University of Oxford
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A Prisoner-of-War Camp Commander

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

My father, Ronald William George Mason was 30 years old when he was called up for military service in 1942 and entered the Royal Army Pay Corps. He progressed rapidly to the rank of Lieutenant and was despatched to Italy.

Lieutenant Mason and his fellow officers were required to learn basic German, so they had to attend regular classes for this purpose. Ron Mason was, however, proficient in German and French, and was, therefore, excused these lessons. As they were based in Rimini, he regularly occupied his time swimming in the Mediterranean while the other officers attended their lessons.

For much of his time in Northern Italy, Lieutenant Mason was in charge of a Bassuto regimental company repairing war damaged roads and bridges. In the latter stages of the war he was promoted to Acting Captain and placed in command of a prisoner-of-war camp, for German soldiers, at Cortina d'Ampezzo, in the Dolomites. Not far from the Austrian border. He never divulged to the German POWs that he spoke their language. He therefore learnt things that they would rather he didn't know, but there were never any escape attempts.

Obtaining sufficient rations for the camp's inmates was a constant problem, but, somehow, Captain Mason succeeded in keeping them all relatively healthy. At Christmas, 1945, he even managed to get a supply of oranges, enough to give all of the prisoners one each as a Christmas present. It was well into 1946 before the repatriation of the German prisoners-of-war was completed. When he returned home to England, Ron Mason received several letters from former German inmates of the Cortina d'Ampezzo camp, telling how hard life was back in Germany immediately after the war, but remembering the 'not-so-bad' times in the camp and, especially the Christmas Orange gift.


Item list and details

1. Photo of Acting Captain Ronald W G Mason 2. Photo of this story

Person the story/items relate to

Ronald Mason

Person who shared the story/items

Pamela Goodin

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

My father

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID