MAIN ROYAL AIR FORCE N.C.O. CAMPS IN GERMANY

 

1. Most R.A.F. N.C.Os. passed through the reception camp at Dulag Luft, Frankfurt on Main, where officers and men were separated and sent to different camps.

 

2. The first separate camp for N.C.Os. was opened in July 1940 at Stalag Luft I, Banih, Vogelaand, Pommerania. It was attached to an R.A.F. officers camp also called Luft I. Officers and N.C.Os. were kept entirely separate and only occasional visits were allowed between the two compounds.

 

3. In the N.C.Os. compound the prisoners were housed in three wooden huts. Conditions were not very good in the winter of 1940 owing mainly to the non-arrival of Red Cross food and clothing. German rations were not considered very good but were princely according to our later experiences. The 1940 winter was an extremely hard one and although fuel was reasonably plentiful there were several minor cases of frostbite. The main trouble was lack of soap and clothing and lice were prevalent. With the regular arrival of Red Cross parcels in May 1941 conditions improved considerably.

 

4. In April 1942 the N.C.Os. numbering about 700 were moved to Luft III Sagan. Here they rejoined the officers who had preceded them but the camps were still kept separate.

 

5. Royal Air Force contingents from Stalag VIIIB, IXC, IIIE and regular parties from Dulag Luft soon brought the N.C.O. camp strength to over 2,000. At this camp conditions were much the same as at Luft I, but showing slight signs of deterioration in some respects due mainly to lack of accommodation.

 

6. In September, 1942 a party of 200 N.C.Os. left the camp to re-open Stalag Luft I.

 

7. In June 1943 all the N.C.Os. were moved to Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug. Here again conditions were a little worse owing to overcrowding and general lack of facilities. (Lack of cooking facilities and a German order forbidding fires outside forced the adoption of communal cooking of Red Cross food.) This scheme became so successful that on removal to other camps there were many applications for it to be re-started.

 

8. Continual parties of new prisoners arrived from Dulag Luft and soon the compound strength reached over 2,400. A new compound was opened and occupied by new arrivals and older prisoners transferred when the re-opened N.C.Os. camp at Luft I became an Officers Lager in October 1943.

 

9. Ex-Italian prisoners also arrived at the beginning of 1944 and R.A.F. strength rose to over 4,000.

 

10. Another Lager was opened in August 1944 to accommodated American Air Force prisoners who arrived in large numbers.

 

11. In July 1944 the camp was evacuated owing to the approach of the Russian armies. All the American prisoners and just under a thousand British then went to Luft IV, Grosse Tyschow, Pommerania. This camp was evacuated on food in February 1945 and the prisoners eventually dispersed over a number of camps in central and northwest Germany.

 

12. The bulk of the Royal Air Force prisoners (3,061) was sent to Stalag 357 Thorne, an Army camp which was later moved to Stalag 357, Fallingbostel, Hanover.

 

13. Here conditions were extremely bad and as the Army administration was not as efficient as it might have been, the R.A.F. was asked to take over the administration of the camp. This was done and Warrant Officer J.A.G. Dean was elected Man of Confidence for the whole camp by an overwhelming majority. The camp then consisted of some 3,000 R.A.F. and 5,000 Army.

 

14. Stalag 357 was evacuated on foot on April 19, 1945. Many men stayed behind and were liberated by the British 2nd Army. The bulk of the prisoners were eventually liberated by the British on or about May 2nd, 1945. They were then [located?] in villages in the area of the Rabzenberger Lake.

 

15. Other R.A.F. prisoners were at Army camps, notably at IVB where there were over a thousand. Yet another R.A.F. camp was Luft VII Bankaw. This camp was formed in the closing stages of the war and no details are yet to hand.