[transcription provided by the collection donor; transcription annotations are also original unless in square-bracket, italics format]
This is the month of May and it is getting summery. The Germans have reduced our ration of bread to one-seventh from the one-fifth we had been getting. They say the loaves are bigger, but they don’t look any different. There was more trouble with Ukraine Joe (Kessel). That evening he just walked in and said, “no more stoves” and then left. About ten minutes later, fellows lit the stoves and started cooking. When he saw the smoke coming out of the chimney, he rushed back in yelling his head off and threatening all sorts of things if we did not obey his orders. As soon as he was in the doorway they grabbed their stoves and jumped out the window. Then he went outside and they came back in. This went on for some time until the suppers were cooked. It looked funny to see Joe come in as the stoves went out and as Joe went out the stoves came in.
Sat May 1, 1943:
I took advantage of the hot day to acquire a tan. In the evening several of us tossed the medicine ball around. Eric & I put in an hour & a half strolling round the compound at 4 mph pace. All the activities for the day. A cold shower in the washroom & then to bed.
Sun May 2, 1943:
A rain & shine day. Read for awhile. Played a game of deck tennis. No poker tonight. A dance was held in the FR. Canadian hut (18A). Some good displays of jitterbugging. A side attraction was the belting of one fellow by the Clown & another wielding keeble handles.
Sun May 3, 1943:
A very promising day for sunbathing. Red Cross parcels. The sweet biscuits in mine didn’t last very long. Craven A cigarettes today. German pea soup. I borrowed a very good book “Thames Portrait” by E.A. Robertson & H.E. Turner. Unterofficer Kissel inspected the bunks & had a few untidy individuals on a blanket parade. Two pounds of chocolate & 12 ozs. Coffee are being raffled - 2 fags a try. A lot of German aircraft flying around all day. There is a training station not far from here. They often shoot up the camp, by coming in very low over the compound as they head for their airfield. These Gerries do the same thing we did when training.
May 4, 1943:
Sunbathing when the clouds didn’t blot out the sun, despite the cloudiness I received a sunburn. The Compound was unlocked. I went to the library & drew out “Scientific Photographer” by A.S.C. Lawrence (very good). Gates were opened at ten o’clock, for how long, nobody knows. The Gerries won’t tell us. After evening count, parade, the Dieppe fellows rigged up a big platform from all their tables and held a Canadian Old Time square dance in their Compound. The fiddlers were very good and some of them could do that type of dancing. The jigs & reels were interspersed by individual turns - singing, vocal, instrumental & comic dances. All kinds of fellows gathered around watching and shouting. All the comments from different companies were enjoyable. One the Canadian army fellows made their final attempt at escaping. It was his final attempt as he was shot by one of the tower guards as he was going over the wire. We learned that the two pilots of our aircraft had been captured in March 1943. Eric Ramm received a letter from his parents in May telling him that Jack Day had been killed in action. If our aircraft had made it back to base we would have been with Jack on his last trip.
Wed May 5, 1943:
Promises to be a warm day. Spent the morning reading in the sun. In the afternoon the Essex Scots beat the Royals 7-3 at baseball. The clouds rolled up in the late afternoon. In the evening the Poles beat the Essex Scots 20-15 at basketball. Went over to the Indian Compound to watch the Pitch & Toss games, here I met Les McLelland. Played poker in 15B.
Thur May 6, 1943:
Sunny day. The Journalism class is very crowded. I have to visit the Toy Shop & write a story about it. Filled my palleas with new wood shavings - rather overstuffed. I went to see “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse” at the camp theatre - well put over. Lights out at 9:45 pm instead of 10 pm leaving most fellows in the dark without their beds made. A great din lasting some time, Pat Miller finally quietened the barrack.
Fri May 7, 1943:
8:30 am onwards - reading in the sun. I bought some Dutch playing cards from the canteen for 2 marks & a half. Visited the library in the afternoon. Meat & vegetables porridge & instead of bread soup we get an extra ration of bread.
Sat. May 8, 1943:
The gates were only open for 2 hrs at noon, the reason is hard to find out. Over the P.A. system the Germans gave a resume of the Tunis campaign since Nov. 1942. At 3 pm we had another identity check parade, in the rain. Supper - fried spuds, meat then porridge. Rumour - Tunis fell [following text is presumably a transcription error: “Wed. May 5, 2943:”]
Sun May 9, 1943:
Porridge for breakfast. Gates opened again. Visited Norm McGowan in the convalescent compound, borrowed some sewing material & pipe tobacco. Eric & I went down to the working compound, where Eric swapped 2 ozs. of tea for a tin of porridge. I met Les McLelland & saw his pix of the Munich fire last Dec 21, caused by the R.A.F. The Fr-Canadians were tossing each other in a blanket.
Mon May 10, 1943:
This morning started off with rain, but it did clear up in the afternoon. As the morning parade was late, due to some fellows not getting out of bed, there were no fires allowed in the barracks and only one brew from the copper. I looked over a figure drawing book in the reference library. In the early afternoon I visited Led McLelland till 3 pm, rushed over for my Red Cross parcel which was a fairly good one containing a tin of egg flakes,, sausage etc. I traded a tin of cocoa for a tin of egg flakes, that’s 2 tins of eggs I have. Unterofficer Kissel caught several fellows on their beds so he banned all stoves for the day. After parade he caught Charlie Churchill (S. Africa) using the 5 holer next to our table, I managed to get my dixie off in time. Charlie had to stand facing the barbed wire for 2 hrs. “Joe” Kissel had a field day taking away stoves & jumping on them.
Tues May 11, 1943:
At the Journalism class I was given an assignment for Thurs. At the Advertising class we were told what the new course will consist of - an English lecture today. Eric & I rushed back to the billet to get our meat & vegetables, then down the bath house for our hot shower. Hutchinson (F.A.A.) & I visited the Toy Shop & spent an interesting afternoon watching the men turn out toys for refugee children. A double issue of porridge. Six pm Advertising Administration class - a large attendance.
Wed May 12, 1943:
Rain this morning, but sunny later. I cut some leather thongs from some old boots & braided a skipping rope. My address book & a pencil are missing. Played poker in the work compound & lost. Had a brew of coffee with Les McLelland. After supper I wrote up my Journalism assignment for to-morrow.
Thurs May 13, 1943:
I attended the Journalism & Advertising classes this morning. The Advertising class dealt with Layout & Commercial Art.
Fri May 14, 1943:
Another fine day for sunbathing & reading. Since 2 fellows from 16A were missing from 5 pm parade the gates were locked all evening. The two fellows who escaped last night, meant more and longer count parades hoping they may catch them. 16A had to stand outside for 1 hr and do without cooking fires for 8 days. I did some rope skipping during the evening.
Sat May 15, 1943:
I didn’t wake up till 6:45 am so I didn’t get a sunbathing spot outside our hut. Nevertheless I put on my breech clout and smeared my skin with German margarine before finding a new sunbathing spot. Read English for Advertising. For supper I made an omelette from some of the egg flakes. In the evening the little Fr-Canadian clown gave us an exhibition of boxing.
Sun May 16, 1943:
At seven o’clock parade, cold and windy. We were up early to put our stoves in the refuse hole for the Gestapo are going to search the camp for maps & firearms. I buried my diary in the earth at the edge of the refuse hole. We took our cups outside & had our morning brew on the parade ground. Counting only took about twenty minutes and we were ready to go back in and we were all stopped and told to go back to the parade. The reason for this was, there was a search. After waiting about half an hour, a bunch of guards came into the compound and on to the parade square, where we were still lined up. Among the guards there were a group of civilians, who we found out later were Gestapo. We were split up into small groups for the guards to search. There were about nine hundred of us outside and we were ordered to stand up against the fence around the compound. The guards then made us walk forward in rows of five, to the Gerries, who were waiting to search us. We were ordered to take off our greatcoats and jackets, empty our pockets, have everything examined. Then they felt around to make sure we had not forgotten anything. This lasted about two hours and we still hadn’t eaten. While the Gestapo searched the huts German soldiers searched us, neither found anything. They brought in a wagon & took away all our stoves including “Joe’s”. The Gestapo poked round the dirt piles near the refuse hole but didn’t find a thing. Finally all the guards all lined up and marched out of the compound with our cheers. Most of us walked over to the windows and watched the great Gestapo at work, looking into every box, cupboard and tin they could find. This went on for four or five hours, then finally they left. The only thing they found were a few maps, a knife or two, one crystal set. Later we went over and dug up our belongings. “Joe” snooped round and dug up some maps, chains and a planted “parcel” from the “House of Commons”. “Joe” then dug up his own buried belongings. As soon as the search was over we started building more stoves.
Mon May 17, 1943:
This morning I drew a New Zealand Red Cross parcel containing - 1 lb butter, 1 lb honey, 1 tin of apple, apricot jam, 4 oz tea in tin container, a large tin of tomatoes, and l tin of café au lait. Very dusty today. I had 2 cups of coffee - great stuff but it won’t last long. 8:30 pm we were informed another search would take place. The fellows were burying things long after dark. All of the stoves were put down one of the outside drains. It is rumoured that the search is for firearms and ammunition.
Tues May 18, 1943:
A fine clear morning but the usual wind sprang up causing a dust storm. I made notes from English for Advertising, then started knitting a tam. Gerry McGowan & Frank Anton gave me some help. Jock Spiers shaved the hair from my head. Meat & vegetable seconds for us.
Wed May 19, 1943:
This morning I helped pump the contents from the “Reading Room”. We nearly splashed the German wagon driver. In the afternoon we were inoculated for typhoid. A bulk issue of sugar & three quarter tin of milk (from Argentine). I finished my coffee & started on the New Zealand tea, the best I’ve tasted on the continent. The N.Z. butter was broken into. It tasted grand. Had my first bully beef. My skin is a little stiff from the inoculation.
Thurs May 20, 1943:
Fine, hot day, lots of suntanning. The gates of the other compounds were opened, but not ours. Argentine bulk: - three quarter tin jam (peach) 8 oz biscuits (13). My turn for German margarine ( a coal product) & extra bread ( rolled in fine sawdust). Bully beef & tomato for supper. I feel stuffed tonight as I’ve eaten all the biscuits, half the bread & half the jam.
Fri May 21, 1943:
More sunbathing. Eric & I checked our diaries. Spinach soup instead of meat & vegetables. Bulk issue - one third tin of bully beef, three quarter pkt dried fruit (prunes & pears). It is rumoured that the RAF bombed a dam in Kassel in daylight, flooding the town & killing thousands. Tonight after the doors were locked the Stalag watch roamed the compound with his dog.
Sat May 22, 1943:
Our compound gates were opened this morning. Sunbathed. Meat & vegetable soup today. In the afternoon Eric & I went down to the Convalescent compound to play crib with Norm McGowan. We were officially unchained for half a day. Actually we have not been chained for weeks, that is unofficially. Officially each day as the guards leave we take the chains off, carry them around in our pockets, until we see an officer or guard coming. We then snap them back on our wrists. In the Working Compound I ran into Les McLelland who had just returned from a Komando in Slovakia, called in the Repats to see Doug Brown (Kings Royal Rifles). No fuel to heat the copper so there will be no brew for 16B till Monday. In the evening there was a football match in the Indian compound. A dance in 16A music by the Brew Kings.
Sun May 23, 1943:
Another blistering day. I put on my breech clout and sunbathed. Ireland won the international football match with Wales this afternoon. In the evening Scotland & England tied, 2 all, in international football. A 17 piece bagpipe band played prior to the game & at half time. The game was packed with thrills & spills. Tomorrow we will receive half English Red Cross parcel & a poor bulk issue. The Munich fellows, Repats, Canucks & Commandos are holding meetings to decide what they’ll do about it. (It should be noted here that family members of POW’s could send parcels to prisoners every three months, only and had to attach a label with the contents listed. There were regulations regarding the contents of parcels. Families were sent a card to say when it was permissible to send a parcel again).
Mon May 24, 1943:
(Empire Day) A dull morning though very warm.. The sun came out in the afternoon.. An English Red Cross parcel - dates, marmalade etc. As I felt very sleepy I took advantage of the 12 to 2 rest period. Instead of getting bulk on Thurs we will get a New Zealand parcel. Len Smith was elected Red Cross representative for our barrack. A meeting was held in the Dieppe compound by an Aussie Sgt. formerly employed by the U.S.A. Federal Agents as a racket buster (so he says). He is anxious to break the camp rackets. I had just got to sleep when Mike Gibbs woke me by shouting “rats” & vigorously beating the foot of his bed. And that ends May Day 1943:
Tues May 25, 1943:
A rainy day. Journalism class - I was given an assignment for Thursday - The cookhouse & the journey of the food (soups) to the table. I read “The Silent Traveler in London” by Chiang Yee, a chop suey of the big city. English for Advertising this morning. Meat & vegetable soup was very thin. Eric & I played cribbage. Before the 5 pm parade we had cookhouse porridge & after parade, bread soup. Administration of Advertising in the evening class.
Wed May 26, 1943:
Raining hard but it’s still warm. I’m feeling very tired & sleepy. As soon as the rain stopped I went for a walk about, felt no better. Pancakes for supper. Doug Brown (K.R.R., Kings Royal Rifles) sold 2 pounds worth of Art books for 250 cigarettes and me without a fag.
Thur. May 27, 1943:
The sun came out long enough to dry up some of the puddles. As we were having hot showers this morning I missed the Journalism class. The RCAF played the Royal Regiment at basketball. When we play basketball, each member of the teams takes the chains off and throws them under a blanket by the pole that holds the basket. The fellows watching the game, keep an eye out for any guard and yell if he approaches. When this happens, we all grab the chains, snap them on and continue playing. The stupid Gerries say nothing and we just keep throwing the ball around until they walk away. Eric drew a N. Zealand food parcel. Today’s advertising class dealt with layout & commercial art. A very extensive summer program has been mapped out for the Drawing class. I put in the afternoon reading. After supper I visited Les McLelland in 7 - 10 compound. Mike Gibbs (Kenya), Frank Anton (Eire) & I were scrapping in the alleyway between the bunks, our strenuous activity was brought to a close by the breakage of a window.
Fri May 28, 1943:
Promises to be a sunny day. I went to a special Journalism class to get my 2nd effort corrected. I had a ticket to see “Decks” at the Gaiety Theatre tonight - a report has to be written about it.
Sat May 29, 1943:
Today’s advertising class was on economics. At the drawing class we did a still life study including a background. I visited Les McLellan in evening, stayed too long and was locked in. I managed to crawl through the wire. “Joe” had to unlock our compound gate to let me in. I just got indoors when I remembered my washing on the barb wire. Again “Joe” had to wait for me before locking the hut door.
Sun May 30, 1943:
Anton, Gibbs & I fixed the broken window with some sacking. Les McLellan came in to show me his collection of pictures. I tasted my first German honey. At thirteen hours in the Indian compound an Arab corporal was stabbed by a Cyprati, in the back following an argument. He died this evening. International football, Ireland beat Canada 3 - 0.
Mon May 31, 1943:
This morning I listened to Jimmy Howe’s orchestra in the theatre. In the afternoon the Dieppe Wanderers beat the RAF in football. We drew a Scottish food parcel today.