Private George Irving Beck
Unit : 1st Battalion The Duke of Wellington's Regiment
Served : France (captured)
Army No. : 4612260
POW No. : 16652
Camps : Stalag 344
June 01, 1943 – Tuesday Today’s news from German newspaper. The following is a report of damage done by our terror attacks on Germany by our air force. 191 schools destroyed. 920 heavily damaged. 105 hospitals destroyed, 231 heavily damaged. 133 churches destroyed, 494 heavily damaged. Hundreds of other places destroyed including universities, museums, and opera houses. Heavy civilian losses. Names of places being heavily bombed are, Köln, Mainz, Essen, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Soest, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Munich, Mürnberg, Kassel, Bremen, Lübeck, Rostock, Berlin, front page of paper is full of places and damage done, it says “Auge un auge”, “ Zahn un Zahn”.
June 02, 1943 – Wednesday Walked round the place alone for about a hour tonight in deep thought. Too much thinking makes a man fed up so I went up to bed early. What a life. It appears I’m just destined to be out of England. It seems years since I was in Sheffield and that was only for a few months. Wonder what Alice and the folks at home are doing now. Latest rumour “England has delivered an ultimatum to Italy and it expires at twelve o’clock tonight.” This as not been confirmed. Waiting for radio report. English naval experts in Turkey.
June 03, 1943 – Thursday No news whatsoever to put down except to say I received a cigarette parcel from the wife. Weather lovely. Roll on a long time.
June 05, 1943 – Saturday Tonight there was quite a stirring speech on the wireless by Dr. Goebbels, we thought he was going mad, what hatred for England and America. Today’s Volkisher Beobachter News “German planes flew over England yesterday and bombed Ipswich and other places on the south east coast, they lost one plane as usual”. Sicily shelled by our navy, and another article blames us for starting the bombing of civilians first. New government been formed in Argentina. The paper shows a page full of buildings that have been blown down by our bombing raids, in Kassel – The oldest church in Germany, a cathedral library, and other churches and large buildings in Nürenberg, Lübelk, Dortmund, and Duisburg. Received four letter today, one asking me to write to Rex in India, and the next letter I opened said he’d been to our house, what a surprise but I’m glad he’s got home.
June 06, 1943 – Sunday The Abyssinians in Africa have collected together and are willing to help the allies in an attack on Italy, they will form the spearhead. We seem to be shelling and bombing Italy terrible.
June 10, 1943 – Thursday Today I received the sad news that Frank Britton has been killed, it came, as a shock to me for it hardly seems possible. Its about time something happened to end this war, been a prisoner over three years now. Roll on.
June 14, 1943 – Whit Monday Latest news to hand “The island of Pantalleria by Italy has had such a severe bombing and shelling that they have capitulated. The next place is Sicily and we hope that our troops smash Italy and finish one of the axis powers. Our air force were over here again yesterday and bombed Bremen and Kiel, their Luftwaffe visited England and bombed Bristol and two other places on the south coast. We lost 47 planes, they lost two, and they must be a wonderful nation according to the propaganda. Seems to be all quiet in Russia excepting around the Kuban where fierce fighting continues.
June 21, 1943 – Monday Tonight I watched the Hitler Youths and girls march by, there were thousands of them and the girls looked lovely dressed in white and blue. Drummers were leading flags and banners rearing swastikas were flying, Red Cross nurses were there and firemen etc. They all formed in mass in a great field and a huge bonfire was set alight, community singing was held and a great speech was given, some parts related to the war, soldier at the front and England and Bolshevism. It was a wonderful sight and people came from all over, marvellous weather.
July 09, 1943 – Friday No news worth noting has been available this last couple of weeks except to say that we played soccer last Sunday against another camp, I scored a goal but they were the better team, they are fit and play every week. Other news Russians now started attacking again in strong forces.
July 11, 1943 – Sunday Today we have heard the best news for a long time, “English and American troops landed in Sicily last Friday”. We’ve been waiting for this for ages and now we wish our lads every success and hope for the best. Roll on when Italy is finished altogether and then we can concentrate on Germany. It won’t be long now, and then Civvy Street and Alice.
July 12, 1943 – Monday Today’s newspaper headlines say “ Grotzkampf an der ostfront und im Süden,” “Der angriff auf sizilian hat begonner”. From other sources we have heard that 300,000 Italian prisoners have been taken and 100,000 German, we hope so.
July 14, 1943 – Wednesday Today’s report says that the Germans damaged 42 transport ships of ours, and that they are counter attacking in Sicily. Tuesday 11th June saw the arrival here of a young woman refugee and child from the bombed area of Wuppertal. It appears she has lost her house and everything and the boss has had to provide a room for her. The civilians are all crying out here about the food and the war. Roll on.
July 16, 1943 – Friday Today our guard left us and was replaced by a civilian instead of a soldier, what are things coming to in this country. He says that he’s come from Wilhelmshaven, where he was in a punishment camp consisting of English prisoners. The guards had to walk about with grenades, pistols and rifles, and three or four of our lads have been shot daily. It appears one of the Englishmen said “Its better to die with a bullet where they are than on the job they’re on”. The work they are set to do is “rendering mines inactive when they are swept up by the sea”. Dangerous job and this is defiantly contrary to the Geneva Convention.
July 19, 1943 – Monday Yesterdays newspaper article was the best I’ve read since the war started. For the first time the British get praise from an eyewitness in Sicily. It says “One must live through these attacks to realise just how grimly the British struggles for each metre of ground”. Our landings were made in five places it appears “Licata, Geta, Pachino, Syrakus and Augusta”. We have just heard that half of Sicily is in our hands but this is not net confirmed.
July 20, 1943 – Tuesday Today’s news “340 tons of bombs have been dropped on Rome” according to the wireless. Germans and Italians have evacuated the town of Agrigento in Sicily so we’re still advancing. I was just thinking what an awful lot of soldiers there is just around here with legs off and arms. All the civilians are longing for peace if only to get decent food.
July 22, 1943 – Thursday Received my first letter from my old pal Rex, also one from Ron. It appears the wife is getting no letters from me, why I don’t know for I’ve wrote every time possible.
July 23, 1943 – Friday Today’s headlines are about the bombing of Rome. One page is full of pictures of great buildings, churches, etc., which have been destroyed by us. Regarding Sicily, our attacks are being repulsed.
July 24, 1943 – Saturday To days wireless news “The town of Cologne over here has had a terrific bombing by our air force, hardly a house is left standing. Three thousand civilians have been killed. Our report says that the same is going to happen to the rest of old Germany. Roll on.
July 25, 1943 – Sunday Newspaper report says that “the town of Palermo in Sicily has been evacuated,” we are now in possession of three quarters of the island. It appears by Catania the Italians say that our guns are firing heavily, the usual smoke screens are put up for attacks but none are forthcoming what are the British waiting for, the Americans still advance, we’ve got them puzzled.
July 26, 1943 – Monday Todays wireless news “Mussolini is ill”. From other sources we have head that he is finished and they have formed a new government. King of Italy has given a speech to his people. Hungary has asked especially for peace but Stalin says that Germany must ask first. Germany was bombed again yesterday by our air force. This news has not been confirmed.
July 27, 1943 – Tuesday Yesterday news confirmed today in the paper. Our attacks in Sicily have been repulsed. Eight Englishmen escaped from a camp in a nearby town. Scorching hot weather.
July 31, 1943 – Saturday Latest news to hand “Count Cianno of the Vatican City has offered his services to Italy to fight against us”. Churchill declared according to the paper that Italy can have peace but on unconditional terms. The Germans here say that they themselves may take over Italy so this may bring trouble itself. There is a curfew in Italy and everyone must be in by a certain hour. Received eighth clothing parcel from wife also cigarettes.
August 02, 1943 – Monday Sent photograph home to Alice. No news to put down regarding the war. Roll on. A month tomorrow the war will have been on 4 years.
August 07, 1943 – Saturday Leaflets have been dropped over Berlin ordering civilians to leave the town by the 15th. Evacuation in progress now. In Hamburg 120,000 civilians were killed in the last big air raid. The Germans in Russia have now lost Orel and Btelgorad and the Russians are pushing hard by Krackow. In Sicily we have taken Catania. The war will soon be over there. Most of the people here now say the war will be finished in a few months, one fellow says all the Englishmen should be laughing now. I myself give the war up to February and there’s no doubt that we can’t lose now.
August 09, 1943 – Monday Not working owing to bad finger. Got a splinter in it at work, had no sleep all night. Roll on. No news at all regarding the war. Only wrote one card this week and that was to the wife. Lovely weather.
August 11, 1943 – Wednesday Compelled to go to the hospital, getting me down going without sleep and paling the washhouse all night. My finger is as big as two. The doctor cut it open today, got to go again tomorrow.
August 12, 1943 – Thursday On the operating table again and received anaesthetic. Finger cut right open and skin tape pushed through to drain it. Got to bathe it regular and go down again Saturday.
August 14, 1943 – Saturday Doctor stated that I myself just saved the finger by coming down when I did, it was just checked at highest possible time. The poison had got into my blood and maybe my other fingers would have been affected or the hand. Half litre of black blood was taken from me. Stated that I have a very strong heart, had to give me two doses of Chloroform.
August 17, 1943 – Tuesday Today we received marvellous news “Sicily is now in our hands”. At six am the last German troops left the island according to German news. I myself think a lot of prisoners must have been taken. Wonder how long Italy will last at this time. Still off work with bad finger.
August 20, 1943 – Friday We had quite a bit of luck today, for the first time since being prisoners we heard ‘London Calling’, the old Blighty news. The guard was out and the other guard was kept busy talking, while we tapped in and got Blighty on the radio. How grand it was and according to that Orel, has fallen in Russia, and Germany may fall this year.
August 23, 1943 – Monday Still off work. The Russians appear to be driving the Germans back. Roll on.
August 25, 1943 – Wednesday Still off work sick. Germans said to have evacuated Smolensk in Russia, Our air force visited Germany again, and bombed a few towns also occupied western territories including Mannheim, Nuremburg, Bonn and Bochum. Germans claimed to have bombed Plymouth and Portsmouth.
August 27, 1943 – Friday No news regarding war. Still off work sick. This last week we have had an old guard with us while the other was on leave. He goes back on Monday to the company and we shall be sorry to lose him. He’s a real toff and been wounded in four places in Russia, lost his teeth with frostbite. If anyone is pro-British its him, can speak English too. Today I wrote two letters to Alice, as I couldn’t write a fortnight ago. Roll on more. The war has been on 4 years next Saturday.
August 28, 1943 – Saturday Tonight I feel browned off and I can’t take my mind off England, Saturday night, the main night of the week. I wonder what Alice is doing now, sometimes I think that I am not fated to stay in England at all. Getting down to sleep, best place when one feels like this.
August 29, 1943 – Sunday Today we had a visit from the other working party and had quite a decent chat. They have two new fellows and one of them was a journalist for the Telegraph and Star in Sheffield. He used to write the column ‘Uncle Bob’. He gives us news that Italian prisoners are arriving in Lamsdorfe from Italy; it appears this is contrary to Geneva Convention. There are 14,000 prisoners altogether there and they’re sleeping on floors. Some razor slashing going on amongst them for a gang has formed. All the camp now is entirely run by British.
September 03, 1943 – Friday News received this teatime puts fresh hope into us. A Frenchman tells us that our troops have landed in Italy. This is confirmed by the German wireless news tonight. Hope we’re successful.
September 04, 1943 – Saturday Today’s report goes that the Italians have evacuated three towns so it looks as if we’ve got a foothold; the navy is also shelling heavily. Yesterday Berlin was bombed again also Paris, heavy casualties. Wonder how much longer this war will be, roll on.
September 07, 1943 – Tuesday Tapped in to the old Blighty news again, how nice to hear ‘Big Ben’ chiming. Special communiqué “Russians taken a hundred places on twelve mile front by Kiev and 90 in another sector. Advance by our troops tem miles in Italy. Landing in New Guinea.
September 08, 1943 – Wednesday News received today but not confirmed. British troops landed in Yugoslavia 60,000 said to have dropped by planes.
September 09, 1943 – Thursday What news today “Italy capitulated”, this as been confirmed by wireless and the Germans are calling the Italians traitors. Rumour goes that that 40,000 planes were waiting to be sent over Italy until they gave in. Well, most of the Germans give the war a couple of months now and I now myself it can’t be long. The women and children will suffer now for there’s no doubt this country will get a terrible bombing now.
September 11, 1943 – Saturday Germans have taken the Island of Albania. No further news.
September 13, 1943 – Monday The Germans have occupied Rome, capital of Italy. Our troops have landed in Salerno and come into contact with the enemy.
September 15, 1943 – Wednesday Today I received a June letter from the wife, this is the first for a long time and I haven’t received a single July one yet. It appears that young Walter passed away on the 27th of June, poor kid. This is two of them, him and dad, how things are happening. Wonder how long it will be before I get back. Roll on for God’s sake.
September 16, 1943 – Thursday Paris was bombed By the Royal Air Force today. Heavy fighting in Italy by Salerno. Today my finger has come up again it appears all the poison isn’t out of it. Received letter from Annie. Civilians here are desperate for cigarettes.
September 17, 1943 – Friday Latest news not confirmed “Island of Sardinia taken by us” in Corsica the Italians are showing resistance against the Germans. Paper report “Heavy losses on the American side at Palerno, Italy.
September 21, 1943 – Tuesday Island of Sardinia taken by us, confirmed report from today’s paper. Nothing mentioned regarding Corsica. No further news except to say there is fierce fighting around Palerno yet.
September 23, 1943 – Thursday News received from main prison camp by one of the lads. “My mate Arthur Roberts who used to be here with me goes back to England next week with the wounded, lucky devil. Another fellow who was there says he was in my platoon in France, and while he was home he was in the wife’s company with Bestwick in our house. By description I remember him. States he is a relation of mine but how I don’t know. Other news there is very little except to say trouble seems to be breaking out against the Germans in different places.
September 29, 1943 – Wednesday Another place in Italy evacuated by the Germans, Foggia. And also in Russia they have lost another town. Received two cig. parcels yesterday, one from Alice and one from the regiment. Pair of boots issued by Red Cross.
October 01, 1943 – Friday Today’s German news “Naples occupied by the Germans has had its port and harbour destroyed to prevent the landing of our troops”. It appears we are landing fresh troops all over and they admit the superiority of our troops and the large numbers we have there. Roll on. Sometimes I think this war is never going to end, poor old Alice back there, wish we weren’t wed now for her sake.
October 06, 1943 – Wednesday Deutche Zeitung reports that Corsica has been evacuated by their troops. Italian news is that English and American troops have landed behind the German Lines. Quite a lot of damage has been done by our air force in towns over here. Nothing else to report.
October 11, 1943 – Monday Seem to be very unlucky today, I got my fingers trapped in the rollers of my machine, two fingers got it very bad. Latest news according to German wireless is that fifteen divisions of English and American troops have landed in Italy; I suppose this will be their excuse for going back. Russians are doing well, still advancing every day.
October 16, 1943 – Saturday Been off work for the last five days with my fingers, on top of this I had three boils and a eye bad, roll on, everything seems to come together. On Monday we lose our guard, he’s been very good to us and with him goes the wireless. Wonder what Alice is doing now at this moment, I can’t ever imagine going back to England and settling down at all. Russians still pushing on. Out in Italy things are slow.
October 18, 1943 – Monday Breslau was bombed by the air force. No further news. In bed early for it’s the best place.
October 24, 1943 – Sunday Today I made a form out to the regimental paymaster for twenty pounds to be sent to the wife. No news whatsoever this last week for the radio was taken away when the last guard left. Still living in high hopes of peace. Roll on.
October 25, 1943 – Monday Latest news “one million kilos of bombs dropped on Kassel over here by the air force over the weekend”. Nothing else to report.
October 26, 1943 – Tuesday Curse my luck again “Cut my left hand all over with the saw blades at work”. Today we received a large poster and it has been posted on the wall. Large photographs of German propaganda are shown. Hundreds of women and children half naked showing their bodies mutilated and faces blown away through our bombing and terror raids. It’s a pitiful sight but no doubt it’s just the same with bombing in England. They say in large print that we were the first to start and they waited twelve months before retaliating, none of our bombs were intended for military targets, Newspaper reports Exchanged wounded reached Germany today”.
November 01, 1943 – Monday All mail including parcel post is stopped for a week, notice outside post office to inform civilians as such. Been working in the Gatter this week, too much work now for my machine so I have been taken off, Czech is on it now for he works overtime each night. Russia doing well, No further news. Roll on.
November 02, 1943 – Tuesday Since yesterday afternoon I have been going mad with stomach pains, walking about all last night for I couldn’t sleep, vomiting terrible in fact I thought my time had come. Taking bicarbonate of soda, cascara tablets, magnesia and God knows what. Now ten o’clock at night and just getting relief. Latest news “Russian troops are only 100 miles from Rumania. In Italy the Germans are retiring to the heights, no wagons available here for wood.
The Glory of Women
You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,
Or wounded in some mentionable place,
You worship decorations, you believe,
That chivalry redeems the wars disgrace,
You make us shells, you listen with delight,
By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled,
You crown our distant ardour while we fight,
And mourn our laurelled memories when we’re killed.
You can’t believe that British troops “Retire”,
When hell’s last horror breaks them and they run,
Trampling the terrible corpses blind with blood,
On German mother dreaming by the fire,
While you are knitting socks to send your son,
His face is trodden deeper in the mud.
November 04, 1943 – Thursday Today Harry Ferrell returned from Lamsdorf in place of the fellow who left. He tells us that my mate Arthur Roberts in now in England amongst the five thousand exchanged prisoners, lucky devil, no doubt he will have been down to see the wife by now. In Lamsdorf the main prison camp an underground tunnel has been found nearly a mile long, bed boards were used as props etc. There is another one but the Germans can’t find it, our engineers have been at work, even electric lights have been put in. There is also a radio in the camp and this can’t be found either, its surprising how clever some of the chaps are. English speaking Germans have been sent out to some camps and dressed in English uniforms and they’ve been found out in some cases. One of the chaps was stoned out.
November 08, 1943 – Monday Once again the old stomach pains came on, had to knock off work this afternoon. Bent double on the floor and sick all over, can’t hold a meal down. My finger is broken at the end from a month ago when I had it trapped in the machine, pains me terrible but I’ll have it put right when I get home unless it gets worse. Everything going fine for us in the war. German ambassador had to return to Germany from Turkey. Extra divisions of ours landed in Italy.
November 10, 1943 – Wednesday Received two cig. parcels from the wife. No news.
November 16, 1943 – Tuesday According to the Czechs, Churchill says the war will finish next year. Other news “the Russians are still advancing, they’re going great.
November 28, 1943 – Sunday Regarding news there is nothing at all to report. Week after week and month after month I sit here jotting little bits down but still this war goes on. It makes one wonder when this lot is going to finish. I can’t imagine at all what things will be like back in England now. Married life, I’ve had so little that I can’t even call myself married. Wonder what Alice is doing now, she must be fed up like myself at times although she had opportunities and I have not. It is no good worrying so we just have to take the life as permanent, settle down and hope for the best.
November 29, 1943 – Monday The wife informs me that they are expecting Edna’s husband home from Italy in a couple of weeks but I think they will be in for a shock, most of the prisoners have been brought into Germany so no doubt he’ll be over here.
December 08, 1943 – Wednesday The mail seems to have stopped altogether, as usual it is near Xmas and every one up to now has found us with something wrong. At present a big battle is going on in Italy and we are progressing very slowly. Roll on a long time.
December 11, 1943 – Saturday Received parcel from wife containing slippers. Took it a long time to come but better late than never. No news at all regarding the war. Last Thursday I lost my cigarette case at work. Friday found it again in the sawdust cellar but some crafty thieving devil had taken the cigarettes out first and thrown it there.
A few notes: Civilians never have any cigarettes. They’re allowed three per day and even then they’re lucky to get them.
December 13, 1943 – Monday A few thoughts: In two hours time I can say another day of my captivity is past, looking back it doesn’t seem long since I was in England, how time flies, three years and seven months a prisoner. It just seems as if I’m fated to be away from home, fortunately I’ve got a wife and friends back there or it would be an aimless existence. Day after day it is the same routine, even work breaks the monotony or I think I should go silly. In my imagination I’ve planned an awful lot for when I return, but it’s executing the plans that matters, no doubt very few will be carried out. I can’t see myself settling down and that is what worries me, it’s grand to know I’ve got a good little wife and I wouldn’t like to disappoint her, bless her putting myself in her place, I know that the future and everything she’s strived for will be well repaid, just to see happiness written on my face when I walk through that door.
December 20, 1943 – Monday Chef gave speech to civilians telling them that Germans can’t lose. After England is finished America is next. Received couple of letters from the wife and photograph of Arthur, couldn’t recognise him at all, how he’s altered. Wife says she went out will Rex for a drink. Roll on for God’s sake. Nearly every time she writes now she’s drinking somewhere, don’t know what to think, I love her and trust her, suppose everything will be all right. God bless her.
December 22, 1943 – Wednesday Yesterday the police gave us a visit. It appears that someone has informed them that we have been cutting the potato peelings off too thick and wasting bits of bread. God knows what the country is coming to regarding the war there is very little news. Received letter couple of days ago from Herbert Very nice too.
December 24, 1943 – Friday – Xmas Eve Today I made two small parcels for two civilians at work. They have three children each, and although enemies a man can’t bear malice, for like ourselves they can’t help being enemies. I love children and regardless of nationality it gives me the greatest of pleasure to see them enjoy themselves. On of our lads dressed as Santa Claus and went round the houses, the kids love the English Father Xmas. Wonder what the wife is doing tonight; my thoughts are back there with her and the rest of the family. Time rolls on and still we are miles apart, may this be the last one away. Roll on. My friend Arthur Roberts who left here no doubt will be having a grand time in Sheffield. Well I wish him all the best wherever he is and I am only too sorry I can’t be with him. Played pontoon till 4 am with candles. Won 65 marks.
December 25, 1943 – Saturday – Xmas Day At a time like this we should all be happy but somehow this year I can’t get that feeling, I try my best but the spirit isn’t there somehow, its just forced, as I look around the room I can see others just the same. I pray fervently that I have to spend no more out here. These few words will have to suffice for tonight as I’m rather depressed and it is better to leave these thoughts un-stated.
News just received says that one of our parties in the town of Ager was stoned by civilians. It appears our air force had been bombing there, and as the lads were on the way to work the civilians started throwing. The German guard took them in an entry for cover; through persistence one civilian was shot dead.
December 26, 1943 – Sunday The German battleship ‘Scharnhorst’ sunk by us. The number of lives lost is not stated in the newspaper. Bed 8pm.
December 29, 1943 – Wednesday According to German newspaper we made a Kommando raid on the coast of France but all the men were killed. Received letter from wife but a lot was blacked out. Underneath she states, “Although I can’t believe it”. Can’t make anything from this. Bed 6 pm won 27 marks at pontoon.
January 01, 1944 – Saturday – New Years Day Today I received a letter from the wife stating that these last few months she has been fed up, and was wondering what would happen when I got home and found out how cool she was. Since my friend Roberts called she wants me home badly. Rather dispiriting letter, wrote one back, don’t know what will happen.
January 03, 1944 – Monday Today I had a bottle of wine given, shared it with one of the lads. It was so strong I was half dazed, what a happy feeling it gave me, couldn’t stop laughing. Roll on England; hope to God this year brings success. Bed 7 pm.
January 05, 1944 – Wednesday The German news isn’t so good but information, which we get from other sources, is great. The Russians are well into Poland and are only eighty kilometres from the German Front. They’re doing marvellous, and the Germans are sweating on the second front, which they know must come sooner than later. Roll on. Berlin had such a heavy bombing by our air force that it burned for a week. The zoo suffered also wild animals ran amok killing civilians. An elephant was not killed but wounded by a bad shot from the police and it went mad killing people.
January 06, 1944 – Thursday Once again I’m working on the ‘Seumen’ machine. The old job is O.K. for I’m on my own gaffer with another chap under me but its terrible cold to the feet. I’ve been working machines practically since I came here so I’ve been very fortunate. No news regarding the war. Bed 7 p.m.
January 09, 1944 – Sunday Another usual Sunday, nothing to do but sit and think, its enough to drive a fellow mad. I write and tell folks everything is O.K. and I’m contented but one has to do. The only link we have with the outside world is with letters and even these have stopped. I’ve practically forgot what the wife looks like now. When one is a prisoner it’s queer what strange things enter a man’s head whilst thinking, my thoughts run away with me sometimes and passages stated in the wife’s letters make things worse, for God’s sake roll on. Bed 8 p.m.
January 12, 1944 – Wednesday Visited the doctor with my stomach, said it is through the appendicitis operation; it comes on regular and bends me double. Today’s news says that 1125 of our planes were brought down in middle Germany yesterday afternoon. Our troops in Italy are attacking strongly and the Russians are still throwing in attacks.
January 13, 1944 – Thursday Inside information says that some Englishmen were walking around Berlin posing as German civilians. Some have been put in jail but nothing can be proved against them as their papers are in order and they speak good German. They came through with Romanians leaving the country. One English officer in Politschka near here walks into the town offices and volunteered for work in Belgium. All papers were in order and he spoke good Czech so got away O.K.
January 16, 1944 – Sunday Wrote letter to wife but had to destroy it, too bad to send. Don’t know what is the matter with her lately; she’s got me worried. Latest news “1,200 planes over Berlin, refugees living not far from here, they had to leave in a hurry, some of them had to leave in their night things for they had to come straight from air raid shelters into the trains. Bed p.m.
January 17, 1944 – Monday Today bring us good news from Russia “Germans give out on the wireless that the Russians are now over the Polish border”. They’re doing marvellous.
January 21, 1944 – Friday Tonight I have seen the Guard Commander about a change of party, two of us made a complaint. Absolutely browned off, what with the wife’s letters and one thing or another we’ve to wait for the Germans S/Major.
January 24, 1944 – Monday Today’s news “British troops made a further landing in the north of Italy at the other side of Rome”. This morning the German S/Major had a talk to us about changing working parties, and said it is better to stop here for we may get worse.
January 27, 1944 – Thursday No news today. Got three boils, one on my face and two on my neck, what luck? Its surprising what one does get in prison life, roll on, what I want is a woman.
January 29, 1944 – Saturday Got drenching wet today working over wagon loading. Just finished reading a fine book, one of the best I’ve ever read called “The Citadel” by author of “Keys of the Kingdom”.
January 30, 1944 – Sunday Studying whether to tear the wife’s letter up again, just can’t think.
January 31, 1944 – Monday British troops attacking on a wide front in Italy. Germans evacuated another mountain position. Russians still doing well, they have taken two more towns near Leningrad. Big air raid over Berlin lasting 24 hours, flares dropped all over and mines dropped, forty buildings destroyed by one alone, heavy casualties. Left my job on the machine, now working outdoors on the Platz.
February 02, 1944 – Wednesday One of our old workmates committed suicide today, hung himself. German or no German he was a grand old chap, lost his son in Russia and his wife was sent out to work. No war news.
February 03, 1944 – Thursday The newspaper headlines run down Alexander commander of our troops out east. His speech was given running down the Germans. Berlin was bombed again and a couple of other towns.
February 04, 1944 – Friday Latest news from a good source “Ten divisions of Germans wiped out in Russia”. Newspaper admits that three towns have been evacuated. Our troops are steadily advancing in Italy. Roll on.
February 06, 1944 – Sunday English parachute troops landed few miles from here. Two parachutes were found in trees but the men were missing. A few papers were picked up written in English. Precautions are being taken in the town.
February 08, 1944 – Tuesday Two English barrage balloons drifted over here and dropped in Wilterschwert, few miles from Zwittau. Nobody knows where they came from.
February 09, 1944 – Wednesday Arrival of bulk issue. No war news to put down. Snowing like blazes. Roll on.
February 13, 1944 – Sunday Another one of our lads has lost his wife, this makes over half of us married men to have lost their women, there’s divorce cases all over. I’m lucky myself. A rumour goes that we are to be allowed to go to the pictures but we think it is all bunkum it remains to be seen. Weather terrible, over the knees in snow.
February 20, 1944 – Sunday Received yesterday two letters from wife, one states that at times she has been ready to give in, the rest is blacked out by censoring officer, no idea what it can be. Well, this war goes on but I can’t see the end in sight yet although the Russians still continue their advance and attacks. Lets hope that this spring sees some big happenings. A couple of months and I shall have been a prisoner four years, how time passes. Nothing but snow here lately.
To by Wife (An apology and a Promise)
I’ve not been a very good husband, in fact as husbands go,
I seem to have broken all records, in giving my wife cause for woe,
I use to stop out of an evening, in a pub playing darts with the boys,
And never at anytime troubled that my wife wasn’t sharing my Joys.
I’d drink and I’d curse and I’d gamble, and sometime I’d rave and I’d shout,
My dinners were left in a saucepan, till most of the taste had boiled out,
I joined the army against her advice, was stationed a long way from home,
Had four days leave before going abroad, was captured and no more could roam.
I wrote to my wife when a prisoner, half fearing she’d ignore my pleas,
Requesting to send me cigarettes, clothing and other necessities,
Back came the reply as soon as could be, full of loving and tender thoughts,
Saying the goods I required were on the way, with others of various sorts.
Now there’s one thing captivity’s taught me, the worth of my wife and son,
And when I get back to Blighty, I’ll see that they join in my fun,
They tell me there are model husbands; I don’t think they’ll call me that,
But if I don’t make a better job this time, just call me a bloody rat.
By prisoner of war.
February 25, 1944 – Friday An English parachute troop was traced to a house near here in the town of Hornstadt. Armed police were sent out to capture him, they riddled him with a machine gun but he killed two policemen first and wounded one. The owner of the house hung himself and his wife was taken away under escort. The guards tell us it was an English prisoner who escaped but we get information from good sources. Today’s newspaper news “We have lost 36,000 troops up to date in Italy”. The Americans keep getting pushed back by Nettund and the British are being sent forward. Everything going well in Russia.
February 27, 1944 – Sunday No news to report. Wrote a letter to wife. Don’t know what is happening to my cigarette parcels for I’m receiving none. Same old routine day in day out, proper war weary. What a lot to make up for when I get back.
March 01, 1944 – Wednesday Nothing to put down. The paper comprises of Churchill’s speech. Wonder when this aimless existence is going to end. Still working the cutting machine.
March 05, 1944 – Sunday Today we’ve been talking to a civilian who visits here, he comes from Berlin. He’s lost one son in Russia and his other one is missing by Nettund in Italy. On the on top of this his house has been blown up in Berlin. Says its nothing to be in air raid shelter all day and night. No war news at all. Won 37 marks at pontoon.
March 06, 1944 – Monday Today’s weather snowed like blazes and windy. No news. As I sit here tonight and look round the room I can’t help but notice the worn out look on men’s faces, they just sit there thinking. Everyone is proper war weary. Four years prison life. Roll on.
March 07, 1944 – Tuesday Today one of our lads met an English officer down the town. He told him that the war is going great for us; they can get the BBC news somehow. Finland is asking Russia for an armistice. The Russians are still advancing. Chap on other working party received letter saying negotiations are going on for exchange of prisoners. The Germans have also got the same news, source not known. Hope there’s something in it.
March 08, 1944 – Wednesday Quite a bit of excitement here today. Fellow that used to work here on leave from front. All the workpeople turned out to greet him for he has been awarded Ritter Karux (Knight’s Cross) what a honour, cars escorted him here, photographers were there and flags were flying in the town. Seven p.m. tonight brought news that he’s in prison for he’s been bluffing. What a sensation. Other news another chap down road hung himself. Shopkeeper.
March 10, 1944 – Friday The chap supposed to have got the Knight’s Cross is a deserter from his company since November, his fiancée has been put in prison also she bought him the ribbon. Newspaper states that a woman got, three years for saying another woman’s son wasn’t an Unter Officer. The chap was killed at the front and he was the said rank. What a country, three years for stating a falsehood. Russia still advancing.
March 12, 1944 – Sunday News direct from Lamsdorf “170 of our lads escaped from the camp and not been seen since”. Another underground tunnel been found by Germans in near by woods. Trapdoor was found under bushes, Germans dropped into tunnel and found themselves under the lavatories and coming out in the main camp. Even electric lights installed, work of engineers, five thousand bed boards were used. Even Germans say it was marvellous work. Another nearing completion but Jerries can’t find it. It appears dirt was taken away in boxes covered by rubbish. Couple of wireless sets also in camp cannot be found. Canadian Air Force chap travelling by here to Lamsdorf threw himself through window of train, killed instantly. Witnessed by chap here in same compartment. One of the fellows pal’s remarked, “Easy come, easy go”, the spirit of comrades was marvellous considering what had happened. Proper war time American, joking about it. Russia still advancing. Three Stukas crashed near here from flying school, stunting and shortage of petrol. Won forty marks at pontoon.
March 13, 1944 – Monday Two men (English) shot at working camp by guards. One turned round with cigarette in his mouth and guard shot him through the head, smoking forbidden. The other chap was shot through using obscene language at the guard. Both were dragged on the side. Representatives from Switzerland investigated. They were given a marvellous funeral. Today’s war news “The Russians are only 160 kilometres from Slovakian border”. The town of Uman evacuated by Germans.
March 14, 1944 – Tuesday Russians doing great. Heavy fighting around Kherson. Advanced as far as Tarnapol and well into Poland. They are nearing the boarders of Hungary, Rumania, Slovakia so giving the Germans a bigger front still. No parcels. Typhus in Lamsdorf, Russians are dying as many as sixty a day and our lads are now suspected. The new guard we have here was wounded three times in Russia; he also stepped on a mine and was blown 15 metres. His face is blue and he wakes up in the night screaming, his nerves are gone. Cannot help but feel sorry for him.
March 16, 1944 – Thursday One of our lads came back from Berlin today. What news. The town is 70% finished. 39 air raids in just over 40 days. The last visit was 1,500 planes. Brought two pamphlets back dropped by our air force. Head lines says ‘Luftpost’. One of them is about Stalingrad, the Russians are still advancing. Roll on.
March 18, 1944 – Saturday Played pontoon at night and won 43 marks. My favourite game and having a good memory for following the cards puts me in pocket nearly every time. Today’s news “Russian troops said to be now in Romania. Snowing Heavily.
March 21, 1944 – Tuesday Today’s news goes that the Hungarian troops have been demobilised, Germany taken over. Finland and other small countries are shaking, Russia doing great. Yesterday’s newspaper headlines said “Grotzschnautz Montgomery” “Invasion wird einfach sein”. Snowing heavily.
March 22, 1944 – Wednesday In bed at dinnertime. Done hardly any work all morning through bad stomach, sick as a dog and sweating. Kept running to the lavatory to be sick what a condition my stomach is in, God knows what it will be like when I get back. Paper states today that Finnish government has rejected Russia’s terms.
March 23, 1944 – Thursday News came in tonight that German troops have taken over Slovakia. Germans have evacuated another town near Lemburg. Russians still advancing day by day.
March 25, 1944 – Saturday Working till six o’clock at nights now. No parcels for months now. No cigarettes after Monday.
March 26, 1944 – Sunday Eighteen English officers escaped in French clothes, report come through that prisoners must be watched. Today martial law came into effect in this area, extra police are patrolling the streets. Bombs have been thrown out of train windows and bridges blown up also a factory. No letter cards so cannot write to wife.
March 27, 1944 – Monday Two aeroplanes passed here tonight by train, they had been smashed up somewhere. Nothing special to report regarding war.
March 28, 1944 – Tuesday Four of the officers who escaped were captured, it appears two guards were killed and a couple of officers (English) also. Police report received today “Woman Gave information that one of the prisoners here was seen masturbating himself last Sunday behind some logs. What a lot of rot, even the manager says it’s silly, the fellow must have been urinating. War news “Germans evacuating two more towns in Russia”.
April 02, 1944 – Sunday Played pontoon tonight and won 59 marks. This makes me over 300. Russians still advancing. Lovely weather today, snow thawing fast. Clocks go forward a hour tonight. Wrote letter to wife. No parcel for months, don’t know what’s wrong with post.
April 04, 1944 – Tuesday Air raid alarm sounded last night about eleven p.m. whilst we were in bed; we just lay there and wouldn’t get up. No news of any importance regarding war. Today I have had pains in the stomach, to just seems as if I can’t take any decent food, God knows what the reaction will be like when I return to civil life. But roll on. Weather raining.
April 05, 1944 – Wednesday No news regarding war. Expecting five new chaps here anytime, making room for them. So many civilians called up that it’s a wonder the firm keeps going. Still suffering from bad stomach.
April 09, 1944 – Easter Sunday Today we went for a walk as far as Monren and back. Quite enjoyed it. Last night the air raid alarm sounded and we had all to get out of bed, lasted from eleven to one. No news regarding war. Still waiting for second front and above all peace. In a bad way for cigarettes now no parcels are forthcoming, received last 10 November. Ten new men coming to work here shortly instead of five. Confirmed. Weather lovely.
April 10, 1944 – Easter Monday Air raid alarm last night again. Today we had a visit from the other party. Wrote to mother-in-law. No other news.
April 11, 1944 – Tuesday Today’s report from Deutsche Volksbeobechter “Odessa has fallen and now in Russian hands”. Other news says that Krim and Sebastopol are encircled. They’re doing marvellous and I can see the war being over this year if they keep it up. Still suffering with bad stomach awake all night.
April 13, 1944 – Thursday Bought a watch last night for forty marks and twenty cigs. Lot of money but we can’t spend it. Still no parcels, its months since we had any. Went for a walk tonight. Last night the air raid alarm was on again.
April 17, 1944 – Monday Friday night air raid alarm also Saturday, had to get up. Played soccer Sunday afternoon against another Kommando, drew 2 – 2, scored a goal, lovely header but knocked myself dizzy. Lovely weather, quite enjoying it but roll on Sheffield and Alice.
April 20, 1944 – Thursday One of the Czechs from here put in prison today, the police fetched him, no one knows why. Other news “Secret organisation running in fifty different towns in Czechoslovakia, discovered by Germans, girl overheard conversation and reported it. Czechs are being shot all over, chaps who works here says his two mates were shot last Sunday. Attempt to blow up gas works in Politchka, men caught red handed. Bridge and ammunition dump blown up near Brünn, success.
April 21, 1944 – Friday Today I had trouble with one of the civilians, I was in such a temper I grabbed him by the neck drew my fist back but another chap intervened. I went to his machine and retaliated for what he did to mine. All the women and the tischleres staff were watching on. Calling the guard and explained things cleared myself. No news.
April 24, 1944 – Monday Another sixty men escaped last week not far from here. Czech who works here questioned by police about helping Englishmen, got a bashing but they got nothing from him. “All the west coast of France heavily bombarded by air force. Hungarians captured a town from Russians. Two old men, one to organisation TODT. Englishmen and Czechs running the firm now. Latest order here to civilians posted today “All civilians working here must report straight away during an air attack, even if their homes are blown up, the firm and work comes first, other things will be seen to later after receiving report”.
April 26, 1944 – Wednesday The war seems to have gone quite all over excepting for the bombing of Romania and Germany. Tonight I was just thinking the second front must come during the next couple of weeks.
April 30, 1944 – Sunday Snowed a little today but on the whole it wasn’t a bad day. Played soccer against Mattlers, lost 3 - 0. Everything already for ten new prisoners we’re expecting. Latest news “Russians massing behind the lines by Romania, big push again expected. Germany states in paper she is ready for the big invasion, they’re on about it every day. Hope it’s a great success when it comes. Played pontoon won 73 marks.
May 03, 1944 – Wednesday Went to Schönhengst in the lorry. Felling trees all day. Had quite a decent day for it was a change from working the ‘Seumen’ machine. No news.
May 08, 1944 – Monday News from England to the Czechs, forbidden wireless news but received “When the first shot of the invasion is fired, it will be a signal for an upheaval of all political affairs and the biggest revolution in Europe the world has ever seen. All bells will ring out in England when the time arrives. Still working at Schönhengst felling trees. Roll on peace.
May 11, 1944 – Thursday Russians have now retaken Sebastopol. Got to know today that there is no airmail for prisoners of war now that must be the reason the mail is running terrible. Parcel post is also bad, about six months since I received a cig parcel also clothing. The two guards have now to patrol outside all night in relief, special watch has now to be kept over us.
May 14, 1944 – Sunday Nothing fresh to report. Lovely day. Played soccer in the afternoon against Neubouers party. I played right wing and we won 1 – 0. Receiving no mail from home, seem to have lost touch with everything. Roll on.
Do You Remember
Do you remember the wonderful plans, we made before the war?
Standing together and dreaming our dreams of golden days in store.
Do you remember the hopes that we held and the things we vowed to do,
Do you remember the castles we built in our paradise for two?
Do you remember – oh please don’t forget, in that loveland over there,
The house and the home and the garden, you love, and your favourite fireside chair.
They are waiting for me, just as you’re waiting too, for the good and the happy day,
when I knock at the door, and come back once more with the war clouds rolled away.
Do you remember the words that we used when we said those last goodbyes?
Do you remember the promises made as tear drops dimmed our eyes?
I can recall how you waved to the end as the train moved out of view.
These are the things I keep in my heart, Will you remember them too?
May 15, 1944 – Monday Sack of clothing and cig parcels up, but none for me, terribly disappointed for I’ve had none for months. Latest news “Heavy fighting now going on in Italy, men and materials being thrown in”. Coast of France bombed and Portugal warned by Britain against helping Germany. Newspaper full every day about the expected second front. Germany is certainly shaking.
May 16, 1944 – Tuesday Today’s news from German paper “Krim evacuated by Germans in Russia. Heavy fighting in Italy”. News from our secret source “First line of defence by Cassino broken through by our troops”. Turkey broken off diplomatic relations with Germany. Still working in woods tree peeling.
May 17, 1944 – Wednesday (Fall of Cassino) Today I had to knock off work through stomach trouble again. Can’t understand it. German doctor doesn’t bother.
May 18, 1944 – Thursday Czechs are being called up to fight for Germany. First batch left last Monday for Italy, second Tues and third yesterday. Today’s Zeitung says “ Attacks in Italy can be compared with last war, amount of men and material thrown in by us is enormous”. Everything going great for us.
May 28, 1944 – Whit Sunday Today we have marvellous weather. Scorching hot. Some of the lads went to swimming pool for the first time this year. Two officers brought an army car into town and left it in the square. They disappeared and it appears they were English prisoners. A nurse in nearby town was asked if she wanted hand with suitcase, she refused and as she bent down to pick it up, hairs were observed on wrist, report proves it was an Englishman. Parachutists again dropped in Czecho- ten still at large. We’re doing marvellous in Italy, we have seven divisions on 7 mile front. Yesterday, German troops and ours were racing towards Rome to get main communications road. If we succeed, the Germans are cut right off in one sector. Russians are very quiet, we think they’re coming with a second front. Leaflets dropped in our camp trying to get us to enroll in British Army Free Corps to fight against Bolshevism. Germany must be in a state now, printing stuff like this for prisoners.
May 29, 1944 – Whit Monday No news whatsoever to put down regarding the war. Today we went down to the pool for a swim. When one looks around as a prisoner, and sees all the young couples so carefree and happy, it makes one realise what he is missing. Five years ago now I was with Alice at Derby Races. Sometimes I think that this war will go on for years, I cannot see it ending at all. God knows what the reaction of this lot will be. It will be like starting all over again.
June 3, 1944 – Saturday Very little sleep again last night again through stomach trouble. I think I must have got a gastric stomach or something, on and off for about eighteen months now.
June 4, 1944 – Sunday No news at all, one of the worst weekends I’ve spent. Roll on a long time. Had to tear my letter up, couldn’t write.
June 6, 1944 – Tuesday Today marks the greatest day of my prison life. News received from our inside information man “the second front has arrived”. What excitement it brought to us lads who are always eager to snatch at the least thing regarding the war. This morning, our troops landed in France at Le Havre, Midday we were in Dieppe, Cherbourg, Biscay and one or two other places. Good foothold has been obtained and we await further results. Eisenhower’s speech was great.
June 7, 1944 – Wednesday In France, everything is progressing according to plan. (Official BBC news in German). 4,000 large ships supported smaller manned by international brigades landed in positions all along French coast. 11,000 planes took part. Alexander says, “Our aim is the freeing of Europe, a task for heroes and patriots. Have patience, be prepared and above all, have faith in leaders. Your burdens will be harder to bear than before, but remember, not as hard as the French people. My best wishes to you all and God guide us to success.” German news “Large number ships supported by air protection enabled Anglo-American troops to make landing”. Drone of planes, crossing and re-crossing together with thunder of guns heard all night. BBC news 9 o clock am – 20,000 men supported by 2 new tanks released by para. Street fighting Calais. Bridgeheads established, Cherbourg and Yvetot. Troops going forward after cleaning up mine fields. 5pm news, BBC – German troops counter attacking at Cherbourg. Troops landed at Le Havre established contact with airborne troops that were landed rear of German lines. 8pm – further landing at ??? and mouth of River Loire. Bottle front now 200 kilometres. Rumour says 1 million troops now landed.
June 11, 1944 – Sunday Events are moving great for us of late. Tonight’s Swiss radio report (under cover news) says that the Germans are simply fleeing in Italy. Other news 2,000 British planes bombed German lines and railroads also rear lines of communication German announcer says that the amount of damage done is unimaginable.
June 13, 1944 – Tuesday German general captured at Stalingrad spoke to the Germans people telling them to pack in now. Tonight I spoke to a man and his wife at the fence, there’re all for us and when I said take care someone might see them, she said “what does it matter, they can’t take no more than our life”. He showed me Turkish cig. Packets with initials. Stambul. ohne. M. Stalin’s army marchiert bis unter den linden ohne musik. Received first cig. parcel today from regiment. War news is great, going well.
June 14, 1944 – Wednesday Everything going swell for us in France and Italy. The Russians are now advancing through Finland. No further news.
June 15, 1944 – Thursday German newspaper today gives the name of first prisoner of war to be captured in France. He was an American and he dropped by parachute right in divisional headquarters. A German officer who had spent years in England, and captained the team eleven at Cambridge University said “Hands up old man your invasion is over”. Reply, “Yes, thank heavens”.
June 19, 1944 – Monday No English news. German newspaper talks about nothing but their new invention, the flying bomb. It says London has been bombed day and night by these remote controlled bombs, people in underground shelters for thirty-six hours. Two days ago Morrison said that this is the resource for Germany same as the ‘Big Bertha’ last war. Paris is the place they are sent from.
June 20, 1944 – Tuesday Went into Czechoslovakia with the lorry for timber. Today news says that the Cherbourg Peninsula is cut off by our troops. Nothing else to report.
June 21, 1944 – Wednesday Tonight I watched the big parade of Hitler Youth, firemen, soldiers, nurses, this is held every year on this day, the young girls looked wonderful dressed in white. Still on the lorry job.
June 22, 1944 – Thursday BBC news in German 2,000 planes bombed Germany yesterday; they were escorted by 700 fighters of the latest type, capable of doing 600 kilometres per hour. Newspaper says England is still racking her brains to stop this new flying bomb. They call it the ‘Spreng Körper’.
June 24, 1944 – Saturday 40 officers and 12 men have been shot by the Gestapo, they escaped and sooner than be knocked about by the Gestapo they preferred death. English news says that Germany is given while today to send in the names of the men responsible for these murders, they have the name of the chief. Order issued to the guards today no noise has to be made by prisoners after lights out, it appears men have been escaping while others have been singing to bluff the guards. News is good for us everywhere, two more towns taken in Italy; Finns are fleeing from the Russians.
Wiën Mein herz und mein sinn, stent nur für wien, Für wienwie es weint wie es lacht dort Bin ich zuhaus dort kenn ich mich aus, Bei tag und noch mehr bei der nacht, Und keener bleist aus ob jung oder alt; Mütst ich einmal fort von dem schönen Ort da nehm meine sehnsucht kein end: Da hört ich aus weiter ferne ein lied, Das klingt das jauchst das zieht:
Wien, wien nur du allein sollst stets Die stadt meiner traüme sein, Dort wo die alten haüser stehn, dort Wo die liebtschen mäderln gehn. Wien, wien: mur du allein sollst stets Die stadt meiner traüme sein, Dort wo ich glüchlich und selig bin Ist wien mein wien.
June 26, 1944 – Monday Mad all night with stomach trouble again. Today I was writhing in agony, couldn’t get no relief. Vomiting all morning and couldn’t get anything up. Roll on England. Get it seen to.
June 27, 1944 – Tuesday Taken by ambulance from the billet to the hospital. In terrible pain and sick all over. The chef refused to take me down in is car, said he had other use for his petrol, the dog.
June 28, 1944 – Wednesday Taken in the operating theatre, a rubber tube was stuck up my penis into my inside. Said to be cleaning stones out of my inside. Test of urine made, temperature high.
June 29, 1944 – Thursday Tube put down my throat into my inside, it nearly choked me, and acid was pumped out into a bottle at the side. Received two injections.
June 30, 1944 – Friday Received two more injections and blood test. Evening had to put two cocoa butter tablets up my backside. Stool test.
July 01, 1944 – Saturday Had to give a glass of urine up for examination. Today first time I’ve had any food since Sunday, just about starving. Nun gave me a bag of pastry and started crying, said she had a son in France only seventeen, she hopes he is taken prisoner then she will know at least he is safe her husband is a toff and sleeps in the next bed to me.
July 03, 1944 – Monday My illness is now diagnosed – neeren insünnlug und neeren strin, (inflammation of the kidneys and kidney stones), don’t know what this is. Fellow in the next bed left yesterday, he came to the fence with his wife today and sent a chap for me on the sly. Shook hands and his wife gave me a new toothbrush and paste. Slipped me a photograph with name on the back. Its marvellous what risks some people will take especially here.
July 05, 1944 – Wednesday Had spermatozoa test taken on a slide. Lady doctor called me into the office and asked me if I’d ever had venereal disease. Told her I’d never had it for I was particular who I went with. Ten o’clock went in the X-Ray laboratory and had photographs taken. Too many red corpuscles in my blood.
July 06, 1944 – Thursday Had to leave hospital for there is a shortage of beds. Everybody had been great to me including the sisters, regarding the Sisters of Mercy they’re wonderful. Especially Sister Angela who I shall never forget. She did a lot for me without complaining and before I left I showed my gratitude by giving her two blocks of chocolate. Resins and prunes. She nearly wept with joy when she received them. Gave the other Sister choc. Too. Shook hands with all before leaving including the patients who all treated me wonderful. One chap spoke very good English and was bombed out at Berlin. Came and saw me everyday and still studies our language for after the war, says he’s going to England, as he’s an engineer. Gave me photo. Doctor saw him talking to me and warned him to remember that it is forbidden to talk to prisoners.
July 08, 1944 - Saturday Awaiting arrival of guard now to take me back to the main camp. I haven’t to work or do any lifting so I must wait and see what develops.
July 12, 1944 Left Zuittair for Lamsdorf said farewell to Bernard and the lads. Arrived Hornstadt nine am, slept at German headquarters, feel pretty weak after twelve days in German hospital, nothing to eat since I left working party.
July 13, 1944 Arrived Lamsdorf 5pm ?????? searched and slept in ??? Handed 400 marks to be put in my credit. First time in the camp since 1940, what a change.
July 14, 1944 Deloused. Saw German medical officer and put in convalescent barracks.
July 15, 1944 Sick - Suffering from inflammation of kidneys and stone. Got to have a urine test. Went to show ‘Journeys End’.
July 16, 1944 Put a bookcase on stall for Germans, had to do something - no smokes.
July 17, 1944 Marvellous weather. Latest news. Mystery - fellow found in camp pond with throat cut - also spare hand – nobody ????
July 19, 1944 Played two up - beginners luck won three tins of tobacco and some cigarettes shook five pairs of hands.
July 20, 1944 Met an old friend, Bob Ford. Little did we think that we should still be prisoners after four years, and meet again in Germany.
July 23, 1944 Wrote couple of letters to wife.
July 24, 1944 Laid on my bed all day feeling sick. Haven’t eaten a good meal for ages. I daren’t through my complaint. Our own medical officer thinks a man is scrounging when he’s sick.
July 25, 1944 Two hundred men arrived from danger zone, their area was bombed heavily, it is happening all over.
July 29, 1944 Received book parcel from Regiment – none from the wife this year yet - don’t know what is wrong.
July 30, 1944 Did my washing today.
July 31, 1944 Air raid alarm sounded. Our Air Force over in formation – had crash – saw parachutist come down.
August 1, 1944 Reported to new hospital for X-ray, received injection in the arm, two and a half minute needle.
August 2, 1944 Went to see Lambeth Walk.
August 3, 1944 Terribly weak in the back and pains keep shooting through my right side, just like appendicitis.
August 5, 1944 Put books on stall for cigarettes. Saw lads getting ready for carnival.
August 6, 1944 What a marvellous procession, and everything made out of nothing. Each country represented and fun fair. Marvellous sight and it would do the people of England good to see it. Never seen anything like it before myself, with being on a small working party for the last three years.
August 7, 1944 GOING MAD all night with pain, three orderlies up with me, sick all over and laid over the window sill outside. Although my back had to be propped up, hot water bottle eased it a bit.
August 8, 1944 REPORTED SICK. Urine test, awaiting X-ray results. Must be something wrong to keep having attacks.
August 9, 1944 German guns all around camp.
August 10, 1944 Had to see Major Huntes. Ordered me to see Colonel Wilson to diagnose complaint.
August 15, 1944 Sold a pair of socks for cigarettes. Had to do something.
August 17, 1944 Saw Colonel Wilson, ordered me to go in the New Hospital Monday.
August 19, 1944 Did some washing, everything now clean ready for hospital.
August 21, 1944 ADMITTED INTO HOSPITAL
August 22, 1944 Medical Officer says further investigations must be made. Another X-ray taken.
August 23, 1944 On the operating table, what an ordeal, cysterscopical examination. 2ft 9in rods used and tubes, took an hour and a half.
August 24, 1944 Couldn’t rest, in pain when I urinate, passing blood. Stoppage in bladder found.
August 25, 1944 Still in bed awaiting results.
August 29, 1944 Got to have an operation on the kidneys for stone. Major operation. At present I have a poisoned arm, so must wait till it’s better and the sling is off.
September 3, 1944 Arm still in bad condition, on cod liver oil, orange tablets and a course of six needles. Roll on when the operation is over.
September 7, 1944 Still waiting, had urine test.
September 10, 1944 Had another attack of pain in side and back, going mad with it. Temperature risen. Put in another ward and received Morphine injection to kill the pain, cannot operate yet.
September 13, 1944 Another X-Ray photograph. Saw a couple of hundred bombers (ours) passing over today. Looked marvellous.
October 10, 1944 - Tuesday Arm better. Operated on nine o’clock, three and a half hours on the table. Came out of the anaesthetic about six in the evening. Received Morphine injection.
October 13, 1944 Feeling a little better but cannot move, in agony when the dressings are changed, tube in my side, and bad chest through ether.
October 20, 1944 Stitches removed, bit painful but everything going O.K. muscles terribly sore but can be expected after them being cut through. Knitting nicely, tube taken out, no discharge.
November 01, 1944 Learning to walk again, what a job trying to straighten up. X-Ray report after operation. Upper part of right urethra dilated, with constriction below 2nd aberrant in renal vessels.
November 22, 1944 Radium heat treatment, and massage. Rheumatism in the back muscles.
November 24, 1944 Due for discharge. Colonel says treatment cannot be got in main camp must stay longer in hospital.
November 25, 1944 Colonel Wilson tried a new method on my back, froze it with Ethyl Chloride.
November 27, 1944 Discharged from hospital, saw the German Medical Officer.
November 30, 1944 What a life, everybody ravenously hungry, no parcels and stealing going on all over.
December 08, 1944 - Friday Today we had our three bread rations stolen; this means we’ve nothing to eat for the next 24 hours. Some people would do anything we’re terribly hungry ourselves and somebody does this.
December 10, 1944 Wrote to our Elise but had to guess the address.
December 23, 1944 Medical officer says I have a terrible big wound and I can expect the weather to affect my back also suffering with chest through anaesthetic. Says I may be put up for next commission, I doubt it but hope so.
December 26, 1944 On sick parade, Medical Officer put me down for X-Ray on chest marked ‘Urgent’ on report I have a pulse.
January 09, 1945 Went down to hospital for sperm test by Major McCloud.
January 13, 1945 - Saturday Medical Officer says I have no T.B., awaiting interview by specialist. Up to now I’m on the list for next commission.
January 16, 1945 - Monday Said goodbye to some of the repatriated who left today for England. Sent message home with one of the lads who lives at Castleford. Hope ??? doesn’t call or he will frighten the wife.
January 18, 1945 - Wednesday Weather freezing received new pair of boots from Q.M.s. Missed my dinner through having bath. Played darts at night against Leicester. Russians advancing rapidly towards here.
January 22, 1945 - Monday Today I am happy but have rather a strange feeling. The Russians are very near now, just a few miles and anything may happen will it be release or shall we be moved, soon it will be too late.
Today’s communiqué from the Bridal front. After a short engagement the Bridegroom landed a strong attack against the Breast works and the whole front according to plan. Following a hard encounter the Bride retired to a new position. After a strong show of resistance the Bridegroom made a great surprise attack from the rear. Followed by a pincer movement coupled with a strong frontal attack. The Bridegroom made a hard stand and several thrusts were made into the Brides centre section. After a prolonged struggle the Bridegroom forced a narrow passage deep into the gap at the central sector. Having penetrated the Brides inner defences he made a strategic withdrawal with some loss of material. Mopping up operations are now in progress.
To be unmoved. This is nearly ten o’clock and the big guns can be heard in the distance signifying distress to lots of people, but to us it means a lot for we’ve waited or this great moment for nearly five years. Hundreds of our lads have set out on the trek today and now we await our turn, we hope we shall be left for we’re sick. Happiness is very near now and yet who knows what awaits us, let us hope for just the best and may I spell all that we have dreamed of in this prison life, namely release. All my kit is packed and the camp is upside down with people dashing about.
January 23, 1945 - Tuesday The German guards are evacuating today. The Russians must be advancing pretty quick. It is shameful here to see clothes and everything strewn about by the prisoners, tables turned etc. News has just come in that when the guards took five thousand of our lads away from here they left them to look after themselves; some were shot by the civilians. The food situation will be pretty bad here before long but never mind with a bit of luck we may get home before long, I’ve nearly forgotten what that is. French and Serbian evacuees now coming in camp.
January 27, 1945 - Saturday No water whatsoever in camp. Using snow to wash and make tea with. Russian guns can be heard in distance.
January 28, 1945 - Sunday News just received from some of our lads who have returned, nine shot by civilians outside and lots of the poor chaps have died through exposure. Three hundred sick and volunteers have gone out to aid them. Women and children are lying dead by the roadside all over. What a state things are in, we are practically cut off. The Russians are certainly moving.
January 31, 1945 - Wednesday This is the first time since Sunday I’ve been able to write for I’ve been terribly ill, its bronchial trouble. Thank the Lord I haven’t to go on the march for I would not last it, since my operation I’m a broken man. This is the last part of journey and I pray to God that everything will come out O.K. Anytime now shells may be flying round here. Roll on. Latest report from men that have been on the march. Capt. Robertson M.O. dead by the way side. One German woman took in eighty four sick men till volunteers came out from here.
February 03, 1945 - Saturday Ten thousand prisoners in Stalag IA East Prussia liberated and now in Paris. Today we were told there is neither bread nor biscuits to eat. The Russians want to come soon as we look like starving, it takes us hours to get a drop of water. What an existence. Roll on home and Alice.
February 05, 1945 - Monday Russians seem to be closing in very quickly now, from the top of the camp German fighters and bombers can be seen strafing in the distance. Two Russian planes passed over the town yesterday A.A. defences opened up.
February 08, 1945 - Thursday Tonight as I sit here I can’t help but wonder when I shall get home. Russian planes once again raided the aerodrome outside the camp. Firing of guns continues and it grows louder with the passing hours, we are practically cut off now, Germans wanted to know if we wanted to evacuate with them while there’s time, but we’re stopping and taking a chance. No doubt there will be casualties but it will be just as bad outside.
February 09, 1945 – Friday This period of waiting is the most trying time of my prison life, although it has been a very active day. Russian Air Force visited here four times bombing and machine gunning. Were patiently awaiting this great moment of release, we must take a chance on being shelled and killed. It doesn’t seem possible we’re so near to freedom and yet so far, roll on.
February 10, 1945 - Saturday I was just thinking, it seems years and years since I saw anyone especially Dad, he’s getting on now and the good times I promised myself to give him have been denied. He’s the best pal I’ve ever had roll on the reunion and Alice, God bless them both.
February 11, 1945 - Sunday We certainly saw action today by the Russian Air Force, whole squadrons of bombers were over, they were bombing all round the camp and machine gunning, our lads were running all over to get under cover.
February 14, 1945 – Wednesday Still waiting for liberation. Last nights radio report mentioned this Stalag being in the path of the Russians. Some of out lads names been given out on the Lubland Station (wireless in Poland) as already liberated. Gunfire all round us.
February 16, 1945 - Friday This life is getting more monotonous now than it has been ever since I’ve been a prisoner. Still waiting and just existing on potatoes, no bread. God knows what it will be like before long. Roll on.
February 18, 1945 - Sunday Camp is upside down once again we’re prepared to move everybody panicking. Geneva wants us moving to a safer area, the question is “Can the Germans provide transport for us sick men and can we get out by rail? The Russians are defiantly pushing in this area and it appears they capturing most of the railway junctions. It is just as dangerous outside as it is staying here.
February 20, 1945 - Tuesday Swiss representatives pressed the case that we must be removed from this dangerous. We leave Thursday according to news to Nuremberg near the Swiss border, five-day train journey.
February 21, 1945 - Wednesday Over two thousand left here for the Bavarian Alps, we follow on tomorrow or Thursday and we are the last batch. It appears our hopes have been dashed regarding liberation so we must continue to the end of the war. Roll on England and home, Alice must have forgot what I look like now, I can’t blame her choose what course she takes after all this time.
February 23, 1945 - Friday Out of the two thousand that left here by rail fifty odd are reported seriously ill and have to return, the rest had to get out at Meissen and march. God help us if we have to do the same.
February 24, 1945 - Saturday It is quite a long time since I dedicated a page to dear old Alice but tonight I just feel like that. Nearly five years have elapsed since I was taken prisoner and more than that since I was home during this time no doubt I shall practically be forgotten after all I could not expect a girl to be thinking of a chap away from him so long. These can never be recaptured, I trust Alice but even so, if she done any wrong I only hope she tells me and may be I can forgive her, I don’t expect her to be no angel for we are all human beings, but if she holds anything back and I find out, well, who knows what will happen. I’ve always been straight. Roll on. God knows I love her.
March 02, 1945 – Friday Left Lamsdorf by cattle truck for unknown destination.
March 10, 1945 – Saturday Arrived at Stalag XVIIA after spending eight unforgettable days in the wagon. Three days without water, bread or bowel movement and just a little ventilation. Forty-six men cramped up and couldn’t lie down to sleep, and we are all sick men.
March 11, 1945 – Sunday Spent the whole night naked with one blanket to keep us warm while clothes were deloused. Dropping asleep stood up but dare not lie down on the cold stone floor. Everybody just about all in, so many days without sleep.
March 13, 1945 – Tuesday Saw the English M.O. and told him that I want to go before the war commission, which comes here next month, don’t know how I’ve gone on.
EAST SUDETENLAND, CZECHOSLOVAKIA, BAVARIA, AUSTRIA, KEISERSTEINBRUCH.
March 15, 1945 – Thursday Saw the German Medical Office in preparation for the next board. Just got to wait and see now. I do know this much that we are practically starving here, just a drop of watery soup everyday and ninth of a loaf. Getting weak on the legs already. Roll on. Nothing to smoke using oak leaves. Watched the Russians drawing their soup yesterday, fighting to scrape the tub out and some of them scrapping off the floor. At least ten are dying daily and they just throw their naked bodies on a cart.
March 21, 1945 – Wednesday Just about starving here hardly any food, nine to a loaf and nothing to smoke, roll on a long time. Cannot walk round for there’s barbed wire everywhere one looks, impossible to escape, this was a Jewish concentration camp, all nationalities here now.
March 26, 1945 – Monday Our air force visited here today in hundreds and we watched the next village go up in flames through bombing; direct hits were scored on targets. The railway lines and trucks were blown sky high. I saw the English Medical Officer regarding the commission and full particulars were taken down. Swiss commission comes on the 10th of next month hope I pass. News is getting marvellous on the Western Front.
March 29, 1945 – Thursday Rumanian and Russian prisoners pouring in the camp and dying like flies through lack of food. Watched two men just slinging the dead into a cart hardly any meat on these bones. The Red Army is only 25 miles away from here so it looks as if we’ve landed in another danger zone. The Commission is supposed to come in ten days time but fate steps in again, regarding repatriation I’ve had it.
April 04, 1945 Today is the greatest day of my life as I watched the Russian ride in with flags flying to liberate us, what a day. Handshaking and cheering. I’m so excited I’ve been to the lavatory four times the last half hour.
April 08, 1945 – Sunday Today is the first time I have had chance to write, we marched out from the camp three days ago and we are now on the Hungarian boarder. At present my mate and I are living in a house with an old lady and two daughters. It’s a shame what war has done and even to see their homes wrecked by liberated prisoners.
April 10, 1945 – Tuesday Arrived Budapest. Walked by the Danube wonderful sight. Stopped night with English people. Sieurd. Address 260 kilometres trip.
April 11, 1945 – Wednesday Had a decent time with Budapest students, went to a cinema at night slept in a civvy house just like being at home, wonderful place this.
April 14, 1945 – Saturday Went to cinema today to see Spencer Tracy and Clarke Gable yesterday saw three Ritz brothers. Don’t know when we shall be going home, nobody seems to be doing anything for us, even British Council can do nothing.
April 17, 1945 – Tuesday Riding on top of a railway wagon and well on the way through Hungary and nearing Romania. Don’t know whether we shall touch Bucharest or not on-route for Odessa.
April 22, 1945 – Sunday Arrived at Gassy in Romania. Go from here on the main Russian train line straight to Odessa. No sleep at night in these cattle trucks for we’ve no blankets or kit at all not even a razor or comb.
April 25, 1945 – Wednesday Arrived Odessa. Latest news, “Leaving for England today or tomorrow”.
April 28, 1945 – Saturday Waiting for the boat. Received new clothes yesterday. Listened last night to Odessa opera singers. Getting impatient now to get back to dear old Alice.
May 02, 1945 – Wednesday On Board the ‘Bergenfeld’ at Odessa. Latest news “Leaving for Naples or Marseilles”, must wait and see. Wrote letter to Alice to send by Mrs Churchill but we left just after for boat.
May 06, 1945 – Sunday Leros, Dodecanese sailing along at 19 knots an hour. Nearing Italy, Thursday passed Istanbul, Constantinople and Dardanelle’s. Yesterday passed Leros.
May 07, 1945 – Monday Arrived Naples and was billeted in city.
May 08, 1945 – Tuesday Received three inoculations and vaccinations together. Listened to Churchill’s broadcast on declaration of peace in Europe. I’ve been free for about five weeks now and am still not home, waiting for a boat. Medical Officer made a report out “Not fit to fly by air”.
May 13, 1945 – Sunday Left Naples by convoy, 13th day and thirteen ships. Good sailing seven destroyers doing escort.
May 16, 1945 – Wednesday Arrived Gibraltar morning. Left Thursday for Scotland.
May 21, 1945 – Whit Monday Arrived Scotland received information we must stay here till Thursday night. It’s a bad show, everywhere we’ve been we’ve been held up. Can’t send telegrams home, only for leave troops, says a lot of us have been bombed out.
May 24, 1945 – Thursday Disembarked in Glasgow 7.15 pm and moved off by train 9 pm for south of England.
May 25, 1945 – Friday Passed through Sheffield about 6am. Leicester breakfasted and carried on, destination said to be near Brighton.
With this entry the diaries ended. On November 01, 1945 from York he was notified that on the expiration of his leave he should report for duty and further medical examination on November 08, 1954 at West Hartlepool detraining station. His war service ended on November 13, 1945. He applied for a resettlement grant to start a Sole Ownership Fruit and Vegetable business and was awarded a War Gratuity of £37 and a Service Post –War Credit of £38-8-6 (Thirty eight pounds eight shillings and six pence). His disability was described as: Operation – Right Renal Calculus, whilst a five year prisoner. Date of termination of furlough March 17, 1946. On November 13, 1946 he received a Hawkers License at a cost of £2.
© 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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