WWII hero who escaped from Nazi PoW camp dies aged 102
AN RAF doctor who escaped from a Second World War PoW camp has sadly passed away
Tom Cullen, from Kelvedon, Essex, qualified as a doctor in September 1939.
He joined the RAF and was posted first to Egypt and Greece, and then to Crete, which was under heavy attack by the Luftwaffe.
Although suffering from dysentery, he tended to hundreds of wounded men without the benefits of proper lighting, sterilising equipment, antibiotics or even an operating table.
In 1940 he was captured when Hill 107, now the final resting place of 4,465 soldiers in Crete, was overrun.
He was taken on a 12-day journey by train to Stalag XXA, a prisoner of war camp in Poland.
It was a fort surrounded by a moat and was guarded by armed soldiers in watch towers.
By late 1943, Tom was actively involved in planning to escape with promised help from the Polish resistance movement, and on February 29, 1944, at about midnight, he and a friend managed to cross the frozen moat, climb the fence and were spirited away by the locals.
Family friend Harry Carlo said: “All the guards had rushed to deal with a ‘riot’ by all the other prisoners, stage-managed with such success that neither man was hindered in their dash to freedom.
“In the safe hands of local Poles they were soon spirited away to Gydinia, a port on the Baltic, put below deck in a ship loading coal and 36 hours later arrived in Malmo in neutral Sweden from where they were flown home.”
Tom was later awarded a Military MBE for his “heroic” work as a doctor in the prison camp and after being demobbed, he worked as a surgeon in Kettering General Hospital.
He married wife Molly and they went on to have four children.