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A letter from Peter Jones' Group Captain informing his family that he is a Prisoner of War

Entries from Peter Jones' log book

Warrant Officer Peter Jones

 

Unit : 61 Squadron, Bomber Command, Royal Air Force.

Service No. : 650108

POW No. : 24812

Camps : Stalag VIIIB / 344, IXC.

 

Diary written by W/O Peter Jones (24812) while a POW in Stalag Luft 3. (1942/45) and various other Third Reich "Guest Houses". "Never before have "So Few" been chased about so much by so many for so long." With apologies to Mr. Churchill.

 

"Cook's Tour"

 

March 25th 1942 - Shot down over Holland.

March 26th 1942 - Taken Prisoner Held in Amsterdam.

April 13th 1942 - Left Dulag Luft (Frankfurt)

April 15th 1942 - Arrived Lamsdorf VIIIB Ober Silesia.

July 21st 1943 - Left Lamsdorf.

July 22nd 1943 - Arrives Sagan Luft 3.

Jan 7th 1945 - Left Sagan.

Jan 7th 1945 - Arrived Belaria.

Jan 28th 1945 - Evacuated Belaria on forced march.

Feb 4th 1945 - Arrived Luckenwalde Stalag IIIA.

April 22nd 1945 - Liberated by Russians (5-15 am)

May 20th 1945 - Left Luckenwalde.

May 20th 1945 - Arrived Halle (In American Hands).

May 22nd 1945 - Left Halle in Dakotas Arrived Brussels.

May 23rd 1945 - Left Brussels - Arrived England (by Lancasters)

        "UND DAS IST ALLE"

 

Introduction.

 

Practically every "Kriegy" has a "Line", to the layman a line is his story of how he became a guest of the Third Reich. After the first few months he learns it almost word perfect. And so dear reader, if this line of mine sounds a bit thick I hope you will bear with me as I now consider myself an old "Kriegy" and way back in the "good" old twin engined bomber days when "Flying was dangerous", we all thought "Ops" were tough, and still do..; If you think you've read enough you can pack in and I won't be offended, but if by chance I have whetted your appetite, and you think you can stand it, turn over the page and start reading, "MY-LINE"

 

P. Jones

 

 

"MY LINE"

 

"There we were" (all lines start this way). It was a beautiful March evening, the 25th to be precise as we climbed into the aircraft "O" for Orange, or as I later termed it "O" for disaster. 5 min's later we were airborne and heading East towards Essen in "Happy Valley". A full moon was turning the dark to light as we crossed the North Sea. The Dutch Coast came into sight and slid slowly underneath us.

 

The rest of the crew were P/O Hubbard (Pilot), P/O Buchan (2nd Pilot), P/O Heggie (Navigator) F/Sgt Clelland (W/Op) Sgt Baker (Frnt. Gunner) Sgt Stanley (Rear gunner) and myself as Mid upper Gunner.

 

At 21.55 hrs, we saw our target burning in the distance and enveloped in smoke. It was then that my stomach took on its tight feeling which always occurred when the "sticky bit" of the trip faced us; 'Flak' was rather thick and some of it began to burst around us which went to prove the old saying that the "Natives appear to be hostile"! Bob the navigator warned the Pilot, joking that he was all set for business. So in we went. After a steady run up we dropped our bombs on the target. Also on our port, was a Hampden trapped in a cone of searchlights and getting the living daylights pasted out of them with "Flak". Slightly below us to starboard was a Wellington also having a rough reception with the ground defence, but not for long as they burst into flames and dived earthwards. This incident seemed to put one thought into everyones mind, as it was voiced with such remarks over the inter-com as, "Lets get the hell out of this"; "What the so and so are we hanging around for" "Put the nose down Johnny and lets go home"; Johnny very wisely agreed, so we headed for home, much to my relief.

 

We weaved on our course, then I suddenly noticed the searchlights forming an avenue on both sides of us, and, as they fell behind handed us over to others. This was a rather shaky "do" because this little performance denoted that we were being followed by one or more nightfighters. After telling Johnny, we gunners got down to watch for them. Still nothing materialised and I had just begun to think we had lost them, (we were then above the Dutch Coast) when I spotted an A/C {aircraft} attacking from the lower port quarter. Letting out a warning yell to the skipper I then opened up at him with short bursts. Almost at the same time he pumped a terrific squirt of MG and cannon shell fire at us. I then heard more guns chattering over the inter com, and taking a hasty glance I saw four streams of tracer leaving Stans (the rear gunner) guns as he tried to write his initials on a second ME110 coming in astern. My own opponent broke off overhead so I helped him on his way with a parting burst.

 

Then came the crowning feature, I smelt smoke and on rotating the turrett saw that the A/C was burning like the devil. Then finding that the inter-com was U/S I decided to see what the score was. Nipping smart out of the turrett, in the light of flames, the plane was in a shambles. Holes were everywhere. I went up to the front and passed the navigator slumped over the table, the 2nd Pilot lying in the gangway, the Pilot hanging in his straps still flying the A/C. He looked to be wounded. The W/Op was very conscientiously sending out to base over the radio. I tapped him on the back and beckoned him to come aft where it was cooler and the fire less. He nodded and stood up then turned back to the set. I was just about to go back to him when another burst of gunfire from the fighter hit us. Jock (W/Op) folded up over his radio and lay still. The pilot must have been hit again because I felt the A/C go into a shallow dive. He then raised his head and signalled me to get out, so I made my way to the tail and wrenched the exit door open. It was then I saw the rear gunner, Stan, sitting on the floor and not looking too happy. The front of his flying suit was covered in blood, so I guessed he had stopped something. I had also stopped something in the head and ribs. I got Stan to his feet and fixed his chute for him and asked if he could make it, he said he could. He told me to go and he would follow, so out I dived ----; The chute opened up with a terrific jerk that nearly creased me and I was left dangling in peace and cool sweet air. I saw the A/C weave her way downwards on the same shallow dive, outlined in fire and engines still going. Then she hit the deck with a roar. So ended "O" for Disaster. When I floated lower I saw water underneath me and thought "Out of the fire into the kettle". All kinds of visions and thoughts went through my head about how big the North Sea was and how far I had drifted out to sea, as I had definitely seen the A/C crash onto land. Then into the drink I went, and was it cold? I'll say, I inflated my Mae-West and got rid of the harness and looked around cold and wet. To my left I saw 3 or 4 searchlights which seemed to be miles away. That was my destination.

 

My watch which miraculously somehow had kept going said 10.35 so I took it off and put it into the special pocket in the collar of my Mae West then started swimming. Resting after about 10 or 15 minutes swimming, I could see the coastline outlined by the moonlight far in the distance. Feeling just about all in I eventually reached muddy beach about 3hrs later and staggering inland to a ploughed field sat down and was as sick as a dog. I then went to a nearby canal and had a drink, then lay on the soil and fell asleep. In fits and starts I slept through the cold night awakening at the first flush of dawn, and found my flying suit frozen solid. After a bit of vigorous exercise I got the circulation going then explored my position. The field I was in was surrounded by a maze of canals, so I started walking and swimming when my path was blocked with canals. A cold job one that was necessary. It was while crossing these canals that I saw a large barge coming towards me so I made the other bank with a rapid crawl stroke and just as I was about to run for some trees, I observed a steel helmeted German soldier standing in the bows of the barge, with a "You've had it" grin on his face and a Tommy gun trained on me. Naturally I remained where I was. He motioned me to step into the barge with my hands on my head. With him was another German and 4 Dutchmen who were rowing the barge. While German No2 covered me with the "Type writer" his mate searched me. All he found in the weapons line was my Bowie Knife sheath down my flying boot. The knife I must have lost at sea.

 

We reached the mainland and with hands still on head we walked about 1 miles to a sort of village cum-town joint, and pushing our way through practically the whole population who were there to meet us, reached the local "Clink". I then sat down on the kerbside while some "bods" spoke to me in about 4 different languages and in sheer disgust when I didn't answer, whipped me into a car and wheeled me off to the nearest aerodrome. I was feeling pretty rough by now, what with damp flying clothes, shell splinters and caked blood in my hair. The Kommandant of the drome welcome me in English and sent me to the M.O.

 

In the waiting room a crowd of airmen waited for medical tests for aircrew so my interpreter told me. This was very funny to me as they didn't look too happy after seeing me and the result of flying on Ops. After a sticky hour the Doc finished worked on me and I was taken into the interpreter room where he told me I could have a sleep, after giving me a meal. I awoke about 3 o'clock and was told I was going to Amsterdam. The German corporal gave me a bag of apples and directed me outside to a waiting car. We drove to the station and with a German airman on either side of me we proceeded by electric train to the heart of Holland. We reached the city and hung around the platform until a very big car drove up, an officer got out and motioned me in. I got in the back and the driver and officer in the front, he then warned me in English that if I attempted to escape it would be his unpleasant duty to shoot me. I thought that was fair enough so I sat back to admire the scenery.

 

He then told me I was going to the prison in the city, and as I may be locked up a while would I care to see the place. I thanked him so off we went. After 2hrs driving around I was deposited in a cell in the jug. This place was about 9ft long by 6ft wide, furniture, a chair, a little table and a heat radiator. There was no window and the light was on all the time except when I slept. The first day went rather quick, the food was not too bad except for the dark bread. The next day as I went out for a wash I was told there was an Englishman in the cell opposite. Being suspicious I refused to have anything to do with him. The day passed terribly slow and very binding. The next day the German night fighter pilot came to see me and expressed his sympathy and told me they had found 5 bodies in the wreckage and that Sgt Stanley was in Amsterdam hospital and had just been operated on for the removal of a bullet in his shoulder, he then told me that his gunner was shot and died during that combat. This was little consolation for five of my crew. A little later he left me.

 

The next day I was getting a bit browned off and began to think I was going to spend the rest of the war in this place. On the fourth morning I was awakened and told to come and wash as I was to be taken to Germany. I was needing a shave pretty bad by this time. The other English chap and I (he said his name was Rutledge) were put in a big 32 seater bus just the two of us and 6 guards and drove to the Main railway and awaited for the express to the Third Reich. Except for being a captive the journey was marvelous. The route was Amsterdam, Utrecht, Duisberg, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Hoblenz, Mainz, Frankfurt, Oberusal. All along the River Rhine were vineyards. After about 18 hrs, around 1-30 we arrived at Dulag Luft (Durchgang Lager) (through going camp) where I was searched and had my clothing taken away, then I went to bed.

 

The next day an oberg-freiter (LAC) told me I was being interviewed by an officer. Entry of the officer. He sat on the table so I sat on the bed. Then he started to fire questions at me "What was my Squadron, where was I stationed" "What did I know about Lancasters". I found out that the only way to get out of this was to ask a return question whenever he asked me one without answering his of course. In the end he got a bit peeved and jumping to his feet he bellowed, "Say look here smart guy if you don't talk I'm gonna make it tough for you see? " (I learned later he had left America when the war broke out). When he said this I got to my feet and slipped my flying boots on. If this bloke was going to get rough he wasn't going to have the advantage of me sitting down. He then quietened and producing a Red Cross form asked me very nicely to fill it in. We had been warned in England about these as it contained all the questions about my squadron etc. When I refused he got as mad as hell and going to the door remarked "By the time you get out of here you will be glad to talk to someone". Bang went the door, he had gone, I never saw another soul that day.

 

Food was delivered when I was asleep on the bed, this being the only pastime. Well after 3 days solitary I was moved over to the main camp among the rest of the boys. This place really made the boys think, as it was a masterpiece of propaganda. It was just like Butlins Holiday Camp. After about 15 days of this, we were marched to the station 70 NCO's in all and loaded into a third class coach and started off to Stalag V111B Lamsdorf Ober Silesia. To anyone who has never travelled on a Continental third class, it is an education in itself. We were packed in with what luggage we had accumulated and guards. I will not describe the 2 day journey as it is better forgotten.

 

Eventually we reached this large and notorious camp and thought "here's my future home" for the next 18 month (I was rather pessimistic at that). This camp was wreathed literally speaking in barbed wire, while flying from a pole was the red white and black flag centred with a swastika of the third Reich. This sight disheartened me a little, but when I realised there were more than I in the same boat I felt better. We were hardly through the gate when we were "greeted" by a German Officer who proceeded to bellow in his best Prussian style as how we were not in Dulag anymore as we would soon find out. This by the way was all in German, transferred to us by one of our party who spoke a little Deutsche. They proceeded to confiscate clothes and flying boots, and when two lads were caught slashing flying boots with a razor blade, the Officer were beserk and flourishing his revolver and howling horrible threats, had the boys marched off with guards to the bunker for 28 days solitary confinement.

 

It was as we were being registered that I met Fred Raine captured in France 1940. Well the life at 8b was pretty rugged, the camp was full of rackets, and with the RAF being in the minority we were out of luck. There were 600 RAF compared with the armies thousands. Then in July 1943 I had the chance to go to Stalag Luft 111 Sagan and I snapped up my chance. After a two day journey in cattle trucks we arrived. In the middle of summer this mode of travel is not to be recommended. I realise now where the saying comes from "stewing in your own juice". This camp was simply heaven, we were even supplied with cups, cutlery and bowls, something unknown at Stalag V111B. After a happy summer swimming and sunbathing we moved up to Belana where I am writing this at present. We arrived here June 4th 1944 and now we listen to the communique on the radio and wait for the day when the Germans announce a Waffen still stand, or in English "Armistice".

 

We had been standing by since the great Russian offensive and then the night of Sat.24th Jan. at 9-30pm. We got half an hour to get packed. The Camp went beserk, kit was strewn all around. In our room we dismantled a three tier bed and made a massive sledge for 10 of us. Outside the snow was coming down steadily. We went into the camp kitchen where we worked and stocked our kit bags with bread, marg, fruit etc. For myself I preferred food to clothing. I had been hungry before in Germany and did not care for that gnawing pain in the stomach.

 

It was rather funny to see the Officers who had never roughed it, packing their kit, changes of shirts, extra slacks, tunics and a little bit of food, as they "wouldn't need much". I saw the same officers later when they were hungry. After a night of stand downs and alerts, we moved off at 07-00 in the morning after being issued with one Red Cross parcel per person.

 

The line of moving men was estimated to stretch 4 kilometres (2 miles). That day we covered 22 Kilometres and arrived at Nemmersdorf, wet, tired, and aching. After being counted we were herded into barns and stables, after eating a little bread we burrowed into the straw beside two heifers and slept. The next morning I found it very difficult to get to my feet again as my muscles had seized up. Another bite to eat and a brew as some of the boys had scrounged hot water, and we were on the roads again. Today being the 29th.Jan. 10-00hrs. Once on the move it wasn't so bad, but when we stopped it was a terrific effort to start again. This time we did 18 Kilometres and stopped at Gross Selter.

 

When everyone was bedded down in the barn belonging to a guest house, one of our party, a fluent German speaker "organised" us to sleep in the Frau's kitchen as we were ex camp cooks, and were invited to use the kitchen to cook for the sick, now numbering 30. Consequently we possessed quite a few things the Frau didn't and vice-versa, so we got together. Ted Lawrence and myself were doing the cooking and we got on quite well with the wife and seventeen year old daughter. We gave them coffee, tea, soap, cigarettes, etc, and they gave us bread, meat, potatoes, onions, fruit, etc. Among my kit was a pair of American sports shoes which I had rifled from the sports store before leaving, and these fitting none of our party I sold to the Frau, for her daughter.  These brought in a dozen cackleberri (eggs) a jar of preserved cherries, and also three large loaves of bread. We rested the next day as most of the mean were nearly creased. That night we bought a quart bottle of Vodka from a Deutsch Panzer soldier and drank half a cup each thinking it would keep the cold out. Strange to say, not one of us went to bed sober.

 

The next day 31st.Jan. we said our goodbye to our newly found German friends and started off with our sledge again. It was rumoured that 30 men had escaped already but as it had been snowing ever since we had left the camp it did not appeal to me. The guards had been very decent to us because they had their own worries of carrying their own packs to give much attention to us. That day we did record progress and did 21 Kilometres from 9-30 to 3-00pm. and reached Birkensted 3 Kilometres from Muskau.

 

Here thanks to our German speaking friend Allan Morris we slept in a room instead of a barn. A lot more about this stop I can't put into print, but we spent 1 days here, and had a marvellous time. We set out again on the 2nd.Feb. but this time without the sleds as the thaw had set in, everything we carried on our backs. As we marched thro. Muskau we saw the place was crammed with thousands of refugees and prisoners. Kilometre after Kilometre we marched, a stop after every 1 hours or so. When we were 3 Kilometres from our stopping place the German Major called another halt which proved a stupid act as everyone was so stiff and sore, they could not get up again. On these stops we just dropped on the grass at the side of the road and lay there. This last stop nearly stopped us for good. Eventually we covered our 23 K's and stopped at Priebios and were put into 10 barns at 100 per barn. I slept like a log that night buried under the straw. Next morning Sat.3rd.Feb. I had a wash and then we moved off.

 

This time we only moved 4 Kilometre to an Army Camp at Spremburg where we met up with another part of our camp. Here we all received a hot bowl of barley. When we got back to our kit we found five Red Cross parcels stolen, all the food we possessed. Our combine leader Allan went to see the German Major and complained as we found out one of his troops had done it. The Major sympathised and gave us German rations to make up the loss. If we had got no replacement, the ten of us were going to raid the German troops ration cart. So this drastic method was not needed. The Major also got us 4 Red Cross parcels from the Booty wagon before we left. From here we marched to the railway station and were put 45 or so into trucks. We were lucky being kitchen personnel as we only had 24 in our waggon. We also "won" quite a lot of food as we loaded the German ration waggon. This march taught us to be marvelous rogues and thieves. At 20-00hrs. the train started and we arrived in Luckenwalde at 17-00hrs. Sunday 5th Feb.

 

After being on the road from Sagan for 8 days 9 hrs. I might add that this camp is not quite so bad as Stalag V111B but at present the parcel situ. is absolutely nil, and walking 191 Kilometres requires some calories.

 

"DUM SPIRO SPERO"

 

From about the 14th.April 1945 heavy gunfire was heard day and night, the Germans kept saying "Practice", to the S.West smoke was observed rising from the horizon and at night glows from great fires. The night of the 20th. guards were seen leaving with full kit. Next morning, guards who were left said it was a mock alarm, but at 12-00, 13-00 hrs. other officers and men were clearing out. The Hauptman who had been very good to us, came and wished us the Kitchen Staff Goodbye and Good luck, and said "This is the end". By 14-00 the RAF and Norwegians organised the "Defence Scheme" and took over the camp after capturing and disarming the last dozen or so Germans. The Russian prisoners were beserk as being free and went through the camp looting and pillaging. They were really hungry. About ten yards from the camp boundary there was a wood where an SS Major and a few SS troops threatened to shoot 100 PoWs for (A) if arms were found in the camp and (B) if any German civilians or soldiers were interfered with. "Well we had quite a few arms in here..." At 5-55 next morning a Russian jeep car came up to the main camp road, getting a marvellous reception. But at 12-noon when the panzers and tanks rolled in, about 40,000 prisoners cheered themselves hoarse, and showered cigarettes at the tank boys. Marshall Konieffs spearhead had arrived. The fit Russian PoWs were taken from the camp, and the rest of us were asked to stay put until the American tanks arrived.

 

23rd.April 1945 "We're waiting Yanks". 2nd May "We're still waiting Yanks". Finally left Luckenwalde on the 22nd May for Halle, then Brussels, and a few days later on the 25th May flew back home to England.

 

"UND DAS IST ALLE".

 

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