Interview with George Thomson. Two

Title

Interview with George Thomson. Two

Description

George Thomson was a navigator with 15 Squadron based at RAF Mildenhall. On their nineteenth operation they came under attack and had to bale out of the aircraft. The pilot and mid-upper gunner both died. When he landed he saw a parachute stuck in a tree at the other end of the field and discovered it belonged to his flight engineer. Together they evaded capture for eight days before they were discovered. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 7 before embarking on the Long March.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-11-03

Contributor

Julie Williams

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

01:27:12 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AThomsonGB171103

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

AM: Right. So that’s live. Ok. This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Alastair Montgomery. The interviewee is Warrant Officer George Thomson, and the interview is taking place in George’s home in Newton Mearns near Glasgow. And this is the second part of an interview. The previous one concerned George’s life in the air and this is going to discuss his period from being shot down, captured and hopefully some of the period of the Long March. George, if you’d like to tell us about how you came to leave the aircraft and what happened when you reached the ground.
GT: Right. Well, 12th of September ’44 the target was Frankfurt. Three hundred and ninety eight Lancasters were scheduled to bomb Frankfurt that night. It was because of troops moving through the central station in Frankfurt. That was the target in any event. But we, part of 3 Group actually were doing a diversionary towards Mannheim first of all before turning up to Frankfurt. Others were going direct to Frankfurt. And we flew, flew at low level across France. We actually flew at about a hundred feet across France. My pilot loved flying low and we didn’t start climbing until we got to the German border. And we climbed up and we actually got to the bombing height of sixteen thousand feet and just to the north of Mannheim when we were attacked by two aircraft. There was one came in from the rear and there was a ME110 underneath us with the upward firing guns. And it fired and we didn’t know it was there of course but it obviously it hit our bomb bay and set some of the incendiaries alight. And although the wireless operator was trying to put it out with the fire extinguishers eventually the flames were spreading to the wing and the pilot just ordered us to bale out at that stage. So we baled out probably about local time over there it was about a quarter to twelve. It was a quarter to eleven here our time but I think it was about a quarter to twelve over there. And we’d taken some evasive action so probably we baled out at about twelve thousand feet. And the flight engineer went first. I went second. And the bomb aimer came out after me. And then the wireless operator. And the two gunners went out through the rear door. The pilot never got out at all. Anyway, we got out and we landed. Coming down you just don’t know when you’re going to hit the ground and I did eventually land in this field of maize. It was probably about four feet high. It was a very tall crop of maize which helped to break my fall. When I stood up and looked around I spotted a parachute up a tree in the corner of the field. It wasn’t at the top of the tree. It was lower down but caught up on one of the branches and I wandered over to see who this was. And it was the flight engineer who’d baled out ahead of me. And the two of us decided that we should get out there as fast as we could. We buried our parachutes and Mae Wests and we headed off then. We had a decision to make whether we’d head for Switzerland or head for Alsace Lorraine and we decided to go to Alsace Lorraine direction in the hope that we might pick up with British or American troops that were moving up in that direction in any event. So off we went and we walked that night ‘til we got to probably about 4 o’clock in the morning. We got to a river and there was no chance of us getting across that river. It was beginning to get a bit light anyway. The river was fairly fast flowing. Fairly wide. On the other side there were woods and ideally if we could have got into the woods it would have been better. But we couldn’t get in to the woods. And further down, about a hundred and fifty yards downstream there was a bridge with traffic occasionally going back and forward over it. So we decided we would stay where we were on the bank of this river. And it was actually on the edge of a farm. The farm buildings were probably about a hundred and fifty yards away and there was a slope from the farm fields down to the river and we just decided to stay in this slope in amongst the reeds and we stayed there pretty well all day. Pretty monotonous as you can imagine. And we periodically had a look over the top to see if there was any activity in the farm but there was none at all. We didn’t see anybody moving around and didn’t hear anything happening at all. So we waited there until it got dark enough that we could move down toward the bridge and we took a chance to get across the bridge. Traffic had pretty well subsided by that time. Most of it was military traffic. And we got across the bridge into the woods on the left hand side of the road and the rain came on and it pelted down. And we decided to get in to the woods and shelter there rather than walk on and get soaked. So we went into the woods and got shelter. In fact we found an old tin bath that we thought we’d put over our heads and that would keep us dry. But the noise of the rain [laughs] falling on the tin bath was more than we could bear. So we discarded the tin bath and just got wet. Not as wet as we’d have got if we’d carried on walking. We probably stayed there until about 3 o’clock in the morning and then started to walk on from there. Keeping to the woods but following this road that seemed to be running in the right direction. And periodically there was the odd bit of traffic on it but maybe one or two vehicles in an hour. That was all. During, and all military equipment that was being shipped around at that time. So we carried on walking until we got to the stage where we were, we hadn’t really slept at all so we decided that we’d doss down and have a, we’d taken a decision to walk at night and hide by day. So we, we carried on walking until we felt sufficiently weary that we’d bed down somewhere in the wood and we did. And we spent the day, most of the day there. And then carried on walking when it got dark again. Continued to follow this road which was going in the right direction and had another night in, in the wood. Walking through it and then the following day we rested up again. And we had one escape kit between us. Barry, the flight engineer had left his in the aircraft which wasn’t very smart because your escape kit actually fitted into the pocket of your battle dress. So we had one between us and we, we shared that out as best we could. But on that third day going down we eventually got to a point where there was a, the wood was beginning to thin out a bit and we could see this barn. It appeared to be deserted but it was sitting well off the road. We couldn’t see the farm at all. The barn it belonged to. But we watched the farm, the barn for quite a while. And then when we decided that it was vacant, there was nobody in it we went into this barn to shelter for that day and there was a ladder up to the loft. And we went up into the loft and there was some baggage stored up there. Farm baggage of various kinds and we, we got behind it and the two of us just bedded down for the day there. We took turns at sleeping. One of us kept awake and the other would go to sleep and then we’d turn over. And in the procedure when I was awake one time I was ferreting through some of the rubbish that was up there and I came across a pile of old newspapers. Pre-war newspapers. I couldn’t read them because they were in the old style German and even in the new style German I still couldn’t have read them. But in amongst the papers I came across a page with an advert for a petrol station and it had a map of the area. So I took the map out and that was it. Barry, before then Barry had actually said the first day when we were down by the river sheltering Barry had said, he was a pipe smoker and he had a tobacco pouch. And he said there was a map inside the tobacco pouch. So he opened up the tobacco pouch and took out the map and it was a map of the south of France [laughs] which wasn’t very much use to us at that time. But I found this. This map gave us our area. The roads in the area and it was pretty much as, as they were today. Or at least on that day when we were searching for them. So we stayed there until it got dark again and then we continued walking and again keeping to this road and following it going in the right direction. And eventually we got to the stage where we were really fearing that this walking through the wood was a slow process. So there was very little traffic on the road and we decided that we could probably walk on the road because it was a long straight road. It wasn’t quite an autobahn. It was just a long straight road and you could see traffic coming or going. And if any traffic was coming we just dived in to the side, into the woods and stayed there until the traffic passed. And that was it. We, we carried on in that way. We, it was probably, it was nearly a downturn because we walked on and we ran out of wood. And we had to walk on the road without any shelter from woods that we could go into. And there was a, of course the two of us in one area we passed a big farm field. And there were two labourers working in the field away at the other side. And they saw us and we saw them so we just waved to them and they waved back. I think the fact that there were two of us was a, was a safeguard in a way. And we carried on walking and lost sight of them. And we, we came to a slight bend in the road and we turned down this bend in the road and consternation. There was a village straight ahead of us. Houses on either side of the road. Not a very big village. Maybe about thirty houses. And there were women standing in the street and kids running about and they’d spotted us. And we thought oh what do we do? If we turn and walk back a way it might give some cause for alarm so we carried on walking and we just walked past the ladies. Nodded to them as we walked past. We were still of course still in our uniforms and I suppose the fact that our uniforms were not too dissimilar from the Luftwaffe uniforms maybe they just thought we were Air Force personnel. Luftwaffe personnel. But we just carried on walking straight through them and we got to the other end and then decided that we’d better sort of maybe try and find a bit more shelter. We had a [pause] another night we came across woods again and we walked into the woods and we had another night of shelter there. We changed our plans and decided we’d walk during the day and shelter at night. And we carried on walking the next day. And keeping to the side of the road but just walking down there were thin woods on the right hand side. And we came across a workman’s hut at the side of the road and we decided that, we watched it for a bit. There was no sign of any activity around about it so we went into this workman’s hit and decided to have a bit of a doss. You know lay down and get a bit of a rest. There was a knot in the wood panelling that faced the road. And you could watch what was happening through this knot in the wood. And consternation. An Army truck drew up alongside us. I thought this is it. This guy is coming into the hut. He got out and a woman got out the other side. And the two of them walked towards the hut but never came into it. They walked in to the woods. And about fifteen minutes later they walked back out and got into the truck and drove off. And if they were satisfied so we were we [laughs] because they hadn’t bothered with us at all. And that was how we managed to sort of evade any contact with civilians at that point in time. We carried on walking and by this time we were getting a bit peckish at this point. And we just found that down the roads that there were, the road sides they were lined with apple trees at this stretch. And of course we could get the apples off the trees and that was fine. That was, that helped to augment our poor rations that we had with us. And we got down a bit further on and we came across another workman’s hut set well back off the road. And it was getting towards evening by this time. And we had a look at it and nobody was around it. So we went into it and stayed the night in it and that was, that was fine. We’d also these apples to eat to augment our poor rations that we had. And the next day we carried on walking again and this time we came across another workman’s hut set back from the road. And this was an even better workman’s hut because it had a stove in it and a chimney out the top. And we’d actually passed a field on the way down towards this before we saw this hut with potatoes growing in it. So we dug up some of the potatoes and filled our pockets with the potatoes and took them with us hoping that we might be able to find some way of being able to use them. And of course when I came across this workman’s hut it was set back about thirty yards off the actual road. Up a very small path. It was fine. So Barry went off to gather some firewood to get the stove going and I went off in search of water. One of the things we had in our escape kit was a plastic water bottle with water purifying tablets. I found the river and filled up the bag and went back to the hut. And we got the stove going, roasted the potatoes, threw in some apples. So we had a two course meal. And before going to sleep I went outside to relieve myself. And to my horror there was flames shooting out the chimney about two or three feet in the air. So I went back in put the fire out and we stayed that night in the hut. That was ok. Nobody came anywhere near us. And then the next day we carried on walking. And this was about [coughs] excuse me about our seventh day walking and we got into an area where there was more suburbs. You could see these buildings down the side of the road but we kept clear of them until we got down to a point where we reached the road we were on actually ran in, right into this town. And we decided what we’d do and we thought well we’d better just take the chance and walk through the town. And we walked through, started walking through the town and we heard footsteps behind us and dived into a garden and hid behind a hedge while this person walked past and then we resumed our walk through the town. And we came across a marshalling yard, a railway marshalling yard and decided to go in and explore it. We knew we were getting down towards the Rhine and the, we thought there might be a possibility of getting down, finding a train or something that would take us across the Rhine. We had no idea about the size of the Rhine at that stage. I’ve seen it subsequently and I know we probably wouldn’t have got across it at all. Anyway, this town was called Rastatt. And we, we were in the marshalling yard. We actually got stopped by a uniformed person. He might have been a policeman. We couldn’t tell from his uniform but he nattered away to us and we just stood and shrugged our shoulders. And he lost interest and wandered off. I think he maybe thought we were foreign workers because there was a lot of foreign workers in Germany at that time. Anyway, he wandered off. We just beat it out of this place and decided to get as far away from Rastatt as we could but heading continuing to head towards the Rhine and Rastatt is actually situated right on the Rhine. The north bank of the Rhine. And I’ve been back at Rastatt twice on my travels post-war and it’s a beautiful town and we didn’t appreciate that at the time we were there. And we walked on that, this was the morning of our eighth day we walked on into the wood on the right hand side of the road and kept walking following the road for a bit. And then about 3 o’clock decided we’d better bed down. We weren’t going to get anywhere near the Rhine when it was beginning to get daylight. So we found a sheltered spot in the wood and bedded down and went to sleep there. And I was awakened somewhere about 7 o’clock with Barry shaking me in the shoulders and saying, ‘Look who’s coming.’ I looked up and there was four German soldiers bearing down on us with fixed bayonets. And there was a man standing, an elderly man standing in a corner. Quite a bit away. We decided he’d come in to, he was holding a bundle of wood in his arms. He’d come into the wood to gather wood. Into the wood to gather firewood and he’d spotted us and then gone to report us to this German Army camp which was two hundred yards away. We’d actually, we hadn’t seen it in the dark and it was actually an armoured regiment there but they were Austrians. Anyway the four soldiers took us back up to the camp and we were left there for quite a bit until the two officers eventually appeared. And they seemed slightly amused at the fact that we’d been caught you see. They, they could, well they didn’t speak any English. And eventually after about half an hour decided that they’d better get rid of us. So they loaded us onto a truck with two guards and they drove us into Rastatt and we went into the local county jail. What had probably been this county jail. It was still, this was under the control of the Austrian regiment that was running the camp as well and we got stuck in individual cells. I’d been in the cell about an hour when the door opened and in came this German officer. Well, he was, again he was an Austrian. But I didn’t know that at the time. But he came in with an NCO and the NCO said, ‘English?’ And I said, ‘No.’ ‘Ah, American.’ And I said, ‘No.’ And that was him. That was all the NCO knew was English and American. So he turned and spoke to the officer and then the officer turned and spoke to me in almost faultless English and said, ‘If you’re not English and you’re not American what are you?’ I said, ‘I’m Scottish.’ So he turned and explained to the NCO and the two of them had a wee bit of a conversation. The NCO then left the cell and he came back about five minutes later with a tray with a dish of meat and potatoes, a mug of coffee and a slab of bread. And the interesting thing was that during that period when the NCO was out of the cell the officer never asked me any questions about where I had come from, where I’d been shot down what was the rest of it. He was more interested in telling me he’d been educated at Oxford. He’d been educated at Oxford University. Went back to Germany in 1937. And, and that was it. And then they left me and they went up to Barry’s cell which was two up from where I was. And opened the door and the NCO said, ‘English?’ And Barry said, ‘Yes.’ And they just shut the door and left him. He got fed at lunchtime. I got fed again at lunchtime. But I was grateful for this substantial meal that I got in the morning. So we were there three days and the three days were just I suppose they were trying to organise what they would do with us. The second day I was there I was in the toilets and this English officer came in [pause] wearing, he was a flight lieutenant in uniform. But in his best blue. He didn’t have battle dress on. And I thought that’s suspicious and he said to me, ‘What squadron were you in?’ I said, ‘Mind your own bloody business,’ and walked out and left him. The interesting thing is that when we left there on the third day that officer didn’t come with us. There was just the two of us. So he was obviously a German. Where he’d got the uniform from I don’t know and how they’d managed to get a full dress uniform. Anyway, he didn’t appear and we got taken out and put into a covered in truck. And there was two bench seats, one on either side of the truck and we had two guards with us and we were taken about twenty miles up the road to another village. But the funny thing was, and I was telling a group I was speaking to last night that there were three or four civilians sitting across from us and there was a girl of about eighteen or nineteen. She had a bag at her feet. And she kept looking across at us and smiling. And then she spoke to the guards and I didn’t know what was going on but the guards obviously gave their assent. And she went in to the bag and pulled out two apples and gave us an apple each. Which I found rather strange that a German civilian was feeding prisoners of war. So we go up to this other little village and it was a place that had very very rustic and the prison was something that you’d see out of a western movie. They opened the door in the main street and there was two steps down and that was you in the cell and they shut the door. So the two of us were put in there and discovered that there were three others in there. There were two other Bomber Command aircrew and an American fighter pilot. And the next day the five of us got moved because we were heading to Dulag Luft at Frankfurt, and we actually got a train that took us up to Frankfurt. And then we got a tram car from the central station in Frankfurt which was a bit knocked about out to Dulag Luft which was on the south side of Frankfurt. And we were there. By this time Arnhem had taken place. And of course the place was loaded with airborne prisoners. And we were again, we were there three days and I was interrogated only once. I was taken into a room about this size with a big desk and an officer sitting behind it and behind him was a map of England with all the, all the bomber stations mapped on it. Including Mildenhall where I’d come from. And he asked me questions and I said, ‘Well, I can only tell you my number, rank and name and that’s all.’ ‘What squadron were you on?’ I said, ‘I can’t tell you that.’ ‘Well, you can, you know,’ he said, ‘Because the Army have regimental numbers and you have squadron numbers. So you can tell me your squadron number.’ I said, ‘No,’ I said, ‘Squadron number’s totally different from a regimental number,’ and I said, ‘I can’t tell you.’ So he didn’t press the point. He offered me a cigarette which I refused. I was desperate for one at that time but I refused it and I was taken back to my cell. And the next day we were moved into a large assembly room where they were gathering together prisoners that were going to be moved to a prison camp. And I met up with my bomb aimer and my wireless operator. They were both there and they’d been there all the time that we’d been on the loose. And they were told of course that we were dead because they couldn’t find us. That was, the presumption was we were dead. And the one that was missing was our rear gunner who was Isador Spagatner. He was an Austrian Jew. He’d actually been born in this country but his parents were Austrians who had left Austria and come over here to get out of this Hitler regime. And Spag had been born over here. But he was the most Jewish person I’ve ever seen in my life. And he always carried a revolver in his flying boot in case he got shot down because he reckoned he could take four or five and then keep one for himself. When he baled out his revolver fell out of his flying boot and he landed in Mannheim station without his revolver. And he was halfway up a pole with a rope around his neck when he was rescued by the railway police. And they immediately handed him over to the Luftwaffe. Being in Frankfurt I suppose it was easy. Being in Mannheim that was it was easy for them to do that. There was plenty of Luftwaffe people about. And he got whipped in, he went, he went up to Dulag Luft but he was only there for a couple of days and then he got whipped straight into in a prison camp and we met him eventually when we got to the prison camp. But we left there. We went, we went into, on to a train which was a corridor train and there was sixty each compartment and the guards at either end of the corridor. And we were each given a Red Cross parcel. Which of course had ample food in it but what we wanted. We were desperate for food at that time. We’d had food in Dulag Luft. In fact Dulag Luft had a bad reputation because the people that were serving us in it were Air Force. Ex-Air Force. Well they were still Air Force. Air Force personnel who’d either volunteered to stay on and serve the Germans and quite a number of them actually got prosecuted when they came back to this country. Anyway, we were going —
AM: Royal Air Force personnel?
GT: They were Royal Air Force personnel. Yeah.
AM: Oh I see.
GT: Aye.
AM: Right.
GT: Some of them got quite long prison sentences when they came back because they reckoned they were working for the Germans.
AM: Right.
GT: Anyway, we were five days in this train. Well, we travelled across Germany to get to Stalag Luft 7 which was near Bankau in Silesia. On the borders of Poland and Czechoslovakia. We were the furthest. One of two that were the furthest east camps in Germany. And we got there eventually. Got off the train at a place called Bankau which was about less than a mile, three quarters of a mile from the prison camp. Walked up the road to the prison camp. The prisoners who were already there knew that we were coming because they could see the train coming in. And one of the first person we saw was the rear gunner. He’d got there before us. The German procedure of course was that you, they took your identity disc off and you got a German identity disc. And you were given a number which related to the camp you were in. So my German identity disc had Stalag Luft 7 at the top and number eight hundred and seventy. I was eight hundred and seventieth in to the camp. The camp had only been opened up in June ’44 and it was still in a temporary stage of construction. The compound we were in was occupied by a series of wooden huts. Garden huts. Like big garden sheds. And six or seven men to a shed. And of course we got split up and put into one in here, one in there. We were in these sheds while in the next compound they were still building the new proper camp. Well, we’d been there two or three days and there were about seven or eight Army personnel there who’d been caught at the, mostly glider pilots who’d come down and been picked up and brought up there. And the Germans realised that they were Army personnel and they really should be put, they were mostly corporals and they should really be doing some work. So they arranged that they would have to go into this new compound and help put up the huts that were being erected in the, to develop the camp. So the seven or eight of them went in that day and we sort of, well we didn’t spend all day watching them. I didn’t certainly do that but quite a number were just down at the fence watching what was going on and they were getting the odd tool thrown across to them. Anyway, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon the seven came back in and came back into the camp. And then the next day they went out again but it wasn’t the same seven. It was seven of the Bomber Command personnel wearing the Army uniforms. And of course the German guards had changed and they didn’t know who they were. So they went into the camp and started working on the huts that, there was this hut that was nearest to the wire and they started working on it and actually what they were doing was dismantling most of the work that the Army boys had done the day before. And when they came out they came back in to the main compound. They slammed the door and the roof fell in. And that put an end to working. There was nobody else worked on these camps. Camp buildings. And the seven or eight Army personnel were moved away immediately. Almost immediately. And they would go to an Army camp and probably be working because the Army boys were, were made to work.
AM: Yeah.
GT: I don’t know what happened to any of the Army sergeants and above but any, all aircrew didn’t work. You didn’t. There was no work to be done at all because it was mayhem if aircrew got into it at all. As witnessed by what happened to the roof of this building. So eventually we got moved in the beginning of October. We got moved in to the new compound. Now, the new compound consisted of eight barrack blocks. And each barrack block consisted of fourteen rooms, a centre corridor and seven rooms on either side. And each room accommodated twelve prisoners in double bunks. And it was fresh. It was clean. It was. It was, there was a stove in the room and there was also two latrine blocks. One on either side in between the barrack blocks. There was a cook house and storage room. And there was another room which was a recreational room and we called it a little theatre because there was a stage in it. And it was used quite a bit. So we were in there and the sixteen foot high barbed wire fence that was around us, double fence and inside that there was about four, four or five feet inside that there was a trip wire which was about that height off the ground and you didn’t cross that wire. You crossed it at your peril. If you crossed it you got every chance of being shot by one of the guards in the guard towers that were surrounding the camp. In fact, one chap who obviously had gone a bit [pause] lost the place here. He actually went across the wire and tried to climb the fence to get out of the camp and he was shot by one of the guards. And there was a second one shot. A Canadian sergeant who was in the block next to ours. We were in block number one and there was an air raid had gone. And you weren’t allowed out if an air raid was on. You just stayed in your [pause] The all clear went and he left his billet to go to the cookhouse to collect the rations for their lunch and he was shot by one of the guards in the tower. The problem was the air raid all clear had not gone in the camp. It had gone down in Bankau. In the village three quarters of a mile away and it had been heard there and he thought it was the camp all clear. And that’s why he went out and he was killed as well. That guard disappeared from the camp. He was never seen again. He probably ended up on the Russian front. I don’t know what happened to him but he was away. And that, that was, that was basically it. And then of course we we occupied our time in the usual ways. We had the compound where we, in the centre was was laid out like a football pitch. It could be used as a football pitch. I played rugby on it. I’d played rugby at school. And I played rugby in the RAF on the squadron when I was on it. Now, the bomb aimer he was a Welshman. He was a very keen rugby player and we played quite a few games there. And there was football as well. And of course you walked the compound around to get exercise. And there was a library stocked by the International Red Cross. And there was two or three of the lads from one of the other billets had actually made a Monopoly set by hand. They’d hand-made this monopoly set which, and you could borrow it. A room would get it for a night and it would go around. Played a lot of Bridge. The Bridge situation. The last time I played bridge in my life was actually in the prison camp. But it was, it was, well, well organised and well run. And —
AM: What were the theatre shows?
GT: Well, there was there was two, two orchestras in the camp.
AM: Right.
GT: There was a semi-classical orchestra. Violins mainly. And there was a piano accordion orchestra which was run by a Canadian sergeant who had organised that he was a very very good piano accordion and he had about, there was about six accordions in the —
AM: Where did they get they get the instruments from?
GT: Well, the International Red Cross.
AM: Right.
GT: Supplied them and the, we had concerts. And the first concert was opened up in the beginning of November and we had a concert at least once a week. We also had film shows. We had two film shows. One, the Germans actually operated the cinema equipment and the first one we went to they ran, there were three reels and they ran one, three and two. So it was a bit jumbled up. You didn’t know. You saw the end before you saw the middle part. And then at, at Christmas, just before Christmas they had a big do with both orchestras playing and it was, it ran for two nights. We were, I was there the second night and apparently the first night, at the end of the concert the POWs had stood up and sang the national anthem. The night I was there the commandant who was a guest, the German commandant was a guest, he stood up and said, ‘You will not sing your national anthem.’ And the senior British officer who was a chap, Peter Thomson, an Australian he stood up and said, ‘Land of Hope and Glory boys.’ And we sang it three times. Much to the consternation of the Germans who couldn’t get out of the place. And they opened, they opened the windows and they said it was actually heard down in Bankau three quarters of a mile away. Because the whole, the whole camp took it up at that time and by this time there was fifteen hundred in the camp. And if you can imagine fifteen hundred voices singing Land of Hope and Glory. So that was it. And then we, there was a [pause] my rear gunner was not in a, we were in block number one and my rear gunner was in block number seven. And it was, he was, the room he was in was mainly Canadians and they applied to the International Red Cross for skates. And they got six pairs of skates but they couldn’t use them. So they applied to the German authority for permission to build an ice rink. And it was duly granted and they started building this ice rink between two of their, two of their accommodation blocks. And they were piling up the sand to create a sort of a well that they could flood. And of course it was so blooming cold at that time it froze over without any bother. What the Germans didn’t realise was that the sand that was being built up also contained sand that was coming out a tunnel that was being dug from one of the barrack blocks. About two weeks after they started on it the actual, the Germans found the tunnel and the thing got scrapped. But we were probably the only camp in Germany I would think, the only POW camp in Germany that actually had an ice rink. And the tunnel would never have been used because by this time through the International Red Cross the message had come out that there was to be no more escapes after the Great Escape took place. And they didn’t want any more situations of that nature. So there were no escapes at all. There was two or three guys did try to escape. One tried to escape under a pile of laundry that went out. And he was found just before he got out of the camp. And another chap tried to get out underneath a truck. And he was found and he was brought back in. There was a block of cells. Six prison cells. You got four days solitary if you were caught doing anything that you shouldn’t have been doing. Anyway, that was it up until the time when it got to January ‘45 and of course the Russians were pushing in from the east. They were coming. Moving towards the west.
AM: Do you want a wee break?
GT: Aye.
AM: Aye.
[recording paused]
AM: George, just before we finish the bit about the camp and move on to the Long March was there any way that prisoners could hear what was going on in the outside world or in the war?
GT: Yeah. I omitted to mention that at Stalag Luft 7 there were about three hundred and eighty odd prisoners moved in from other camps.
AM: Right.
GT: While Stalag Luft 7 was being built they were in temporary camps. Mostly in Army camps. And then they got moved in and a group of them who were moved in actually brought with them their own radio. But one of the, one or two of the wireless operators had managed to build a radio. And the Germans knew that they had this radio but they never could find it. Now, they were moved from an Army camp into Stalag Luft 7 and they obviously were searched when they came into the camp. Never found the radio. When we got moved from the temporary compound in to the main compound again we were all searched before we went in. Our baggage was searched, we were searched and yet within two days of getting in that radio was up and working. And they listened in the BBC two or three times a week. They took the message down in shorthand and then had it typed up and there was a group of POWs who went around the blocks and read this out to the residents in each block and then destroyed the paper. And, and that was it. So we, we got news about three or four times a week from the BBC and we probably knew more about what was going on the war than the Germans actually did.
AM: Really. Amazing.
GT: Yeah. And they still never found that radio. The other thing I should have mentioned was that the Gestapo visited the camp about once a month and the German officers in charge of the camp were always concerned about this. And they used to give us about two days notice of when the Gestapo were coming so that anything that we didn’t want to be found could be hidden away in time. And particularly this radio for example. And the Gestapo would come in, spend the day in the camp. Go through the camp. Search the rooms. They still never found that radio. And as I say the Germans were good enough always to alert us to the fact that the Gestapo were coming because they feared them more than, probably more than we did. If they’d found anything that was illegal they would have been for the chop as well. They’d have been demoted or whatever or sent to the Russian front or wherever they sent these boys to. So that was it.
AM: So, perhaps you could tell us a little about the end of the time in the camp and then move on to the, what’s become known since as the Long March.
GT: Yeah. Well, the, the Long March was by January ’45 it was known that the Russians were pushing on. Moving further west and the Germans had made up their mind that they were going to evacuate the camps and move all the prisoners to the west as well. I never found the rationale behind that because to some extent they could have left us and let the Russians get hold of us. Anyway, by about the middle of January we were alerted to the fact that we might have to move soon. And in fact on the 17th of January we were given one hour’s notice to move. It happened, it didn’t take place. It didn’t take place until the 19th. That was two days we had spare. Some of the boys made sledges out of old bed boards so that they could tow their gear with them. I didn’t want to be bothered with that. The chap I shared the accommodation with in the bunks he didn’t want to be bother with that either. I’d got some spare material. A canvassy type of material. I made a rucksack which I could just put on my back and carry whatever I wanted in it and that was fine. But we eventually moved off from the camp on the 19th of January at 3 o’clock in the morning. And the, it was blowing a blizzard. It was snowing like nothing I’d ever seen before because that part of the country is well for snowdrifts. And we left, as I say about 3 o’clock in the morning and we did sixteen miles before we stopped. We had a couple of breaks on the way for about ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. And then we carried on walking. It was difficult to see where you were going and of course there were guards on either side of us in any event. There was fifteen hundred of us on the road, stringing along. And we had, we’d saved some of our Red Cross parcel material which was pretty sparse anyway. We didn’t get Red Cross parcels every week now. We’d saved some of the material from the Red Cross parcels that we could take with us which is just as well because over the three weeks we were on the road marching we got very little food given us. So we moved on. We did the sixteen miles and it was the middle of the next afternoon before we stopped. And we stopped at a school room, a deserted school room and we slept on the floorboards in the school. There was no furniture in the school room but obviously it had been abandoned and we slept there. And we got some small rations in the morning. And then we moved on again from there and we did another fourteen miles. I think the idea was to get us across the River Oder so that they could blow the bridges and stop the Russians from getting across. It didn’t stop the Russians anyway. But the third day we actually got across the Oder and we then spent that other night in a farm. Barns. A working farm but we were in the barns. I buddied up with a chap that — a fellow, Geoff Lee. A New Zealand pilot who was in Coastal Command. And the interesting thing was that I’d actually seen him being shot down a fortnight before we were shot down on the newsreel in the station cinema. It was, they showed in the newsreel a piece that was a Coastal Command attack on on German shipping going up the German coastline. And he was, he was flying a Bristol Beaufort and he and his navigator made this attack and they got, they got struck and he more or less went straight in. And Bristol Beauforts were not known for their floatability. But it stayed afloat long enough for him to get out. And the navigator sat behind him in a separate compartment and his only way out was through a hatch in the bottom. And Geoff, having got out then went down to see if he could find where the navigator had gone, and never saw. Never found. The door was open but the navigator had gone. Never saw him again. And of course he got picked up by the Germans within, they were only about a half a mile off the shore. And when I arrived in Stalag Luft 7 at the temporary camp he was the fellow I was sleeping next to. Geoff Lee. And we just kept together after that. But I went out to New Zealand and spent some time with Geoff and his wife after the war with my wife. So we didn’t do too bad. Anyway we had these, these days of walking and days of resting. We’d only one two day pause when we actually stopped and didn’t move on for two days. And we got some very sparse rations. The [pause] Geoff had been a farmer. He, he didn’t have a farm of his own but he worked on a farm in New Zealand and one of the nights that we spent in this farm building he said to me, ‘Let’s go and sleep with the cattle.’ So we went into the section where the cattle was and bedded down with them because it was warm. And it was fine. And he also went scouting around and he got some molasses which was of course fed to the cattle. And we just ate some of the molasses as well. Gave us something to put in to our stomachs. And then we moved on from there and we were three weeks on the road. They kept promising us that we’d get transport but we never really got it. The third day we were out in the camp there were about sixty of the POWs were so desperately ill that they had to, they put them into what had been a civilian hospital and left them there. And they would actually have been overrun by the Russians in time. And the rest of us just beavered on. They had one horse and a cart that could pick up folk that couldn’t walk any further but mostly carried on. I think probably at the end of the day we lost about eighty out of the fifteen hundred who were left behind. I think one or two of them actually died. I’ve no record of that but I read an article at one time that said that forty or fifty had died but I had no knowledge of that at all. I never heard any message to that effect. Anyway, we eventually got on to a place called Goldberg and we were there for a couple of nights. And then they organised a train from there. And of course it was a cattle train. Cattle waggons. Fifty five men to a cattle wagon. And we got on to this train and we were taken from there going further west over three days. We stopped at night and they would let us out at night for a spell. Then back into the trucks and lock us up again. But we eventually got to a place about thirty miles southeast of Berlin. And that was a village called Luckenwalde and there was a prison camp there and we were stuck in it. Now compared with the one we left at Stalag Luft 7 which was to some extents palatial Luckenwalde was the pits. It was an ex-Army camp occupied by the French and the French by the time we got there there was about three thousand British and American POWs who’d been evacuated from their camps and had walked west. We got there and we were in huts that occupied just about three hundred to a hut in three tier beds in blocks of nine. And it was the filthiest place I’ve ever been in. Within twenty four hours we were all covered in body lice. Every one of us. And we never got rid of them until we got back to this country. We’d been there about, probably about three weeks when half way through the third week when our block with three hundred in it were told we were being moved again. And we were taken down to the station and loaded on to cattle trucks once more. And we stayed there for three days. They couldn’t move us because [pause] we didn’t know what was happening. We had no idea what was going on. And most of the guards that were there were German Dad’s Army guards. And there was wire fencing around the part where the cattle trucks were and occasionally the villagers would come down and stare at us, you know. Look through the fence. See what we were like. Were we human? Whether we had two heads. And some of the prisoners would do a deal when the civilians that come down. And you got two tins of coffee in your Red Cross parcels and they were, they each contained two ounces of concentrated coffee. You used to be able to get them in this country.
AM: Camp coffee.
GT: That’s right. It was, it was crystallised coffee.
AM: Right.
GT: Anyway, they used to trade these for eggs. A tin of coffee would get you half a dozen eggs and that was fine. The only problem was that the civilians when they got back opened up their coffee it wasn’t coffee that was in it at all. It was sand. And they couldn’t come back and complain.
AM: No.
GT: There was also one guy. An Australian pilot. We were allowed out of the vans most of the day and he, he got chatting with one of the guards who was a sort of German Dad’s Army type and asked to see his rifle. And the guy handed it over. And the Australian fella had a look at the rifle. Aye, it’s fine. Handed it back to him. He kept the bolt. The bolt was, the rifle was useless without the bolt but the guard didn’t know he had no bolt in his rifle when he got It back. Anyway, we were there for three days and got moved back to the camp. And there’s a book which I’ve got a copy of, it’s called, ‘Footprints on the Sand of Time.’ And it gives you a bit about each camp in it and also lists all Bomber Command prisoners of war from day one right through to the end. And it tells you in this article that this group that were being moved from Luckenwalde were intended to go to be taken to Berlin to be held as hostages. They couldn’t get us there because the Americans had bombed the railway line and there was no way they could get us there so we got back up to the camp. But the camp was a pretty filthy place as I say. When we got there originally we were desperate for food and the, we discovered that the French prisoners that were in the camp had quite a stack of Red Cross parcels and they wouldn’t hand any of them over. And a senior British officer had words with the German command and eventually the Germans went in and took the parcels and handed them over to us and left the French short of parcels. So we got some food. I’ve got a note here of what we actually got to eat on the way. The rations that we were given on the three week march consisted of, from the Germans three loaves of bread, four packets of crack bake. Crack bake was something similar to Ryvita.
AM: Yeah. Yeah.
GT: A packet of small biscuits, four plates of porridge and a cup of barley. And that was all we got in the three weeks apart from what we could scrounge ourselves. So we were there until, again the Russians were continuing to move to the west. And it was known that the Russians would eventually reach Luckenwalde as well. And they did reach us. Around about April ’45 they came into the camp. We woke up one morning and the guards had gone. We were left on our own and that same morning the Russians came into the camp. And the next day they brought in two vans loaded with rifles to hand out to us. And we told them to go and get lost. We weren’t going to start fighting with the Russians. Alongside the Russians. And that same day an American press photographer in a jeep with a driver had got lost and they found the camp. And they decided that they would hightail it back to the American lines. The Elbe, just southeast of Berlin. Apparently the arrangement was that the Americans would move up to the west bank of the Elbe and the Russians would move up to the east bank and this newspaper reporter hightailed it back to the Americans. And the next day the Americans sent a fleet of trucks to take away the sick and the wounded and the Russians opened fire on them. Drove them back. Kept us there for a month. Didn’t supply any rations. They gave the camp two horses and a cart and we had to go and find our own food. There was a group set up that did that around the farmyards and got whatever they could. And apparently the Russians wanted to have an exchange of prisoners. The Russian prisoners were very far and few between and there was three thousand of us British and American. And apparently the Americans of course did not have three thousand prisoners. So my understanding is that they actually crossed the Elbe and took sufficient prisoners to make up three thousand. And then said to the Russians, ‘We can do an exchange. We’ve got three thousand prisoners.’ And after a month in the prison camp with the Russians there some lads tried to get out of the camp and make their own way. But some were successful and some weren’t. After a month we were loaded on to trucks and the Russians drove us up to the Elbe and we walked across one pontoon bridge and the Russian prisoners walked across another pontoon bridge about fifty yards down river. And I don’t think any of these Russian prisoners lasted more than a month.
AM: No.
GT: They were sent to gulags or shot but they weren’t, the Russians didn’t believe in the International Red Cross. They didn’t supply food to their own prisoners or anything of that sort.
AM: No.
GT: That was it. So we were taken then. The Americans then took us to a place called [unclear] which was a small, well a reasonable size town but outside the town there was a Luftwaffe fighter base. And we were there for three days having the option of eating white bread for a change. And we were well fed and then after three days they flew us in a fleet of Dakotas down to Brussels. Our aircraft was the last, probably the last one to land because they, they either didn’t have a navigator or the navigator didn’t know where he was going. We landed at the airport and we taxied to the end of the runway and the pilot said — there was only twelve of us in the plane. We were, as I say the last one out. Most of the planes were carrying twenty or twenty four. We got out and we were standing at the end of the runway wondering what to do. We could see at the far end where we should have been. There had been a band there to welcome us in and it had packed up and gone away. And eventually an RAF Regiment sergeant arrived on a bike and said, ‘What are you all doing here? You shouldn’t be here. You should be up at the other end. Get moving and get up there.’ So we told him what to do with his bike and offered to help him do it. And he decided that prudence was the better option and he just disappeared. There was a Lockheed Hudson parked at the end of the runway and the pilot came across to me and he said ‘What are you lot?’ And I said, ‘We’re prisoners of war that are trying to get home.’ He said, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘What squadron were you on?’ I said, ‘15.’ He said, ‘So was I at one time.’ he said, ‘I was on 15 for a while,’ he said, ‘Get aboard.’ So he loaded the twelve of us in to this Lockheed Hudson and took off. And he called up Brussels Airport and said, ‘I’ve got prisoners of war. Where do I take them to?’ He was told to land immediately and bring them back. The other POWs that were, that had landed in the other Dakotas were kept there. They were about three days in Brussels before they got flown home. So this pilot just switched off and carried on flying over to England and then called up and said, ‘I’ve got prisoners of war aboard. Where do I take them to?’ And he was directed to Westcott in Buckinghamshire which had been our OTU. And we landed there and they were expecting about four or five hundred coming in and of course there were only the twelve of us. And we were taken into this big hangar and it was set out, two big long tables set out for meals. Anyway, they did give us a meal. They deloused us first of all. That was the important thing. And then we went in and had a meal. Then the two doctors came in and checked us out. And one of them said to me, he said, ‘I know you,’ he said, ‘You stay in Giffnock.’ I said, ‘Well, my parents stay in Giffnock and they’re still there.’ He said, ‘I used to see you going to school.’ He said, ‘Who was your doctor?’ I said, ‘Dr Armstrong.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘That was a different practice.’ Armstrong actually operated on his own. He was in Eastwoodmains Road and the old Eastwood School which had just opened off Eastwoodmains Road. And it’s about three miles away from where it is now. His practice was up there and he apparently used to see me. And how he recognised me I don’t know because I hadn’t had a hair cut in about two months. And anyway he said, ‘Well, we’re not going to keep you here. We’re going to give you, take the bus into London and you’ll get a train up to RAF Cosford in Shropshire.’ So we got taken into London. We got ten shillings each and we got taken into London and we had about an hour and a half to wait for our train. So we all disappeared into the bar. And after two and a half pints I was getting a bit puggled. And I obviously wasn’t thinking straight because in the bar there must have been a loo. But I left the bar and went out into the station to look for a loo. And of course I was in my decrepit battle dress. I didn’t wear a regulation shirt. I was wearing a navy blue towelling shirt which I always flew in and I got stopped by two military police. Army military police. ‘Where are you from?’ I said, ‘Well, from Germany. Ex- prisoner of war.’ And by this time two or three civilians had gathered around to hear the conversation and three or four of the lads in the bar had missed me and they came out to look for me. So when the, the Army police saw the others coming out they just disappeared. They thought let’s get out of here. So we got taken back in to the bar by some of the civilians that had gathered around us and bought more drinks. Eventually got on the train up to RAF Cosford. Probably about 8 o’clock at night. We had a, a meal and our uniforms were taken away from us and we were measured for new uniforms. And we had a medical and then went to bed in Nissen huts. And the next morning we got up and had breakfast and collected our new uniforms which were brand new. Correct badges up on them. Correct stripes on them as well. Even to the point where one chap, I can’t remember his surname but it might have been Gibson but anyway his first, his initials were VC. Victor. I don’t know what the C was for. But he was registered as Gibson, VC. And he got his new uniform with a VC on it. Which of course he protested about and had it taken off. And at lunchtime that day I was on my way home. We were only there overnight and sent on my way home and got home later that day. And spent, spent about two or three months in between times going up and down to RAF Cosford for checks. And then eventually I got a message to report to London. To a hotel in London. Went down there. This was around about the end of October, early November and I met up with my flight engineer at this hotel occupied by Army personnel. And I said to this Army guy at the door when I went in, I said, ‘What sort of a place is this?’ He said, ‘It’s for overseas postings.’ I said, ‘You must be joking,’ I said, ‘I’m not going to an overseas posting.’ He said, ‘You’re two floors up.’ So we went up and all they wanted to know from both of us was had we got any assistance when we were on the loose in Germany. The eight days we were. And we said no. ‘Well, that’s fine. Thank you very much. Off you go.’ They didn’t need to bother to call us down to London to find out that information. And then back home. And eventually I got another posting to go down to a refresher course. And went down to this refresher course and met up with my bomb aimer. And we were both in this so-called refresher course. It lasted a month and it was a total waste of time. And at the end of the month John of course he had joined the Air Force in 1937 as a boy apprentice. Trained as an engineer and then volunteered for aircrew. And the flight engineer was the same. He was the same. So the two of them actually stayed on. John still had three years to do of his service. So he stayed on and I was taken in to, the day that John left I was pulled into a remustering room. I saw this flight lieutenant and he said, ‘Well, you realise Thomson that you won’t be flying again.’ And he said, ‘You’ll have to remuster. I’m supposed to remuster you as a clerk general duties.’ I said, ‘Over my dead body I’ll remuster as a clerk,’ I said, ‘I joined the Air Force to fly. Well, you can’t get out because you’ve only been a prisoner for nine and a half months and you’ve got to be a prisoner for twelve months you got an immediate discharge when you came back. Anything less than nine and a half months you still had to do your time. So I refused to accept his remustering and I was pulled into the, the squadron leader the next day who was in charge of the remustering group. And his opening remarks were, ‘You’re making a bit of a nuisance of yourself, Thomson.’ I said, ‘No,’ I said, ‘I’m not.’ I said, ‘The guy I saw yesterday was, he wanted to remuster me as a clerk. I didn’t join the air force to be a clerk.’ So he went through the usual gammit, ‘You’ve only been a prisoner for nine and a half months and you can’t.’ He was looking at my file and he said, ‘Oh I see you stayed in Giffnock.’ I said ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘My parents live in Giffnock and I stay there.’ He said, ‘Do you know a family called Whitelaw?’ I said, ‘Yes. They stay in Braidholm Road. And there’s two girls in the family and one was at school with me.’ He said, ‘Oh. They’re my nieces.’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘What is it that you want?’ I said, ‘Out.’ And he signed my papers and I got out. It took me three weeks to get out mind you but my wireless operator did another six months before he got out and he was driving trucks around England. He was re-mustered as a driver. And Spag, the rear gunner he got out because he’d been medically unwell. He was older. He was actually thirty nine when he was flying with us. So he really shouldn’t have been there at all. And that was, that was it.
AM: What did you do after the war?
GT: I went back to the bank. I was in the bank before I went into the air force. Went back to the bank. The interesting thing was I think because of the Air Force training I got it was concentrated training. I mean we did, my initial training was at Scarborough. I had twelve weeks in Scarborough. And then I went to Bridgnorth to Elementary Air Navigation School which was a ground school and spent nine weeks there at Elementary Air Navigation. And then went from there to Northern Ireland for flying training. And eventually went back down to, posted from there to Westcott, Bucks for Operational Training Unit where we crewed up. And that was it then. Went from there down to Shrops, to Suffolk and went to various bases we were in. We were on Wellingtons when we were at Westcott and then we went down there and went onto Stirlings. And we spent quite a bit of time on Stirlings and then went converted on to Lancasters before we went to the Squadron.
AM: Right. Just —
GT: There was a body operating in Wales called Hero’s Return. And I heard about it through the Aircrew Association. And I phoned this Hero’s Return place in Wales and I said, ‘I would like to go and visit my pilot’s grave.’ I knew where it was. It was in a place called Dürnbach. Forty miles south of Munich. And he said, they said, ‘Yeah. Well you can do that. We can finance that for you.’ And I said, ‘My wife would like to go too.’ ‘That’s alright. We can do it for both of you.’ So I phoned my bomb aimer who was in South Wales and I told him and he got in touch with them. And it was arranged that the three of us would go and they paid seventy percent of our costs and we, one of the problems at Dürnbach, outside Munich was that the, it was difficult to get accommodation with a large lake. I think it was called Titisee but I’m not very sure about that.
AM: It is Titisee. Yeah.
GT: It is Titisee isn’t it.
AM: Yeah.
GT: And my travel agent in Helensburgh at that time eventually got us accommodation which she got three places and we had to pick one. And we picked the one that we thought was best located. It was halfway up a mountain because it was a ski resort. And Titisee is used by the people from Munich as a weekend resort and it’s not a place for English tourists. So we got there eventually and we had a mix up getting there because the original plan was the travel agent told us how to get there. Fly to Munich Airport. Take the train in from the airport to Munich. It’s about an hour in the train in to Munich and get a train from there down to Titisee. So we, John, but John had, his legs were not very good and he had arranged that he would get transport when he was in the airports. So when we got to Munich there was a chap waiting for him with a wheelchair.
AM: Wheelchair.
GT: And we were walking along and this this chap said, he was German of course, he said, ‘Where are you going to?’ And we said, ‘We’re going to Munich. We were going to get the train to Munich. He said, ‘You don’t want to get a train to Munich,’ he said, ‘You want to get a bus.’ He said, ‘I’ll take you to the bus. And it’ll take you to Munich quicker than the train will.’ So we got on the bus and I was paying for the three of us and the driver said to me, ‘Where are you going to?’ And I said, ‘Well, we’re going to Munich and then we’re getting a train down to Titisee.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘You don’t want to get the train.’ He said, ‘There’s a bus that’ll come in behind me at Munich. Get on the bus and that’ll take you down there.’ So we did that. And we got down. The only trouble was it went down the wrong side of Titisee and it went right around the whole lake before we got to our destination. Anyway, we got a taxi up to the hotel. We got in to the hotel no bother at all and we were getting the middle of the afternoon. And after we were in our rooms I went down to reception. There was a lad at reception he was probably in his mid-30s and I said to him, ‘What time’s dinner?’ He said, ‘We don’t do dinner.’ They had two dining rooms but they didn’t do dinner. I said, ‘Oh.’ He said, ‘Well, don’t worry,’ he said, ‘I will take you down to the village.’ He said, ‘There’s plenty of pubs in the village. If you went to the pub, have a drink, have a meal, have a drink and get a taxi back up.’ ‘Fine. We’ll do that.’ So we did that and we came back up after 10 o’clock at night when we got back up and he was still in reception. And when John went to his bed I said to my wife, I said, ‘I’m going to go down and have a word with this guy.’ So I went down. I said to him, ‘I should tell you why we’re here. We’re here because I want to visit my pilot’s grave,’ The mid-upper gunner was buried beside him as well, I said, ‘At Dürnbach.’ I said, ‘I know it’s about eight or nine miles from here but,’ I said, ‘How do I go? Do I take a train or do I get a bus or do I take a taxi?’ He said, ‘No. Don’t do any of these things. I will take you.’ So the next day he took a day off and he took us there just after lunch. And he stayed with, he came into the British War Cemetery. He came into the cemetery with us and he stayed with us and then he brought us back up to the hotel. And on the way back up he said, ‘Would you like a meal tonight?’ And John said, ‘I thought you didn’t do meals.’ He said, ‘I can do a cold meal.’ So John said, ‘That’ll be fine. A cold meal would suit me.’ So we all agreed to have a cold meal. So he said, ‘Come down at half past seven. And go into the smaller dining room.’ So we came down at half past seven and went in to the smaller dining room. And there was a big round table set out with plates of various cold meats on it, a bottle of wine, coffee cups and such like. And then this chap came in with a bottle of schnapps and we had a glass of schnapps each before we had our meal. We had the meal and we got a sweet after it and he came back in and gave us another glass of schnapps, and that was it. And he didn’t charge us for the meal. We paid our normal bill for the accommodation and that but that was all. And it couldn’t have been better. So I came back and I told the travel agents when I got back that, ‘Don’t send anybody to Titisee by train. Tell them to go by bus.’
AM: I think, George that’s a remarkable way to finish a remarkable.
GT: Yeah.
AM: Story. Thank you.
GT: My pleasure.

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Citation

Alastair Montgomery, “Interview with George Thomson. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 26, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11716.

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