Other Memories of Dunkirk
Of course it had to come, Hitler had been seizing all the smaller states and threatening others. So when he marched on Poland it was the last straw, for Britain had warned him that we would not stand idly by, but would go to the aid of Poland.
It was the 3rd September 1939, and I was digging air-raid shelters when I heard that we were at war with Germany; and it was only the day before, that I had received my calling up papers, so it looked as though I would be in for some excitement.
I lived in Bristol at this time, and as I was to join the local regiment which was the "GLOUCESTERSHIRE" it meant that my training would be done at the Horfield Barracks, Bristol. So on the 15th September 1939, I presented myself at the correct hour, was "kitted out" that is the term used by the army for being given a uniform and all that goes with it, such as a rifle & bayonet, equipment and a housewife; no a housewife is not a lady, but a small cloth pouch with needles and cotton in, so that you can mend your own clothes, not quite so exciting, infact just the opposite, with all the name tags to be sewn on, the boots to be burnished, the equipment to be blanco'ed, and the brass to be cleaned. This was the first bit of training, where a man had to learn discipline, up at 6am wash - shave, make-up beds, polish barrack room floor and on parade in gym kit by 7am for P.E before breakfast, then at 9am it would be on parade, fully dressed for the C.O.s inspection, before a full day of drill and training for the day when you would have to face the enemy.
After eight weeks of this basic training we were split into groups and I was sent to the rugby ground with some others to have instructions on driving, although all of us held driving licences, we had to learn to drive the army way.
All this time the war was going on, but no real action had taken place as far as the army were concerned; at the start some soldiers had been sent to France and this force had been called the B.E.F ( British Expeditionry Force ) but their main function seemed to be digging anti-tank traps along the Belgium border, with an occasional trip up in front of the MAGINOT LINE, "this being a concrete structure along the German & French border, manned by the French army" and our men would go out on patrol to see what the German soldiers were doing in their defence line which was called the SIEGFREDE LINE
Our navy had been more active and had won a victory by making a German captain scuttle his boat which was a pocket battleship called the "GRAF SPEEY".
On the other hand the R.A.F much to a lot of peoples annoyance had been going over to Germany nearly every night dropping "no not bombs" but leaflets.
So Christmas came and so did the end of the year with nothing much done by us, it seemed to be just a war of nerves; even the German troops seemed to be doing nothing now as the war with Poland only lasted a few days because the Polish army was no match for the might of the Germans.
After another eight weeks of training at the rugby ground we were finished as far as training was concerned and ready to be sent to a unit for active service, so another move, this time to the county cricket ground to await our allocation to whatever we were assigned to. During this time things were very easy and apart from having to get a lot of innoculations, we did not have much to do, I went out two or three times as a bearer on military funerals.
At last we got "drafted" which means that we knew where we were to be some had tropical kit issued to go to India to join our 1st battalion, but me and my mates were to be sent to France to join the 2nd battalion, at last we would be going to do something for our country.
So on Good Friday 1940, we bought hot cross buns on the railway station as we enbarked for our journey and sung songs like "we're going to hang out the washing on the SEGFREAD LINE" and "RUN ADOLF", as we sped through Southern England; to board the boat, which was to take us across the channel.
It was just after daylight when we dissembarked at Le Harvre was taken to a train for a three day and night ride to where our detatchment was. I do not know why the journey took so long, I can only assume that we were taken around a bit to throw any enemy agents off knowing how many troops were going to different places.
Mud and clay, digging deep anti-tank traps, so this was our lot as soon as we arrived at the unit, then sometimes at night we would be sent out in the woods in sections to have an exercise in compass reading, all the same things that we had been taught in England but now more intent.
We heard Revalli blown on the bugle but it was not the usual time; infact it was only just getting light, so what was it all about, the day was the 10th May 1940. When we all got on parade our O/C "officer commanding" told us that the German troops had started to invade Belgium. This was a very serious thing as Belgium had said at the start of the war that she would remain neutral, now King Leopold asked for help to try and save them; this of course meant that we went across Belgium to try and stop the Germans, our section went up as far as Waterloo, it's the place where Napolian made his stand, but I must say we did not; we spent a couple of days and nights dug in on a bank but never saw any enemy soldiers, only heard the shelling as barrages were layed to try and stop them advancing but Germany had a more modern army and troops were transported, by coach, car, motorcycle, with side-cars and even bicycles, so he could out-flank us, and we started to pull back, marching back by day and digging in a 'foxhole' at night, a foxhole was a small hole to give you a bit of protection if you were attacked during the night.
After a few days of this, the roads began to get very overcrowded, with refugees as families moved back with whatever they could take out of their homes, it was a heartbreaking sight at times as some of the poorer people would try to transport a sick old relative on a small cart, with the children crying for lost or killed mothers, animals left to starve, and then the German 'Luftwaff' started to make matters worse by flying low along the roads, straffing and dropping aerial bombs down on everyone. At one point along this withdrawal it was arranged for us to be picked up by lorries to try and get us back far enough to make a good line of defence: The lorryies picked us up as arranged, but before we had travelled very far the stukas came down and what a mess, the truck that I was in got bombed just as we were trying to get out, my mate sat next to me got the full force, I was lucky as the force sent me sprawling to the ground, and I was only dazed. We then set up on the edge of the Albert canel where the Germans got on the other side and sent up a balloon with an observer to find out where we were, it was very demoralising to us, and by the all that was left of our R.A.F had been recalled to Britain.
After two or three more days we were on the move again , this time we were to go back over the border into France for a rest as you must remember that from the time that we had left France we had only had odd snoozes while we were standing up in trenches, when one man of the section was watching for the enemy; its surprising what strains that the human body can stand.
Well what a relief, we have had that rest as promised, and a bath, shave and some cooked food, now what, the rumour is that we are going back to England, for re-grouping, it's quite on the cards; as we have lost quite a lot of our equipment, I had lost my rifle when we had been bombed, and had been made the 'Bren Gunner' in my section. At last we are on parade and the Brigadier addresses us, it appeared that the rumour had been correct, BUT our Brigadier had decided to volunteer for us to try and hold the Germans back while as many as possible was evacuated from Dunkirk. So this was the way that things were to be.
We now moved up to a place called Cassel, it's about 30km from Dunkirk and stands on top of a hill and on the 29th May 1940. 'AT Dawn' our Company of 164 men made our way out of Cassel to take up positions in the village at enbankment, it must have been about 10 or 11 o'clock before any action started, then we observed the Germans in the distance going into the village another way, they appeared to be cycle patrol , and not near enough to us for us to take any action. The day was getting very hot by now, and we were not able to get any shade, we could hear the other sections engaging the enemy, then they were coming towards us so we started to fire; this held them up, but not for very long, as we could see their next move was to go over the railway embankment to approach us from behind, so we had to get out; fast. We then went to the house that our O/C had made his H/Q outside was our company truck , burning fiercely, 'having been hit by an anti-tank shell', inside the house the wounded were being attended to, down in the cellar, we took up positions at the windows and started firing again at the Germans, as by now they were coming at us from all sides, the next thing was "A CRASH AND A FLASH" as a German grenade came through the window, then the back door caved in and the Germans were shouting to us to come out with our hands up, and as we did so, some of them kicked us up the backside while others shouted "FOR YOU THE WAR IS OVER TOMMY".
We were then lined up and searched, it was very very unpleasant as we did not know what the Germans would do next, it was easy to see that one or two of them was all for shooting us on the spot. 'It is understandable when you realise that probably during the battle, we had killed and wounded some of their friends; but war is war, and we had lost friends too, infact there was only 36 of us left out of 164 which had started out for Belgium on the 10th'. But thank goodness their better nature prevailed, so they made us form up in threes and marched us off back through the lines. 'We were a very sad and sorry sight, utterly dejected, and frustrated, with the German troops taking photos of us, and shouting catcalls to us about how "ENGLAND WAS CAPOOT", meaning that England was finished, and they would be in London the next week.
As the sun began to set that evening we were all taken into a small field, and guards posted around the outside, ready to shoot anyone who tried to escape, most of us though were too weary to do anything else but drop down and rest. But as the night went on it got colder, then the dew began to form on the grass, we were all waking up stiff and cold and cramped, as we now only had the clothes we stood up in, and their was no hot drink to warm us up, infact nothing had we received from our captors. The sun came up and we began to feel a little better, soon the Germans got us going again and as we went along we were joined by more and more prisoners of war until it looked like one continuous stream along the road, as the day wore on, it got hotter again, and as we passed through the small french villages, the women would risk getting shot at to give us a drop of water, and perhaps if we were lucky a bit of bread or a smoke, and as evening approached we were taken to a field again, for the night; but as we went in this time the Germans had a boiler full of potatoes boiled in their jackets, and each p.o.w was given two or three, it was not much, but better than nothing I suppose. The next couple of days was about the same , then we reached the town of Canbera and were taken to the French cavalry barracks and remained there for a few days, being taken out in small numbers by the guards to do odd little jobs, it was when I was returning from one of these jobs that we saw Adolf Hitler go through on his way to Paris.
By now though we were all in bad shape, as we all had got lice, from not being able to wash, and we all had diarrhoea or dysentry, through not having any propper food.
At last we finished being marched and were put into cattle trucks on a train to go through Luxembourg and on into Trieste on the German border.
We then had some properly cooked soup and put on the train again to be taken right across Germany and into Poland, a journey which took us nearly a week, as by now the British bombers had stopped dropping leaflets and was at last dropping the real thing, and causing quite a bit of havoc to the towns and cities of Germany.
In Poland we were taken to a place called TOREN it was a town made up of forts with damp dungeon type passages inside, and we all had our old clothes taken from us, we went into showers, and our clothes were put into steam ovens to kill the lice, then we got them back, after that we had our registration as P.O.W. given a number and had our photo taken, so that we now had the protection of the international Red Cross; 'a very important thing for us as Germany now had to account for anything that might happen to us. For the rest of 1940 our lives were very dull as we had nothing to do but walk round and round on the small grass hill in the centre of the fort, and the Germans printed a small paper in English about once a month, which they issued to us, which told us of some terrifying things that was happening to Britain, Coventry flattened ,London bombed every night, Bristol centre in rubble, then the navy sunk. 'O what frustration for us '. All this happening to all our families and we can do nothing but walk around in small circles! And we were told that after Germany won the war, we would not be going home until we had rebuilt all that our bombers had done to the German cities.
All this time at least our food was regular, it was not very much, just a bowl of soup a day, with a bit of bread about 3 slices, and a small knob of margarine'and a spoonful of jam once or twice a week'.
We had a barbers shop and you went in at intervals to get a shave as no one had a razor; also a hair cut, which was all your hair off, because it was a big problem keeping down the lice. We would go at intervals to be deloused and have a bath, as our boots wore out we were given wooden clogs to wear and pieces of rag instead of socks, and as winter approached everyone was given an overcoat and hat, from what the Germans had taken from Polish forces.
Early in the spring of 1941 we were sent to another town called GRAUDENZ and this was better, because now we were taken out in small working parties to help repair roads, or clearing some waste ground, also we came into contact with Polish people; who not only gave us an odd loaf to stick up into our coat and smuggle back into the camp, but also told us more of what was happening in the world, from which we had been cut off from for so long.
Things began to look a bit brighter now as letters began to arrive from home and even parcels, with some good things arrived, such as soap that you could get to 'lather'. It is rumoured that the soap issued to us is made from the bones of Jewish political prisoners who has died, I know that it will not lather. We are also beginning to get food parcels coming through, which is helpful as the Germans are beginning to cut down on our food. They are beginning to feel the pinch as they cannot get any shipping into their ports. But the Germans are still very sure that they will win the war, and a bit of friendly rivalry seems to be coming into the relationship between us and our guards, as we get to know a few more of them better.
But not all of them would take a joke and although they all respected us because we were British they still showed us that they were the masters, and we would do as we were told.
It was at this time that we got to see what all the fuss was about as we were taken up to Danzigland to help with the harvesting, the strip of land known as the corridor, was the bit of land , which Germany had gone to war with Poland over, as being German; well they had the lot now.
TENS of thousands of soldiers went through Graudenz on their way to the Russian front all through the summer, but the following winter, many of them came back with frostbite, and fingers and toes dropping off. 'YES it reminded us all of that remark, "for you the war is over tommy", we had at least been kept reasonably warm, although we did have one bad job, we went off by train to this place, about 30 p.o.w.s with a few guards, and an Under-officer "just a lanc corpral" in charge, we went to a small camp which consisted of 3 wooden huts one for us, one for the guards and one for a cookhouse, plus another older shed for use as a wash house and toilet. The job we had to do was about a mile from the camp , and it was supposed to be holes dug in the ground for foundations for some large structure, but being on the top of a hill, in the middle of a very hard winter,it needed a pnumatic drill before we could have made any impression with the job, and when he was coming out to see how we were getting on one day, he met us halfway back to camp, plowing through about 2 feet of snow. He went into the most violent rage, he threatened to shoot us, told the guards to turn around and get us back up that hill, but although we were made to go back, it was impossible to do any work. When we returned to camp he told us that he was cutting our coal ration to half a bucket, and he was going to stop the issue of Red Cross parcels which had arrived for us. If ever we hated a man it was him, another day he found that the cook had thrown away the potato peelings instead of putting them into the pig swill, so he got us all on parade in short sleeves in temperatures about 20 degrees below to pick them up again. He was a very fat man so from then on he had the nick-name "CARTOFFEL GUTS", cartoffel being the German for potato; I think that any man that was at that camp, would have killed him, if the opportunity had arisen.
But the job came to an end with as I say nothing much done, and we then went away into Upper Silisia, this was then called the air raid shelter of Germany, as it was too far for planes to come from England; and return, so the Germans started to build factories and all the Prisoners and displaced persons, were brought to work at this area. We were the lucky ones here as we had to be treated as laid down in the Red Cross Convention, as both Germany and our country had signed. But the Russians and Jews had no standing at all, they were hounded to work even when they were so sick that they could hardly stand, and unlike us "we had the army guarding us; but they had the S/S troops, whose badge was the skull and crossbones; which I think they lived up to.
WE settled down here very well, Red Cross parcels began to arrive quite good, we now had water and showers, new uniforms and army boots had been sent through the Red Cross, infact we are having to rely more and more on the Red Cross, as the Germans, keep on cutting back on our rations, with their food getting in short supply, we have a concert party formed in the camp and various sporting activities. Mail is being received from home, although it takes a couple of months, not at all good news though, one of mine bore news of my mothers death, but we had to carry on.
I had a nice job here as I was made a fitters mate to work on central heating, with a German who had been a boy on the Rhine when the British tommys had been in occupation after the first war, and had given him sweets.
So I was treated like another worker, and not as an enemy although, the man who I worked with was given an arm-band to wear showing that he held the position of a guard, and our regular guard made a check on us every now and again. The camp that we lived in was on the edge of the factory area, so we had to be on parade at 5.30am. to be taken into the area to start work at 6.00am. and remained there until 6.00pm with a half hour break at 1.00pm for lunch, which was a bowl of soup, brought around in heated containers.
After a while new faces came to the camp, and we began to hear how Rommel had been chased back in Africa, and the Italians had given up. Also the Russians were beginning to drive the German army back, after a disasterous winter at Stalingrad.
As the work progressed on the factory we suddenly found that we were not the air-raid shelter of Germany anymore, as the American air force started to send flying fortresses over from Italy, that is when it began to get a little ironic for us; as we were all for this except, we lost all the men in the concert party, on one raid, and half a dozen others at another, as the air-raids became more frequent, and the Germans began to be pushed back on the Russian front, until we could hear the heavy guns firing.
On the 29th December 1944, we had to start moving back in the middle of a snow storm, we set out on a march, that was to last for four months in which we went through, Czechoslovakia, Austria and in circles around Germany, ending at Scleswig Holstean, in being released by the advancing American forces. But there were many incidences on the march, like when one of the Jews dropped out with exhaustion in the snow, he was shot, or the day we got to Graz, a small town in Austria, and found p.o.w.s running the gas works. Then the fatefull day as we went through Beyruth, it was the day when wave after wave of bombers came over until the sky was full of them going over to bomb Dresden. We started to cheer but cheers turned to horror as bombs rained down all around us, killing quite a few of my friends, who had survived and suffered all through, only to be killed by our own bombs, just days before they would have been free again. Then the day when three small planes R.A.F doing scout duty for the advancing troops, swooped out of the sky , blasted a truck that the guards used for their rations and carrying their things in, they then flew over our heads doing victory rolls and waving to us.
It seemed very quiet, and when someone looked out of the barn that we had been put into for the night, an unusual sight,no guard was there to be seen, then someone said that he had heard gun fire during the night.
After a while it began to sink in that we were not being guarded any more, then, surprise, out of the morning mist rolls an American tank, what relief for us, now the guards came out from a cellar and surrendered to them, that is all but one who thought he might get away, 'his name Cartoffel guts' and when Yanks heard that he had been so bad, they blasted him down in the middle of the field he was running across. We were told to remain at that place for a couple of days, until transport was available to take us back to England. In the meantime the Yanks told us that they were in a hurry to get to a consentration camp, at a place called Belson, where it was said the most horrifying things were taking place. "A fact which proved to be correct and the world found out later".
Things happened fast on the day we began to be brought home, a fleet of lorries took us Nurenberg, and one batch flown out right away for England mostly the ones that were sick. I was not with that lot, so remained there over night. The following morning a small mobile'doughnut and coffee' van (page 7)opened up and the woman in it spoke to us in English,that was something that we had not heard for over five years, a woman speaking to us in our own language, asking would we like some coffee and doughnuts, after which she gave us all her signature, for she was none other than the film star 'Marlene Deittrich' doing her bit to help the war effort.
That afternoon saw us aboard Decota transport planes but only as far as Brussels, there we were taken to one of the best hotels, with lovely beds, that had sheets, meals served to us at a table, with a table-cloth on, and a vase of flowers, after a meal we then went down to a small basement shop, run by the RED CROSS where we were given lots of good things , like shaving things, socks, soap, flannel, hair cream, tooth paste and brush, blacking and brushes, handkerchiefs, a big bar of chocolate, and lots of smiles, all for free. Back at the hotel it was a nice hot bath, then into that beautiful bed, what a good nights sleep that was. After breakfast the next morning we took a walk around the city, then back for lunch, then to the railway station to catch a train for Ostend, and a boat across the channel. WHAT A GREAT SIGHT THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER WERE TO US and a band turned out to greet us.
YES NOW IT WAS TRUE, TOMMY FOR YOU THE WAR IS REALLY OVER.
PRIVATE W.C.LAW ( 5186223 ) 2 GLOUCESTER REGT.
P.O.W NUMBER 12896
B.A.B NUMBER 40/1
JANUARY 1. THURSDAY We brought the New Year in with a sing song dispite the complaints of the guards. Have been detailed to go on transport to a camp at GRUPPE tomorrow.
JANUARY 2. FRIDAY We left GRAUDENZ at 2pm and arrived at our camp in GRUPPE at 3.30pm. There is a lot of snow here and its very cold. The camp does not look too good to me.
JANUARY 3. SATURDAY Met a 5th Gloucseter chap, also a Bristol man who has recently moved to Shepton Mallett. Jeff Hodgkinson is here also and he gave me 20 Players.
JANUARY 4. SUNDAY Our Under Officer does not seem to be good as he has started to mess us about already. I think he imagines himself to be a General.
JANUARY 5. MONDAY Things have started to get a bit warm as the U/Officer was going to shoot one of the guards also our Sgt/Major. We started work putting a wooden hut up.
JANUARY 6. TUESDAY Some more men came in today and Taff Woodfine "My section Commander in France" was among them. The U/officer had quietened down a bit. The calm before the storm.
JANUARY 7. WEDNESDAY Came in to dinner at 12noon and found that it was not ready, so we had to go without until we finished at 5pm. The ground is so hard we had to use hammer and chisels to break it.
JANUARY 8. THURSDAY We were told that the hut must be finished for W/E. One lad asked the U/officer if we finished the hut tomorrow, do we get Saturday off. The U/officer went mad.
JANUARY 11.SUNDAY A quiet day. We had a third of a loaf for rations which is causing a lot of trouble with the other boys as they only had a fifth.
JANUARY 12. MONDAY A good day as we had a RED CROSS food parcel, a RED CROSS clothing parcel ( 2 between 5 ) and Ted my mate had a parcel of 150 cigarettes from home. 3 men 1 loaf. Started work on some more huts.
JANUARY 13. TUESDAY We all got in the U/officers bad books today by having a sing - song on parade, German song revised by POWs. Still very cold here 22 degrees of rost. 3 men loaf.
JANUARY 14. WEDNESDAY Our bread ration has gone back to a fifth of a loaf. There is a strong wind blowing which is making the temperatrures drop to 25 degrees.
JANUARY 15. THURSDAY The U/officer went mad today. The beds were not made to his liking. He had us lined up for half an hour dinner time to inspect our mess tins. Spud bashing today.
JANUARY 16.FRIDAY All went well until one of the lads was taken to hospital ill. When examined he was found to have lice. The U/officer went mad.
JANUARY 17. SATURDAY We all had to have a de-louse today so we have got the day off. Have had all our hair taken off so we are looking rather bald.
JANUARY 18. SUNDAY The U/officer has a day off so its nice and quiet here. Ted and myself had a good English breakfast of bacon and beans thanks to the RED CROSS.
JANUARY 19. MONDAY We had the morning off as the guards had to have a de-louse. The U/officer is in a good mood and gave us all a new battledress tunic each.
JANUARY 20. TUESDAY Red Cross arrived but the U/officer had a fit and said that our rooms were not clean enough and he will not issue it until they are cleaner.
JANUARY 21. WEDNESDAY The U/officer is in a better humour today and has decided to give us the red cross parcels. Another feed of bacon and beans for Ted and myself.
JANUARY 22. THURSDAY One of the lads got hit across the face with a rifle butt by one of the guards. A rumour that we are going to be moved to BRESLAU southern Germany.
JANUARY 23. FRIDAY All went well today the U/officer was pleased with the cleanliness of the rooms and gave us extra coal.
JANUARY 24. SATURDAY A guard was going to shoot one of the lads this morning? We had to stand out in the cold while the cooks got up spud peelings which had been buried and should have gone to the pigs. "SABOTAGE"
JANUARY 25. SUNDAY The U/officer on leave today so we had an easy day. Its very cold here and one of the guards collapsed with effects of it. Four brickettes of coal ration.
JANUARY 26. MONDAY An officer came from Stalag and we reported the U/officer for his treatment on Saturday. We had to wait until 8 o'clock for our oil ration.
JANUARY 27. TUESDAY We had a surprise today , 50 cigarettes from Greece. (BALKAN RED CROSS)
JANUARY 28. WEDNESDAY The weatheris very cold again today. I sent a letter home and one to Ivy Pollard ?
JANUARY 29. THURSDAY A bit warmer today. Ted went on the fiddle and got half a loaf for a bar of English soap. Theres only one type of soap, German sand.
JANUARY 30. FRIDAY Had a good snow storm today which has made it much warmer.
JANUARY 31. SATURDAY The U/officer decided to give us a kit inspection this afternoon, but it did not take long as the guards wanted to sleep like us.
FEBRUARY 1. SUNDAY The U/officer went home again so we had another day of peace. Rumour that we will move in 14 days time.
FEBRUARY 2. MONDAY We are beginning to get hungry as we are down on bare rations. Fifth of a loaf. Roll on Red cross.
FEBRUARY 3. TUESDAY We all have long faces today as there is no sign of the red cross and dinner today was like hot water.
FEBRUARY 4. WEDNESDAY Still no Red cross but we were spud bashing so we had a cook up for supper. Had another 50 cigarettes and this diary " BALK".
FEBRUARY 5. THURSDAY The weathe is very cold again today. Red cross arrived for the other boys but the U/officer will not issued it until ours arrives.
FEBRUARY 6. FRIDAY Our Red cross has come so we can have a feed again. Very cold again 20 degrees of frost.
FEBRUARY 7. SATURDAY We went for a bath this afternoon and returned to a good tea of meat roll and fried bread. A bit of a blizzard blowing. 22 degrees of frost.
FEBRUARY 8. SUNDAY Home away from home today, bacon and beans breakfast, apple pudding and custard for afters at dinner and stewed figs for tea. The U/officer is on leave.
FEBRUARY 9. MONDAY We had to rush to get one of the structures up on Saturday, this morning we got to work to find that the wind had blown the lot down. " A GOOD SHOW".
FEBRUARY 10. TUESDAY I received a clothing parcel from home, we had a practise air raid so we did not get our bread ration until 9 o'clock.
FEBRAURY 11. WEDNESDAY The U/officer from GRAUDENZ came and paid us dinner time. He also told us that the red cross would be here today, but it was all prop.
FEBRUARY 12. THURSDAY There is a strong wind today, still no red cross. We are on spud bashing again today so another cook up.
FEBRUARY 13. FRIDAY Terrible weather, a blizzard is blowing and we had to go through drifts of 3-4 foot of snow to work. The foreman said it was too bad to work so we started back to camp. We met the U/officer who said we must work and drove us back again.
FEBRUARY 14. SATURDAY We have a ne U/officer who is much better. We cannot get red cross as the road is inpassable. 10 men gone back to the bunker.
FEBRUARY 15. SUNDAY Quiet day but we have no red cross and there is not a single cigarette in camp.
FEBRUARY 16. MONDAY There is no sign of red cross but i managed to flog a shirt for 2 loaves. 1 today 1 tomorrow. NOTE never got the other loaf.
FEBRUARY 17. TUESDAY We had been told that we would have 2 red cross parcels tomorrow. Managed to scrounge a few potatoes for supper.
FEBRUARY 18. WEDNESDAY We had a red cross parcel when we came into dinner so Ted and myself had a good scoff.
FEBRUARY 19. THURSDAY Its over a fortnight since we heard about our move in 14 days time, but there has been no further development.
FEBRUARY 20. FRIDAY We were on spud bashing again today, so we had a supper of bully beef and spuds.
FEBRUARY 21. SATURDAY There was a railway smash at GRUPPE station today, it made us late getting to work as we had to go around about way. Went for a bath after dinner.
FEBRUARY 22. SUNDAY A quiet day, the cooks gave us a dry dinner for a change, well a change from the old loop the loop anyway.
FEBRUARY 23. MONDAY The guards caught one of the lads bringing in bread. He has been given five days in a bunker. Red cross up again today.
FEBRUARY 24. TUESDAY The Poles told us that Joe Stains planes were over GRAUDENZ in the night.
FEBRUARY 25. WEDNESDAY We heard a bit of bad news owing to Switzerland taking over as representatives of the red cross, there will be no parcels at Stalag until March 10th.
FEBRUARY 26. THURSDAY It was the coldest day we have had this winter, with 32 degrees of frost and a strong wind.
FEBRUARY 27. FRIDAY We heard a bit of good news today , if true, about General ROMMEL capitulating in North Africa.
FEBRUARY 28. SATURDAY Had a nice afternoon sleep and received mail from home and aunt Flo.
FEBRUARY 29. One day we do not have as a POW as it is not a leap year.
MARCH 1. SUNDAY A pleasant day with plenty of good food out of the red cross.
MARCH 2. MONDAY The weather is getting better and it looks as though the winter is breaking up.
MARCH 3. TUESDAY The weather is good today . We are back on bare rations and nothing to smoke.
MARCH 4. WEDNESDAY We have been told that we will be going back to GRAUDENZ on Friday, and we will get 100 cigarettes when we get there !! Had no smoke today.
MARCH 5. THURSDAY We have packed our kit, am told that we have to march back to GRAUDENZ 10 km. Will be glad to get there as we are all dying for a smoke. ( NOTE: A BRIEF NOTE ADDED IN 1949. CHARLES BORN 11-40 saturday night ).
MARCH 6. FRIDAY Our kit was taken on a wagon so we had a good march. We got our parcel and fags when we got to GRAUDENZ, also got a good pair of glovees and towel.
MARCH 7. SATURDAY We had a day off today, my mates say the company will move to Germany on Wednesday . Got a ticket for concert, the first show that i have seen this year.
MARCH 8. SUNDAY Had a quiet day today, with plenty to eat.
MARCH 9. MONDAY Went to work today, but i did not do much. Our guards do not think it will be so good at BRESLAU.
MARCH 10. TUESDAY We were given a half day today to get packed for our journey tomorrow. I am not looking forward to this move as it means 4 DAYS IN A CATTLE SALLON.
MARH 11. WEDNESDAY We did not go to work today, but prepared to move!! Have been given 1 loaf and 1/2 sausage for the journey. Left the camp at 7pm. The band gave us a good send off.
MARCH 12. THURSDAY We arrived at THORN in the early hours of this morning and picked up the rest of the Battalion. \left THORN at 2pm, making good progress arrived at POSEN at 8pm we stopped and had some soup and on again.
MARCH 13. FRIDAY Have travelled well through the night, we got to FRANKFURT at 8pm, then went on and was surprised when we stopped at 12 o'clock and was told we had reached our journeys end. it looks as a camp and billets as you would get in BLIGHTY.
MARCH 14. SATURDAY Had no work today so we had a walk round the camp to see my mates. We have had no rations today, am told that we get rations tomorrow. Had 3 letters.
MARCH 15. SUNDAY Was told that we shall probably be working tomorrow. Have no Red cross left, dont know when we will get anymore. Had a dry dinner and 2 fifths of a loaf.
MARCH 16. MONDAY I got put down as a pipe layer and went to work after dinner with the plumbers unloading big steel pipes from the railway. It is a big industrial centre here. Finished work at 6 o'clock, am working in the morning.
MARCH 17. TUESDAY Reveille at 5-30am and on parade at 6-10. Went to work at 7 o'clock. Did not work hard and finished at 4-30. The guard says that the civvey is going to get us extra bread.
MARCH 18. WEDNESDAY Reveille 5.30am on Parade at 6.50am. We had a heavy day, everyone is complaining about not enough food for the work we are doing.
MARCH 19. THURSDAY Reveille 5.30am on Parade at 6.50am. Another hard day, we have been told that we will get a soup at mid-day, starting Monday. Four in a loaf tonight instead of five.
MARCH 20. FRIDAY Had a big surprise, we woke up to find that there was 3" of snow on the ground and we all thougth the winter was over!! No Red cross and nothing to smoke.
MARCH 21. SATURDAY Cold today, was told that we will have soup on Monday at work. Still no smoke or sign of the Red Cross. Had a half day.
MARCH 22. SUNDAY A easy day, but was spoilt as we had no smoke or Red Cross.
MARCH 23. MONDAY Work as usual. We had no soup as we had been promised. No smoke. A lad in 20 Battalion fell and was killed today at work, leaving a wife and two children.
MARCH 24. TUESDAY We did not work quite so hard today. Had no soup again but will get it tomorrow for certain as it has been ordered. Rumour that the Red cross is up tomorrow.
MARCH 25. WEDNESDAY Had a big surprise, went back to work to find that there was Balk Red Cross up. Butter, Bully beef, Jam, Honey, Cheese, Milk and cigarettes. So had a good feed.
MARCH 26. THURSDAY Work went better today as we had soup at dinner time. A comrade was buried today. The lad who fell and was killed on Monday . He was given a very good funeral.
MARCH 27. FRIDAY Work went well. A comrade in 20 Battalion got SHOT because he refused to wheel a barrow at work. He was shot through the left breast and died an hour later. A petition has gone to the man of confidence.
MARCH 28. SATURDAY Was sick when i got to work so i did not do any. Had half day and went back to camp, and went straight to bed.
MARCH 29. SUNDAY My stomach is still out of order, so i am saving my Red cross a bit as i cannot eat, had a good sleep after dinner, from 2pm until 8pm.
MARCH 30. MONDAY I am feeling much better today , so i am making up for lost time on the Red cross.
MARCH 31. TUESDAY Finished my bit of Red Cross off today. Have heard that British troops tried to make a landing in France and Norway.
APRIL 1. WEDNESDAY Some wise guy made a fool of all the camp today by spreading news around that Red Cross had arrived. A Jerry bunker waller committed suicide today on the site.
APRIL 2. THURSDAY Work as usual, was told that we would finish today, until next Wednesday, so have a nice long holiday to look forward to. There is no Red Cross up.
APRIL 3. FRIDAY ( GOOD FRIDAY ) Went out and cleaned the camp commanders car in the morning, and had a good sleep after dinner. No Red Cross news.
APRIL 4. SATURDAY The working party that i am on mustbe lucky as other parties had to work a half day today. No sign of the Red Cross.
APRIL 5. SUNDAY ( EASTER SUNDAY ) Have heard that STALAG VIIIB has had a consignment of Red Cross, so there is some hopes of getting some here soon. Wrote to paymaster asking him to send mother £15.
APRIL 6. MONDAY ( EASTER MONDAY ) Had a quiet day. Will be glad to get back to work as it is very tiring stopping in with no Red Cross and nothing to smoke.
APRIL 7. TUESDAY Our party went out to work in the guards barracks today and was given a lot of cigarettes.
APRIL 8. WEDNESDAY Went back to our old job today, but did not do a lot as the boss still has the holiday feeling. Still no Red Cross.
APRIL 9. THURSDAY Had another easy day today. Heard that the Red Cross had arrived at the camp, but found out it was all prop.
APRIL 10. FRIDAY No Red Cross and no smoke today. Things are beginning to look bad as the bread ration is going down.
APRIL 11. SATURDAY Worked half day, had two soups and no bread today.
APRIL 12. SUNDAY Had a poor day as there was nothing to smoke. Heard that the Red Cross have arrived at THORN. But none for B.A.B.
APRIL 13. MONDAY The M.O sent a telegram to GENEVA asking them about the Red Cross, so we all hope to have some news in the near future.
APRIL 14. TUESDAY No Red Cross news. Italians have been arriving since Sunday, to work on the same factories as us.
APRIL 15. WEDNESDAY Have heard that we are all going to work on the farms again shortly.
APRIL 16. THURSDAY Still waiting for the RedCross and a smoke.
APRIL 17. FRIDAY Received a reply to a letter sent to the Swiss delegate in BERLIN about Red Cross and they say that they are looking into the matter.
APRIL 18. SATURDAY Had half day also a photo taken, have managed to get a bit of tabacco from a Pole to last over the week end.
APRIL 19. SUNDAY Had an issue of DRAVAS cigarettes 80 per man. Cost 2 marks 60 pfennigs, sowe get a smoke if nothing to eat.
APRIL 20. MONDAY All the lads are hoping to see some Red Cross this week.
APRIL 21. TUESDAY No new developments in Red Cross, the lads are beginning to look a bit rough on bare rations.
APRIL 22. WEDNESDAY A General came to the camp today and said that we are to have a considerable rise in our rations, he also said he would see what he could do about Red Cross.
APRIL 23. THURSDAY Have received an increase in rations, just under a third of a loaf and double our ration of sausage and margarine.
APRIL 24. FRIDAY Some of the photos have come back, but mine are not ready yet.
APRI 25. SATURDAY Not quite so much bread today, as there is no work Sunday.
APRIL 26. SUNDAY Had a quiet day, rumours that Red Cross will definately be up this week.
APRIL 27. MONDAY Work as usual but had an easy day.
APRIL 28. TUESDAY Red Cross arrive today, what a change in the camp, all the lads have smiling faces once more. 1 parcel per man and 47 cigarettes.
APRIL 29. WEDNESDAY Had an easy day was able to have some breakfast for a change.
APRIL 30. THURSDAY The last day of April, the time seems to fly by. Nothing special happened today.
MAY 1.FRIDAY A National holiday, but we have tomorrow off instead of today. Big surprise found that i had a parcel of 370 cigarettes from the readers of Evening Post.
MAY 2. SATURDAY A nice quiet day spent reading a good book, and enjoying a smoke. Ted got some photos of the lad killed on Monday March 23rd. I have four.
MAY 3. SUNDAY Had our photos back from being developed. Ted looked at the group i was on for 1/4 of an hour and could not find me.
MAY 4. MONDAY Had our months supply of postcards and lettercards, also 40 MAKOWKIES per man. Sent a card home and some photos.
MAY 5. TUESDAY Had an issue of Red Cross 1 parcel between two. No cigarettes.
MAY 6. WEDNESDAY Heard a rumour that our bread ration was going up again, also tols that a representative from Geneva was coming within the next 2 or 3 days.
MAY 7. THURSDAY An uneventful day , am told that we are not getting extra bread as it means losing our soup at mid-day.
MAY 8. FRIDAY A notice up today saying that there will be some Red Cross up on Sunday. The weather has changed for the better now and the sun has got quite strong.
MAY 9. SATURDAY The Red Cross representative came today. Another lad shot !! Wrote letters and photos. The lad shot for lighting a cigarette a work.
MAY 10. SUNDAY A railway truck full of Red Cross came into the camp at Reveille. Had one a man issue.
MAY 11. MONDAY I have started to help Lofty sweep the room up everyday and he gives me a few spuds which help make a good meal with the Red Cross.
MAY 12.TUESDAY Everything going O.K. The Red Cross has made a big improvement in the camp.
MAY 13. WEDNESDAY Nothing out of the way happened today. Two wagons of Red Cross came in, so we shall be o.k for a bit.
MAY 14. THURSDAY The fellow who was shot last Saturday got buried today. He had a military funeral and a firing party from the German air force.
MAY 15. FRIDAY Had a Red Cross parcel today. Ted had a clothing parcel from home with 4lb of chocolate in. Had half a day as we got wet through in the morning.
MAY 16. SATURDAY The hauphman told our party that we would be starting a new job next Tuesday. Ted had a cigarette parcel 400 Woodbines.
MAY 17. SUNDAY Quiet day. Smoking heavy. Got some ground rice for some cigarettes so had a rice pudding for dinner.
MAY 18. MONDAY Got to work and was told that we were not wanted so went back to camp and got a job carrying silver birches in for the guards to make a fence around their garden.
MAY 19. TUESDAY No new job yet so went on working for the guards. Finished off the Red Cross.
MAY 20. WEDNESDAY Went to work with a party on the railway. Got some ground rice today, enough to last until Friday.
MAY 21. THURSDAY Started a new job today for a good firm , fitting pipes for central heating. Got some curry powder to go with the rice.
MAY 22. FRIDAY Red Cross again, it looks as though we will be able to do a bit of business on this job.
MAY 23. SATURDAY Started work at 6am and finished early, being Whitsuntide have arranged for sports in the camp over the holidays.
MAY 24. SUNDAY Made a cake! Which tasted a treat. We have not got much Red Cross left as our parcels were not so good this week.
MAY 25. MONDAY We had an ideal day today for racing, tug of war, football, handball and jumping. Also we had lovely weather.
MAY 26. TUESDAY Started work again today but it is a good firm who i work for and we watch while the boss does all the work. Got a half a loaf for a bar of soap.
MAY 27. WEDNESDAY Had some mail today the first in 6 weeks, but none from home. I shall be glad to get one from mother.
MAY 28. THURSDAY Ted had a letter from home today, and it says that his father has met with an accident in the Pit, and will not be able to work again.
MAY 29. FRIDAY Red Cross again today, at it had good parcels for us, but only 25 cigarettes, have received letter from home , which has made me much happier.
MAY 30. SATURDAY Ted has got 5 eggs for a bar of chocolate. So we shall be able to have egg and bacon for breakfast.
MAY 31. SUNDAY Egg and bacon for breakfast and shepherds pie for tea with apple pudding and custard and apricots, I WISH EVERY DAY WAS A SUNDAY.
JUNE 1. MONDAY Back at work again, nothing happened today.
JUNE 2. TUESDAY A load of Red Cross came in for us today.
JUNE 3. WEDNESDAY Ted had a letter saying that his father had died. I had one from Vi saying that Bill was in Singapore. Another load of Red Cross came in today.
JUNE 4. THURSDAY Had another battledress issue today and a pair of socks for use on Sundays and bank holidays.
JUNE 5. FRIDAY Red Cross again today, dont know how we would get on without it.
JUNE 6. SATURDAY Managed to fiddle half a loaf for the weekend. Went to a concert called "Memories" and it was a good show.
JUNE 7. SUNDAY Nearly all the battalion went out to a football match and it looked quite smart with all the new battledress.
JUNE 8. MONDAY Work again
JUNE 9. TUESDAY Had a search coming in from work.
JUNE 10. WEDNESDAY Had a letter from home.
JUNE 11. THURSDAY The usual.
JUNE 12. FRIDAY A wagon load or Red Cross came in this morning so we had a Canadian parcel this week.
JUNE 13. SATURDAY We had been told that the photographer will be here tomorrow to take regimental photos. I have nine men of the Glosters to get one taken with.
JUNE 14. SUNDAY Had a roll call at 3am in bed as two chaps have been caught trying to make a break. Another load of Canadian Red Cross parcels arrived today. The photographer came but only took photos of the concert party, coming again next Sunday.
JUNE 15. MONDAY Work again. Had a surprise letter from Mrs Rapsey.
NO ENTIRES MADE AGAIN UNTIL 20TH JUNE
JUNE 20. SATURDAY I received my February parcel from home , am glad of the shoes.
NO ENTRIES MADE UNTIL 1ST JULY
JULY 1. WEDNESDAY Have received photos from home and they look lovely but i would have liked one of mother.
JULY 2. THURSDAY Received a letter from Peg who is on holiday at home.
NO ENTRIES MADE AGAIN UNTIL 7TH JULY
JULY 7.TUESDAY I got a letter from home today which has come in 7 days so the field post numbers certainly make the mail quicker.
© Copyright Paul Law