Sergeant Basil C. Borthwick
Army No. : 9293
POW No. : 33541
Camps : Stalag VIIIA
The following is an account of the Long March from Stalag VIIIA by New Zealander, Basil Borthwick.
Thursday 15: Leave Stalag VIII A. Raining. Through Reichenbach. Receiving two days' rations, half loaf and tin of meat to 10 men. Fairly hard day and a rotten night. (24 kilometres).
Friday 16: Good day's marching. In the black barn by 3.30. Got a shave, wash and a brew. (20)
Saturday 17: Through Bautzen. Got rations for three days. Third of a loaf, one soup powder and cheese. Long day marching till 5.30. Slept well in the straw in the barn. (26)
Sunday 18: On to Kamenz. In barrack square at 1.30, then marched round and round and round. The worst day yet. Got a good soup and coffee. Up to church, only room for 1,000, back to barracks, stood on parade ground for two hours in the moonlight. Slept finally on wet bricks in the barracks. (17)
Monday 19: Coffee and on to Koningsbruck. In tents and pandemonium. Got a very thin barley soup and rations for two days, loaf to three men, quarter tin cheese and a soup powder to three. (19)
Tuesday 20: On to Kalkreuth. Very long day. In barns. Plenty of straw. Lid of my dixie fell off scrambling in. My bread and cheese fell out and got tramped on. Left the cart at Koningsbruck.
Wednesday 21: Hot water. One sausage to 12 men. Raining, on to Meissen. Got a barley soup. Brewed up a soup powder. Good bed in stables upstairs. (22)
Thursday 22: Mint tea. One day's ration, quarter loaf and a speck of sausage. On to Lommatsch. Good soup at Railway Station. Then had to march 3 kilos back to a farm. Hot water. Got a brew in. Bought half a loaf for 10 fags. Shave, a good sleep. Crossed the Elbe. (18)
Friday 23: Hot water, and on to Doblen. Long day, no bread. In billets at a French Kommando. Got a soup powder cooked up by the Frogs. Later the Gs turned on a soup and got a back up. (20)
Saturday 24: Coffee. Loaf to four men (for the day before) and tin of meat to three. Standing round for a long time. Marched to Leisnig, very stiff climb at the finish. Hot soup. Lucky getting a good bed in a big garage glassed in. Very young guards, very touchy. Brewed on Roly's blower. Made porridge. Shaved and slept well. (18)
Sunday 25: Early start. Coffee and two days' bread, two loaves to nine men. Fast pace on to Bad Lausitch. In a farmer's barn. Hot soup and boiling water. (25)
Monday 26: One sausage to 30 men. Bread half a loaf. Coffee. On to Borna. Easy day, in stables by 1300. No fires, no water. Good soup, good sleep. (15)
Tuesday 27: No water. Coffee. Meat sausage and raw meat. Long day. Guards tough. Through Meuselwitz, bombed out. Bomb craters in paddocks and on road. On wrong road, marching till 6.30, all tired and guards cross. Pulled in at a farm, good straw, good soup and a good sleep. (30)
Wednesday 28: Coffee. Shave. On to Zeitz. In barracks with Frenchmen, saw-dust floor. Open slather on wood and all brewing up. Cooked spuds and rice. Great G soup, very liberal, and had two brews of tea. Wash. (14)
Thursday 1: Cooked porridge. Coffee, quarter loaf, loaf of dourbrodt to five and tin of meat to 10. On to Elsenberg. Long day, slept in pottery factory. Brew in furnace. Warm all over and clean clothes. No soup. (30)
Friday 2: Bitterly cold. Resting up all day in a gully. Brewing up. Cookie got water. No coffee. Cooked a soup powder and the hot food a treat. Long trek for more water and scored a cup of hot soup from the Frau and bought some spuds for soap. Cooked them and had three more brews of tea in the afternoon. Snowing and very cold. Got rations at five. Two-fifths of a loaf for today and yesterday. Up to date now with bread. Blood sausage to six. Back to same billets and no fuss. Bought a loaf for a choc from the frau. A hot soup at last. Shaved and did some washing.
Saturday 3: Snowing. On to Steudnitz. Marching well to keep warm. In a barn by 1330. Very cold. No rations at all from G. Our boys boiled some water. Ted bought a dixie of hot cooked spuds. Great. (20)
Sunday 4: Snowing and very cold. Good sleep. Up and packed and then told a rest day. Hot coffee. Slept again. Bought 10 spuds for two fags. No bread. Two small ladles of soup from G. Cooked half a soup powder. At 4 p.m. all roused out suddenly and spent night in the open in a cement quarry. More rain and snow. Cold, wet and miserable. Presumably reprisals for looting. The sods.
Monday 5: About 0200 cooked a billy of spuds on Roly's blower. Glorious, and after the hot food the three of us all slept. Up again at 0500 and cooked spuds and rice. Bright moonlight and dawn came quickly. On the road to Jena. Held up with air raids. In Jena got a bread issue, three-sixteenths of loaf, nothing for previous two days. Through Jena and a long uphill pull. Snowing and hard going. Marching till 1830. Dark. By-passed Wiemar and arrive village of Millingen. Got cold soup. Ted offered to fight a Tommy. Hardest day yet. Glad to lie down. (33)
Tuesday 6: Roused out with promises of reaching a stalag. Cold, wet, sloppy and hungry. Standing about, feet freezing. NCOs separated from privates. New set of guards take over. Got a quarter loaf and a speck of sausage. In blocks of 100. Do a tough two hours without a break on the autobahn uphill. Going due West, steady marching. Night in village of Busseldin near Erfurt. Poor billet but got a brew in. (25)
Wednesday 7: Roused out 0630 and on road. No chance of a wash. Got quarter loaf and some wurst. Through Erfurt; bomb damage. Another two hours uphill without a break. Billet on outskirts of Gotha. Thin pea soup. Brewed tea. Cramped and draughty billet. (25)
Thursday 8: Snowing and cold. Day of rest. All out for cold mint tea. All sleeping. Three-thirteenths of a loaf and one-seventeenth of a cheese. Hot soup at 5 and back to sleep. Warm.
Friday 9: Good night's sleep. Roused out early for rations. Three and a half loaves to 16 and one cheese to 16. Big day's tramping. Through Gotha. Air alarms. Fast pace. Through Langensalsa and on to village of Schonstedt. G screaming and pandemonium, getting one-third of a loaf and a dish of sausage meat to 65 in the dusk. (25)
Saturday 10: On the road 0630 and a long day. Cold, windy, uphill. Through Mulhausen. Air alarms. Boiled some spuds on a brazier. Very hungry. Passed the Gorlitz Belgians, Dede, Shacklegutz and Co. Last news of the Fox; stayed in the camp. Raining. Ted has a disaster. Five chocs and Ken's razor stolen. Billet 1,600 after delay. All tired. No soup. Two mad posterns, yelling and screaming. No brewing but issue of hot water and made tea. Bread all done and hungry. (30)
Sunday 11: Slept well. Roused out 0600. Search for postern's fat tin and much scone-doing. No water, either hot or cold. Pinched wood and brickettes. Issued with two days' rations and promise of a stalag tomorrow. Half a loaf and meat. Through Dinglestadt and church bells ringing. Very dirty. Cooked spuds on a brazier. Ted brew tea on Van's blower for lunch. A short day. In big barn near Worbis at 1430, 100 of us. Brewing up and the farmer very reasonable. Spuds plentiful for soap. Cooked last of our soup powder. Tea and feeling warm with the belly full. Shaved and washed. John the Pole's pack stolen by an English Gentleman! (16)
Monday 12: Up 6. Packed ready for this promised stalag but back to the barn and a day of rest. Brewed up and a good feed of spuds and tea. The farmer turns on a soup for us. A fairly tolerant man. We all feel the cold. Another soup at night. Stole spuds up to carrying capacity. Sleeping.
Tuesday 13: Up 6. Cup of tea and dixie of spuds. A good start. Another dixie of spuds on the march. Stopped in a wet paddock. Through Forna. Another dixie of spuds. On again with the French to a paddock by a monastery. Only nine kilos. No bread. G gave us two pounds of cooked spuds. Couldn't look another spud in the face. Cup of tea. Spent a miserable afternoon and finally a barn in the dark. G said that if we were good boys we'd get spuds, and in the barn, if we didn't put the straw back we'd spend the night in the open. Still chasing a stalag. Knocked off a Cadbury choc in bed. Cookie has dysentery. A scuffle in the dark and a shot quite close, but no one hit. Pass the 500 kilo mark. (9)
Wednesday 14: Twenty-eighth day out. Mild and sunny. Back to paddock. Bread one-third loaf and marg and sausage to 15. Bread tastes beautiful. Brewed. March to Duderstadt to this stalag. What a shock, the worst yet, in a brick kiln. Four thousand odd they say, and one pump. Got a possy on the third floor. (10)
Thursday 15: Out in paddock for the day. Got a wash all over in a creek; pretty cold. Bread for two days. One-third loaf, marg and molasses. Soup on way back.
Wednesday 21: Still in the brick works; filthy. The rations very light. Flogged D.F. Batt's watch for five kilos of bread - four weeks' rations on our present scale. Reluctant to do so but feel it is justified in the present conditions.
Sunday 25: A lovely spring day and we revel in the sunshine. Out in the paddock. Bath in the creek and stripped off in the sun.
Saturday 31: Flogged my spare boots for four kilos of bread.
Sunday 1: A new month and Easter Sunday. Forty-six days out from Gorlitz. The working party that left two days ago arrived back last night. Marched 50 kilos for nothing. The news is very good, heartening for us and the chaps in good spirits in spite of hunger. The rations seem very light and we talk a lot of food. A treat today, five to a loaf instead of six, a few extra grammes. News reported 2nd British Army 112 kilos east of the Rhine and the 3rd American, 160. Yanks 8K west and 15K north of Kassell. No Siegfried Line, no Rhine and the BBC says little opposition - how much longer, we all ask; the civvies say a few days. We wonder what the snag will be for us, probably more marching. Roll on these seven Armies. Clocks on one hour.
Monday 2: Easter Monday. All non-workers move tomorrow. Cooked a feed of swede ready for breakfast.
Tuesday 3: Raining. Up daylight and heated our food. Two-thirds of a loaf and four cheeses for two days. Out of the brick works for good but a pity to be moving from our forces in the West. Heavy rain and uphill going; coat and blankets very wet and heavy. Diced my G blanket. Lost an opportunity at first halt. Through Werna and a billet in barn in village of Osterhagen. Good soup from the farmer. Signs of RAF. (23)
Wednesday 4: Showery and cold. Travelling north-east. Through Ellrich. Supposed to stay there but full of German military. On to Appenrode, full of G ambulances. Four spuds a man. A poor place. Discover the farmer's store of spuds. Much pinching. SS arrive, turn us out of barn and search. Confiscate all our spuds. Threaten reprisals. Very cold. Ten fags a man from Dutch workers. A real surprise. Shaved. Water very scarce. (19)
Thursday 5: Cold. Rations fail to show up but we got an old 2 K loaf to 10. Through Ilfield and the civvies seem to be taking to the hills. Uphill through plantations. Slow pace, hard marching. Billet in barn at Haselfelde. Quarter loaf, two cheeses and seven spuds each. Guards not very interested. They reckon fighting at Gotha. Stiff and sore. (20)
Friday 6: Good sleep. Raining. Day's rest. Tea and toast for breakfast. Ted cooked up spuds, peas and carrots. A royal brew. Shave and wash and sleep again. Barton i/c cookshop and turns on the best soup of the march. Two cst spuds and 1 cwt swedes bought by him to 160 men. Mint tea and six cooked spuds for tea, quarter loaf and two cheeses. Feeling full and good after rest.
Saturday 7: Another day's rest. Sunny. Quarter loaf and two cheeses. Barton turns on another great soup, coffee and seven cooked spuds out of his own pocket. In bed most of day. A frost and starry night. Saw Arcturus.
Sunday 8: On road again. A crisp frost sunny morning, and good marching. Air alarm at Wienrode. Our planes a grand sight. Counted 160. No opposition. Halberstadt liquidated. Great smoke blocks out sun. Planes leave white smoke signal. On to Westerhausen. In barn. Farmer scared of SS. Twelve cooked spuds and 1/6 of a loaf. Got flour and bread being baked for us. Sweet coffee. News good. Yanks at Gotha and Langensalsa. (21)
Monday 9: Day of rest in Westerhausen. Cold, in bed. Cleaning beans. Barton organises another soup. Beans and spuds up to the top rivets and bucks. Bread fresh from ovens and warm. Two K civvy loaf to eight. Great surprise in p.m. A British Naval Kommando here donate enough American food parcels for one between eight. Great excitement. Dividing up done with great precision, everything cut into eight. I got 1½ biscuits, five prunes, five sugar lumps, 10 sweets, one cube of chocolate, and 1/8 tin of coffee milk, salmon, jam, cheese, Pate, MOV, meat loaf, soap and 11 cigarettes. Back on the gold standard for one glorious feed and with the new bread really enjoyed myself. Good on the Navy. Rumours of push on Hanover and Bremen. No word of moving.
Tuesday 10: Ready to move 0745. Cancelled. Packed up again and at 1245 move out on road and wait for the Hauptmann. Back to billet. Lot of rumours. Reckon area we were to move to now a recce area, and no PGs to move in it. Siren for five minutes means allied tanks approaching. Jerries reckon Yanks here tomorrow. Don't believe it, things are too peaceful here, wish we had a decent map. Big rush out of barn at 1600 to see our planes, 500 at least, flying in no formation, all higgledy piggledy. No opposition. G civvies very uneasy. An Arnhem chap reckons an airborne landing somewhere. Great sight. Bread one to 10, no soup or marg. Orders for tomorrow. Reveille 0530, march 0630 to avoid aircraft.
Wednesday 11: Lovely fresh morning. March to Ditfurt on side roads. Road strafing by American fighters. The lads hungry and very touchy. In a barn about 1100. Bread one to 10. Brewing up. Ratting beans and wheat upstairs in the barn. Two good feeds of beans. Crushing up wheat and make a porridge. Strafing in the town. Reckon the Yanks have turned NE at Halberstadt and missed us. Our guards not worrying and buying our soap for 20 G fags. Town full of troops and moving out. (12)
Thursday 12: The day of days and what a day. Eight weeks today since we left Gorlitz and marched 601 Kilos or 375 miles. After a comfortable night in the straw got up 0630. Dull morning. Cookie getting a brew of beans on. I got some water over the fence from a frau. Barton told me that the guards tell him that American tanks in the vicinity and expected here in half an hour. I repeated this to Ted but we've heard these tales before. About 0730 a yell and a shout and chaps rushing for the gate. Rushed out and here is an American jeep with tanks behind. What a moment, free from POW lift at last. Our chaps mobbing the Yanks, shaking hands, clamouring for cigarettes, K rations and Percy Foster yelling for a GI chocolate. One chap ran over by the jeep but leg not broken. The tanks a great sight, troops all over them and how fit and well fed they look. Eighty-three American Div, 9th Army General Simpson. Back to our fire and Cookie vanished. Finished brewing the beans, tea and toast when Cookie arrived back with an armful of K rations and Lucky Strike cigarettes. When I saw the Yanks felt much more excited than I did in Italy. Wish Ken had been here for this day. The lads raid the bakehouses and bread and food pouring into the barn. Cookie and Ted go up town. I washed up and then heated water in a copper in a house and had a hot bath with a new cake of Protex soap from home, and a new towel, and into Ken's pink underclothes. Emptied out all the beans. The Yanks mop up the town and no firing or opposition from G. Our guards now POW and quite glad to be, I think. Everybody eating and smoking up. Went exploring with Cookie. Got a pocket knife. White flags hanging from the houses. Our chaps everywhere, having baths, etc., Brill serving out sugar in a shop. Ted keen for a camera. I went hunting for eggs. A lady took me into her house, showed me a photo of her son and then burst into tears. Apparently executed by SS. Had his photo and odds and ends on the table. She gave me four eggs and a British Army topee, collected 20 eggs and some bacon and we gave bacon and eggs big stick for tea. American infantry arriving, turning out their pockets for us. They take over various houses for the night, gave the occupants five minutes to clear out. In boots and all. These houses looted by our chaps and bringing back all manner of stuff to the barn. Hens being rounded up, rabbits, porkers. We have a midnight feast of cherries and cream. I have no desire to collect souvenirs but Cookie having a great time. Lights on all night, chaps eating and talking, not much sleep. In spite of my resolve to go easy on the grub have eaten too much but never another day like this. Local SS chief does himself in. One thousand two hundred and twenty-nine days a POW.
Friday 13: Quiet day. Ham and eggs for breakfast but not hungry. Now that we are full and have a supply of food have lost the craving. Washed my jacket and shaved and had a bath. Chickens being cooked everywhere. Feathers galore. Most of the Yanks away. Houses in a shocking mess after our chaps been well through them. Bread one to four and marg. Cherries and cream for lunch. Resting. Rumours of Jerry retaking Halberstadt. Out for a walk and collected more eggs. Apple trees in full bloom and blossom everywhere, everything growing and green. Only a platoon of Yanks left in town with a tank and a half track. A pleasant feeling to walk about as you please without being screamed at by sentries. Had a high tea, mashed spuds with milk and marg, poached eggs, fresh bread, butter and jam. Went for a walk with Ted and sat on a bridge. A Russian came by, a bit drunk, told us he was an officer and gave us 20 German cigarettes. On our way back a Navy lad offered us civvy billets. The Russians and Poles going to town on the grog, the German women very nervous and keen to get a British soldier in their houses for protection. Collected Cookie and our gear from the barn and after a lot of jabber got installed. Cookie and I in same house and Ted over the road. Glad to get away from that filthy barn. Sat in the front room with the lady and her old Mother making a real fuss of us. Her husband six years a soldier and last heard of on the Rhine. Sleep in feather bed, both together, a bit cramped and very hot.
Saturday 14: Cookie has a bad night. Stifling hot on the feathers. Got up early and got a bucket of milk, round the nests and collected 24 eggs and a chook.
At this stage I stopped writing. Except for one night when Hitler Youth, supposed to be in force in the Harz Mountains sent out patrols and there was a lot of MG fire fairly close, we spent five peaceful, pleasant and plentiful days in Ditfurt. Then by American MT to Hildesheim Airfield and wait 10 days for our turn to leave.
Wednesday 25: Anzac Day. Leave Germany by air and arrive at Nivelles in Belgium. Tommy MT to Brussels. Issue of new kit, deloused and 2000 hours leave by train for Ostend.
Thursday 26: Arrive at Ostend. Paid £5 Sterling. Board the Ulster Castle and leave for England.
Friday 27: Arrive in England.
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