Handle with Care

MGeachDG1394781-160401-18.pdf

Title

Handle with Care
A book of Prison Camp Sketches

Description

A book of Prison Camp cartoons with some explanations.

Date

1946

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

One printed book

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

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.

Contributor

Identifier

MGeachDG1394781-160401-18

Transcription

HANDLE with CARE

R. ANDERSON
D. WESTMACOTT

[Page break]

[Cartoon of a cart going through barbed wire fence, person peeking from a box on the back]

HANDLE with CARE

WH 156421

A Book of Prison Camp Sketches

Drawn and written in Prison Camps in Germany

By R. ANDERSON

and

D. WESTMACOTT

[Page break]

2

“HANDLE WITH CARE”

This Book of Sketches, drawn in German Prison Camps, has been a headache to its authors since its birth in May, 1943.

Some of the sketches were taken by the Germans and had to be re-drawn. Others were damaged in transit from camp to camp. During the last big Allied Push the Book was so bulky that it had to be left with a friend in the Camp Sick Bay, and we hoped never to see it again.

However, it finally turned up in England, and after going astray in the post for fourteen days, once again fell into our hands. We then spent two months searching a somewhat changed England for a publisher with enough good paper for the Book. Having discovered one, we found that the printing trade was so short of man-power, particularly block-makers and book-binders, that our book had to take its turn in a long queue, and that our original estimate of the time required to produce it was far too optimistic. We therefore apologise for the long delay, and hope that you will receive your copy with as much pleasure as we see the last of it.

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3

We should like to take this opportunity of apologising to the many subscribers who sent messages of goodwill, for not replying to them. We hope you will understand that there were so many messages, and that our time was so fully occupied with the Book, that we had no time to answer them personally.

Wishing both our friends and all our fellow P.O.Ws. the best of luck in their return to civilization.

R.A.
D.W.

Cookham, 1946

[Page break]

4

[Underlined] ARRIVAL [/underlined]

The usual greeting on arrival in Germany was: “For you the war is over.” As this was apparently the only appropriate English phrase that the Germans knew, it consequently became one of the standing jokes of the Prisoner-of-War camps.

[Page break]

5

[Drawing of a member of aircrew descending on a parachute with a German bricklayer at the top of a chimney] “For you the war is over.”

[Page break]

6

[Drawing of an airman being spoken to by a German officer] “… and how is your Wing-Commander’s eldest daughter Penelope?”

On arriving in Germany the dazed and bewildered prisoner was quickly interrogated by the Germans, who by means of bogus Red Cross forms and other tricks attempted to extract information of military importance.

[Page break]

7

[Drawing of a German censor’s office with a man stamping letters] “That makes 1,500 guys in this camp with an Auntie Winne and an Uncle Joe”

All mail into and out of Prison Camps was, of course, strictly censored by the Germans;
consequently Prisoners of War, writing to their friends at home, had to use extreme caution when mentioning anything connected with military matters; particularly was this so then the Russians started their big push towards East Prussia and Poland.

[Page break]

8

On first arriving at a camp, prisoners had one idea only – to escape; and were surprised that prisoners of long standing were still behind the wire and apparently resigned to their fate. It did not take long, however, to convince most of us that escape was only possible after weeks of planning; and, in the case of tunnels, many months of hard work.

[Page break]

9

[Drawing of a prisoner of war camp with barbed wire, guards, aircraft and two prisoners] “Wait till he looks the other way, then you hop over the wire.”

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10

[Drawing of two men talking whilst looking at a map] Now if [underlined] I [/underlined] were Churchill…

Prisoners as a whole took great interest in the conduct of the war and in the Military position on all fronts. This will be readily understood when it is realised that topics for conversation were very limited and that cessation of hostilities was of greater significance to prisoners than to most people.

[Page break]

11

[Drawing of four men sitting at a table, looking skywards] “Dear Mother ... in reply to your letter – we are keeping our chins up …”

As far back as 1940 relatives and friends at home were urging us to keep our chins up and keep smiling as it would not be long now. This phrase was so frequently used that it became one of the standing jokes of prisoners of war camps.

[Page break]

12

WARNING WIRES

[Drawing of a warning notice behind barbed wire] [Underlined] Danger of Life! We shoot! [/underlined] We shoot without warning or call whenever you touch or surpass wire or pole!

… At Heydekrug.

The Warning Wire was a strand of barbed wire some feet inside the main boundary fence. It was forbidden to cross or even touch this wire, those doing so being shot at without warning. Casualties sometimes occurred owing to the thoughtlessness of some prisoners and over-keenness of the German guards.

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13

WARNING WIRES

[Drawing of two warning wire notices] HALT! TRESPASSING OF WARNING WIRE MEANS DEATH! … At Thorn.

DO NOT APPROACH THE WARNING WIRE OR IT WILL BE SHOT! … At Wolfsberg.

[Page break]

14

Every night from lock-up until morning the compound was patrolled by guards with specially trained police dogs. On summer evenings these dogs were also used to urge reluctant prisoners inside their barracks.

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15

[Drawing of patrol with dogs and a prisoner] “Pretty Doggy!”

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16

During the early years of the war, matches, polish, cigarettes, and other small items were supplied to the camp canteen, where they could be bought with lager geld (specially printed notes for use in prison camps). From 1942 onward such items were unobtainable, German soldiers themselves being limited to three cigarettes per man. Matches of inferior quality were, however, issued at infrequent intervals.

[Page break]

17

[Grid of eight drawings of a man trying to light a pipe]

MATCHES WILL BE USSUED TO-DAY …

“HERE, LET [underlined] ME [/underlined] STRIKE IT …
“IT’S PERFECTLY SIMPLE …
… IF IT DOESN’T STRIKE LENGTHWISE …
… TRY IT CROSSWISE …
SEE?
BUT OF COURSE YOU MUST MAKE ALLOWANCES …
… FOR THE FACT THAT THESE …
… ARE DEUTSCH MATCHES ?*!??*!!!!”

[Page break]

18

[Drawing of one large and three thin men around a cooking fire]

“Rackets,” as known in prison camps, consisted of acquiring food and selling same to the few who were able to pay for it, either with cigarettes or personal belongings. Fortunately, however, the majority of camps were too well organised to allow this practice to develop.

[Page break]

19

[Drawing of a man sitting in a bunk with two feet hanging down from above him]

Beds were constructed in tiers (usually 2 or 3) the men in the bottom beds being in perpetual gloom, in fact the light even at midday was insufficient for reading.

[Page break]

20

New arrivals, after the orderly existence of service life at home, were somewhat bewildered by the apparent chaos of a Prison Camp; this is understandable when it is realised that rooms contained up to 150 men who had to sleep, eat, cook perform all domestic tasks, read and play cards all in this one room.

[Page break]

21

[Drawing of a crowded barrack interior] “Can you tell me the way to the Sergeant’s Mess?”

[Page break]

22

[Drawing of a man falling between two bunks, two men on bottom bunks watching] “He gets the most vivid dreams.”

The beds in German P.O.W. camps were so narrow that restless sleepers occasionally rolled off. From a top bed, this meant a fall of some 8 feet on to a hard concrete floor.

[Page break]

23

[Drawing of six men hauling a large trolley piled with boxes, two men watching] “Yah! – Rackets!”

The yielding and distribution of Red Cross food and clothing, distribution of mail, work in the hospital and cookhouse, and all other work of benefit to the community was done by volunteer workers. These men having access to stores, seldom, if ever, used their position to obtain goods intended for general distribution.

[Page break]

24

The feeling of utter and absolute depression was, unfortunately, only too frequent amongst all prisoners of war. Only the thought of eventual liberation kept them going.

[Page break]

25

[Drawing of a man sitting surrounded by dark scribbles containing bats, spiders, snakes, dogs, rats and other animals] “Please don’t speak to me now – I feel a little depressed.”

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26

[Drawing of a man at a table drawing whilst another man casts a shadow from the window] “Are you drawing?”

Artists found work difficult in the crowded conditions which prevailed, as people were continually passing between them and the little light which penetrated the gloom of our huts. Many of the passers-by stopped to chat.

[Page break]

27

[Drawing of an airman sitting on a bench behind bars, stood over by a German guard] “The Cooler.”

The “Cooler” was the official punishment cell for P.O.W.s who attempted to escape, insulted the Germans, or otherwise misbehaved.

The punishment was solitary confinement on bread and water for a period of one to three weeks. Smoking and reading were, of course, strictly forbidden.

[Page break]

28

[Drawing of a large pile of men all looking towards a central point] “… and here’s a photo of my sister …”

Owing to the ban on illustrated magazines, photographs of girls were very popular, such photos being discussed with brutal frankness by friends of the lucky recipient.

[Page break]

29

[Drawing of a man on top of the barbed wire fence, illuminated by a searchlight] “Some sixth sense tells me I am in great danger …”

During air raids, when British planes were overhead, all lights, including searchlights, were turned off. A few prisoners were able to escape during these blackouts. It must have been unnerving to know that the lights might come on again when they were in the act of climbing over the barbed wire.

[Page break]

30

[Drawing of a man washing up, a broken cup falling out of his hand] “Anybody got an empty Klim tin?”

Washing up after meals was one of the many domestic tasks to which prisoners had to adapt themselves.

[Page break]

31

[Drawing of a man following a track] “Now I wonder if I’m off the Red Line?”

After dark and before lock-up we were permitted to use certain paths to the washroom, etc. These paths being clearly marked on a plan of the camp in red ink were consequently known as “red lines.” Anyone straying from the prescribed path was in danger of being shot.

[Page break]

32

Whilst the men underground undoubtedly had the hardest work to perform during tunnelling operations, look-outs and surface workers had a nerve-racking time trying to avoid rousing the suspicions of the German guards.

[Page break]

[Drawing of look-outs operating above ground with tunnel workers underfoot as a German guard passes by]

[Page break]

34

[Drawing of three men behind the barbed wire, wearing hats] “Just look at that fearful hat!”

Near the Baltic coast, cold winter months demanded a warmer, more protective headgear than the R.A.F. Field Service cap, so from socks, scarves, old flying boots, etc., prisoners evolved some novel and striking, but very serviceable, coverings.

35

Sagan in many respects was one of the best camps in Germany. It is certain that cooking facilities were a big improvement on other camps, a kitchen stove complete with hot plate and oven being provided for each room of sixty men.

[Drawing of a man with his head in an oven which is emitting smoke covering the other men] “Come and get your dinner!”

[Page break]

36

[Drawing of three man looking at a truck leaving the barbed wire area, with two large feet sticking out of the underneath of the vehicle] “Tch-Tch! What big feet Corkwell’s got!”

Almost all P.O.W.s have at some time watched German Transport leaving the camp, and tried to think of some new method of smuggling themselves out.

Unfortunately, the Germans searched every lorry as it left the main gate.

[Page break]

37

[Drawing of a group of men working in a large canteen kitchen]

The Cookhouse, which provided hot meals twice, and brews four times daily for 2,600 men, was run by a permanent staff of thirty. These men worked hard, but as compensation they had access to more and better food than other prisoners.

[Page break]

38

Clothing parcels from next-of-kin were eagerly awaited by prisoners, These parcels, containing such luxuries as toothpaste, towels, socks, shaving-soap, etc., as well as warm clothing, made all the difference to a drab and cheerless existence.

[Page break]

39

[Drawing of a group of men gathered around a table whilst one man’s parcel is examined by them all] “Nice parcel you’ve got here, old man.”

[Page break]

40

[Huddle of four men looking secretive] “Shh – Psst … Shhhh …”

Whilst at Sagan an organisation was formed to assist the escape of fellow prisoners. Later, at Heydekrug, this organisation reached a high pitch of efficiency, by acquiring German uniforms, forging papers and passes, obtaining maps and money. German-speaking prisoners were enabled to walk through the gates with a sporting chance of evading capture when once at large.

[Page break]

41

[Drawing of four German guards around a prisoner emerging from a tunnel] “I was only inspecting the drains!”

Tunnels were usually started from the billets or wash-houses, these offering good cover for the entrance.

Some of the most successful, however, were started in the open. In one instance the entrance trap-door was situated in the centre of a garden and supported some very fine lettuce.

[Page break]

42

The camp theatre, converted from an old army hut by the prisoners themselves, was a great asset to the community, besides providing an interesting occupation for a number of people. The entertainment provided was extremely good. Shows put on ranged from Shakespearean Plays to Musical Comedy.

[Page break]

43

“All the world’s a stage …

[Drawing of a glamourous woman]

… and one man in his life …

[Drawing of a man clearing up outside a theatre]

… plays many parts.”

[Page break]

44

[Drawing of a man trying to light a cigarette from a man with a pipe] “Can I get a light off your pipe, old man?”

[Drawing of a man trying to light a pipe from a man’s cigarette] “Any chance of a light off your cigarette?”

Owing to the shortage of matches and a ban on petrol lighter it was the general practice to obtain a light from the first man you happened to see smoking.

[Page break]

45

[Drawing of a medical officer talking to another man] “Mad? Why, you’re no more mad than I am!!”

Repatriation of P.O.Ws. unfit for military service took place from time to time, all applicants having to be passed by the camp doctor prior to going before the Board of German and Neutral doctors.

[Page break]

46

[Drawing of two men sunbathing inside the barbed wire area] “Won’t it be grand to get back into civvies again”

As a large percentage of prisoners were civilians until the outbreak of war, it was natural that they looked forward, not only to freedom, but also to seeing the last of irksome restrictions and red tape necessary in the Services.

[Page break]

47

[Drawing of an airman being – flatteringly – painted by another airman]

There were a number of talented artists in the camp who made good use of the material kindly provided by the International Red Cross and Y.M.C.A. organisations.

[Page break]

48

During the long winter evenings, from 5 p.m. until lights out at 11 p.m., life became almost unbearable, especially as the lights were too dim to allow studying or reading for any length of time. After several months the usual card games and chess began to lose their attraction. It was then that Ludo and even Tiddlywinks and Snakes and Ladders made their appearance.

[Page break]

[Drawing of a group of men in a barrack hut playing Ludo] “You’re CHEATING!”

[Page break]

50

Girls at home quite frequently became tires of waiting for their P.O.W. friends. Tactfully worded letters of dismissal from girl friends were usually displayed in a prominent position by their disgruntled recipients to serve as a warning to others.

In their perpetual search for something to occupy their time prisoners organised numerous societies and lectures. These entertainments were popular and greatly appreciated.

[Page break]

51

[Drawing of a group of men laughing, behind a man scowling whilst reading a letter] “… I’m sorry dear, but I love a soldier. I know you’ll understand…”

[Drawing of entertainment advertisements posted on a wall]

[Page break]

52

The camp at Heydekrug was divided into three compounds, two of which contained two thousand men, whilst the third, being smaller, held just over one thousand men. The large compounds were each eight acres in area and consisted of two washrooms with latrines attached, eight small wooden huts, four being used for accommodation, the remainder for the camp office, theatre, library, stores, etc., four large blocks each divided into nine rooms (sixty men to a room), three tents (260 men) and one cookhouse. There was also one small playing field.

[Page break]

[Drawing of a prisoner of war compound showing a large number of men carrying out different activities] “I just want to be alone”

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54

[Drawing of men lying close together behind barbed wire, with numerous tadpoles alongside] “These prison camps are all the same – Crowded to Hell.”

During the spring hundreds of tadpoles were to be found in a small stream running along one side of the compound at Heydekrug.

“If you know of a better ‘ole – go to it!!!”

(With apologies to BRUCE BARNSFATHER)

[Drawing of a man emerging from a tunnel, holding a candle]

[Page break]

55

[Drawing of a man in a box on the back of a lorry at the camp gates being discovered by two German guards] “Can’t a fellow get [underlined] any [/underlined] privacy??”

The gates of a prison camp were heavily guarded, and all transport into and out of the camp was closely inspected. It was therefore extremely difficult to escape by these means. Attempts however were frequently made, and sometimes succeeded.

[Page break]

56

[Drawing of two uniformed men facing up to each other] “You square-headed - - - !”

The Prussian style of hair-cut, popular in Germany, gave the head a definite look of squareness. This peculiarity was so essentially German that it naturally led to the term “Squarehead,” or more commonly “Squareheaded B - - -“ being applied to all Germans.

[Page break]

57

Roll Call.

[Drawing of a very crowded open area of the prisoner of war camp]

Roll Calls were organised twice a day by the Germans for the purpose of checking the number of prisoners. Sometimes owing to an error in counting and less frequently because a prisoner had escaped, the roll calls were often of long duration. On these occasions the orderly parades quickly deteriorated into something like a sergeant-major’s nightmare.

[Page break]

58

[Drawing of a bird in a nest with young] “Blast that Nightingale!”

During the spring and summer months at Heydekrug, nightingales were frequently heard in a nearby wood. To the warped mind of the Artist came the thought that perhaps other birds, trying to sleep after a hard day’s work, did not have the same appreciation for these songsters as shown by the prisoners.

[Drawing of two men greeting each other warmly behind the barbed wire of the prison camp] “Father”

There are authentic cases of reunion between father and son in the prison camps of Germany.

[Page break]

59

[Drawing of a young man standing, looking at an old man sitting in a chair, covered in cobwebs] “Have you been here long?”

It was something of a shock to the older prisoners, of from four to five years standing, to see youngsters of nineteen or twenty, who were still at school in the early years of the war, arriving in the camp.

[Page break]

60

This tunnel started from the wash-house at Heydekrug, passed under the boundary fence and out into the wood beyond. Only six men were able to escape, as the guard’s attention being attracted, thirty men awaiting their turn in the tunnel were discovered.

[Page break]

61

[Drawing of five men queuing to go out through a tunnel being briefed by another man] “… And when you get out, be sure you don’t speak to any strange men.”

[Page break]

62

We possessed one small recreation ground about half the size of a normal football field, sandy (and in dry weather very dusty), which was utilised to the full, games of football, rugby, cricket, baseball and American football being played within the space of a few hours.

[Page break]

63

[Drawing of men watching a football match behind the barbed wire] Football supporters.

WELL CLEARED, BELMORE!!
GOOD OLD BELMORE!!!
THAT’S CLEARING ‘EM BELMORE!!
GIVE ‘EM THE WORKS, BELMORE!!
THAT’S THE HAMMER, BELMORE!!!
NICE WORK BELMORE!!!
LOVELY PLAY, BELMORE!!!
GOOD SHOW BELMORE!!!

WINDY BELMORE!!!
SHOOT HIM!!!
HANG HIM ON THE WIRE!!!
DIRT BELMORE!!
SEND HIM OFF!!!
WHY DOESN’T SOMEONE KILL BELMORE???
PLAY THE GAME, BELMORE!!!

[Page break]

64

The summer headgear like that of winter gave plenty of scope to the inventive mind of the P.O.Ws., hats ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, from the knotted handkerchief to the pukka Topee.

From April to October no fuel was provided by the Germans. During this period some interesting home-made stoves were manufactured for the purpose of boiling extra “brews.” These stoves were fired with torn-up Red Cross boxes and extravagant claims as to speed and total efficiency were made on their behalf by proud owners.

[Page break]

65

[Drawing of seven men in profile, showing the different hats made in the camp] Summer Hats (home made).

[Drawing of a man handing over a tin of tea, with smoke in his eyes from a stove] “I’ve just made you a brew on the ‘Smokeless Wonder’!”

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66

In all R.A.F. camps there were a number of Germans whose sole job was to look for contraband articles such as tools, maps, weapons, etc., etc., also tunnels. These men were dressed in blue overalls and were referred to by the prisoners as Moles, Ferrets or Goons. It was the duty of any P.O.W. on seeing one enter a billet to give a warning shout of “Goons Up.”

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67

[Drawing of an industrious barrack block with one man shouting as a German guard enters] “GOONS up!”

[Page break]

68

Searches by the Gestapo, the dreaded secret police of Germany, took place from time to time. Prisoners, protected by the Geneva Convention and International Red Cross did not treat these men with the respect accorded to them by the Germans. Amongst the contraband articles in the opposite sketch may be seen a copy of “Handle with care.” This was inserted whilst the artist was in bitter mood, owing to the fact that several of the original sketches for this book, which had taken three months to complete, were taken during one of these searches, with the consequence that they had all to be repeated.

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69

[Drawing of four Germans, including Gestapo, speaking to another German who is wearing no trousers. A man can be seen running away with trousers over his shoulder] “I’ve been searching Barrack B35 – couldn’t find a thing. Well, what are you all staring at? ?”

[Page break]

70

A small room was provided at the end of each billet for coal storage and other essential purposes. This room, affording the only semblance of privacy obtainable in the camp, was frequently made use of by students and musicians who wanted, or were compelled by their comrades, to be alone.

[Page break]

[Drawing of two men each side of a wall, one trying to study, the other playing a large wind instrument] The man next door.

[Page break]

72

[Drawing of a man spooning condensed milk from a can] “Ah!”

Quite frequently prisoners drank milk-less tea in order to eat their condensed milk, thus satisfying the craving for sweetstuffs caused by the plainness and monotony of their diet.

Rarely a day passed without its attendant crop of rumours which were usually much more optimistic that the real news. We had Turkey declaring war on Germany at very frequent intervals, our troops continually landing on the shores of France and Holland, and on one occasion in 1943 they advanced as far as Paris! Hitler too, was frequently being assassinated or killed in air raids.

[Page break]

73

[Drawing of men silhouetted by windows]

“… DIXIE HIMSELF TOLD A FELLOW I KNOW…”
“… STRAIGHT FROM NO.3 BOILER …”
“… RUSSIANS HAVE ENCLOSED THE CAMP …”
… 40,000 TRUCKLOADS THUNDERING THROUGH THE ALPS …”
“… TURKEY IN THE WAR AGAIN …”
“… MOVING IN 3 WEEKS TO A CAMP NEAR SHUTTLEBURG …”
“… SHOOTING ONE IN TEN…”
“… ALL FOUR-YEAR-OLDS- BEING REPATRIATED…”
“… A RUMOUR OF A RUMOUR THAT WILL SHOCK THE COMPOUND…”
“… WARRANT OFFICERS UP TO GROUP CAPTAINS…”
“… A LANDING IN NORWAY… “
“… DON’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT”
“… MASS ESCAPE…”
“… SHH … PSST… SSHHH…”
“… CIVVIES RAIDED THE BREAD WAGON…”
“…WOULD BE OVER SIX MONTHS AFTER THE POSTEN’S LITTLE DAUGHTER DIED…!
“…A MAN WHO WORKS IN THE GERMAN OFFICERS’ MESS SAID…”
“…THE SPIRITS SAY A METTER OF WEEKS.”

[Page break]

74

The theatre at Heydekrug, having provided many first-class performances, gave a grand finale, when it was rased to the ground by fire. In an existence of soul-destroying monotony and boredom, this fire was one of the few exciting incidents, especially so, when the German equipment failed at the last moment and the fire-fighting had to be carried out by prisoners with buckets of water and sand.

[Page break]

75

[Drawing of German troops with a hose on a trolley fighting a fire] “For sheer speed and efficiency in fire-fighting…

[Drawing of German troops trying to fight a fire with a hose which has run dry] …we find it hard to beat …

[Drawing of prisoners fighting a fire using buckets and sand in a line] …the old-fashioned human chain…”

[Page break]

76

[Drawing of a man carrying a large tower of dishes and utensils being attacked by a wasp]

Wasps were another plague of the summer months. Attracted by numerous Red Cross jam tins, they arrived in their thousands.

[Page break]

77

A man was lucky indeed if he completed his prisoner-of-war service undamaged by balls thrown about by people who enjoyed throwing balls about.

[Drawing of a man with a large bump on his head being called by two men playing sport] “Ball, please!!”

[Page break]

78

After several years in Germany we acquired an amazing amount of personal kit which unfortunately on moving from one camp to another had to be carried by the prisoners themselves. As replacements were hard to come by, we were loth to discard even the most trivial of our belongings. In consequence to loads carried were sometimes colossal.

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79

[Drawing of a very overloaded man in uniform] “… now I wonder if I packed my toothbrush?”

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80

Travelling by cattle trucks, the usual mode of transport for prisoners in Germany is not to be recommended. The trucks, divided into three sections by barbed wire, held forty prisoners and four guards, the guards being accommodated in the centre compartment. Space was insufficient to allow lying at full length, washing facilities were non-existent, and to add still further to our discomfort, boots, belts, and braces were removed as a precaution against escape. As journeys sometimes lasted as long as fifteen days, prisoners, on their arrival, unwashed, unshaven, dirty and red-eyed from lack of sleep, looked a sorry sight.

[Page break]

[Drawing of unkempt men in a cattle truck, one handing his soap to a woman outside] “’Ere y’are, Miss – you need it more than I do!!”

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82

[Drawing of men in bunks, with another arriving with full load on his back, exhausted] “Don’t bother to unpack, we’re moving to-morrow.”

Moving was always an unpleasant experience for prisoners of war, so, after having been evacuated twice towards Central Germany within a space of three weeks, the rumour of another move was not received with enthusiasm.

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83

[Drawing of a man covered with bees running from a beehive, being shouted at by a sergeant. DO NOT TOUCH THE HIVE] “Can’t you read the b---- notice??”

A beehive in a prison camp seems out of place. This one at Thorn was probably unique. The swarm was captured in the camp, and provided the fortunate owners with a quantity of homey until some inquisitive prisoner disturbed the hive and caused them to evacuate.

[Page break]

84

“Blower” fires were an ideal invention for P.O.W. camps as they produced a very fierce heat with remarkably little fuel. The principle of the “Blower” was to create a strong draught of air below the fire by means of a fan driven at high speed. A complicated gearing system was often used to create a stronger draught.

[Page break]

85

[Drawing of an airman, airborne, with a fire over a blower system being operated by another prisoner below] “I told you she was geared too high!!”

[Page break]

86

Washing facilities were primitive, the water in this case being pumped by hand into a large wooden tank, from which it flowed into troughs perforated at intervals by small holes which served as taps. Our only means of bathing was to throw buckets of cold water over each other.

[Page break]

87

[Drawing of a wash room, with a number of men carrying out ablutions] “I said, have you seen my soap???”

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88

[Drawing of a watch tower over the barbed wire compound, with a German sentry weeping on the shoulder of another whilst a prisoner plays the bagpipes in a corner of the yard] “He’s been doing it all day!”

The wail of the bagpipes was a strange sound to hear in the centre of wartime Germany. Nevertheless, at one camp we had a full band of five pipes, a large drum and two side drums.

Hardy Scotsmen practiced the pipes at odd hours in odd corners of the compound.

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89

[Drawing of a group of men doing exercises, tied himself in knots] “Would you mind repeating those last instructions?”

Physical Training was a popular way of keeping fit when food was reasonably plentiful. As soon as we were on short rations, however, strenuous exercise was universally abandoned, as it produced an appetite that could not possibly be satisfied.

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90

During the last few days in East Prussia it was generally expected that the advancing Russians would cut us off from Germany proper. Excitement was at fever pitch when it was rumoured that the last railway had been cut. This, however, proved to be false and the Germans evacuated the seven thousand men in three days. As there was no transport available all kit had to be carried by the prisoners themselves, with the result the we were heavily overloaded. Also all communal property, including a large library of technical and fiction books, sports equipment, and some thirty thousand Red Cross food parcels had to be abandoned.

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[Drawing of a long column of men walking through the countryside, passing two women along the road] “Aren’t men beasts!”

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92

There was almost always an acute shortage of fuel for cooking Red Cross food. Any opportunity of “scrounging” wood or coal was quickly grasped. First arrivals at a new camp were fortunate in being able to obtain a good store of wood left lying around by the builders.

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[Drawing of a very busy compound, with a huge number of activities taking place] “I’m sorry, I can’t understand a word you say.”

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94

[Drawing of a man lying on the grass, his moustache being nibbled by rabbits] “Mighty coarse grass around these parts…”

It was very unusual to find animals in a prison camp. We were therefore surprised on arrival at a new camp, to find tame rabbits, a dog and two cats, which had been supplied by the German guards in exchange for cigarettes.

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95

[Drawing of three men separated by barbed wire, with a variety of clothing and food]

Russian prisoners in an adjoining compound were sent out to work each day, and were sometimes able to smuggle in food from the surrounding farms. They sometimes traded for clothing owned by British P.O.W.s.

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96

The space between billets was littered with blower fires of all sizes and designs, as many as two hundred and twenty-four being counted in one “street”. A fire was usually owned by a “combine” of from two to twenty men who shared and cooked all their food together.

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[Drawing of a large group of fires with men huddled round them, and one man standing up smoking a pipe] “There’s nothing I enjoy more than a quiet smoke this time of night.”

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98

[Drawing of two men standing smoking, half clothed, surrounded by flies] “I can’t see what it is you dislike about this nice hot sunshiny weather Anderson”

Summer in a prison camp had several disadvantages such as dust and unpleasant smells. Flies were extremely annoying and dangerous, outbreaks of dysentery frequently being caused by these pests.

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[Drawing of two men discussing tobacco and smoking] “Got a pipeful of tobacco to spare, old man?”

The ornate Bavarian pipes were eagerly sought by many P.O.Ws. as souvenirs of their life in Germany. The pipes were, however, seldom smoked in the camp, as they had very large bowls, and tobacco was extremely scarce.

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100

The “Swop Shops” seen in some camps were a very useful institution, as unwanted articles from personal parcels sent form England could be exchanged there for anything of similar value that might be needed. The “Swop Shop” owner acted as intermediary for a small commission (Cigarettes).

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[Drawing of two men shopping at a Swop Shop] “I want a suitable present for my son …”

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102

[Drawing of a prisoner reading “Hard Times” in front of an empty Red Cross box]

During the latter stages of the war, the Germans, owing to a lack of transport, were unable to supply us with Red Cross food sent from England. The German rations were also cut to a minimum.

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103

[Drawing of a prisoner lying awkwardly in his bunk] “Life seems full of Ups and Downs.”

Each bed was originally provided with twelve loose boards fitting crosswise on the frame. Prisoners, however, were allowed only eight of these boards which supported a “palliasse” of wood shavings. Owing to the spacing of the boards, this mattress invariably developed uncomfortable humps and hollows. Later the palliasses were removed and prisoners had only boards on which to sleep.

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104

[“WELL, WELL; FEELING BETTER NOW, EH, WHAT” Drawing of a medical officer looking at a sickly patient]

The Sick Bay was situated in the Vorlager (administrative compound) and was in charge of British Army Medical Officers, who dealt patiently and efficiently with our many ailments. To them and their staff of N.C.O.’s we owe our thanks for a remarkably healthy camp.

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105

[Drawing of two men standing outside the barracks in the pouring rain] “This rain will do the crops a world of good.”

Many clubs and debating societies were formed to pass the weary hours, one of the most popular being the Farmers’ Club. Lectures and talks were given on Farming of all types in most countries of the world. Lecturers were P.O.W.s who had first-hand experience of their subject.

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106

[Underlined] HOME AT LAST [/underlined]

[Drawing of seven people dressed up for a dinner party, one of whom is laughing loudly, the rest looking uncomfortable] “… funniest thing I ever heard!!...”

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107

[Drawing of a wasp towing a drogue] The END Thank you

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Collection

Citation

R Anderson & D Westmacott, “Handle with Care,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed January 20, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/18930.

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