How we took the good news from Grosse Tychow to Fallingbostel

BRoomCARoomCAv1.pdf

Title

How we took the good news from Grosse Tychow to Fallingbostel
The army that didn't march on its stomach
The Russians are coming, Hurrah, Hurrah!

Description

A diary of the forced march undertaken by prisoners of war 6 February 1945 to 26 April 1945

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Contributor

Steve Baldwin

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

28 typewritten sheets

Language

Identifier

BRoomCARoomCAv1

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

[inserted] [signature] P/D. [/inserted]
[inserted] Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III Sagan, Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug, Stalag Luft IV Gross Tyschow [sic], Stalag 357, Fallingbostel. [/inserted]
[underlined] HOW WE TOOK THE GOOD NEWS FROM GROSSE TYCHOW TO FALLINGBOSTEL [/underlined]
OR
[underlined] THE ARMY THAT DIDN’T MARCH ON ITS STOMACH [/underlined]
OR
[underlined] THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, HURRAH, HURRAH [/underlined]!
AN AUTHENTIC DIARY OF THE FORCED MARCH UNDERTAKEN BY ROYAL AIR FORCE P.O.W.S – COMPILED BY W/O C.A. ROOM.

1945 6th Feb.
[inserted] from Stalag Luft Gross Tyschow [sic]
Camp leader crashes into the barrack at 12:30 a.m. and wakes the whole lot of us, with the news that we’re being evacuated on foot at 12 noon today. What a bloody panic! Everyone tears around and has a woof of all outstanding grub (if any). Frank thinks of nothing else but a cup of char, and on goes the jug, and we bung ion all the tea and condensed milk we’ve got. You can stand a spoon upright in the old cup! Then we all climb back into bed again to dream of what lies ahead.

Up bright and early, no-one can sleep, and we make last-minute adjustments to the home-made packs (towel and braces), in which we are carrying our pathetic bundles. Room the Refugee! Roll the two blankets up and after a hasty meal of warm spuds in their jackets, plus straw, dirt and grass, we all pile out for Roll-Call. Move off at 11:30 a.m. into the Vorlager, and we pass a line of sentry-boxes standing empty and desolate. Never thought we’d ever see them empty like this! We are issued with a full Red Cross pa rcel[sic] of food and one-third of a loaf of bread, the first bread we’ve seen for a month. Pass by the sick-bay where a couple of hundred of the boys are being left behind without protection to await the arrival of the Russians. Then at 12:30 p.m. we set course. The roads are covered in ice, slush, snow and what have you. We pass over the Neifhside Road, scene of the famous “Run up the Road” on 19th July, 1944. First eleven kilos are covered in good time, we are all feeling fresh, then we strike out across muddy fields and cart tracks to Naffin, where we are bunged into barns for the night. Caked in mud and snow, and the old decrepit German cart plus sledge are bogged in the lane. We couldn’t care less! Arbeits Kommando 957, Stalag 111D is situated on the road and we meet French and Canadian P.O.W.s. No food issued by the horrible goons and I have to creep unobserved into the cowshed to get a cup of cold water! Wizard sleep, we’re all dead tired, and during the night a ruddy rat bites me on the cheek, gnawing his way through the straw, one blanket, pullover, scarf and cap. Some teeth!
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7th Feb. 11 Miles
Up quite early and we have a slice of bread and cheese before we set out at 9 a.m. Bach up mud-caked lane and across a ploughed field to reach the main road. My feet weigh at least 5 lbs. each with the good German soil adhering to them. Rain and sleet for 8 miles and everyone thoroughly miserable. We shall be sleeping in wet blankets to-night but on a cart. Everyone is stiff and aching from the first day’s march and after a gruelling 17 miles we reach Reselkow. Another Kommando from Stalag 11D here, and we meet Canadians from Dieppe. Bloody awful night, no room in barn, a nd[sic] again no food from Jerry. Jack and I have had two slices of bread to-day and a cup of coffee, (wet and warm). Wet and uncomfortable and boy, do my feet and legs ache! Every picture tells a story.
17 Miles
8th Feb. Off we go a t[sic] 9.a.m. Stolzenburg 10:15 a.m. and at noon we reach the main Stettin-Danzig road. Turn left towards Stettin (70 miles) and we have an opportunity to see how long the column is – 2,000 men, three abreast take up an awful lot of roads. Meet many evacuees from the East, with their pathetic heap of belongings piled on to a make-shift cart, drawn by a horse which looks as though it will drop dead at any moment. We’re just as tired too! While we are having a break for “lunch”, one slice of bread and cheese – a load of French P.O.W.s come along the road begging cigarettes from us. They fight among themselves to grab those we offer before the German guards hustle them along. I break the ice on a puddle to get a cup of moderately clean water, my thirst is so great. Hobenfier at 5:30 p.m. after 17 miles, where we expect to bed down for the night. Everyone on his knees, with aching legs, and sore and blistered feet, and tired, wet and miserable. Join the Air Force and Fly! Almost collapse when we learn we have to march another three miles over a road knee-deep in snow, to an outlying farm. Jack and I end up in a chaff-cutting shed, with Swedes, turnips and mangolds all around us. Wash our feet in hot water brought to us by a Russian slave worker and I take the old boots off for the first time since we set out. I regret it later on! German guard brings in a bucket of soup for the dogs guarding us. The dogs didn’t even see the soup, some hungry P.O.W.s woofed the whole lot.
20 Miles
9th Feb. Some stupid German calls us at 6 a.m., with the news that we are marching at 7 a.m. We are due for a day’s rest after three days of marching, and I almost weep, after the gruelling day we had yesterday. However, it is later altered
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9th Feb. to a day of rest and I’m back on the straw in no time. spuds issued both morning and afternoon. Bandage my feet and remain horizontal for the rest of the day.
NIL
10th Feb. Set off a t[sic] 7 a.m. and reach the main road at 8 a.m. Convoys of Army pontoon and soldiers going West, presumably retreating from Joe’s onward drive. One mile on main road to Stettin then turn due West towards Greifenburg, along a rough and muddy road. 1/4 loaf per man issued here and then we pass through a small village where buckets of cold water, fruit juice and hot ersatz coffee are left by the roadside. What has come over the Germans? Any other time they would have spat at us without hesitation accompanying their spitting efforts with remarks such as “Luftgangsters”, “Terrorfliegers”, etc. Reach Probbilow at 4:30 p.m. and the Frau supplies hot water to 100 of us. Have my first wash for five days. Feet very wet and blisters still troublesome.
13 Miles
11th Feb. Set off at 8:15 a.m., roads icy, but dry. Sun shining and the blokes are decidedly more cheerful. Griefenburg reached at 10 a.m., first big town we’ve passed through. I jump on to the pavement to dodge a lorry and get shoved into the gutter by a particularly nasty-looking civilian, Swear under my breath. We see some Frenchmen wearing the flash of the Free French Forces in Germany! Dozens of evacuees on the roads. Reach Kukahn at 2 p.m. and we split up into parties of 100 for each barn in the village. While Jack gets our bed ready, I hobble around the yard and find a French prisoner. Out comes my best French and he comes across with a huge sandwich full of sausage and onions. Just like giving me a three course dinner and Jack and I knock it back at once. Spuds and hot water brought out by the Hausfrau but it’s far too cold to strip off and wash. We sleep under a haycart and spend a comfortable night.
13 Miles
12th Feb. Jack’s birthday to-day, he’s 24. Gets an extra cup of water from me for a present, all I can afford! We hit the road at 8 a.m. and hike through a wood for three miles. Volzin at 9 a.m., Dorphagen at 10:15 a.m. One cup of hot macaroni soup issued from mobile field kitchen, very nice but I could drink ten cups and still want more. Lutzenhagen at 12:30 p.m. and reach Goerke at 4 p.m. where we have booked rooms for the night. Jack and I sleep in the chaff-cutting joint once more, next to the cowshed. Wizard bed and my French gets us some onions, bread and milk from a French P.O.W. Comfortable night and woken up at 6:30 a.m. by French
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12th Feb. and Polish prisoners from the farm who want to cut the chaff and turnips.
13 miles
13th Feb. A day of rest, thank heaven! Some generous French prisoners give Jack and Myself some porridge and milk, fried spuds and onions. Only decent meal we’ve had for nearly five weeks. We purchase a small sheep for 50 marks from the farmer and the boys slaughter it. Divided among 600 men, and my share is as big as a sugar knob. 100 German officers and men have 4 sheep between them. Higher mathematics as taught by the Fuehrer! Kicked out of our comfortable quarters by an irate farmer who has caught the boys milking his cows. They drained ‘em dry. Deadly night in an old barn, about three feet of straw between Jack and I, on a slope as well. We swear at each other during the night.
NIL
14th Feb. The “Gentlemen Tramps” move off a t[sic] the respectable hour of 10 a.m., and cover three miles through ankle-deep mud. Then three more miles through a rainstorm and blankets and clothes very, very wet. We’re not going very far to-day, finish at noon and the Germans issue 1/7 lb. of margarine, six dry biscuits (no bread available) and 1/5 lb. of corned beef. I smell a big rat! Billeted at Dobberphul where the barn leaks like a sieve and rats, and other livestock play a lively tattoo on my chest all night. First taste of bartering. Hobnob with an attractive fraulein who lives on the farm and for one square of chocolate she gives me an egg and 1/3 of a loaf of bread. Wizard!
6 Miles
15th Feb. My 25th B irthday[sic] to-day, my aching back, I feel as though I’m 55! Off we got at 7:45 a.m. and hit the main SWINEMUNDE road. On to Tessin at 10a.m. and here we pass three dead horses on the road. Not much left of them, and the dogs attached to the column have a nibble as they go by. I turn my nose up although I’m pretty hungry. If it was a dead bullock, I mught [sic] have a go, my mother wouldn’t know! Go through Hagen at 10:30 a.m., last town on the mainland, and then we cross the bridge to the island and crawl through Wollin. The Huns graciously allow us to rest outside the town, after a five mile stretch. We plod on and on and at 5 p.m. we reach Pritter, 2-1/2 miles from the port of Swinemunde. Record run to-day so my feet tell me, anyway. No accommodation in barns so we rough it out in the open, or cleared woodland. Make a tent from bracken but it falls down.
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15th Feb. Cup of soup from mobile kitchen then Jack and I curl up together and we kip down on the grass with my overcoat beneath us. Heavy frost at night and we wake up absolutely frozen. Obviously! Can hardly feel my feet. There are some 1,800 of our party here along with 800 Tommies and Russians whom we picked up in ghe [sic] afternoon. Much stealing goes on, blokes lose their food and belongings. It’s tragic when a person robs his pals through hunger. We’ll stick it on the Reparations Bill when it’s all over.
24 Miles
16th Feb. [inserted] What a birthday! 22 today. [/inserted] Up at 6:30 a.m. and hobbling down the main road by 7:30 a.m. After an hour’s march, we reach Swinemunde, the great Baltic Port. The ferry to the second island isn’t due for three hours, so we hang around and wait. We’ve had nothing to eat or drink to-day and the German soldiers and civilians try and sell us cold water for 5 cigarettes a cup. We prefer to go thirsty. We jump on the ferry at 11:30 and as soon as we get comfortable downstairs, it’s time to get off again! On the island, a German soldier sells me 1/6 of a loaf of bread for 20 cigarettes! Sheer robbery but Jack and I are feeling pretty hungry. March through Zirchow at noon and we pass huge Naval barracks where the boys of the Kriegsmarine line up and watch us go by with arrogance written all over them. At Crenzow we go into barns and Jack and myself secure a comfortable berth underneath the threshing machine. We corner a Russian and buy two cattle cakes from him for five cigarettes. With a splash of jam on them they are quite appetising. Amazing what we do eat these days. Hot water dished up.
12-1/2 Miles
17th Feb. Away by 8:30 a.m. and through Usedom at noon after a wea ry[sic] monotonous plod. Last town before the mainland and cross the Parge Bridge at 1 p.m. On cobblestones for five miles and my poor feet suffer! I might as well walk on a bed of nails, it couldn’t hurt any more. Plenty of F.W.190’s and Me. 109’s circling above us, and we pass by their aerodrome. Everyone tired and brassed off after the long trek of the previous two days. Boots drying out at las t[sic], but I’ve lost the heel of one of them and walk with a perpetual limp. At Murchin, we are herded into barns along with the Russians from Luft 4. Accommodation terrible, no room at all and during the night the Russians crawl over and do a spot of grub-lifting. We’re hungry enough but they’re a darn sight hungrier. The food stakes are grim at the moment. Hardly any cold water available, and no hot water at all. Five rotten spuds given to each man. Cold and miserable and morale low at the moment.
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18th Feb. Set course a t[sic] 9:15 a.m. and after five miles, we reach Anklam which has been pounded by the Yanks quite a few times. Plenty of evidence here and the civilians give us particularly sour looks. One old gaffer waves his walking stick threateningly, quite near me, and I put on a spurt. My poor old feet complain too! Weary hike for another 8 miles to Nerdin where we are rewarded with a good barn and a generous farmer for a pleasant change. Hot water in a tub and I have a shave, wash and even clean my teeth in a small pig sty and Jack finds six old spuds in a trough so we go to town. Wizard soup made in a milk tin from spuds, hot water, one onion and breadcrumbs. Funny how a wash, shave and some food send our morale up by leaps and bounds.
13 Miles
19th Feb. Cup of coffee and some soup before we leave a t[sic] 7:30 a.m. Learn tha t[sic] the German High Command have ordered all Burgomasters not to issue spuds to prisoners so we’re in a sorry spot. If we have to rely on our minute quantities of Red Cross food we’ll never see England again; I’m sure of it. Several blokes have disappeared from the column, we get smaller every day. Where the hell they are, we don’t know.
Bit risky, buzzing off at the moment with the food situation as it is, and the Germans are rather panicky with the trigger finger. Dead straight road for nine miles, terribly monotonous. Long “lunch” interval, the Germans must be getting tired as well. Not much use giving us all this time, we’ve nothing to eat, might as well go on walking nearer home. Turn off to main Berlin-Neubrandenburg road. Berlin is 100 miles to the S.W. Walk through woods later, pas t[sic] Italian P.W. camp and here we see a brutal German guard flogging a dog with a whip and a stick and hate written all over his ugly face. Reach a farm at Seltz, but no room for us there. Issued with a cup of hot green water (pea soup) from the mobile kitchen and then we plod on by moonlight with the boys singing some good old Army songs. After three miles we hit Hermannshobe and its deadly trying to fix up some sleeping space in the darkness. Jack and I end up in a cellar with cobwebs and rats all over the shop. Some bright spark decides that “our cellar” is the latrine during the night. I never swore so much in all my life.
18 Miles
20th Feb. Day of rest is proclaimed and about time too. We’ve been on the plod for six days and our plates of meat are crying out for a break. I pinch a cup of fresh milk from a willing cow in the cowshed and after seven spuds for breakfast I’m violently sick. We’ve had very little food lately and a big “woof” of spuds was too much for me. I sell Auntie’s blue pullover that I was wea ring[sic] when I was shot down, and a couple of Polish slave workers give me 1/2 loaf of bread and some cooked beans. Cold and miserable
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20th Feb. All day so decide on going to bed early. Lots of the boys are cooking the ears of wheat that they’ve stolen from the barn and are trying to make a cereal. Not very successfully however. Learn that we have five miles to cover tomorrow, then sixteen miles the next day to Neubrandenburg where we are due to stay in a Stalag. I’ll believe that when we get there. These Germans change their tactics too many times.
NIL
21st Feb. Off at 9:45 a.m. Miss the soup issue, not enough to go round. First four miles up a muddy cart-tract [sic] and I’m pretty puffed at the end of it. The German guards buy bread in the village. Poor propaganda! They can’t even feed their own troops, let alone us poor prisoners. Do a deal with a guard on the roadside, 1/6 loaf of bread and a hunk of lard for twelve dirty old cigarettes. As sick by the roadside later on. Do I feel grim! Getting pretty weak these days but have to plod on somehow. At Gutskow, we are housed in a decent barn and we get a liberal issue of spuds. At this farm there is a girl who was in Boston, U.S.A. in the middle of January, as an internee and has just been repatriated. What the hell she came back to this mess for, I just can’t imagine! The Yanks look at her goggle-eyed, they can’t believe that she was in the golden States so recently. But they all draw the line at speaking to her. Hot brew and spuds at 5 p.m. and we then hit the hay. For me, it’s the warmest and most comfortable night since we began the hike, but poor old Jack is in a deadly state. He’s been eating someof [sic] the cooked beans that we traded for my pullover and they’re playing havoc with his stomach. I didn’t touch them hungry though I was. He’s up half the night and has job to make the door over the mass of sprawling bodies. Guards refuse to let him out of the barn and it’s just too bad on the bloke sleeping by the door! The beans are given to Geoff next morning, in disgust and the name of Poland stinks a t[sic] the moment.
7 Miles
22nd Feb. A day of Rest! We remain in the pit till la te[sic] then queue for 1-1/2 hours for one cup of lukewarm water. Peel a few spuds in the farmyard and at 4 p.m. we are issued with a cup of soup, hot water and five spuds. I get fatter every day, I don’t think. Anyway, it’s hot, and warms us a little. Put the flag out! The Germans issue some rations – 2/5 loaf of bread, 1/11 lb. meat (stinking corned beef) and 1/4 lb. of margarine. The Army can again march on it’s stomach for a few miles anyway. Jack groggy all day, very weak at the moment – I don’t think I’ve seen him look so ill. Don’t feel so good myself either. Stomach weak and sick three times today.
NIL
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23rd Feb. Ja ck[sic] too ill to march, so gets on sick wagon. Can’t divide our grub in time and he needs someone with him, so I tag along. A very bumpy ride over cart tracks. S/C 8 a.m. and our stomachs turn over several times en route. Pass through village with funeral in progress at the early hour or 9 a.m. [underlined] He [/underlined] doesn’t care who wins the war anyway. Our two horses exhausted after pulling the wagon through deep mud! Change horses and take on four this time. Reminds us of the stage coach era. Kleef Bahnhof 12:30 p.m. Rosenow 1:15. Arrive a t[sic] Briggow, our billet for the night at 3 p.m. and get decent in the barn along with the sick party. Hot water and spuds in the evening and my hunger is appeased somewhat! Auspicious occasion, as I clean my teeth and have a wash in the pig-trough.12 Miles
24th Feb. Programme seems uncertain, so we stay here to-day. Have two cups of soup, two sandwiches and a hot brew. I ever shave and wash and then lay on the straw for the rest of the day, feeling that life is indeed good, compared with the last week or two. Two men taken out during the night with internal trouble and hear later that they passed on. The total number of deaths in now nine, that we know of.
NIL
25th Feb. Rest. Pea soup twice to-day and by evening time, I regret having it. I hate peas, but when there’s nothing else I have to eat them. No chance of a deal of any kind as the guards are watching the slave workers pretty closely. Monotonous day, just laze on the straw. Feeling weak inside but Jack much better than he was.
NIL
26th Feb. T he[sic] Doc works the miracle and up comes a cup of barley at noon, and again at 5 p.m. German Doctor visits the barn during the day and a rranges[sic] for the removal of the worst cases to the hospital. Believe me, you’ve got to be half dead to be among them. I’m not sure which is best – going into dock of carrying on with the hike. With super diplomacy, we carry off a big deal – 1/2 loaf of bread and some cold roast CHICKEN for half a can of coffee and three squares of chocolate. Pierce the German guard and a banquet is ordered. Jack and myself grin at each other with delight. You’d imagine we were at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet eating off his gold plate. Our table manners disappear completely as we greedily woof the legs of the chicken, held in our hands. No time to waste on forks!
NIL
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27th Feb. Still no sign of moving so for breakfast, we finished off the scraps of chicken along with a hunk of Polish bread and margarine that I pinched. Barley again for lunch and at 5p.m. also. Very sleepless night, and we’re very overcrowded, more blokes falling sick every day.
NIL
28th Feb. Hands too damn cold to write. Shivering all day in a very draughty barn into which we moved this morning. One man died to-day from an infection on the knee. Lack of medical supplies now serious. But a ray of sunshine appear s[sic] on this wet, dismal day. A truck of Red Cross parcels a rrive[sic], brought from Lubeck on a wagon supplied by the American Red Cross and driven with Swiss patrol. The Huns can’t give us anything it seems. Issue of one parcel each, they have to last till the end of the march, and heaven knows when tha t[sic] will be. Goody, goody, I have a stand-up bath in the farmer’s kitchen to-day. I had to, due to an accident! The water was lukewarm, about three inches deep, but I’ve a vivid imagination. Feel tons better after it.
NIL
1st Ma r[sic]. Rain and a very high wind to-day, and very cold too. B ut[sic] maybe it’s the fact that our resistance is almost nil. My feet are just frozen the whole time. Barley twice again and I pinch some spuds out of the farmer’s clamp and Des Grealy cooks them for us. We’re so damned hungry, we woof 1-1/2 cans of spuds each. Dirty great holes in the roof and the rain comes in and the wind blows like fury. I wonder what Jon Hall of The Hurricane would do if he were here.
NIL
2nd Mar. Another man dies in hospital. Hands and feet frozen, too cold to peel our few spuds, so we jus t[sic] woof them with the jackets on. Deadly business answering the call of Nature in the open-air. Half a ruddy gale blows around your rear! Not at all funny. Stay under the blanket and overcoat most of the day, warmest place by far.
NIL
3rd Mar. Up at 8 a.m. for a cup of German coffee and some cold cooked spuds. Frozen as usual. I’ve almost forgotten what it is to be warm. At 12:30 p.m. we leave the farm after our long rest. Five miles to Luplow along cart tracks and ploughed fields. At least we are a little warmer on the march. Good billet, eight of us in small barn, and Jack and I cook some s tolen[sic] spuds over a wood fire outside and along with a stolen onion those spuds taste delicious! Comfortable night, but feet cold as usual.
5 Miles
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4th Mar. Up at 7 a.m. and off at 8:30 a.m. in a perishing snowstorm with the slow party, mostly semi-sick wallahs. We go so slowly, I even think a snail would pass us. Our blankets are soon wet, as usual. Decide to rejoin the mob as soon as we can, this pace is killing us! Pass Don having the usual by the roadside in a snowstorm! Bit draughty. See three dead horses by the roadside, dropped dead, brassed off, I presume. Many evacuees from Stettin areas. Get 1/4 loaf from guard for tem battered and broken cigarettes. Slice of bread donated by the only good-hearted Hun in Germany. Vossfeld 1 p.m., Marhin 1?:45 p.m., Musselhagen 2 p.m., Rockow, then Muckelhei for the night. Hot brew as soon as we bed down, feeling tired out, miserable and as weak as a drowned rat. Early night.
14 Miles
5th Mar. Off at 8:30 a.m., with 1/6 loaf of bread and 1/5 parcel of Red Cross food issued on the roadside. I carry the whole parcel for five miles then Ferdie kindly divides it up! Brassed off. Air raid in progress, plenty of fighters and vapour trails at 20,000 feet! Wo ist der Luftwaffe? The USAAF are very much in evidence. Hear the bombs dropping. Lovely sound, but too near for my liking. Waren at 11:30 a.m. long trek through the town and we all feel very hungry at the sight of food in the shops, and civilians woofing in the local restaurant. An old codger gives me a kick in the pants as I go past, apparently he hates us. I can’t do a thing, just swear like fury under by [sic] breath. Pass a S talag[sic] on the other side of town – wish to hell we could go in there. Roads improving now, off the cobblestones that are so prevalent in German towns, but at the same time we’re very much on our knees. Guess we stiffened up when we rested too long. Klink at 3 o’clock then off into the woods and reach Warnhof at 4:30 p.m. Right on our benders. Good barn, we sleep under a wagon but still get trodden on during the night. Norman Stokes crawls 100 yards on hands and knees then has an accident in his pants. Too funny for words! Five spuds and hot water, along with two slices of bread and a biscuit. Some feed to-night.
17-1/2 Miles.
6th Mar. Up at 6:30 a.m. with the usual spuds before we set off at 8:30 a.m. very tired and s tiff[sic] after yesterday’s long trek. Cover 8 miles to Mecklow with only a short rest half way. Then half hour’s rest sitting on the dirt by the roadside. Klim can full of spuds goes down well. Then a long, long hike of nearly ten miles without a rest through Jungershof, Alt Schwerin and Karow, a railway junction. Look longingly at a line of goods trucks drawn up in the station. Sigh-post[sic] by roadside reads Berlin 177K., Neuebrandenburg 80K., Rostock 74K. 7 more dead horses by the road, with the flesh hacked off by hungry dogs, and probably hungry Germans as well. I hope they starve! Reach Walnshof at 4:15 p.m., and Jack and I sleep with the pigs in their sty.
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6th Mar. What a line! – but very warm. Scrounge a can of potato salad from a farm worker (Pole), also a can of milk, all for two cigarettes. I answer the call of Nature on a pig during the night and unconsciously apologize to him. Jack thinks it very amusing. Another air raid during the night.
18 Miles.
7th Mar. The old Day of Rest and are we grateful! A can of real milk for breakfast along with four spuds. A lay down on some straw all morning to rest our aching limbs. Three brews during the day and a can of barley soup that I scrounged from a Polish slave worker. We have a wash and a shave and a general clean up in the sty along with the pigs. The last war wallahs have nothing on us I’m afraid. They can no longer crow about the mud they used to plough through. As is usual when we rest, it’s perishing cold outside. Some of the boys help the old farmer to pull down a tree, presumably hoping for some extra grub. Tree goes down but no grub comes up. The dear, kind Germans issue 1/2 loaf per man and 1/2 oz. margarine per man to last six long days. Jack and I suck two squares of chocolate each in bed, and it lasts twenty minutes. The highlight of my life these days!
NIL
8th Mar. Staying here again to-day, the German High Command must be in a fla t[sic] spin. However, we’re grateful for the respite. Room is out bright and early and in the cowshed pinching a can of milk. I think I’ll join the Land Army for the next war. We lunch early to-day, at 11 a.m., and it’s a two-course effort, one spud and a spoonful of cooked swede! Sew s few buttons on my pants but if any more part company with me, I’ve had it – no wool or cotton left. A few more spuds appear in the evening, moderate ration, plus a can of soup that I buy from a German kiddie for one cigarette. He’ll smoke himself to death before nightfall. I pinch some more milk, but a German farmhand catches me and knocks the whole lot into my face and swears furiously. Didn’t even have the chance to swallow any. Jack finds it amusing but I certainly don’t. Last half bar of chocolate in bed. Never will I be without chocolate when I get home.
NIL
9th Mar. Up at 6 a.m., and a really hot brew this time Ferdy has done well in the old cookhouse, such as it is. Some cats (cooked) come up just before we leave, they help to fill the gap in the stomach. Off on the trot once more at 8:15 a.m., across frozen cart tracks for three miles to Penzlin which we hit at 9:45 a.m. it’s a miracle, there are no broken ankles flying around after that stroll. Gallin railway station at 10:30 a.m., and we look very jealously at a German officer who has jus t[sic] come home on leave to be greeted by his frau. We see a German clad in a warm RAF
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9th Ma r[sic]. Flying coat, exercising horses. For two miles we hit the best road surface yet, all concrete and we step on it. Then through mud, cart tracks and ploughed fields to Diestelow which we reach at 12 noon. Destined to stay here for the rest of the day. Only 11 miles to-day but the rough surface has taken all our energy away. A “woof” of biscuits and corned dickey on arrival, and a brew (good ‘un) comes up in half an hour. Bad dose of diarrhoea (how the hell do you spell it?) For the rest of the day and night it seems as though it’s my turn for dysentery, the complaint most prevalent these days. It’s the “G.I.’s” with a vengeance. Spuds and a can of thick soup during the evening but I can’t touch any. Rather sleepless night, up quite a few times.
11 Miles
10th Mar. Rest to-day, thank heaven! I don’t think I could stagger out of the farmyard to-day, I feel so darn weak and tired. Two spuds at 11 a.m., and a drop of barley. Jack working in the cookhouse to-day, a good thing because he does a deal with the German civvies and brings back 1/2 loaf of bread for 20 cigarettes and a square of chocolate. G.I.’s pretty grim at the moment, visiting the slit trench every hour of more and just make it several times. Air rai at night, very early too and I see the stuff going up when I’m visiting my “second home” outside. Darned insomnia again and I’m up half a dozen times during the night.
NIL
11th Mar. Rest of the column move off but I feel too weak to march so I go on the sick wagon. Divide what bit of grub we have in case I don’t see Jack at the other end. S/C at Pollock and half the column are now quartered, plus the chow wagon. Cup of hot wa ter[sic] there, then on to Lanken, a further three miles, where I rejoin the barrack who catch us up later. The sick wagon is an old wooden affair, a real boneshaker and my stomach suffers – not in silence either. Jump off wagon six times during the journey, making a total of 32 during the last 48 hours. Not fog! Crowded barn but Jack gets past a German guard by jumping the ditch at the back. Drops his cup and faithful walking stick in the sheissen[sic]! Farmer appears later, wa ving[sic] a naked scythe on discovering five litres of milk missing. The boys have been a t[sic] it again. Even worse later, when he reports that a number of chickens have disappea red[sic] miraculously. He threatens to shoot a few of the boys in the morning but Diplomat Clarke talks him round with the aid of the Hauptmann. Deadly night, insomnia and dysentery. I have a hell of a job to get to the trench, with bloke’s bodies and feet in the way. I want to go home! Another heavy air raid at night.
9 Miles
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12th Ma r[sic]. Up very early, not much use stopping bed, have to jump out as soon as I hit the straw! Hot drink at 9 a.m. and we are then moved back to Beckendorf, in the large barn at noon. Presumably this farmer will be glad to see the back of us – quite a few of his chickens have met a hasty death since we arrived. After all, a bloke must eat. No wagon available so I have to stagger along somehow. This dysentery is deadly – sometimes I think I’ll never see my native country again! Only two miles but I have to fall out half a dozen times. We pass the padre, Rev. Morgan, on the road. He’s one of the boys, looks as much like a tramp as any of us. He could have ridden the whole way, but not him. One of the very best, one of these lovable types. Reach the village faged out, and bless Jack for carrying half my kit. Good lad! Decent pit, near the door for military reasons! Spend the rest of the day on the straw, under my blankets, both of ‘em, with the wind howling through the decrepit barn. 1/2 loaf of bread and 1 oz. of margarine issued. Another accident, I am now minus a pair of trousers. Mighty wet outside during the night, pop out 7 times altogether, and am abused and sworn at, and whacked with a rifle butt by a guard. He refers to me as an English pig. I’d dearly love to see him in the same predicament.
2 Miles
13th Mar. Have to divide our pitiful stock of food once more as I’m going into “hospital”. This consists of twenty or so beds of straw in the farmer’s covered- in pigsties. Wish Jack could come with me, I feel so darned helpless. Doc brings me a can of mint tea, helps to brighten me up a little, but I don’t stay there very long, as I’ve got to go another four miles on the wagon as there’s no room here. The place is overcrowded now and with so many chaps suffering from frostbite, horrible blisters on their feet and so on. Still haven’t got my trousers, so I wrap myself in a blanket. Cold and miserable journey on the wagon, in a heavy rainstorm, blankets soaked as usual. Four miles, through Lanken again, to Stalzendorf. Horrible barn, freezing inside and the rain coming in. I’m past caring though. Hardly any sleep, two packs and two bales of straw fall on me from the loft above. The G.I.’s are less frequent now – they need to be after more than 70 in the last 3 days.
4 Miles
14th Mar. Move again at 7 a.m. on the wagon. Haven’t eaten a thing except a spoonful of tinned salmon during the last 48 hours. Terrible journey over ploughed fields, stomach badly shaken. Barn accommodation at Moderitz. Not bad at all, but food stakes pretty grim by now. Doesn’t affect me today, my poor old stomach is quite beyond any form of food.
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14th Mar. Get into a make-shift bed of straw at 12 noon, on arrival. Raining like hell outside and I feel so miserable and depressed that it’s the bes t[sic] place to be in. barracks 8, 9 and 10 arrive two hours later – they’re getting a grim deal all round. I break my fast (56 hours) with a slice of cold toast and pate. Hunger bloody acute by now, but daren’t eat anything more. Square of chocolate in bed, lasts 20 minutes. Out 4 times in the night but manage to sleep as well. Quite a pleasant change after the insomnia spell. Still no food issued by those dear friends of ours, the Germans.
9 Miles
15th Mar. Stay in bed all day, rest does wonders. Have a few small spuds at 1 o/c and a handful of old carrots. Very hungry but scared to eat any more in case the old complaint returns. Glorious sunshine all afternoon and air activity above us. Have a bath in a bucket and clean my teeth once more, even washing a few clothes also. I feel rather happy – a wash and brush up makes a load of difference. Another square of nutty in bed, make this one last for a long, long time as I’ve hardly eaten at all to-day. Much better night’s rest, although I’m up several times again. Main trouble is weakness now. The boys here are in a grim state. No Red Cross food, hardly any bread, and our only food for a day consists of a few spuds and a cup of watery soup. They can not continue to march much longer without a high rate of sickness. Can count the old ribs quite easily now and I don’t suppose I’m more tha n[sic] 6-1/2 stones. We are told we are to proceed to Ludwigslust, 20 miles away and then transport will be provided. Camp Leaders have been in touch with Red Cross Distribution Centres at Lubeck. Need for parcels is vital, the Germans can’t or won’t feed us. Up-to-date, we have been on the road 37 days, covered 288 miles and our food supplies have been 2 loaves, 4/5 lb. margarine, 2/11 lb. meat, (from the Germans) and 2-1/2 food parcels from the Red Cross. Speaks for itself, I think.
NIL
16th Mar. Sick party moves again at 7 a.m. on the old bone-shaker. Three miles to Parchim, through the town, and on for eight miles in the direction of Ludwigslust, which is now nine miles away. Old lady and gent of some 80 summers come up to the cart and start knocking the boys about with their walking sticks. Bit sticky, for a time, until the guards call them off. Cold ride but we’re there at 1 p.m. and wait for Barracks 1-4 to arrive with their chow-wagon. The joint is called Durehow, pretty miserable spot and no food at all for us. The farmer is a Heil Hitler man, not ‘arf’! The G.I.’s are clearing up now, but I’m starving
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16th Mar. like everyone else. Picked up a dirty old piece of bread this morning, weeks old, but I scraped it and chewed it. Better than nothing anyway. I’m not fussy. If my poor mother could see me now. Probably tell me I shouldn’t have joined! Barracks 1-4 arrive at 3 p.m. with chow-wagon and at 6 p.m. we have a cup of thin watery soup with one carrot in it. And I’ve been waiting since 9 a.m. with my tongue hanging out. Wo ist der fleisch and Kartoffeln? Have my one remaining square of nutty and go to bed, at least I can’t yearn for grub when I’m asleep. Bloke sleeping next to me who has been without food, apart from 5 spuds and a cup of soup, for three days. He eats two slices of bread and is violently sick. Poor devil, I’d like to help him, but have nowt myself. Some blokes have been like that for four days and marching 15 miles a day in all weathers.
12 miles
17th Mar. Brew of sweet mint tea form the wagon at 7 a.m. and the Yanks, Barracks 1-4 move off at 8 a.m. on the last lap (so we are told) to Ludwigslust. Sick party remaining here for a day, as no wagon is available and I’m bloody sure I wouldn’t last more than one mile with kit on my back. Several blokes attempt the struggle, counting on a parcel issue the other end. I hope their efforts are rewarded. No food available for the 30 of us, till the next big party arrives about 3 p.m. They eventually turn up at 4 p.m. and the dear, kind Germans issue a 1/4 loaf bread and 1/8 lb. of margarine to last for four days. 1-1/2 spuds come up at 5 o’clock plus the dirtiest, thinnest soup I’ve ever seen, 90% water and 10% Kohlrabi. Can read the name of the maker on the bottom of my tin! Go to bed feeling very, very hungry but manage to sleep OK. I dream a wonderful dream of never-ending plates of fish and chips. I’d pay 20 quid for some right now, if I only had 20 quid.
NIL
18th Mar. Cold brew at 8 a.m. with one slice of bread and a piece of spam. Barracks 8, 9 and 10 move out and advance guard of 5, 6 and 7 a rrive[sic] at 11 o’clock. Never was I more glad to see Jack than when he staggered in. We celebrate with a woof off some civvy bread he’s purloined from somewhere. Their Jerry rations must have been better than ours or he must have rationed himself severely, as he has more grub left than me. Gosh, it’s good to see him again, and we natter away as though we’ve been parted for five years instead of five days. Comradeship means more in a prison camp than anywhere on earth. Put the flag out, we’ve just bought a hunk of bread from Lofty Maddocks for some old Jerry margarine. We can’t eat that alone so we’re off on
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18th Mar. dry bread now. Spuds issued in evening (1-1/2 and dirty at that). Buy two extra ones for two cigarettes and a piece of liver paste. To smoke or starve, that is the question. Times are bloody hard, aren’t they Mum?
NIL
Here beginneth Jack’s diary for the last five days;
13th March. Rest at Beckendorf. Cec pretty groggy and taken with the sick joint. Split up for the first time since last August and we divide the grub, rather awkward. Heard from American medical bloke that Cec has left for some other joint. (Minus his trousers! C.A.R.) 15th March. Up at 6 a.m. for a cup of thin stew and a slice of bread and soon on the road for Lanken, Stalzendorf and Neuehoff, all along cart tracks then to Zielslurbe. Mint tea and a raw spud from the Huns after dark. 12 miles. 16th March. Good night’s rest, 1 slice of bread and half an EGG for breakfast, having bought two for 5 cigarettes. Hear we move on Sunday and two days should finish the march. Good show! Feel very tired and rest most of the day. Wondering how Cec is going on. (Ruddy grim boy C.A.R.) 17th March. Brew and egg sandwich for breakfast. Fair spud ration comes up and I buy a slice of bread for a tiny spot of Klim. 18th March. Up at 6 a.m. and after a measly breakfast off along the old cart-tracks once the old cart-tracks once mor[sic] to Damn, through Spornitz to Durehow. Meet Cec again here and are we both glad! Have a woof to cerebrate.
19th Mar. Rejoin Barrack 7 to-day, along with Jack. I don’t feel at all well but I’m leaving with Jack even if I collapse on the road. Leave Durehow at 8 a.m. to Brenz, where we pass groups of the Army boys who called in a t[sic] Luft 4 on their way down from Danzig. That must be about 500 miles back up the road! We yell at one another and I think of the good old Army cry “Are we downhearted”? It’s a most emphatic “NO”. Takes more than a bunch of Huns to get us down. You’d think we were meeting each other in Piccadilly on a night out! I think that’s what the Brass Hats mean when they talk about “esprit de corps”? Off down the road to Blievenstorf, then Muchow at 11 a.m. Stop for a roadside picnic off one solitary slice of bread and a tiny piece of spam. If a horse ran by I’d think I was at Newmarket in the good old piping days of peace. Roadside news bulletin! Another five miles to go and they’re giving us some bread to-night. Up goes the old morale. Zierzow at 1 p.m. where we pack in for the day. Find Barracks 8, 9 and 10 already here, and they’ve pinched all the best spots in the barn. Further outlook – bloody! On my old benders, but
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19th Mar. a slice of bread and a cup of ersatz coffee sets me up once more. Germans issue 3/8 loaf to each man. There’s a dirty great crust on our piece. The bread is hard enough, but that’s the last straw. Never mind Jack, pitch in! 5 spuds at 7 o’clock and we woof them with a piece of bread and old faithful, a piece of spam. Delicious! Couldn’t sleep at all, dreaming wild dreams of freedom. My God, what I won’t do when that day dawns.
13 Miles
20th Mar. Start at 9 o’clock, feeling very tired with pains in my leg. I guess it’s rheumatism or gout, never will I grin at unfortunate old men again when they mention their aches and pains. Going very hard. Werle at 10a.m. and we have a long rest of 50 minutes as the Jerries issue a further 3/8 loaf and blob of margarine. It’s not Adolf’s birthday yet, surely? Why the generosity? On to Kremmin, and reach Bechentin a t[sic] 1:30 p.m. Mathematician Reeves announces that we are tearing across the Third Reich at a rate of 14 miles a day on two slices of bread and four spuds per day. Grea t[sic] cheers go up. Seven spuds come round at 7 o’clock, the boys have been pinching again, bless ‘em. Very tired after today’s slog over some hard and rough roads and my legs are letting me know all the gen. Jack’s favourite blister has burst forth again. We but 15 ozs. Of sausage meat from a civvy fa rm[sic] worker for 15 cigarettes and sell 3 ozs. Of liver meat for 20 cigarettes. Tired business men.
12 Miles
21st Mar. Off at 9:40 a.m. – wait for remainder of the column and then the whole compound moves off, first time we’ve been together since Swinemunde. Head winds, dust, perspiration, and a slow pace, all brass us off completely. Through Wanslitz, then strike through the forest over bags of sand to Eldena, a small market town on the canal. Arrive Bresegard at 4:45 p.m. and split up into small barns, 100 men in each. Woof at 6 o’clock of bread and sausage meat. Get the serviettes out Jack, we’re dining in style! Only two spuds come up, but we have a hot wash in the yard. Hope we stay here tomorrow.
11 Miles
22nd Mar. Do we hell! Up at 5:30 a.m. but one consolation – we have two cups of wizard, thick soup before we leave at 7:30 a.m. The old stomach feels quite full, rather strange sensation these stormy days. Glorious sunshine, but with an Army overcoat, I hate it. Boy, do I sweat, and my feet are dea dly[sic]. Remind myself to take my boots off to-night. I’ll suffer for it next day, though. Through Karens, Conew, and Melliss to Heidorf. Here I fall out for the usual, and I’m rapped across the rear with a rifle butt by the brute of
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22nd Mar. a sergeant. I’ll do him one fine day. Have to tear down the road to catch the boys up, but the guard tears with me, I don’t mind so much. Half Red Cross parcel issued on the roadside and poor old Barracks 8, 9 and 10 have to carry the 50 lb. cartons for 1-1/2 miles. Brave and stalwart fellows. If I carried one, I’d collapse after a few yards. I just missed that ordeal through belting up the road to catch up. We cross the River Elbe just north of Domitz. River Rhine next stop boys, then dear old Father Thames. Air raid begins and we turn off the main highway and have a rest. Bags of flak, give ‘em socks boys. Think of it, most of you up there will be back necking in the back row of the flicks to-night. Ah! Woe is me. Three miles down the winding road by the river to Dammatz, where we stay the night. Woof and a hot brew then a shave and wash once more. Good egg! This is a cheap existence, one razor blade has lasted me eight weeks. A good night’s rest for a change and I dream of home, sweet home.
16 Miles
23rd Mar. Two cans of soup with a bit of meat in them from a Hun for breakfast. Resting here today, ideal spot too, on the banks of the Elbe. If we had a boat out, I’d imagine myself on the Thames back home. A goon tells us we’re getting a full parcel today. Right, we’ll see how [underlined] that [/underlined] one turns out. He’s given us a load of duff gen up till now. Glorious sunshine all day, sitting outside on the straw. Spring is here, snowdrops and swallows knocking around. Wizard, 1/5 loaf and 1/25 lb. of margarine issued. They’ll kill themselves with generosity any moment now. Decent spud ration for tea and we also have a piece of toast off the old farmer’s kitchen fire. Clean my boots for the first time, having sneaked a Jerry’s boot polish and brushes when he wasn’t around. Must have a touch of sunstroke, I feel very tired and have a splitting headache. We must have come through many degrees of longitude because seven weeks ago we were marching in deep snow and ice and now we’re being bitten by mosquitoes.
NIL
24th Mar. Off we go at 8:30 but hang around on the road for a hell of a time. Ha lf[sic] a parcel issued on the road and we set course for Dannenburg. Fairly large town and the boys pass their ha ndiwork[sic]! Usual air raid in progress but on we go to Tripkau and Melzingen. Sun really hot by now and I’m perspiring like mad, tired out incidentally. Finish day’s march at Brebenbook, 100 men to a barn. Pinch a small enamel bowl and I buy a small knife and a can of salt and a bottle for 10 cigarettes. Eight spuds for supper, but no breakfast. Deadly.
16 Miles
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25th Mar. Set out at 8 a.m. with nothing inside us. That’s nothing fresh however. Three chickens made a quick exit from this world overnight. Wally had a blanty! Pass through Gut Collase and Kienitz and then an air raid begins. Formations of U.S. bombers fly over us and bomb further on. What a super sound that is! Then a monotonous plod for eight miles, no sign of a village for ages, until we hit Nimbergen, where most of the column stay for the night. We strike unlucky and do an extra three miles to Almsdorf. Good barn, 80 of us with electric light as well. Generous ration of spuds and Jack and I dig into the parcel with a slice of bread and jam and prunes and powdered milk. That was very nice, Jack, come again. One Yank finds an upholstered seat from a car, and a table also. He fondly imagines himself in the Waldorf-Astoria, no doubt. The straw spoils the effect somewhat. Could I do with a wash. These perishing lice are becoming mechaniced [sic].
15 Miles
26th Mar. Off at 8:30 a.m. after waiting for the rest of the column. A good pace for a change and most of the blokes in step. Six miles go past in no time, through Romstedt, Bevensen, Nasson-Nettorf, and Emmendorf. Sun very hot and pace slows down. Roads becoming grim. These cobblestones play hell with my blisters and aching feet. Barracks 1 – 4 and 8, 9 and 10 go ahead but we stay behind. Never found out the name of the village. The German R.A.C. has fallen down on the job. One thing about this country, you always know where you are – signposts all over the shop. Small barn but uncomfortable and I shiver as soon as I lay down. Bilious during the night and sick three times. Out another four times for the usual. Off the old food and Jack has my spuds. Sleepless night. I sit in a buggy with a guard to get some fresh air after being sick in the night. Oh Lord, spare me from dysentery again!
13 Miles
27th Mar. Day of rest and I’m very grateful. In the old pile of straw most of the day, but have half a bath in a bucket of water. Don’t eat my spuds, so Jack tucks in once more. News flash! We’re [underlined] supposed [/underlined] to go three miles to Uelzen, get split up and go by cattle truck to some camp. Yah! 1 p.m. we pack up and move to Ebstorf – 5 miles away. Crikey, it may be true, so the boys tear along the road with trains before the eyes, and we’re there in just over 1-1/2 hours. That’s the fastest we’ve walked yet. Several budding Olympic walkers in this mob. Yes, the trainload of cattle trucks are there and we all pile into them at Ebstorf Bahnhof. But what a blow! These trucks usually hold 8 horses or 40 men and even then we’re crowded. On this occasion, the hard pressed Germans cram no less than
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27th Mar. 80 repeat 80 men into a truck. It is a physical impossibility to sit down – some are hunched up wog-fashion but the rest have to stand. Dear lord, how long will this last? Now we decide to get cracking on the grub we have left in our parcels. Remembering the sad occasion when we moved to Luft 4 and had our food stolen by the Jerries we are determined not to take any with us into this new camp. Off we go with a hunk of bread, spam, cheese and jam and the parcel slowly deflates. Then I begin to feel ill and can’t eat another thing. This is the most tragic moment of my life. Here am I, been longing for a super-woof for weeks, and now I’ve had it. My God, am I ill! Sick twice, and a G.I. in a Klim tin, a masterpiece of precision work. The doors have been closed a long time and the air is pretty foul. We’re on our way, however, and about 2 a.m. we stop for 20 minutes. Jack helps me out, and I see Doc Pollock who doses me with opium. Relieves me a hell of a lot. Locked in again and pass a horrible night. Everyone swears he prefers marching to this hell on earth.
5 Miles
[inserted] *.Split up & joined Other party to Stalag 357 [/inserted]
28th Mar. Finally arrive at Fallingbostel, near Hanover. 1-1/2 miles to walk from the station but we’re mighty thankful to stretch our legs. Arrive at [underlined] Stalag XIB [/underlined], a mixed Army camp of French, British, Serbs, Yugoslavs and Indians. Hang around and then searched in a huge marquee. None of the Germans pinch any food, for a couple of cigarettes skilfully planted in their hands gets us through the search without any bother. Camp is horribly overcrowded most of the British are Airborne fellows in their weird “jumping suits”. Nearly all captured at Arnhem and like all new prisoners they’re “airborne” all the time. What “Stories of the Air”! Grub stakes very poor, only 1/2 parcel has been issued here during the last 3-1/2 weeks, and the German rations consist of three spuds, “whispering grass”, and two cups of weak ersatz coffee. Soon after we arrive a mass funeral takes place. 15 of the boys are buried, in their plain wooden coffins, the majority have just wasted away. I’m not feeling any too happy at this dismal sight. Up half the night with the old G.I.’s and lose my trousers temporarily. We are all herded together in a huge marquee, and I have approximately a space one foot wide to sleep in. The Long Trek has now ended and so has the Diary, I’m afraid. No more paper available. Delete Toilet Paper, substitute grass and straw!
1-1/2 Miles
29th Mar. to 8th April I’ve scrounged some paper but must be very brief. Our stay at Stalag XIB is destined to be cut short, curse it. The offensive on the Western Front has opened up in full blast and now we are being evacuated from Montgomery’s Army. Presumably we shall meet the Russians half way back. The
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29th Mar. to 8th April Army boys are staying behind but the poor old RAF have got to march away. We have spent 11 days idle and hungry and we’re all in. Blokes have been dying every day, including poor old Harry Bliss. He was taken ill with appendicitis in the cattle trucks and was kept locked up in agony. He died soon after we got here. In many ways I am glad to get out of here. We stand a little more chance of picking up odd bits of food on the road. Another month of this and I’m pretty sure many of us would hit the long, long trail. I can’t forget that Russian who was taken into the Mortuary, covered with a sheet. The sheet was practically flat on the stretcher.

We move out at 12 noon on the 8th and I say goodbye to the pals we’ve made here, including Ginger and Sammy and some boys from the local Regiment. It was good to meet them. See you all at home very shortly! Fairly good rations given us before we leave, including flour and dehydrated cabbage. Accompanied by Army guards, we march 12 miles through Nordbostel to Blecknar. The route is over country similar to Salisbury Plain, and it has been used for the same purpose by German artillery. Decent barn and a liberal issue of spuds. Sleep pretty well, wondering how far away the British Army is right now.
12 Miles
9th April Rest today. Three decent meals today of spuds, pinched from a store below the barn, and the cabbage issue yesterday. Loaf of bread from a Russian Army Captain for a pound of German margarine that was issued. Pretty good deal that, no sentiment in business.
NIL
10th April Off at 9 a.m. through Bergen. Miss the main road and cover extra five miles detour. Jack and I fall out for the usual and hide in a ditch. The column moves on and we come out later. There’s a German soldier down the road nattering away to a bevy of German maidens outside a farm, so back we go again for a meeting to discuss tactics. Go a mile down the road, not a soul about and we make for an XXB Kommando, which is billeted outside a farm. Sit in the ditch to rest and wait a while, when luck deserts us and a truck with all the stragglers aboard comes along. A German sees us and we’ve had it. I spin ‘em a yarn we’ve come from another column, going another way but does he believe me, does he hell! Get in Jack. Ah, well it was nice being free. We catch the column up but they won’t allow us to get off and we ride all the way to Trauen, 6 miles on. Not enough barn accommodation and many sleep in the open air. Hardly any water available. Jack and I are in a barn but we have a deadly night. The lice and other small animals
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10th April swarming over me give me hell. They’ve been multiplying for some time now but we can’t get rid of them. They are in our clothing, hair etc., and it’s pretty grim not being able to wash.
16 Miles
11th April Rest today, no-one, Germans included, seems to know the score. Some of the boys from the column in front come back in the opposite direction and there’s mass confusion. Don’t tell me the Russians are that close! Go into the river nearby and have a bath. Very cold but I prefer to shiver than have these deadly lice. Shed some of my clothes and throw it away, it’s full of animals! If we go on much longer, I shall be the first bloke to cross the Third Reich in the nude. The afternoon is well spent in slinking into a garden and pinching some rhubarb. We make a tart with the flour and water, and eat in style. This is better than the old Stalag! Exciting tonight. Spitfires and Typhoons shoot up an aerodrome just across the road, and are in combat with FW190’s just above our heads. The boys all scamper into the barn, under bushes, blocks of wood and any cover available. We see a 190 go down in flames. What a bloody cheer went up. Another night of “hunting”. The bath didn’t do me any good.
NIL
12th April Plod on across the fields and cart tracks to Wellingbostel. During a rest in the woods, I find a propaganda newspaper dropped by the RAF. Gives us all the up-to-date gen and we devour it greedily. The Huns are reading it as well. Also find ration cards and lea flets[sic] dropped by the boys. Excellent barn, 17 of us in it and we’re locked in – the Huns don’t know were[sic] there. There’s even a lorry in here with us. Any petrol about? Just a slice of bread for supper, then go to sleep. The majority of the boys are in the open, in the wood.
15 Miles
13th April Make a fire as usual out in the open, all budding Boy Scouts now. Stealing wood from the civvies woodshed while Jack gets a few spuds cooked. No bread issued so we make a few biscuits from the last of the flour. Off we go at 1 o’clock along dusty roads for 5 miles to Betzendorf. Not a bad place and we go on the scrounge till bedtime. No Joy!
5 Miles
14th April Cook some spuds over a fire all morning but move at 1:30 and plod for three miles to Barnstedt. We are now only 10 miles from Ebstorf where we boarded the cattle trucks for XIB. The farmer had just killed a horse when we arrived. We didn’t care whether it died from T.B. or anything else. We just get stuck in with a knife or razor blade and run off triumphantly with a hunk of lung and his ruddy windpipe. Get the fire going Jack, we feast tonight. Gosh, it tasted wizard. Bit tough but it’s something to get the old teeth into.
3 Miles
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15th April Boil some spuds over a fire during the morning and also have some rhubarb left. Add some German saccharin and some cooked barley and it’s a sizeable meal for a change. Move at 1 p.m. and do 4 miles to Eitzen. Here Jack and I make a dash for it. It’s now or never. We go past a farmyard, and I keep an eagle eye on the guards. They turn the other way for a moment or two, and I prod Jack and whisper “Left turn”. Into the farmyard we dart, sweating like mad. Into a cattle shed and under some straw, and there we stay for a long while. No one appears and later some civvy kids come in and then race back to tell the old man. Two old ladies come in and we natter to them, stalling all the time. They are scared stiff of the pair of us and they keep telling us that the Allies will kill them when they arrive. We smooth them over with some propaganda and one old dear brings a postcard from her son who is a P.O.W. in Canada. I’ll bet he’s more comfortable than I am, anyway. Some Polish slave workers bring us food: cake, soft-boiled eggs, bread and margarine and coffee. Ma dam[sic], that tastes like a five course dinner in Piccadilly. The farmer eventually arrives and he’s scared too. If he’s found harbouring P.O.W.’s he’s for the wall and a firing squad. Fetches the Burgomaster who later brings in a soldier. This is it, Jack we’re off to join the column. This soldier has fallen out with bad feet, and we later lea ve[sic] the farm to hit the road once more. But luck is with us. A Polish slave worker comes tearing down the road and gives us some coffee and food to see us on our way. At this moment the Hun decides he’s had enough and back we go to the farm and spend the night there.
4 Miles
16th April Breakfast in the kitchen of the farm. Milk, soup, bacon sandwiches and coffee! Wash clothes in a copper during the morning and for dinner we have vegetable soup with onions and spuds. This is really wonderful. We’ve been talking to the guard all morning. He’s a disillusioned German, let down badly by the Feuhrer. He has lost his family in an air raid, and his brothers on the Eastern Front and is horribly brassed off with the war, most of all with the march. So are we. With some diplomacy we persuade to hide us up till the Allies come. He will be a prisoner in a week or so anyway so what has he to lose. Will he fall for it? We await events eagerly. At 5 p.m. we move on to Bienenbuttel, 4 miles away. He certainly is tired of marching. Things look very much in our favour. We will never catch the boys up by marching, only by truck can we make it. Air raid on the way and we stop by a cemetery! Then another halt in the middle of a wood and he leaves us with his rifle and kit while he nips smartly into the undergrowth. What the hell is he playing at? We arrive at the village a t[sic] 8 o’clock three hours later and stop by a house where
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16th April a German brings us some apples. What a life. Two weeks ago we were being kicked and snarled at. Now they give us apples. The mentality of a defeated which crawl to the conquerors! Call at the Burgomaster’s house but he can’t do a thing with us. We go to the town hotel where German troops are quartered and our hearts sink. But we’re kicked out. Whoopee! On we go to the outskirts of another farm and as soon as the hausfrau sees us she starts screaming “Terrorbombers”, “Luftgangsters” etc. etc. Let’s go Jack! But the old guard talks to her and she takes us to a barn in the yard. Our straw beds are only half a dozen yards from the main road and we hear the Army lorries and troops going by, retreating as usual. We go into the kitchen and later have a meal: fried eggs (first for two years), onions and lashings of milk. There’s more food on the table, but we’re scared to eat it. We can’t believe it’s there, the result of the last few month’s privations. This is beyond our wildest dreams. I daren’t hope for too much, we’ve been disappointed so many times before. But I don’t sleep very well, my brain is in a whirl.
4 Miles
17th April Up at 8:30 a.m. and we help the little Russian girl in the kitchen. She’s about 18 and the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. In decent clothes and with make up I’d take her anywhere and love being seen with her. Does she work hard! Jack and I feel very sorry for her. Still you’ll soon be free, Olga, and the boot on the other foot. Huge breakfast at 9 a.m. we’re called into the kitchen. Sheer luxury being called in to meals and everything laid ready. Three platefuls of milk soup, bread, whey, cheese, jam, syrup, bacon and apples. Back to the straw to sleep, I can hardly stand. My poor old stomach can hardly cope with a meal of that size. For dinner we had potato soup, pork, stewed apples in syrup, and coffee. Sit out in the sun and later the old guard brings us a bucketful of soup from the German Red Cross. I’ll guarantee they don’t know it’s for P.O.W.’s in hiding! Later, supper: (we couldn’t eat any tea) of soft-boiled eggs and sausages with hot milk. We’ve eaten more food today than we’ve had during the last month. The guard has worked it all out that our troops should be in the town by 4:30 a.m. tomorrow. Still a little pessimistic but the Germans are retreating like mad down the main road, just over the wall. They blew up the railway bridge this evening, and broke several windows in the house. I went flat on the ground, thinking the RAF were about. Another restless night.
NIL
18th April [underlined] LIBERATION DAY [/underlined]
Up quite early and out for a wash and shave. Looking quite smart these days and we must be presentable to the Britis h[sic] Army when they arrive, bless ‘em. Keep the Russian girl to carry buckets of water, and then breakfast is up. Milk soup again with bread and whey, cheese and jam. Sit out in the yard in the sunshine and then a lay-down on the old straw. And now the great moment arrives! The farmer’s uncle comes tearing into the yard from the town, yelling like mad, and “Heil Hitlering” every few yards. I
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18th April know enough German to know what he’s saying –“The English are Here”! Absolutely wizard. Jack and I tear out to the gate with tears in our eyes. A council of war is held and one of us must stay and look after the guard who is now OUR PRISONER, and the other must go down to the town and see what’s cooking. Out comes a pack of cards. Jack cuts the Jack of Hearts and poor me has the two of spades. So I retire to the kitchen and mount guard over Ex-Gefreiter Mars. He whips off his badges of rank and insignia and they’re my souvenirs. I also have the rifle and bayonet and ammunition. Do I feel good! I’m on tenderhooks [sic] waiting for him to come back. Never did an hour pass so slowly. Back he comes at 11:30 with a huge grin all over his face, carrying sweets, chocolate, a box of cigars and biscuits. We give the biscuits, sweets and chocolate to the young Russian girl and the Poles, and puff contentedly at the cigars. Quickly the farmer and his wife realize the position we are in, we’re the bosses now and we’re invited into the dining room for a feast. Soup, rabbit, spuds and sauce, ham, stewed rhubarb and cherries make up the menu and we lean back in the armchair feeling that life is indeed good. I can’t believe it’s true. Have a wash and smarten up to meet our liberators and off we go with our prisoner between us. Jus t[sic] outside the gate we hear a Cockney voice, and a smiling face appears. It’s a soldier, “mopping-up” with his pal and they’re carrying loads of eggs pinched in the process. We jus t[sic] about hug them with delight we’re the first liberated P.O.W.’s they’ve met. On down the road and we meet a Captain in a scout car who exclaims “What the ‘ell is this?” Our strange clothing caused the query. We soon tell him and out comes more grub. Into the hotel we go, the same one from which we were thrown out the other evening. The Tommies are there in force drinking the place dry. Cups of Army tea, real strong stuff are brought in and we’re the guests of honour. Then a mug of beer and down to the cellar where we find clothes in abundance. I shed my old, lice infested clothing and fix myself up with a new white shirt that has a collar miles too big for me. A smart grey suit and a red tie, plus a pair of soft black leather boots. “Flash Harry” with a vengeance. Also pinch two bottles of preser ved[sic] strawberries and some soap and a suitcase. The German civvies are crying and protest but remembering the events of the past I have no pity what-ever. We move up to the Transport Section and have our photographs taken by a Tommy. Some German prisoners are brought in and we have a go at them. I relieve a Flt. Sgt. of his jackboots and 1000 marks from his wallet. I’ve got a newspaper, the “News of the World” too! A soldier apologises because it’s three weeks old, I wouldn’t care if it was 12 months old. I devour every word, greedily. We’re going home at long last and at a stop on the roadside the Tommies cook us fried eggs and onions, and some bully beef. Then on we go and find we’re advancing with the 11th Armoured Division to Luneberg. The tanks open up at Messerschmitts and F.W.’s and we’re scared stiff God, wouldn’t it be awful to be captured again! Stay in a farm at night and have a wizard supper and actually listen to the 9 o’clock news from Englans[sic]. Bruce, old boy, your voice never sounded sweeter!
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18th April 120 German prisoners are brought in including our own guard. Can’t sleep a wink, far too excited. Get up and smoke cigarettes and woof biscuits. Out I go at 5 a.m. and help a soldier light the fires in the field kitchens, and have a hot wash and a brew. So ends a glorious day, the happiest of my life, and the one we waited so long for. Soon be home, Mum. I send her a postcard this afternoon, won’t she be delighted to receive it? Our minds are too confused to think properly, we want to rush home in a couple of hours, but we’ll try and be patient.

19th April Lovely breakfast of real porridge and sugar and milk, fried eggs, sausages, [underlined] white [/underlined] bread and butter. Then delouse myself and my precious blanket sent from home. I’ve carried it all this way and it’s going back home on my bed. Off we go at 10a.m. back to Bienenbuttel, lose the way two or three times. From Merdack we then go to Celle. Pass German aerodromes with dozens of burnt-out aircraft on the ground. Good show, boys. Also see hordes of Russians, French and Poles making their own way back on foot mostly. But six are in a huge car, driven by four horses! Arrive Celle at 6 o’clock and meet Norman Rees in the market place and a joyful re-union takes place. Billeted in Army barracks and given a light meal. They won’t allow us to overeat. Several of the boys are in pain – their stomachs just can’t take it. Sleep on the floor of the hut, no insomnia tonight however.

20th April Up at 8 o’clock and after breakfast we queue up to be registered. The boys are coming in by the dozen now, wonder where the old column is by now. I expect they have crossed the Elbe. Draw clean clothing, army battledress, from a store and after a bath, I become a soldier. After tea we go to the cinema. The film is very old and I fall asleep, but I’m very happy. Canteen issues cigarettes, chewing gum, matches and a cigar, all buskshee. Still no money! Geoff Reeves and Don Godard roll in tonight. They’ve been hiding in a wood box. The Tommies thought Don was with a girl-friend. Geoff’s hair is so long these days! Complete diary by candlelight. Almost finished it now, thank God!

21st April Up rather early and we are soon off on another stage of the journey home. After breakfast we pile into lorries and the convey moves off in a rainstorm. Arrive at Nienburg at about 2 o’clock, this place being N.W. of Hanover and only 20 miles from Fallingbostel. Billeted, and given a meal of stew and rice pudding. Meet a fellow from Oxford and have a drop of rum with him and a long talk about home. Promise to visit his people and take a message back for him. He gives me two souvenirs of Holland, a couple of silk scarves. Hang around the rest of the day – very impatient. Write to Mum and Doris and then bed.

22nd April The rich food that we’ve been having these last few days has upset me with a vengeance, and I’ll have to lie low. To-day for instance Jack and I woofed a 2 lb. fruit pudding each with cream on top and then went down to dinner and knocked back Irish stew and peaches and cream! It’s difficult to turn away from the good food, but I’d rather not have that deadly dysentery again.
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22nd April Many of the chaps have been very ill through over-eating. May leave for England tomorrow. Prowl around the German stores again looking for anything worth having, then into bad. Tomorrow night should see us in England once more.

23rd April Nothing happens all day, so Jack and I go to the cinema at 6:30 and see some news reels, and Mickey Mous e[sic]. Half-way through the picture some bloke comes in and yells, “P’s. O.W. outside.” You never saw such a rus h[sic]. Everybody dead scared the trucks will leave without them. We don’t move off for two hours so into the Q.M.’s office and we sample some red wine looted from France. Feel half tight but very, very happy. Leave at 10 p.m. in the trucks. Very uncomfortable, almost as bad as the cattle truck but we’re all very cheerful.

24th April We ride all night and one truck crashes into a tree, killing the driver and seriously injuring several of the P’s.O.W. Wake up with a s tiff[sic] neck, sore all over. We’re at Borghorst, and we raid a milk lorry outside the dairy. Billeted in the town for five hours and I have a good long sleep. Charge into a German house, and have a feed, wash and a shave. The Huns didn’t murmur. Leave at 2 o’clock for Rheine airport and drive right up to the aircraft. Separated from Jack for the second time. See you in Blighty, Jack. We’re soon airborne and on the last stage for home. Soon we leave Germany behind, over Belgium and France, the Channel and then the white cliffs of Dover. There are a few lumps in the boys’ throats a s[sic] they gaze at them. Pass along the coast to Dungeness and across to Guildford and we land at Dunsfeld [sic], at 6:30 p.m. I’m first out the kite and a W.A.A.F. rushes up to kiss me. That was worth all the two years. Even S.P.’s come up and greet us. One bloke, a P.O.W. for over five years, sits on the grass and weeps unashamedly. The welcome bowls us over. The good old Red Cross is there in force, the hangar is hung with flags and a huge “WELCOME HOME” sign fluttering from the roof. A wizard tea, 2 pounds advance pa y[sic], a rest and off we go to London. The money jingles merrily in our pockets. All the W.A.A.F.’s follow the truck on their bicycles, what a glamorous guard of honour! Leave Guildford and arrive London at 9:30 where we mob the first policeman we see. He doesn’t quite know what’s happening. Off to a hotel at Eufton, beds all made for us, new pyjamas, a bag of good things from the Red Cross and a final message from them. The message reads “We salute you and wish you the best of luck.” I rather think we should salute [underlined] them [/underlined], without their wonderful help we wouldn’t be here to enjoy the welcome. A bath, a real bath, and I laze in the luxury of it for nearly two hours. Jump out as weak as a rat but really clean this time. This is sheer heaven.

25th April Off at 10 a.m. for Paddington and we’re in Cosford by 12:30 p.m. the reception centre. Another terrific welcome, re-kitted with new uniforms, interrogated by Intelligence wallahs and more gifts from the R.A.F. and the Red Cross. Organization superb and we remain here till 9 a.m. next day.
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26th April Now we’re really on the way. Arrive Oxford at 1 p.m. and on the local bus at 2:15 p.m. I queued up for one hour, no need to do so, but I’m not missing this one. Sent a wire to Mum. Arrive home at 3 p.m. and there is Mum waiting for me. The great moment has arrived, even more wonderful then I expected. No words can describe my feelings. I think I’ll leave the Diary just there.
I’m happy, what more can I ask?

Collection

Citation

C A Room, “How we took the good news from Grosse Tychow to Fallingbostel,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 21, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/16396.

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