[transcription and transcription annotations have been provided by the collection donor]
Thur Feb 1, 1945:
Slept for 12 hours, best so far, 7am - ersatz kaffee. The thaw has started. The roads are running with water. Our feet were soon soaked. Civilians took their milk cans off the side of the road, when they saw us coming towards them. We travelled 15 kms. We were put in a barn with very little straw, but no draughts.
Fri Feb 2, 1945:
Up early, this is a windy, sunny, spring like day. Fields were clear of snow and streams were in flood. Parts of the road were dry. The cobble stone streets of Lauban nearly crippled all of us, as the soles of our boots are very thin. We were very tired as the Gerry had pushed us hard for 25 kms. At dusk 200 of us stayed at a farm. We waited in line for hot water. Our feet were cold and wet. No rations issued.
Sat Feb 3, 1945:
I slept well. This is a cool spring day. We left the farm and waited on the road. There were milk cans waiting to be picked up, we helped ourselves to milk, this was breakfast. At 3 pm we arrived at Stalag VIII A, Gorlitz. The RAF and army were put in a small muddy compound. Four hundred men put into a barrack built for 200. We were given 4 cooked spuds, a tin full of good soup, and a Klim tin of English tea per man. Rations - one sixth loaf of fresh bread and a small piece of margarine. The barrack was so crowded, some men had to sleep on the wet floor. I found space on a bench, the advantage of being very thin. We travelled 16 kms today. Nine pm lights out.
Sun Feb 4, 1945:
A bench feels very hard after sleeping on straw for the past few nights. Five am mint tea served, 8:30 am we parade outside in the mud. Back inside I washed and shaved for the second time since leaving Lamsdorf. Two pm - ersatz kaffee was issued. Later on 6 cooked spuds and a mug of meaty gravy was given to each man. The gate of our compound was open. Gaskill and I had a look at the main part of the camp. The other barracks are better than ours. There was a brisk trade with Russian POW’s for bread. A sweater, a jewelled watch or boots were swapped for a loaf. The price in Lamsdorf had been 20 cigarettes. One tier of a tray like bed collapsed, that caused some excitement and cussing. Lights out at 9 pm. Anyone going outside will be shot by the civilian Volkstrom guards. The latrines are at the end of the barrack. They stink.
Mon Feb 5, 1945:
I slept fairly well on the bench. Five am mint tea issued, 8:30 am parade on a wet field. Our boots are never dry. Eleven am black bread was issued. In the next compound there are Russians. Their wounds haven’t been treated and their clothing is filthy. The German guards keep them in control with whips and dogs. A few Russians are allowed near the wire to trade bread for whatever we offer. Some of them work outside the stalag and are paid with bread or they steal it. After nearly 2 hours of haggling I traded 30 cigarettes for a 2 kilo civy loaf of bread. A collection of camp marks for the Yank POW’s who donated the brew of English tea on Saturday. 5:30 pm - pea soup issued. I had doubles also ersatz kaffee. I was very full. More Lamsdorf people arrived this evening. These included Peter Mitchell-Peel, English Army. He is surviving quite well. The Russians were moved out this evening.
Tue Feb 6, 1945:
Mint tea issued at 5:30 am. 8:15 am - parade outside in the rain. They should call this Stalag Mudhole. There is a library here many hopeful borrowers, but very few books. I managed to get a small book on economics. Our barrack is on delousing today. There was lots of hot water in the shower room. We had a half hour wait for our clothes in a warm room. I have lost a lot of weight, everyone looks very thin. We went on a clothing parade, very little left. I managed to get a pare of socks. At last the cleaners have cleaned the latrines in our barrack. The previous occupants, mostly Russian had left them in a filthy state.
Wed Feb 7, 1945:
The mud is worse than when we came here. Our boots are always wet. As it is too wet to light a cooking fire outside, we have built them on the washroom floor. This creates a smoky atmosphere. It also annoys the guards. That’s good. I met some American medical orderlies, who said there were empty bunks in their hut, 32A. Eleven am - rations - one-sixth loaf, one thick slice per man. For entertainment we watched the Volkstrom guards drilling in a muddy field. At 5:30 pm - a Klim tin of pea soup for each man, then ersatz kaffee. Albert Hyde (New Zealand Air Force) and I went to barrack 32A and crawled into the empty bunks, much better than a bench or the wet floor.
Thur Feb 8, 1945:
I slept well. After the parade in the wet field we had mint tea. We received 4 cooked spuds and a mug of mixed vegetable soup. Ration - the loaves are smaller, one-sixth loaf per man. I ate my bread immediately. Later in the afternoon we were given a mug of very thin, sweet semolina soup, then ersatz kaffee. Everyone is weak from hunger. Four hundred more men have arrived. They hate being put into the barracks that were used as a theatre and as a church. We may move any time during the next 3 weeks.
Fri Feb 9, 1945:
There was a frost last night that hardened the mud, 9:30 am - 5 cooked spuds issued. At noon we were given a mixed vegetable soup (beet tops, spud peelings and turnips). Those are mixed vegetables, variety, but not enough for hungry people. Rations at 2 pm - one-sixth loaf per man, a good helping German jam. The ersatz kaffee was very sweet. Rain fell in the afternoon. Albie Hyde, Doug Robinson (a member of my crew) and I roamed through the Serb and French barracks. They had lots of food, steak (horse) and chips fried in butter. These POW’s went out to work in the town each day. George Cook and Bill Clark of hut 16B Lamsdorf arrived today.
Sat Feb 10, 1945:
Slept in and I was nearly late for parade. We move out at 10 am. After marching out the back gate and standing for an hour rations were issued - half loaf and one-tenth tin of meat per man. Then back through the camp and into the town of Gorlitz at 1:15 pm. The Gerry officer took us up the wrong road. We doubled back and went past the castle keep. Some of the shops had displays of the Nazi flag. We passed a field with 6 gliders. It was slow walking in the dark with a column of Russian POW’s in front. Keep your eye on the man in front and plod along. We kept on the west side of Reichenbach. After struggling up a muddy road we reached a farm and were crowded into a small barn.
Sun Feb 11, 1945:
I slept fairly well in spite of the cramped quarters. The Hauptman had a complaint. Apparently last night or early this morning preserved pork, some chickens and vegetables were stolen. Some one had milked the cows. He has issued orders that anyone caught stealing will be court-martialled and shot on the spot. At 10:30 am we moved off and stopped at Weissenberg. Twelve hundred of us were packed into a large barn. I managed to get into the loft. We missed the ersatz kaffee owning to the doubling up of others.
Mon Feb 12, 1945:
Up early, but we didn’t get kaffee as we were in the loft. Rations - one quarter loaf and one sixteenth tin of meat. Off at 8 am, the roads are wet and muddy. Our feet are wet and cold. Every few kms the Gerry’s counted us. At one stop civilians gave us hot kaffee and onions. It is raining. This is very hilly country. At noon the sun shone briefly. We saw hastily made road blocks. An airdrome that we passed had Stukas, Me 109's and FW 189's. At 2 pm we reach Bautzen after travelling 23 kms. Some men were billeted in a German Army barrack. Our group were bedded down in a horse arena. At 11:45 pm they gave us a thick wheat soup and baked spuds.
Tues Feb 13, 1945:
The sand and sawdust floor that we slept on was very cold. Unsweetened kaffee was issued in the rain. Rations for 2 days - half loaf, 2 small cheese cakes and one-fifth tin of meat. At 11 am on the road again. We stopped in the center of the town for a half hour. The column then moved at a very slow pace all afternoon. Civilians in army trucks passed us in the late afternoon. In the evening the Gerry’s rushed us into Kamenz. The cobbles stone streets are hard on the feet. We went to an army barrack. Those in front got lots of thick soup. We had milk and beer given to us by some Panzer soldiers. There was an air raid somewhere in the vicinity, but we travelled up a hill to a Roman Catholic church. We have a choice of sleeping on the floor on a pew. We travelled 34 kms today.
Wed Feb 14, 1945:
The church was cold and the pew was hard. My feet are sore from yesterday’s travel. We were given hot kaffee at the German barracks. To get there we walked along narrow cobbled streets. All the shops displayed plenty of merchandise in their windows. At 10:30 am we leave the barracks. More refugees in trucks pass us. Trees on either side of wooded roads have explosives attached to them, ready to block the Russian army. Cars and trucks are camouflaged with evergreen branches. An air raid at noon in the Dresden area about 25kms from here. At 2:30 pm, after travelling 16 kms we reach Konigsbruck. Our accommodation is a large German army camp. Great quantities of material are stored in the surrounding woods. There are 3 tents on the parade square. While waiting for soup we spread straw in the tents. Some Eastern Mediterranean types tried to steal our straw, but they lost the fight. We parade to the kitchen for soup, but the Kommodant said it was too dark so we were turned away.
Thur Feb 15, 1945:
Slept well in spite of two air raids in the vicinity. It rained very hard during the night and the tent leaked in places, but not on our group. 7:30 am a lot of sweet milky porridge was issued. Rations for 2 days - half loaf, one-fifth tin of meat and 2 pats of cheese. The rain has stopped. After we left Konigsbruck there was an air raid alarm, we could see the kites through breaks in the cloud. We travelled through level reforested country today. A lory with pewee mine tanks passed us. There were lots of refugees travelling west. Twenty-one kms to a state farm. The last 4 kms were in soupy mud. We stood for an hour in the cold, dark farm yard. Finally we went upstairs in a large barn. There was an electric light. A fight to get spuds. We succeeded. Made a brew. Full when I went to bed in the straw.
Fri Feb 16, 1945:
Up at 7:30 am and into a long line for thin peppery bran meal soup. After a long wait we started at 10:30 am. Most of the march was along muddy country roads. This is farm country. Some of the prisoners dug mangels out of a roadside mound. A guard fired a warning shot. These roadside mounds contain mangels, spuds or onions. By 3 pm we reached a large German army camp, 3 kms from Meissen. While we waited to be billeted Ken Bright, English army, boiled spuds in his portable bucket stove. The upper story of a maintenance building was our billet. We have lots of straw. Our evening meal was a good peppery barley soup. We travelled 18 kms today
Sat Feb 17, 1945:
At 6:30 am, lined up with our kits then we were issued kaffee. We left at 9:20 am and crossed the Elbe River at Meissen. There were crowds of people in the city. The Elbe is a fast moving river. Barges are pulled by propeller or side wheeler tugs. Meissen should be an interesting city in peace time. On the east side of the Elbe there were many hastily built road blocks. Rations for 3 days were issued this morning - one-fifth loaf and a bit of sausage. We walked a few kms along the west bank of the Elbe, then we went west through rolling farm land. At one of the numerous stops a farmer’s wife gave us some salt. At another stop Robbie & Geordie (2 crew members) helped themselves to a German officer’s cake. They were chained to a tree at night. At 4 pm we reach Lormmatzach, which is 14 kms from Meissen. The narrow twisting streets were lined with civilians. We stay at a farm, 160 men in a barn. Barley soup issued, then a mad scramble to get seconds. The guards settled the problem with their rifle butts. No smoking in the barn.
Sun Feb 18, 1945:
Robbie & Geordy along with 2 others were taken to the jail this morning. Last night was very cold. We stay here today. The farmer insisted on making ersatz kaffee for us. We can’t smoke in the barn and we are not allowed outside. At 10:15 am we are allowed out to make tea. The chances of getting soup are slim. We pulled the heads off wheat and rubbed out the grain. Mid afternoon someone discovered sacks of grain and brussel sprouts. I cooked sprouts, a spuds, a bit of wurst in Ken Bright’s cooker in the barn loft, undetected by guards. The meal was tasty. This was a very cold day.
Mon Feb 19, 1945:
At 7:30 am - ersatz kaffee issued, but no soup. At 8:30 am we start marching, but soon stopped in order to link up with the other columns. The fellows detained for taking the Hauptman’s cake and the others who hit the Feldwebel were put at the head of the column. They were in handcuffs. We took short cuts along steep country roads for approximately 14 kms. At 2:40 pm we arrived Dobeln. We stay in a gym with a wood block floor. Along the walls are sacks of dried potato slices and powdered potato. Guards patrolled these areas, however a German army doctor directed us to some sacks that weren’t guarded. I filled my pockets and spare socks. One fellow was caught at the spud sacks and was taken to jail. The guards were hitting others who got too close to the sacks. The soup was thick barley with shredded carrots.
Tue Feb 20, 1945:
Up at 6 am, kaffee issued at 7 am. We marched further into the town to draw 3 days ration - seven-tenths loaf and seven-twentieth tin of meat per man. What a job it is to divide the rations. The guards rushed us away before we were ready. Wally Hudson traded a bar of soap to a German woman for 6 buns. I kept warm by carrying my blanket around my neck. I ate some of the dried spuds. I used the portable stove to cook fresh spuds. Wally Hudson and I were put at the back of the column. We may have snarled at a guard. This is hilly country and exhausted prisoners are dropping out. Dysentery is affecting others. We cross a river and walk up a steep cobbled street. Leisnig is at the top of a hill. The streets are crowded with civilians. We have travelled 17 kms today. At 3:15 pm we are marched into a horse jumping arena, no straw, just the earth to sleep on. We were issued 2 ladles of thin soup per man. We are unable to get any water.
Wed Feb 21, 1945:
The dirt floor was not comfortable and we are sleepy this morning. At 7:30 am ersatz kaffee served. It is raining hard. At 8:30 am we line up outside the barrack. We leave on roads covered with water. The rain stopped at noon. We travelled 25 kms to Bad Lasnick. One hundred and fifty of us were put in a barn with lots of straw. The farmer put everything he could move into his house. He didn’t trust a hungry crowd. We were issued a pea flour soup. Today we saw a working windmill. The roads in this area are lined with apple and walnut trees.
Thu Feb 22, 1945:
At 7:30 am ersatz kaffee, then we stood on the road for an hour. Finally all columns had been assembled and we were ready to go. There are quite a lot of attractive young women here. We passed a locomotive grave yard. I counted 3 dozen, but there were more. Two kms outside Borna the air raid sirens sounded. We could hear the formations passing above the cloud. Ack, Ack was very close. We passed a searchlight battery and its attractive female crew. The air raid last one and a half hours. During part of it we just stood, then walked and stopped again. It was cold. We travelled 12 kms today. Pushed into small barns. At 8 pm mixed vegetable soup issued. At 9 pm air raid alarm sounded. About one-third of the column has dysentery.
Fri Feb 23, 1945:
At 7:30 am kaffee issued. At 9 am we leave Borna and walk 28 kms. This is an industrial area. Some POW’s who were laying railway track told us that the Allies were across the Rhine, in strength. If true that is good news. I learned that Harry Peel of hut 16B died of the flu yesterday. Harry was a keen soccer fan and knew a lot about the game. We were passing through Deutzen at 10:30 am when the air raid alarm sounded. A cloudy day, explosions, ack, ack and aircraft sounded very close. Meuselwitz badly damaged, dead pigs, bomb craters, mud and straw walls were broken. We walked on cobble stone roads for some kms past this bombed village. Very hard on our feet. My right boot is broken. When we reach Wurchwitz, 150 are put in a barn with hay, but no roof. Bombing had removed the roof. We were given thin hot soup. Some one stole my bread. Being hungry I ate purple cabbage from the scrap pile. I never thought I would eat garden compost. Some fighting in the soup line. The guards fired their rifles to quiet a riotous situation. We had not had any liquid since 7:30 am, water was not available.
Sat Feb 24, 1945:
At 7:30 am ersatz kaffee served. Rations - one-eighth loaf of black bread per man. At 9:30 am we start to march on a sloppy muddy road. Out feet are soon wet and cold. A strong wind is blowing on this cold damp day. A guard bloodied a prisoner’s face for no apparent reason. At 11:30 am we arrived at a German army barrack in Zeitz. This was 10 kms from our starting place. About 150 men were put in the attic of a stone building. We sleep on the stone floor. To go to the latrine you make up a party of 20, a guard then takes the group down 4 flights of stairs, across a parade ground, over some very rough training ground to the latrine (a trench). If lucky you make it. At 4 pm we marched over to the infantry barracks for some good soup. Back to the attic to read for awhile. Then I had a wash in the fire water barrel. Anyone not feeling well enough to march tomorrow is to report to the medical officer.
Sun Feb 25, 1945:
Up at 6 am. I had a warm night although the floor was hard. Kaffee served, then over to the other barrack for rations - two-fifth loaf for 2 days, and meat for 1 day. At 9 am we left and travelled most of the day up a very picturesque river valley. There were very few clouds in the sky, sunny, but windy. Civilians along the way were a bit hostile. The Volkstrom guards (civilian) are becoming nasty, threatening prisoners with their rifles. Pep signs in German on walls of buildings such as “Victory or Siberia” and “Never again 1918". We reached Eisenberg in the late afternoon. We kept marching till it was dark then stopped at a large farm. Soup was a thin bran variety. Six hundred of us were put in a barn with no lights. Shortly after there was an air raid in the area. Tomorrow will be a day of rest as there is no stalag near here. We wonder if the Germans intend to march us till we drop.
Mon Feb 26, 1945:
Slept fairly well although I am still weary from yesterday. At 9 am we are given ersatz kaffee. One hundred and thirty men are moved to another barn making more room for those who slept on beams and the floor. A guard has to escort you to the latrine, one at a time only. Nine of us carry water for the barn and as a reward we were given seconds on soup, which came up at 1 pm. Later Wally Hudson and I boiled some of the wheat I had in my pocket. I obtained 3 onions from a civilian. This is a cold windy day and all fires have been stopped. Rations one-eighth tin of meat. I ate one half of my meat with an onion. Wally Hudson traded my bar of soap to a civilian for a chunk of bread and 11 small onions. These were eaten immediately. The guards fired at a POW who had gone to a creek for water. Fortunately they missed me. Tomorrow we will travel 6 kms to a state farm and stay there till they get a stalag for us. Currie and Major McCarty will try to get some Red Cross food from a French stalag. We left Lambsdorf on January 22, 1945 a little over a month ago, but it seems like years. Most of us have lost somewhere around twenty-five to thirty pounds. Rumor has it that to-morrow we walk only 6 kilometers to a state farm and stay there until they are ready to take us to a Stalag.
Tue Feb 27, 1945:
At 7:30 am ersatz kaffee. Orders have been changed again and now we have two more days marching then we split up into small parties. We will then go to different Stalags.. We were ready early and left at 8:30 am, passing through Serba, Droschka, Burgel and Rodigastk, still without any rations, what a way to walk! During the day we did have more rest periods, but nothing to eat except whatever we might have stolen in the way of wheat, chicken feed and so on from the farms. My body has been needing the call the past few days and it is the best place to be especially when we check the bed down in a barn. As we usually get the best spots as we were first in the building, however the joy of leaving is lost again to-day because we took the wrong road after 10 kms so the whole clan was turned around and we then ended up in the tail-end, what a bloody organization!. We passed through Wogan. We are now in very pretty hilly, almost mountainous country, everywhere you look you see farm after farm. There are no fences. Haven’t seen any cattle. As it appears there is no pasture land as everything is taken up by growing food. Too tired and hungry to appreciate nature’s beauty. We arrived at a place called Jena, home of Zeiss lenses at 3:50 pm. I heard and saw a skylark just outside the town. Still without any rations, that is over twenty four hours without any food.. How long can we last under these conditions? Prisoners are passing out all along route. Air raid shelters are carved in the red sandstone cliffs. Jena is a large city built on 2 sides of a valley. The and the fellows are walking slower and slower, even though the guards are trying to make us move faster. Hope the stupid bastards know we can’t keep this up much longer. Arrived at Lindenbach at 7:30 pm after marching twenty four kilometers, bedded down in barns with no lights. Peter Mitchell-Peel and I gathered bedding straw. Wally Hudson got some water for a brew and to boil some spuds we had liberated. The column had been divided into groups of 100 and put into various barns. The Gerry didn’t provide any spuds today. Late in the evening we had swede and barley soup. Everyone had doubles. Can’t see how we can march many more days unless they give us more food. We’d be better if the bloody bastards shot us.