AN illustrated and harrowing diary of a prisoner of war’s ordeal has been uncovered after gathering dust for more than 60 years.

Marilyn Buttery, of Billingham, near Stockton, made an emotional 6,500- mile round trip to retrieve the valuable historical document, which records her father, George Gidney’s four years in Stalag VIII-B.

The Middlesbrough-born Army private had fought in North Africa with the Desert Rats before being taken captive by the Germans in Italy, in 1941.

Aged 21, he was shipped by cattle truck to the prisoner of war camp, on the Polish-German border, where he began his wartime log.

The diary is a mixture of sketches, cartoons, musings and poems by him and his fellow PoWs, and includes a dramatic account of preparing for a bombing raid in 1942.

The cartoons poke fun at the squalor and meagre rations in Stalag VIII-B.

It also lists a number of British officers executed after trying to escape from another German Stalag – an incident made famous in the film The Great Escape.

But after being gripped by dysentery and fearing he was about to die, Private Gidney handed his memoirs to fellow captive Howard Jones, a Canadian airman he had befriended, who promised to pass it on to his family.

However, Flight Lieutenant Jones’ search for the Englishman’s relatives proved fruitless and the journal was placed in a box when he returned home.

Flt Lt Jones died in his native Canada in 1980, while George passed away two years later, aged 63, after suffering from cancer.

His treasured memoirs lay for years gathering dust in the Ottawa home of Flt Lt Jones’ daughter, Maureen Manningham, before she decided to try to track down George’s family.

Mrs Buttery, 59, who was eventually traced via the British Red Cross, said: “I knew there had been a diary, but dad never talked much about his time in the prison camp.

“I have cried over the book many times. Finding this has been an emotional rollercoaster.”

She is contemplating donating the diary to the Imperial War Museum, in London.