Gunner Leonard Bellas

 

Unit : Royal Artillery

Served : Crete (captured)

Army No. : 1557472

POW No. : 95641

Camps : Stalag IVC

 

Leonard Bellas was captured in May 1941 whilst serving in Crete. What follows is the secret journal that he kept whilst in the camp.

 

June 1941.

All R.A.M.C. personnel will be returned to Egypt.

 

June 1941

The Germans cannot feed us and cannot take us from Crete owing to the Navy so by Int. Law they must return us to Egypt.

 

July 1941.

The Germans cannot remove us from Salonika to Germany because either

1) All their rolling stock is in urgent use or destroyed.

2) The Russians are between them and Germany.

 

July 1941

The Russians are at the head of the Strumo Pass which is only 60 Km away. Several chaps heard the Russian artillery one night. Watch word of the day “Sleep with your boots on boys, Joe`s coming”

 

August 9th 1942

On “appell” tonight Sgt. Battle said he had been instructed by the Kommando Fuhrer to ask if any of us would volunteer for the local AFS. (Army Fire Service?) As they were short of manpower. This appeal caused a great deal of mirth and no volunteers, except from one Cypriot who was labouring under a misapprehension and withdrew it when it was explained to him. We were informed that we should be paid 30 pfennigs per hour for time taken upon practice but should have to practice on “out of work” hours. The K.F., speaking to Sgt. Harper, said he thought that the sergeants must have “primed” the men previously how to react to the appeal where upon Sgt. Harper asked him if he seriously thought any British would volunteer for such a service. It would be “curious” to say the least, to see English soldiers fighting fires lit by the R.A.F.

 

August 16th 1942, Sunday

Went to the pictures today - first time for nearly 18 months – and the last time was in Cairo or Bene-Yusef – I don’t remember which. The show started at 10 am, ended at 12am and the admission was 10 pfennigs. Attendance was compulsory. The audience were English, French and Cypriots and the dialogue German – so a fat lot of entertainment it was. The first film was a short extolling the virtues of the Hitler Youth Organisation. It showed a “troop” in camp in a rock climbing district; a slight story seemed to be woven into the film to give it interest but the effect of the rather good photography was spoiled by “wordiness” of the dialogue and the theatrical scenes of camp life showing much (too much) of the flag and the youths “devotion” to duty, leader and country. What the “big” picture was about only the Lord and the Germans know – it seemed to me to be one long chatter. The news was by far the most interesting item of the programme. The bombing of Malta by German and Italian planes and scenes on the eastern front were shown. The planes were filmed during “bombing up” and were all ‘flying pencils’ Dornier 215. The film of the actual bombing was pretty good but the camera must have been vibrating rather a lot. The film of the eastern front was very interesting. Mortars, anti-tank guns and heavy artillery were all shown in action; Russians coming forward surrendering, and a column of them (exactly as I have seen them myself – hopeless looking devils) being marched back into Germany escorted by a trooper on horseback. Soviet tanks and Soviet villages burning and Soviet soldiers ”kaputt” were all vividly portrayed but strangely enough the Germans appeared to suffer no losses. The handing out of Iron Crosses by different “big bugs” was also filmed; by the number of Iron Crosses I myself have seen they seem to ‘come up with rations’. The theatre was quite a decent well decorated place; Nicht Rauchen” was the rule and at one time there were more men smoking in the latrines than sat in the theatre. The ‘posten’ had to come and rouse us out eventually. The civvies said that the theatre is only open for 3 nights per
week.

 

August 20th 1942

A few weeks ago a new posten (guard) arrived. He got into the habit of bringing articles into the camp and selling them. He grossly overcharged for the articles and the last straw was a bloke paying 30 marks for a 8 mark case. The K.F. heard of it in some manner and the posten was reported and sent to clink for a period.

 

Aug 22nd 1942.

Went to Wilsdorf hospital on sick parade today with a slight touch of stomach-ache and got one days innensdienst (lit.stop service) French doctor staff in charge. Saw a number of Russian prisoners and it was horrible. They were walking death! Most of them were suffering from the results of frostbite and the sights were terrible. I have never seen such emaciated, hopeless, dumb misery in all my life and I hope I never do again.

 

Sept 27th 1942

“Ned” Hurman showed me today a shaving brush he obtained from a “civvy” while in hospitals. It consisted of the usual wooden base, but in place of bristle was a bunch of soft grey feathers! Some curio what!!

 

Sept 28th 1942

It is forbidden to leave washing out in the garden overnight. Reason being that clothes are rather short in Germany.

 

Oct 20th 1942

Received a food parcel today from the RA despatched from the BRCS Sharea Malika Farida, Cairo in August.

 

Oct 20th 1942

In the men’s-room today was a note purporting to be a copy of instructions taken from a British officer during the Dieppe business. It is headed by the Germans “Germans prisoners in irons” and the passage referred to is underlined. The passage says, ”prisoners will if necessary have their hands tied to stop destruction of papers.” No mention of irons!!! Referring to it Sgt. Battle said “you will have no luck coming if they take reprisals.”

 

Nov 10th 1942

The Kommando Fuhrer left today and a new chap is in charge. The old Kommando Fuhrer could speak English (with difficulty at first but with increasing fluency – the many dialects confused him I think) and tho` a bit of an old woman was quite a decent bloke. He and Battle agreed fairly well and were on chaffing terms – each running down the “enemy” – but from many reports and from things I saw and heard myself I think he was P.E. I played him twice at chess – and was beaten. The new bloke gave promise of being a “tartar” but so far (Dec12) he has been very quiet. On leaving the old Kommando Fuhrer bade us all farewell, “the best of luck and an early return home”

 

Dec 9th 1942

There was a bloody fracas between two Cypriots last night, the third or fourth since we have been here. A shoe-maker corporal was playing cards with 3 or 4 ‘Cypriots” and was accused of cheating. He resented this and for his pains was crowned on the forehead with his own hammer, leaving a wound which necessitated four stitches. He face was a mass of blood when Sgt. Battle waded between him and his opponent. Battle looked at him, asked who had done it and what with, turned to the culprit and smacked him down with a blow to the point of the jaw which laid the Cypriot out for five minutes. The Kommando Fuhrer gave it out later that if any more affrays of this type occurred “lights out” would be at the time of the affray for a long time to come. He told the Cypriot corporal that they were all alike and that if they quarrelled in future they would have to settle it with gloves in a civilised manner. The Cypriots are very fond of knives and 3 or 4 chaps have been stabbed by them with pen knives. Only a month ago 3 Cypriots from the bottom camp were off work with knife wounds. They are a very “close” race and the grafting done by them is amazing. The two Cypriots in the cookhouse have the run of the spud rooms and all the Cypriots are well supplied. They buy chocolate. With bread and sell it to “civvies” for double the amount. They are always trading and if you deal with them you are lucky to “break even.”

 

Dec 12th 1942

A circular was read out by Sgt. Battle on Appell (roll call) tonight. It was to the effect that a number of men had been sentenced to 5 months prison for refusing to work. Their reason was that the mid-day meal was only a thin soup and not the usual spuds and soup. The president or judge of the court said that the following was to the favour of the prisoners :- British P.O.W.`s worked better than other nationalities. One of them, a corporal, was working voluntarily and they had very little trouble with them. He said that the British P.O.W.`s received so much food from the Red X that they gave some of their Germans rations to other prisoners. This notice has a sequel. At this camp are about a dozen Corporals and all were under the impression that work was compulsory. In view of this notice however they all applied for return to Stalag. The application has gone through but nothing has been done so far (Dec 26)

 

Dec 1942

Eric Parfett (a chap from the same Regiment as myself) has suffered ever since he has been a prisoner with running boils on his legs. He has never been properly cured and when they broke out last week again he reported sick. He was told by the Germans M.O. that his condition was the result of self sabotage.

 

December 1942

A notice in the factory (in German) tell the German workers of the execution of two and the imprisonment for periods varying from 2 to 15 years of 12 Germans railway workers convicted of stealing from railway wagons.

 

Winter 1942-1943

This winter so far (middle of Feb) been a very mild effort compared with our last German winter. At this time last year the average daily temp. was about –15c, ice and snow covered everything, the Elbe was frozen to a depth of 2 or3 ft and conditions were almost Arctic. These conditions appertained from Jan to Mid March. Today is so warm and sunny that I am writing this in the Garden. No snow is visible even on the surrounding hills and the Elbe is ice-free. To date there have been two heavy falls of snow (early Jan) and one cold spell which lasted for 2-3 weeks but even then the thermometer never dropped below –17c and that only for one day. The rest of the spell it hovered about the –5c mark. Last winter we were working on the road without socks, and boots in bad condition. All our clothing was scanty and we were in poor physical trim owing to Crete etc. This year we have tons of clobber, are in pretty good condition and those of us who are not working inside can always nip inside for a warm. Such is life!

 

March 1943

A number of Red X parcels came in the other day and Sgt Battle asked for vol. from the night shift to carry them in. Only two men came forward where upon he flew into a rage and said that none of the others would receive one that week. On Sat. several of them went up as usual and attempted to talk him round but he lost his head completely and went for them. He tore off his shirt and waded into them and it took several of the blokes all their time to hold him. When he “came round” he raved and blustered at us all about our “duties” and etc, and finally said the offenders would have to wait until next week.

 

March 1943

Went to the flicks today in our new battle dress with loads of B.S. An orchestra from a French Kommando gave performance first. I enjoyed it thoroughly, then came the “Deutsch Wochenschau” showing the Gang dishing out medals and then a scene or two from the Russian front. The “big picture” was French and was quite easy to follow. Not a bad “do” at all.

 

April 1943

Notice on board from Stalag. Several men in an A.K. (arbeit kommando – work party) recently refused to work alleging that the work in question was war work. As they had recently been told by the C.O. that railway work was not war work they were turned out of the barracks at the point of the bayonet. Some of them adopted a menacing attitude so the guards opened fire seriously wounding two of them. The interpreter who was among the malcontents was being court-martialled as he understood the orders of the guards and was able to translate them to the others. Later one man shot and killed by a posten who he threatened. 1 man wounded while escaping.

 

April 1943

The wireless set has been out of order for about 3 months now owing to a broken valve. Sgt. Battle told us on parade the other day it was impossible to obtain a replacement from any source (even after obtaining a chitty from the military) except one and that was a civvy who had 3 or 4. The civvy said he didn’t want money; what he wanted was tea, coffee and cigs. SB said he was all against this form of bargaining and several of the blokes agreed with him with shouts of “tell him to stuff it” but he went on to say that we all knew how useful the wireless had been and might be where upon the shouters seeing the trend of his talk changed about and said “Oh well we do want a valve.” After discussion a collection was taken and later the valve was obtained. Corporal Wiltshire said it would be a good idea to pay for one valve and blackmail for the others. By the way the wireless has already been useful as the BBC news was obtained last night.

 

April 1943

Digger McTacket told me in a very secretive manner the other day that he thought he might be able to manage a BT(??) within a day or so. He said that a female was in the habit of bringing a civvies dinner to work and on several occasions he and another bloke had been alone with her and she seemed all for it.

 

April 26th 1943, Easter Monday

Went down to the Cypriot place today to watch a football match between two scratch teams. Fast but not a very clever game. I`ll bet they couldn’t have walked about for one hour 22 months ago never mind running.

 

Easter Sunday.

On “boot parade “ this morning Sgt. Battle said that last night two men had escaped. He believed they were the first Englishmen in this area to make the attempt and though he had helped them out and wished them all the best he thought the chances were slight. He hoped they would not be missed on parade until Monday night, and his hopes were fulfilled on Sunday any-how. They had two weeks supply of grub, a map and a compass. I suppose there will be plenty of trouble when their absence is discovered.

 

Easter Tuesday

Their absence was not discovered until the night shift was called out for work tonight. Everyone in camp was immediately paraded and after about three checks they decided that two men really were missing. Several Cypriots and Frogs and at least one German knew about it earlier today so some blatherer must have been “blowing his gaff.” When the Corporal in charge of the night shift shouted “Where’s Bacon?” (tongue in cheek of course) some wit replied “On the stove.” The garden door was nailed up at once and when the UO appeared the kits of the two men were searched. On Wed night Sgt Battle (who by the way was suffering from “flu”) gave us a “talking to.” He cursed the unknown blokes who had spouted to the Cypriots. And also to the blokes who had been through the escapee’s kits as soon as they had gone. He said that the C.O. asked him if it was possible for two men to leave the camp without saying “goodbye” to their sergeant and also what they expected to do when they reached Turkey. He said that things would now begin to get “tough” that was to be expected and we must grin and bear it. Later that night every mans kit was searched and it was about 11pm when we turned in. Some ginks still had unopened tins of food after all his warnings! On Thursday night Sgt. Battle said that owing to this affair he had been relieved of his command and must return to Stalag. I`m afraid he will be greatly missed; he had faults but they were more than out-weighed by his ability to control both us and the Germans. Late this order was counter-manded and the restrictions seem to be slackening off. On May 9 we still have no news of the escapees. Good luck to them and lets hope they are “over the border.” On May 12 we heard a rumour that one of the blokes had been killed and another wounded but on May 14 Sgt. Battle told us that they had been recaptured and would return to us. He said that the trouble would probably begin soon when they found out when the blokes actually did their flit.

 

May 22nd 1943

The 2 blokes returned today. They had been captured by 2 civvy land watchers; 8 days after leaving and about 200 kM away. They had travelled at night mostly but the day of their capture they had gone through a village in daylight. They were put in a police station for 1 night then sent to a French Kommando and from thence to Stalag. At the P.S. they had all their chocolate and photos taken from them but were not ill treated. At Stalag they were put into a Straff-lager (gaol) along with a Frog, Poles, English, Cypriots and Yanks. They said that escaping was a common affair and the escapes were referred to as tourists. One escapee got to Salonika before recapture, a Frog spent 14 months in Poland as a civvy and another got to 4kM of the Swiss border. A lot of Cypriots were in awaiting trial for f--ing(??) German bints(??) and a Frog was in from Bob. for the same crime. One Frog got 9 years for f--ing(??) Mother and 2 daughters. They let Cypriots down lightly because of their nationality. The imprisonment was served in a place referred to as the Fortress which is on the Polish border. One Frog had already served 9 months there and said he lost 20 kilos in that time. Hard work and no grub and thrashings was the order. They saw two Yanks who had been captured in Feb at Tunis and they had already had one do at escaping. They said they would do no work for Jerry but I reckon a bit of hunger will make them toe the line. They said that our Kommando appeared to be one of the best in Germany for sanitation etc. and certainly we are pretty well off. Stalag was primitive they said “still standing on the seats.” They said that the Russians are having a horrible time, in some cases whole Kommando`s dying off from disease, the guards not daring to go near. They were told that two Russians would carry a stiff between them when drawing rations so they could divide 3 rations among 2. On their way before capture they went through a number of towns passing soldiers and convoys and not challenged once. They said Bruno(?) was stiff with AA and SL and officers. When they left Stalag they went to Tetschen S.H. and spent 8 days on bread and water. They had a good feed when they got here but the U.O. has it in for them. Plenty work for them for a while I`ll bet. On the way they had a number of chances with bints, smiling and speaking to them but they didn`t risk it.

 

June 1943

About 290 Russian women have started work in the factory. Some of them are inside doing odd jobs and others outside. They vary from about 25-50 and come from Kharkov, Rostov and the Crimea. They are all strong healthy women but none are attractive. They (as seems to be the case with most peasant women of Europe) seem to have a crinkled lined face at a very early age. One of our guards speaks a little Russian and he told us where they came from after speaking to them. We gave him the ‘S’ about the number of women and children the Germans had enslaved but he didn`t see it in that light. He told us that the region the women came from was an area with a great fruit growing industry. They seemed cheerful enough and were all clean and except for footwear well dressed. The Cypriots have started making eyes at them already.

 

June 20th 1943.

Only about 3 of them are any good and one of them is a “bit of a lad”. Their names are Anna, Diana, Ra, Eera (phonetic) and all seem to be doing OK. ‘Big Annie’ is in charge of them and fusses like an old hen. They are very “unselfconscious” (one of them makes water under the wagons with no more thought than we did before they came). The only Russian I know so far is Dobbra (good).

 

June 20th 1943

The two blokes (Thompson and Bacon) eloped again last night and their absence was discovered on check this morning. They have gone in an attempt to get a transfer to another Kommando. As they have been “put on” since their previous escape. No developments so far.

 

June 1943.

Sgt. Battle was to have gone on a 6 weeks tour of Germany but owing to above it was cancelled. These tours have been going on for a while (object – I cannot say.) 3 men came here to be forwarded with Battle to the rallying point. One of them was captured in France and marched from France to Poland on very short rations. Was told on arrival that this was done purposely to make them too weak to fight as guards were short. Escaped and lived as civvy in Poland for 15 months and nearly married a Polish girl. Captured by Gestapo when rounding up Poles for work in Germany. Has since escaped 3 times.

 

June 1943

Beer laid on tap today in Kommie! Snuff. Just a little to near the hour your dads??????????

 

July 11th 1943

Went to the flicks in Bodenbach this morning and for a change enjoyed them. The news showed a cathedral flattened by the bestial English; French volunteers in action in Russian and the sinking of a British U-boat. Very interesting. Heard about Sicily on our return. One of the blokes bribed him to let him listen to the news (it was all about an increase in pay for soldiers he told him.) Things seem to be looking up. Won a battle against overtime this week. On Saturday we worked until 7 stacking wood, on Sunday until noon and when Monday came round we had 5 wagons to unload at night so we took it steady and managed 2 by midnight. The following day the masters all complained because the prisoners were unable to keep awake so from now on N.W. is finished.

 

Week’s Rations

Grub 2-3/4 Kilo bread PW(?) ¼ pound marg. ¼ pound sausage. 2 spoons jam 4 spoons sugar quark or cheese.

 

July 1943

Five blokes did a flit last night, 3 going from work and two from the camp. They went 60 km by train the first night and were captured the following afternoon whilst sleeping in a field. Some women saw them and thought they were Russians so called in the men. They were taken to a Russian Kommando and treated well and the following day returned here. Things have been much easier since they escaped and the only punishment they have got is 7 days each in clink. Charlie Close went off on his own this week from work and so far (4 days) has not been recaptured. Captured after about a week and sent to another camp.

 

August 1943

Big turnout about Battle this week. Most of the blokes have voted that he does not come back. Plenty of war news. Mussolini gone, martial law in Italy – Sicily nearly done – big alarm last night (Aug 1) and all the guards standing to – Hamburg in flames and refugees coming up the Elbe. Things have been much easier in the camp since the recent escapes; swimming, walk & etc being the order of the day. All the guards we have at present are F.L. and old and they have always been much more decent than the stay at homes.

 

Price of grub going down 1K. now 30 instead of 60. 1 tin milk 40 from 50 etc

 

2 Air raid alarms this week- the first time I’ve heard 2 in one week here. Everybody very optimistic. Some say 3 months and some 6 months before end, I say 18 months.

 

Saw some Dunkirk blokes last week. They said they marched from France to Poland and were given no rations reason being that so few guards were available. On arrival in Poland they were on double rations for a month.

 

Big Propaganda drive starting for our benefit. Posters about Katyn plastered in camp.

 

Blokes back from hospital bring news from B.R. (British Radio?) All good.

 

August 1943

Last weeks rumour said that Goebbels and Goering had done a bunk.

 

A poster in Germans dated 1940 ran something like this. Poland has fallen- France has fallen – Denmark etc has fallen. Only England to fall now. Underneath the last caption was fairly big blank space and some prisoner had added – And Russia & American, & Free France.

 

The night shift is at present having a glorious time. They spend half the time outside the factory. Last week several of them went to the circus and a number went with bints. One of the blokes was out from 10-2 with Bradle and one of the works bints. One of the blokes has had to ask off the night shift as he was getting so much he was going down the nick.

 

August 23rd 1943

Not much this week. Diphtheria scare was a flop as we went back to work on Wednesday dinner. Very hot weather. On Friday 80 fag parcels came in. About time too! Re. Battle. Ray Condell has written asking Hilton to pay us a visit about him.

 

August 30th 1943

Bloke went to Tetschen Hospital today and came back with the yarn that he`d seen an Englishwoman there masquerading as a Greek. She said she was in Greece when the Germans entered and couldn’t get away. Knowing Greek prisons and thinking Germans would put her in one she decided to go Greek. Later Germans collected all the single Greek women and sent them to Germany to work. Now she dares not proclaim her nationality for fear of English treated as a spy. She was in hospital as a patient but said that she was not ill but malingering. While two of our blokes were speaking to her a third not knowing but what she was Greek not German shouted to the two telling them in a really strong mouthful to come away.

 

August 30th 1943

Latest rumour. Charkov fallen; Himmler either assassinated or “hopped it”. Phanis and Hassan two Cypriots went out one night from night shift last week and stayed out with two Greek women. They were caught coming back in the early hours of the morning. The guards had been snouted to keep their mouths shut until the following night. The Cypriots have a real ‘snouting’ system. It cost one Cypriot 10-20 per day to stay in the barracks for 6 wks. Since the 5 blokes escaped the English have been checked 3 times per night during N.S. It is quite common for ¾ of them to be absent “on other business” during these Czechs and Cypriots take their place. The civvies twig it but not the guards. We were told last week that confidential information had come from the M&C at Stalag that we should shortly invade a certain country and if it did it would hold up parcels indefinitely. Black Outlook!

 

September 1943

Speaking today to Peter Mowlem on his return from the 6 weeks tour promoted by the Germans. He went to Berlin, passing on the way through areas of blasted houses; more and more numerous as he approached nearer to Berlin. The tour was a flop owing to the almost continuous day and night raids. The camp they stayed in was built of bolted sections which fell apart one night owing to the continued vibration. On another occasion they were able to read newsprint by the light of incendiary bombs burning in the city, and later the same night a 5-pound incendiary hit one of the huts. They saw Wellingtons dive-bombing and hundreds of 4 engined planes. One night 800 planes came in one raid. Planes came very low and Anti Aircraft fire was very spasmodic and ineffectual. When fighters went up they spent most of the time keeping clear of the bombers. They saw 5 –4 engine bombers shot down in one day and went to look at the wreckage of one four engine. Four figures were covered by tarpaulins but a fifth which was a Negro was left uncovered. The planes when they came first dropped flares, then incendiaries the high explosive. One plane was hit and on fire so dived straight at a factory and resultant explosion flattened the factory. Crowds of people were leaving the city in defiance of orders. They encountered no animosity from the people they met. On four occasions they were booked to play football but could not owing to raids. Everybody in the tour was glad to get back to the camp. Leaflets were dropped when Italy capitulated telling the Germans to pack in as the Italians did. Incendiaries were showered from Frankfurt like pepper from a pot. Bombs were just dropped anywhere. Nil targets and Civilian? 24 hours parole given to privates only, not NCO`s.

 

Sept 1st 1943

“Griff” from a bloke who was captured in France. (He has come here to come on a “propaganda tour”) At Bromberg in Poland his Kommando was lined up facing 600 Jews M,W&C. 3 machine guns were turned on the Jews and the Germans said that “Jude mus vic” (must work hard) and that the same would happen to English Jews when England is conquered. He showed us a photo of a graveyard full of English who had refused to work and had been shot on the spot. Also a photo of the funeral of one of them. More officers and men than that. He told us that he saw a kid of 5 kicked so hard by a guard for singing the same tune as the prisoners as they were passing that its spine was broken and it died of gangrene. A Polish woman who was caught giving them bread was tied to a post in front of them, stripped and then beaten with the buts of rifles. She was marched to Poland in order (so said the G.O. in C) to let the Poles see they’re serious. Their KF was a German Yank who made life hell for them. He reviled them if they as much as muttered back he popped at them with his revolver. They had no RC for 18 ms 1200 of them in a place not much bigger than ours thick with lice and lousy grub. No M.O. and no clothing (particularly Boots)

 

Jim Locke on France. They were in a town just inside Belgium and had orders to move out. Just before they moved refugees started leaving the town. 5th columnists had told them the English were deserting. When the road was congested planes came down machine gunning. They were told that if they picked up any refugees they would be shot.

 

Rumoured fall of Smolensk. Italy invaded. ??Trouble between Germany and Sweden about fishing rights. Battle back.

 

September 14th 1943

Example of “prison mindedness” One night last week half the camp was yelling at each other about which way the belt of the old web equip. fastened – to L or R!!! Rumours. Landing at Le Havre. Paratroops landing in Czechoslovakia and British radio advising Czechs to help them. Fall of Italy, things are looking up a lot brighter but I`m such a damned pessimist I can’t help mistrusting this sudden rosyness. I suppose 4 years of defeats has soured my mind!

 

September 19th 1943

A wagon came in this week with a quantity of chaff, dust and ?? tobacco on the floor. You should have seen the rush from the civvies. Cypriots de-bugged this week. The camp was fumigated and when the mattresses were brought out they were thick with bugs. Plenty of good news this week.

 

September 26th 1943

Bugg. to supply the English-woman with grub.

 

Oct 2nd 1943

Some Canadian parcels came in this week which had been addressed first to Japan and then to Germany. Tale is that Japan has refused to let Red X operate.

 

A bloke from the Cypriot. camp went to the docs last week and while there saw some civvies under armed guard. He asked the guard what they were and was told Dutch Saboteurs. Asked if he could speak to them and after slipping the guard a fag was allowed to do so. One of the Dutch said to him in German. “you aren’t English you’re a Cypriot.” It turned out he was a P.T. who had been dropped and kept by civvies and later rounded up as a Dutchman by the Jerries. He said and this was corroborated by a dutcher(?) that commando raids were almost a nightly occurrence. That ¾ of Rotterdam which had been flattened by Germans was still flat as an example to them and that the remaining ¼ was being decimated by British planes. He said that when the planes came over they circled round the bombing area for a time to allow the civvies to get away frequently coming low and waving at them. The Dutch look upon them as friends he said.

 

October 1943

A Cypriot has finally done the trick and got a Germany bint in trouble. He had been with her for about 12 months and was given away by a bint he used to send notes with to her. The father of the bint who is in the fact. And one day a while ago called the Cypriot. in question an English bastard. The Cypriot. says he means to ask him now how it feels to be the grandfather to an English bastard. The Cont(?) officer came around and on parade told us it had it had been heard by several whiners that some of our chaps had threatened to “do” trommer and baer after the war. Search after work last night. On our way up to camp the Posten warned us and gave us chance to hide anything. I had a loaf and hid it I the sleeve of my greatcoat. Battle read letter of thanks from English woman for stuff sent down to her. Comes from Port Talbot and is called Betty. Memel fallen, Russians in Polish Ukraine. Night shift stopped this week. Wailing from the Romeos.

 

October 1943

Swiss delegation bloke here. Conventions put up in camp.

 

October 1943

Rumours India has declared war on us (Frank is in India). The Italians working here were all on the Russian front and refused to fight when Italy packed in. One I saw was wearing a German decoration.

 

November 1943

Paris occupied by Japanese troops. All baloney about English paratroopers, with Dutch in Bodenbach. Tick tock in hosp. We’re all Germans. Chalk injections and young nurse. ???????????????????

 

November 14th 1943

Russians fighting on Polish border - again! Big 6 engine plane flew over here today. Life in North Russia from a posten. All the women are covered with cosmetics but seldom wash. 3&4 families live in one room and sleep on racks around the wall. Intercourse between families common. Eat bread of maize and potatoes. Wear rags around feet from Sept –April as rag wears at bottom more is put on.

 

Nov 21

2/3 Italians shot in street by Jerry. All guards with fixed bayonets now.

 

December 1943.

A number of South Africans came to the camp en route for a Kommando at Tetschen. They had been captured at Tobruk 18 months ago and up till 3 months ago had been in Italy. They had a rough time before being sent to Italy. A tin of bully & 2 biscuits daily for rations and 50 or 60 died of starvation. When we took Sicily all the Italian guards buzzed off with one exception who had his throat cut by a French Foreign Legionnaire of which 300 were in the camp. All escaped but were rounded up and sent into Germany. They had seen our bombers in action and said they were deadly. All had topees and were well equipped with uniform etc.

 

December 11th 1943

Taff Jones threw a detonator into the fire at work and injured 5 Cypriots. Karalambos, Chrysanthos, Philos, Arries and Panyoties. Sent to Stalag on a charge of sabotage. First snow this week!

 

December 1943

Bill Hillier Coming this ???? - broke into cobblers for drink and nailed boots to bench. Played shining plates in China shop. Earthquake in Lasressa. (?) Blokes not called out from Fruhstuck today so stayed until guard came – 10 o`clock. Plenty trouble lights out ¾ hr early.

 

Xmas 1943

Pretty dull except for concert which was a howling success. A silhouette of an operation was best (complete with seductive nurse). The P.O.W.`s return to an unfaithful wife (Daphne). Surprised in the act was another success. Percy Sutton had a visit from Father Xmas who brought him a scooter, dolly, puffer and a dummy. He poured hot tea down Father Xmas` neck. Tea brought round to us in bed. Gallery of civvies watched the show – wonder what the women thought of Daphne? Sgt. Battle and Corp. Wiltshire did a trick bike act. Caught train before it stopped.

 

January 1944

I wonder??? 22 G div. Reported finished at Smolensk. Cowboy do here on New Years Eve.

 

From South African POW captured in Tobruk and trans to Italy 5 days before we re-took town. Free for 5 days when Italian invasion started. Germans came to Stalag and rounded up. Fired wood pile, Machine gunned and burned a hospital and bombed sumps.

 

February 1944

60 Russian men arrived and 7 Frogs gone to Aussig. Russians all ages 16-68 here. Very different to what I expected, sturdy – intelligent & clean looking. Badly fed – less bread than us and no meat. Don’t think much of Communism or Stalin. Most from Nicopol area around which Joe and Jerry are now fighting. Plenty of snow these two weeks.

 

Feb.1944.

Can’t understand German attitude. To us Officially (vide the “Camp”) it is conciliatory and full of propaganda re. the establishment. Good relations between the two countries after the war. Yet the letters from German newspapers in it are full of threats to us for “unlawful war” after the war. The truth of the matter I think is they try to make us believe they are good to us (through the camp) but their treatment of us personally is as near the bone as possible with the exception of work hours as to which they break all agreements. They only keep agreements if they are agreeable to them.

 

Salon Whites in - Niggers out.

Cyp. box . Why for you make horrible. ? You speak other men.

Batt re Commissars

Shot for smiling during demonstration.

Sentenced to death for throwing sand under wheels.

?? intervened and altered to 8 days clink.

P (?) stoned in streets.

Finish Sept. or Oct. according to Winnie`s speech.

Pigram to Stalag for repatriation.

 

March 1944

Borys made a mangle at work. Guard carries snouts for us owing to fear of search. More Russians here. Some soldiers – been prisoners for 2-1/2 years in Ukraine In Russia, German prisoners lightly guarded. One escapes and shot.

 

April 1944

Bapty had a small union jack in his cap and chef saw it, whipped it out and told him it was forbidden. Russian caught today stealing flour. Other Russians told me later they had been shot. Czechs left this week. Jaraslov Malik also.

 

Easter? 1944

Murrys others out all night. Guards sell stacks white bread.

 

May 1944

No news for 2 weeks. Everybody on edge for invasion. Strong rumour about parachutes dropped locally.
Tick tock at Wilsdorf and whistle. 1000 men.

 

May 1944

Jameson left (Irishman) for unknown reasons. Barnes on blink again. First talk of invasion today (14th) Adriatic coast and Greece. Air raid Thursday.

 

June 1944

Swiss Commissioner here. Sgt. Battle said they said end this year. Treat Free corps as joke. Bother re. complaints. Cyps said Britain put none in. 2 blokes here from 8b tells of bloke left in France after war. Got married and had kids. Captured in 1943. Ill so was being repatriated. Wanted to sell his repatriation ticket to G.Rolls. First news of invasion from G.Warr about 1:30 on June 6. All sorts of rumours about.

 

June 16

Battle re Rockets. Some indecipherable text possibly Check.

 

July 7th 1944

J.Brown shot dead and Taff Jones wounded last night. Nailed tongues. Prague political prisoner who was a professor before war aged 32, looks 70.

 

Aug 26th 1944

Rumours Paris fallen 2/3 France ours. Nearing Rhine. Bulgaria and Rumania Russian. Jerries in Greece cut off. Fighting in East Prussia. Past Warsaw. Worked 2 Sundays together.

 

Sept 10th 1944

Rumours. Von Pappen in England. Ribbentrop in Lisbon talks to British Minister. War over in a few days. English gives Germany 5 days to capitulate or 40 planes b 5 ling and 60 Germany. Crete evacuated. Bulgaria capitulated. Rumania finished. Aachen and Metz captured. Fighting near Dusseldorf and Koln. Lamsdorf 8b Silesia Dog torn in 2 Dead men’s rations. Typhoid.(?)

 

Sept. 15th 1944

Rumours broken Siegfreid Line on 4 places, Aachen taken. Rumoured. Driven out of Siegfreid Line. Rumoured fighting in Siegfreid Line with tanks and flame throwers.

 

Sept 24.

Rumour Goering in prison. Leaflets dropped yesterday in raid. Bloke at Tetschen died after being ref. Adm. To hospital.

 

Oct 1944.

Maurice Chevalier killed in Paris. Came to 4b in 1941.Old prison camp in last war. Captured Russian General has asked or ordered all Russian in Germany to join German forces. New war promised on Oct 16. Fighting between Aachen and Cologne. Cologne burned down with fire bombs. Germans threat to flood Holland. All German boys over 13 to go behind front line building bunkers.

 

Oct 25th 1944

Strong doubts now about war finishing this year. Rumoured civil war in Spain. Goebbels asked for ½ coal and ½ gas in return promised new weapon. Churchill said would endeavour to finish war this year. Saw leaflet that said SS drove Jerry’s into action shouting get on you dogs. Warwick’s diary taken from him. All told to expect something on the 28th. (Czech Independence day) Lot of blokes from factory gone into army, including Ernst. Lot of old men pensioners coming back.

 

November 1944

Real little Spiv guard here, knows all the Hotcha tunes and plays to the lads on a mouth organ. Russians in a bad way; queue up for our gash soup and almost fight over odd spuds. Stay up until midnight for NS soup. Titch Sutton nearly grabbed and eaten one night! They search wagons for bits of corn etc. Reminds me of us at Salonika etc.

 

Nov 5th. 1944

Bags of planes over today. Boy 16 ???? rather than join up. Next sentence hard to read. Churchill says war over by Easter.

 

Nov 12th 1944

Met Hindle the M of C from Oswaldtwistle said he met some Arnhem POW’s who weeks ago had been on the Rover`s ground. 50 English, 7 South African and 2 New Zealand brothers killed at Br??? in air raids.

 

Nov 25th 1944

J.Dean caught out last week. Captain said we should go collecting for wreaths for him now. Asked why he wasn`t shot on return. Push on now across Rhine in places, Cologne taken. Lot of new prisoners in Stalag. Asking for old shoes for them. Still betting on before Christmas.

 

December 1944.

Cologne fallen. Surtz(?) invaded by us. Churchill says English too confident and war will not finish until midsummer. Late Churchill says big offensive in 5-8 days will sweep through Germany as we swept thro` France. Padre here today. Tales about Officer`s escape committee.

 

December 1944.

Joe 70 kM into Austria. Joe 70 kM from Austria.

 

December 1944

J. Locke in air raid at Aussig. Women left prams and posten left Locke. No news this week.

 

Xmas 44

3 raids X-mas eve and X-mas day. SS searched Corporals camp. 1 Cypriot boy and 1 Cypriot shot at Aussig. Killed cold and frosty(?) News. Going back in Holland and Italy. 300 kM in Holland. Work stopped on AR shelter.

 

New Year 1945.

 

Attempted assassination of Churchill in Athens. German Air Force begins action again. Yanks driven 112 Kms back. V2 bombs m/6. Extract from a German newspaper says war will probably last until 1947. Everyone rather despondent. Doubts as to war finishing in 1945

 

January 7th 1945.

Parson here. 8 killed by air raid at??? Prepared for SS search, rumours of moving from here.

 

January 14th 1945

Budapest taken by Russians then retaken. Eisenhower kicked out, 2 Brit Generals court marshalled, Montgomery put in charge.

 

Jan 21st 1945.

2 Yank prisoners in Wilsdorf. Red McMichael from Michigan and 1 from Minnesota. Joined army in March and captured in small German village in Front of Cologne in November. Thought war was nearly over as Jerry were throwing arms away. In hospital with frostbitten feet owing to working as platelayers near Stan Schonau with pantoffels bus from 6am to 8pm. When captured had complete kit but were stripped and given Russian clothes. Fed on coffee morning and noon and spoup and a poece of bread at night. They hope they are not retaken by Russians as they say “hard things have been said by the Allies about the Russians recently”. They say men on front wear electrically heated suits and are equipped with flamethrowers with 100 yard range. Say no Negro’s in Yank AF. Front waist deep in mud. Think politics not military holding up war. U/O read notice that 2 Yanks sentenced to death for striking a German U/O. News: Konigstaken. Big Russian attack, Budapest taken 110,000 German dead. Reputed announcement on German Radio. Russians broken through in 6 places and drawing towards River Oder and Breslau. Cannot stop tanks. England pressing on.

 

Rumours.

Krakow and Warsaw fallen. Volksturm rushed from Berlin to Breslau. Busses and schools stopped. Monday No leave from front. We retreating on Strasbourg front. Russians 75 miles from Breslau and dropping paras on Danube region. New talk by boys of war ending early spring. I don`t know!

 

January 28th 1944

Breslau being shelled from 38 Kms. All Holland captured and advance 40 km along coast into Germany. All Norway captured by Russ and 2/3 Denmark by us. Germans throwing away arms and retreating everywhere. Russians advancing on Vienna, Breslau and Oppeln(?) fallen. Saw myself evacuees From East (some say Bres) rumour 135 km from here. Say war finished in 3 weeks. 25 German Divisions cut off in Danzig area. Breslau Last night. Joe 100-150 miles east of Berlin. 30 miles from Danzig. Severe winter in England. Coal bad to get. Devon being made good after war practice. Joke cartoon in camp. Girl hugging and bloke eating.

 

January 1945

Cpls. Hurman, Wiltshire, Meaken and Kelly going back to stalag, Sgt. Battle later. Air raids more frequent. New AO this week-he shot a Frog at his last Kommando and boasts of his doings in Poland.

 

If the Arabs with their incalculable wealth of raw materials, the rich forests of Siberia, and the unending cornfields of the Ukraine were in the command of Germany under National Socialist leadership the country would swim in fat. We should produce, and every single German would have enough to live on. AH 1936.

 

Feb 4th 1945

Stalag 8b liberated by Russians. 25000 men. Lots of civvies left work for Sturm Volk 70 kM from Berlin. 500 Italians evacuees landed at work from near Breslau. Train bombed on way and 30 coaches lost. Loads of cattle, pigs and fowl etc on lines. Civvies arrived later. Heard guns at Ruchenberg.

 

Feb 18th 1945

Russian advance to Berlin stopped, turned North. Joe says Berlin by 23rd. 13h. 100 kM from here. We have broken through Siegfreid line at Strasbourg to a depth of 25 kM. Civvies here digging emplacements and mining roads. Lots of blokes up to Volksturm. 13 and 14 continue heavy raids nearby. Joe 30 kM from Dresden. 17h We told to be prepared to move very soon. Fin(?) today at 11:15. Fight in Coubus(?) when it falls Berlin will fall in 14 days. H Pool says Germans will fight for 12/18 months yet retreating to (??) towns all the time. Lots of talk about moving.

 

Feb 28th 1945.

Off by ?? on all fronts. Germans promise new weapon. The German wonder for the defence of Berlin. Say that it will be talked of for years to come. Bags of air raids. Dresden is reported flat. Streams of evacuees pass all day. Talk on wireless of an 8kM parade area for Bit. POW`s. Volksturm postings(?) here. All old 36b camp leaving 21h. Offensive began on Saar, Rumoured leaving tomorrow from here. Packing cases made and beds on wagons down factory. Germans landed an Arm. Div. On Konigs. 24h. Turkey in war again!!! Russians about 20 kM from here. Yanks attack with 40 Divs. Saarbrucken taken.

 

The stories of Greece, Crete, Malaya, Java and Burma are all the same. They mean that it is mere suicide – nothing but death and weakness – to accept battle without adequate air strength. Sir Keith Murdoch, Daily Mail, April 13/42

 

March 4th 1945

Snow again. We 10 Kms from Cologne. Dresden ½ surr. 2 hours in shelter yesterday. Reported 25000 planes over Germany. Big attack in west across Rhine and through S Flene(?) Cologne, Dusseldorf and Munster surrounded. 6 men in uniform from Breslau on road for 6 weeks. Sick left in barn which was on fire as they passed. Anybody falling out were shot. SS shot and burn everything left.

 

Mar 11 1945.

??? though SF line and across Rhine. Attack Dusseldorf and Cologne. Yank 9 Army and Can 3 Army on 60 kM front across Rhine. 70000 prisoners taken, 200000 cut off in Danzig. Cologne fell on 6th. Refugees still coming through, Block 7 M/6 destroyed by German planes, (later 60 planes raided it). Conference in Germany to decide whether to continue. 11th Bonn fallen.

 

Mar 18 1945

Bonn Cologne and Dusseldorf fallen. All foreigners to leave protect(?) Crowds of refugees (Poles, Italians, etc) on foot ??? ??? Germans off to W Pool. Chaps at one camp refused to work as rations were too small. Were not shot because Germans felt sorry for them because England had lost the war. They were to be attacked soon by 80,000,000 new tanks. Using pram now to bring grub from company. 9 new chaps here. Either going to wood camp or going on march to Nuremberg with rest of Stalag. We use new 10 ton bomb with blast effect 8 km radius. Lots of troops in this area marching and training. Digging tank traps etc. Long “red alerts” these days but no bombing yet. Spuds from cellar under camp.

 

Mar 25 1945

Spuds 350 gms per day. Some prisoners from Russia here under false names. They have prison sentences ?? them from Breslau so when they were evacuated they changed names. 250,00 killed on raid in Dresden (from civvy who was told by an ARP official) Two yanks dead on Wilsdorf and 2 more dying. Malnutrition causing TB. Ones leg is so bad he is crying for it to be taken off but the doc cant do anything. (no instruments etc) The doc says good food would save the lot. We buried the dead.

 

Mar 25/45

Yanks in dreadful condition clings cry to H.Pool when he goes to do something for them. 9 new chaps here all from France and very young. One was only 15 ½ when I was captured. 4000 francs reward for paratroopers in France and one was turned over by a frog for this. He got a load of Bren bullets in his guts instead. One frog said he preferred jerry – he was left alone by them but we blew his farm to bits. One of these farmers had his life spared because he spoke a little German so “must have had a little interest in Germany.” His 3 pals were shot. Invasion started a day late. Pres in England having a smashing time. Rec ??? Red X parcels. Refused to work when no beer. Moral tone of women in England very low. Yanks with women in daylight in Hyde Park. Italian prisoners with girls. 5 hrs alert yesterday. Salt rationed now. No eggs for Jerries next month. Perhaps no marg or jam. Padre here. Last raid on Brussels 37 Dutch killed and 400 prisoners injured. Benyene works bombed. 1 & 7 German armies surrounded. All west of Rhine ours through SF(?) in 14 places. Big front E of Rhine also.

 

April 1st 1945.

Hopes highest ever now. All say this month finish. 40,000 yank paras take Damstadt (?) We’re going through Germany as we went thro` France. German Army and German front smashed up. Say it will be decided in 8 days. Rusnstadt packed in. News via HP from St Sec(?) source. Not to be divulged to people. Catp 20 towns in 24 hours Adv 180 miles in 48 hours. 27 Generals packed it in, Kessel taken. Brit alone have 7 pontoons across Rhine. Must not escape without permission from Andle(?) at Stalag. 300 planes sent to bomb Eng. Dropped bombs in water and surrendered. Marburg and Frankfurt fall. Hassal and Bremen being attacked. Russians prepared for big attack. Germans say “wait and see what we will do.” Notice. Deutsch V.S. and Wehrmacht Aushalten unser gegenschag kommt. Heidelberg fallen.

 

April 8th 1945

Churchill says only mopping up to be done. Nuremberg surrenders. Civvies??? counter attack this week. From Belgian line Churchill says 11 days finish. 200 Russ escape from Dresden in Jerry uniform during raid. Boarded ammo train, drove to Russ lines attacked Jerry from behind and annihilated him? Supposed to come from Big Gals- Ruckenberg front broken - everybody moving soon. Lot of short raid alarms this week (7 in one day) Front? New government formed in Japan. Church says Japan may pack in before Jerry. Rumoured that diplomatic relations broken off between Russia and America. Everybody says war will end this month. Town (Gotha) in middle of Germ taken. Striking towards Leipzig.

 

April 15th 1945

Rations 208 Gms of bread daily. Asked on parade for volunteers to fight in German Army against Russians. Also what we would do if Russians came here. Reports that Gerry is suing for peace (15). Plane fires on by ?? today. People travel on buffers and roof of coaches. All say “this month”.

 

April 22nd 1945

Americans past Chemnity German GHQ is at Leipa. Dresden fallen. Continuous yellow and red alarms all day every day. Huge flights 4-engined bombers over. Dive-bombers bombed somewhere near here. Some houses of civvies working here were damaged. Nearest yet?

 

April 1945

Dresden and Komatau cut off. Russian breakthrough on Dresden front. Bridge at Tetschen bombed (unsure) Big German offensive reported. Food and fags very bad. Last another week on food, and 3 on fags. All Czechs gone so cannot buy bread. Opinions varying re. duration of war.

 

April 1945

Goebbels hung by ours. American and Germans allied against Russia. Ribbentrop in States negotiating peace. Berlin fallen. All “warning to shot without challenge” notices taken down. Pukka griff daily from officers and 1 Sergeant hiding out with Czechs. Germany will capitulate to English and Americans but not Russians. Everybody says “next week”. My grubstakes give out before next weekend, on bare rations then.

 

May 5th 1945

Blokes celebrate end of war. One bloke said ‘I can’t believe its over’ Eating nettles and dandelion leaves. Guard in spud store.

 

May 6th 1945

Goering commits suicide. Hitler ill. Meeting of allies and Germany. Berlin fallen. Swedish General (acting for Germans) and staff. Crippo[?] meet in Constance. Hitler dead. Donetz chancellor for 2 hours then assassinated. Revolt in Austria. American tanks in Prague. Revolt in Czechoslovakia. Berlin, Hamburg, Lubeck, Karrlsbad and all S.Germany surrendered. Italy too. Only Stalag A (surrounded) and C left. Receive instruction from Stalag re conduct. Given to Stalag by Earl Haig and Lord Stanhope who are volunteer prisoners and will take over camp after war. Em[?] gets news from Off, as frogs from Breslau. Germans agree to terms with us but not with Russians. No more raid alarms. Next alarm will be a 5-minute blast meaning “enemy approaching)

 

May 7th 1945

News from Embassy source. War over this week. Russians coming. Evacuation wagons brought in. Later cancelled. Americans not Russians coming. Civvies terribly frightened of Russians. H.Post got 80 fags and 60K spuds from ??? Night. No check parades. War over according to night shift who returned at 10:45. Blokes up all night.

 

May 8th 1945. Tuesday.

Sat war is over at 10 o’clock today. Bright, hot, sunny day. At 12:45 flight of bombers over nearest (so far) bombs dropped. Heard artillery fire all night. Civvies alternately happy and glum. Wild rumours about Russians coming – Americans coming. Heard Churchill’s speech. SS Division in this area not packing up. Evacuees going past on foot. Churchill’s speech and Anthem, Guards cut off radio from Guest House, Russians and civvies etc visit us.

 

© 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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