The following written statement was provided by Lieutenant Bromage for the court martial of Theodore Schurch.
Statement of Lieutenant J.H. Bromage, RN.
Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham.
17 August 1945.
STATEMENT OF: Lieutenant John Henry BROMAGE, RN of HMS “Victory” Portsmouth.
I was taken prisoner of war on 24 April 1943 after my submarine HMS SAHIB of which I was Commanding Officer had been depth charged in the Mediterranean.
On Easter Sunday 25 April 1943, I was taken to an interrogation Camp at Camp 50, Cavalry Barracks in Rome, where I met a South African Corporal, named “Jan”, a Private in the Welsh Fusiliers or a Welsh Regiment and a Captain John Richards of the RASC. Richards was wearing British battledress with three pips.
At the very first meeting on the Easter Sunday I had a conversation which lasted a while with Richards. We discussed prisoner of war life. He told me he had been captured in February 1943 near Tripoli. At the time I was wearing, as were 5 other officers and about 20 ratings of my ships Company, Italian Convict white suits. Richards had gathered that I was formerly the Commanding Officer of H.M. Submarine Sahib.
Until Wednesday 28 April 1943, I was in solitary confinement and did not meet Richards again until that day. He had his meals with us and in fact everybody at this camp was very closely associated as there was not much room to move about.
While I was at the camp I had conversations with Lieutenant Hardy, formerly Navigating Officer of H.M. Submarine Splendid, on various matters concerning submarines and details of our capture. During these conversations we may well have mentioned “Ben” Bryants name. Conversations I had with Hardy may have been overheard by Richards, but it is so long ago that I have no clear recollection of my discussions with Hardy.
Four or five days afterwards, about Monday 3 May 1943, Richards asked if he could have a private interview with me. I agreed and saw him alone. He then told me in confidence that he was not an officer, but Corporal Schurch, Official No. 16711, I think, and he had been captured in the first push at Benghazi, I believe. He told me his Father was Head Night Porter at the Savoy Hotel, London, and he himself had been born in London where he had lived and also has a sister there. After his capture he said that he had been sent to a transit camp as an ordinary prisoner, but had later been sent for by the Italians who had learned of his German parentage and had threatened that unless he co-operated with the Italians, they would “frame” his parents in London. Schurch said he agreed to work for the Italians and had since done so in Transit Camp as in North Africa, and had passed inaccurate information back to the Italians, using his discretion as to when to give true information, in order to deceive the Italian Authorities. He explained he had been acting as a “Stooge” and had told two or three other officers before telling me. He asked me what he should do when he was recaptured by our own forces, when I advised him to apply for Court-Martial when he could state his case.
Two or three days afterward, SCHURCH saw me again privately and produced a document in English on which were typed about ten questions relating to the armament of the modern submarine including RDF. I gave him a number of wrong answers to some of the questions and told him to say that to the remaining questions he could get no answer.
After my release from solitary confinement, SCHURCH shared a room with HARDY, Lieutenant PEYTON-JONES, RN formerly of the “Sahib” and myself.
I was told by my Coxswain, Chief Petty Officer FLACK, on the first day or two that I was at the Camp that Captain Richards had warned him and other members of my ship’s Company to be very wary of “stooges” in the camp, saying jocularly that he may be one himself.
I remained at the Camp for three weeks altogether and SCHURCH stayed there as well. He was still there when I left on Monday 17 May 1943, for Camp 39 at Padula where I made a verbal report regarding SCHURCH otherwise Richards to the late Commander Scurfield, RN.
I could identify “Captain John Richards” again.
I feel I ought to state that he was in a highly nervous condition and very seedy during the whole period at the Camp in Rome.
This statement has been read over to me and is true.
Sgd. J.H. BROMAGE,
Lieutenant Royal Navy.
Statement taken by me in the presence of Mr. L.J. BURT, read over and signature witnessed by me.
Sgd. P.A. EDWARDS.
Following the sinking of HMS Bedouin in the Mediterranean by Italian aircraft during the afternoon of 15 June 1942, Commander Scurfiled and 208 survivors were picked up by Italian ships. They spent the rest of the war as German Prisoners-of-War.
On 11 April 1945, shortly before the termination of hostilities, the POW camp was evacuated. The prisoners being marched along the road were mistaken for German troops and machined-gunned by British aircraft. Commander Scurfield was one of those POWs killed, and is now buried in Becklingen War Cemetery in Germany.