, 4519, Australia

McKain, Frederick James Dunmore, 6488, 4520, New Zealand

McLean, Alexander, 7902927, 4506, England

Miller, John Walter, 7527, 4608, New Zealand

Mitchell, Bernard, 4973574, 4573, England

Molloy, John Joseph, QX7772, 4603, Australia

Moss, John, 4745238, 4536, England

Neale, Roy Errol, 5736, New Zealand

Nuttall, James, 902868, 4522, England

O’Grady, James Clyde, NX30721, 4597, Australia

Osborn, J.J, 6898510, 4595, England

Palmer, T.G.W, 7347235, 4526, England

Pearce, Sydney Emden, NX33248, 4518, Australia

Pedersen, Walter Vernon, VX5571, 4515, Australia

Pestell, R.G, T/73338, 4528, England

Petersen, Charles Amos George (Vic), WX571, 4538, Australia

Petrou, Ioannis, Greece

Pooley, A.E, 210653, 4583, England

Powell, Ray Edward, VX1114, 4569, Australia

Prichard, Jack H, 6849702, 4600, England

Pullenayagam, Joseph Patrick, 7297, Sri Lanka

Pyatt, E, T/182533, 4558, England

Rainford, Douglas, NX1497, 4601, Australia

Rattenbury, John Alfred, NX6877, 5331, Australia

Rees, Edward, 13237, 4591, New Zealand

Rice, F.J, T/117358, 4594, England

Ring, Cyril James, WX2058, 4540, Australia

Roberts, G.A, 132569, 4615, England

Rogers, J, 148797, 4557, England

Shaw, Ernest, 8613, 4525, New Zealand

Sherriff, Harold, 10670180, 4502, England

Shirley, Stanley, 9036, 4533, New Zealand

Singleton, Jack, 1457787, 4537, England

Skinner, J.E, 218039, 4542, England

Smith, Loris Richard, NX15308, 4521, Australia

Stirling, Leslie Douglas, 6846877, 4517, England

Stratton, Herbert Ernest, WX547, 4561, Australia

Stubbs, Arthur Gordon, 4379, 5508, New Zealand

Stuckey, John Edward, NX11243, 4567, Australia

Tatton, John Thomas, 4973903, 4571, England

Thompson, J, P/SSX20790, 4551, England

Todd, Arthur Skuse, 7272, 7878, New Zealand

Topia, William, 22724, New Zealand

Tyrer, E, 905373, 4579, England

Veevers, R, 1441331, 4552, England

Walker, D.A, T/111909, 4572, England

Walters, F, CH/X3473, 4543, England

Warburton, H, 1058195, 4554, England

Weatherall, William, 862968, 4535, England

West, Leonard Gordon, VX5561, 4586, Australia

Whatling, Clive Joy, 902385, 4599, England

Whitcombe, John Douglas, 22768, 4605, New Zealand

Woods, Laurience Samuel, WX443, 4564, Australia

Wynn, Thomas Peter, 898637, 4577, England

If you recognize any names on this list, and can help with this, please make contact with us at Tymbakionshortsproject@gmail.com

Andrew Holyoake (New Zealand), Tony and Deb Buirchell (Australia). 

Thanks to Mike Smythe for hosting this search, and to Mitchell Adair for the photography.

UPDATE 2/08/21

Tony and Deb Buirchell have been inundated by interested people whose relations were in the Australian Military Forces who fought on Crete. Over 25 replies were received as a reaction to three advertisements in the local Western Australian newspaper in a section called ‘Can we Help You”.

The main questions the Project is hoping to answer are:

1. Who made the canvas shorts and where were they made?

2. Where were the canvas shorts signed?

3. What was Tymbakion?

4. What do we know about the men who signed the canvas shorts?

A comprehensive diary by Charles (Vic) Petersen, WX571 came to light thanks to Sue and Grant Petersen. It covers every day of Vic’s incarceration from June 6th, 1941 to his release from a POW camp in 1945

Another diary kept by Ian Alexander Hardie WX2371 is being followed up thanks to Ian’s two daughters Helen and Janet.

From the Vic Petersen diary it has been found that what may be the final group of allied POWs left in Crete were rounded up on 11th September, 1941 and  embarked on the ship Norburg in Souda Bay. The men were taken to Iraklion before being sent in trucks over the mountains to the southern side of Crete. Here they were imprisoned at a place near the town of Tympaki.

A study of the Army Records and Red Cross Cards for all the Australian signatories on the shorts showed that Tymbakion was mentioned 18 times leading to a possible place where all the men on the shorts may have been together.

Vic talks to being forced to pull out ancient olive trees to make an aerodrome runway. After four months the men were taken by truck to Souda Bay. From here they sailed to Salonika and then put on trains to a range of Stalags in Germany and Poland.

The answers to the original questions are somewhere in these movements. The search goes on, can you help?

If you recognize any names on this list, and can help with this, please make contact with us at Tymbakionshortsproject@gmail.com