[transcription and transcription annotations have been provided by the collection donor]
Wed Aug 17, 1944 to Jan 18, 1945
Fri Jan 19, 1945:
Weather is cold again. Most of the fellows climbed back into bed because its so cold and there was no fuel for the stove. We were lucky to light them just to cook our suppers. There is still strong rumors that we will be moving to a camp not far from Sagan. We are not going by train or truck. We will have to march. Seventy-six fellows came in to-day from Luft 7. There was an air raid to-night. All the lights in the camp were turned off for three-quarters of an hour. Then they were all off again at nine. There was no Red Cross issue to-day, but we did get fifty cigarettes.
Sat Jan 20, 1945:
Weather was good. There is no more gen on our moving. There is supposed to be a card check tomorrow. The card is an identity card. Lights out at nine p.m. Hard to get washed in this place. If we don’t get cleaned soon we will all be lousy. In fact I heard some of the fellows say they were already. Received a thin soup and they all lined up like animals when it came time to receive a second helping, it got so bad that the keebel was knocked over and what soup was left was all spilled over the ground. Some were able to scoop up a couple of handfuls of it. But as the keebel was in the farm yard they also picked up whatever dirt was lying around. Our rations today were an eighth of a tin of beef and that with the bread is supposed to last us.
Sun Jan 21, 1945:
Weather good. The check went off without any trouble, but the Gerries are still short about six men. Rumor has it that the water will be shut off all over the camp. We will have to do our cooking, drinking and washing with melted snow. There are only 500 loaves of bread in the magazine and as no more is expected, it looks as if we’ve had it as the expression goes. However even with these rumors there is the first camp hockey game. The rumors are still strong as they were. Lots of German aircraft flying around from the Eastern front. There are all types of airplanes, such as ME 110's, Stukas, HE111 and JU 88's, etc. we can hear thuds and bumps. It could be artillery or bombs, but whatever it is, it is getting closer and closer to the camp. This afternoon fifteen Stukas flew over the camp on some sort of a raid and were back in about twenty minutes. That proves the front is not too far away.
Mon Jan 22, 1945:
Weather is pretty darn cold. The BBC news reported that the Russians are now in Breslau and nearing Oppeln. Rumors have it that they are over the Oder river in Germany on a front, which is sixty miles long. Apparently there is panic in Breslau and Oppeln. Will the Russians liberate us or will the Germans march us west? Two questions that interested all of us. The roadways and railways are jammed with people trying to get out of the way of the advancing Russians. It has now been said, that if we move from this camp, we will be marching, as the railways are no longer working and trucks couldn’t get along the crowded roads. Some of the fellows say they heard tanks last night, but they did not know if they were Germans or Russians. A message came over the loud speaker, all Prisoners of War are to report to a barracks immediately as an important announcement is to be made shortly. The fellows from a camp near Oppeln, took four days to get here by train. A trip that usually takes less than one day. On the way they ran out of bread. The German hauptman kept all the bread, which was heading for the front line. The cost for three loaves was one bar of chocolate, which the POW’s had to collect among themselves. The announcement that we were to return to barracks came at exactly noon. A few minutes later the orders were, that the prisoners in blocks two, three, four and five are to be ready to march at 2 pm, that was all, nothing about how long we would be marching, where we would be going, what food would be handed out, nothing. Naturally there was a scramble in each hut, cooking and packing what food we had, checking our kit for the last time as what we left behind would be gone forever. We were checked again. Half the camp including the RAF are leaving, the rest will leave in a few days. As we marched through the main gate we were issued a Canadian Red Cross parcel, half a loaf of black bread, a quarter of a block of margerine per man. Some fellows had built sleds out of bed boards to haul their kit. My only pair of boots are broken, but they will have to do. It was 3 pm when we started to march a few kms up the road from the camp that has been our home for so long. Nobody knew where we were going, how long we would be marching and where we would stop at night, if we would have rest breaks. We were marched up the road a few kilometers, then we were halted and told to sit or stand by the side of the road. This we did and looking up and down the road it looked funny to see approximately 3000 men in all sorts of uniforms carrying a multitude of different kit bags on their backs, or shoulders, while others carrying all their stuff in a couple of Red Cross boxes.
About 5:30 pm we were all told to line up in fives the German way, then we started marching down the road. We marched and marched and marched some more. Really we walked as there was no semblance of marching for nobody was in step, but the pace was fast. They kept us going at this speed all night Fellows were discarding possessions to lighten their load. The road was strewn with discarded belongings. Eric Ramm passed out and was picked up by the German wagon that brought up the rear. We were forced to march until 1:30 am the following morning. We had traveled 26 kms. About 800 men were pushed into a barn at the side of the road. The doors had been opened by someone and we were all herded into the pitch darkness of the barn so crowded there was no room to stretch out so we tried to sleep sitting up. We were told not to use any lights, and smoking would not be allowed. Eric Ramm joined us here. We were cold & exhausted and sore all over as we have not done any marching for over two years or more. This is the start. Numerous military transport passed us during the march and we could hear bombs and artillery behind us as the Russians were advancing. This is the start of the march.
Tue Jan 23, 1945:
We started at 10 am. It was very hard going. A very cold day with nothing to break the force of the wind. The Silesian plains are much like the prairies at home with nothing to break the wind. Some drinking water obtained from roadside pumps. After darkness fell we were told our stopping place was only 5 kms away. We covered that distance then the Germans said it was only another kilometer. We kept going, & going. The road was icy, fellows kept falling. I slipped twice on the icy road & injured my left knee which was injured when we crash landed. I took a half hour ride on the wagon. It was so cold I got off the wagon and limped along hanging on to it. To lighten my pack I threw away my spare clothing. Eric kept urging me to keep up with the rest. After walking 30 kms we stopped at a brick lime kiln. This was 10 pm. Inside the kiln was very hot. Not everyone could get inside so some of us slept outside in the snow and some on a tiny bit of hay in a roofless barn that had two good walls. The third wall was missing the fourth was partially gone. Our food was frozen and we ate what we could. I took my boots off & wrapped my feet in my flying sweater. This kept me warm during the night. The town was Preisburg.
Wed Jan 24, 1945:
When we woke up this morning we found our boots were frozen stiff, after some difficulty we managed to get them on our feet. We started on the road at 8 am, another hard grind today. This is a cold clear day. Late in the afternoon while climbing a steep hill I noticed that Eric was getting weaker. I helped him to the top of the hill & went to get some water for him. A New Zealander from a nearby working Komando came over and said he would look after Eric. Just to prevent the rest of us from lingering behind several of the Gerries started using their rifle butts on us. I caught up with the main party later. Our food was frozen so we ate it. Civilians passed us pulling their cars and trucks with horses or cows. Others were using bicycles. At 7 pm we stopped and were pushed into a barn. It has electric lights and lots of straw, but no room to stretch out. If you had to go outside you would step on someone. We were so exhausted after 23 kms we fell asleep sitting up.
Thur Jan 25, 1945:
A very cold day. The villagers brought us hot water and ersatz coffee - very kind of them. We were able to wash our hands and face, they dried in the wind. Nine am on the road, rations - 6 knackerbrot, a hard rye biscuit. The roads were crowded with people fleeing from the advancing Russians. This is snow covered hilly country. Every hour the Gerry’s stop us, we sit in the snow and eat our knackerbrot. It is so hard walking in the deep snow that some fellows are collapsing. This stretch of road is the worst we have experienced. All day we heard artillery fire. We travelled 25 kms up steep mountain roads before being put into a barn. There is no soup tonight, no kaffee and no rations.
Fri Jan 26, 1945:
After hot tea we set of at 8:30 am. By 3 pm we had travelled 18 kms. Hundreds of civilians are moving west using every type of vehicle. There are little shrines and large crucifixes at the side of the road near each village. We stopped outside a village, lit fires and made a brew. An air raid siren had been used so often it sounded worn out. A bitterly cold wind blew all day. We stopped at a farm where women and children threw stones at us. The Hauptman (Captain) chased them away. Ration - 6 knackerbrot, no soup.
Sat Jan 27, 1945:
Snow fell last night. We made tea. On the road at 10 am, walking through deep snow was very tiring. We passed a long column of women, ages about fifteen to forty years. Some carried babies or young children. The women wore clogs and had blankets over their heads. Some were crying because of the cold. A few were pulling a cart with their guards packs on it. One woman spoke English and said they were Hungarian Jews. We passed two lots of Russian POW’s. We bedded down in a stable after the horses had been moved.
Sun Jan 28, 1945:
Boiled water for tea. Rations - none. This is the second day that the Gerry’s haven’t given us any food. Today we walked into a bitterly cold wind, our boots froze, walking became difficult. We passed more refugees including some gypsies with their colorful wagons. About one-third of our group have dropped out. At 3 pm we stopped at a farm. Wally Hudson traded with some civilians for a piece of cake which he shared. The barn is large enough for everyone to lie down and you don’t have to step on people to get out. No fuel to boil water so we used hay. By 6 pm we had made tea.
Mon Jan 29, 1945:
It was freezing cold last night. We slept with our boots on. They were frozen this morning. Hot tea brewed for breakfast, that warmed us. The weather warmed a little and snow started to fall. Very hungry as we have not been issued any food this morning. There were sounds of distant gun fire. The snow storm became a blizzard and there was no shelter from the wind. At 1 pm two of our fellows were so exhausted they fell over backwards. We passed long lines of refugees and German army transport passed us, all heading west. We stopped walking outside of Goldberg - rations - one fifth loaf of black bread and some margarine. Both were frozen hard. We were put into a barn and had chaff to sleep on.
Tues Jan 30, 1945:
I slept fairly well last night. This is a day of rest. We were issued two hot brews, some hot spuds, carrots and cabbage. Ration - four-fifths loaf and some margarine. My left knee has swollen to twice its normal size. No medical help here so I’ll have to keep walking. We found some raw spuds and some wheat.
Wed Jan 31, 1945:
Hot ersatz kaffee and some spuds were issued this morning. The first hour of walking was very hard on my knee. We had to keep on the right side of the road because German Army and Luftwaffe trucks were heading west. We were not permitted to get water at any of the houses. The weather had warmed and the road became slippery with slush and mud. Some French women passed our column singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary” in English. That gave us a boost. No rations today, yesterday’s issue of one-fifth loaf and margarine is supposed to last four days. Yesterday we filled our pockets with wheat. If you chew hard it is O.K. We travelled 18 kms and were put into a barn. No fires permitted. It is getting colder. Before going to bed in the straw we were issued water for a brew.