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World War veteran's search for fellow Nazi camp survivors

James Johnstone, known as Jimmy, was captured by German troops in northern France.

World War: Veteran searching for fellow survivors.
World War: Veteran searching for fellow survivors.

A prisoner of war locked up for five years during the Second World War despite two daring escape bids is now searching for any other surviving soldiers from Nazi camps.

James Johnstone, known as Jimmy, was captured by German troops in northern France after the battle for Saint-Valery-en-Caux.

Now 98, the former soldier recalled how he was wounded in the battle and then shepherded to slave labour camps in Poland and Germany alongside thousands of fellow British troops on a "death march".

Mr Johnstone, who lives alone in Aberdeen, is appealing for any of his fellow prisoners - or their families - to get in touch with him through the Scottish War Blinded charity to reminisce about their experiences.

The veteran enlisted with the Royal Engineers in 1937 when he was just 16 and two years later he was called up with the 51st Highland Division and travelled to fight in France.

After the battle at St Valery in June 1940, the surrendered troops were captured by Nazi forces and forced to walk hundreds of miles to the Stalag camps in Germany, via Belgium and the Netherlands.

Working 12 hours a day in the labour camps, Mr Johnstone was forced to load coal on to German trucks with "just watery soup and a German loaf between five men" for food.

In June 1943, he managed to go on the run for a fortnight with his friend who was also a prisoner of war, Jackie Lockwood, by disguising themselves as Polish civilians with the letter "P" on their clothing.

Two years later, the prisoners of war were being marched to another camp in Germany when he attempted a second bid for freedom with three other Britons - Gerald Fury, Bert Petrie and Jim Watt. After the war, Mr Johnstone served in the Royal Engineers Territorial Army, finishing up as a sergeant.

He later enjoyed careers with the postal service and as a civil servant. Mr Johnstone, who has limited vision due to macular degeneration in his eyes, said he would like to hear from any other survivors, especially Private 'Kleats' McKenzie of the Seaforth Highlanders, Jackie Lockwood, Gerald Fury, Bert Petrie and Jim Watt.

He said: "A lot of people say 'Jimmy, you've got sheer bloody determination'. "A lot of people say I have led a very unusual, interesting life. I have lived.

"My home help, Scottish War Blinded and all people who pay a visit - that's the reason I maintain I'm still here."

Any survivors of the events Mr Johnstone experienced, or a relative willing to speak to him, are asked to contact the charity on 0800 035 6409.

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