Pte Laurence 'Pat' Horton
On the 19 October 1919, Laurence, or as he preferred to be known, Pat, was born in the country town of Yass.
At the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939, Pat was living at Palm Beach where his parents managed the famous “Jonahs” restaurant Pat enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on the 6 June 1940, and due to his young age and previous work as a trainee Technician in the Pathology Laboratory of the Mental Hospital Dept. was attached to the newly formed 2/5 Australian General Hospital.
On 20 October 1940, the day after his 20 birthday, Pat sailed with his Unit on HMT Queen Mary, via Fremantle to Bombay. Travelling from Bombay on the French ship President Doumier, they disembarked at El Kantara – to Gaza Ridge for a few days – then on to Rehovot where they set up the hospital until being told to pack up for a move to a battle zone in Greece. They travelled on the Dutch ship Pennland to Athens, and early in 1941 established a 1200 bed fully operational hospital, under canvas, in the village of Ekali, Greece.
This was to be short-lived however, because of the rapid advancement of the German Forces, the evacuation of some of the hospital staff took place. Pat was among the 167 personnel who were detailed to stay behind to tend to the wounded who were too ill to be evacuated.
On the 27 April 1941, the German Forces overran and captured the hospital, and all the staff was taken Prisoners Of War. The hospital was moved by the Germans to a building in Kokinnia and operated under German Control until December. The 2/5 AGH staff and others were then transported to a Prisoner Of War camp at Fort 15 – Stalag XXA – Torun (Thorn) – Poland.
In September 1943, there was an exchange of British and Australian medical personnel and wounded against German POW’s held in Britain. RSM, Don Mould assembled all the Australians at Fort XV, to advise them of the move and asked for six volunteers to stay and keep an Australian presence among those left behind.
“There were quite a number of Australians among the working parties still in Poland”Five responded – Stan Bobridge – Ralph Johnson – Peter Morris – Vince Egan and Pat Horton.
On 10 October the five volunteers were moved temporarily to Fort 13, the separated to other POW camps. Pat and Ralph Johnson were sent to Graudenz and moved twice more, once to Stalag 357 at Thorn, then in August 1944 to Fallingbostel near Hanover, Germany.
During his four years imprisonment Pat worked in various sections of prison camps, including setting up his own pathology laboratory at Stalag 357, Thorn, with Doctor Frank Meyer as his mentor. Pat remained in captivity until his release on 17 April 1945. He returned to his family home at Clovelly, and was discharged on 26 July 1945.
Story and photos kindly submitted by Pat’s daughter Louise Howieson, with permission to reproduce on the 2/5 AGH Website -- 2009