Arthur Burkett – Long March Diary. 5th March – 28 April 1945
Copyright Linda Burkett
I never met Arthur as I met his son just after his death in 1971.
It’s ironic the many references of trying to get cigarettes, as Arthur died of lung cancer.
His son recalled that even twenty years after being freed, if the door bell went to interrupt Arthur’s meal, he would take his plate with him to the front door, rather than leave his food with his wife, Elsie or his son Alan.
Arthur Burkett’s – Long March Diary
Monday March 5 1945.
Trying to cover the whole sky with condensation streaks. Heard rumbling n the far distance but whether bombs or AA we can’t tell – raid lasted about 11/2 hour stopped marching at Littmite and snow started again got into a gasthaus (guesthouse). Ernie in charge but it’s the warmest place we’ve had over a month. Had a cleanup I missed yesterday directly. I entered & met a barber who gave us, Ernie & I a haircut (which I needed badly) on the promise of a cig when I get some. Feet a lot better for clean up but outlook for food looks grim. There is a man in front of me eating raw potato peelings that he has been given by someone – I asked him about it and he says he likes them – (or is he just very hungry?)We got a turn on the stove & cooked the remainder of the spuds and we had a good meal. Skilly came up at 9.30pm and Ernie ducked so we shared mine (about 3 spoonfuls each) We have no straw and had to lie on wet boards went to bed about 10.30 and it was snowing heavily although its not very cold German’s commented on “Englanders Kameradschaft “ (English camaraderie) to the men that took all the straw.
Tuesday March 6 1945.
Reveille 7.15 on the road 8.30, after a bread issue of a 2k loaf between 7 men. It’s not cold but the snow stings your ears. Marched about 10kilo’s then stopped at Falkenau in an old brick factory. Rumoured that BAB have gone straight on to the Stalag but we must wait here for a day or two- Fires were allowed in the basement (or rather the Germans couldn’t put them out) So we had some porridge & a brew (There was an air raid last night at 10o/c we watched AA & flares for a while we heard planes flying very low overhead) Skilly came up about 9pm and as our company (6) was last Ernie & I ducked our soup. Ginger promised to get us some if it took all night but we got more nevertheless after lying most of the night & rushing out twice on false alarms. The men are definitely starving & fall on potato peelings as if it was currant cake. Blondie pleaded to be allowed to scrape the Dixie we cooked the porridge in. It’s very cold & draughty and the filth here is hardly creditable.
It‘s still snowing.
Wed March 7 1945.
No marching today Roll Call 8 or 9am – after we had a brew and finished what bread we had later at about 12o/o we got a mug full of corn on the boil for about an hour and this made a mug full each of good grub. In the afternoon we had a number check – it lasted about an hour and about 15-20 men fainted on the parade. Skilly came up about 9o/c and we got the skilly we ducked last night. Bags of rumours of Stalag near here & parcels may arrive but personally I haven’t much faith in them. Went to bed, feeling pretty poorly & cold.
Thurs March 8 1945.
Reveille at 6.15 and were marching at 7.30 Ernie & I rushed about and lighted a fire and got a brew of coffee to start the day. Plenty of time to spare and there was a search before we went. Put some seed into out pockets to stop our stomachs from gnawing and get started. Roads icy again and going pretty hard. Passed 5 men, who had collapsed at the side of the road. About 11am the weather got warmer and the ice & pressed snow thawed under a warm sun and we walked easier on a muddy road. Marched about 13kilo’s and stopped at a farm in a village 2 kilo’s from Konigsburg. Party of 130 and Ernie in charge but prospects of food none too promising. A Russian worker here gave us some turnips. Ernie & I got one chew. A woman coming out of a barn with 2 bucket of filthy pigswill raided by some of the boys, who grabbed handfuls of potato peelings and other swill and ate it in front of her. The farmer later sold us 4 barrow loads of turnips for 30 marks, so we got a decent skilly up at 10o/c pm and some to eat now, Ernie got another for eating on the road tomorrow although chaps seem to think it’s a rest day.
Friday March 9 1945
Awoke for roll call at 9o/o as there’s no marching today got back into bed after a brew of coffee and piece of turnip with salt on it no rations came up so Ernie got a skilly made with turnip husk(?) Later on about 2o/o some of the chaps broke into the spud cellar and got potatoes. Ernie was on of the first in and we got about 10kilo. After a while the boys were going into the cellar in dozens and spoilt it as the Frau saw what was going on – there was a search and we were all thrown out of the barn- there was two hunks of meat missing and there were the biggest concern but the potens found one and the other one was given up on the promise that they’re wouldn’t let the incident going any further and as we had hidden our potatoes well. E & I came off well. We got one half of them cooked right away and ate them, and saved the other half for the road. No rations at all come up today as the wagon went down to draw rations and took all day, so its just as well we pinched the spuds. Went to bed full of hopes for the morning as the BAB MO said there’ll be a parcel issue of 1 between 20 men tomorrow and possibly a bread issue.
Sat March 19 1945.
Awoke remembering I met P on this day a long time ago. Bread was issued 2 loaves between 7 men. Ernie & I ate it at once, moved off at 10o/c and about 500 yards down the road we were issued with parcels & between 4 men! Each French, Yank, & Canadian – Yank one was opened at once & the 140 cigs it contained were split, agreed to muck in with the other 2 men for the time being and keep together to save splitting everything – Froggie (?) parcel had also 2pks tobacco & 20 cigs too. Marched about 20 kilo’s to Irnerkun (?) Reuth on a very decent road no ice at all but muddy in places. Got into a party of 100 men Kiwi in charge and started eating the parcels and got skilly 10 o/o (we arrived at 5.30) went to sleep after nearly smoking myself to death but E & I have decided to keep 60 YK cigs for bartering later on (Air raid of Eger)
Sunday Mar 11 1945.
No marching today so after a brew of coffee we have a fire & made skilly with dried veg & Beans from 1 parcel and spuds we had – then buckshee parcels came up I parcel for 10 men and some cigs (E & I got 15 cigs and ½ tin State Express tobacco each) and some biscuits, chocolate bar, cake and odds & ends from parcel. Everyone is smoking well.
Had a shave & gen clean up and listened to rumours (?) of more parcel issues (The convoy that brought these parcels has dashed back to Switzerland and is expected with another load in 8-14 days.) We are mucking in with Lewis & Brown still and everything seems very rosy except the storage of bread. Put the rest of the beans and dried veg in soak for tomorrow and went to sleep.
Monday Mar 17 1945.
Again,’ no marching‘ but got up early for a wash etc ate the Canadian biscuits which is the last of the bread slices and enjoyed it. (Dawn tomorrow) with sweet milky coffee. The Ernie got the beans & veg stew on with ½ turnip and about 12 potatoes. Lewis got of a Froggie for a cig. We ate this, nearly a bowlful each at 12 o/o midday and then the Hamtman came round on inspection and immediately stopped the fire we had despite the fact that we all washed, shaved and cleaned up at his suggestion. Then skilly got spoiled by the party next door wanting the vessel and we finished up with ½ mug of watery pea soup. We managed a brew later (1/2 cup) and then learned there was a bread issue and were moving tomorrow so we cheered up a bit. There was no community singing like last night though and I snuggled down to a nice sleep.
Tuesday 13 Mar 1945
Up at 7.00 a brew of tea at 7.30 and all ready to go at 8.30 despite we’re not moving until 9.30. Bread issue came up in time to have bread & pilchards for breakfast. ( 3 loaves per 11 men) and after waiting till 9.45 for the lieutenant we marched off after he shouted “Salbermachen” (make clean) to nearly everybody & pointed to straw & hay on the men’s clothes. He got a mixed replies of “Give us spring mattresses and we want get straw on our clothes” & “Have you a clothes brush to lend me” etc.
The road was dry and good it’s very mild weather & nearly all the snow has disappeared and I’m hoping that the spring has come at last. Feel much fitter and healthier after the parcel feed up, and everyone looks better. Marched about 12-14 kilo’s very easy and stopped at Thiersheim – put in a huge barn with 350 men and no prospects but things looked up and after we had bread & meat roll & jam for dinner and then Ernie took over & after putting Brown in the cookhouse he got us a brew. There’s tons of parcel rumours about the latest being “there’s parcels at the end of tomorrow’s march” but of course – ? Jerry rations came up about 3 spuds per man plus a few we managed to buy which made it up five per man. Brown in CH Bartered choc for 2k of bread and ½ bucket of spuds & the woman in the house gave him about 1 ½ k bread so we came off OK.
Had supper of spuds & butter and went to bed contented with enough spuds for breakfast.
Wed 14 March 1945.
Up at 7.0 had a brew & about 10 spuds each for breakfast and moved off about 9am, lot of stoppages on the road at first but soon got cracking and marched about 14-15 kilo’s to Unterroslau in very fair mild weather. Put in a party of 60.Ernie & I in a nice barn, actually sat outside in warm spring sunshine after.
Ernie got detailed to go away boot repairing and came back at dusk and says he repaired 2 pairs of boots and there’s prospect of bartering – skilly came up about 8pm.
Thursday 15 Mar 1945
Had brew, and bread & sardines. Ernie went to work at 7.30 took chocolate, soap & 20 cigs so we waited in anticipation, later, boiled up some rye seed we got yesterday. Had a mug & half of this and put a tin of M&V (meat & veg) into a skilly of mixed stuff the boys are making. MO came and gave us a talk on eating raw vegetables and seed, and general cleanliness. Day is very sunny & taking the bags downstairs we sat in the sun for a while. The skilly came up about 12o/c and was smashing. Then we got a bath of water and had a cold bath. It’s the first bath I’ve since we left the lager (warehouse) and it’s nice to be clean but I’m looking like a skeleton – and so is everyone (10pm last night the sirens sounded and almost immediately planes were over. Flying very low – 3 formations went across over a period of 3/4hr no bombs or AA heard) Siren’s sounded at about 1o/c but no plans heard or seen. Ernie, who has been cobbling today came back & he has sold chocolate, soap & 20 cigs for about 5k bread but we sold roughly 11/2 for cocoa as this is always worth at least 2k. We decided to keep the 2 tins of salmon for selling & that leaves only bread in the parcel box except for ½ tine of Yank marg. Later we had a brew with some bread & butter and then although the sgt’s denied it rumours of a bread issue persisted and were justified at 7pm when a loaf between 2 came up. We were offered 6 tins of white meal for 2 tins salmon but we refused it as we have enough to carry for the time being.
Friday 16 Mar 1945.
Up at 7.0am had tea & bread & butter & on the road marching at 9.00. Feeling a bit chilly as I left 1 shirt & 1 pullover off when I bathe yesterday but the sun shone all the time and it was warm marching. We were warned about Yank planes may strafe us as we were entering dangerous country for this sort of thing. People actually threw bread to us at one place and this seems a good sign. The people here are good to us, they are Bavarian. We only marched 10 kilo’s & stopped at a small village of Voitsuma. We got in a party of 120 and there was tons of arguments over cooks etc but we had a brew & bread almost on arrival. They managed to scrounge some kartoffelen (potato flakes) and skilly was done in two shifts. We were on the last one we got ours at about 11.30pm. It tasted like boiled veg (it was dried veg) and Posten (guard) crept up and caught me and another chap smoking in bed and as a punishment made us stand out in the open. He said we’d stay there all night – we stood there talking about different things and smoking and eating hot potatoes the cooks gave us until at 2.30am they relented and sent us to bed.
I crawled into bed cursing all Deutsche people.
Sat 17 Mar 1945.
Up at 5.30 and after a brew & bread & butter and issue of 5-6 spuds the men & I who were strafe last night had to clean up the leavings of other people. We were on the road by 7.00 (early start due to air activity) this morning is cold & dreary, we marched about 13-14 kilo’s. It rained a bit and hailstones fell but we arrived at Metglersremte at 10.30. In a party of 100 men , Ernie was voted in charge & bought spuds for men. Had a bit of a row with Brown & Lewis over them laying in bed while Ernie tries to feed us. Had skilly at 2o/c and then another at 5.30. Then a spud issue about 5 per man. E got us 3 mugs of buckshee, I had one and gave the other to Brown & Lewis, then E got some buckshee spuds which I ate.
E flogged 3 bars of soap for about 10/12 lb of white flour & some new spuds. Went to bed after another brew, feeling very contented. Ernie was praised by everyone on the way he ran everything.
Sunday 18 Mar 1945.
Very unorthodox but were raised at 6o/c and after a brew & bread were on the road marching by 8o/o on very stiff hills and rough tracks at first, but we hit the main road after 3-4 kilo’s and going got easier. We got a very long rest about 9.30 probably because of air raid, we could hear in the distance (Bayreuth)We marched about 18kilo’s and stopped about 5k from Baysenth at Bindlatch in a party of 100. Ernie was not in charge but we got 1 & 3/4 mugs of skilly a bit watery but tasty & 2 spuds per man. The posten told us we’d get parcels tomorrow, but sgts denied all knowledge. We are very low on bread & tomorrow will see us without any but we have flour still. We ate the salmon for lunch. Rumoured that we stay here for 3-4 days and when we move we get a train.
Monday 19 1945
Awoke to no marching, again. After a brew & bread we had a n issue of bread which was green right through & 3 months old, a spoonful of jam & a spoonful of sugar. We got 3 pancakes each cooked, by the Farmer’s wife but it’s a job to get any cooking done. Skilly came up about 4.30 and I got more than I could eat which makes a change. After agitating a bit, we got the cook to cook a dumpling for the morning, and went to bed listening to the rumours for parcels and now wondering where our next smoke is coming from. At midday air raid warning sounded and planes were heard in hundreds then bombs & AA about 20k away. Eight Yank fighters flew across very low overhead with no opposition whatever. About 40-50 Messerschmitt 10 gunners (German planes) along the woods & bushes, where we had marched through the other day near Reichbker.
Tuesday 20 Mar 1945
No marching today again but we fell outside at 9.15am with all our kit for a search. Postens (guard) just ran their hands over our bags and then we were allowed to go back into the scheune (Barn) again. After a while the brew came up and we had 2 slices each of the dumplings we cooked yesterday and then we flogged the rest of it and the Klim (?) that was left for 12 fags between us.
After a wash & clean up Cpt Lewis came down & told us that tomorrow we move by train and parcels will be issued 1 per man as we entrained. Then sugar was issued. We got 18 pancakes cooked and after eating these with the spoonful of issue sugar. We sold the rest of the flour for 22 cigs and had a smoke, because if we move tomorrow on a train, flour is a dead loss. There was an issue of buckshee parcel stuff but there wasn’t a full parcel per 100 men, we got a fag a man out of it and a cup of milked, sugared tea. Skilly came up a mug & half of thick stuff and then there was a bread issue, 3 loaves per 4 men but most of it was green right through. After cutting the green mould away we got about 1 loaf out of 3. Sgt Ryan says we go by train tomorrow at 12o/c & collect a parcel as we entrain, we got some spuds we had cooked and had them for supper.
Wednesday 21 Mar 1945.
Guard woke us this morning & told us we move at 12o/c but the Feldwebel (sergeant) is rumoured to have said we stay here today. Got a tea brew and finished the parcel, then we split the bread issue 4 lots & picked for them so that if we got split we are all alright , ate half of my share for breakfast then after a wash we shook the blanket and got everything ready for the morning. Later on we joined in the groups of men standing around waiting for news of parcels, w saw the column of Canadian lorries that bring the parcels as it stopped outside our billets and we spoke to the drivers. They had another 9 truckfulls of English for a place , 2 hours from here. There was an air raid warning during the night and we heard planes flying very low overhead sirens keep going all day ( we have had 5 warnings today so far and its only 11.30am ) Skilly came up at 3.00pm and we got 1 & 1/2 of good stuff. Waited until 4o/c and then I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, so I went to bed after someone says ‘parcels tomorrow’ it’s been a day of disappointments. Everything’s gone wrong. Roll on tomorrow. Day ended by having 12 air raid warnings.
Thursday 22 March 1945.
Well today has arrived at last and everybody is talking ‘parcels’ , went on roll call and as there is no smokes & nothing to eat I got back into the blankets and waited for parcels to arrive. I lay listening to the ‘Griff’ (rumours) until 11o/c and then I got up and went to sit in the sun – it seems we are to get plenty to eat today. We got ½ a parcel per man. Deficiencies from the last issue.
1/10 of a med parcel, Issue of American jam & biscuits.
At about 12 noon two parcels came up, first we got ½ parcel each (both Harwick) we ate the ration biscuits and meat roll as we were hungry & the little puddings. Then we draw medical & a Yank between 10 men and about 13-14 Yank biscuits & a slab & ½ concentrated jam. The parcels between 10 we split up and we done very well – skilly at 4 o/c was very thin but we have parcels so who cares. Sold 2 bars of chocolate for 70 fags while there is plenty (50 per man) and we got 12 per man from the Yank parcel so I have about 80 at present. We sold the cocoa for 2k bread and Ernie took charge. Had a pretty good day after all & there’s plenty of rumours about more food to come. Bread issue from Jerry (1 between 3) ended the day. Felt satisfied with myself but laid awake till 12.30 midnight.
Friday 23 March 1945.
Woke up at 5o/c despite laying awake last night. Brew came up at 7am. Had biscuits & jam with it – then commercial porridge came up at 8 we put a tin of syrup, and a tin of raspberries in syrup and a tin of cream rice in it and it certainly hit the spot.. Current rumours indicate we move at 5am tomorrow but this seems unreliable. At 12 noon we had bread & jam and the German issued a wedge of fishy cheese per man, and at 12.30 Yank biscuits (15 per man) and 2 slabs of concentrated jam were issued (These are supposed to be travelling rations) The German issue of rations was exceptionally good today.
Later I had my shirt off for a ‘suspected lice’ – I found one & two eggs so I smothered my shirt with delousing powder and kept it off all day rolled up, the day is like a midsummer one, the sun is beating down from a clear blue sky. I think spring is here to stay now and there’ll be no more snow now. Skilly came up at 4 o/c and we ate Ernie’s as he has duschfalls (?) and it was tick as concrete and I ate a bowl full to the brim, then after a brew and some bread & salmon for supper I went to bed. Salter said ‘We are not moving until Monday’ which is definite as men have been out loading rations, on the train for us (but the griff (rumour) yesterday was the place we were going to is under British shell fire ) Plenty of news about ‘pushes’ etc which always come with the parcels. We had a warning and saw a formation of fighter bombers fly overhead pretty low with no opposition whatever, lay in bed till 11.30pm before I fell asleep. Ernie is bad with his stomach and cried out in his sleep –after nearly being asleep.
Saturday 24 Mar 1945.
Awoke after a fairly good sleep had bread & cheese & jam with the brew – the sun is out and has all the prospects of a fine day. The farmer discovered where someone has been breaking through the brick wall into a spud cellar and created hell – as a result we are strafed and confined to a small area in the yard. The rations came up & a few potatoes & dried potatoes and 5 tins of meat. (3 of which are bad) and after a brew at 11.30 skilly was began. This took till 4o/c (God knows why ) and the meister (master) sold us 4k of meat to make it thick after once accepting 20cigs he decided he wanted 30cigs so we informed him of a place to put it, and we had a very poor potatoey water skilly. There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky all day but it’s been a poor day really as we have had nothing issues today except a bread issue of 1 per 5 men. I wanted to go on a fatigue party today but there’s been none at all. Some current rumours say ‘Montgomery has stated ‘only a fortnight now’ Ernie is crook still and decided to eat dry biscuits first today so as I want to eat bread first we split the biscuits, jam and bread and each man took his share of biscuits and jam. I am thoroughly ‘browned off’ with today and probably shall be tomorrow. I wish we’d got on this train and get moving. It took the cooks till 7.15 to get a brew and we had steak & kidney pudd and H & V with bread & jam & tea for supper. I ate ¾ of a slab of jam & it upset my stomach for a while but I kept it & fell asleep about 10pm. (One man heard on the wireless that the British had dropped an Airborne Division east of the Rhine)
Sunday 25 March 1945.
Awoke and after roll call we had bread & Bacon for breakfast this finishes the bread but we still have biscuits and a few tins of stuff in the box. We are expecting all sorts of rumours today & hoping there’ll be issue of parcels etc ready for tomorrow. At 1o/c I mixed some jam up into real jam bit it was a lot of trouble for nothing as it wasn’t much of a success I spooned it – skilly came up at 3o/c and was good – thick but we put a tin of soup powder to make it thicker. There wasn’t a fatigue party all day – issue of bread 1 civvy loaf 2k and I army loaf between 17 men. This we ate for tea with a tine of salmon and a pancake we made from 3 tins of egg flakes – at 5.30pm we had to parade with all our kit packed ready to move but it was a search and we went back into the sheune (Barn) wondering whether we are moving or not. The ‘Griff’ (rumour) says 3.30 reveille but the guards say we aren’t marching till 7.am. I managed to wash my other shirt and pullover and dried them in brilliant sunshine. I changed into them in the evening – A German dolmetscher (Interpreter) came around & told us to leave the place clean & our train leaves at 6.38am. At first we didn’t think it was worth making the beds but we changed our minds and got our heads down. About 8.30, after buying ½ of a 2k loaf, from a posten for 10 cigs.
Monday 26 March 1945
I laid awoke until 1.30am and the fell asleep, but we awakened again at 2o/c when the cook announced that he was told by the posten not to bother about brewing up as the move had been cancelled or postponed. Fell asleep again and awoke 5.30 brew came p at 6.30 we had an early breakfast of the bread we bought last night and butter as we finished the meat stuff off last night. Ginger has been sick all night and backwards and forwards to the abort, a sanitator was called and he took him at once to the MO who told him to watch the rash he has on his legs ( It looks very serious to me – perhaps Scarlett Fever) He’s is very bad and had no breakfast.
We had another brew of tea at 10.30 & at 1.30 owing to no rations arriving. I ate the last of my biscuits with the 10.30 brew, so it looks as though hungry days are in store again.-although the PSH is reputed to have said last week that we’d be throwing food away in future. We asked about the parcels & were told that nothing can be issued until the Red Cross rep arrives – he is expecting tomorrow.
We got an issue of 3 cigs and ½ bar of soap per man and the bearer told us that 140,000 paratroopers were dropped 12 miles east of Frankfurt which is about 80 kilo’s from our destination and about 140 miles from us – and that the final battle of the war had begun, and was expected to last a fortnight (Can we hope that the war will soon end shortly after all these years of imprisonment- it’s seems to good to be possible ?) I’m bored stiff and stand around all day waiting for the Germans to come in and ask for some men to do fatigues, so that I can go out and break the monotony. We saw 4 rec planes go across here about 1.30 followed by 4 formations of approx 40 planes each. No AA was seen – it’s curious but although the weather has been brilliantly warm for the past week. The tips of my fingers feel cold and numb in the bone and I can’t get rid of this feeling – six planes dived over us, very low- we thought they were Jerry fighters but children in a nearly house were chased off the street and we were made to go inside, so they must have been Yanks. There was no rations issued at all today, so no skilly but a brew came up every 2 hours. Bread issue came up at 5pm 1 between 6, so we had 1/2 of it with marg and kept the other ½ for fruhstuck (breakfast). Went to bed at 8o/c and undressed for a change- fell asleep at once.
Tuesday 27 March 1945.
Awoke at 5am and heard someone talking about working today- guard roused us and after a brew and the rest of the bread we had. We packed our kit and bundled the straw in the sheune (barn) and drew bread (1 between 6) tins of meat (1 between 4) and a sugar issue, our combine (group) also got a bag of dried veg. Most of the tins of meat were bad but we got a good one. We then stood about until 9.30 and then march to the station – we collect 5 parcels (2 Yank & 3 English) for 5 men. After cutting for them we finished up with 2 Yank & 2 English parcels and 58 cigs each. We went straight on the train and were tightly packed (80 men in our truck) A ½ cup of tea came up straight away, and then we waited until 2pm when we moved off and kept on about 20k per hour until 6pm we came into Nuremberg – almost every building is damaged and every factory gutted – the Nuremberg Ost Post (East part) looks like a dead city – bomb craters everywhere – we stopped here as the sirens sounded about 7.30pm but the ‘all clear’ at 8.30pm. The postens stopped us from getting drinking water from civilians as men have been reporting sick with stomach disorders and the Jerry & our MO put it down to drinking cold water. We just sat in the truck and waited for morning. We were allowed to disembark and stretch our legs and everyone had further attempts to get water but apart from a lucky few, it was impossible.
Wednesday 28 March 1945.
At awake all night but dozed off at dawn for half an hour but was awakened by Tish discussing the sex life of eels. We then managed to get some hot water from the engine driver for a cigarette and had some hot coffee. This livened us up, but feel dirty and sticky and my mouth tastes like – but we are supposed to be dis-entraining this morning, so I’ll put up with it.(yesterday when we got on the train, one man saw a louse on Westoncott as he picked it off, he saw another and on closer examination it was clear that his battledress, blouse & kit were alive with lice- everyone was for throwing him off the train but he got up on the side of the truck and picked them off. The men rubbed his clothes with louse powder and after telling him what a filthy bastard he was they dropped the matter. Everyone admitted the poss of getting 1 or 2 on them but this man was thick with them on his outer garments. So what must his underclothes be like ! At 12o/c an air raid warning sounded and we were sent into the woods at the side of the track, but a few minutes later the all clear sounded and straight away we got on the train it moved off. We had about 10mins away and then dis-entrained and marching about 3 kilo’s to a camp Stalag XIID.
An amusing incident was our postens, who has shouted at us when men who were weighed down by their packs fell a little way behind, had to carry their own packs and kept stopping every few yards to rest their packs on posts or walls accompanied by shouts from our boys of ‘Aufstehem, aufgehem los los (Get up, get up and get a move on ) and general bit of own back. We all exchanged remarks as we entered the lager (Camp/warehouse) ‘Lets get in’ Don’t let us out any more’ , ‘Good old barbed wire’ etc – I’ve met the same men inside from VIIIB and after exchanging experiences (they came by train and had more food than they wanted) we were put in a compound with the Russians who had marched – we were packed into 3 tents (440 men in each) and the Russians started selling us knives, dixies and anything they had for cigs. ( I bought a knife for 3 cigs) We were allowed to light fires and soon they were going all over the field. Pea soup came up about 9pm and bread (1 per 7 men) tins of mat per 6 men and margarine came later on to be dished out in darkness whilst the scrounging Russians stole anything they could lay their hands on (one was caught walking away with a Red X parcel he had ‘found’ .
We went to sleep knowing that, we had finally arrived at our destination.
Thursday 29 March 1945.
Awoke at 7.30 to the sound of ‘tea up’ and got up to a buckshee brew of tea with sugar & milk in, after this we had breakfast and after that we got our kits packed ready to go to the delousing centre. We had to wait till about 12.30pm before we finally marched off to the other side of the Stalag to be deloused. When we arrived we found we had a quite long wait before us as we lit a fire and brewed up. We then cooked porridge and finally got in the queue. We went in and got stripped, then after our clothes on hangers, put them on racks and waited for an hour, and went to the next room where the hairs on the
Fork (?) and under our armpits where sheared off. Then another quarter hour and we went into the showers and bathed, then finally into the last room to wait for our own clothes to come out. We got a brew from the bathroom, and had our tea or supper and then our clothing came out, and, dressing, we went outside. There was a mix-up because some of the men from the next batch had got mixed with us and some of our batch had to fall out. The next batch had had their skilly before they came, we had ours waiting for us, therefore these men were doubling on rations, some were recognized and were thrown out on their ears accompanied by cat-calls of ‘Lousy Bastard’ and other un-pleasantries but one man kept in and couldn’t be found. One of our batch had to wait therefore and Ginger Lewis was the man. We marched back in the dark (it was 8.30pm) and were put in a different compound and in a tent of the same dimensions as before and with only 250 men in. Skilly came up right away, we draw Ginger’s and kept a bed place for him and after two hours he arrived, met us and instead of thanking us, he cursed everyone and moaned about everything until we told him to go to sleep and don’t expect us to do anything for him in the future. Went to sleep and after undressing and thinking of the news we had heard today of flying columns only 60k from here (we can hear the rumble of Artillery)
Friday 30 March 1945
Awoke this morning by Ernie saying ‘look what I’ve got’ and displaying an armful of wood. ‘While you lazy —– were asleep – we muttered sleepy ‘good shows’ and he went out and got the brew on. Today is very windy and it was a bit of trouble as he wood is wet but we managed. After roll call bread came up with margarine so we had breakfast, then pancakes came up 1 per 2 men. We now have plenty of food although it doesn’t last long.
50cigs went to each man too, to supplement our rapidly diminishingly tobacco supply. The news was read out to us and it seems to good to be true, there seems to be flying columns everywhere , belting along with nothing to oppose them – after listening to it even the guns we can hear seem to be getting louder (we wonder whether we shall be recaptured this time or will Jerry move us at the last minute again. I think he’ll leave us to our own boys this time and in all good faith I expect to be told any minute that we are free ) I went to bed feeling very optimistic.
Saturday 31 March 1945.
Awoke about 6.30am, got up & after biscuits and a brew we began work on a ‘blower ‘(?) we were very busy and it was 2o/c when we stopped for dinner – so after dinner the ‘blower’ was finished and it’s a grand success.
The news came round and is very good still, flying columns everywhere – rumours of working parties are current but I don’t think we’ll be moved under any circumstances. We got 2 planks from the abort (toilets) which is being taken down by men needing firewood & this wood will last us quite a while.
We had porridge for supper and we put ½ tin of condensed milk in it. We have done pretty well for food today and the boredom that usually goes with stalag hasn’t reached me yet – this place will suit me till the end of the war.(on the news and column is 15miles from Wurzburg – 60 miles from here) The sgt in charge came in late & announced that 1.100men are to be sent to a working party on Monday and asked if there were any volunteers, there were none so we shall be detailed by the Germans.
Sunday April 1st 1945.
Awoke to find Ernie has brewed up and tea was ready. After tea in bed we got mobile and done issue more porridge and put the other tin of milk in it for breakfast. Everyone was then ordered to fall in on the rod and marched down to the Schreibstube (office) where we registered our name & number. This only took a few minutes and we went back and bread was up, some cheese & sugar and we were told we’d be lucky if we got any rations tomorrow.- there’s plenty of rumours of us moving – the new commentator told us he heard the we’re moving to Anbrach where we’ll be billeted in a disused school and it’s not a working party. We cooked up some dry veg for ‘dinner’ and then I tries to repair Lewis’s watch but wasn’t successful. Then just before bedtime the sgt announced reveille 4am move off 6am and summertime begins tomorrow so it’s really reveille 3am and we’re marching 18kilo’s.
Monday April 2 1945
Awoke on Easter Monday at 4am and after cursing everything because of the dark, cheered up when I heard that parcels were to be issued. We packed and after a brew Jerry came and told us we had to get on the road by 5am – we got on the rod and as we marched off we had a parcel between two men issued. The we were got on parade and our names & numbers were called – Brown, Lewis and Canning were called early but we had to wait for mine on the last sheet. We marched to the railway and were put 55 in an open truck and at 10am we moved off. We had breakfast of HL biscuits and meat roll & jam and settled down for a 2hour run. We went through Nuremberg and the place is a dead city with burnt-out trucks & engines all along the line wrecked buildings everywhere. The sirens sounded as we got on the train. We moved off at 10am and made good progress for 30kilo’s and then at 11.30am we run into a sidling where we stopped. At 4.30pm 4 planes circled around our train and then flew away. We heard MG & AA fire but the planes were out of sight by this time a few minutes later they came back and AA near here opened up but the four planes were flying very ‘low’ and took no notice at all and started doing the victory Roll. We got a bit of a ‘flap’ on and watched the planes fly away and after almost going out of sight they turned and to our dismay came back. They flew to the side of us and after passing us they turned as if they were going to come up behind us to machine gun but they kept straight on and went away.
Since a spearhead of Yanks was 10miles from Wurzburg yesterday we put these planes down to army recon’ planes, no fighters were seen to intercept or get anywhere near them. The boys started lighting fires in the trucks and brewing. We waited at this spot 14 kilo’s from our destination until 6pm then an engine was put on and we moved off but in the wrong direction !. We thought we were going on to another line but after much starting & stopping we arrived at 11pm the same place as we had started Stalag X111D.
We marched from the train into the camp and the griff (rumour) is that the Yanks are advancing as the place we were going to. We got a brew and got the bed down and grimy & dirty (we were in coal trucks) we lay down & slept we had nothing to eat as we had eaten all the biscuits on the journey and even spooned a tin of milk with a small pudding. Gosh it’s good to be back & roll on the Yanks.
Tuesday April 3 1945.
Awoke to find Ernie had already brewed and after a wash and tidy Ernie got working and fixed the blower (fire) up again then we got some porridge made.
Soup came up a 11am but it wasn’t up to much good, and after a bit of agitating they gave up yesterday’s bread issue & todays ( 1 per 14 & 1 per 7). There was also sugar, salt & potatoes issued for 100 men and when divided between us our combine of 4 men got a Red X box between us. So we came of quite well. The news is grand and the Yanks are reported 38 miles from here, but we are expecting Jerry to move us, as the Red X Rep has announced ‘Nothing definite but a move is expected, I am therefore issuing a parcel per man probably this evening. We’ll march in 500’s and there is no cover each party will take a tent ‘ A buckshee bulk issue was given. This amounted to ¾ H Life tin full of sugar, & 1/3 tin Klim for our combine. There was also some cocoa but we cut & lost (Tossed a coin for it). The parcels came up later on with 50cigs and we got 3 English parcels & 1 Yank, 150 cigs & 100 in the Yank.
We finally got to bed only to be awakened in the night by an announcement that all full NCO’s & upward ranks were to hold themselves in readiness to move at 8am in the morning & then by a schnell later on.
Wednesday 4 April 1945
Got up to a brew & a slice and then the rumours started- men pulled down the Abert (?) completely down for firewood the German who was on guard just stood by and watched. Instead of stopping them they lent them hammers to facilitate the wrecking. Germans were seen loading wagons ready for the getaway and our boys are more than I have ever seen them before – all cpls and upwards was ordered to move in the Luftlager but some of them took their stripes down (most of them were Stalag-promoted anyway) Directly they went things were disorganised potatoes were scrambled for in our tent and amounts for 250-300 men went to lucky individuals who happened to get there first & order reigned while sugar was issued and we draw a spoonful each. On the news this morning our troops are converging on Nuremberg from three sides these spearheads average 40 kilo’s distant.
The announcement that we must be packed & ready to march off at 8am tomorrow morning came as we watched 2 or 3 RAF planes diving & strafing a place about 15 miles west of here. A lot more boots were issued and we gave the old boots to the Russians in exchange for some knickknacks knives etc. I took a pair of boots and got a mirror for them and gave an old pullover for a knife. We have just heard that the Germans have broken into Red X parcel store, and the RC repres’ has taken a wagon to get the rest out, he may lob them out tonight (this is only supposition and will probably be baloney) Bread came up with buckshee (1 per 7, 1 per 14) and on top of that they opened all unclaimed cig parcels and issued 20 cig per man. Then they told us that we’re not marching tomorrow but just moving over to the Luftlager (most chaps think it’s just a ruse to get us on the road for marching) I washed and shaved in a high wind and Ernie’s mirror blew away and smashed – he nearly went nuts but I replaced it with one I got from the Russians with some old boot someone had slung away, I got myself one as well. Went to bed and fell asleep listening to the ‘schwell’ wailing.
Thurs April 5 1945
Awoke at 6.45am, got breakfast and then packed our kit ready for this move. Men are throwing all their buckshee clothing to the Russian for knickknacks. We got a bigger Dixie, scissors, mug and bowl (for Ernie) and stood around waiting until about 10am some news came around – it was “The Feldmebel says there’s bread & soup to be issue for today and no matter what happens you will not be moving from this Stalag, so you better settle down again.” Unless one is here one can’t imagine the pitch of excitement everyone tapping feet, and asking everyone else what the latest new is, and brewing up every minutes we heard AA fire and looking up saw the sky crisscrossed by condensation ribbons then they started dropping everything they had, and it hit quite close but was concentrated, for about ½ hours formations of planes flew right across the camp and dropped bombs about 3 or 4 k’s away. We were all frightened to death but no bombs came into the camp. I saw no planes shot down but after the raid a parachute was seen right into the target area which is one mass of smoke & belching upwards into the sky and making a sunny day look dismal.
After the said artillery fire could be heard and general opinion is that the raid was to clean the area for the advancing troops, I hope they don’t bomb the camp. Potatoes were issued 2 per man & a spoonful of sugar but no bread. So we cooked porridge & put a tine of milk in it. Officially its parcel issue day tomorrow, but there’s a rumour that there are no parcel. As we went to bed it’s starting to pour with rain and it looks as though we’re going to get wet. The 60/c news says the troops are meeting resistance on this front & there is little change 1200 ‘heavies’ bombed Nuremburg & district.
Friday 6 April 1945
Awoke to hear Sgt Dolmesscher saying ‘Jerry wants 600 men to go out working this morning. Bread will only be issued to men who go working’ Lots of answer of _______ his bread. If he wants us to go out to clear up bomb wreckage let him come & get us out. Anyway about 10am the ‘Schrell’ went and that finished the working party. We heard some planes but no bombs were dropped here. After pea soup skilly (out of which I picked about ½ dozen beetles) there was an issue of bulk soap (1/2 bar each ) and toilet paper( 1 roll per 15 men ). Everyone is wondering whether there’ll be any parcel issues today. There are tons of rumours about the but they change every 2 minutes – one second they’re issuing at 2pm next second there are no parcels, then the parcel store was blown up in yesterday’s air raid. Some excitement was caused about 2pm when 2 Yankee fighters flew over the camp about 40ft high- I saw the markings easily – no guns up against them. There was no bread issue today as the bread store was blown up in the air raid. A million loads were destroyed. Some men in search of firewood took the remaining supports of a lavatory away with the result that the roof collapsed – men who were brewing underneath had a narrow escape but nobody was hurt. The water pipe was broken & for two hours water was gushing up into the air. Typhoid has broken out amongst the Russians and camp police started to keep our men from bartering with them. There were 8 deaths today.
About 6o/c in the evening a terrific pall of smoke was seen south of the camp. A posten (guard) said it was Jerry burning his supply dump (3o/c news gave “The Yanks have broken through and are threatening Furth about 14k from Nuremberg). As I lay in bed I thought I heard gunfire but I may have been mistaken nevertheless several other men say they heard it too.
Sat April 7 1945.
Ernie awoke me with a cup of tea and after a wash we had the last pkt of biscuits for breakfast (The Yanks better get here quick) we have some blewflakes (?) left and meat stuff but without bread, it’s hard to make a meal. I expected to hear gunfire this morning but nothing can be heard.
We moved all 5 tins of egg flakes and a tin of oatmeal with water & fried it for dinner-(with jam on it, it tasted like homemade cake) We won the sections spud issue (6 potatoes) a warning about lunchtime made me think the bombers were coming but nothing developed. The weather is good but is very cold and the sky is half cloud causing the sunshine to be on & off all the time – managed to wash my other shirt.
Sugar, margarine and carrots were issued in the afternoon. Then some parcels were seen- these came from several trucks that were discovered on a siding that had been bombed the other day. Some of them are burnt & damaged but welcome, they are probably to be issued in the morning . Bread ( 1 per 8 men) was issued later but it was doughy & seemed only ½ cooked. When I went to bed I could definitely heard gunfire and when I got up during the night it could still be heard.
Sunday April 8th 1945.
Woke up to the sad realisation that we have no bread or biscuits for breakfast, so we boiled up the carrots & 6 spuds and had 2 tins of cottage pie with it. As we were eating at about noon the bombers were heard and they dropped first flares and then bombs on all sides of us but about 10kilo’s away. Everyone watched as the sky is almost clear of clouds and it was a sight. We were told to stand by for moving to another compound so we packed …….again & waited for nearly all day we could hear the drone of planes and terrific explosions to the east of us. I hope our (or rather the Yankee tanks ) are pushing there and their planes are in support as they sound as though they are dive bombing – we moved over to the Yanks compound in the afternoon and the place is knee deep in parcel boxes, woodwork and tins – they must have had more parcels than that.
We managed to get bed boards and soon settled down. I managed to get a smashing headache and up till 8o/c we have had nothing to eat since the skilly of carrots this morning. We waited in the hope that bread would be issued but at 9pm we opened and ate the last of the meat stuff. I tin each of meat roll, bacon a meat pudding & cheese this leaves only spread and brew until the next parcel issue (Tomorrow we hope) went to bed praying the Yanks got a move on and bring food with them.
Monday April 9 1945
Was wakened this morning by the sound of diving planes and MG fire right on top of us – it was Yank fighters machine gunning the railway siding at the side of our camp. It appears as though they were doing our Lager (camp) at first ( I am convinced that they know this is a POW lager, because they can’t miss rows upon rows of huge white tents ) A little later about 9.30am the ‘schnell’ went and bombers heard and then explosions in the distance. Huge fires are burning all over the compound where men are burning the rubbish left by the Yanks, who lived here before us – Guns could be heard closer than ever during the night, but they seem to die off during the day, they were loudest at daybreak. After a morning of walking around and getting browned off, they issued a Yank parcel between 4 to last us until they sort out the damaged parcels. I did a lot of washing and after getting some de-lousing powder I went right through my clothing but although I could not find anything I sprinkled powder everywhere as I have felt itchy lately. An issue of potatoes & sugar came up & 2 lots of skilly – (very watery) A rumour started that we are moving tomorrow and the Russians went out, but there’s nothing official for us. Bread was issued about 5.30-6.00. Eighteen men to a loaf which amounted to a thin slice each with bully beef on it passed as supper. There’s talk around that there’s another parcel issue tomorrow. I sincerely hope so as we have almost finished the Yank parcel already. We tried to get bread over the wire but the blocks are cutting it to pieces. Went to bed, after cursing the Yanks for not getting a move on- it seems as though they’re stopped altogether. Bread 1 per 18 men.
Tuesday April 10 1945.
Busty got up this morning and made the tea. Then three of us went down to the wire and tried to get some bread but it was useless – men are giving 60cigs for a loaf – so we ate the meat roll with marg on it for breakfast and hoped something would turn up. The guns sounded louder during the night but I’m impatient (The news says the main forces are 25miles from Nuremberg and spearheads are out in front of them but where are they ?)
Later, in the early afternoon, Ernie found a M&V in his bag and made some skilly with the spuds we had. Then rice soup was issued. Bread came up (1 per 12men) so we had some supper with sardines and jam. Men are now giving 120 cigs for a loaf over the wire. No parcels were issued despite the rumours that there may be parcels issued tomorrow was official given out. I got good and truly browned off and passed most of the day laying on the grass, but I did some washing and had a bath under the tap. The Germans are packed and ready for a move and some walk about with packs on. I went out for a smoke , just before going to bed and saw a big fire burning in the direction of Nuremberg.
Wed April 11 1945.
Awoke about 9am and had tea in bed. The laid there until 10.15am as there isn’t anything to get up for. Ginger said when he got up during the night there were several fires burning Nuremberg way and guns seemed nearer during the night. We had nothing to eat so I went out & lay on the grass watching Yank planes having fun around here.
Fighters fly about all day diving & M gunning occasionally, about 11am
Formations of bombers flew to the south of here and bombed the hell out of a place 15-20 miles away & then flew calmly back to their own tanks without hardly any AA burst fired while they were in sight. Skilly meat & beans (the best I’ve had here) came up about 1o/c and I started darning socks after I had eaten it. There was a drone of aircraft close by so I went out to see what was doing and saw nearly a hundred super fortresses (Lancasters?) six engined roaring towards the camp. As I looked there was a terrible swishing and bombs hit the dock near the railway shunting yard – so I ran to the shelters but the second lot of bombs hit before I made it. I stayed down and waited until they had finished and came out when they were going away. They flew all over the sky in a sort of Deep(?) in this direction way and the AA barrage was the best I’ve ever seen since I’ve been here. The Red X rep has decided to hold what parcels he has as reserve so we’ve had them.
Jerry gave us an issue of marg, sugar, honey (Ersatz), potatoes and instead of bread he gave us 4 Fullkorn Biscuits (125g)
The water supply gave up about 5pm (probably due to the bombing) and they say it will be off 2 days. I have given up hope of being recaptured by the Yanks now as they haven’t advanced in the past week.
Dusk saw 2 big fires still burning in the shunting yards (they dropped
Leaflets too) one landed in the camp says “What one can do to help end the war” and gives a list of all the things one ought to do – the same as the people in the west are doing. It was announced at 9pm that 3 trucks of parcels have arrived and a fatigue party were required at 4am tomorrow for unloading – so we may see a parcel issue tomorrow. Lost my pipe and went to bed after watching the red glow from the fires started by the Halifaxes today.
Thurs April 12 1945.
Awoke and after a brew & salmon & chips learned that the camp is again in quarantine and the guards are blocking all the holes in the wire to stop us wandering from one compound to another, so it looks good. From 9am until 12o/o sirens were going almost continually but not much happened. A big German gun started firing about 5miles away but after shooting for 2-3hrs we heard planes diving and bombing in the direction of where we estimated the gun to be, it stopped. General Patton has started a push in this sector again. The Yank fighters has been flying around here all day & making a general nuisance of themselves. Bread was issued at 5pm in the form of wrapped loaves 11/2k I between 8. It was officially announced that parcels
(1 per 2men) will be issued tomorrow and also that due to an agreement between our MO & the German Stabsarz (?) the camp is in quarantine (Typhoid) for 19days. We started on one last pkt of tea tonight although we still have some coffee & cocoa.
Fri April 13 1945.
Friday the 13th began as usual with a cup of tea in bed and as have (as usual) nothing for breakfast. I laid in bed until 10am. Still parcels are to be issued so it can’t be unlucky today. Our troops are only 60miles from Berlin and are across the Elbe already. The issue of parcels was changed to 1 Yank & 1 English between 2 men but were pretty long winded about issuing them & after an issue from the Germans of sugar, marg, salt & spuds. The Yankee parcels came up at 5pm and we got 60 cigs each and 4ozs chocolate and the parcels were quite decent but the English parcels didn’t come up until later. Today we a bit cloudy & rained in spurts & this accounted for the lack of air activity. According to the map the Yanks are closing in around Nuremberg to the west & north and are coming on fast. Roosevelt’s death was on the news. The guns couldn’t be heard so well today but we got optimistic again. If the Yanks keep this advance going as they are now, they should attack Nuremberg in 2 days’ time. ( Our quarantine has still 18 days to go) then at 6.30pm we got the shock of our lives – be ready to move at 7pm. When we were told we all dashed about collecting our gear. There was an issue of spuds (in lieu of bread) a biscuit a man & marg and we all got packed and got down to the gate as some more parcels were to be issued. We marched out in parties of 100 some to the mag and drew a Yank parcel per man. This made two full parcels each to carry & then we got under way. We were told we only mere 15k to march but my experience with Germans tells me different. We started at 9.30pm and marched pretty well considering the load we had, and Jerry made it easier by marching us for 50mins, and then 10mins rest. We reached the Autobahn after 4 or 5k and made it down it, to the tune of Jerry 60pounder booming in the distance and the rumour that the Yanks had broken through and were only 8miles from Nuremberg the rests came very quickly after the first hour or two, and I hardly noticed the time flying. Postens say we are marching by night & resting by day because of the ‘fliegers’
It sure was Friday the 13th.
Sat April14 1945
Dawn broke and showed me still marching but not in such a happy frame of mind. We turned off the autobahn at 5am and up a farm track. Some of the men turned in a barn soon but we had to march on about 5kilo’s more before we reached our destination which is over 30k from Nuremberg.
We just flopped out on the green outside a farm and after 5mins rest we got a brew on and had biscuits & cheese and raisins & Xmas cake.(one of the English parcel was a Xmas) Then there was some “go shafting” going so Ernie managed to get 21/2 x 2k loaves for 75 cigs which we got from the Yankee parcels drawn last night. I felt dead beat but I kept awake as they said no marching tonight.
Planes machine gunned something close by, but the weather is heavy and I couldn’t see them. The we had some bread and cooked beef and then I lay on the grass and fell asleep but I was awakened rudely by “Busty” saying we were moving again at 4.30pm and he had put potatoes on for dinner. We got our meal, packed our bits and fell in on the road and in a few minutes we were off. We are still heavily laden as we now have 4k bread to carry in place of the spuds we ate. We marched 6k back along the road, we marched yesterday to reach the main road but it was parallel to the autobahn and not on it. Then we passed through a village and the children all the way asked us for ‘schokolade’ and then mother asked us for chocolate, and it got worse – women were running along the side of the column trying to barter bread for chocolate. Soon after we got outside this village we picked up an old pram with only one wheel on it, but another laying beside it. We fixed it on and bodged it up for the time being, and, putting some of the kit on it, we went on. We went on.
We stopped at some one-horse village 6k passed Allersberg after a lot of messing about caused by men who were tired out shouting ‘Pause’ break and laying down at the side of the road. The postens didn’t scold them but just sat down beside them quietly (postens were even carrying some of their kit for then) what a contrast to the other march we had. At about 9.30pm we were put in a billet and getting a lamp we had a brew & biscuits and got down to long awaited rest. I fell asleep immediately. Rumbling guns were forgotten.
Sunday April 16 1945.
Awoke freshened considerably at 9am and going out to get a brew on, I found Ernie had been at work on the pram and had made a fine little handcart, out of it. We got another loaf for a bar of chocolate and had bread & bacon for breakfast, and then, noticing men walking anywhere they pleased we asked and found there were hardly any restrictions. We got a lot of spuds and cooked them for dinner with meat roll, followed by Xmas pud.
Then we got some white flour and leaving Ernie making a cake, I went outside for a minute- I went to the gate of our farm and no posten call me to ‘zuruckgehen – (to go back) so I stepped into the village street and was surprised to find our men walking about just as though they owned the place.
I walked down the street towards the church passing one fellow leaning against a fence making love to a woman. Postens (guards) interoffiziers (interofficer) and even Feldwebels (sergeants) passing by never even spoke to the gefangeners (prisoners) walking beside or past the,. Civilians asked Britisher ‘wie gehts’ (how are you) as though we had lived here all their lives. One man I know stopped me & asked me if I knew where the local boozer was ‘Its somewhere around this end’ I left him and walked all over the village with impunity joining the search for the gastlaus (guesthouse) I found it but the Frau was sorry there was no beer in the village. As I walked back after losing my way twice & my mind was drawn by the noise of artillery. They are closer now to us than they have ever been and one can distinguish each gun in batteries firing. We are not moving until 5am the postens say but those guns are pretty close now and I think we’ll move before. There was an issue of potatoes (8 a man) and we had these with meat roll & bread then after getting another 2k loaf, had cocoa & went to bed – fully expecting to be roused during the night. Some men saw flashes of artillery but I was in bed.
Monday April 17 1945
Roused at 4am by a posten, we had a brew and ate one of the cakes that Ernie made yesterday (it was smashing) and packing all our gear except personal packs on the kinerwagon (pram) we went out on the road and started marching at 5.45am by the village clock. The pram went a treat and the going was very flat although the track (it could hardly have been called a road) was strewn with large stones – after a few kilo’s one of the wheels struck a half-buried rock & buckled somewhat but we straightened it and went on picking the road carefully. Although the distant gunfire was not very loud when we started this morning at about 7am we were startled by a loud explosion close behind us. We took it that Jerry had opened up with a long range gun between us and the village we had left and further explosions seemed to confirm our suspicions these occurred about every half-an-hour sometimes often and sometimes it seemed they got nearer as though the gun was catching us up. Then we got the shock of our lives when hearing one of those crashes . Someone turned and saw a shell burst on the hillside about 5-6kilo’s away ,it was shells coming from the Yanks. We marched on & when we reached the autobahn at 11.00 there was one final crash and the crashes ceased. We crossed the autobahn and after a further 4kilo’s which made about 23 for the day we stopped at a farm in the little village of ———–
The orders were “You can wander all round one village and barter all you want but don’t go outside “
We sat in the yard on the grass & brewed up and had bread & meat roll. (We ate the other cake on the road) and then I bathed my feet and discovered 3new blisters making 9 I have now (they don’t trouble me a lot) We got an issue of spuds at the farm which the Frau gave us, and with these we had 2 tins of salmon & tin of Heinz beans which made a blow. Harry & I got some more potatoes and this filled the haversack.
After listening to the rumours from everyone you meet that you know what one can do, but lay down on a nice straw bed and drop off to sleep, knowing you are not marching tomorrow and can lay in bed until what time you like tomorrow. Indeed I think we’ll be here for a few days yet as the current rumours say 3-5days (But then those Yanks ain’t so far from here –still who cares) They just got us out of the way of the British when they started the Italian invasion, they got us out of the way of the Russian troops in Obersilisia by the skin of their teeth and out of Nuremberg, dare we hope for a recapture not – no we haven’t the luck.
Tuesday April 17 1945
Awoke after one of the best night’s sleep I have had in weeks and as the water is off in the village. I walked around and finally found a house with a well. I got a brew on then we had breakfast of civvy bread & meat roll & honey. After the rumour of 3-5days rest here has disappeared and we march at 5am tomorrow. We boiled potatoes and beans (stalag issue)
for dinner with 2 tins of bully. These potatoes were from our haversack full that is our reserve, but there seems plenty around. During the afternoon Harry & I got a Red Cross Box full of potatoes each and thus filled the haversack again, gave us enough over for us to cook chips for tea with 2 tins of salmon followed by pancakes with the last of the syrup. We also had enough spuds over to cook a dixiefull – for on the road tomorrow. During the afternoon some men saw tanks come out of the wood close by the village, whether they were Deutsche or
Yank is a point of argument but the man that saw them swears they were Yankee. The Germans issued us with a sheet that is to be carried as a white flag on the march tomorrow. We have heard that some prisoners on the march were strafed and sustained casualties: – 20 Russians, 4 English killed and 30 Russians wounded by Yank planes. German’s gave us potatoes and meat today. My lens came in handy to find my share. There has been no bombers today but fighters have been about. Went to bed, feeling wide awake, and not sleepy. Ernie is a bit cranky with his stomach and spent most the day in bed
Wednesday April 18, 1945.
Awoke at 4.15am and got up packed and we were on the road by 4.45am with no brew but a promise from the Germans that we’d have a two hour halt after 15 kilo’s. We were a bit slow getting a start but we finally got away. We halted every 5 kilos for 10 min’s and at 11am we had done our 15 kilo’s and got our promised rest. Up to this time no planes had been about but directly we halted I got into the woods, formation after formation of 2 & 4 engined bombers flew eastward from the west. Planes were overhead continually for 3-4 hours. We brewed up in the woods and warmed up the spuds we had cooked and rested in the shade of the woods – and then we moved on again and after about 10k more MKG25 for the day. We halted in a little village where about 20 fighters circling overhead made the men carrying the white flags waved frantically. I don’t know whether they saw us or not but they flew off soon after, when we arrived in the village here the Frau started giving bread away and we got enough for tea, without breaking into our reserve stock. We also got some white flour fora bar of soap when we entered the barn serving as our sleeping quarters. Busty went to hand over a bale of straw for the bed and behind it found a hen’s nest with an egg in it. I immediately searched around finding more nests and a further 5eggs. Later we encouraged a hen to squeeze out still another. We then cooked supper after a wash and clean up. German rations came up and it was not enough to feel 100men let alone 500. We decided as it was late to save it until tomorrow then we went to bed after getting some more flour (2 kilo from Schelldorf).
Thursday April 19, 1945.
Awoke at 8.30am feeling very tired but Ernie is making the tea so I must get breakfast ready. We got some more bits of bread last night and this gave us breakfast with meat roll & jam. The we had some skilly (sp) from the German rations (1/2 mugful) we cooked a good lot of spuds and some beans that Ernie got with meat roll for dinner and amused ourselves by mixing all the white flour up and after mixing raisins with it we cooked japaties. We filled a Red X box with them and they looked smashing like Canadian biscuits. Some Yankee fighters were machine gunning something about 5-7miles away, and after diving 2 of them flew directly over the farm at about 100ft. Some men here began running in all directions but they didn’t machine gun here. Some bombers passed over this morning above the clouds and dropped 2 bombs about a mile or 2 away. Another skilly came up about 2 o/c the same as before. I waited on a hen on the nest and got an egg and later I heard a cackle and got another . Another skilly was made and this third meal today from the Germans, we had some pork which was from a pig we saw killed this morning, but by the time it was boiled in the soup we could hardly find it. We finished up with 5 eggs from various nests and got some more flour too. We are moving tomorrow at 5am. Went to bed 9 o/c.
Friday April 20, 1945.
Awoke at 4am and got up and rolled the blankets, Ernie got a brew of coffee. So we didn’t start off on an empty stomach this time we had a japatie each and the grey dawn saw us away down the road and making good progress. We had one halt for a rest after 7 kilo’s and we had another 3 kilo walk and halted and were put into barns. It was only 8.30 the so we got some tea on and had some more pancake things with the last tin of jam on for breakfast. Then Ernie made up the rest of the flour and we made some more japaties but no raisins this time. Then Busty got some more spuds to replenish our stocks and also some bread (The spuds were obtained by asking for them). The apple trees are already breaking into blossom here. The same orders were given here that ‘go anywhere you like, do any bartering you wish but don’t go out of the village’ but still men persist in walking into the surrounding villages to barter. Thirty light bombers flew across here just now in the direction off Ingolstadt which is supposed to be 7 kilo’s away and after this , flight after flight of twin & four engine bombers. The ground trembled with the vibration of their engines. They flew continuously and at times one flight was over another no bombs were dropped until about 2pm. The some fighter machine gunned a place about 8 kilo away settled in a valley. We were on a hill and had a lovely view – when these fighters had finished lighting fires all over the valley – the bombers appeared and bombed the valley and with the first lot of bombs it seemed as though a great ball of fire surrounded by smoke rose majestically into the air. Hardly had the explosion reached here than the 2nd flight of twin-engined bombers dropped their quota.
This continued for about ½ hour bombers almost continuously pouring bombs into the terrific inferno. Never have I seem such a terrific explosions. It was impossible for anyone near there to have lived through that. It sounded terrific here and we were 5 miles away. We managed to get another 4 eggs by waiting on the hens and we had mashed potatoes and 2 boiled eggs for dinner. (I borrowed field glasses from the posten and watched one load of bombs hit the target. It was a sight not to be forgotten. The civilians here are definitely anti-Hitler and keep saying so and making jokes about him. An hour after the bombing about 10 Yank fighters, strafed and dropped light bombs into the dozen or so fires burning in the target area. In the evening we went for a stroll around the village, it’s only a tiny place about a dozen farmhouses and its 25k past Bohnfeld the place we stopped at for a rest this morning. German rations came up, a small piece of meat & Beans & some ground barley and we put a Dixie of mashed spuds with it to make a meal as we only had a light tea of bread & cheese & salmon, but by the time we had eaten the beans neither of us wanted the mash. Sitting in the dark having a last smoke I counted nearly 20 fires burning where they did the bombing today. We have to go to the next village tomorrow morning to have our names & numbers taken. There are no new orders about moving yet. The farmer said he saw 15 Red Cross lorries in Ingelstadt the other day. German’s issued us bread 1 between 4 men.
Saturday April 21. 1945.
Awake at 8am and heard the Yankee fighters already overhead. We brewed and had japaties for breakfast with liver pate spread, then the Yankee fighters caused anxiety by
Strafing the village 3 miles away. The journey to the registration place was cancelled as it was considered too dangerous although the place was only 800metres away (one can gather the amount of air activity from this0 at 11.30am the bombers came over flying above the low lying clouds 7 after dropping a lot of target marking flare things they dropped a load of bombs covering about a mile of ground about 4 miles away and to the right of yesterday’s bombing. Several lots of bombs followed and the farmer says it’s a powder factory. German rations came up (beans again) and the rumours is we move at 6 o/c this evening we were given 2 sackfulls of potatoes by the civvy, although we have plenty. The haversack is full and we have had to throw some away, because we can’t carry them. Definite orders were given out on moving so we had a rush meal, packed, and were on the road marching at 6pm,. We only marched a few kilo’s when the clouds that had been brooding all day loomed up and burst into rain. We went on thinking perhaps it wouldn’t last but it got worst until soaked to the skin we had to seek shelter in a village, while the hailstones battered down. Directly it eased off a bit we marched on again, all the column was mixed up now and we found ourselves in the 4th group although we belonged to the 1st at the head of the column. We pushed on overtaking at every opportunity and just as we regained our position the worst thing that could have happened did. The cart stuck a stone and the wheel broke – although we had a spare wheel we couldn’t get the broken one off, and after 20 minutes trying we collected our stuff into packs and went off carrying everything and leaving the old wagon that had helped us so much at the side of the road, and trying to catch up the column which by that time was 30 minutes in front. We almost ran up the road and soon began passing stragglers and soon caught up the main party which had stopped because the German’s were lost and we had to wait while scouts on bicycles went out to find where we were to sleep tonight They returned and off we went again and after another 2 kilo we were put into a barn where we sorted sopping wet gear out. We managed to find 2 not-so-wet blankets and were soon in bed and asleep only to be awakened because Ernie has dumped some of his stuff on a hen that had a brood of chicks, but we were tired and after stuffing the stuff she clucked a few times and like us fell off to sleep.
Sunday April 22 1945.
Got up and found Ernie had made tea and wanted me to get breakfast. Had to put on wet clothes and then after breakfast (it was nearly 12 o/c) we went down & tried to dry off some of our clothing. Showers came on every 5mins but between we dried off nearly everything and cooked our meals and at 5 o/c bread came up 2k per 5 men. We got orders to move and after pinching sacks to use as kitbags and some crushed oats which make good oatcakes we got on the road and marched off.
The clouds overhead broke after we had only gone I kilo, and after all our trouble of drying our kit we were soaked and after this wetting we found the Germans had led us around in a circle and we had gone about 3 kilo’s to reach a place only 1 kilo up the road. Nevertheless we went on until 2 hours later the word was passed down the column to throw away the white flags as we were going to cross the Danube and it was guarded by SS Troops who were very hateful towards anyone with white flags lately. We were also told to hide anything important as we were liable to be searched, but when we crossed it was over a rather small bridge, across a very narrow strip of water, disappointing after what we had expected from all the fuss. Nessberg (sp) is rather old fashioned historical looking place with its old stone buildings but we couldn’t see much in the moonlight. After we had gone about 5k out of Henberg (sp) a plane flew very low overhead and dropped flares about 2km behind us – there was a scatter and a pompom opened up in the region of the flare. Most chaps thought he had seen us, but I think he was after something more important. We turned into a barn soon after and quickly got the beds down and at 11.30 were asleep.
Monday April 23 1945.
Ernie woke me up trying to get things out from under my head for breakfast so I got up and prepared things. Our blankets and clothes are pretty dry so we can concentrate on our meals more. After breakfast of bread & cheese, we cooked bags of spuds and had a couple of tins of M&V with them. Deutsch rations of beans & meat had to be shared out because some Frenchmen arrived and took over the boiler and we can’t cook them. The weather is still showery but we get longer spells of sunshine between. We packed our gear ready to move at 7 o/c and had coffee and ate the last of the oatcakes & japarties, with coffee. We marched off exactly 8pm, and went up the road in small parties of 15 as a precaution against strafing planes as it is still light and it’s almost a full moon. Despite some big clouds the rain let us off tonight but the road (which is the main road by the way) is full of puddles, about 10 o/c we closed up as the moon is obscured by mackerel clouds and stopped for a rest having covered about 7 kilo’s. The posten asked a woman about a village which I took to be our destination and she hadn’t even heard of the place so I guess we have a long walk in front of us (rumours say 30 kilo’s) 12 o/c saw us resting again after 15 kilo’s and looking out for our billets. My feet are as sore as anything and I’m limping badly on the left foot, but I think I’ll be ok providing we don’t go too much farther.
Tuesday April 24 1945.
We have staggered on through the early hours of the morning, hoping the next village was our billet but never stopping we passed through a big town with a railway and some big Reservelazaretts (Field Hospital) but owing to the dark I didn’t see the sign posts. German conveys of trucks passed us often going to & from the front, a battery of 88 metres passed on their way up but we went on, passing through villages that I could have sworn were our home for the night. My feet don’t ache now they are on fire and if I weren’t so tired I should be sitting at the side of the road in agony. Dawn broke and still we go on but at about 6 o/c we stopped and were out into a barn of a farm in the middle of nowhere, but its home to us. We immediately got a brew on and had some bread & cheese for breakfast, and getting the blankets down we baded (sp) hell out of ears. It was approx 8am…………awakening to the sound of planes. I realised that it was getting late and Tosh & Ginger were up although Ernie was awake at the side of me. I found them boiling beans for dinner (it was 4pm)
So I got some potatoes on and soon we were sitting down to dinner with spam and tin of best butter on the spuds. We’re getting short of spuds so Tosh went out and got about ½ cwt in a sack. Ernie is out of smokes & so I am giving him a smoke smokeless but he’s had it as I haven’t enough to keep them all in smokes. German rations of meat & spuds came up. So we boiled up the meat & some beans and barley to thicken it and finished the day off with a bowlful each of good thick mashy stuff. I couldn’t finish it myself or Ernie so we can’t be feeding too badly these days. German issue of bread came up too. It was originally one between 4 but owing to some nice person’s pilfering some of it, we only got one between 5.
The gunfire still seems close and we went to bed at 9 o/c satisfied that we can’t go much farther .
Wednesday April 25 1945.
Got up 9am & helped Ernie to get breakfast of bread & liver pate. After this got up for a wash & shave & luckily got a haircut from Kiwi the barber. The latest griff (information) is that the Yanks are only 15 kilo’s away but since the German’s say we’re not marching today I can’t believe it. Nevertheless we saw some civvies march out of here with packs on their backs & gunfire seems very close despite the fact that the wind is blowing from the opposite direction. The weather is very clear and sunny today, but there’s a cold breeze blowing. The people on this farm don’t seem any too friendly towards the postens who are cooking potatoes and baking little cakes, for themselves. The old woman here keeps repeating ‘Nichts mehr bekommen’ (nothing more to give) when anyone asks for anything such as salt etc. We got the last of our beans boiled and with the spuds and a tin of M&V made a very big meal. I borrowed a pamphlet from a chap here & it’s dated 18th April so it gives a more modern front line than I have and I copied it out on my map. I laid on the grass in the afternoon and had a nap & then I went with Tosh to buy some white meal – we got 2kilo’s for a small Yank bar of chocolate. We had teas of bread & butter & liver pate. Then the German rations came up bread a civvy loaf 2k per 4 men, meat, peas & spuds a little coffee & sugar. The guns have died down a little now but during the afternoon they were so loud that I was surprised that we couldn’t see them. We are leaving here at 3amtomorrow morning but the Field webel (Sergeant) assures us we shall be in billets by 7am so that sounds ok. A Lt Colonel came around this afternoon & during conversations with our chap told them that we are going to Mausberg (Moosberg?) which is about 50 kilo’s away & we shall be left for our troops to pick up. This may be just so much poppycock but personally I believe him other troops than British went, he said Erchstadt (an American darky who was with our column & one Greek were taken out of our column when we were near Eichstadt a couple of days ago) We had a brew for supper & after cutting some breakfast for tomorrow we sat outside until the sun went down and then we went to bed.
Thursday 26 April 1945
After having lain awake until 2am we were roused and true to form we were out marching on the stroke of three am, after having made a brew & bread & butter. We dawdled most of the way, but after 16 kilo’s during which time the dawn broke and many anxious eyes turned skywards to watch the fighters zooming about we arrived at our destination at 8am. Almost as we entered the barn it shook with an explosion that came from a wood just across the road. Followed after by further bangs we put it down to a big long-ranged gun. After breakfast Ernie bought some white flour and made 2 cakes. While he was making these Tosh & I decided to take a stroll into a village about 2k away, and when we got there, the first woman we saw we asked for coffee & bread. She gave us a cup of coffee with sugar & milk and ½ loaf for nothing. Then, dodging & bluffing the German soldiers we finally found the local store & bakery. We had 2 bars of soap with us and we managed to buy about 5k bread (which was hot straight out of the oven) and on top the woman gave us a pk of ersatz coffee which will help our brew out, just the job. We had enough so we started on our way back, about halfway we met a Lieutenant and an Unteroffizer from the front who gave us a cig each (we are right out of fags) and talked to me like we’re long lost friends of how they intended to give themselves up. We discussed politics, working conditions and everything and saying auf widersehen . We got mobile again, but just before we reached our billet, ten Yank fighters that had been spotted where the big bangs were coming from & dived on it, machine gunning & dropping 2 small bombs apiece. We took no notice and marched on. Knowing that they were on their target, and wouldn’t bother us. Passing a German soldier who was crouching behind a tree at the side of the road having left his bike laying there, looking scared to death, who kept saying ‘get down – can’t you see them they’ll shoot you’. We assured him we were alright and finally got home where Ernie had the cakes done. So we got a brew on & ate at hem. I tried to sleep but couldn’t so I peeled the spuds and cooked them & we ate them with the last tin of m&v for 5 o/c meal. I fell asleep for an hour and when I awoke I found we had ‘borrowed’ a small wagonette from somewhere to carry our kit on, for we are marching again tonight, at 10pm for 28k this should bring us close to this Neusberg place. There were no German rations issued what so ever. We had tea of bread & marg & mashed potatoes. There are no potatoes to be had on this farm at all,& we now used our reserve but we’ll probably get move at the next joint. We started out at 10pm and we have all our kit on the wagonette – we had a shake on as the civvy saw us when we left but we got away alright. About 1 kilo down the road we had a wheel came off but we were lucky and found the missing nut on the road & fixed it up all right. I went rolling along a treat, two of us pulling on a lovely road, and the other two just strolling along behind. About 12 o/c midnight I started falling asleep and it got worse as we went on. When we stopped every hour for a rest I laid down on the wet ground & fell asleep but it done no good as when I woke up I was ten times worse, still the time is passing & the kilo’s must be getting behind me.
Friday 27 April 1945.
On & on falling asleep at every opportunity we went, and once I fell asleep walking along & woke by the simple process of falling sideways into Busty pulling at the side of me. Lots of wagons are going the same way as we seems there’s a flap on for Jerry. Dawn broke as we entered a big farm that was our billets and immediately the tiredness dropped from me like a cloak. We got some bread & butter & a brew and then while Ernie & Ginger got their heads down. Busty & I took a box of chocolate & soap and took a stroll into the next village for bread. We asked at several houses but people haven’t got any amount of it and couldn’t oblige us, but Busty & I did ok having chicken broth and bread (white) and mashed bread stuff and then boiled potatoes and we took back a Dixie of hot milk and a small cake thing. We got back about 8.30am and laying down to slept till 3pm when Ginger woke me with mashed potatoes. Later, just before bedtime a truck of parcels arrived from the Moosburg Stalag (we have set a trailer for some) but they can’t be issued as our vertrauen (trustee) has gone with the trailer to Stalag. Still we can wait till tomorrow.
Saturday 28 April 1945
Ernie woke me in the early hours of the morning to let me know that the trailer bringing a load of Yank parcels for us has broken down & the parcels have had to be carried down the road a bit. German wagon and tractors, guns, and all sorts are coming into the farm yard only to pull out a little later. ……. We woke up at 8.30 and had bread & butter & coffee then the Yank parcels that came in during the night were issued one a man. We got 10 cigs each in our combine (?) but there are some French & Belgian parcels still to be issued. Rumours current at present are: There are millions of parcels in this area, Yankee tanks were 10k away at 8am, ( & we can hear anti-tank guns in action) The Nazi party has packed the war in, we move at 8 o/c tonight providing its not raining. The posten say’s we’ll be free some time today, 200 officers & men prisoners of war marching to Moosdarf were killed by Yankee planes strafing, Belgian & French parcels were issued 1 parcel between 7 men. We did alright out of it . As we were cooking dinner the order came to be ready to march at 3pm. We had to rush to get our grub & pack but we got ready in time and punctually (as always) marched off pulling the wagonette which was loaded up to the limit, it drizzled most of the way but not enough to wet us. The guns seem to be all around us and we pass Germans with ‘tank busters’ occasionally. It was very easy going and we reached our destination after 21 kilo’s Mavern only six kilo’s from Moosdorf put in a barn and once got bread & cheese and a brew on. After we had this meal someone came in & said the Yanks were here, I couldn’t believe it naturally and wasn’t convinced until someone brought a Yank in the barn. Still, not content I went outside to find out and God what a sight – the village is full of huge tanks and on closer inspection I found Yanks already searching Germans who had given themselves up, I spoke to one Yank and he said the words I had waited nearly three years to hear. “Don’t worry Limey its true you’re free.”
Copyright Linda Burkett
Arthur died in 1971, aged 53 years old.