Flight Sergeant Henry Jones
Unit : 625 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Camps : Stalag Luft VII, Stalag IIIA
The following is a comparatively brief extract from the diary of Flight Sergeant Jones. The original, all handwritten, contains numerous drawings and etches made by him. The diary has been transcribed here by kind permission of his daughter, Rosalind Warden (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
Diary of a Prisoner of War
August 3rd 1944 until May 27th 1945.
by ex Flight Sergeant Henry Jones
625 Squadron Royal Air Force.
Today landed by parachute in North of France, about 2.30 in the afternoon. Jock and I were picked up together and taken to German billets, searched etc. My gold Waltham watch and Ronson lighter taken by the soldiers - a loss I feel more than anything as the watch was a 21st. birthday present from Mother and the lighter was given to me by D.M.P. In the late evening we were taken by car to Forges les Eaux where we were put in a cell already occupied by Prof and Geordie. Was relieved to find them there and even more so when Jobbie came in an hour or two afterwards. Informed that Jimmie and big Geordie had crashed with the plane - later confirmed by the Germans. Conditions not too good four beds for five of us, ventilation, one brick knocked out of a wall. No food issued.
Moved by road to Beauvais today. J. and G. with us we believe, Geordie, Prof, Jock and I sharing a cell. Food not too bad. Allowed out for about ten minutes daily for exercise. Water for washing provided but no soap. Lav. accommodation very primitive - one pail per cell emptied once daily - weather very warm and stench pretty awful. Remained here until about midnight 6th.August when we bundled with about 20 more Americans and English into trucks.
Arrived in Brussells about 11 o’clock today and put in separate cells. Conditions greatly improved. Had my first wash with soap and use of w.c. Food also improved, soup very tasty. Rations 2 slices of bread and jam for breakfast, soup mid - day 2 cheese about 6 o’clock.
Moved to Oberursal for interrogation today by train via Aachen, Cologne and Frankfurt. Interrogated twice, moved from solitary to communal on 17th.
17th August 1944.
Feeling very much better this evening, re-united with the boys. Had a good wash and shave today met Harry Yorke from whom I borrowed some shaving soap. Feeling much better and happier. Some fellows badly burnt about face and hands, not at all a nice sight. Am thankful I am whole and uninjured.
Moved in a crowd to Wetzlow today. Hot showers for all on arrival - what joy. Issued with an American Red Cross capture case, a great and very welcome surprise. Just like kids at an Xmas party looking at our presents. It feels fine to have a clean set of underclothes. Meals exceptionally good from Red Cross parcels we feed communally.
Today we have been sunbathing and chatting amonst ourselves, plenty to eat and smoke. In the evening we entrained, for our permanent camp, in Italian coaches, P.O.W.Camp at Bankau. The officers are in separate coaches and we have said au revoir to them for some time now. One parcel between two of us for the journey. Very hot travelling in the train. Managed a shower under the engine filler during the trip, our only wash. Sleeping accommodation deadly, eight in a compartment and all of us glad to reach Bankau station at last.
Arrived in Stalag Luft 7 today. Searched and given billet for six; Harry Yorke, Laurie Benson, Johnnie Perkins, Bill Swinson ( Kiwi ), ‘Red’ Tarlton. Cold showers and plenty of sunshine. Life promises to be better from now onwards. Met some old friends whom I know from previous R.A.F.camps. About 600 fellows in this ‘lager’ when we arrived - camp extended at each intake. Most of the time spent in reading and sunbathing. Everyone’s spirits and health improves as the days go by helped by sunshine etc. Food on the whole good - Red Cross parcels cut to one per fortnight from weekly issue - various cookhouse rackets exposed but improvements likely when moved to our new compound. Lav. accommodation very poor - pole squatting not to my liking. ‘There are times when one wants to be alone.’ Various commissions etc paid us visits, when Germans gave probable date of move. Towards end of September the nights were getting very dark early and cold in the mornings. Outstanding features - sleeping on the floor - margerine lamps - dogs now patrol at night.
Friday up with the dawn and moved to new compound - Hut 50/3. Original six plus four S.A.A.F. and two more R.A.F. Parcel combine now Harry, Laurie, Johnnie and self. Brought about by awkward attitude of Kiwi and Red on occasions. We are now settled down in our winter quarters. Electric light and beds are appreciated by all. Stove eventually installed and coal issue is better than I had expected. Rations, although reduced by the Germans are better apportioned consequently reductions not noticed to a great extent. War news about this time is very heartening. It is the general opinion in the camp that we shall be home for Christmas. As days and weeks pass however, we all become more resigned to Christmas in S.L.7. Canadian parcels for Christmas ordered about the middle of November. Various rumours regarding probable moves. Parcels increased temporarily to one per week. The Germans are getting more nervous and restless and restrictions are being enforced. viz: No stocks of food. Cigarettes reduced to 100 per man, all tins fully opened and not punctured as before. Chocolate supply 4 bars only. Entertainments are coming along nicely. The ‘Little Theatre’ opened November 15 with a variety including ‘Rookery Nook’. This was preceded by a dance run by Laurie. Our first sight of a ‘female’ for months, quite a laugh and rated an enjoyable evening. Next show featuring a Concertina Band very well received by the boys the highlight being ‘Geraldine’.
Weather deteriorated about middle of the month, some snow, first seen by S.A.A.F.’s. Plenty of rain and mud in the compound.
Geordie heard from home 23/11. Am eagerly awaiting my first letter anytime now. Have written home weekly since August when arriving here. All our letters go by Air Mail now.
30th November 1944.
16 men in 50/3 now. Rather full but get on quite well together. Have habit of walking each evening with Norman Swale ( S.A.A.F. ) and talking over old times which is very interesting and revives many old and treasured memories. Have purchased watch from Stan Wright for £6 thus in some way making up for my late loss. Showers at about 10 days intervals.
Mice in the billet. Recently scare of lice necessitating a good clean out all round. Out door games held up by the weather. Canadians making two ice rinks. It is increasingly obvious how constant company gets on one’s nerves, tempers become so very easily frayed. A number of ‘words’ passed during the day.
To a play reading of Journey’s End this evening. It was much better performance than I had anticipated.
We are now a full compliment of 16 in our room with McWilliam moving in today. He and ‘Tito’ Perini will have to sleep on the table and stools as they have no beds.
Norman finished the oven today. We are now cooking all our own meals except dinner in Klim tins and home made dishes. Double ration of bread - hence bread pudding all the rage. Yesterday there was a good amount of mail in Camp, ‘Shorty Enfield’ was the only lucky one in 50/3 receiving three. Potato ration again reduced.
Our first camp cinema show ‘The Corsican Brothers’. How it brought back memories of the time I saw it previously with Gwen at the Ritz, and the last film show I saw on the 2nd.August in Louth with Prof and Jock. Had luck at the stores today collected a pair of army boots for my others. I wonder what is their history.
Our first F.F.I. today. No result in our room thank goodness, after our recent scare. Our parades today have been adjusted to suit the performances at the pictures. The Germans have been getting very considerate towards the boys.
This evening the play reading of Journey’s End was interrupted and stopped by the Germans owing to the use of the word ‘Boche’. Rather a coincidence in view of my previous remarks.
We are on our last fortnight of parcels and the position appears none too good at present, the last issue will be about 27th.December.
Camp Leader, Man of Confidence and Admin. Staff resigned this afternoon. Meeting this evening at which I attended to hear whys and wherefores. The result being that the charges were in the opinion of the majority, very weak and a Vote of Confidence will be taken in a few days. There were also suggestions of a change in our Leader for 7 Div. Quite unnecessary in my opinion. G. checked through barracks about 10-30 this evening.
Ballot for new Div. Leader resulted in no change.
Pictures this morning. ‘Life Begins for Andy Hardy’. Sound apparatus greatly improved. Snow during the night and bitterly cold. Wrote home and to C.E.R. this evening. Parcel situation becoming more acute, they will last only until about the end of the month, and no further supplies are in sight at present.
Sunday G.High Commission paid a visit to Camp this a.m. All up bright and early and cleaned up by 8 a.m. Church at 11 o’clock. Sirens cancelled barrack inspection. Bombs heard in vicinity, leaflets also dropped, but we were confined to Barracks while guards searched the compound. Show this evening ‘Moods Modernistis’. It was not so good as the previous show. Kiwi sang a couple of Maori songs.
A.R.W.at mid - day again today. Bombs in near vicinity. The cigarette situation is becoming more and more drastic. There is even chocolate on the exchange for cigarettes - a thing I have not seen before.
A.R.W.again mid-day to-day.
Our Div. to pictures ‘Dixie Dugan’, did not go myself not feeling too good. The recent ballot for new Man of Confidence resulted in a win for W/O Mead who took up his duties today. New intake of 60. Also some bulk parcels from Wetzlow which has set everyone’s mind at rest for a few more days. Consignment of mail - quite a number in billet, but no luck personally.
Very cold these past few days. The snow has cleared and the Canadians are busy filling the rinks they have made with water.
The parcel situation is assured for another two weeks. This week we have been drawing soup from the cookhouse daily. This is easing our meat situation considerably. G. ration of margarine has been above average.
Saturday. Have made Xmas pudding for the combine today - it looks nice and fruity - hope it tastes as good. Ingredients - bread, egg, packet of raisins, klim, sugar, flavoured with cocoa. The boys in the panto have a dress rehearsal this evening - sounds to be a good production.
Christmas Eve. A lovely cold sunshine today. A parcel this morning putting us O.K. for Xmas festivities. Menu prepared as follows :
Christmas 1944. MENU.
Breakfast Bacon a la Bankau. Pain Brun. Dessert.
11 a.m. Biscuits.
Cafe au lait American.
Dinner. Boeuf Ros. Porc Ros Pommes de Terre saute. Stalag Xmas Pudding aux creme. Fromage. Biscuits.
Tea. Soup a la Maitre d’Hotel. ‘ Treat ’ or Sausage. Pommes de Terre. Salade de Fruit aux Creme. Pain Brun. Dessert.
Supper. Pattie a l’American. Pain Brun. Christmas Pudding. Fromage. Sauerkraut. Biscuits.
To Carol Service this evening, rather a queer service - quite unique. Lights tonight extended until 1-30 a.m. Argentine bulk parcel will be issued next week, according to Man of Confidence detail. Holy Communion at 11 o’clock to-night with Norman - very high church but equally impressive.
Early parade at 8 a.m. got everyone out of bed quickly. After which we all settled down to our first item on our bill of fare.
After lunch everyone was really full - the first time since our detention in enemy hands. It is most surprising to find how one’s stomach has shrunk and is quite unable to take what would normally be much less than a usual meal. Quite a number of our boys have been ill as a result of this. Wrote a P.C. home this evening as my thoughts have continually been there all the day.
Our first Xmas and mine particularly being my first away from home, has passed very well and even in our cramped surroundings the spirit of good cheer and good feeling has been felt by all.
Tummy trouble and sickness still very prevalent in Camp. M.O. suspects Xmas Day soup issue as cause. Two more fellows into 50/3. One, ‘Spud’ Day well known from S.A. days. This makes 18 in our room which is getting very crowded.
One fellow shot outside during A.R. mid-day today. He has since died.
Issue of Uruguay slippers today.
New Year’s Eve, a big party in the theatre for Scots. 2 Bands. Lights out 1 a.m. Drank New Year in with coffee - what a change from previous years at home and what memories of previous times at Dunstall Hall etc. it revives. Our slight celebrations consisted of a fruit pudding and porridge for supper. Looking back, what a lot has happened in twelve months, both personally and in respect of the War. Everyone including myself, are confident that this year will see the end of the war and Victory for the Allies. Still no news of home - I had been expecting to hear before the close of the year especially as both Geordie and Jock have had letters.
1st January 1945.
One parade at 9 a.m. only today as G’s have apparently a holiday. There is talk of the Jews in Camp being moved into one room only and various reasons and suppositions are being put forward by the boys.
More mail in today. Johnnie Perkins the only lucky person. Norman Swale came out of hospital this evening after a period of four days.
Five months today since I landed in enemy hands and still no sign of mail. Jock has now had three letters.
Cigarettes and Tobacco position is now becoming increasingly difficult - quite a number out altogether. 500 English parcels in today and a few smokes.
Two extra parades today owing to latecomers at 9 a.m. Dress rehearsal for Xmas Panto. Tobacco finally gave up so I am now without cigarettes etc.
Sunday. One parade only today at 10 a.m. Issue of 15 cigarettes per man eased the situation somewhat. The highlights of to-day’s menu - following an issue of pea flour and meat, was a large can full of thick soup which went down very well. The war news these days is not too heartening as the G. advance thro’ Belgium and Luxembourg still continues. The appointment of Monty however has given us fresh hope.
F.F.I. today results of which give M.O. cause for alarm. 80 cases of lice found ( including one in 50/3 ) a typhus epidemic would prove disastrous. Wrote a P.C. home and had a close haircut in the evening. Some fellows are even having their heads shaved. First night of Pantomime.
Tunnel found 8 Div unexpected search. More mail in L.B. and S.W. received first news of home last night.
To Panto this evening - a very good show indeed, thoroughly enjoyed it. Costumes, make up, lighting etc are all first class and much work and effect must have been put into the production.
13th January 1945.
The thaw of the past few days finished last night and the compound is now once more a mass of ice. Very cold in bed last night. Two blankets hardly sufficient at the present time. Our fuel supply together with the brushwood is just about sufficient for 12 hours, so we consider ourselves lucky. Rations from the G.s now amount to half litre soup and about 4 or 5 decent sized potatoes and one sixth of a loaf daily with occasional issues of margerine, sugar, sauerkraut, cheese and mollasses in place of jam. Issue of mollasses have recently been exceptionally good after a period of no issue at all. Parcel position again getting critical at present, stocks will be exhausted on 16th. Issue of 12 cigarettes yesterday.
Rumour has it today that there is a Russian advance in this direction and our future is a matter of common conjecture.
There is talk of a move in the near future as the G’s intend to evacuate the Camps in this vicinity. Nothing however, yet appears to be definite in this respect but it has put everyone in a state of uncertainty. Have been out of cigarettes for a couple of days now and no further supplies are available.
A memorable day. Harry Yorke and I were duty stooges and just as we were about to collect mid-day soup, word came round ‘Pack and be prepared to leave within an hour’. Panic all afternoon - emergency rations collected and after numerous rumours we bed down for the night ‘in our boots’. Am very full this evening similarly to Christmas as it is thought that we might start marching at any moment.
We begin our long trek. Actually I felt in pretty good condition and the prospect of about four days - as I thought - did not unduly disturb me. Left 7 eventually at 6 a.m. in bitterly cold conditions, marched all day. All along route was a trail of discarded gear and suitcases and packs too heavy to carry. All sorts and kinds of vehicles were pinched by the boys for convenience - prams, sledges, hand carts etc etc. Everyone practically all-in by this time. We got billets having covered 29 KM during day. Both civilian and military evacuation in evidence - increasing during trip. Horse drawn military transport in very poor condition.
Off again before daybreak, arrived at Karlsruhr about 12 noon. Billeted in brick factory and able to rest for some hours. G. apparently want us over the River Oder as soon as possible so we set out again at 8 p.m. Conditions very poor, bitterly cold, temp 20 / 30 degrees below. Boots now show signs of wear, which proves to be of great distress to me for some long time as it gets between soles and feet are always wet - eventually leading to frost bittten toes on both feet. This night was one of the worst spent on the journey but the sledge that Red made began to prove it’s sterling worth, as the weight of packs and blankets can be removed from shoulders and one can march at ease when not pulling the sledge. Allowed a days rest at Easenfield and from hereon, the time passes in sleeping and marching that it is impossible to record day by day. Rations about this time begin to get very short and average one fifth to one sixth loaf per day - a little margerine and a few potatoes cold and raw very occasionally. Cookhouse rations are half cup of soup approx.each day - some days none at all. On 29th. I had a touch of stomach trouble which was very awkward as temperature again very low. In fact I doubt if I could have carried on if the other boys had not done my share of sledge pulling. Usual sleeping conditions were in barns of all types large and small. One can be quite comfortable sleeping in straw I found, but washing was very difficult indeed and shaving impossible. Towards end of journey rations were very short indeed and gold watches, fountain pens, rings etc were exchanged for loaves of bread.
Transport promised practically daily but did not materialise. 5th.February at Goldsberg, where we were given two days ration - one day late - packed 56 in a truck. After three days - nearly two of which we were without rations - and all in very poor physical condition we arrived at Luckenwalde Stalag 3A. No Red Cross parcels to greet us and it took all day before we could get a bath and into compound for food. How good it was to have a shower, the first for three weeks and soup the first food for two days. A bed on the floor was luxury as compared to sleeping on top of one another in a cattle truck. So ended a journey 19th. January - 8th. February.
Friday - it has been really good today to eat a decent food ration after a good night’s sleep. Issue of two fifths of a loaf, soup, potatoes, coffee and a little sugar. Jobbie and Prof are in Camp in another compound, but have not seen either of them yet.
News is very good these days. Russians’ offensive appears to be going well and their forces are expected to reach Berlin very soon. British Offensive under Monty is also under way. Everyone’s spirits are rapidly rising in spite of a rumour of another journey to a new Camp being started within a few days.
Saturday. Parades 7-15 a.m. and 5 p.m. Rations one fifth of a loaf etc etc. Conditions in barracks very poor. Grossly overcrowded 356 in ours. Filth everywhere and it is impossible to keep clean. Laundry impossible and I am wearing the same clothes as when I left Bankau.
To Holy Communion this a.m. taken by Capt.Collins our own padre.
Issue of 12 cigarettes per man from unclaimed parcels. Shrove Tuesday - recollections of the Shobnall Golf Club dances in past years. General conditions of most boys now improving especially in spirits. There is however an epidemic of dysentry and the hospital block has been extended to cope with the overflow.
Sent boots in today to be repaired, which if done properly will be a source of great satisfaction to me. Concert this afternoon but I did not go.
16th. February 1945.
Boots back this evening - look in fairly good condition but by no means waterproof. Protecting Power visited Camp today - promised to look into conditions with a view to improving overcrowded billets. Appalled at conditions on recent march and rations issued. Bread ration cut from one fifth to one seventh loaf, thieving of rations rampant. We have lost all our coffee from Johnnie’s case. Two R.A.F. boys caught and are liable to 14 years penal servitude on return home. Talk by M.O. with a view to better discipline and personal hygiene.
Bread rations restored to one fifth today. News continues to be very good - our only bright spot.
To church this evening. Padre was in much better form. The boys are feeling very much better these days, although dysentery is still very prevalent, there being some hundreds in hospital. Have done a spot of washing, very difficult under present conditions with no soap and cold water.
Rumours of moving still in the air. The officers from Sagan are still here. Saw Jobbie and Prof. today and threw Jobbie a pair of pants (from Geordie) and one of my vests. He let me have two ounces of tobacco and a few figs which were very welcome. This evening the M.O. had another talk to the boys regarding their pulling themselves together and personal hygiene. Apparently he is rather worried about the general state of our health. There are some hundreds of cases of dysentry and in our present undernourished conditions we should be easy prey to any epidemic.
To the Camp Theatre this afternoon to see ‘Deep digs the Devil’. Quite good acting, but definitely not the type of entertainment required by the boys in their present state. Rations again reduced to-day to two thirds normal in potatoes and soup. War news continues good although there appears to be a lull in the offensives both E. and W. fronts - R.A.F. are certainly doing their stuff - we are having constant warnings both day and night. Have now moved to middle bunk which I find much warmer and a great improvement to being on the floor.
Small issue of cigarettes today 22, also small issue of Red Cross Food. My ration one fifth tin of stewed meat and vegetables. Visit of German Red Cross Officials who examined some of the men and agreeing on our poor physical condition, stated that on his return to Berlin he would try and arrange for additional food either from Germans or International Red Cross.
Have been suffering from a slight touch of dysentry for some days now which is making me out of sorts. I am however, feeling stronger these days, but rations do not warrant very much exercise. Soup and potato rations vary daily and after numerous complaints the French in the cookhouse have been weeded out, but no improvement has been noticed. The French apparently run this camp of which there are all nationalities - Russians, Serbs, Swedes, Americans, English etc. Black market prices at present - loaf 40 - 60 cigarettes, 6 oz. tin of jam 25 cigarettes. English cheese 40. Brews very scarce, only a limited amount of German tea available. Our combine still has 2 oz. tea which we are trying to exchange for a loaf.
Late night there was another attempt, the third, at pilfering Red Cross parcels from the French store room. Two R.A.F., a Canadian and an Australian were shot and another Canadian was arrested. Duty day today. To pictures this p.m. - a dead loss - apparatus no good only one film, a 20 year old Laurel and Hardy, was shown. The R.A.F. now as from today are taken over by the Army authorities. This move caused much discussion as to our future prospects and it is popularly assumed that we shall not move from here for some time at least.
Have been suffering from tummy trouble these past few days and last night had violent cramp pains, so went to the M.O. this morning. He gave me a dose of opium and put me on a liquid diet for 24 hours.
A Red Letter Day today - I feel much better and we have received each one quarter of a Red Cross parcel. The whole atmosphere of the barracks is changed this evening - the boys can even raise a song and morale has risen tremendously. Again I thank God for the Red Cross organisation and all that it is doing for P.O.W.’s It is indeed an absolute luxury to taste some chocolate, jam etc after so many weeks of semi-starvation on German rations.
Our diet today has greatly improved as a result of yesterday’s issues and the boys are much happier with a little food and a few smokes. Our Bankau combine has temporarily split up as a result of so much petty thieving of rations in the billet. The other three are sleeping some distance from me and I am at present coming more into contact with Norman Hornsley, a G.P. from Derby. Have had some very interesting chats with him about old times. News these days very heartening - it does not seem as if the G’s can last out much longer. I feel confident I shall see England again this Summer although I am not altering my original date 3rd.August.
A very different birthday to any I have ever spent before. I cannot help recollecting how well I used to spend them in former years. Home has continually been in my thoughts as I know I must have been in Ma and Pa’s. One consolation to me is that they should be getting fairly frequent mail from me although I am still without any myself. It is gratifying to know they are not aware of my present conditions etc. Spring is now in the air, my stomach is getting back to normal and I feel like taking a little exercise in the sunshine. The days are drawing out, the war news is simply marvellous and is a source of great encouragement.
One third of Cologne is in Allied hands. Our new Man of Confidence, John Snowden, is a worker and is getting things well organised for us.
Great news this morning, tomorrow we are to get an issue of one parcel per man. I can hardly realise our good luck, it will be glorious to eat and smoke again, as I am practically out of smokes and the last portion of the food parcel is about to be eaten.
Information from M.of C. this afternoon is that there are 80,000 parcels arriving in Camp for the 9,000 English speaking prisoners - practically three months supply at the rate of one parcel per week. Luck seems in to-day, I got a half loaf for 20 cigarettes this morning and a 2000 gram one this evening for 50 cigarettes. These are mainly the result of sale of 2 oz. tea.
News - we are practically in command of all the W.Bank of the Rhine.
A Red Letter Day today. We all received an American No.10 parcel each. Had a tin of sardines on toast and as a birthday treat etc a bar of Sweet D. ration chocolate when I got into bed this evening. Reaction on boys’ spirit very evident. Usually all is very quiet by 10 o’clock but chatter to-night kept up until about 4 a.m. did not have much sleep myself. Tonight was 16th. consecutive raid on Berlin, visible from our windows. Great news for which we have been waiting for so long. Canadians have crossed the Rhine and opposition reported comparatively light.
Had our second parcel each today. It has been a grand week with Red Cross food and I have certainly gained the benefit therefrom. The Germans today did not supply us with our daily ration of potatoes - had double soup ration in place of same. It is not a very good sign as the spuds recently have been very poor and small, a little better than our English pig potatoes as we can conclude that supplies are running short especially as there are some thousands of evacuees in Luckenwalde. Have purchased a petrol lighter for 60 cigarettes and a pen knife for 45. Both seem quite good bargains and will prove very useful I think.
Had treatment at M.I. room this a.m. for septic cut in wrist and thumb which proved very painful during the night. It would appear that my blood and constitution must still be pretty low as these small cuts have previously healed quite easily and without trouble.
No potatoes issued again today - a double soup ration instead. We have all had a chest X Ray today for T.B. There have apparently been some cases of this since our arrival in this Camp. Reported to M.I. room again to-day to have another dressing on my wrist - it seems to be progressing satisfactorily and pain is somewhat easier. Long daylight raid by U.S. Forts this afternoon. Vapour trails etc made a glorious sight for us and we envied the lucky ( ? ) beggars up there who would soon be feeding in their squadron mess. Churchill on the news tonight stated that the war may be over this summer, an optimistic statement for him to make.
A lovely day today. Have spent most of the day outside in the sunshine - it feels good to be alive again. The Irish Barracks are getting ready for St.Patrick’s Day and the compound reminds one of a fair ground with the side shows of Crown and Anchor and other dice games. It seems to me mugs are wanted and found each minute, hundreds of cigarettes are changing hands very quickly. Quite a number of English and Americans set out today for Magdeburg, but the M.of C. detail states that German sources say that there is no likelihood of any impending move by the R.A.F. personnel. Conditions in Camp are much more lenient than at Bankau. We are allowed the use of tools such as saws, pincers etc and everyone seems busy making blowers and ‘ Smoky Joes ’. Max Schmelling visited the Camp this evening and I obtained his autograph. He is a fine physical specimen and far superior to Jack London who was one of our P.T.I.’s in S.Wales.
G.rations again cut today to one sixth loaf. It would appear that potatoes are getting scarcer and are issued to us on alternate days only. The sugar ration has howver been increased from 25 to 40 grammes per day. Have been busy to-day helping to build a fireplace for cooking etc.
Issue of one American No.10 parcel to each man today, our third since arriving at Luckenwalde. The G’s inform us that our bread ration has been cut by approx. one third and is now one sixth for 5 days and one fifth and one seventh for the two remaining days of the week.. This is, of course, a very meagre ration as margerine also has been decreased in approx. the same rates and potatoes owing to transport difficulties will only be issued about each alternate day. So we are more and more dependent upon Red Cross supplies.
First day of Spring today. How I wish I was in England. The weather is really very good and we are able to sit out in the sun occasionally, which personally I appreciate although my legs are still very weak after one or two circuits of the compound. General health in the Camp has improved considerably but judging from my own condition I wonder how we should get on if we are compelled to march again. News is still very encouraging, it would appear that the Germans cannot hold very much territory West of the River Rhine. The Russians are fighting round Stettin and Danzig with much success.
Warm weather continues and appears to be helping our forces on Western Front. We are daily waiting to hear that Monty has made his attack for which he has been preparing for the past few weeks as great things are expected. There is still much discussion about the possible date that peace will be declared. Personally I cannot see how the G’s can possibly last more than three months at the present rate. Bombing is going on all over Germany at an unprecedented scale. The A.R.W. is continually sounding day and night. Life in Compound is much the same as ever. Parts are more like a fair ground with stalls for horse racing, crown and anchor, banker and various other gambling games, cigarettes being the currency used. There are also about half a dozen stalls dealing in exchanges of food and clothing or any other article imaginable. Pen knives, which were at one time very scarce, are now fairly plentiful as numbers were recently obtained from the Russians very cheaply. Petrol lighters are also quite numerous, obtained from similar source and also those previously confiscated by the G’s have been returned.
Evening : The Glider Boys are full of spirits as their old division is in the battle again.
Exactly 12 months ago today I took my Board and passed as a Flight Engineer - today I should be automatically promoted to Flt/Sgt. News still marvellous and is giving us great encouragement. Watched football match R.A.F. v France this afternoon in the beautiful sunshine. France won 1-0 but our team will improve when they have played together for a few more games. 27th.March 1945.
Parcel each today. We are informed that there is now only two weeks supply left in Camp - hope more arrive as G. rations are very poor these days.
News terrific - G’s retreat in West described as a complete rout and as correspondents put it - it has developed into one large mopping up operation. Rumour around this evening that a 48 hour armistice has been agreed upon to discuss peace - seems to be upheld by the fact that for nearly 24 hours we have had no air raid warning. Camp conditions are gradually improving, the hospital has now moved giving another barrack for living accommodation. Dysentry has practically died out, but in most barracks nine out of ten men have body lice. Our barrack seems to be fairly good, but there are still many affected. Appear to be free myself and hope to remain so. Purchased half a loaf of bread for tin of cocoa, so shall be able to eat a little better for a day or two. No foundation, of course, in the above rumour, but it caused quite a lot of talk and betting.
Pa’s birthday today. I hope he is well and standing the strain of work at home - should like to have word from him or Ma. But the possibility seems very remote these days. A party of repatriated prisoners left for Nuremburg en route for Switzerland this evening. This morning, on going through my underclothes, found I was in the fashion having body lice. So have spent the day cleaning up as much as possible. It is my first experience of this kind and I find it far from pleasant.
Easter Saturday - It does not seem much like a Bank Holiday under these conditions, but we are bracing ourselves up with expectations that we may possibly be home for Whitsun, according to the news it seems quite possible as both American and English armies are advancing rapidly on all fronts. Opposition is very small. This morning we moved Barracks from No.1 North to No.3 North thus losing our beds so that we are once more sleeping on the floor. However we have much more room, light and air.
Had quite a comfortable night in new quarters, although the floor is somewhat harder than I have been used to of late. There seems to have been a general move round yesterday and billeting now appears fairly comfortable and most of the overcrowding has been eliminated. News today that the G’s are evacuating Holland. Our forces have practically cleared the Ruhr and Munster is taken and Kassel bypassed.
Easter holidays over. The Camp officially seems to have been closed down and rather surprisingly in view of the critical state of affairs in Germany now. Two parades were cancelled yesterday altogether and our parcel issue due yesterday is postponed until today. Rations also cut again today. Bread one tenth loaf, no potatoes yesterday or today, the position must be getting serious. News still excellent, according to reports our forces are about 100 miles away and still advancing while the Russians remain about 35 miles from Belsen as they have been for the past few weeks. Weather seems to have broken up a bit now and it has turned very cold, especially sleeping on the floor. Had a piano in the billet last night and had a concert. I appear to be getting rid of the lice gradually - found a few more last night.
Nothing out of the ordinary has happened during the past few days. The weather is getting warmer again and one is able to get out in the fresh air, but hardly warm enough to sit about. Rations have been spasmodic a shortage of sugar, bread one eighth - one tenth loaf, margerine poor. Potatoes of very poor quality are very scarce. Black market prices are soaring now. 100 cigarettes for Red Cross box of raw potatoes. Bread, for which a week ago I gave a tin of cocoa now costs 100-120. This is no doubt partly due to a ‘gas’ issue of 85 cigarettes during the week. General attitude of Camp can only be described as uncertain. The war news is still excellent but one begins to wonder what and how soon the end will be. It seems strange that there is apparently no signs of capitulation on the part of the G’s although they must realise that all is over for them. Consequently the majority of us are getting rather fed up with things in general and long to get moving, as the end is so near. It is very difficult I find now to remain waiting patiently as I have been content to do since leaving Bankau and a letter from home would make all the difference.
I can imagine their feelings as they hear on the wireless of Camps being taken and P.O.W.’s liberated, no doubt each time they wonder if by chance I may be one of the lucky ones. Who knows, but one day I might - the British and Americans are very near to Hanover and Leipzig as progress is still being made steadily.
Parcels again today. Next week sees final issue of parcels in stock. Rumour says there are a few thousand on the way so hope they arrive in time. Received instructions today to prepare for a move by rail on Thursday. The officers from the opposite compound are supposed to move tomorrow, but I saw Jobbie this evening and there was no official gen.
Finished making silk scarf today which we are putting in the exchange market for cigs. and bread. Officers are still here this evening and latest gen is that we do not move. Concert by Americans in compound this evening. Instructions received in evening for us to be prepared to move with Officers at 8 a.m. in the morning. Barracks 3 North and 3 South plus 30 odd extra men only are travelling. Rest of evening spent in feverish activity.
Eventually entrained at 4-45 p.m. this afternoon. At the search on leaving the Camp, I found I had a number of un-punctured food tins confiscated by the Germans. However, with the assistance of our Man of Confidence, they were returned to me minus a Meat & Veg and a tin of margarine, half parcel per man issued at the commencement of journey. I cannot help but compare our position with that when we got on the train at Goldberg on our last journey. Now we have food and cigarettes - then we had neither. This time 40 men to a truck, then 56. Consequently we have far more room.
Still in siding at Luckenwalde. No signs of moving at 7 p.m. this evening. A very interesting day, trading with civilians over the fence. Immediately after roll call this morning the blowers and fires were busy cooking brews etc Had mid morning coffee with Jobbie and Prof, who are also on the train. It is very nice to see them again and talk over old times. Last night was not too comfortable, but of course, there is not very much room to spread out. Roosevelt died last night. Our forces are fast approaching Halle and Leipzig which are on our proposed route, so at present it looks as if we may stay here indefinitely, perhaps going back to Camp. Later - instructions received last thing this evening to prepare to move back to Camp by 6 a.m. in the morning.
Back in Stalag 3A. It has been like 48 hours leave. The attitude of the G.guards has been distinctly favourable to us and definitely very marked in this respect - so much different from when I was captured last August. It is quite evident that they all realise the state of affairs and are doing all they can to curry favour. News still good - probably the cause of our return and spirits are once more soaring as we expect to see something happen in a very few days.
Have now settled down once again to our old billets 3 N. The Allies are reported quite near to this locality and there have been quite a number of escapes during the past few days. On Friday night a Canadian Sergeant named Brown was shot and killed and his friend seriously injured. At this juncture I consider it very foolish to attempt an escape as the indications appear to be that we may be relieved during the next few days or at any rate the next few weeks.
Nothing outstanding in the events of the past few days. There is practically a continuous air raid warning and planes of all sorts, single, twin and four engined machines are over frequently. There is sound of gun fire in the distance and prisoners - Americans recently captured in the past few days - are in Camp. Yesterday a party from Lamsdorf arrived here. They set out on 2nd.January and since then have covered 1300 Kms on foot. They are the remains of a party of approx. 4,000 - 162 arrived here. Naturally they are in poor shape and we had a whip round for soap, razor blades, clothing and such as we can spare for them. Sold silk scarf I recently made for 100 cigarettes and have another ordered, which I have finished off to-day. Last Tuesday we had the other half of the parcel issued on the train, and we are now on half parcel per week. However, we hope that by the time it runs out we shall be eating English or Russian rations as it does not seem at all certain who will arrive first. Rumour says that Luckenwalde has been evacuated of all civilian population etc and will be declared an open town to be used for Red Cross casualties.
Gunfire and raids all around us. All day about 10 miles distant. It certainly looks at the moment as I go to bed that the Camp is practically surrounded and our liberation is a matter of a few hours only. Apparently last night our officers were awakened at midnight and told to prepare to move at an hour’s notice - a good sign that we were not included in this order. This evening there was quite a bit of army transport and civilian evacuees streaming down the road past the Camp - shades of our march from Bankau.
1 p.m. Awakened at the usual time this morning to find only a skeleton staff of G. left in Camp. No parade and at 1 p.m. it has just been announced that the Camp has been taken over as a R.A.F. unit and we are now awaiting arrival of either Russians or Americans. Fighting is reported in Luckenwalde and Jetterburg, a town in close vicinity of here, but it is not clear what nationality the troops are that are fighting there. The cookhouse has been taken over and we have had some soup, although bread etc rations are at present rather uncertain. It seems as if the day of liberation is now here, but we cannot take much advantage of it yet as we are still confined behind the barbed wires.
Visited Russian compound this morning and we went into their Church. It was a perfect revelation to me. The Russians themselves are a dirty, illkempt and scruffy looking crowd, half of them suffering from malnutrition. While their barracks convey the same impression as one passes by. They are all employed in working parties and some at least go out of Camp each day and we have up to the present been practically dependent upon them for our supplies of wood and fuel which they bring in each evening and sell to us for a few cigarettes. The Church gives one, on entering, the impression of cleanliness, the floor is of white stone, as are the stoves, the place being in actual fact part of an ordinary barrack. All the walls are covered by highly coloured mural paintings measuring approx. 6 feet square depicting biblical scenes. The majority deal with the Life of Christ, His Birth at Bethlehem, various miracles and scenes of his life, together with pictures of the Cross and the suffering thereon. Perhaps the best painting is one on the end of the lower wall, measuring about 20 feet by 6 feet, which is a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper. The altar is highly decorated and is the full breadth of the building, raised up on a step six inches high and carpeted. Bedding hessian has been used extensively in the manufacture of the prayer stools which also bear reproductions of biblical scenes. The pillars are so covered in painted paper etc to give the impression of stone, while the ceiling has also been tastefully decorated with pink and white paint, designed in panels. The whole edifice is quite out of place, one would imagine, in a P.O.W. camp and show the results of a deal of work, taking perhaps years to complete.
Evening : Nothing doing, but rumours all afternoon. Intermittent firing round camp. Gen came through last night that the Russians were in Luckenwalde and Jetterburg and were expected in Camp hourly.
Russians arrived in Camp at 6 a.m. and were greeted with delirious cheering by the boys. They have been passing through at intervals since 6 a.m. with all types of equipment. Our orders are to remain in barracks owing to rifle fire east of Camp. At present it seems probable that we shall remain here until relieved by the Americans who have now joined up with the Russians.
Evening : Nothing of great importance has happened during the past few hours. Our rations today were one cupful of red cabbage soup per person, no bread etc Late this evening we were informed that we should probably remain in this lager until the Americans arrive, but there is at present little indication as to when this will be. The news says that Berlin is under fire from Russian artillery, most certainly a momentous occasion as no shells were ever thought by the Germans to fall round their Unter den Linden, the locality mentioned. We are now taken over by our own officers and conditions remain much as previously. Orders are that we are to remain indoors as much as possible as our movements are restricted. All gates and wire round the compound are guarded day and night to keep out intruders. The water and electric lights have been cut off since the Germans went and we have one pump to supply about 3,000 persons resulting in long queues all day. The evening dusk to dawn blackout is however not so difficult to maintain.
Still confined to the compound - news still exceptionally good, but no news of the link up between Russian and American forces, for which we are waiting, in order to be moved nearer home.
American officers compound thrown open to N.C.O’s at 1 p.m. today Visited Jobbie and Prof. this afternoon. Norman Swales went to Luckenwalde this afternoon and brought back for me a little civi bread and some bacon. Evening we went round the Officers Chalets by the lake through the officers compound. I brought back a mattress on which I shall sleep more comfortably. These chalets, lakes and woods reminded me so much of the Chase especially Pottle Pool and for a few moments I was carried away to home. Rations are improving considerably, a quarter Canadian parcel also issued today and now we are feeding really well with future supplies apparently assured. All sorts of rumours regarding moving, but still nothing definite given out. Water and electricity on tonight.
Still in the Camp awaiting some signs of movement. Practically the whole Camp is open to us now, but after a few days this little extra liberty has palled and we are getting very impatient. Much is being done by the Russians to assist us, especially by way of barrack amenities. We now have a table and with the little extra cutlery, life has become fairly civilised again.
Personal parcels from the lost parcel dept. are being distributed amongst us, yesterday we received over 1000 cigarettes and tobacco. Today there has been an issue of personal articles etc but I have been unlucky in the draw. There is still spasmodic firing in the district and occasional air battles overhead, but the war now seems a long way off as we are getting so impatient hanging around and we all want to be on the move as quickly as possible. The Russians say the usual route is via Odessa, which would mean a trip home through the Mediterranean Sea, but it does not seem as if this will be our route home. There is talk of flying us from Jetterburg, but in my opinion this is purely talk. Have had some long talks and walks with Prof. and Jobbie, it is very good to see new faces and talk to fresh people. Rations are still pretty good, received quarter loaf yesterday, our largest issue so far. Rations today one sixth loaf - no butter etc.
News through on wireless this evening of a long awaited link up between Russian and American forces. Americans also have arrived in Luckenwalde and Russian repatriation officer is reported to be in Camp.
Walks into the country are now being organised - groups of 50 in charge of an officer. Went with Norman and Stevie this afternoon. This was our first experience of liberty outside the lager boundary and the feeling was very good. Walked through nearby village of Frankenfelde - only a few civilians and practically every building bears a white flag. Many of the R.A.F. contrary to orders have been taking unofficial walks and doing a little looting from neighbouring places. Two of our barrack were caught yesterday and are now serving 48 hours in the cooler.
The Russian repatriation committee have arrived in Luckenwalde and tonight 50 trucks of food of all descriptions arrived for the Camp. Rations are still good, but our stocks of milk, meats, margerine etc from parcels are practically out, so it is getting rather more awkward to have a planned meal or to do much cooking. The water supply is causing some alarm, the wells are running dry and the town water has only sufficient to produce a very spasmodic supply in our ablutions.
Still waiting and getting more and more depressed, sums up the spirits of the majority of us now. During recent days, there has been an order made by the Russians that we are to move to more comfortable quarters in the Adolph Hitler Rest Camp for Officers about 5 miles away from here. Many difficulties and setbacks have been encountered. Apparently the French have moved into quarters allocated to the R.A.F. and the American advance party which left here on the 30th. had great difficulty in evicting them with the result that the furniture and barracks are reported pretty well wrecked. Civilian evacuees and forced labour people mostly French and Italian are now moving about the countryside in great numbers. The Italians are being directed here and the French to the A.H. Rest Camp. The French are not at all liked by any of us. They were the racketeers on our arrival and would not give us parcels when they had a supply. Since then they have been receiving a cut from our issue and some Russian occupation food has been supplied by them on numbers of American and English personnel only and we have been feeding all the other nationalities. However, as from tomorrow, the American, English and Norwegians are drawing rations separately and the Russians are looking after the remaining nationalities in the Camp.
Was on guard from 1 p.m. 1 st. May to 1 p.m. 2 nd. May. During the night there was much activity very near to this Camp and during the afternoon a mortar shell exploded in the Officer’s sports area, luckily with no fatal results. The change in the rationing system should improve our issue - the Russians issue half a loaf to us, but we usually have received one sixth or one fifth per day.
Yesterday it was announced that Hitler was dead and Admiral Doenitz had taken the Fuhrer’s place. As I write this, a news flash has just come in that the German armies in Italy had unconditionally surrendered. Also, the advance party to the A.H.Lager are returning tonight. This is looked upon as a good omen, as it is thought that once we were installed there, the possibility of our move would become more remote than ever.
Many of the boys from Camp have skipped off on their own, and it is reported that 400 Americans are now missing.
Tomorrow, the R.A.F. have an identity check, to see who is actually in Camp now.
Red Cross food is now practically out and personally I have only one brew of coffee left with no prospect of further supply.
Two Polish girls aged 19 arrived in Camp to-day. They say they were carried off by the Germans for forced labour in an ammo. factory at the age of 15. They along with others were indecently examined, stripped in a main street, the fat being sent to labour camps and the others to the gas chamber. Their experiences have been dreadful and they still bear the marks of flogging at various times, on one occasion, a barrack window was broken and all the inmates received 25 lashes, by male and female guards, they state that the latter were by far the worst.
We are informed today that this area is now finally mopped up and clear of Germans, tens of thousands have been captured during the past few days. The result is that the roads are now open to civilians and consequently reports have been coming in of absolute chaos on the roads. This evening two American News Correspondents arrived from Magdeburg and Berlin. They stated they had no idea in the American lines that we could be contacted in this Camp and as they are returning to Paris tomorrow they have promised to bring our case before General Eisenhower, so we are once more settling ourselves down to wait results as patiently as possible. Many, however, are still packing up and setting off towards the Elbe. It is very doubtful in my opinion if they will reach England any sooner than the ones who stay on here. Rations are not so good these past few days. One seventh loaf today.
8-30 p.m. Depression ranged in the Camp all morning and some hundreds of the boys, both Officers and N.C.O.’s moved out en route for the Allied lines. At 3 o’clock however, four American Jeeps and two armoured cars arrived in Camp with a full complement of Official News Reporters etc. Their gen is that a convoy is on it’s way to take us all back. Official confirmation of this has just been read out and our evacuation commences at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. Incidentally our barrack 3 N.drew last place in the list for moving out so it is possible that we may be here for another day or two yet, according to the size of the convoy. Our liberation was officially announced on B.B.C. this evening and Stalag Luft 7 mentioned.
Sick Bay evacuated yesterday and at 4 p.m. today the first 25 trucks of the convoy arrived to take us out. This comprised G.I.’s and since then a further 25 have arrived and the move is now going on. Yesterday there was no issue of potatoes or bread from the Russians, but the American trucks arrived with sufficient for one fifth per man also a small issue of K rations. The Camp at present is in a very unsettled state and each and everyone is on their toes for news. Only a small amount of kit is allowed as it would appear we shall be flying to England from our destination behind the bridge head.
Last night there appeared to be some delay in our movements. At midnight a statement by the Senior British Officer informed us that the evacuation had been temporarily suspended as the Russians were not in possession of authority from their superior officers to allow us to go. However, in spite of this, the Americans continued to go and armed force was used to stop them, which brought movements to an end for the day. At 3 o’clock today we were informed that a convoy had arrived with instructions to evacuate us all, but at the moment a conference is in progress and results are still awaited as I write.
Later : A statement has just been issued to the effect that the convoy is remaining here overnight and that the American Officers have gone in a jeep to Marshall Koniev’s H.Q. to obtain the necessary permission for our removal. We are to hold ourselves in preparedness for a move in the morning.
Yesterday the German Armies in Europe had signed unconditional surrender terms with the Allies during the morning. The wireless announced that V day would be celebrated 8th.May and a statement is to be made by all three major Allies at 4 p.m. today. There was not much celebration in our Camp owing to lack of facilities, we had no klim to make a ‘bash’. A number of bonfires were lit, but the crowds soon dispersed when Russian guards opened fire and rifle bullets whistled through the air.
This morning a certain number of mass hysteria overtook the Camp. Most of the boys moved out and loaded themselves into the trucks, which were waiting some distance away. Harry Yorke and I were all ready to move off to do the same when the crowd returned, the trucks having moved nearer the compound. Loading, when it takes place, will be done in an organised manner. As I write at 11 a.m. we are awaiting developments, no information is yet to hand as to if official orders have been received from Koniev’s H.Q. or if the American officers have returned from there.
Later : Permission to leave has not been granted and the trucks have left empty. The Camp was in a state of slight panic after this news, but it subsequently transpired that the evacuation was not through official channels. The Americans also stated that their Repatriation Officer was in Camp and steps were being taken to exchange us at the Elbe in a few days time. Last night it was announced that he had returned to his H.Q. with the report that we were ready for evacuation, so now we wait again.
Laurie Benson and Norman Swale have marched out but it is doubtful if they, like one third of the Camp, will be able to cross the Elbe, where they stand to be treated as Internees.
The ‘Flap’ is definitely over today and everyone seems to be settling down to wait again. Nominal Rolls and registration have been completed and handed to the Russians and now all is set for the word go. A convoy of approx. 100 Russian trucks arrived this morning, but their purpose is not disclosed. The S.B.O. this afternoon gave us a pep talk. It seems that the Elbe is very difficult to cross and it is likely that many of our boys who evacuated themselves must still be walking the countryside or all in civilian internment camps. Both Geordie and Jock left yesterday I find, Jobbie and Prof. are still here.
Rations improved yesterday and today. Steak and chips for breakfast today and I have just finished a similar meal for tea. A cigar for each man was also issued so on V.E.Day plus 1, I am able to have a quiet celebration on my own.
The weather has turned fine and warm again. Bathing is allowed in the lake. Had a good clean up this morning and caught up on arrears of washing. The compound has also been cleaned up and altogether life seems to have returned to normal once more.
The Norwegians leave tonight, they being the first official party to be moved by the Russians. Went for a walk in the woods with Harry Yorke this evening. It was very enjoyable indeed, the countryside being so much like our own Cannock Chase. For a few hours we entirely forgot our sordid surroundings in Camp and all about the war.
The weather has been very warm these past few days and we have all been sunbathing. Have been swimming in the lake yesterday and day before. Bounds of Camp are extended to 1 mile of the wire, so each evening Harry Y. and I have been out walking. Last night however, on our return, we found that our billets had been moved in consequence of an influx of refugees.
It took some time to settle down in 7 N. as accommodation is very crowded. To-morrow however, we move to the Truppenlager where we hope to be more comfortable. Move to Truppenlager was rushed upon us at a moment’s notice at 6 p.m. this evening. We, however, managed to get comfortably installed. Accommodation is a great improvement and our present room holds 16 of us complete with beds and cupboards with ease. Rations are improving, but there is no variety - cheese and bread are staple diet with soup at mid-day.
Whit-Sunday. We had all hoped to be home for today, but here we are still at Luckenwalde. It is, however, a move in the right direction to move outside the wire, the Camp itself is now crowded with refugees of all nationalities and more arrive each day. The Officers have moved to the Vorlager and only the G.P.’s ( Norman and Stevie ) are left in old billet.
Nothing has happened of note during the past few days. We are still eagerly awaiting news of a move, but nothing to report except rumours which are very abundant. I spend most of the day sunbathing with a dip in the lake followed by a ramble through the woods during the evening. Today, however, we are once more confined to the perimeter of the Camp following certain incidents yesterday when about 40 English personnel had watches and jewellery taken from them by the Russians while out walking.
Rations are very poor these past few days and had one seventh Danish parcel not been issued to each man, things would have been very drastic. As it is now, I have bread and potatoes alone - no spread of any sort. The gen says we shall be away from here within two weeks, so much patience will be necessary to keep everyone from breaking bounds etc.
Still confined to the perimeter of Camp, so we are unable to go to the lakes for a swim. Yesterday the B.B.C. announced that Hitler had ordered all P.O.W.’s to be shot before capitulation. Little did we realise at time how precarious our position was.
This evening there is a dance in our Mess, which will help to keep the boys amused. Also they are trying to obtain permission for parties to go to the picture palace in Luckenwalde. There is still no news of any movement. Wrote home yesterday, I wonder if I shall beat it home.
Later : GREAT NEWS. Tonight 9-15 p.m. the Camp siren blew a general recall. News given out that arrangements have been completed for us to start off from here at 12 noon tomorrow provided that the American trucks are at the rendezvous to meet us. This news was a very good excuse for a feed or ‘woof’ as we call it. Harry Yorke and I have been cooking spuds and cabbage, toast and cheese, coffee until midnight. Both of us feel good as we turn into our beds for the last time we hope.
Whit Sunday The most memorable day for some time. At 12 noon sharp, we loaded into trucks en route for the River Elbe to be handed over to the Americans.
The exchange was made near to Dissan, about 40 miles from Luckenwalde. Journey quite interesting, in about 15 miles along the Reichautobahn 8 bridges had been demolished. The route lay through thick forest country, a great deal of which was on fire. Detours round obstacles made through very rough country, necessitating in some cases all passengers to disembark.
Arriving in Halle Airport about 10 o’clock, dusty and very tired after a cramped journey of 47 miles in American trucks 40 to a truck. Eventually fed at 1-30 a.m. and all went to bed with full tummies about 2-30 a.m. to be up again at 6 a.m.
Our first day on American rations. The most outstanding item being pure white bread. Food exceptionally good. On kitchen party this p.m. 1-30 to 9-00 p.m. during which time I have had bags to eat, 2 pork chops, spuds, beans, fruit salad, rice, and cream. Plenty of klim for ‘Bashes’. Reported sick this morning with boils and indigestion. Have four of the former, 3 on neck and one very large one on left wrist, Doc says caused by increase of rich food after being half starved.
After being at the ‘ready’ to embark on planes these past few days we are still at Halle. The weather is not too good and there has been cloud and poor visibility, with no sunbathing. Yesterday I managed to obtain an American shirt and slacks - it feels so much better to wear new clean clothes as my own had just about worn out. Went with Stoner to the pictures last night to see Charles Laughton in ‘Suspect’. This morning we are all to see the British Interrogation Officer. It is reported that Hughes, one of our crowd from Bankau, has been arrested and charged with co-operating with the Germans and broadcasting from Berlin, apparently too he has on one occasion dressed in German clothes and interrogated British prisoners.
Boils practically O.K. now, but have a real beauty on left wrist. Weather still poor for flying, no aircraft from this drome today. Had boil on left wrist lanced at M.I. room this morning. Evening, walked out of Camp with Harry Y. and found a German pub, where we were able to buy some beer at 25 pfg per glass. This was my second drink since last August. The first being purchased from a German guard en route for Wetzlau.
Stand to again this morning 9 a.m. Dakota C 470 began to arrive in great numbers about mid-day and at 1-50 we were airborne en route for Brussels, where we landed at 4-20 p.m. A very pleasant trip and grand to be flying again. Greeted by N.A.A.F.I. wagon on arrival with biscuits, cigarettes and coffee. There to St.Anne’s Barrack by truck for usual routine.
Medical, showers, Red Cross comforts and clean kit and uniform as requested. The Barracks are run by Canadians and compare much more favourably with Halle which was purely American. The food is very plentiful and more like English food.
Church Army and Y.M.C.A. canteen open all day giving food, cigarettes and chocolate to all of us. Everyone seems to be most generous with the last two items. I have collected quite a stock during the past few days. Our welcome here was great and at last we are beginning to feel free. We are allowed into the city itself, but Harry Y. and I spent a quiet evening at the Open Air Cinema in Camp, drinking beer etc. All seems to be good for a move to Blighty tomorrow.
What a thrill it will be to get back home.
Drew advance of pay equivalent of £5.
Saturday 26th May 1945.
Set out from Brussels today at 12 o’clock by truck for drome. A burst tyre delayed us 2 hours so we were not airborne until 5-30 - landed at Davisfold at 7 o’clock.
Sunday 27th.May 1945.
Up early for breakfast at 7 a.m. Rushed through all interrogations, re-kitting etc in order to get on leave, passes given out at 4-30. Rang up home 1 p.m. This was my first contact since last August. How delightful it was to hear my Mother’s voice again and to know that all was O.K. at home.
Left Cosford 5-15 arrived Burton where Pa met me with a taxi and so home at last after a period of ten months. I can hardly realise that I am home again and I thank God for my preservation and strength to surmount the trials and tribulations of the past experiences.
Stalag Luft V11 at Bankau lies nearly half way between Breslau and Krakow on the Eastern side of the River Oder in what was then German occupied Poland.
Stalag III A at Luckenwalde lies about 30 miles South of Berlin and about 65 miles North East of Leipzig on the Eastern side of the River Elbe in what became, before re-unification, the German Democratic Republic.
The following information was provided by Larry Wright, Lancaster and Manchester Bomber Historian, Society of Bomber Command Historians ( SBCH ). web page : http://www.nucleus.com/~ltwright/index.htm email : mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lancaster in question was serial number : LM163 and was part of the third production batch of 350 aircraft built by Sir W.G.Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd, Whitley, Coventry. Deliveries commenced November 1943 and completed August 1944.
Crew : F/O A.Jobson, Sgt.H.Jones, F/O A.G.Reed, Sgt.A.B.Galloway, Sgt.S.Cottam, Sgt.Murray, Sgt.J.Madden.
Lancaster LM163 was attached to 625 Squadron and was based at Kelstern, Lincolnshire. On the night it crashed it was part of a force of 1114 aircraft - 601 Lancasters, 492 Halifaxes and 21 Mosquitoes. Take off time was 1136 and the targets were various flying bomb storage sites including Bois de Cassan, Foret de Nippe and Trossy St. Maxim. All target were reported as clear and the targets bombed accurately. Six aircraft were lost - one against Bois de Cassan and five against Trossy St.Maxim.
The cause and exact location of the crash are not recorded although Henry Jones always maintained that they were hit by bombs dropped by an aircraft flying above them. In using a parachute to escape from an aircraft, the crew became members of the Caterpiller Club.
It was the third and last operational sortie of LM163.
Sgt. Cottam and Sgt. Madden are buried in the Marissel French National Cemetery.
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