Letter to Mrs Cahir from Jim Cahir



Letter to Mrs Cahir from Jim Cahir


Letter from Warrant Officer Cahir to his mother and brothers. He writes about his capture in Germany after his aircraft was shot down on December 20th 1943 and subsequent capture. He goes on to describe the conditions he was kept in at Stalag IVB until his liberation on April 23rd 1945 where, after leaving the Camp and travelling to Wutzen, he was picked up by American Forces and flown back to England where he was now in hospital recovering from malnutrition.




Temporal Coverage



Six handwritten sheets


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ECahirFSCahirM-P-V450520-0001, ECahirFSCahirM-P-V450520-0002, ECahirFSCahirM-P-V450520-0003, ECahirFSCahirM-P-V450520-0004, ECahirFSCahirM-P-V450520-0005, ECahirFSCahirM-P-V450520-0006


Australian Red Cross Society
Incorporated by Royal Charter, 1941
[underlined] FOR SAFETY. [/underlined]
The name of your ship or other ships in the convoy or its escort;
The date of sailing, ports of call, or probable destination;
The description of troops aboard, any other information which, if intercepted, would be of value to the enemy;
AUS. 419441
MAY 20TH. 45.
[underlined] 1 [/underlined]
Dear Mum, Pat and Vincent,
Well here I am in England once again, you have no idea how wonderful it feels to be a free man, just to look out of the window and not see barbed wire with Machine Gun posts along it is a pleasure in itself. Once again I feel like an individual not just an animal ordered around by the fear of a gun – it’s a marvellous feeling to be free!
Well I don’t know where to begin the story, I think the best plan would be to go back to the night of Dec 20th 1943. We were attacked by German Aircraft just after bombing Frankfurt-on Main, the fighting set us on fire and the Kite went into a dive for 10,000 ft before Pat managed [inserted] to [/inserted] pull it out, he then [deleted] ordid [/deleted] ordered us to bail out and I think we were at a height of approx 8000 ft when I jumped.
I landed without injury and did the usual thing such as hiding my chute etc. I was eventually picked up twenty-four hours later by a German who handed me over to the Gestapo who in turn gave me over to the Luftwaffe and whence my life behind the wire began. Well Mum, looking back over that night I have no one else on this earth to thank for saving my life but my “Skipper” Pat Edwards; it was only by his bravery that I got out with the rest of the crew. After we had been hit, Pat remained very calm, fought the controls and eventually pulled the kite out of a death dive for just long enough to get his crew out, his last words to us still ring in my ears “Good Luck Boys and if those so and so’s catch you, don’t tell them anything”. When I was taken [inserted] to [/inserted] the Luftwaffe’s HQ’s I was told that the rest of my crew was dead, it appears that they tell everybody this to try and break their nerves which
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don’t require much breaking at that stage of the game. I then spent six days in solitary confinement on Bread and watery soup whilst they tried to get information out of me. Christmas Day 1943 was the worst day of my life, I think I was just beginning to feel the shock of the crash, I was in solitary confinement, I didn’t know who of the crew was dead or alive and I kept thinking of you at home worrying over me. I am sure I nearly went crazy that day, I wanted to laugh, cry and shout all at once, when I think of it even now I shiver!
Boxing Day I was taken out of my cell and the following day I met George Brett and the rest of the Boys and we departed from Frankfurt by train to Muhlberry where I remained until I was liberated by the Russians. I was never at Luft 3, but our mail and parcels were supposed to come through that Camp.
Stalag IVB – was an Army Camp but there was about 1200 RAF chaps there, the rest of the Camp consisted of Americans French Dutch Italians Russians Danes in fact every nationality in Europe and outside of Europe; on the day of liberation, there was 27,000 prisoners in the Camp.
We lived in huts, 90 feet long, usually 220 men to a hut but on occasions we have had over 400 in huts built for 200. In these huts we lived, cooked, smoked, talked and slept, our beds consisted of three tier bunks reaching to the roof; in bad times, we had to sleep [deleted] to [/deleted] two to a bed or on a brick floor which use [sic] to freeze in Winter. Jan. 45 is a month I will never forget in my life, because of the shortage of food, fuel and Blankets, it’s a wonder more chaps didn’t die. The health of a lot of the chaps broke
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down and in the winter of 43.44 Typhus broke out which caused the death of hundreds of nationals other than British, the chap in the bed beside me caught typhus but recovered from it. The Barrack Rooms were full of fleas and the Germans use [sic] do nothing about it.
The food question was very serious, I can honestly say that the Red Cross kept us alive, the food the Germans use [sic] to give us I would not give to any decently bred dog. Please don’t think me bitter towards Germans, I don’t think I am! all I am doing is looking back on things and giving you my own opinion.
Since being back in England I have thought a great deal over the last eighteen months and I have changed a lot in my outlook. When I landed in Germany I was pretty green & young in outlook even though I kidded myself I was a man of the world and perhaps I even acted as one; it was not until I got behind the barbed wire did I see what War did to men.
Men who had been living peaceful lives suddenly whipped away from their families, thrown into a dirty camp and forced to work on hardly enough food to live on. Men shot dead because they were hungry and stole potatoes peelings from a rubbish cart, another man shot dead because he was hungry and attempted to steal some strawberries for a German garden.
When I first went to IVB it use [sic] to make me sick to see Russians grovelling in the dirt looking for something to eat, scraping out tins that had been lying on the ground for weeks, fighting and kicking one another over a piece of spud peeling, but after a few weeks I became like the rest of the Camp, a silent spectator knowing that one day the tables would be turned.
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Jerry’s prisoners was (sic) composed of men women and children. Do you remember Warsaw? Well in our camp there was 1000 women and 600 children between the ages of 6 and 10 years who were deported from Warsaw and were destined to work for Hitler and his allies; that is only one case of forced labour, there were thousands of young girls and Women in German [sic] like the one I met who had been taken from their homes in occupied territory, tatooed [sic] with a number on their arm & put to work. Well Mum, if I don’t stop this you [inserted] will [/inserted] think I have become [inserted] a [/inserted] cynic and developed a hatred of the Germans, I assure you nothing of the kind has happened, as far as I am concerned I neither like nor hate the Germans and [inserted] I think [/inserted] they deserve everything that’s coming [inserted] to [/inserted] them.
Now to get back to the Camp; we were liberated by the Russians on Apr 23rd the day that they linked up with the Americans, at a place called Torgau. It was quite an exciting week for us, as you no doubt know we were hemmed in on all sides and the S.S. put up quite some resistance. Air activity proceeding the liberation was great, the American Fighter Pilots used to put on shows for us over the camp, but the climax was obtained when fighters strafed an ammo train about 1/2 mile from the Camp, did that train go up with a bang!
The night before the Russians arrived the German guards packed up and went for their lives and it was not until the morning when we went out on parade to be counted that we discovered that we owned the Camp. The Russians left us in the Camp and continued their mopping up operations,
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about a week later they told us we had to get out as they needed the Camp, so we went to a place called Riesa about 20 KM’s away and installed ourselves in a Germany Military Barracks; myself and nine other chaps thought we would like a little comfort for once, so we lived in a flat that had been occupied by a Nazi Official. We spent about a week here in Riesa until we got a bit tired of it, then we decided that the Russians were not doing much about getting us home, so we walked out on them, and hiked along the road until we reached the Mulda River at a place called Wutzen. There the Yanks picked us up and fed us like Kings.
We then travelled to Halle, spent a few days there and eventually was [symbol] flown out by Dakotas to Brussels where Lancs picked us up to fly us to England.
On reaching England I was admitted to Hospital suffering from malnutrition, I feel O.K. but the old tummy can’t get used to good meals consequently I am on a milk Diet; I expect to be in Hospital two to three weeks so don’t worry over me, as the Hospital I am in is very nice and they feed you very well.
I have losted [sic] a bit weight, but on a milk Diet it shouldn’t be long before I put it on again. When I think of all the Girls at home doing all kinds of things to get their weight down I smile, tell them to send a stamped and addressed envelope to me and I will post back the secret to them.
The rest of IVB is still at Riesa, the way the Russians are carrying on they could be there for months. The Russians are a funny crowd! I still can’t figure them out so I won’t
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attempt to give you my opinion of them in a letter.
I had a visit from Auntie Agnes and Uncle Shamus yesterday, I think they expected me to be nothing but skin & bone, I began to feel sorry I had disappointed them. They bought [sic] with them a couple of your letters also a few from Mary; they also told me that Vincent had joined the Navy, nice going Vincent! I hope you enjoy the life. Don’t worry over him, Mum, this War will be over very shortly and we will all be back with you.
I am enclosing a list of letters I received from you, I received many other letters from other people and answered them all in some way or the other whilst I was in Germany, I will write to everybody again within the next couple of weeks, at the moment I am a bit out of practice writing letters and besides it’s not the easiest job whilst in bed. You might tell everybody that has written to me that I really appreciate their kindness and I will drop a line later on.
I don’t think there is anything else you can send me, I am expecting RAAF HQ’s down here within the next couple of Days, they ought to be able to enlighten me on certain things; yes there is one thing you can send me, that is a ‘Fruit Cake’ it’s a few months since I tasted a good one.
Well Mum, I must close. I know I have left a lot out but I will save it until I get home, this letter writing is not such an easy job I thought it to be or perhaps it’s just because I am out of practice. Kindest regards to everybody back home.
Love xxxx


Jim Cahir, “Letter to Mrs Cahir from Jim Cahir,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 2, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20088.

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