The Last Days in Stalagluft 1 30 April - 13 May 1945

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The Last Days in Stalagluft 1 30 April - 13 May 1945

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The long drawn out wait for John's return to the UK from the camp.

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Five printed sheets

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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.

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JOHN GOLDBY

THE LAST DAYS IN STALAGLUFT 1 30 APRIL – 13 MAY 1945

Monday 30th April 1945

All to-day the Jerries have been demolishing detector installations and equipment in the Flak School. By this evening most of the items have left the Camp and it looks as though we shall be left here in the care of the S.A.O.

Many heavy explosives in the Flak School and on the aerodrome beyond. There was no count on parade tonight – but the Jerry Major appeared to be tight.

At 9pm the W/O told us that from 8am tomorrow we should no longer be P.O.W.s as the Kommandant was officially handing over. We had an extra biscuit, butter and marmalade to celebrate.

Tuesday 1st May 1945

Today the guard posts are occupied by Americans wearing M.P. armbands, instead of the usual old goons. A white flag flies over the camp. The rumours are flying thick and fast, and everyone is wondering when we shall get away. The Russians are supposed to be pretty close, the latest is that they are 2 kms. south of Barth. The Burgomeister of Barth is said to have shot himself. At 1pm. we heard the BBC news and now at 14.20 hours we are listening to Variety Bandbox.
Tonight at 22.15 approximately a Russian lieutenant and either a civilian or Russian soldier arrived in Camp. Cheers echoed throughout the compound. We have been waiting for this for some time! Good old Joe! The main Russian body captured Stralsund today. Hear the 9 pm. BBC news. Public house times to be extended on VE Day – good show, I hope we’re home for it!
At 22.30 it was announced that Hitler is dead – I hope it was one of Berlin’s sewers. Perhaps the B……ds will capitulate now. Light on until midnight by order of Colonel Zenke. Special cup of hot milk at 23.15 to celebrate Joe’s arrival. More Russians expected tomorrow.
Water shortage.

Wednesday 2nd May 1945

The Russians said we were to march out and we packed in preparation to leave at 6 pm.. One Red Cross parcel issued to each man for the journey. We ate several meals in quick succession to get rid of c…… stocks and shared out as much as we had left. Then we were told to be ready to march in the morning, and a little later we heard that the march was not definite. Most of us left camp in the evening to have a look round – some even got into Barth. Rumours of flying out – ‘Hope it’s true!’. British and Russians are supposed to have linked up in the north. Chaos reigned all day. Poor water situation.

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Thursday 3rd May 1945

German armies in Italy and Austria surrendered to Alexander. Monty’s boys in Lubeck. Russians in Rostock. Both captured. Berlin fallen. Hamburg declared an open city. Have been told that the airfield is being cleared of mines so that we may be flown out. Hope it’s true and that the kites arrive pretty quickly. Heard earlier today that we were in contact with London, Washington and Moscow to see what they intended us to do.

Ate colossal (comparatively speaking) amounts all day. On K.P. – a hell of a job today. Water situation better. From midnight to-night we use Russian time! An hour in advance of our present time.

Friday 4th May 1945

Airfield expected to be clear by 2.00. All Germans in North-West Germany, Holland, Denmark, Heligoland and …….. were ordered by Admiral Donitz to surrender unconditionally. This is to take effect from 08.00 hours tomorrow, Saturday May 5th. 1945.

Saturday 5th May 1945

A Russian general inspected our barracks in the morning. In the afternoon Marshal Rokotovsky came to report with Colonel Zenke. Very tough-looking bunch. One of the generals made a speech to some of us – in Russian.

An American colonel arrived by jeep from our lines to make final arrangements for our evacuation. Wish they’d get a move on. Listened to radio recording of the signing of the unconditional surrender by the German staff. The commentary was by Monty.

Sunday 6th May 1945

Still waiting. The Colonel reported his former broadcasts saying that things were being done for our evacuation. Johnnie evacuated himself.

Monday 7th May 1945

A Lt. Colonel of the 6th Airborne Division came from Weismar today to reassure us – and we needed reassuring too – that we could expect to be flown out within the next few days. He could not state which day it would be but it would definitely be only a matter of a few days. Question: How long – or short – it is a few days? Apparently we shall be flown direct to England. Good deal! Other P.O.W.s are still being flown back by Lancs. Have just heard that …. are passed ‘thro Reception Centres on 48 hours. Daks and Commandos are being used – 25 in a Dak and 40 in a Commando. Most P.O.W.s have to be helped into an aircraft – they’ll get a shock here. We shall run like stink when the kites come. Heard that tomorrow is VE Day and the following day a holiday. I am bloody annoyed that we are going to miss he [sic] celebrations and so is everyone else.

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Sunday 6th May 1945 (continued)

Saw a Russian concert this afternoon and it was damn good. No-one – or very few – understood a word, but what the hell !!!

Monday 7th May 1945 (continued)

At the moment 21.50 Russian time a bod (I think it’s Alfredo Campoli) is playing a composition on the violin which I heard at one of the St John’s Socials. It may be called “The Canary” – I’m not sure. The chap who played it at the Social was Mr Butwick I think – will check up in a few days time when I get home.

It has just been announced that the BBC have broadcast a message to the effect that Stalag Luft 1, Barth, Pomerania has been liberated and that next of kin are informed.

Goebbels, his wife and daughters took poison apparently.

War ends after 5 years and 8 months.

Unconditional surrender made at 2.41 am. French time today to FM Montgomery. Location – Rheims.

Tuesday 8th My [sic] 1945

Have just heard the Prime Minister’s speech declaring that the European war is at an end. The cease-fire officially takes place at 00.01 tomorrow Wednesday May 9th, but fighting – except for some resistance in Czechoslovakia – ceased on Thursday morning.

It is VE Day and this morning I spent some time sun-bathing on the peninsula north of the camp. I hope soon to be doing the same thing in England very soon.

Listened to the King’s speech and I guess the family were listening too. Do they know where I am I wonder and did they hear the announcement on the radio at 22.00 last night to the effect that we had been liberated by the Red Army?

Lancs. landed in Germany for the first time and flew back with 4,500 P.O.W.s. Come on boys – let’s get out of here?

Wednesday 9th May 1945

Sun bathing again today.

Allied parade this morning. A Russian officer made a speech to us – same old story. Be patient for a few more days. Plenty of rumours floating around. Was the ……. message re Russian transport to Weismar gen? I doubt it……took out P.O.W.s from the Lubeck area.

At 08:00 hours on BBC radio – ‘All men at Stalag I. Both near Stralsund, Pomerania, Germany are to remain in the camp and not make for the allied lines’.

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Thursday 10th May 1945

On KP again today. 10,000 more P.O.W.s flown out by 500 BC aircraft – and we’re still here. Col. Zenke made an appalling speech again tonight. He is going to get us all souvenirs etc. !! The rumour is that all British personnel are going to be taken by transport ro [sic] Weismar and flown home from there. Also that we should have been there (Weismar) yesterday. C/O Weir is supposed to have gone there today to try and get us out. He may have split with Col. Z. I hope so as Z hasn’t a bloody clue. Listened to ITMA 21.30 – 22.00. Last time I heard it was on Wednesday 6th. December 1944 from 14.30 – 15.00. I was changing in my room for the op. and could hear it on someone else’s radio.

Friday 11th May 1945

Sun bathed again today.

There is a meeting of the wheels to-night. Final arrangements for our evacuation are said to be the subject for discussion. C/O Weir seems to have been arranging with the Russian Commander of this area, Col. Gen. Butow, for aircraft to land here to take us out. Col. Zenke has just announced that aircraft are expected here tomorrow or on Sunday. Russian passports are being signed up in preparation. It really looks as if we are going soon.

S/L Evans had us fill in forms of interrogation which he signed. This gives us a clearance chit to be presented on arrival in England which should hasten our departure from the receiving centre. A Cabinet order says that all P.O.W.s are to be with their families within 24 hours of arriving in England. Length of leave is uncertain.

Some reports say 56 days, some 42 days and others a month.

Nearly 80,000 P.O.W.s have been returned to England so far. There can’t be many more!

Eisenhower has just repeated his ‘Stay put’ message.

Saturday 12th May 1945

G/C Green on parade this morning said that evacuation was due to start this afternoon.

Sick Quarters are first on the list, then come the British Personnel in the following order –

Blocks 8, 9, 10, 11 etc. so we are in a good position. What’s the betting I click for a clearing job which will mean a delayed departure?

At 2 pm. the first U.S. aircraft arrived at Barth aerodrome. Two Daks for hospital cases and the rest Fortresses. Joe here is in charge of mopping-up operations in the block so I shan’t get away until tomorrow. The rest of the boys in the room buzzed at 3 pm.! Six lads and I stayed from 3 pm. until 9 pm. clearing up – what a bloody awful job. Managed to get a shower at the end of it. Packed for the morning, nearly losing my fags as the Yanks still in the compound were on the prowl and almost swiped them.

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Sunday 13th May

Paraded at 6.30 am. And after a roll-call we marched out to the airfield. At 7.30 am. the first Forts arrived. We have spilt into groups of 25 and as each Fort came round the perimeter track we embarked. We were airborne at 8.30 am., and flew fairly low direct to England, having a look at Bremen and Hamburg on route. As we were using Russian time we had to put our watches back 1 hour to correspond with DBST. We landed at Ford in Sussex at 11.30 DBST. This completed the trip I set out on on the Dec. 6th last. It took too bloody long for my liking.

I have recalled the following dream I had some time during my incarceration. Obviously it was prompted by my fear that my family did not know my fate. I returned home to reassure the family that I was safe, in reasonably shape, and in a German P.O.W. camp. Having told the family this I prepared to leave, much to their puzzlement – ‘Why,’ they asked, ‘ since you are now home do you propose to leave?’ ‘Because I am still a P.O.W. and my place is a German P.O.W. camp’ I replied.

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John Goldby, “The Last Days in Stalagluft 1 30 April - 13 May 1945,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/34464.

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