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Prisoner of War

Extract from a tape recording when he was interviewed in 2003, aged 86.

Thanks are due to his daughter Ann Irvine for providing this information.

We were using 1918 equipment, let down, marched long distance across to Poland on foot then barges up the Rhine then on cattle trucks, 70 to a truck, and suffering badly from various problems, landed in this country where we didn’t know where we were and couldn’t understand the language. We suffered fairly badly from dysentery and were in a pretty bad way. We were set into huts and once we settled down we were sent out in work parties. We were south of Danzig. The Germans were pretty rough on us. We were winning the war and we got the rough end of the stick. The British Red Cross helped us to survive otherwise we wouldn’t have – no way.

The years went by and somehow or other passed by until after 4 years heading for 5 we marched off again this time in deep snow in January 1945 and we marched along the Baltic coastline which was very very cold. We were put up in barns until eventually we couldn’t find the steps up to the loft and we had to lie down anywhere. We got a little corner for shelter. However we were reached by the Americans in the northern part of Germany in 1945 and it was a wonderful feeling to have freedom again. I shall never experience that again I don’t think in my life so anyway I am here today, alive at 86. I consider myself quite lucky. I have left a lot of good friends behind who won’t come back.

At the time of D Day on 6th June 1944 were you folks who were in prisoner of war camps getting any news about it?

We were actually working in a German barracks. It was called Galvids Caserne. We marched underneath the Nazi flag every day. 5 of us were taken in there and we got this particular job at a scrap merchant’s; because we couldn’t help the enemy, we could only break things and this was something we were told to do although lots of our mates did not adhere to that. However we were in there and we were then breaking up vehicles so that was our job then.

Now you mention D-Day, what was I doing on D-Day? We were getting news. There was a party of 5 who worked in the German barracks, no it was a civilian electrical works and they managed to get the Germans to bring them parts of a radio and we had some very able men amongst us and this fellow constructed a radio. We brought it in in haversacks, and bit by bit under the eyes of the guards and we were never sure whether we would have a spot search which was very frequent. However, if we were caught with that you can understand what would have happened. From the size it was 6” x 6” and we got news then.

One of our men went out into the toilet at night - there were 25 of us in this converted garage which we had in the prison camp - and he went out and got the news and brought it to us and actually we were in contact from the time of the Sicily landings until a month after D-Day when word came through that the Gestapo were on our watch. They had got some knowledge of us having news and the news was passed round during the daytime when we were sitting on our toilet seats. But we had to destroy the radio and set bits of it up here and there and so we got away with that.

So that was the story of where I was then, working quite a while and the conditions were really terrible. We were hungry, lousy, and suffering from various complaints. It was very nice to hear about D-Day”.

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