Private George Irving Beck

 

Unit : 1st Battalion The Duke of Wellington's Regiment

Served : France (captured)

Army No. : 4612260

POW No. : 16652

Camps : Stalag VIIIB / 344

 

George Irving Beck was born in Sheffield on November 22, 1923. He was a pupil at the local Carbrook Council School and on leaving school became a Miner. On September 20, 1932 at the age of 18 years he enlisted in the army at Sheffield. He was given the Army No. 4612260 and joined the 2nd Battalion of The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. His ‘Regular Army Certificate of Service’ shows: That in Halifax on November 28, 1932 he passed the ‘Army Certificate of Education – 3rd Class’. That in Aldershot on November 30, 1933 he passed the ‘Army Certificate of Education – 2nd Class’ the subjects being English, Army & Empire, Map Reading and Mathematics. In 1935 he saw action on the North West Frontier of India at Loe Agra and Mohmand and was awarded the India General Service Medal 1908 with clasp ‘N.W.F. 1935’. He left the army on January 3, 1939 at the age of 25 years. The final assessment of conduct on ‘Leaving the Colours’ states: Military Conduct: Exemplary Testimonial: A good man, smart, honest & trustworthy, hardworking & clean.

 

On March 23, 1939 he started attending a government training centre in Leeds and is recorded as having a 5 day leave from the centre between August 5th to 9th 1939. On September 3, 1939, the day England and France declared war on Germany at the start of World War 2, George Irving Beck rejoined the army and his old regiment but this time the 1st Battalion of The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment keeping his old Army No. His diaries start on ‘May 10, 1940 with the Invasion of Belgium by Germans’ and continue as follows:

 

May 31, 1940 Captured by Germans about four miles from Dunkirk, France. Place called Handpooch near Pommerin. Out of 28 men I alone remained, what had become of the others I could only guess. Spent about sixteen hours in water. Escorted by German sniper to headquarters where I met five strange chaps who were wounded.

 

June 01, 1940 Started on long trek from France to Germany via Belgium and Holland. Had to pull comrade first twelve miles on wheelbarrow, he was wounded in legs and stomach. German officer (Medical) injected morphia into him to ease pain. Left him at church where he was taken away by ambulance.

 

On June 05, 1940 George Irving Beck was posted as missing and the following report appeared in the Dunkirk, France. Place called Handpooch near Pommerin local press. ‘Private Beck was seen on the beach at Dunkirk by his brother-in-law, Corporal George Beswick, but has not been heard of since. A regular solder, he served for five years in India before the war. He was married last January before going to France. Mrs. Beck has not seen her husband since. Private Beck was a pupil at the Carbrook Council School.’

 

June 18, 1940 Passed convent in Holland and smuggled wife’s address through to Sister of Mercy. Don’t know if it got through.

 

June 22, 1940 Finally reached destination after three weeks strenuous marching from dawn to dusk each day. These days will never be erased from my memory. Hungry and practically starved, feet bleeding, men dropping by the way, houses and shops raided for bread and Germans hitting men with rifles and bayonets to stop stampeding some poor unfortunates were shot. How we kept plodding on God alone knows but grim determination kept us up. Reached Landsdorfe in very weak condition and hardly able to stand. Spirits very low. Received drop of unsweetened coffee and one slice of bread.

 

June 01, 1940 Had all my hair cut off. No blankets but just bare boards to sleep on. Received for dinner four potatoes with skins on, drop of thin soup. Tea fifth of a small loaf and nothing for breakfast but coffee. Dinner was twelve o’clock and tea at one. Next meal in twenty tree hours time. Tried to make cigs out of coffee grounds and clover.

 

July 05, 1940 Registered as prisoner of war at Stalag VIII B. Forwarded first card home by Red Cross via Geneva. What a relief to write again.

 

‘Wife’s Faith Rewarded by Good News. When her husband was reported missing, a Sheffield woman believed that some day, somewhere, he would turn up. Her husband Private George Beck, of 11, Weston Square, Brightside, Sheffield, of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was reported missing on June 5th. Weeks passed into months, but still Mrs. Beck had faith, and she has just received a card from him, telling her that he is a prisoner of war in Germany. “It just shows that faith helps a lot,” she told the “Telegraph and Independent,” “for I have always felt that he would turn up some day. All I am waiting for now is the war to end. It can’t be too soon for us.”

 

July 25, 1940 Left prison camp after nearly five weeks, for place of employment. Number of men fifty. Destination unknown. Travelled by rail on cattle trucks.

 

July 26, 1940 Working at a place called Herzogswalde situated in Upper-Silesia, Poland, stone breaking with fourteen pound hammers, road making.

 

July 30, 1940 No cigarettes, in fact we’ve forgot what a good smoke is like. A couple of kind women leave ‘tab ends’ on the window sills for us but this isn’t much between us lot. I suppose we’ll get over it some day.

 

August 15, 1940 Just beginning to feel our feet a bit. The food is much better than the prison camp. Damned hard work, but at least its better than being behind barbed wire all day, and not seeing the outside.

 

September 04, 1940 Lost sight in right eye. Enlarged pupil. Under doctor at Grottkau, ten days. Only 43 men left, seven in hospital.

 

September 23, 1940 Work nearing completion. Cannot sleep at night for scratching, covered in spots for we’re walking with lice everyone is dead lousy, they’re even breading in out clothes.

 

October 14, 1940 Road completed so we say farewell to Herzogswaede. Shook hands with foreman before leaving, civilians gave us a good send off. The new road was opened by burgemeister and called ‘England Strasse’. Houses were built by prisoners last war.

 

October 15, 1940 Back at prison camp Landsdorfe. One blanket issued and bare boards to lay on again. All our hair cut off once more and had to be deloused. All the linings of our were full of lice eggs. Gave us stuff to rub on our bodies.

 

October 16, 1940 I volunteered for new job coal mining, but instead was sent to a place called Niklasdorf in Czechoslovakia. Building trade. Said to be making ammunition dumps. No news of the war.

 

October 20, 1940 Everyone ravenously hungry. We can’t get enough to eat. Lads even storming the coffee place for buckshees. Stealing going off all over through hunger. It’s surprising what a man will do when hungry. No water to wash with.

 

October 26, 1940 Snowing like hell and terribly cold. Working from six o’clock in a morning till six at night. In spite of weather and regardless of little clothing we have to carry on. Very little rumours. We all seem to be acting like savages through hunger. Stealing going off all over.

 

November 08, 1940 Still snowing and freezing. No cigarettes. Tried to smoke bark off trees but it was like poison. Some of the lads stole a few potatoes and boiled them over candles. Others set fire to blacking. What would I give for a Blighty meal now.

 

November 14, 1940 Snow still falling. No socks to our feet and no shirts to our backs. Tore pieces off our blankets to put around our feet. No boots but had a pair of Dutch clogs issued. Usual routine, plenty of scratching every night and lice killing.

 

November 20, 1940 Received first two letters from home. How grand it is to receive mail again. I shall treasure these two letters all the time I’m a prisoner. One was wrote on the 6-7-40 and the other 9-9-40.

 

November 24, 1940 Old French, Belgium and Czechoslovakian overcoats issued. Even these are a godsend now for they will keep us a bit warmer. Snow still falling. Lucky if we get a wash once a week for what little water there is gets used for the cookhouse. Keep rubbing my face over with a drop I manage to get in my basin now and again at night.

 

December 06, 1940 One Red Cross parcel issued between five men and thirteen English cigarettes. It isn’t a deal but its very welcome. Still snowing , what would I give for some socks and boots or a pair of gloves.

 

December 08, 1940 Had narrow escape for I was trapped in the cookhouse cellar whilst stealing potatoes. Managed to get away in my bare feet. Saved myself from a beating up by the Germans.

 

December 15, 1940 - Sunday Still snowing. Up to the knees in it at work. Nothing to report for its all the same routine. Wonder what I should be doing now if I were in Sheffield with my dear wife. Most likely we should be at the club instead I’m behind barbed wire.

 

December 22, 1940 No work until the New Year. All the Poles and Czechs have gone home on holiday. Still snowing. Nothing to do but stay in the hut, next best place to home is bed. Roll on Blighty. Time – eight pm.

 

December 23, 1940 - Monday No rumours. In bed early again. What a life we’re caged up like wild animals with guards pacing up and down outside. If I say we’re just about surviving on spuds I’m not far wrong.

 

December 24, 1940 – Xmas Eve - Tuesday Tonight I feel rather depressed; one cannot help his thoughts travelling back home at a time like this. For years I’ve looked forward to a Xmas in England but no it just hadn’t to be, fate intervened and here I am. Times like this make one realise what he is missing. May the day be not far off when we can all be united again, nothing but bed and work for a prisoner, if we stop in camp we get stung for a job somewhere even if its only shovelling snow. Roll on Blighty.

 

Christmas Day Menu 1940 Breakfast – two pieces of dry bread and a bit of German sausage, usual drop of unsweetened coffee. Dinner – Mashed spuds, cabbage, one rissole and custard after. Tea – Bread, jam and coffee.

 

Boxing Day Menu 1940 Breakfast – Pea soup, bread, lard and coffee. Dinner – Cabbage soup and spuds half cooked. Tea – Ox blood soup, bread, coffee.

 

December 29, 1940 – Sunday Nothing fresh to report last few days except to say we went on route march last Friday. Still snowing like blazes. Two men flogged for stealing potatoes. The Germans are merciless when they catch anybody; they use sticks and bayonets on them.

 

New Years Day Menu 1941 Breakfast – Porridge and two slices of bread. Dinner – Mashed spuds and one rissole. Tea – Soup, dry bread and coffee.

 

Courage

It is easy to be nice boys, when everything’s OK

It is easy to be cheerful when you’re having things your way

But can you hold your head up, and take it in the chin

When your hart is nearly breaking and you feel like giving in

 

It was easy back in England, amongst the friends and folks

But now you miss the friendly hand, the joys, the songs and jokes

The road ahead is stony, and unless you’re strong in mind

You’ll find it is not long before you’re lagging far behind

 

You have got to climb the hill boys, its no use turning back

There’s only one way home, and that is off the beaten track

Remember, you are British, and that when you reach the crest

You’ll see a valley cool and green, dear England at its best.

 

You know there is a saying that sunshine follows rain

And sure enough you’ll realise that joy will follow again

Let courage be your password, make fortitude your guide

And then instead of grousing, just remember those who died.

 

They died to earn your freedom, was not too great a price

If only you are worthy, of so great a sacrifice

They bore their cross in silence; they sought not wealth nor fame

And you must try to emulate and glorify their name.

 

By L/Cpl Farrer – Prisoner of War

 

January 05, 1941 Out on snow shifting, clearing the main roads. Nearly freezing to death. Roll on. Twelve months ago to day I was on leave.

 

January 22, 1941 Reveille 4:30 am snowing like hell and freezing. Train journey to a place called Ramsau in the mountains. Clearing the railway lines as a train is snowed up by blizzard.

 

January 30, 1941 Old socks issued and boots. Still on the railway job. Up early on a morning. Men suffering from frostbite in the ears and feet, for its terribly cold in the mountains, practically in the clouds. Snow about thirty feet high in places, four men standing above one another, and shovelling over each other’s heads. Pea soup issued 11:30 am.

 

February 01, 1941 – Saturday Melted icicles from outside to have a wash with. Some loaves of bread have been stolen from food store so our rations have been cut down to five men in a loaf instead of four. Soup also thinner so God help us because we are just about starving now.

 

February 05, 1941 Not a deal to put down except to say I received a letter from Ron wrote October 9, 1940. How it cheers one up to receive a letter from anyone.

 

February 09, 1941 - Sunday Issue of twenty ‘Gold Dollar’ cigarettes from Red Cross and one tin of milk. How nice to get a decent smoke, ate the tin of milk straight away. Still showing on and off. Don’t hear much news lately.

 

February 21, 1941 Received letter from the wife wrote November 22, 1940, my birthday. Hope to God something unforeseen happens soon for this life is enough to send one mad. Same routine day in day out.

 

February 23, 1941 - Sunday First individual Red Cross parcel issued. Nearly everyone went mad. Some ate the lot straight away and were dashing backwards and forwards from the lavatory. Brewed our tea over candles. Weather improving, working on usual job again. Italy said to be getting a tousing in the east.

 

March 06, 1941 Received one letter from dad wrote November 23. 1940 and one from Alice wrote October 23, 1940. Roll on peace. No news to put down, Hope everything OK back in England.

 

March 09, 1941 Letter from Alice wrote October 31, 1940.

 

March 19, 1941 - Wednesday Nothing new to report, what a life. We just have to be content with memories, and even these fade after a time, and become small consolations in a place like this.

 

March 21, 1941 - Friday All Irishmen in camp sent back to Stalag. Rumour goes that trouble has broke out between Ireland and England, they are to be asked who they will fight for if this is right, Jerry is up to all kinds of tricks. Snowing again, we’ve had about five months of it up to now.

 

March 26, 1941 - Wednesday Still snowing. Been ill in bed for the last four days. Got to look after ourselves here, even little scratches turn septic owing to lack of vitamins.

 

April 15, 1941 – Monday Today is Easter Monday and what a holiday for us nothing to do for its terribly cold outside and still snowing, never seen a country like this in my life. Suppose we shall be on the railway job again before long. Things said to be looking bad for us in this war, never mind we must hope for the best. Latest rumour “Severe fighting round Tobruk.”

 

May 02, 1941 A few days break and started snowing again. They say they get nine months winter and three months summer and it seems like it. Roll on Civvy Street and my dear wife. I wonder what she’s doing now at this moment.

 

Give and Take

‘Give and Take’, a motto grand –

Give and shake an offered hand,

It’s so easy to be friends –

Simple too, to make amends!

Human nature makes us fight,

Only when we think we’re right,

When your fight or quarrels o’er,

You forget and think no more,

Now compare the world today,

Let it be for me to say,

Friendship, sacrificed for power,

Death, disaster every hour,

God knows how it all will end,

Will it be as foe or friend

In my wish I hope to see

England linked with Germany,

Two great nations, hands that clasp,

Now we may feel full of spite,

Just because we think we’re right,

Every soldier thinks the same,

But who will take all the blame?

We can hope just for the best,

Diplomats must do the rest,

God gives them that something grand,

A verdict soon, an outstretched hand,

May each nation find the way?

To be peaceful, and say:

Brothers all, my hand shake,

That’s the motto ‘Give and Take’

 

By Pte. A. Nash – Prisoner of War

 

May 02, 1941 Germans allowed us to listen to ‘Lord Haw Haw’ on the wireless. According to his propaganda we are still retreating, there must be some motive for it. We’re practically finished the way he talks but we’ll have to wait and see. Propaganda doesn’t kill the old English spirit.

 

May 14, 1941 - Wednesday Great Change in the weather. Not too soon. Just like a midsummer’s day, really hot. How I wish I was back home now. Latest news. ‘Hitler’s right hand man ‘Hess’ disappeared.

 

May 16, 1941 - Friday Unbelievable, its snowing again. Roll on Blighty. Ordered to bed by medical officer. Frost bitten toe.

 

May 17, 1941 - Saturday In bed all day, weather lovely. Chatted with mate, Bob Ford about England and the wife. How I used to look forward to Saturday night in Blighty, can’t help but wonder how long this war is going to last. Thought about escaping once or twice but what’s the use. Don’t know whether Russia is against us or not. Latest news Germans evacuated Greece and Yugoslavia.

 

May 18, 1941 Had a needle injection in my toe, froze it and cut the nail in two. Still resting.

 

May 20, 1941 - Tuesday Still in bed. Big troop movements around Niklasdorfe. Polish refugees flocking through here by train, guns and vehicles heading in direction of Russian frontier’ Whether Russia is coming in against Germany we don’t know but it looks like it. Latest rumour ‘Five to six million English and American troops in Russia’

 

May 22, 1941 - Thursday Out of bed today but still not working. Weather lovely. Latest rumour to hand ‘Fifty thousand Italians captured by us. Italy capitulated. Germany blaming Italy for loss of lives in the east.

 

May 23, 1941 - Sunday Glorious weather. Made a collection of musical instruments in the camp. Already got a few. Listened to band in the evening. Received letter from Alice dater October. Latest rumour ‘Sinking of the Hood’.

 

May 26, 1941 - Monday Still off work with my foot. Received second parcel from wife. Got everything I need now except under shorts. Roll on peace and the wife. Wonder what the home is like now.

 

May 27, 1941 – Tuesday Latest news ‘Sinking of the German battle ship Bismarck. America said to be in the war. Things seem to be brightening up a bit if what we hear is true. Still browned off. May the great day be near.

 

June 01, 1941 – Whit Sunday Scorching hot weather. Grand National sweepstake in camp winner receives 110 marks, 50 marks 2nd, 25 marks 3rd, and 100 cigarettes for each runner. Drew a horse named ‘Flannagan’ so I hope it wins. No news to put down whatsoever. We generally hear when Germany is doing well.

 

June 02, 1941 – Whit Monday Holiday times like these always bring back memories. The last one I spent in England I went to Derby races with Alice, Kit and Cliff. Here’s hoping this is the last one I spend out of Blighty. Roll on. Weather Grand.

 

June 03, 1941 Our rations have been cut down again and we get no breakfast all this week. Potato shortage also bread. What a state Germany is in wish something would happen to end this war.

 

June 06 1941 - Friday Weather lovely. Latest news ‘Germany have given Russia twenty four hours to let them through or they’re taking action’. People of Holland set fire to cargo of flour destined for Germany.

 

June 08, 1941 News just received that trouble broke out in Lamsdorf with the Serbians. Thousands of them were brought in as prisoners. They were giving our lads cigarettes etc. when the guards opened fire on them with machine guns and rifles. Our lads put on punishment through it for a month.

 

June 09, 1941 Weather lovely. Latest propaganda ‘Five thousand Germans laid down their arms and marched into Russia’. Inoculated by German medical officer. Guards leaving tomorrow and new ones arriving.

 

June 12, 1941 - Thursday Death of one comrade, Collected for wreath. Latest rumour ‘British recaptured the island of Crete’. Polish rations been cut down again.

 

June 15, 1941 - Sunday Search in camp for tobacco. Lost two packets given me by the Poles. Hid them under the bed but they were found. No news. What a life, same routine day in day out.

 

June 22, 1941 - Sunday Latest rumour confirmed. ‘Russia declared war on Germany at six am this morning’. Guards are as worried as hell but for us it means excitement. In all probabilities, we shall be moved from here, as we’re not far from Russia.

 

June 03, 1941 Tuesday Events moving rapid of late. Germans lost a division against Russia. Russia captured Rumania.

 

June 25, 1941 - Wednesday Russia doing well. German news and newspapers stopped. Heavy casualties. Four hospital trains passed through here today with wounded, Secret pact said to have been past between Britain and Russia in 1939.

 

June 29, 1941 – Sunday Another weekend round again roll on a long time. Wrote a letter to wife, there isn’t a day passes but what I think of here and the folks at home, wonder what they’re doing now. Mail as stopped this last fortnight. German officer stopped us from singing National Anthem sergeant had trouble over it. Germans in Russia said to have laid down their arms and surrender.

 

July 03, 1941 Pouring down with rain, non-stop for last two days. Russian planes dropped leaflets in towns nearby.

 

July 04, 1941 Our rations have been cut down again; we shall be getting nothing soon. Latest propaganda ‘Thousands of Russians said to have been captured and tanks’ Italian troops said to have been seen by working parties near here.

 

July 05, 1941 The Dollmetscher sent his best wishes to us before leaving he’s not been bad to us. Latest news ‘Russians burning all their crops before Jerry gets them.

 

July 06, 1941 - Sunday Wrote a card to wife. Received five letters from her. Can’t get over the one dated 25 February 1941. The days and months are passing nicely now but what a horrible waste of life. Nothing to look at here but barbed wire and guards. Roll on. No news to put down.

 

July 07, 1941 Latest rumours to hand from the Czechs. “Nearly one million Germans killed in Russia”. Big air battles over the Atlantic. Germans frightened of Britain landing troops in France again.

 

July 08, 1941 Weather lovely. German newspaper reports that they have advanced on Besarabia, nothing else worth noting.

 

July 10, 1941 “Russian delegates receive hearty welcome in London.” Berlin and Hamburg bombed by our air force, civilians complaining about their food and working too many hours a day. Still browned off.

 

July 14, 1941 German newspaper states that Russia is short of arms. Stalin says that they have more than they need.

 

July 16, 1941 These last few days we have had our bread issued it has been mouldy and half of it has been thrown away. Latest rumour is “American troops landed in Denmark.” “Churchill and Stalin won’t listen to pacts or peace terms, but are determined to smash Hitler.” Predicted that this winter will finish Germany off. This remains to be seen.

 

July 17, 1941 Raining all day but quite warm. Latest propaganda, “Germany thrown nine million men in the field against Russia”. Our working party reported for being idle. What a life this is, working from dawn to dusk each day, and praying for the time when we can say farewell to this country. I wonder what is happening in England now, hope the war finishes before this diary or I shall have given up hope.

 

July 18, 1941 Yesterday’s rumour denied. The nine million men mentioned are including the Russians, and they are said to be in conflict on the border. Reported capture of 250,000 Germans by Russia. Today, German paper gives the war three months to finish, some of the guards think it’s only a matter of weeks.

 

July 20, 1941 The old Sunday round once again, bringing with it memories, the old club day, a few pints and then home to dinner. All the time I’ve been prisoner I’ve been waiting for Bestwick to write, which is the least he could do. Never mind, one finds his pals in circumstances like this. Someday I shall be able to find out why he has acted like he has towards Alice. No news to put down.

 

July 21, 1941 Weather grand. Poles causing trouble and civilian police called in to camp. Four were taken away under escort. Today’s propaganda, “Goering under arrest”. Said to be great unrest in Germany. Japan signed pact with Russia.

 

July 22, 1941 Marshall Gadingen arrested last night in Germany. Sabotage in France, Belgium and other countries. Goering imprisoned in his own home. New Czecho-Slovakia government formed in England for after the war. War in Africa finished, German soldiers withdrawn. Hitler ill. Weather lovely.

 

July 23, 1941 Guards went to a funeral this afternoon in the village. Eighteen men up to now have lost their lives against Russia. “Goering’s wife said to have shot him.”

 

July 24, 1941 Received letter and photograph from wife. Latest news confirmed, “Armistice signed in Syria and British troops have taken possession”. About time we started doing something. Roll on a long time.

 

July 27, 1941 Nothing to report, except to say that thirty Germans are reported killed at Troppau, and above a hundred wounded. Listened to camp, bad at night.

 

July 28, 1941 Latest propaganda, “Two German ships sunk in Atlantic by Americans”. Dr Benisch says that the time is near when the Germans will start retreating and not stop. Defeat of Germany will be this year. Forty million Russians to be put in the field and Russian women to be called up.

 

July 29, 1941 Germans retreated to a place called Minsk, which is the first place near the Russian border. Nothing else to report.

 

July 30, 1941 “American troops said to have landed in France at twelve o’clock yesterday, on the ship ‘Columbia’”.

 

July 31, 1941 News just been received from Lamsdorf that some of our lads have been shot trying to escape. Our medical officer has to undergo three weeks detention for being too easy with the men. Guards stood by for the front. Had to wait hours today for the bread to come in for our tea. What a state Germany is in for food. Britain give Italy seven days to pack up.

 

Never Grumble

Why has a man a longing for things he has not got,

when so many would be happy with only half his lot?

So often are they wishing, if only other things they had,

Our motto now should always be “for the things we’ve got be glad”.

The use of his eyes, or legs and health, and that precious gift to hear,

Some of our comrades may have lost just one, but yet so dear.

So if ever we should grumble, just think over what we’ve got,

For those that lost what we still hold, would be happy with our lot.

 

By Prisoner of War. ***************

 

A few notes: October 15, 1940 Received information that friend (Arthur Lund) is also a prisoner of war in Germany. L/CPL Singleton was shot on the line of March while prisoner, for striking a German guard. He had bad feet and stopped to rest, a German was kicking him to make him get up, and he struck at him, thereby losing his life.

 

June 25, 1941 The camp being organised by the Sergeant Major, and made into sections etc, names of machine gunners, riflemen and everything taken in case of emergency. Should the Russians advance and come right through, our job is to overpower the guards and make good use of their weapons. **************

 

August 01, Friday, 1941 Not a deal to put down except to say that “Japan has broken off all relations with Germany”. Weather terrible, raining all day.

 

Saturday August 02, 1941 Latest rumour, “Germans withdrawn three hundred kilometres into Poland”. No more news.

 

Sunday August 03, 1941 Today as I sit here on the grass I just can’t help my thoughts straying back to the old homeland. Lovely weather like this brings back memories, it seems I must be fated to spend my time out of England. Being here is just like being cut off from the outside world, and it makes one realise just how much home means to him. All I can say is “roll on”. May the day of unity be fast approaching for us all.

 

August 04, 1941 - Bank Holiday Monday Lovely weather all day but raining at night. Latest news, “Big offensive to be launched this week by Russia”. Two million men armed with tommy guns ready in England. Every two planes made in America, one goes to England. English officers leading the Russians.

 

August 05, 1941 “Americans said to be in England”. The Czechs told us at work today they give the war about seven weeks to finish. Fifty German planes shot down yesterday near Russian border.

 

August 06, 1941, - Wednesday “Colonel Letz of the German army recalled from Russian border, to Yugoslavia where trouble has broken out. Germans claim to have recaptured Minsk and taken 30,000 prisoners. Weather rather cold today.

 

August 07, 1941, - Thursday Received eight letters from the wife. Not much news to put down except to say that the Russians have taken another town, weather pretty cold, roll on peace and home.

 

August 08, 1941 - Friday The old proverb goes that “no news is good news”, so I hope so. Today’s weather forecast, “cold and raining”. In bed eight pm.

 

August 09, 1941 - Saturday Wrote a letter to wife. Still no news.

 

August 10, 1941 - Sunday The usual weekend round once again. Today’s propaganda “German newspaper report 150,000 Russians captured”. Weather dismal and raining. What a life, nothing to see but barbed wire.

 

August 11, 1941 - Monday Today’s news from English speaking Czech “Smolensk, Minsk are now Russian. Nine German divisions finished, no’s 11, 62, 15, 111, 19, 168, 16, 193, 18.” States radio controlled by Gestapo. Germany asked aid from Italy for ten divisions immediately. Japan expected to strike anytime, Turkey will strike at Japan or Germany if they fight against Russia. 200,000 Rumanians killed. Russian air force bombed Berlin on Friday.

 

August 12, 1941 - Tuesday Germany claim to have brought down six of our new planes, denied by the Czechs, for they say they continued on to Russia and bombed on the way back. All cars and buses from Protectorate commandeered by Germans. Still no hopes of peace, roll on a long time.

 

August 13, 1941 - Wednesday Latest news “Russia said to have got Poland”. Thirty Poles were given a bashing a few days ago for something. Today we saw nine German planes chasing another, couldn’t distinguish markings but said to be Russian. Russia given Germany seven days to withdraw her troops from France and other places, or she’s coming straight into Germany. Received eight letters and one parcel of cigarettes from wife.

 

August 14, 1941 - Thursday Raining all day. One of the Poles on the job got three years through trouble with the police. Russia using thirty metre tanks against Germany. War going good for us in the East. Five German troopships sunk leaving Lybia. One of the lads had a full bowl of soup fit over his head for a twenty cigarette bet.

 

August 15, 1941 - Friday Royal Air Force visited this end yesterday dropping leaflets. Nothing else to report. Weather lovely.

 

August 16, 1941 - Saturday Received fresh straw to sleep on and lads complaining that it’s full of fleas. Got three letters from wife, done very well for I’ve had nineteen this week, the latest one dated 19th last month, should be receiving third clothing parcel anytime according to her letter.

 

August 17, 1941 - Sunday Laid on the grass outside, weather lovely. Wrote a card to Alice. Roll on Sheffield. It’s a wonder a man doesn’t get barbed wire fever here, same routine, day in, day out. Wonder how much longer this prison life is going to last. Better get in bed, for one finds contentment there.

 

August 18, 1941 - Monday All Germans up to the age of forty called up. English troops said to have landed in France. Big move said to be going on between Turkey, America and Russia. Weather lovely.

 

August 19, 1941 - Tuesday Russia doing well, and the Germans are retreating. New government being formed in France, this is against Germany. Weather lovely all day but rained at night. Roll on.

 

August 20, 1941 - Wednesday Received two letters from wife. No news whatsoever to put down.

 

August 21, 1941 - Thursday Went to bed as soon as I came from work, had a touch of malaria, laid on the grass all afternoon at work with the parties’ clothes over me, still no news.

 

August 22, 1941 - Friday Felt terrible at work today. Latest news to hand, “Representatives from Britain, America and France met in Turkey for discussion”. General Franco declared that Spain will come in with Britain. We are expected to move into Poland shortly to work, as Russian prisoners are coming here.

 

August 23, 1941 - Saturday Just been told that we are leaving for Poland in a weeks’ time, German officer says that the men in this camp are a fine body of men and it’s a shame we have to leave. No news, weather grand.

 

August 24, 1941 - Sunday The old usual weekend of monotony, wrote a letter to wife. “Something big expected to happen for Germany in the next three days”.

 

August 25, 1941 - Monday “Russians said to be advancing fast.” Germany lost a few divisions of men near Leningrad, they were surrounded. Bremen was bombed yesterday. Weather fine.

 

August 26, 1941 - Tuesday Latest news, “Britain has taken over Ireland”. Germany losing heavily. Received one letter from wife. Weather dismal, browned off.

 

August 27, 1941 - Wednesday “British troops said to be in Iran.” More divisions of Germans cut off near Leningrad. Civilians complaining of shortage of tobacco and cigarettes.

 

August 28, 1941 - Thursday Nothing to report. Received one letter from wife. Weather lovely.

 

August 31, 1941 - Sunday Information list just been brought round, regarding over seven thousand men and three hundred officers reported missing in England. Quite a lot of news was given by different men who had seen some of them killed. Another month over, thank the Lord, hope this is the last August I see in this country.

 

September 01, 1941 - Monday Latest propaganda, “Greeks and Yugoslavs revolting”. Japan says she is keeping out of the war. Germany asked Italy for aid but have been refused. Fierce fighting near Leningrad. British troops in Turkey.

 

September 02, 1941 - Tuesday Received second parcel of cigarettes from wife. No news today, roll on Sheffield.

 

September 03, 1941 - Wednesday Two years today since war was declared, how time passes. Wonder how much longer I’ve to be caged up. Received third clothing parcel from Alice. Roll on that boat.

 

September 07, 1941 - Sunday Received two letters dated 10th and 11th June from wife. No news whatsoever.

 

September 08, 1941 - Monday “Germany made two big attacks on Leningrad and failed”. American battleship sunk. That is all.

 

September 11, 1941 - Thursday Russia doing well. German troops at front dying through cholera and fever. Confirmed report, “seven thousand Russian prisoners at Lamsdorf and some are being shot. They’re sleeping in the open and rushed the cookhouse through hunger”.

 

September 18, 1941 - Thursday Latest news, “British and American troops said to be in Norway and Denmark”. Three thousand British and colonial troops in Lamsdorf from the Balkans and the East. The Russian prisoners there are getting nothing to eat but potatoes once a day.

 

September 22, 1941 - Monday German newspaper report says that they have lost 80,000 men and others are missing. Russians have recaptured Smolensk. 1,400 German planes bombed England over the week-end, biggest air raid since war started and they lost 400.

 

September 25, 1941 - Thursday One of our lads from another camp escaped and captured in civvy clothes. Asked to be recognised in case he’s shot. Name is Corporal Radcliffe, Buff Regt, registered as Pole, speaks Polish and German.

 

To His Mother

1) In the dark womb where I began,

my mother’s life made me a man.

Through all the months of human birth,

her beauty fed my common earth,

I cannot see, nor breathe nor stir,

but through the death of some of her.

 

2) Down in the darkness of the grave,

she cannot see the life she gave.

For all her love she cannot tell,

whether I use it ill or well,

nor knock at dusty doors to find,

her memory dusty in my mind.

 

3) If the graves gates could be undone,

she would not know her little son,

I so grown. If we should meet,

she would pass by me in the street,

unless my soul’s face let her see,

my sense of what she did for me.

 

4) What have I done, keep in mind,

my debt to her and woman kind,

what woman’s happier life repays

her for those months of wretched days?

For all my mouthless body leach’d

‘ere births releasing hell was reached.

 

5) What have I done, or tried, or said,

in thanks to that dear woman dead?

Men triumph over women still,

men trample over women’s rights at will,

and man’s lust roves the world untamed,

O’ grave keep shut lest I be shamed.

 

By John Masefield.

 

September 26, 1941 - Friday Received parcel of cigs from the wife. No news and nothing to report, same old routine from one day to another. Roll on Blightly. Time 8.45pm.

 

September 29, 1941 - Monday Germany said to be suffering heavy losses. Big air battle over France, we lost 13 planes and Germany 19. Stalin says the war hasn’t started yet, and Germany will be finished by Xmas. New officers taken over the camp today, we’re not sorry.

 

October 01, 1941 - Wednesday Three German generals shot yesterday for causing mutiny. Small riots in Berlin. Received one letter from Alice. Weather dismal. Still browned off and hanging on for peace, that little word with such a big meaning.

 

October 02, 1941 - Thursday Latest rumours, “Ten divisions of British troops said to be in Russia. German troops being withdrawn from France. Sabotage in different parts of Germany”. No more fats to be issued here for three months to the German soldiers. What a state things are getting in.

 

October 06, 1941 - Monday Started on new job at Niklasdorf stone factory. Hardest job I’ve been on, in fact it’s horse work, shoving big stones to the crane, six of us, straining and heaving.

 

October 08, 1941 - Wednesday German officer gave his men a lecture for being dirty, said the Englishmen were smarter, cleaner and more cheerful than the guards. One guard taken to bath house and scrubbed. Two Englishmen asked to scrub him, but refused.

 

October 12, 1941 - Sunday Winter arrives again. Snowing once more. Wrote a letter to wife. All the camp to be punished fourteen days, reveille 4.30 am and locked up as soon as we come in at night. The lights have been taken out of the huts so we’re in darkness.

 

October 13, 1941 - Monday Latest rumour, “Germany said to be making no progress”. Stalin says he’s only used front line troops up to now, and could do so for a long time yet without using his reserves.

 

October 15, 1941 - Wednesday Our air force visited Berlin yesterday dropping leaflets with Hitler on and other prop. Saw a fellow at work today drying cigar ends on the fire – what a state the civvies are in. Collected money round camp for gravestone for comrade who died.

 

October 20, 1941 - Monday Received fourth clothing parcel from wife. No news to put down.

 

October 29, 1941 - Wednesday Three million Japs said to be in Russia fighting against Germany. Weather terrible, snowing like hell.

 

October 31, 1941 - Friday Received two parcels of cigarettes from wife. No further news about the war. Roll on.

 

November 15, 1941 - Saturday Went to the civilian canteen and saw a German film called “Kannst du Pfeifen Johann”. Just been told the camp is breaking up as Russian prisoners are coming here. This time it is right, for machine gun posts have been put up, and barbed wire. The civilians dread the Russians coming, for Englishmen are well liked now.

 

November 23, 1941 - Sunday Holding farewell concert prior to leaving Sudetenland for other part of Germany, where we are going nobody knows, but I hope we strike lucky. No news regarding the war.

 

November 26, 1941 - Wednesday Had trouble at work – the crane driver fetched the guard, and the main manager came also. Two of our lads were fighting and I was sparring up to the employer, he raised his fists first. He’s the worst German I’ve ever met.

 

November 27, 1941 - Thursday Reported my case at the office and got off the job, the employer should have been a slave driver, better off working somewhere else. Anyway, lets roll on and see where we are moving to.

 

December 03, 1941 - Wednesday About a hundred men left camp for work in other parts. We have all to be away from here for the New Year. Never seen so much barbed wire as they’re using for the Russians – even the cookhouse is wired off.

 

December 07, 1941 - Sunday Had our photographs taken, and ordered half a dozen. We are allowed to send one home for Xmas. No news.

 

December 08, 1941 - Monday Latest news, “Japan said to have declared war on America”. Things are certainly happening. I wonder how long this war will last now.

 

December 16, 1941 - Tuesday Moved from Niklasdorf to a place called Zwittau. Two days train journey and locked in all the time, very little to drink.

 

December 19, 1941 - Friday Working in a sawmill, twenty of us. Good billets, but we have to leave our topcoats and boots downstairs before we retire for the night. Terrible guard.

 

December 25, 1941 - Thursday Xmas day Christmas day and in bed at eight o’clock. What an existence. Haven’t been in England for years on this occasion, but promise myself that I will make it a happy one when I do get one. Sent a card home to the wife. Roll on Civvy Street.

 

December 31, 1941 - Wednesday What a day, no cigarettes, cabbage soup for dinner, and bread and butter for tea. In bed early as usual. It’s just like being cut off from the outside world here with no mail or anything. Sleep is the best thing and hope for better things in the near future.

 

January 01, 1942 - Thursday Holiday today same as in England. Although I’m miles from the old hometown my thoughts are there. The old saying goes think of the future, and not of the past, so I’ll let these few words suffice and say ‘finis’ for today.

 

January 07, 1942 - Wednesday Air raid alarm sounded here today after dinner. Lasted about an hour so it looks as if our lads were over. Civilians say they are over pretty often. Had no cigarettes for a long time now. Still hoping.

 

January 18, 1942 - Sunday Latest news, “Japs doing well”. Weather forecast “absolutely freezing, 20 below and up to the knees in snow”. The food is still terrible. Roll on when we can sit down to a good meal.

 

January 23, 1942 - Friday Had a bit of trouble with the guard at work. One can expect nothing else these days, for we’re all on edge, hard times bring trouble.

 

February 01, 1942 - Sunday Received letters from wife, Annie and Violet. Sorry to hear about Callaghan’s brother’s wife passing away. “Japan still said to be doing well.” Weather forecast “31 grad, 36 below zero”.

 

March 01, 1942 - Sunday Latest news “Japan still doing well and Singapore has fallen”. Things are looking a bit black for us at present.

 

March 22, 1942 - Sunday Not a deal to report. Days and months are passing nicely now, but what wasted life. Civilians are talking about their food getting cut again next month, and they’re not getting a deal now.

 

March 29, 1942 - Sunday Having marvellous weather, wish I could say the same about the news, but we hear very little these days. Roll on.

 

April 05, 1942 - Easter Sunday Another holiday round once again, how they keep rolling by but not half quick enough. Report just been received that an English prisoner has been shot for assaulting a German officer.

 

April 26, 1942 - Sunday Not a bad weekend. Had a game of soccer this afternoon, reminded me of old times. Received parcel of cigarettes from the wife. Food is going down terrible, turnip soup every day. We’ve had weeks on cabbage, now it’s turnip. Roll on. Even the civilians are eating dry bread at work now.

 

Alien Enemies (The German mother speaks to the English mother)

On the cold frontier line of death,

I won my man-child blood and breath,

At a great price in gulfs of night,

Purchased the morning for his sight,

And in a silence big with fear,

Fore wrought the music he should hear.

 

And you? Ah! Who should know but I?

The wings of death that beat so nigh,

The deathly dark, the deathly dews,

The soul that will not yet refuse,

And all you risked and all you paid,

When out of you your son was made.

 

Your son and mine in love were bred,

Your son and mine in hate are dead,

Yet never hated, never known,

The sense of what they had to do,

But perished brother slain by brother,

Who bight as well have loved each other.

 

The happy hands too good to put,

To the red business of the brute,

The candid eyes that death release,

Found peopled with the dream of peace,

The hope beneath my heart that grew,

Ah! Who should know them if not you?

 

Dear mother of a murdered son,

Ours is the end by us begun,

Ours is the strength the drums called up,

And ours it is to drink the cup,

Of childless days, of childless years,

Salt with the taste of blood and tears.

 

Dear murder mother still to die,

The women’s regiments go by,

No music of the march for them,

And for their souls no requiem,

When mid the screaming of the guns,

The mothers perish in their sons.

 

And we are foes, or so they tell me,

But in the wonder that befell me,

When a solitary soldier I,

Fought for the life so soon to die,

 

When out of night, I brought, I won,

My morning star my little son.

When at the utter risk and cost,

I gained the solace I had lost,

 

When underneath my opening eyes,

Lay that which now all altered lies,

When underneath my opening eyes,

Lay that which now all altered lies,

 

When to my warm and passionate breast,

I held the limbs now cold in rest,

I knew one peace that shall not end,

And every mother for my friend.

 

May 03, 1942 – Sunday Our air force was over a couple of days ago and bombed Czechoslovakia. Played soccer today in the sport palest. Wrote letter to wife and said “One cannot live on fresh air alone”.

 

May 10, 1942 - Sunday Glorious weather. Played soccer and went for a walk in the afternoon. This last week there has been quite a bit of bombing over here by the air force. Heard a rumour that Russia had given in, but this was denied. Back again to cabbage soup, all we’re living on is cabbage and turnip. Roll on, God help them after this harvest has gone.

 

May 25, 1942 - Whitsuntide Received ten letters from wife. Nothing else to report, no news whatsoever. Still waiting for that boat.

 

May 31, 1942 - Sunday Latest news to hand “Rioting going off in Czechoslovakia. The general in charge of the protectorate was shot. A whole family including mother, two young daughters and son were shot for being in the affair. A curfew has been put on the Czechs whereby they must be indoors by nine at night. Four girls who waved to us at whilst they were passing in the train, have been taken into custody by the Gestapo. The whole of Czechoslovakia seems to be in a state of unrest.

 

June 07, 1942 – Sunday Received a parcel of cigarettes from the Regiment. Men and women still being shot in Czechoslovakia. Weather forecast glorious and it is a pleasure to be outside. Nothing else to report.

 

June 14, 1942 – Sunday On Friday a whole village in Czechoslovakia was burned. Rifles, ammunition and a Schafft-sender was found by the Germans. All the men were put together and shot. The women and children were sent to the concentration camps. Everyday the shooting of civilians is going on. Received letter from Annie saying my mate has been wounded in India through shrapnel.

 

June 28, 1942 – Sunday Raining all the weekend. Shooting is still going on in Czechoslovakia. Villages have been burned down. According to German news things are going bad for us in Egypt and Africa. Italians and Germans recaptured Tobruk, thirty thousand British prisoners taken. I wonder when we are going to do something in this war, it will last years by the way it is going.

 

July 05, 1942 – Sunday The latest news is that we have been driven right out of Africa and are back in Egypt, we seem to be losing all over but never mind we await forthcoming events. Received sixth cigarette parcel from wife.

 

July 12, 1942 – Sunday Went for a walk round the town. This last week there has been nothing else in the paper but news about our ships being sunk. “Sebastopol has fallen and is now in German Hands.” The Royal Air Force has been over the last week and bombed Bremen and other towns, hospitals were hit and civilians killed, number of planes 500. Nothing else to report.

 

July 19, 1942 – Sunday Plenty of news flying round lately regarding Turkey. German ambassador has been told to leave Turkey at once; it appears they are coming in on our side. Received six letters from Alice. Roll on a long time.

 

July 26, 1942 – Sunday “Germans are said to be doing well in Russia”. No further news.

 

August 09, 1942 – Sunday War seems to be turning in our favour a bit. The Germans have been pushed back above a hundred kilometres in one part of Russia. Our air force still keeps bombing over here. Hamburg has suffered terrible, most of the civilians here think the war will be over by Xmas and Russia finished, they believe we’ll come to terms with Germany. I don’t think so.

 

August 16, 1942 – Sunday Our mail has been stopped. Orders have been received from the main camp, to the effect that German prisoners in England, are getting very few letters owing to bad service, until this improves we shall have our mail checked. WE have been told to write home about it but to us this is propaganda. Lovely weather today. As I sit here on the top of the timber gazing at the open spaces, and watching the civilians passing on the main road, it makes one realise what he is missing back in England. Roll on.

 

August 23, 1942 – Sunday Received fifth clothing parcel from wife with one pair of boots enclosed. Latest news “British troops landed in France in five places.” Germans claim to have driven them off and taken 1,500 prisoners, also tanks. They lost 400 men.

 

August 31, 1942 - Sunday We have received no mail for over a month now and are not even getting letter cards to write home with, we seem to have lost touch with the outside world altogether. Latest propaganda “England said to be putting pressure on Turkey to let them through”.

 

September 20, 1942 – Sunday Thing are getting worse. Meat has got scarcer and we are allowed less freedom. Latest news “English troops tried a landing in Tobruk.” Once again we have been driven off, but the thing is that is worrying the Germans is, “Where are we going to strike next.” Received news that Edna’s husband is missing, the only hope is that things turn out OK. This war has been on three years now and there still seems to be no signs of peace yet.

 

October 23, 1942 – Sunday Quite a time has elapsed since I put anything down in this diary but there has been very little to report. Edna’s is off the missing list and is a prisoner of war. Received two cigarette parcels yesterday, one from the regiment. 10th bought a jazz trumpet 55 marks.

 

November 08, 1942 – Sunday No news. Weather terribly cold. Received clothing 6th parcel from wife also cigarettes. Clocks in Germany have been put back an hour; it is now dark at five o’clock. I am still living in high hopes and smiling. Roll on.

 

November 22, 1942 – Sunday Today it is snowing like blazes. At last we have a bit of news apart from the sinking of British ships, which is an everyday occurrence. “War going good for us in Egypt and Africa,” German troops marched into South of France. This is all for today.

 

November 25, 1942 – Wednesday Identification parade. German police came up to the room with Czechoslovak girl, who was asked to pick out prisoner she’d been intimate with. She’d been found with chocolate and other articles on her. Two other girls also at police station regarding same affair. The case concerns four of our fellows and these three girls, and it seems some were recognised by dress although they couldn’t actually prove it. We await forthcoming events to see what will become of it.

 

November 29, 1942 – Sunday Terrible weather, snowing and windy. This last few days the news has been good and seems to brighten things up a bit. The latest report is that we’ve taken thousands of prisoners in Africa, and have now passed Benghazi. The Russians are also said to be doing well. It’s about time things started moving or it will last for years this war.

 

December 06, 1942 – Sunday War still going great for us in Egypt and Africa and it appears the Germans are being driven back. I have received letter from Bestwick.

 

December 20, 1942 – Sunday Just a few more days and Xmas will be upon us. We are all hoping to spend the best Xmas we can possibly have as prisoners of war, and may it be the final one in Germany. No News about the war. Been working all day today for two wagons came in. All letters and parcels stopped for indefinite period owing to passage from Switzerland not being clear. English Commando raid on France, German sentries captured, boots left behind.

 

December 27, 1942 – Sunday The death roll for this place here now stands at a hundred and ninety six, so God knows what the big towns are like. Yesterday we had to work all day. Four wagons came in spoiling our Boxing Day holiday.

 

December 31, 1942 – Thursday Being New Years Eve recalls to my mind the last one I had in England years ago. The time is nine o’clock, and although miles separate the folks in England and me I shall be with them in spirit. May the coming New Year bring better luck to us all and above all “A speedy end to all this trouble”.

 

January 03, 1943 – Sunday Working as usual, one wagon came in. Nothing else to put down whatsoever.

 

January 04, 1943 Controller searched lockers.

 

January 10, 1943 – Sunday The latest news from the German newspaper, “Roosevelt states that the end of the war can be mathematically worked out”. This year of 1943 will see the allied nations en-route for Berlin, Rome and Tokyo. We hope so, but think not, anyway roll on.

 

January 12, 1943 – Tuesday Latest news “126,000 brutal registered tonnen versenkt. 174,000 tonnen betriebs stoff für Nordafrica vernichyet. 13 tanker von u booten auf den meeresgrund geschicht, auf dem weg nach Gibraltar.

 

January 19, 1943 – Tuesday Today our guard, Otto Hauet left us, he has been with us since June 03, best German I’ve ever met and him and his wife did a lot for us. Latest news “our eighth army has been repulsed in their attacks. Russia still pushing forward and doing well. Ill in bed since yesterday.

 

January 20, 1943 – Wednesday Received three cigarette parcels from wife. No news.

 

January 21, 1943 – Thursday Latest rumour, “Germans surrounded Stalingrad and found themselves surrounded”.

 

January 25, 1943 – Monday “Iraq declared war on Germany”. Today we’ve heard the best news since war started, “Africa is just about finished, and the Germans have evacuated Tripoli”. Newspaper says in regard to war in Russia “Victory or Bolshevism”.

 

February 03, 1943 – Wednesday Latest newspaper reports, “German sixth army fighting south of Stalingrad has been overwhelmed”. They’re still holding out in the north. Good old Russia.

 

February 04, 1943 – Thursday Latest News “The battle for Stalingrad is ended”. The Germans lost 500,000 men. The paper says that, inch-by-inch, and stone by stone, these men have fought and given their lives for the Fatherland, thus erecting a memorial that will live forever among the people of Germany. “Unsterbliche ehre für farben auf die 6th armee”.

 

February 06, 1943 – Saturday German headlines say “Avengeance”. Russia must pay for every German life that has been lost. Latest report “300,000 wounded. All big factories not needed for war work to be closed down. All available men must be called up, German mobilisation. Neutrality negotiations between Churchill and the Turkish Ministers.

 

February 19, 1943 – Friday Russians still advancing “Germans have now lost Rostov and Voroshalovgrad”.

 

February 25, 1943 – Thursday “American troops are being pushed back in Tunis, and the Germans have recaptured two towns”. No further news.

 

February 26, 1943 – Friday Latest propaganda “Italians sinking their own ships. Twenty thousand Czechs thrown into jail for sabotage. One was found with ammunition etc. plastered in the walls.

 

February 29, 1943 – Saturday Latest news “District fighting in Tunis”. Soviet attacks were shattered in Russia, as usual. One article in German headlines says “Collapse of the British Empire”. America is taking more and more off us to meet her own ends.

 

March 03, 1943 – Wednesday Not much news to put down except to say that Germany has beaten off all attacks in Russia and Tunis. In one battle according to newspaper 14,000 Russians were killed. Weather terrible, windy.

 

March 04, 1943 – Thursday “Germans evacuated the town of Demiaiitk in Russia”. In Tunis the Germans and Italians are still pushing forward. No further news.

 

March 10, 1943 – Wednesday Germans have evacuated the town of Ort Sytschewka, Russia.

 

March 14, 1943 – Sunday Germans are back in Khakkow and fierce fighting is ensuing there. Small patrol movements only around Tunis. Germans according to papers have recaptured six small places in Russia.

 

March 15, 1943 – Monday Arrival of two new chaps to our party. Two were sent away as they were reported as being undesirable. Nothing else to report.

 

March 21, 1943 – Sunday Nothing of any importance to put down. Germans seem to be pushing Russians back in a few places. Weather lovely. Received 7th clothing parcel couple of days ago from the wife.

 

March 25, 1943 – Thursday According to German news we are attacking strongly in Tunis. In Russia the German are repulsing all attacks. Roll on a long time.

 

March 29, 1943 – Monday Today’s news “The Royal Air Force visited here this last weekend and bombed Cologne and Essen”. According to information received thirty-five waves of planes came over and Essen is bombed absolutely flat. Women and children have had to take to the woods for the houses are completely uninhabitable. Received the cig. parcels from Reg.

 

March 31, 1943 – Wednesday “Once again the Royal Air Force is reported to have caused a lot of damage in Nuremberg, Munich, and Stuttgart”. According to German newspaper today things are going well for us in Tunis, they have evacuated another place according to plan. This is a polite way of saying they are withdrawing. The war in Russia doesn’t appear to be going too well, for the Germans have recaptured Kharkow.

 

April 04, 1943 – Sunday Most of the day I spent in bed. This existence is terrible, we’ve begun to accept this life as permanent now for we’ve been prisoners so long. Roll on, Wrote to Alice but I’m afraid it was a poor letter. No news at all regarding the war.

 

April 05, 1943 – Monday Latest news to hand “Paris was bombed this last weekend and it appears bombs were dropped on a big race course, and a sports arena. Thousands of people were in attendance and the number of dead and wounded is not known yet. Our eighth army has broken through the strong defences in the south of Tunis.

 

April 07, 1943 - Wednesday Today’s newspaper report says that several hundred people were killed in the bombing of Paris and seven hundred were wounded. American planes and English were responsible. Not much fighting in Tunis at present. Weather snowing.

 

April 09, 1943 – Friday Latest news “Heavy bombing in Antwerp, two thousand civilians killed including women and children”. Information just received that British troops have landed in Italy and taken a port, the Italians can’t hold them, this has not been confirmed yet. Forty thousand Germans have been captured in Kharkow, Russia; this is not mentioned in the newspapers. Received cigarette parcel from wife. Weather terrible, snowing.

 

April 10, 1943 – Saturday Latest propaganda “British troops have made a landing in Sicily”, this news is from a Frenchman. Fourteen hindered English and American planes have been over here and given Berlin a terrific bombing. This has not been confirmed yet for we haven’t seen a paper. Another Saturday night round once again, what a life, it just seems as if this routine is permanent now, can’t imagine ever going home.

 

April 12, 1943 – Monday “Our sixth brigade has been captured in Burma by the Japanese, General Cavendish was also taken prisoner. All quite on the eastern front. The news from Tunis is good “The Germans have withdrawn again according to plan and our troops are pushing forward in the south”. Middle sector our troops are being held. Today I went over the boarder right into Czechoslovakia fetching timber in by lorry. Went through Glasledorf, Pöhler, Kränau (Germany), Gewitsz, Haus Brünn, Breisen, (Bohemia), Böhmisch. Called in Gasthaus and had two bottles of beer with Darkie Roberts. This day must be remembered by us two as commemoration day When back in England Roll on.

 

April 20, 1943 – Tuesday Today was a rather depressing day for I said goodbye to one of my dearest friends, Arthur Roberts. We’ve been together for a long time now and I thought we should accompany one another back to England. He’s the only Sheffilder I’ve ever met, may luck be with him and above all, roll on Blighty, it seems as if this darned war will never finish. Three and a half years this war has been on now and still no signs of peace. Fifteen of us left here now out of the twenty that came, they wouldn’t have left if the Gaffer had been OK but he’s a dog.

 

April 21, 1943 – Wednesday All quite in Tunis. In Russia the Germans are said to be doing well. Yesterday was “Hitler’s” birthday and the newspapers demanded that every house should fly the German flag. The penalty for not doing so is two years. What a country.

 

April 22, 1943 – Thursday The Royal Air Force bombed Berlin once again, one bomb was dropped weighing 1,000 kilos and it fell in a garden, and sank 9 metres in the ground and failed to explode. France is being bombed daily. No further news.

 

April 26, 1943 – Easter Monday Holiday for the firm but some of our lads had to work because a wagon came in. I was a bit fortunate myself for I escaped it. The last news received from the Tunisian front was that we were doing well, we were attacking with superior forces and the German newspaper said they were withdrawing according to plan, to take up better positions. The Russians don’t seem to be doing well lately; they seem to do better in the winter. This year we all seem confident that some decision will be forced one way or another, all we can do is “wait and see”. Weather lovely today, just a slight wind.

 

May 02, 1943 – Sunday Walked round the works till we were fed up. Stood by the fence and watched the Russian men and women pass. It is a shame that women should be prisoners of war. Slipped bread and cigarettes to them, we’ve done this for a few weeks now and they look forward to it. Some of the women are terribly dressed, how the German people can see them walk about like this I don’t know, Germany will pay later on for the way they’re being treated, poor devils. No news regarding the war. Roll on.

 

May 04, 1943 – Tuesday Last Thursday received parcel of books from the regiment and forgot to enter it up. Latest news to hand “Sinking of one of our destroyers ‘Beverley’”. Some district fighting in Tunis. Strong attacks in Russia around the Kuban bridgehead but the Russians were driven off.

 

May 09, 1943 – Sunday We smuggled two Russian women into the camp today. I stood guard while two men were in the sawdust cellar with them and food was given to them and clothing. I was caught out by the guard and he searched all over for comrades but they got away. Later on I got and got the women through the gate showing them the direction to take, for the guard was coming round again. Latest news from the German wireless “British troops doing well for we have captured the town of Tunis and another. Arrival this week of two new lads to our camp from Munich.

 

May 10, 1943 – Monday Latest news from the German newspaper “The war in Africa is just about finished” Italy says that it isn’t over yet for they will be back again. Very little activity in Russia. Still waiting for that great day of repatriation. Roll on.

 

May 11, 1943 – Tuesday The two new lads who have joined us from Munich brought us first hand information regarding happenings in some of the big places. It appears Munich has been bombed terrible by our air force and they have been compelled to leave, one of the bombs dropped nearby and their barracks caught fire. Nightly these raids have been carried out, and our lads have helped to clear away some of the debris, women and children mutilated and dead have been brought out of buildings, and others have been trapped in the cellars. Our lads volunteered to remove some of the ruins and save a few lives as the civilians were to slow, but it is forbidden, regardless of everything the Englishmen were well liked in Munich. Some fellows were employed in cemeteries keeping them clean etc. Regarding food the civilians are in a terrible state. In Berlin their has been a bit of rioting, one of our Red Cross camps was raided and five German guards were killed and an English sergeant major. The police were turned out and they had to use machine guns on the civilians, it appears the big towns are suffering terrible from food shortages. Some of our Royal Air Force who was brought down in Berlin were lynched and strung up on lampposts. Ration cards have been dropped from planes and all the shops were sold out of food and other things, the colour of the cards are changed every time now on account of this.

 

An Englishman arrived in Lamsdorfe a couple of weeks ago and he was bound with thick wire around the wrists, the fellow broke down as soon as he arrived for he’d never had his hands undone for five days. The camp commandant hit the guard straight between the eyes when he saw him, the wire had cut through the fellow’s wrists and his arms were swollen up. The doctor informed Swiss representatives.

 

May 12, 1943 – Wednesday Fire broke out in the factory at 9:00pm started in the boiler house and there was no one here but the manager and two daughters. We ran the hosepipe out and finally put the flames out. When the fire brigade arrived they were too late. Manager praised out good work up to the police and others, and a special report has gone in to the Wehrmacht, had a bottle of beer each as a present.

 

May 16, 1943 – Sunday The German newspaper reports today that the “Battle for Africa is ended”. The last of the German and Italian troops, have finally laid down their arms after heavy fighting, and shortage of food and ammunition. Very little to report from Russia. Our air force bombed Stettin, Rostock, Duisburg, Oberhausen, and Mülheim, heavy civilian losses. Wonder where our next landing will be now.

 

May 17, 1943 – Monday Today’s news – German paper reports that the Welsh Guards lost 80 percent of their regiment in Africa, and the Irish Guards landed with 850 men and only 150 were left. Newspapers headlines say that the Jews will once more have their star flying now that Africa is ours. Very little activity in Russia.

 

May 19, 1943 – Wednesday Report received from a Pole goes that an Italian minister has deserted and gone to England. Today’s newspaper states that our air force were over here and bombed two dams, civilians were drowned. The Germans are advancing in Russia, and the Americans have landed on the island of Attu against the Japs and are doing well. German planes visited England and successfully bombed London, Newcastle, Chelmsford and Sunderland, our air force bombed Rome and Sicily.

 

May 23, 1943 – Sunday Not a deal to report. Very little activity in Russia, something will have to break soon. The weather has been glorious today and I just whiled away the hours on the grass. Days like these make one wish I were back in England, roll on. Wrote a card to wife at night. Four civilians who work here have to stay in the firm at night in case of air raid alarms or fire etc.; it has to work round the firm, four different people each night.

 

May 24, 1943 – Monday Today’s news is that the Americans have landed another division on the island of Attu, and the Japs are being driven right into the mountains. Nothing worth mentioning is happening in Russia at present. Weather today is lovely. Departure of Unter Officer and arrival of a new fellow. Roll on peace, wonder when this damned war will finish, dropped my pocket watch in a wagon and its gone to Prauge.

 

May 25, 1943 – Tuesday No news to put down. The weather has been terrible today, pouring down with rain, got drenched wet. Early in bed. Roll on a long time.

 

May 26, 1943 – Wednesday Today’s news “Twenty five of our planes have been shot down over Sicily”. Quite a lot of talk in the paper about the second fronts, they’re expecting us to land somewhere but they don’t know where it’s coming.

 

May 28, 1943 – Friday This last fortnight we have had some Frenchmen working here and they’re a decent set of fellows, the youngest one is eighteen and the oldest fifty-four. It appears they come from around Metz where all the families have been turned out of their homes. Men, women and children are all living together now in the same barrack rooms. Poor devils are just surviving so we give them soup and potatoes. Komm Zurück

 

Komm Zurück! Ich warte auf dich, Denn du bist für mich, all mein glück! Komm Zurück! Ruft mein herz immer zu, Nun erfülle du mein guschick! Ist der weg auch weit. Führt er dich und auch mich in die seligheit, Darüm bitt ich dich heut, Komm Zurück! Komm Zurück!

 

May 30, 1943 – Sunday Nothing to report. Had a nice quite weekend but the weather spoiled it. The manager has loaned me a hunting horn and is giving me the music, so I can go hunting with him when I’ve learned a few calls. I blow a few infantry calls outside with it.

 

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© BBC. WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/.

 

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