My War Story

BCurnockRMCurnockRMv1.pdf

Title

My War Story

Description

A memoir written by Dick Curnock. It covers his wartime service and also his service after the war for the RAF. It covers his brother Sam and his accident as a pilot.
Dick started his training at Lords in London, Bridlington then Bridgnorth and Dalcross. Next move was to Wellesbourne where he crewed up and practised bombing from a Wellington., then Dishforth for conversion on to Halifaxes.
His squadron was 425 at Tolthorpe and he undertook night flying training. On his second mission he was shot down near Augsburg. He was taken prisoner and interrogated before being transferred to Stalag Luft VI. He describes his life there.
As the Russians got nearer they were transferred by cattle truck to Stalag Luft 357 at Torun.
Next they were subjected to the Long March in April 1945. During this the flight engineer, Ginger Wheadon was shot by an RAF Typhoon.
After being liberated and returning to the UK he served briefly in Egypt then Italy as an RAF transport driver. During this time he went to Egypt to visit his brother, Bob who was ill in Cairo.
Eventually he was demobbed from Italy via Austria and Paris,

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2014-04-26

Contributor

Peter Bradbury

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

71 printed sheets

Language

Identifier

BCurnockRMCurnockRMv1

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

[photograph]

Richard Montague Curnock

My War Story

[page break]

[underlined] CONTENTS [/underlined]

Page Number

Foreword 4

World War II begins 5

Samuel William Curnock 7

Dick's War Begins 10

Dalcross 10

Wellesbourne- Warwickshire 11

Heavy Conversion Unit - Dishforth (York's) the crew is completed 13

Tolthorpe - Squadron station 14

Our First Mission 15

The Second and Final Mission 16

Prisoner of War-number 2108 17

Stalag Luft VI - Heydekrug 18

Kriegies 10 commandments 20

Torun Stalag Luft 357 25

Oerbke near Fallingsbostel 27

The Long March 27

19th April 1945 28

The end of the War nears 31

Military Transport Training 33

Horsham 34

Egypt??? 35

To Italy 36

On the Road to Bari 39

Mercy Mission to Egypt 43

Dakota back to Italy - Treviso 46

2

[page break]

Reunions 49

Appendix 1- RAF flying log book 52

i) Gunnery course results 52

ii) Gunnery training 53

iii) - vi) 22 O.T.U 54-57

vii) - viii) 1664 Conversion Unit 58 - 59

ix) 425 Squadron 60

x) Flights to visit Bob in Egypt 61

Appendix 2 - Berlin cemetery plan 62

Appendix 3 - The March 63

Appendix 4 Red Cross map of prisoner of war camps

i) Long march route and map correction information 65

ii) Long march route 66

iii) Blue cross in circle marks where Dick was shot down. Red
cross near Frankfurt where he was moved to 67

iv) Red line shows route taken by Dick. Torun (Thorn camp) 68

v) Poznan - Stalag Luft XXI D 69

vi) Stalag Luft VI - Lithuania 70

3

[page break]

Foreword

The following writings are a combination of Dick's recollections as he remembers them in 2013/14. Also within are additions (in blue) from earlier recordings by Barbara, and information taken from his Wartime log (given to him by the Red Cross when in his first POW camp). And from his RAF navigator's; air bomber's and air gunner's flying log book.

Richard Montague Curnock (in his own words January 2014)

I was speaking just recently to Shirley and Steph about the anniversary of the shooting of the 50 POW's that attempted the escape from Stalag Luft 3, as I was at that time also a prisoner in another camp and was recounting how we took the news of this wholesale murder of our fellow airmen, also what the Germans retaliated with was an excuse for their prisoners over in North Africa having to sleep in tents (which anybody knows most troops lived that way in the desert) they took all our mattresses off the bunk beds, which left us with about five or six bed boards only and one blanket too sleep on, also we had two tables and a few chairs to each room, these they also removed.

All this happened whilst we were herded out of huts on to the parade ground where we were surrounded by hundreds of the German army in lorries with mounted machine guns, also the troops were on the ground with machine guns also lying on the roofs of the huts were virtually surrounded and all you could see guns pointing your way.

4

[page break]

[underlined] World War II begins [/underlined]

Guess it is time for me to start this saga of my war time story, which started when it was announced that Hitler had not replied to our letter stating of no reply had been heard from them by 11am on 3rd September 1939 then we would be at war with them, no reply so we were at war again.

I was a fifteen year old and had been working for a year and half, the first twelve months in a piano shop on Belgrave Road, was sacked for not dusting the violins and bows that hung on the walls "enough times".

My day started at 8.45 washing the front of the shop which was on a corner, so had two large windows and tiles along under the window, then dust all the pianos and they needed polishing regularly, sweeping regularly, attending to customers who wanted to pay for the their [sic] pianos which they paid for weekly. Pianos were priced at the lower being 12 pounds for an upright and 15 pound for an over strung, we had a special made for a customer a baby grand, the wood used was walnut and cost 35 pounds was on show for a week.

[photograph]

Dick, Sam, Bob and Mary, Minehead Street. 1940-1

Next job was making boot polish and paint that was used in the boot and shoe industry. My job was delivering the product to a lot of factories in Leicester and as far as Wigston and Oadby on a bike with a large basket over the front wheel, which held quite a lot of cans, they weighed nearly as much as I did that's another story.

5

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[photograph] [photograph]

Dick in ATC uniform 1941 Bob, Dick, Sam and Mary (1941)

6

[page break]

[underlined] Samuel William Curnock [/underlined]

[photograph]

Samuel William Curnock RAFVR: newly qualified sergeant pilot 1942

Brother Sam was already in the RAF and over in Canada training to be a pilot and I had then joined the Air Training Corps on third September 1941 as an aircrew cadet, brother Bob I believe was waiting to go into the RAF as a trainee pilot, I believe that during his tour over there Sam was killed in a flying accident at Gibraltar in 1942 (26th September 1942).

7

[page break]

[photograph]

Our flying crews have their recreation room at the United Kingdom landplane base

Sam (second from left) in a recreation room

There was nothing to how the accident happened but that the aircraft crashed into the sea at Gibraltar with no survivors. The pilot was a senior captain, Sam was a second pilot officer and they had an officer wireless operator. We were led to believe it could have been sabotage but no one knew.

It was then I decided I would get in the RAF quicker if I re-mustered as an air gunner instead of waiting for my pilot navigator course to come through.

In 2009 Peter and Jayne received a phone call from Jonathan Falconer who was researching Sam Curnock, the extract below gives more information on the circumstances of Sam's death than the family had ever known before.

Extract from "Names in Stone"-Jonathan Falconer.

Sam had volunteered to join the RAF in October 1940 on his eighteenth birthday, just as the fortunes of the RAF seemed to be swinging in its favour after the desperate air battles of the Battle of Britain in the summer months. He learnt to fly on Tiger Moths at 7 Elementary Flying Training School, Desford; Leicestershire. Before sailing to Canada; for further flying training at 73 Service Flying Training School; north Battleford, Saskatcheqan [sic] .

Sam qualified as a pilot and returned to England. With a shortage of flight crews for civil aircraft he was transferred in May 1942 to fly transport aircraft with Britain's national airline; BOAC.

in September 1942, Sam was Second Officer in the four-man crew of Whitley MK V, G-AGCI, which was operated by BOAC on its route between the UK and Gibraltar. Thirty-three year old Capt Charles Browne was in command of "Charlie-India".

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[page break]

Charlie-India had flown into Gibraltar from England on 10th September 1942 and the aircraft's Master had stated in his Voyage Report that the aircraft was tail-heavy for the landing. The aircraft left again for England on 13th September, but her Master decided to turn back after only 25 minutes, reporting that Charlie India was now flying nose heavy.

Not long before his death, Sam was second pilot in a BOAC Whitley that crashed in England on take-off due to engine failure. He was uninjured and managed to walk away from the wreckage. In the fortnight that remained before her fatal crash, Charlie-India was the subject of several engineering inspections and three test flights after report by several pilots of nose and tail heaviness during flight. These problems appeared cured, but on 19th September the Master reported that Charlie-India was underpowered during take off and the initial climb, and unstable in flight. A further detailed inspection was carried out and another test flight was arranged.

To add to Charlie-India's woes, on 24th September the twin Bristol Hercules engines of an RAF Beaufighter was run up on Gibraltar's tarmac, tail on to the BOAC Whitley. The powerful propeller wash from the two radial engines caused damage to the trailing edge of the Whitley's elevators and the rudder trim tabs. Engineers made temporary repairs to the elevators, the damaged trim tab mechanisms were replaced, and a test flight was arranged for 3.56pm on 26th September.

With Charles Browne in command and Sam and the rest of the crew, Charlie-India took off normally from Gibraltar's east-west runway at 3.56pm and climbed out over the Bay of Gibraltar to about 300 feet, whereupon Browne eased the Whitley into a left-hand turn. Then something went badly wrong because the aircraft assumed a power glide attitude and continued in a shallow dive until it struck the sea at 3.59pm, sinking almost immediately in more than 900 feet of water.

Naval vessels were on the scene within minutes. Apart from a few small items of wreckage floating on the surface, the aircraft was not recovered. There were no survivors from her crew of four, and no bodies were ever recovered.

BOAC's technical investigators launched an immediate inquiry into the crash and on 29th October 1942 they made their report. Its conclusion was based more on informed speculation than hard fact, but in the absence of any wreckage or survivors this was the best that could be hoped for: "The precise cause of the accident cannot be determined, but a possible cause was an uncontrollable elevator trimmer tab due to a fracture in some part of the actuating mechanism .... There exists a possibility that subsequent to the take off one or both of the elevator trimmer tab mechanisms fractured, with the result that the Master was unable to maintain longitudinal control of the aircraft."

9

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[underlined] Dick's war begins [/underlined]

22nd March 1943; When l was 18 and 11 months I was called up (RAF (V.R) volunteer Reserve) and was sent a rail warrant for travel to London and Lord's cricket ground which was the Aircrew Receiving Centre (A.C.R.C) for al! aircrew candidates were we were kitted out and billeted in hotels all around the St Johns Wood area, loads of marching around going from one lecture to another with lots of marching exercises around the hotels, and in between times you were taken to a medical centre for inoculation, stand in line both arms bared, left arm two injections one inoculation right arm then out to the street, where there were bodies al! over the place, some bodies flat out other holding their arms and moaning. When they managed to get all of us in some semblance of order, we marched back to our hotels, but swinging of arms was painful and was not done with any energy.

After our initiation into RAF life we were on a train to Bridlington to learn navigation, armaments mathematics- aircraft recognition plus as always plenty of marching from one lecture to another, one other pastime was Morse code and the Aldis lamp, this was done with someone being sent to the end of the breakwater with an instructor with an Aldis lamp and they sent signals to the rest of us on the beach in twos, one reading the signal being sent and your friend writing it down, we used got some very weird messages at end of a session.

My next stage of training after Bridlington was Bridgnorth where unfortunately there was an outbreak of scarlet fever and German measles and unfortunately I happened to catch German measles and was put into an isolation hut, one of many for the recruits who had caught one of the diseases. I was put into a room of my own and had two weeks being looked after very well by a WAAF nurse during the day, and my night nurse who looked after me exceptionally well and was a lovely young lady. And as my condition improved she brought a radio into my room and we managed to have a dance and then she would tuck me up for the night with a cuddle and kiss goodnight.

After two weeks it was back to work where we did have a lot of lectures about armaments - aircraft recognition - Morse code with mathematics also but mainly armaments, how to dismantle a machine gun and also put it back and hope it worked alright.

Aircraft recognition was a priority knowing which the enemy was and which ours. My time spent with aircraft recognition at home kept me getting top marks in every exam we did, we had night vision exams where pictures were shown on a screen as if you were in a turret and had to identify the aircraft shown, my trouble was the fellows around me were always asking me what the aircraft was, the instructor stopped me helping them, he said that they would not be any use unless they got to know themselves. From then on I was removed from my seat and had to sit by the light switches turning them on and off as required. After finishing this course my instructors gave me a very good report and should get on well.

[underlined] Dalcross [/underlined]

Dick RAF flying log book information can be seen in appendix 1

My section was then sent on leave for a week after which we had to board a train to Scotland, destination was a place called Dalcross (near Inverness, Moray Firth) which turned out to be our Initial Flying Training course on Avro Ansons.

10

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Pilots converting on to twin engine Airspeed Oxford after training in Canada. This was now 17.7.43 and my course here lasted until 28.8.43 (appendix i) and ii)). The training consisted of being taken up in Avro Ansons six training gunners and an instructor we took it in turns to sit in the turret which had one gun in it attached was a camera which we had to train on a fighter aircraft which made a dummy attack on you, all exciting stuff, except when the fighter was late arriving and you had to fly round and round a church steeple, that was when my last coffee and biscuit decided to reappear, this happened three times, each time I was sent to the sick bay and gave an explanation of what was happening, I was given a glass of horrible liquid and told to report back for more flying. This occurred twice more by that time my stomach stopped playing around and settled down to the rigours of flying.

We also had firing with the one gun at a drone towed behind another aircraft and our bullets had colours on the tips so that they could record the number of hits. Our results were pathetic as the guns would only fire two bullets at a time and then jam so you then had to rearm it; we also used camera guns with which we had more success.

It also happened to be a training camp for pilots on night flying on airspeed oxfords.

Bob had by this time gained his pilots wings in Canada and was back in England and was posted to Dalcross near Inverness. I think this was during July 1943 and August 1943 to train on twin engine Airspeed Oxfords. Neither of us knew we were there until one evening we were going into Inverness and just happened to be walking down the road to catch the bus into town when I spotted Bob who was as surprised as I was; from then on we spent a bit of time together until he was posted elsewhere.

I continued at Dalcross to become a Sergeant air gunner had quite a good report from all the training staff and was given above average report from most of the tutors, not that it helped much as the ammunition we were using had a wide flange on the bullet casing as it was American and caused it to stick, you could only fire a couple of rounds and then you had to re-cock it again, life was hard on us.

[underlined] Wellesbourne- Warwickshire - meet the crew [/underlined]

18.9.1943. (Appendix iii) t [sic] vi)) My next posting was to Wellesbourne (Warwickshire) the Operational Training Unit to start being crewed up with members of a crew. The procedure was for the pilots to have a chat with the navigators, wireless operators, bomb aimers and air gunners and then ask the ones he wished to be his crew if they would join him Charlie (Chuck) Stowell, the pilot picked Bob Friskey as navigator then Eugene Fullum our wireless operator, the next was our bomb aimer Gordon Dinsmore, which left the rear gunner, which I believe was unanimous decision by them all that was me. We then spent our time getting to know each other; that is we went out at night doing a spot of drinking and rather a lot of talking or the other way round.

11

[page break]

[photograph]

Bob Friskey, Eugene Fullom and Chuck Stowell

[photograph]

A copy of the only photo of the crew: Back row: Bob Friskey, Gordon Dinsmore
Front row: Eugene Fullom, Dick Curnock, Chuck Stowell

This was at Gaydon the satellite airfield to Wellsbourne, here we started flying as a crew in the Wellington bomber, doing practice bombing at targets on the coast and various places also we had

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[page break]

fighter aircraft doing dummy attacks during which I had a camera gun and it recorded my success against these attacks we also did firing at a draught [sic] towed behind another aircraft, with our bullets being painted different colours so they could count the number of hits we scored. This proved to be very hap hazard as the ammunition we were using was American and every second round got stuck in the breech and had to be manually ejected so our scores were very low. We did quite a lot of cross country flying for the navigators to gain experience a lot of it at night time.

We also did a lot of circuit flying at night so that the pilot could manage to get us back to the airfield safely. Some nights were a bit bumpy as he misjudged his height, my head used to get a lot of knocks on these occasions and the skippers name was anything but "Chuck".

[drawing]

Picture drawn by Dick whilst a prisoner of war

[underlined] Heavy Conversion Unit - Dishforth (Yorks) - the crew is completed [/underlined]

14.1.1944. ( appendix vii and viii) We moved on next to a conversion unit which meant going onto four engine aircraft this was at Dishforth (near Ripon, Yorks) 1664 Heavy conversion unit. The aircraft was a four engine Halifax bomber for which we needed two extra crew; a mid upper gunner and a flight engineer. These we met and we all moved into a hut so that we would could get know each other. The mid upper gunner was a Canadian from a farming background a rather slow on the uptake but we got on well together. The engineer was from Salford a tall lad and red haired. The mid upper gunner was Wesley (Wes) Skerick and the engineer was Ginger Wheadon.

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[photograph] [photograph]

Ginger Wheadon Wes Skerick

At this stage we were beginning to get to know each other and in the evenings we were usually down in mess having some light refreshments, Bob Friskey didn't very often come, as he had not been married very long and took to writing to his wife almost every evening, so the rest of us went into Burroughbridge [sic] the nearest town to have a few beers, this we managed quite well with a another couple of Canadians from another crew who Chuck knew, and we each bought a round of drinks which lasted us most of the evening.

[underlined] Tolthorpe - Squadron station [/underlined]

7.2.1944. (Appendix ix) We then moved from Dishforth on to our squadron station which was at Tolthorpe near Easingwold still up in Yorkshire. It was the only French Canadian squadron from Canada, although all spoke English there was a lot of French spoken between most of the other crews, also most of the senior officers were from French ancestors. They could get very aggressive to each other as happened one evening later on.

Here there were four squadrons of Halifax bombers with around 60 planes. The squadrons with mainly Canadian or French/Canadian crews were:

[picture of 425 Squadron crest]

420 Snowy Owl

425 Alouette (the Lark- Dick's squadron)

431 Iroquois

434 Blue Nose

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We did lots of night cross country to various parts of the England to give the navigator, targets to find and which would be our target to bomb later on, also we had a bombing range which we had to find and drop practice smoke bombs on and from a certain height, some pilots tried to drop from a lower height so that they were getting better results and a higher percentage of hits. Not our pilot he said we would go as high as the aircraft could climb and then drop our bombs, which we did, only to be told on our return we were still too low, to which the skipper said that the Wellington couldn't climb any higher, and the rear gunner had a tin of drink in his flying suit pocket that was frozen no more was said on the subject.

We as a crew were sent to a camp which was to improve our fitness, which we didn't think was necessary as we all felt fit and well, we were allocated a hut and promptly forgot, we went for meals regularly and were not called on to do anything apart from eat and sleep, Eugene Gordon and myself walked around the fields and found where they were growing swedes, carrots, turnips, so we borrowed a few and cooked them on our stove in the hut and with other bits from the cookhouse and had some good meals in the evenings. Fortunately we were only there for about 10 days, and then were sent to squadron.

The squadron was from Canada and had only been in England a short while and we joined it at the end of January 1944 in which time we got to know the aircraft we to fly in, it was a Halifax MK3 K.W.U for Uncle. Unfortunately for us we only did about 14 hours training on our aircraft.

[photograph of Halifax bomber]

Halifax Bomber

[underlined] Our First Mission [/underlined]

February 24th/25th we were called for a briefing and found we were due to fly a bombing trip to a place called Swinefurt [sic] , a long trip to the south of Germany which would be an eight hour round trip but unfortunately the port outer engine decided to cause a problem and stopped altogether, we couldn't climb to our bombing height due to lack of power and could not carry on at this low height, so the skipper decided we had best abort and return to base dropping our bomb load at sea. Which we did, and landed back at air station about three hours after take off. Not a good start at all, but the fault was found to be a blockage in the fuel pipe to the engine.

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[underlined] The Second and Final Mission [/underlined]

February 25th/26th we were on our second trip which was a bombing raid on Augsburg (North West of Munich) to bomb a factory making ball bearings for tanks, from which we failed to return. Our aircraft was hit by anti aircraft fire and both the engines on our left side were put out of action and caught fire. The noise it made when the shell hit our left side was like a firework being let off inside a dustbin. Then the next thing was flames coming past my turret Chuck our skipper came over our intercom asking if we were all uninjured which he did by calling each one by name. Then he said that we were not going to keep going, so had to bale out, each one of us saying we understood, good luck and made ready to bale out. What to do first I thought, disconnect my intercom, then the oxygen tube, think we were flying at a height of around twenty four thousand feet so would I have enough oxygen to keep going to get my parachute which was in a rack in the fuselage and then get the panel open in the fuselage floor for myself and mid upper - which was Wes to jump out. We shook hands and shouted good luck and looked down through the hatch to see the flames from the engines flying by so put my leg out and flow of air pulled the rest of me out!!

Suddenly everywhere is quiet, you are supposed to count to ten before pulling the ripcord to your parachute by the time I counted up to four I didn't hear any noise so pulled my ripcord and was instantly jerked upright, with my flying suit collar up round my ears and it was very quiet.

My thoughts whilst drifting down were varied and very worrying to say the least, it had my thoughts in turmoil.

Below was a patchwork due to snow and could have been fields, but from a height of 20000 feet there was no telling what it was going to be. My thoughts of a church spire came to mind or there was an industrial town down there with factories with tall chimneys also electric power cables, or a town with tall house and me hanging from the roof. The later [sic] was near to it as I came down between two poplar trees and I landed in a town house garden in an apple tree. I had my parachute hanging up in the tree, which I decided to pull down but it must have snagged and a piece ripped off and was left hanging in the tree what I had pulled down and bundled up and slipped under some buses [sic] . I then decided to find a way out of the garden; so removed my flying kit as I would be very conspicuous walking around in it. At that time I was just in my battle dress getting very cold, I then found a road running alongside the garden, so jumped over the wall onto a road started walking past some large houses all about five stories high, I had landed in a large residential area of a town. Then the siren for what I presumed was an air raid starting, so I walked up another road to miss people around that area, then the siren started again and people started running around (I discovered later that they had two sirens at the start of a raid and also two all clears) by which time I was back to where I had landed in the garden. So I hopped back over the wall and decided to put my flying suit back on as I was feeling very cold.

What to do now I thought; sleep seemed the best option or wake someone up and tell them who I was and call the police. I ended up curling up and sleeping and was woken by a squirrel running around me and then two elderly ladies coming our of the house next door and saw a piece of my parachute stuck up the tree, they shouted and ran back indoors and about 10 minutes later a policeman came down the garden path with a little pistol pointing at me and said hands up or words to that effect. Which I obliged, he then told me to take off my flying suit and go in front of him where

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he had left his cycle, and for me to put my clothes on his bike and we walked into the town to a police station. There were lots of people in the police station a lot were ex army with battle scars but quite polite, except one old boy who should have been in a home for the elderly along time ago, saying we would never win the war by sending us over to spy on them.

[underlined] Prisoner of War -number 2108 [/underlined] (Appendix 4 - iii) -Red Cross Map of prisoner of war camps)

I was then escorted to the Gestapo headquarters in the town which I discovered was Darmstadt (South East of Frankfurt) (on this journey Dick cut up his parachute with his penknife so that it couldn't be used by the Germans), and there met up with Wes, Eugene and Gordon whilst waiting there a rather irate man came in and picked up a chair and was going to hit Eugene with it, but fortunately I was able to stop the blow hitting Eugene with my flying suit, we found out later that Eugene had fractured his spine, releasing himself from his parachute harness whilst still hanging along way from the ground, which meant he had to go to a hospital so we didn't have any further contact with him.

Wes, Gordon and self were then taken by two armed guards to a building being used by the Police and handed over to Dulagluft Interrogation HQ on a tramcar with civilians on board who looked at us rather hostile, good job we had a couple of Luftwaffe guards with us, on the way through the streets there were a number of bodies hanging from lampposts turned out to be American airmen shot down on an earlier raid, quite a jolt to the system.

At the Interrogation HQ all our belongings were taken from us and we were then put into a cell with only a bed and a chair in it, no windows and an electric light on all the time, so you didn't know what part of the day or night it was. Dick became prisoner of war number 2108.

Then every so often an officer came in and said he was from the Red Cross and he would make sure that my parents would be notified where I was and was alright, but was being held in Germany as a prisoner of war and would be able to write once we had been sent to a POW camp. This treatment went on for quite a time you didn't know what day it was or time of day, we were fed soup and black bread and had brown water which they said was coffee, two or three times I was taken out and interviewed by an officer who told me who our commanding officer was and he had a daughter, had I met her, and then proceeded to tell me about the Halifax bomber but it wasn't doing much damage and we were losing them at a fare [sic] rate every night. When after a few days we were taken into the camp and given an American plastic suitcase in which was all manner of toiletries and clothes -a pair of slip on slippers, a towel, a face flannel, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, pyjamas, packet of pipe tobacco and a pipe, packet of twenty cigarettes, some vest and pants, a bar of chocolate a meal can opener, also an American army shirt.

We stayed there for a short while until they had enough bodies to fill up a lot of cattle trucks to take us to our next camp. I was then issued with our name and prisoner of war number, mine being 2108 and made of metal, we still had only our battledress uniforms and it was February so felt the cold. (Appendix 4 - iv)

Then one morning we were paraded on the square with our cases and marched off to the railway yard where our train awaited, there was no difference between first and third class, you were just herded along and pushed up into a cattle truck 20 prisoners into each end of the wagon (The wagons had written on the side - 40 hommes or 8 cheveaux, this became part of the POW insignia after the war),

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with the centre section for the guards, so each wagon was divided into compartments by a wire netting wall. There were no toilets so you had to wait until we had been shunted off the mainline and were then allowed to do your do's sitting on a log which was alongside the railway line, at first it was very embarrassing but after three or four days you didn't bother just got on with it.

We had a stop each day for a bowl of soup and drink of so called coffee. Forgot to mention that each truck had a guard sitting on top of the wagon and must have been covered in smoke from the engines. Sleeping was almost impossible with twenty people in a small space, but you managed you might have had feet by your head or a bottom, because the only pillow you had was your plastic suitcase.

I didn't keep a record of how long the train trip was but was told it was ten to twelve days, we passed through a couple of large stations but could only see out through the gaps in the sides of the trucks as the guards closed the doors, were surprised at one station when we went slowly past a train of open trucks packed with people they were either Jews or displaced persons being taken to places of forced labour, we couldn't pass them anything so had to just let them pass without being able to speak to them.

[underlined] Stalag Luft VI - Heydekrug [/underlined] (Appendix 4 - vi)

We finally arrived at our destination Heydekrug (in Lithuania) and Stalaf Luft 6 which meant in German prison camp for airmen. This was in East Prussia on the Baltic coast and was built on sand, so that tunnels couldn't be dug in the sandy soil, that didn't stop some of the hot heads from trying. Only one was tried and the Germans had some idea this was happening and brought a motor roller in to run up and down between the huts, it found a tunnel starting out between two huts and it sank into the sand about six feet and was stuck for two days, when they finally tried to move it, they couldn't start it as a lot of the parts had somehow gone missing, the Germans never did the same trick again.

All the crew members met up again here, except for Eugene, who was in hospital. The camp was divided into 3 compounds, two of which contained 2,000 men, the third being smaller held 1,000 men. Dick was in one of the larger compounds, with 60 men to a room. Dick and Ginger were in the same hut, the other crew members elsewhere.

We had some good men who cold [sic] turn their hands to anything and make things out of bits and pieces, one being a clock which went backwards made from an old gramophone. Also we had radios I think there were two, both were built inside Dixie's which was an eating and cooking pot.

We had some well educated lads with as a lot of early aircrew were from college undergraduates who were in the call up age range, so they started up classes in the camp on a variety of subjects, and you could qualify for a degree as the Red Cross got permission from the Germans for this to happen. One of the POWs that made use of the books was Peter Thomas, who became a Welsh MP after the war and later Lord Thomas.

My only inroad into anything like this was to draw in our POW book, we were issued with, like a diary was the drawing of the aircraft they flew in and the air force inscription over the top; and I charged one cigarette for each drawing, not a lot but helped out. I believe a number of people at home sent me cigarettes through the Red Cross but only two tins of tobacco got through to me, these were St

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Bruno and they lasted me some time. They would have lasted longer but I used to roll some into cigarettes and fellows used to drop by for a couple of puffs.

[drawing of book]

One of Dick's drawings

Dick also found a talent for needlework. He unpicked the silk lining from his flying boots, and made a cravat, with the RAF crest embroidered on it.

Cigarettes were used as currency for buying food, if and when the Red Cross food parcels arrived, they were divided up and were allocated, as 1 parcel between seven or ten men, not a lot, but as some kriegies didn't want some of the item they sold them for cigarettes. (Kriegies was short for Kriegesgefangenen which is the German word for prisoner of war)

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[underlined] Kriegies 10 commandments [/underlined]

[drawing of scroll]

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We had radios which were hidden in various places. In our hut we had the men who looked after the radios. One evening after being shut in, lookouts kept watch whilst repairs were being done. Suddenly someone shouted Goons up. An officer with three men plus an Alsatian dog walked in, the tables were cleared very quickly, everything dropped into a carton and passed down the lower bunks, it arrived at my bunk and I had nowhere to pass it to so I hid it under my knees under a blanket and picked up a book to read. The dog came sniffing around but kept on going by, when I sort of came too I found my book which I was supposedly reading was upside down. Good job the dog didn't notice it.

[drawing of hut interior]

Inside one of the huts in a camp

Mornings started with the overnight latrine bucket having to be emptied, not a nice job we had a rota in the hut and two of us had to take a 30 to 40 litre container almost full and take it and empty it at the toilet block you invariably finished up rather damp and needed a good wash.

Next it was the guards shouting "RAUS!" get out the parade ground for morning head count and anything that the Germans thought we should know, like how well they were doing in the war but didn't say where.

After the head count which could take quite some time, they couldn't agree on the figures and had to do it again sometimes it was our own faults [sic] for moving around whilst they tried to count us.

Finally all was right so off for breakfast the German rations were not very plentiful. It started with what they said was coffee, first in the morning, but what it was made with didn't question, but it was hot and with adding powered milk you drank it, it had to be fetched from the cookhouse in metal jugs.

Dinner was usually a soup of some sort could just be potato or sauerkraut and on a good day you were given corned beef which was send to the camp from Argentina, another soup was swede with potatoes, we were also issued with a fish cheese which was not very palatable but you ate it.

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Bread, black was issued per day, it varied in the amount which was either 6 or 10 persons sharing a loaf which was about 8 or 9 inches long about 4 inches wide and could be 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches deep that is they were thicker one end than the other, so one can imagine trying to share it out to either a combination of three or twelve.

Then to the cookhouse for our very large cans of ertzats [sic] coffee I still don't know what it was made of but it was wet and warm and washed down your breakfast if you ever had any. You were dreaming about eggs and bacon and toast and marmalade but didn't make a habit of it.

The next part of the morning was spent washing and shaving or not then cleaning up your space and making it tidy, then any washing you had to do for which you had to boil water which meant finding some material to burn, bed boards were used but there was a limit to how many you could sleep without and still have a straight back. As I previously mentioned classes were being held in huts all around the camp during the day also we had the parade ground on which was played sports, football, rugby, rounder's and also they had physical exercises for those who wanted it, we had a stream running through a part of the camp which was used to see who could jump it in one go! If not you had a free foot wash and legs and shorts!!

During the evenings one of our newsreaders would come in the hut, with days news that had been listened to on one of the radios (Daily Express reporter Cyril Aynsley was one who took it down in shorthand), some of us would keep watch at the door and be ready to stop the reader if any Germans happened to be about.

Most nights it was a nightly ritual to have a walk, around your section of the camp and have a chat with anyone and everyone. Then back to your hut for a late evening drink of tea or coffee which entailed lighting up your blower to boil the water. When we then had to either get to bed or light a candle and try and read but not for long.

[cartoon drawing of brew up]

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[photograph of washing facilities]

Washing facilities of Stalag 357 Fallingbostel

Our washing and shaving facilities were very limited, with some of the camps having the washing troughs in the open, ours were inside, just a trough with cold water running along it with holes in it about 18 inches in between to allow the water to run out into another trough below. If you wanted hot water it meant you had to get the blower out find some paper - cardboard or wood to burn to get some hot water. Wood was hard to come by unless you used your bed boards, which left you with another bend in your back. So it was usually a cold water shave and not everyday.

There was a shower room but this was situated about half a mile from the camp and we were taken there under guard once in about six weeks, why it was so far from the camp no one knew.

We were searched on leaving the camp and again when we returned, what they thought we would steal from room which only had showers and all in one large room. The water was switched on for about 10 minutes so you had to be quick.

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[letter confirming POW status]

Letter received by Dick’s Father, from the Chaplain at Tolthorpe

We were allowed to write home one letter and two postcards each month, which I think most of us took the opportunity, although it took quite a long time for the first ones to come from home. My first on arrived on August 14th having been sent from home on May 28th in all I think my mail total for my stay in Germany was a total of 42. 34 from Mum and Dad and a further 8 from friends and the caterpillar club confirming I had become a member.

[photograph of family] [reverse of photograph]

Family photo Dick received, the reverse shows the German censor’s mark

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There was a lot of aircrew arriving in the camp that they had to get two large tents and add them on to the rows of huts, each one held a further hundred men which didn't help our food rations. Not long after this we were told that we were to be moved into Germany.

[underlined] Torun Stalag Luft 357 [/underlined] (Appendix 4 - iv)

The place was actually in a part of Poland which had been the Polish Corridor and was Thorn or Torun Stalag 357. So we had to get packed up and ready to go in two days as the Russians were headed our way, so it was take the essentials, our pots and pans and the blower which was used for heating water mostly; any food plus your blanket and toiletries any spare clothes, some of the Canadian families had sent things over which were ice skates and baseball bats, most of which were left behind.

A wind up gramophone was smashed up plus all the records, and on the walk to where we had to board our cattle trucks which was about two miles away the road or more like a country track for carts was littered with discarded equipment people decided they could do without.

Once we were at the train which was waiting us at the trackside, no station. We were herded into the cattle trucks, 40 persons per truck; 20 bodies in each end of the truck. The centre used for the guards. They also had a guard sitting on top of each wagon wearing goggles and had a machine gun.

This trip took us about five days and nights on a slow train to Torun (on the river Vistula), and one wasn't very clean and tidy upon arrival.

The others at Heydekrug that were being shipped by boat from the port of Memel had a very bad time on the boat as they were herded into the hold of a boat and spent between five and seven days on board in horrible conditions on the way to a camp in Germany.

Our trip by train took about five days of shake rattle and very uncomfortable and one stop a day for the toilet, and sad to say we had to use a corner of the truck to relieve ones self.

We arrived at Thorun, which was a large camp mainly army prisoners and we were crowded into huts about 120-140 per hut and the meals we had were very poor in quality and quantity. We were only there for 6 weeks and once again were on our cooks tour again, back into our 40 hommes or 6 cheveaux carriages with a small amount of straw spread across the floor which had large gaps between the floor boards and no central heating, and again another train journey of six days to our next camp which was Fallingshostel [sic] which was about 80 miles north of Hanover. This again was an army camp but now accommodated American air force as well as us British and was split into three separate camps which also included a Russian compound. (Appendix 4 - i) and ii)

Also around this time I wanted some shoes as mine were about paper thin and I managed to get a brown pair of American army boots which was just what was needed if we were going for a long walk.

The huts were the usual having two tier bunks down each side of the room and a further rows [sic] up the centre of the room, with a large stove in the centre which wasn't used as there was no fuel for it.

The cookhouse supplied us with what was called coffee and made from what we really never found out what, but we called it coffee because it was brown. The food from the cookhouse was mainly

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some sort of soup, mainly potatoes with some sauerkraut like cabbage added. Sometimes we would have a ration of corned beef which the Argentineans sent over in bulk for us and very good too. We did also had what the Germans called cheese, but it tasted very fishy but never quite found out what its origin was our supplies of Red Cross parcels were getting few and far between with so much disruption on the railway.

Where they originally intended to have one parcel person per week, we were now having to make do with one parcel for ten men and had to last them a week or longer until more arrived.

Being closer to some large towns we now had the sounds of bombers targeting them at nights, we also had some low flying Mosquitoes shooting up the railway not far from us.

We all stood outside the hut watching when one of the guards shouted at us to get inside; of course no one moved so he took his rifle off his shoulder and put a bullet in the chamber. But forgot there was one already in, so it sent a round flying out onto the ground. The old fellow looked at us shrugged his shoulders picked up the bullet and left us to watch.

[photograph of prisoners]

Prisoners of war watching allied aircraft - inside Fallingbostel

Life here was not very good as there were too many of us cramped into huts, we did have an unusual game some evenings - because as it got dusk we had some large flying insects around, about an inch to inch and half long with a hard shell body. We used to wait them and then hit them with a wooden stick, scoring two points for a certain hit and one point for a probable; you had to produce a body for the two points. But there wasn't any prizes for a high score only a mess of squashed bodies.

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[underlined] Oerbke near Fallingbostel [/underlined]

The news we had from the Germans was that during the next couple of weeks we would be leaving camp and would be marching north to a holding area somewhere near Hamburg.

Our last camp at Oerbke near Fallingbostel was very large and housed British soldiers - some Russians also American airmen, the war was drawing to a close and the Russians were approaching us from the East and the Allies from the South so the beginning of April 1945 we going to be made to leave the camp in sections and carrying all our possessions. (Appendix 4 – i) and ii)

[underlined] The Long March [/underlined]

There is more information on the Long March in appendix 3

Whatever a holding area was meant to be for and why they would want us there was never discovered. There was a lot of speculation that they were going to drive us into the Baltic and drown us or otherwise just put us in barbed wire enclosure and leave us, but they didn't.

Instead we were marched out of the camp early April to begin a long trek northwards. The first lot we were marched out of camp April 6th in parties of about 500, everybody loaded with bags and blankets a box of food, a water bottle and all your clothes which didn't amount to much. I was glad that I had been given a new pair of army boots, also an overcoat, French army blue but very thin and not very waterproof but better than nothing. We covered varying distances each day, the weather varied from wet and windy to very cold, and we were not sure where would be sleeping the next evening.

It turned out that first night which was rather wet with rain, our accommodation was a field, no trees or high hedges to shelter us so it was rather a nasty start to our walk, which was on rough tracks through farmland and we managed to collect some vegetables from fields we passed although the guards were told to shoot anyone found doing it, which meant just about everybody.

Our second night was under the stars in a field.

It was on our third day we arrived in a village and were taken in to the church for our nights lodging sleeping anywhere you could lay out on the pews and under them and in the aisles. We had to boil water outside for our tea, on our blowers.

As we progressed each day through the county we saw American aircraft by their vapour trails going on some bombing mission.

There were some days after marching or should say walking, or hobbling, that we would finish up in a farmyard, this was welcome as we soon found eggs about. Some lucky lads found barns that were not in use as the cattle were in the fields; this allowed chicken and sometimes a small pig to enter the barn which was quickly turned into a meal.

One occasion was a nice bit of garden behind a barn that was full of ripe rhubarb, must have been about 10 feet wide and 14 feet long, within a very short time it was clear, the farmer was furious, he got an officer who said he would punish any prisoner found with stewed rhubarb. He walked around

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with the farmer looking in every saucepan or a fire, in which lo and behold they were full of stewing rhubarb, he just shrugged his shoulders and that was it.

Later in the month we had to cross the river Elbe by a railway bridge, but as we approached it there was a column of tiger tanks coming over and their tracks were breaking up the road as they passed. Our guards suddenly vanished into air raid shelters and circling over the bridge was one Spitfire. With the Germans firing at him with machine guns mounted on the ends of the towers at the ends of the railway bridge, but they were nowhere near hitting him as they fired miles behind him. They were useless.

When it quietened down and the tanks had all gone our guards came out of their air raid shelter and herded us across the bridge.

We must have covered a fare [sic] distance as we have been walking every day from the 6th April and it is now midway through April and the weather is improving, but our lodgings don't improve, the villages we go through gave us drinks of water and now the guards turn a blind eye.

It must have been mid April that was about the 18th April that we stayed at a farm that was rather run down and neglected. Cow sheds were filthy and hadn't been cleared so no one could sleep in them so we were in the open up against walls. I was itching around my waist and found that it was lice, so I needed a good wash, but where so had a look around and discovered a duck pond covered in greed [sic] weed, there had to be water under the weed, so clothes off make a hole ain [sic] the weed and lower myself into about 8 inches of water and a foot of mud, it was wonderful and I got rid of a lot of the lice.

We stayed one night in a farm where the farmer had a stable for a couple of horse, on a walk round with another chap, I found this stable and it had a water tank on top, so we had a look and found a pipe leading down from the roof with a large tap at the base, we hurried back for our toiletries and towels. I said you sit in front of the tap which was about 4 inches across and I will turn it on, which I did, and oh dear the water came out with such force he shot backwards across the cobbled floor on his bottom. He said you wait until it is your turn. It was a wonderful feeling to get your self refreshed.

[underlined] 19th April 1945 [/underlined]

Still moving North on about the 19th April we were informed that at our next stopping place we were going to get a Red Cross food parcel, one parcel per man at a place named Gresse, this was very good news as it was about three weeks since we last had one.

We were walking through a rather large forest for quite some miles now and were informed that on the other side we would be issued with our parcels.

We had been living on soup some overnight stops and now and again ertzats [sic] coffee reputedly made from acorns.

So to be handed a parcel for your self was out of this world and very much needed. So we came out of the forest along a track which was about 18 feet wide and had about another 6 or 8 feet either side which was about a foot lower and then a few trees sort of along the edge after them were fields and quite a lot more trees.

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At this time we were having a rest on the track starting to open up our parcels, when we heard some aircraft flying parallel to us about half a mile away. They sounded like Hurricanes so could be ours so kept sorting our parcels, when we heard these load explosions coming down the road towards us. The aircraft turned out to be our own Typhoons equipped with rockets and cannons plus machine guns and anti personnel rockets.

I flung myself down and into the ditch which was only shallow and behind a plant which was about a foot high and about eight inches wide. it was just something to hang onto. The guard who had been sitting by a tree had been wounded and next to me an Aussie Sergeant wireless operator had been shot through his head and chest, my nearest bullet hit my boot heel, as I felt it but it just left a line across the heel.

The two others I shared everything with were Ginger Wheadon and Alec Laing, who were no where to be seen. So I decided to walk back and found Alec not far away but very shaky. So told him to stay put and I would look for Ginger, on my way back up the track, I was giving drinks of water to people who had been wounded and were waiting for treatment either shock or wounds, but couldn't find Ginger.

There were people calling out for their friends, I came across one fellow sitting by a tree with the lower part of his body a mess, although he asked me for a drink as if nothing was wrong. Just as I had given him a drink a couple of his pals came and took over whilst I carried on my search for Ginger.

At one hedge I passed there were legs sticking through so I hopefully looked on the other side, but hastily moved on as they were all there was.

There were quite a few bodies lying about on the track but not Ginger, someone suggested I looked in the fields near where we had been; a lot of men had run across them, so I did and found him but he had been hit in the chest whilst running and was dead.

He must have left his belongings in his haste as I never found them.

In Dick's Wartime log book he wrote on April 20th 1945 - "to our engineer Ginger Wheadon. Ging was killed by a bullet from a Typhoon whilst we were resting during a march on April 19th 1945, he was killed instantly. We are trying to get some of his personal kit to bring home for his Mother and Mary his girl. He was buried at a village of Heydekrug, 4km from Gresse where we had just drawn food parcels. He was buried by our Padre and a parson. The time of his death was about 12 noon.

Having looked after one or two other badly wounded lads, l went back to Ginger only to find that all his kit had been taken and his pockets empty. Some thieving B……. had pinched everything he had on him.

I only hope the food choked them and all the other things brought them the worst luck possible."

The count was 35 POW were killed also 6 of the German guards.

I searched around and found one of our seniors who I gave him Gingers name which apparently someone else had already done so after finding his name and number on his dog tags. So I returned to where I had left Alec and we moved on down the road to the next village where we stayed for the

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night in field with a couple of barns in it but some good thick hedges to bed down under and found a barn with some straw in which we used as bedding.

Dixie Deans our camp commandant spoke to the officer who was in command of the Germans guarding us to let him go through the German lines accompanied by a German officer with a safe conduct note, to then contact the Americans, and let them know that there were 20,000 allied prisoners on the line of their advance and to advise them to let their airbase know of this situation. This was done and Dixie Dean and his accompanying German officer cycled back through the lines and after sorting out the burial of our lads in the churchyard at Gresse.

They were buried in a mass grave and the German priest held a service for our lads and also the guards that were killed. (After the war the RAF personnel killed in this attack were reburied in a new Commonwealth War grave cemetery outside Berlin see appendix 2).

The injured where taken to a hospital at Boizenburg for treatment, and no doubt sent home for further treatment.

Our English Padre was to march on with the others as he would not attend the church service as it was not his parish.

That was April 19th 1945 which will always be remembered as it was just a few days before my 21st birthday which I very nearly could have missed, that was a dream that haunted me for quite some time.

We constantly saw American aircraft around but they were mainly bombers heading Hamburg way we did pass an airfield that had JU88's on it but it had been bombed and most of its aircraft destroyed.

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[War Graves Commission citation]

Ginger's burial place, to the right of the building in the distance (see Appendix 2 for cemetery map)

[underlined] The end of the War nears [/underlined]

We carried on Northwards and the farms that we stayed in were larger and did have some decent barns, but were rather a lot bodies and not everyone got in a barn. Alec and my self usually found a well and stayed out with the weather now being quite good. My birthday on the 26th April was nothing special I think maybe I had an extra piece of chocolate and maybe made a cigarette with my pipe tobacco and smoked it all myself, otherwise we usually passed them around.

It's now the beginning of May the weather is quite good and there are lots of American aircraft leaving vapour trails, we think Hamburg or ports in the North were their targets.

We settled down on the 2nd May in a small outhouse with no windows or doors just three walls and a roof that would have let in more rain than it kept out and wondering what tomorrow would bring.

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When we woke to a fine morning and made a drink someone said look all our guards have gone during the night, so we then went to find what our next move was.

We were told not to go out on the roads running North as there were German panzer troops still in that area, this information we got from an officer in jeep which came on ahead of the English and American troops who pushing the Germans back in this area.

We were then informed by Dixie Deans that we were to find some means of transport and make our own way South to Luneburg where our troops had built a pontoon bridge over the river Elbe and from there proceed to a German airfield situated near Luneburg, which had been turned into a reception area for POWs.

The area around the airfield became littered with vehicles we had acquired including a fire engine, a few tractors some civilian cars, horse and carts, motor cycles and a couple of buses.

My mode of transport was in one of the buses so had a comfortable ride to the reception centre.

May 8th 1945. The road we had to use to get the river crossing was littered on both sides with German and English military vehicles which had been bulldozed off the road so that others could get through to the pontoon bridge at Luneburg.

We spent a couple of days here being subject to a delousing period that incurred someone with a spray gun putting it down your back and front and also each trouser leg.

After which they took your particulars and you were given an identity card with your name, number, rank, and squadron number and told to find a bed in one of the huts and report back in the morning. If we had anything which we didn't need there was a bonfire on which we could get rid of old clothes not that we had much. But some of the prisoners had picked up guns and ammunition on the way which they decided to get rid of, there was a lot of exploding ammunition going off all night and the next day.

We had a breakfast of coffee and a slice of toast and then had to go on a parade ground and form up into groups of around 40 to await the arrival of aircraft for our homeward flight to England and a POW reception centre at RAF Cosford in a Dakota, used as transport and troop carrier the workhorse of the air force.

Here we were met by nurses and WAFs and again given the treatment of delousing, then a check over by doctors and lots of questions as to how you felt. Then it was a sit down meal, but our stomachs would only take a small amount, l can't remember what was on the menu but I know I could only manage a little, and a nice young WAAF sat with me and talked me into eating a little more. I really couldn't eat anymore, but had more tea so I could keep her talking with me.

We were then subject to being kitted out with new uniforms and glad to be out of the old stuff. The only [sic] I kept was my American army boots which had walked many miles or should say kilometres over German countryside, they lasted a good many years as my gardening boots. They still have the mark on the heel where a bullet from a typhoon clipped it when we were shot up.

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We only stayed at Cosford long enough to be kitted out and given some idea of how would carry on until our number for demob came up.

I had still about a year to do so was given a choice of ground trades which was, clerk in accounts, pigeon keeper or store keeper. What a choice is that it I asked and said that I didn't like any of these and wanted to be assigned to the transport division either as a driver or in admin. The Officer said he would put my choice forward but didn't think I would be lucky as so many had chosen transport as an option. So it was then we had to collect our travel warrants and any pay we had coming plus identity cards and ration book.

It was now late May and a start of long awaited leave which was for about four weeks to get me back into being fit again, I arrived from Cosford at London Road station and a neighbour who was a taxi driver happened to be at the stand and so he shouted over to me to get in his car. After putting my bags in and much hand shaking from other people I was on my way home. Mr Shuker talked all the way and got me up to date with what had been happening in Minehead Street, and upon arriving there he slowed down and hooted so people could know that he had arrived with a neighbour. There was quite a lot came out and gave me a cheer, and upon arrival at home I [sic] most of our neighbours were there with Mum, Dad and Mary. It was quite a homecoming with lots of hugs and kisses from all the close neighbours, it was something I’II never forget.

It took a while to get used to a normal bed and home routine but it was good to be home.

My two pals Ken and Derek who were both in the air force Ken was an engine maintenance engineer at fighter station, while Derek was a Corporal in the RAF police service. They managed a spot of leave whilst I was home so we spent a few days together.

The first evening they took me down to our local pub which was the Blue Moon. This was the first time for me to go out for pint.

Ken and Derek ordered pints, but I said that mine had better just be a half, which was just as well as when I got up to go the bar to order another round my legs gave way so I didn't have any more. So Ken and Derek took me home, I could manage to walk but not very steady, I guess that my system hadn't had any booze for quite some time but would get around that problem in time.

[underlined] Military Transport Training [/underlined]

My leave seemed to pass very quickly and very soon a travel warrant arrived to say that I was being posted to Melksham, and it turned out to be a course for Drivers-motor transport, I was told previously that there was no chance for this as so many had tried but were told they had no chance. Lucky me as my Aunts and Uncles all lived around this area at the village of Wingfield, so I would have some place to go at weekends.

So up one morning and off to catch the train for Melksham and becoming a driver for the air force in what sort of vehicles one wondered.

It turned out to be initial training was on vehicle maintenance as you had to be able to keep your vehicle in road worthy conditions at all times.

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We had a very rigorous course on engines and ensuring they were in good running order with oil and water checked daily, there were lectures every day on subjects such as Highway Code road traffic signs and use of hand signals and being courteous to other road users.

Our first driving lessons were with British School of Motoring civilian instructors driving mainly Austin cars, each car had three learners with tutor and took it in turns at the driving. I had some goes at driving but this was a trifle different as you had to double de clutch as if you were driving a vehicle without synchromesh gears. One instructor was very strict and if you didn't get it right he had a wooden mallet with which he used to clout your knee with, it worked well, my leg went up and down like a yoyo, after just one tap.

If you passed you then passed on to RAF instructors to learn the different types of vehicles you would encounter, these were classified as Hillman Minx used a lot by junior officers, then on to 15 cwt hundred weight [sic] for light loads, then three ton vehicles used for ration collection and general work. Progressing then to the lorries, eight ton and ten ton lorries and the five and seven ton cranes, last of all came the sixty foot long trailers for carrying aircraft when dismantled for repairs.

Having mustered [sic] this little lot you had to pass a driving test on a three ton vehicle and one of the other larger vehicles. After passing all this you had a written test on all subjects and if all was well you were given a driving certificate and were now an MT driver.

What was nice about this posting that every weekend I could spend on the farm with my Aunt and Uncle it was called Sparrow nest farm and they kept cattle for milking, and I was not at all good at milking but helped out fetching the animals in for milking and taking the milk churns on a tractor and trailer to a platform on the roadside ready for the lorry to collect which was twice a day.

Alternate weekends were spent in Wingfield village with Aunt Hilda and Uncle Bill and Granddad who was Aunt Hilda's Uncle, he and I used to play cards in the evenings and he used to beat me at cribbage quite often even though he was missing a lot of his fingers on both hands due to wounds in the First World War.

One morning I awoke and on looking out my bedroom window overlooking a field there was a white object there in a corner, so when l got up I said to my Aunt I'm just going to see what's in the field, and when I got there it was a mushroom the size of a dinner plate, yes I had it for breakfast.

Another time Granddad and I were walking down a lane when a rabbit ran out from the hedge, I had a walking stick which I threw towards it and it stopped running because I had killed it, broke its neck and so we took it home and Auntie skinned it and it made us a dinner.

I used to catch a bus from camp to Wingfield but Uncle Bill always took me back to camp on his motorbike and no crash helmet.

[underlined] Horsham [/underlined]

When I finished at Melksham I was posted to Faygate near to Horsham, it was a maintenance unit, where we were sent out to dismantle aircraft that were not required anymore.

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My vehicle that I was allocated turned out to be a six wheeled lorry a left over from the last war, a
1918 model it would not start on the starter motor so had to be towed.

I got up into the drivers seat to which there was no door only canvas panels which just hooked across also the whole cab was just canvas. The steering wheel was about 2 feet in diameter like a bus, the gear lever was about three foot tall and the handbrake was on the right side and about four feet tall, I wondered what I had let myself in for.

They towed me out of the gates with a three ton Bedford lorry on to a main road and I managed to get it started. They then left me and said over to you and don't forget that this vehicle has not got synchromesh gear so you have to double declutch on all gear changing.

After about two hours and 15 miles later I had mastered it all and found my way back to the unit.

There were no facilities for accommodation on the camp so we had to be billeted at Horsham and commute every day by train. But we were away quite often for three or four days, we spent two days at Monston [sic] airport dismantling an Avro Anson that had overshot the runway and went through a small plantation of trees, which left it a write off, so my band of lads reduced it down to a scrap heap. We had to stay there awaiting the vehicle to collect the parts so had an extra day there.

Over [sic] next trip was down to Boscombe near to Bournemouth and we were told we would be there for four or five days as we had to dismantle quite a lot of spitfires which had been made redundant at Christchurch airfield. So we had to look for accommodation in Boscombe, which we found in a Salvation Army hostel and had five days there.

I parked my lorry in the railway goods yard as there would be someone with a vehicle there to give you a tow in the morning. The old lady surprised me one morning and started first time on the starter motor but that was the only time.

That was my only trip with her as t was assigned to a brand new three ton Bedford lorry. It was the same that we trained on at Melksham and I was to use it to collect all the supplies for the officers mess also all the others so had quite a decent job, also whenever we had rations to collect I was
accompanied by a WAAF which was a nice change from a load of lads.

I was checking tyre pressures and as these vehicles were equipped with its own air pump driven by the motor it was quite simple, but as I was checking one of the front tyres the wind blew the drivers door open and I stood up and hit my head on a corner and finished up flat out, not very long though but decided I had better go to sick quarters and get patched up as it was bleeding a lot. I passed a few people who asked if I was okay but I just said yes and they carried on. At sick bay they patched me up and I went back to finish the job and the motor was still running. So switched off, locked up and retired to the mess prior to catching the train.

[underlined] Egypt??? [/underlined]

Next day I was back into camp and was informed that I was moving on. It was that I was being posted to Egypt, l made a request to see our commanding officer who was an ex aircrew Squadron Leader, saying that I wasn't happy being posted abroad and that I had done my bit for the country and thought it most unfair as there were lots of people who hadn't left England.

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He listened to me and yes, he saw my complaint but he didn't think he could alter the decision and if I gave it a bit of thought, look at it as a holiday paid for by the Government for what you went through. So, yes that sounds reasonable and I'll go along with that, and thanked him. He said he wished me well and try to enjoy your cruise. He would have liked to have joined me, he said.

Went home for a spot of leave and got ready for my next forage into the unknown.

I was then sent a travel warrant for an air force camp situated at Newhaven to be kitted out with my overseas uniform, two khaki shirts and shorts plus long trousers and socks, then some inoculations for tropical diseases then were claimed ready for travel.

We were then told we would be travelling by the Medlock route that is from Newhaven to Dieppe in France by boat and thence by train down to Marseilles where we would be shipped across the Mediterranean to Egypt.

After the trip across to France at night we then continued through Switzerland and snow, it was very cold, but the villages on the mountainsides looked like the one on postcards very romantic amongst the snow. The French trains were not the cleanest but must have moved a lot of British service men since the war had ended over here.

At Marseilles we left the trains at the docks and boarded an American Liberty boat for the next part of the journey. We were shown into the first deck which was fitted out with beds in tiers of three the whole width of the ship and about forty or fifty foot in length. I managed to get one of the lower ones. When we settled in I was told and shown to the bakery, and was put in charge of 6 airmen which was very good as we had very new bread at our meal times. The six airmen worked well and we got along very well with the American crew.

We set sail in the evening and had a quiet evening up on deck, the weather was calm so after supper decided to turn in but couldn't sleep, the motion of the ship wasn't helping me and it took ages for me to eventually nod off.

Our second day went well and my lads and I ate well, but this next night we had a storm and Liberty boats are welded together not riveted and creaks in every joint. I wasn't very happy but just kept lifting the bows up after it went down in a trough. Didn't get much sleep and was glad to reach Alexandria and then taken to a camp at Damunbur and it was very hot and our accommodation was in tents that were built over three foot deep dugouts which gave you a bit more head room than just a tent. We stayed here for about three weeks.

[underlined] To Italy [/underlined]

But apparently there was nothing for us in our line of work required here so we were shipped back across the Mediterranean to Naples in Italy, where we stayed for a couple of days. We made the most of it seeing a part of the world and some of the Roman era, also there were plenty of young and very beautiful senoritas.

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[photograph]

Stanco, Dick's dog

We stayed in Naples for two days and were then told that we would be moving on to any [sic] airfield a few miles outside of Udine in a northern village of Potsuolo, which was the desert air force headquarters known as D.A.F.H.Q. Here were 3 squadrons which flew Mustang fighters. We were attached to DAF headquarters transport section and did all the movement of materials and stuff. This was very good as it entailed collecting the rations from stores which was about twenty miles away, but the roads in places was awful and stony. One item was an open top tin of jam which an Italian was carrying in the back, unfortunately a back tyre exploded like a bomb going off, my poor Italian thought he had been shot as he was covered in jam. After changing the wheel we continued back to camp.

[photograph]

Potsuolo

Another job we had was taking personnel up to our leave hotel up in the mountains for a week at a time and the driver stayed with them and drove them to scenic places, one of which was a lake about thirty miles trip, but was well worth seeing. It was but the road was very rough running along the side of the mountains our wheels were on the very edge of a few thousand foot drop and were running on

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a log which had been built into the road where the edge had fallen away, very bad for the nerves. Other places were when crossing over the bridges from one side of the mountain to the other. These were just planks of wood about three inches thick and about ten or twelve inches wide about fourteen feet long spaced about six inches apart on wooden beams. There was just enough room to get the vehicle around the ends onto the bridge, I only bent the tool box that was on the chassis when we were going.

[photograph]

Dead Slow Ahead!

It was a wonderful place called Cortina quite scenic we stayed for lunch and then I decided to return knowing it was a long way back and I would be on the outside looking down into the valley.

I said to the chap sitting next to me when we get to the logs set into the road edge, tell me how much room I've got your side, his remark was that my side mirror was about two inches from the rock wall which meant when I looked out that my wheels were running on the top of the logs, my legs shook a bit but I thought we came through this way so should be okay going back hopefully.

[photograph]

Dick's leave hotel in Forni Avolti, to the left of the church with a cross marked on the roof

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The hotel was very good and there were quite a few locals and there was a lady there with her daughter, the mother worked in the hotel and her daughter who was about 10 or 12 decided that when a few of the locals and us went for walks she would come and hold my hand and look after me, her name was Tina. We walked across one field and the melting snow had made a three or four foot wide stream down the grass, there was about twelve in the group and it was decided to jump instead of finding a place to cross. We all decided it was no problem just a short jump should do it, but it didn't. I think we all had very wet legs far the rest of our walk, but we all enjoyed it.

[photograph]

Tina and Friends

Most evenings there were four musicians who would play for us, sometimes a good old sing song of tunes of the times, and that led into dance music which was very tiring, as the girls that worked there kept going most of the evening and made sure we kept up with them. Lana the Austrian girl if she got hold of you your feet hardly touched the ground. But they were all good fun. The week passed very quickly and it was drive them back to camp and back to work.

Every other week we were duty driver for a day, which meant servicing the commanding officers vehicles; that he wanted to use that day. You had to knock on his caravan door and go in and ask him which of his three vehicles he required that day. From a jumble of blankets a voice would say either Merc or Jep or Util, which interpreted was either Mercedes or Jeep or his Utility, so you checked all three to make sure you got it right. You were busy taking officers to meetings and also running them into town to various places sometimes just so they could do some shopping.

[underlined] On the Road to Bari [/underlined]

Some days I was office boy handing out jobs to the drivers, this I didn't like as I would rather be out driving, and I was very lucky, our M.T officer who was also ex aircrew said he had a job for three vehicles to go down to Bari, where they were closing down an airfield and we had to bring back the furniture from the officers mess. Would I like to be one of the drivers? Of course that would be very nice, he then said and I shall be going as well to make sure we bring back the right things. So my friend another ex aircrew now a driver and the third driver was a corporal who had spent quite some time in Italy and knew his way around. We also had three airmen armed with rifles as guards, on to each vehicle so we had all the bodies required for the trip.

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[photograph]

On the Road to Bari

So it was up early one morning, pack the essentials for the trip which we had no idea how long we would be, so we took a change of clothes for it [sic] we went out in the evening at some stage of the journey.

Out [sic] first stop was at Rimini which was a holiday resort on the coast and there was an air force station there where we could find a bed for the night.

We left Udine and passed by Venice into Padova then for Ferrari, the roads were quite good but the towns and villages had been taken quite a bit of damage. From here we headed for Ravenna on the Adriatic coast. It again was a holiday resort; like most places took a lot of damage, then on to Rimini and a well earned rest. Out [sic] mileage for this leg of our journey was approximately 432 kilometres.

Some of the vehicles we passed on the way were rather weary, the loads they carried were unreal some were the width of the lorry but finished up twice the width at the top. The tyres were smooth and the engines were held together with bits of wire. The Italians were noted for have good mechanics, we had one of them in our section who could just listen to an engine running and get to the cause of the trouble straight away.

Back to our trip, we left Rimini the next morning after checking our vehicles and filling up with petrol heading for our next stop which was to be Rome. Our next road was heading inland across Italy into the more agricultural part of Italy, the traffic was very mainly bullock carts with four of them in the shafts pulling very large loads which hung over the sides and took up a lot of road space. Also we kept passing a lot of women and children carrying canes on their heads and shoulders, l thought that if one turned to chat with another it would cause chaos down the line if we hit them.

One thing that we noticed was the lack of bridges crossing the roads, mostly the countryside was very flat and were either agricultural or cattle. The towns and villages we passed through were a bit showing the signs of war damage and were trying to get back to normal. In the villages there were always lots of children on the streets and all were begging for chocolate, no doubt remembering the times the Americans were there.

We reached Rome in the evening and found the army barracks were we to stay the night, we all decided we would have an early night as tomorrow was a shorter trip and we could spend a little more time in Naples which we did. The road from Rome was fairly good although there was plenty of damaged buildings everywhere and not much building taking place although it was mainly getting the

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places ready for residents to return to repair jobs mostly. Although in Naples we found that the night life was very much alive, and we spent a few hours around the night clubs, and the officer and we two warrant officers were quite happy after consuming numerous bottles of wine with some very good food. And so to bed quite happy, not looking forward the next day's trip which was going to be a long one.

Up early the next morning and had a good breakfast and refuelled our vehicles and away on the road to Bari which is situated on the North coast of Italy, known as the heel of Italy. The road out of Naples was very busy with most vehicles having enormous loads and engulfed in a fog which we were glad to leave behind and over to our right was Mount Vesuvius but only a trickle of smoke from it. We were then heading North East and the road was less busy, and was pretty rough, villages we passed through had been very heavily damaged. We stopped for a meal or I should say a sandwich, and a family in a nearby house were having their spaghetti, there was an old lady with a plate full which was devoured in a very few minutes, guess she was hungry.

[photograph]

Still on the Road to Bari

We pressed on as it was starting to look like we were going to head into some rather wet weather, we did, and finding the place we wanted was not easy. The leading lorry with our officer and corporal driving, found what they thought was the right track to the airfield which turned out to be a very narrow road just wide enough for one lorry. After about a mile the road finished and we were left with the prospect of reversing all the way back to the main road in the pouring rain. There was no where we could have turned round as the fields had been ploughed on both sides. So about half an hour later three very wet headed drivers, a very wet officer and a guard who had walked back along the track with torches to guide us. We found the right road and got to our destination, and a good hot meal was very welcome.

I seem to remember that we didn't need much rocking to sleep.

We found out the next morning after breakfast that what we were collecting was a lot of electrical equipment which was too valuable to leave and could be useful elsewhere along with quite a lot of furniture from the officers quarters some of which turned out to be large mirrors about 5 foot high by 3 foot wide with a very ornate surround, and I don't recollect whether they survived the journey, it would have been very lucky if they had. Our three young guards did alright and had an armchair for the ride back. After we had packed everything into the lorries it was dinner time, so we had a very

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good meal and washed down with some very nice wine, and decided to stay the night here and start at 8am the next morning, so we had a look round Bari which had a good port for ferries to Yugoslavia across the Adriatic. Retired to our beds ready for the start back.

The trip back to Naples was uneventful but in Naples our guards had their hands full keeping loads of youngsters from climbing up the sides of the Lorries and stealing anything. Most of what we had was furniture which was stacked on top of the wireless equipment so they left empty handled.

It was evening time when we finally arrived in Naples so didn't go very far around the town just had a drink or two and then retired to bed.

Next morning it is up and away on our next leg to Rome where we hoped to spend a little time looking around the place as there is plenty to see, and walked around the centre of the Coliseum where the gladiators did their acts, and I was glad that I wasn't acting in it, and I think the lions that did an act had already eaten that day.

[photograph]

Coliseum Rome

Later on we found a good restaurant where we had a good meal washed down with a very good Italian wine, and walked back to our billets in an army barracks and so to bed.

Not looking forward to our next trip as it is a long run and not very scenic from Rome up to Rimini, mainly farming country and only a couple of towns on the way, the one consolation was that it stayed fine all the way.

Rimini was an army controlled town so there were lots of tanks and all types of weaponry around and we stayed in army barracks that night and we were up early the next morning as it was a long trip back to Udine.

We took the road out of Rimini for Rarenna along the coast, hence our next town was Venice where we stopped for a short rest and found a restaurant for a meal which was steak mushrooms and tomatoes washed down with a red wine, very nice too.

We were then only a couple of hours from our destination and our own beds. The whole trip had taken us about ten days, but that said the items we brought back was it worth it.

Overall we had a good look at how the Italians lived and were good mechanics, as they managed to keep their Lorries on. the road tied together with lots of wire and a lot more faith.

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We had a football team made up of NCOs and we played against teams from other ranks and also from the squadron that was stationed here. I was given the position of right wing and was usually up against a six foot left back of the opposing team, I don't think we won many of our matches, but it was a bit of good fun.

[photograph]

Military Transport Football Team

It is now getting into September and we are still living in tents, and have had a lot of rain recently and the camp was rather badly flooded, my other occupant and I were lucky our tent survived the storm, we had a lot of tents blown down and the roads were flooded and it took quite a while for everywhere to dry out.

Our leave hotel in Grado on the coast was popular and we ran an evening bus most nights, and it was one of my jobs as a driver to take the bus down to the town at 5pm and collect them again at 10pm from the town square. Most made it in time and on my trips we seemed lucky and didn't have any missing bodies, most of them were quite happy. I had four days leave and stayed in our leave hotel, very nice food and comfortable beds also there were grapevines where we had breakfast, so grapes were on the menu every morning. First thing after breakfast I went down the road and at the store shop used to buy a melon and take back to the hotel and have a waiter cut a square hole in it and put in a good portion of wine then put it in the fridge and have it with our evening meal, very nice finished the meal with it.

[underlined] Mercy Mission to Egypt [/underlined]

it was around September 15th that I had a call from the office of the Adjutant to tell me that I had been given ten days leave to go to a hospital in Egypt where my brother Bob was ill, and it would help him return to good health if he had a relative to see him. I was staggered and amazed as I had no idea of his whereabouts and that he was ill.

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18.9.1946. So I had to sort my kit out what I would require and managed to pack it in my small side pack. I then had to collect the pass and papers needed and so to Udine airport, arrived there at an early hour as flight was at 9.00am in a Dakota aircraft next stop Rome. Had a hotel for my overnight stay and very nice too, good food and bed and a very good night sleep.

My flight next morning which was to be about nine hours leaving Rome at ten past seven in the morning and we landed in Malta at 9.45 to refuel the aircraft had a drink there then left for our next stop which was El Adam in North Africa. Only stayed fifty minutes again to refuel and left at 4pm for our next stop at Almaza which we arrived at 6.30pm which was my stopping off place for Cairo.

I was driven to the Heliopolis hotel and shown to my room and then taken to the dining room and had a good meal.

I was very hot after being quite cool in Italy so changed into my shorts, but it was still very sticky hot, so decided to have an early night see what tomorrow brings.

! was up early as the night was very hot and I didn't get much sleep. I had a good breakfast and had to sit around and await my transport to the hospital.

20th September a car arrived and I was driven to the Helmieh hospital, where I was taken to meet the colonel of the hospital, who welcomed me and hoped my presence would help in Bob's recovery. He then told me I was to be accommodated at the Sergeants mess of the main hospital. There were numerous sections to the hospital, a fracture unit, dental unit, isolation unit which Bob was in eye and ear unit, it was quite a large place.

I was issued with a pass the [sic] to the isolation ward in which Bob was in with note to say the above named warrant officer was permitted to visit his brother signalman Curnock in isolation ward 1 and full preventative measures should be taken.

The sister I gave the note to just laughed gave me back the note, took me by the arm and gave me a hug, and said how lovely it was that I was able to have leave to go there, and then she took me to see Bob. He was surprised as he had no idea where I was, but he was very thin, white, and I looked like an Indian next to him as in a photo of us together.

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[photograph] [photograph]

Dick and Bob at Helmieh hospital, Egypt

My time at the hospital was spent on visits to Bob every day, having a game of snooker with some of the other members of the mess, or at other times some of the nurses and sister would ask me to escort them into Cairo to do a spot of shopping which I did quite willingly.

My ten days leave passed rather quickly, but when I rang the air booking centre in Cairo, I wasn't on any of the flights so had to wait another week. In fact it was the 25th October before my flight for Italy was finally here, so I had about 6 weeks of a 10 day leave.

Each unit had its own Sergeants mess and most evenings there was entertainment in one of them. Once or twice a week there was horse racing in one of them, and in the dental mess one night they had a Derby meeting, the horses were bid for at the start and I bought number two for two pounds after bidding against the colonel. And it won the race and I was twenty two pounds richer for a while, but lost a bit on the following races, good fun though.

The other entertainment was a quiz night which was quite hilarious, with answers to some questions quite ridiculous but funny. Others had classes which were well attended by all, as we had lots of nurses and sisters to make a good evening of it.

At another sergeants mess they held a bingo night with some other entertainment as bingo wasn't very popular.

In the sergeants mess some of them had nicknames, one was known as bash he was a boxer in Civvy Street; we also had a slash as he was always cutting himself when shaving, so I had to have one and was known as the parachute kid.

We had a snooker table in the mess and I had plenty of practice on it as I had quite a lot of time to fill in.

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Time passed and I finally had my seat booked for my return to Italy. So then I had to say my farewells to all the friends that I had made during my stay and to Bob of course and also I went to see the colonel and thanks him for all they had done for Bob and also making my stay a pleasant one.

[underlined] Dakota back to Italy – Treviso [/underlined]

So on the 26th October my flight was at 6.30am so was up early for the return journey. One of the sergeants had said the night before that he would take me to the airport as he was duty driver for that day. So once again I joined up with a Dakota of the South African Air force at Almaja airport stopping at El Adam to refuel then on to Malta where we stayed the night. The next day we were away at seven am on the last leg to Rome.

At Rome airport I was informed that the personnel of the 239 Wing Desert Air Force; had been moved to a place called Treviso so that where I was being sent. They said my kit had been transferred already so I had to get to this place, but found out that I was booked on a flight to an aerodrome just outside of Treviso.

[photograph]

Sergeants Mess Treviso 1945, Dick and friend

There was transport at the aerodrome and I was taken to our sergeant mess which was a town villa in Treviso and was shown to my room and where I was reunited with my kit bag.

This was luxury after living in tents for a long period with wash basins and baths and there were ladies to do your laundry and any repairs to your clothes.

I certainly enjoyed having a nice hot bath and retiring to a good bed and hoped that I wasn't to be moved again, as I had had enough of travelling for a while.

At Treviso it was usual routine doing runs into town and around the airfield, towing petrol trailers around to the aircraft for refuelling. Also fetching blocks of ice for the bars of the officers and sergeants also messes of other ranks. By the time you got back to camp there was a lot of water in the back of the truck and you had to lift blocks of wet ice into the various messes, a cold job.

From Treviso it was only a few miles into Venice and we spent a few weekends there, and got to do a lot of walking, you could have a gondola ride but they charged the earth, so we usually walked.

St Marco's square was very popular with lots of shops and cafes around. There was an abundant supply of jewellery shops and also the square had hundreds of pigeons, making it quite messy.

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There was a bell tower in one corner which had a large bell on the top. Apparently an Italian gent decided to inspect it too close and his head flattened by the bell hammer, very nasty.

There were lots of bridges over the canals and as you went into the centre where they had warehouses it was a rather different place, the canals were not so dean, and people living alongside them just threw rubbish out of the windows, not a good healthy environment to live in.

We found a very good restaurant in Treviso down a back street a very smart little place, who did beef steaks, which you could pick from a large selection and then you could see them being cooked and you then selected what you wanted with it.

Time passed very quickly at Treviso and was January before we realised suddenly that our demob numbers would be coming up soon. And it was January when we were told that some of us were going home and that we could be going to Villach in Austria to catch a train for the trip across Austria, Switzerland and France and home.

The day arrived when we were notified that we had reached the final week in Italy and would travel by train to Villach, and thence start our journey home. We cleared with all the necessary forms as was needed, paid any mess bills and said our farewells to rest of the transport department and was then taken to the station.

It was an uneventful journey to Villach where we had to stay overnight and there was thick snow there and rather cold with long icicles from roves [sic] of our huts.

[photograph]

Villach - with icicles

I met up with some of the other lads who had travelled with me on our trip out earlier, when we were leaving; waiting on the road for transport to the station a whole lot of youngsters arrived with sledges, so all we had to carry was our small kit, the kit bags were loaded on the sledges and so on to the station.

Our train was in and so we went aboard with kit bags on the corridors and rest of our kit on the racks, it was then that we all got into the spirit of finally going home. The trains were French so the toilets had no seat, just two places for your feet and a hole in the middle, not very comfortable.

With it being January everywhere was very white with snow and I took some pictures of the mountains as we passed into Switzerland which was wonderful. Coming out of a tunnel on the

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mountainside and there was a village and it appeared to just be hanging on. It went on like this from many miles as we went through Switzerland and into France.

[photograph]

Switzerland from the train

We stopped in Paris station for a hot drink and a sandwich and managed to have a wash and brush up before our next stop which was to be Dieppe and a channel crossing to Newhaven.

The trip over was uneventful but the sea was rather rough and there were one or two heaving stomachs to prove it, and we arrived in the dock, and then when we had sorted out our kit bags from a very large heap, the train was waiting in the station to take us to the demob centre, which was at No 101 Dispersal centre at Kirkham in Lancashire.

This was the place where you returned to civilian life once again. It is now the 21st January 1947 about to sort out from a large selection of shirts, underwear and suits and find some that is a reasonable fit. After which you went and tried on the items you had selected and handed in your uniform, well most of it, l remember that there was a shirt, a pair of shorts and some desert socks along with the boots that I wore during our sight seeing tour of Germany. Then you had to see numerous sections who dealt with your pay due to you and the amount of leave which turned out to be eighty days from the 21st January 1947.

You then had to collect your travel warrant, your pay also was entered in the back of your service release book and you had to collect it from the post office when it was due, and they would date stamp it in the back of your pay book.

My return home was a wonderful feeling after all my travels. At the station the neighbour of ours who had a taxi cab saw me and had me in his cab very quickly.

Upon arriving at Minehead Street the first thing I saw was the street still decorated with flags and bunting after the end of the war in Japan and not for me.

Mr Shuker sounded his horn and slowed down and there were a lot of people came out to welcome me home and of course Mum, Dad and Mary and our close neighbours were all waiting and I was smothered with their welcome.

And so I looked forward to a nice long holiday and getting used to civilian life once more.

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[underlined] Reunions [/underlined]

Dick's mother (Arabella Curnock) had welcomed several of the Canadian crew members into her home, and had corresponded with members of their families back home in Canada during the war.

Bob Friskey's wife Isabella in Abbotsford also wrote to Dick and Barbara after their marriage, as well as continuing to correspond with Dick's mother. It was from them that the news came that "Chuck" committed suicide some time after returning home.

Rob died sometime after, but Isabella continued to write to Dick.

Wes and his (Scottish) wife Mae made contact again sometime in the 1970s, when Dick received a phone call at the Thurmaston plant of Thorpe and Porter where he worked. The call was from the railway station in Leicester where Wes and Mae were - accompanied by the youngest of their five sons!

Dick went to pick them up, and they stayed overnight with [sic] at Queniborough before carrying on their journey to Scotland. Wes and Mae paid a short visit to Dick's mother, as Wes had stayed with her during the war when on leave.

In 1984 a lady who lived on Upperton Road (Mrs Tobin) was clearing out a house on Minehead Street (no 59) which was formally the Curnock family home. Amongst the papers was an unopened letter from Eugene Fullum in Montreal. She looked in the phone book and found a R Curnock and rang and this got Dick and Eugene back in touch.

[photograph]

Eugene and Dick 1985 (Leicester Mercury photo)

Eugene came over the UK in 1985, and when Dick and he met it was the first time they had seen each other since the police station in Germany the day after they had been shot down.

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[photograph]

RAF Prisoner of War insignia

[photograph]

Gordon, Eugene, Dick, Wes, 1987 Reunion

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[photograph]

Dick in the rear gunner position of a Halifax bomber; at Elvington, Yorks. 2004

[photograph]

Dick exiting the Halifax, the last time he did this, the Halifax was on fire and he was about to parachute into enemy territory

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Appendix 1 – Dick’s RAF flying log book – 17.7.1943 to 25.8.1947

i) Gunnery course results

[document]

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Appendix 1 - ii) gunnery training

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 1 – iii) 22 O.T.U.

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 1 – iv) 22 O.T.U.

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 1 – v) 22 O.T.U.

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 1 – vi) 22 O.T.U.

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 1 – vii) 1664 Conversion Unit

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 1 – viii) 1664 Conversion Unit

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 1 – ix) 425 Squadron – shows the last mission Dick flew to Augsburg

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 1 – x) Flights to and from Egypt to visit Bob

[flight log book document]

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Appendix 2

[drawing of Berlin War Cemetery]

Ginger Wheadon is buried in 6.B.19

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Appendix 3 -The March - source Wikipedia

"The March" refers to a series of forced marches during the final stages of the Second World War in Europe. From a total of 257,000 western Allied prisoners of war held in German military prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in extreme winter conditions, over about four months between January and April 1945. This series of events has been called various names: "The Great March West", "The Long March", "The Long Walk", "The Long Trek", "The Black March", "The Bread March", and "Death March Across Germany", but most survivors just called it "The March".

As the Soviet Army was advancing, German authorities decided to evacuate POW camps, to delay liberation of the prisoners. January and February 1945 were among the coldest winter months of the 20th century in Europe, with blizzards and temperatures as low as -25 O C and even until the middle of March, temperatures were well below 0 O C Most of the POWs were ill-prepared for the evacuation, having suffered years of poor rations and wearing clothing ill-suited to the appalling winter conditions.

In most camps, the POWs were broken up in groups of 250 to 300 men and because of the inadequate roads and the flow of battle, not all the prisoners followed the same route. The groups would march 20 to 40 kilometers a day - resting in factories, churches, barns and even in the open. Soon long columns of POWs were wandering over the northern part of Germany with little or nothing in the way of food, clothing, shelter or medical care.

Prisoners from different camps had different experiences: sometimes the Germans provided farm wagons for those unable to walk. There seldom were horses available, so teams of POWs pulled the wagons through the snow. Sometimes the guards and prisoners became dependent on each other, other times the guards became increasingly hostile. Those with intact boots had the dilemma of whether to remove them at night - if they left them on, trench foot could result; if they removed them, they may not get their swollen feet back into their boots in the morning or, worse, the boots may freeze or be stolen.

With so little food they were reduced to scavenging to survive. Some were reduced to eating dogs and cats and grass-anything they could lay their hands on. Already underweight from years of prison rations, some were at half their pre-war body weight by the end.

Because of the unsanitary conditions and a near starvation diet, hundreds of POWs died of disease along the way and many more were ill. Dysentery was common; sufferers had the indignity of soiling themselves whilst having to continue to march, and being further weakened by the debilitating effects of illness. This disease was easily spread from one group to another when they followed the same route and rested in the same places. Many POWs suffered from frostbite which could lead to gangrene. Typhus, spread by body lice, was a risk for all POWs, but was now increased by using overnight shelter previously occupied by infected groups. Some men simply froze to death in their sleep.

In addition to these conditions were the dangers from air attack by Allied forces mistaking the POWs for retreating columns of German troops. On April 19, 1945, at a village called Gresse, 30 Allied POWs died and 30 were seriously injured (possibly fatally) in a "friendly-fire" situation when strafed by a flight of RAF Typhoons.

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As winter drew to a close, suffering from the cold abated and some of the German guards became less harsh in their treatment of POWs. But the thaw rendered useless the sledges made by many POWs to carry spare clothing, carefully preserved food supplies and other items. So, the route became littered with items that could not be carried. Some even discarded their greatcoats, hoping that the weather did not turn cold again. As the columns reached the western side of Germany they ran into the advancing western Allied armies. For some, this brought liberation. Others were not so lucky. They were marched towards the Baltic Sea, where Nazis were said to be using POWs as human shields and hostages. It was later estimated that a large number of POWs had marched over five hundred miles by the time they were liberated, and some had walked nearly a thousand miles.

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Appendix 4 – i) Stalag Luft 357 – long march route, and camp numbering correction information

Red Cross map of prisoner of war camps

[map]

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Appendix 4 – ii) Stalag Luft 357 and long march route

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Appendix 4 – iii) Blue cross in circle marks where Dick was shot down. Red Cross near Frankfurt where he was moved to

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Appendix 4 – iv) Red line shows routes taken by Dick. Torun (Thorn) camp shown

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Appendix 4 – v) Poznan – Stalag XXI

[map]

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Appendix 4 – vi) Stalag Luft VI – Lithuania

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26th April 2014

Collection

Citation

Dick Curnock, “My War Story,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed January 23, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/22419.

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