Bowling club to celebrate 100-year-old ex-serviceman
Woy Woy Bowling Club is holding a special celebration in honour of local man, Mr Felix Seady, from 12pm on Sunday, February 4.
Mr Seady has been a member of the club for over 20 years and has just recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
Mr Seady is a World War II veteran who escaped a German prisoner-of-war camp.
Following his escape, he was able to pass along vital intelligence to the British Forces which saw him receive a special mention from King George VI.
Member for Robertson Ms Lucy Wicks is seeking a special congratulation for Mr Seady from the Queen.
Mr Seady has reflected on his long life in a letter to the Peninsula News.
"I was born in a small town, Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, just inland near Port Elizabeth on the January 19, 1918.
"When the Second World War was declared I joined a unit of the South African Engineers named the 2nd Field Company.
"We were trained in the use of explosives, particularly land mines, used to destroy tanks and heavy vehicles.
"We were shipped to Egypt and became involved in desert warfare immediately.
"On my birthday in 1942, I had a narrow escape from being blown up by a German Springer Mine.
"This mine is buried deeper. It fires a charge into the base of the mine which blasts it out of the ground like a missile that explodes above the ground, killing everyone nearby," Mr Seady recalled.
"In my case, the secondary fuse failed. My guardian angel must have been sitting on it.
"One of our major operations was the capture of a fortress town called Bardia, on the coast near Tibruk.
"It was very similar to the famous Tobruk with minefields and barbed wire etc.
"I was in command of one team of 12 sappers.
"My title was Sapper Sergeant," he continued.
"We went in before dawn under a barrage of artillery, occasionally a shell would land short. It was hair raising.
"We destroyed the mines with an explosive mat and cleared the barbed wire with four explosive torpedos.
"We made these ourselves, using a four-inch water pipe stuffed with TNT explosive, four meters long.
"They were called Bangalore Torpedos.
"They were pushed through the barbed wire, about two metres apart and detonated.
"The barbed wire was actually disintegrated.
"Our tanks and trucks poured through the gaps and within two days the enemy surrendered.
"I was honoured by the British King for my participation in this action and awarded a Mention in Dispatches.
"We were in a defence line at Gazala, just west of Tobruk, when Rommel attacked us by going deep into the desert.
"I was left behind with six Sappers to destroy the pass at the top of the defence line.
"Unfortunately, once we had done that, the Rommel tanks had cut off our escape route and we were the only prisoners-of-war of our company, housed at Stalag IV in Germany, just south of Hamburg.
"We were privileged to witness the 1000 bomber raids over Germany.
"The American Airforce by day and the RAF by night.
"It was difficult to realise that 1000 bombers occupied the sky from horizon to horizon and it went on without stop for 24 hours.
"Of course, the daylight bombers were spectacular with their vapour trails.
"These bombers certainly caused the German Army to put an end to the conflict," Mr Seady said.
Mr Seady also reflected on his time imprisoned at Scheissen Block.
"Our toilet at Stalag IV consisted of a concrete tank about 20 metres by10 metres by four metres high.
"The top was covered with wood with rows of rectangular holes for us to use.
"No roof nor walls.
"The contents of this concrete tank were pumped by hand into a tank on wheels drawn by a cow.
"The odorous and messy operation was done by a squad of five Russian POW's.
"The contents were sprayed outside the Stalag on a vegetable farm
"The vegetables seemed to thrive on the organic fertilizer.
"Our food was a soup and the vegetables were from the farm.
"Very tasty," he joked.
"Early in 1945, we heard that we were going to be moved northwards to the Baltic Coast.
"What's more, there would be no transport. We would be walking.
"That was the final straw.
"Another South African POW was a good friend said to me, that we must escape on the march and I agreed.
"It would be dangerous because we would be shot if we failed.
"Then God stepped in with a better plan.
"The Stalag consisted of three compounds each housing a few thousand POW's.
"We were to be evacuated one compound a day.
"We were in number three compound and would be the last.
"We watched the evacuation of compounds one and two.
"After these were completed, the dogs were brought in during the evening into compounds one and two and checked for escapees, then again checked the next morning," Mr Seady said.
"When night fell, we dug a small trench under the single fence between compounds two and three.
"We slid through easily, being sleek and thin.
"We filled in the evacuation and smoothed over the earth.
"We then dug a small trench under a selected bungalow; the bungalows were two feet above the ground to prevent tunnelling.
"Then our secret weapon, anti-lice powder.
"The Germans gave us this vile smelling powder to kill body lice, which was bearable.
"Most POWS never used the powder, they preferred the lice so there was plenty of lice powder available.
"We sprinkled copious amounts of lice powder under the bungalow.
"When they brought the dogs in, the dogs would not go under into the lice powder as we lay in our shallow trench in the middle under the bungalow.
"The same happened the next morning with the dogs.
"We laid the powder under the bungalow until that night.
"Then we set out westwards toward the invasion forces.
"We were lucky to come across a storehouse with some food and we never moved in the day until we noticed some British tanks on the road.
"We called to them in English and they responded.
"We came out of hiding, with our hands in the air.
"They made such a fuss of us and radioed for a transport.
"We told them there were no German armoured vehicles in the area and we were then transported in a jeep to a nearby airport, and then flown to England.
"After a few weeks we were flown to South Africa in an old Dakota.
"It took five days, then home," Mr Seady recalled.
"The army gave me leave, pending demobilisation, and I slowly returned to normal.
"On demobilisation, I went back to work for the South African Railways, who had kept my job open, but with a difference.
"I had been promoted as a draughtsman in the Chief Engineers Head Office in Pretoria.
"I continued my studies, part time at night at the Technical College and eventually obtained an Engineering Diploma and a Technical Teachers Certificate.
"I had applied for a grant to attend University, but to no avail.
"The National Party won the 1948 elections and South African ex-servicemen were not the flavour of the decade.
"Even before the Nationals got in, we received no help whatsoever.
"So ended my war experiences, which played a major part in my life.
"So many of us went to war, experienced traumatic episodes and came back quite different people.
"I still keep up membership in ex-service organisations and enjoy our regular get togethers where we share memories of those times.
"Writing this account was mainly for my family, but it has made me realise that fellow ex-servicemen would also enjoy sharing this narrative," Mr Seady concluded.
Media release, 12 Jan 2017
Anne Jenkins, Woy Woy Bowling Club