Woollen escape jacket

This grey woollen jacket, made from an army blanket, was worn by Brigadier Reginald Miles CBE DSO MC during his escape from a prisoner of war camp in Italy.

Miles was the commander of the New Zealand divisional artillery. He was captured when one of his field regiments was overrun by German Panzers near Belhamed on 1 December 1941, the biggest disaster to befall New Zealand gunners in the entire war.

He was interned in Castello Vincigliata (Camp No 12), a high-security prison for senior Allied officers near Florence, Italy. In March 1943 he made a dramatic escape with another New Zealand brigadier, James Hargest, after five months' tunnelling under the castle walls with a kitchen knife and iron bars. The pair made it to Switzerland and with the help of the French Resistance eventually made their way into Spain.

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What do you know?

Michael Moores LeBlanc

Posted: 03 Aug 2010

I am a student of evasion lines active in Europe in WWII. Here are some of the notes I have made during the course of my 'superficial' research with regard to Brig Miles's evasion. I would certainly like to know what evidence there is for the claim that Brig Miles actually committed suicide. It seems odd he would do so having just achieved the freedom he was after. I suspect there is more to his story that what has been suggested. Sincerely Michael Moores LeBlanc Canada ‘Wilson’. Names used by un-identified British General. (aka Maurice Wilson?). Evac-via Françoise Dissard Line or Sherry? Brigadier General Reginald Miles. CBE. RNZ Army Artillery. Escaped Pow from Italy. E-Spain ca 20 October 1943. † Committed suicide or murdered in Fugeres, Spain, south of Perpignan. † 20/10/43. Age 50. On orders from Marie Odile, Gaby established contact with Mr Zurcher. An English General (alias Wilson) was brought to Mr Zurcher by Gaby and dressed as a station master. General Wilson was passed into Spain by a railway employee whose name is not known. (evac via ‘Georges’ Gabriel Nahas) As per Gabriel Nahas: “ ... During the course of the autumn of 1943 (October, November and December 1943), I went on many missions to Switzerland. I arranged the passage, from Switzerland to Spain of two British Generals (Miles and Hargest). In Geneva I met Victor Farrel, who put me in touch with Francoise who was involved in an evasion line for allied airmen ...” (MML note: The English ‘General Wilson’ mentioned was Brigadier Reginald Miles of New Zealand. Captured in North Africa, together with Gen Carton de Wiart VC, Sir Richard O’Connor VC, Brigadier General Hargest, escaped from Castello di Vincigliati prison, above Florence, Italy, by tunnel, on 29/03/43 and then reached Switzerland. According to Foote & Langley in their book MI-9 Escape & Evasion 1939-1945, oddly enough, when Brigidier Miles eventually reached Spain safely, he committed suicide († 20/10/43). Some believe Miles was assassinated. He is buried at Fugeres, Spain, within 25 kilometers of the border). Hargest was KIA in Normany the following year. ————————————————————————————————————