[transcription and transcription annotations have been provided by the collection donor]
Sat Mar 3, 1945:
Up at 8 am and greeted with snow on the ground. No kaffee. This morning for the first time since leaving Lambsdorf, we received an issue of German mint tea tasted vile, but as the water had to be boiled we drank it anyway. Some of the fellows are suffering from poor circulation. I guess due to the march packs some of them are carrying. We start off at a good time, but we were not on the road half and hour when we were rushed and I mean rushed with Gerry bayonets along the road and into another barn as there was an air-raid, it was just as well. So the guards opened the doors there at the end of the barn was a rabbit cage. In the cage was a rabbit, not too big, jumping like mad all over the cage. Within five minutes the first group into the barn, ran to the cage took out the rabbit and killed it with a pocket knife, cleaned and skinned it and cut the meat into pieces ready for eating. The four fellows who did this then sold the pieces of raw meat for as many cigarettes as they could get and if you had no cigarettes than small pieces of mangel or a couple of handfuls of dried potato would get you a long piece of rabbit about an inch by two inches and three quarters of an inch thick then popped the meat into your mouth, still warm, no blood in it and it is gone after an awful lot of chewing. This is the first real meat since about Christmas. I imagine the rabbit was a pet of the farmer’s kids who get a hell of a surprise, when the air-raid was over. At least nobody took the rabbit skin as far as I know. At noon we were given a boiler of hot water. For 10 bars of soap the civilians sold us a boiler of spuds. Warm sun soon melted the snow. The soup and rations came from Weimer and were delayed till after dark by an air raid. In the evening the rations were one-third loaf of bread and a thin slice of sausage. Soup was a mixture of swede and vegetable peelings. There was a great ball up on rations, some fellows didn’t get any soup. We found a hole that led to the cellar, spuds and cattle cake were liberated. We finally left the barn and headed down the road again. It was another hell of a day for marching, cold, windy with a blizzard, then it got colder and the roads got really slippery. It was hard to walk. We reached Eurfert, a large city and it took us over an hour and a half to march through the place. We arrived at Sirberlieblin after 7:30 pm, bedded down in another barn once more in the dark. What a hell of a night! How much more of this can we take? Fellows are dropping out of the column much more frequently than they did a few weeks ago. Two fellows died of dysentery and were buried today.
Sun Mar 4, 1945:
Awake at 7:30 am. More snow fell during the night. Ten men are wanted for a work party. They will march 19 kms to transportation. Not me. I will not work for the Gerry even if they promise more food. The country is starving now. This was a rest day so we just lay on the straw. We have a sick parade. Rations to-day were a quarter of a loaf and a small piece of cheese. This place is Lieblenlits. We had our last tea sans sugar, tasted good. The ration man heard BBC last night. At the end of a 3 day offensive the Siegfried line has been smashed.
The farmer claimed that we were getting spuds through the hole in the barn floor. The Feldwebel threatened to cut off our soup and rations. He later relented. The Weimar water supply has been damaged by bombing so they can’t supply any more soup. Rations - one-third loaf of bread and a bit of tough tasteless sausage. Rumor says that tomorrow we only do fifteen kilometers, but you can’t believe anything about how far or where we will go each day until the day is over. During the last few days the Gerry guards have been using their rifle butts almost more than usual. They are aimed at the fellows who don’t walk fast enough and try to get out of line. Never mind the Gerry’s day will come. Those fellows who have cigarettes are using them to buy bread or anything that is edible. In bed at 7 pm.
Mon Mar 5, 1945:
Weather dull, no snow, no wind, but is still very cold. The civilian let us make coffee providing we replace the fuel that we use. We used coal dust and wood from the barn interior to make kaffee and boil spuds. Peter Mitchell-Peel has dysentery. He and 3 others will go to the sick bay barn. Tomorrow they will go to a hospital. There is some sour cream in the piggery, but I didn’t get any today. The National Socialist Party of Weimar sent us a shredded swede soup with bits of meat in it. I guess the Nazi Party of Weimar will want us to put in a good word for them. Already to march at 6:45am and we were informed that there would be no rations until to-night, which means another day’s march on an empty stomach. Passed through Gotha, which was a fairly big town and is the first town, oh yeah, guards do not let us stop and have a rest break while we are in any of the towns or cities, so as a result some of the fellows have to urinate on the march. We left Gotha and walked through the countryside and the towns of Truglepen, Aspach and Teutledent. All day long fellows dropped out of the column. They just sat on the side of the road or lay on the ground. Some had their buddies try and stay with them, but this was when the guards would use their rifle butts to make the men who could walk, get back in line. Again most of the dropping out was due to dysentery and just being worn out because of the lack of food. There must be hundreds of Prisoners of War between Gorlitz and here. Heard that the Gerries do pick these fellows up and take them to a hospital in the nearest town. We are still following highway seven as we have been doing for a number of days. Just after one o’clock we were bedded down in a barn near Machterstadt. Men from stalag 8C were here before us as there were signs everywhere along the road.. Tins found in the straw in the barn and pieces of kit dropped in the barnyard and surplus. We did another eighteen kilometers this morning and afternoon. Jassel is only a hundred kilometers from here according to a sign that we saw. We all got some soup and rations of two cheeses and one packet of knackeblot per man for one day’s issue. Four loaves between 15 men. The sausage is still being cooked in Weimar and will not be issued tonight. That won’t keep a rabbit alive for very long let alone any of us. It looks as if to-morrow will be another day of marching along on an empty stomach. If anyone had a bar of soap and we didn’t have much chance to use it you might be able to trade that with some of the Gerries for some bread. Most of the farmers and their families on other farms will have nothing to do with us. Here to-day they are willing to trade. Some of the fellows are acting very stupidly as they are giving away their clothes, watches and anything else they have for a few slices of that black bread. This is what hunger will do to a man. If you were hungry enough, I am sure you would kill for food. This continually being hungry or slowly dyeing of starvation turns man into an animal.
Tue Mar 6, 1945:
Twenty-fifth from Gorlitz. I had a comfortable sleep in the hay. The 2nd column of 3000 British from Gorlitz arrived in this village last night. We made kaffee in the copper. Weather dull the sun’s low. Only rations given out were a tin full of mint tea. That tasted pretty terrible. We were marched out on to the road and had to wait until some of the other columns caught up, then off we went again through the towns and villages in such places as Satteldat, Kalperfelt and Schonau. We followed the main railway line most of the day, but we didn’t see any trains. We were forced to march almost ten kilometers without a rest and then stopped for only a few minutes, or it just felt like a few minutes. Oh, we are getting tired of this walking, walking, walking. We passed Wugha and then it took over an hour to march through Eisenach out into the country again, where we had our second rest in twenty kilometers. Gerry’s really pushing and it is hard as we still have not had any food. When we stop we had to wait almost two hours in the cold and snow. Finally they brought us some soup and rations consisting in one package of knackerbrot and a little piece of fat, like lard, but we spread it on the knackerbrot and it went down a little easier. We were marched into a large farm and bedded down by four o’clock. Everybody complains of the lack of food. Since leaving this morning we have marched twenty-three kilometers. That is one of the longer days. Will this marching ever stop? How much more can we take. More fellows dropped out to-day. I am sure there will be more to-morrow. The large barn that we were put in which there was little better chance of getting some room to spread out. There was also a few sacks of grain in the small room just off the barn and of course those fellows who found it, helped themselves, filled their pockets and so on. A few others found out about this and also filled pockets or socks. No conveniences here, German women pass back and forth while we use the yard for a latrine. The Gerry ordered us to dig a latrine, but that is impossible as the court yard is a cobble stone one. Half a liter of swede soup issued tonight. I ate some raw turnip for dessert.
Wed Mar 7, 1945:
Snow falling. Last night we stayed in a place called Steutfeuld. There was a check parade of Army NCO’s and privates. This gave me a chance to go down the hole and get more spuds, also some curds and whey. The spuds were cooked in the copper. I separated the curds from the whey and had a type of cottage cheese. This morning was a bad one. There was a lot of trouble between the farmers, the guards and the POW’s. The cause of the problem was the farmer’s wheat. As I mentioned before a lot of the fellows stole the wheat, whenever they got a chance because they were so hungry. The farmer caught up to the Gerry officer and yelled at him, while pointing to one of the fellows who he saw eating the wheat. The officer called one of the guards who came over. Everyone was lined up and searched. The officer said that everyone who had stolen the farmer’s wheat were to step forward. Nobody moved. He then began yelling in German and English that if we didn’t step forward immediately everyone would be searched and if any more wheat was found the thief would be shot immediately. The guards went to the head of the line and searched the pockets of the first five men. Nothing was found so they were told to march forward. Five more were searched. Again nothing was found. The search continued. The search went on for almost an hour and when it was finally finished there were twenty-eight fellows lined up against the wall of the barn. The medical officer was arguing with the German officer about shooting the fellows that had been caught, yelling about the Geneva Convention, starving prisoners and lots more. He was told to shut-up and get in line with the rest of us. The Gerry officer then yelled something at the guards and the farmer, who went to the fellows lined up against the wall and began to beat the living daylights out of them, with their rifle butts and pieces of wood. Boy! did they ever take a beating. When we started yelling and moving forward to help the poor beggars, the other guards cocked their rifles and pointed them at us made us stop and keep still. We had no option, but to stand there and watch our friends beaten up. Finally the officer yelled at the guards to stop, then they stood back and told us to pick up the fellows who had been knocked to the ground and bring them back into the column. Some of them were a bloody mess, thank goodness there were no bones broken. Everything was quieting down and we were marching out of the farm yard and down the road. Once more I will say that our day will come when we will be in a position to retaliate. During the day we marched slower because of the injured fellows and we passed through Horschel, Neuenhof and Herleshaven. The weather cleared up for a few hours and the walking was a little easier. As usual all along the march the chaps are talking about food. What we used to eat at home, what they ate at stalag 8B and what they will eat as soon as they get back to England. So far we’ve remained in lines through the valley with the hills and mountains on both sides of us. War is slow, but we have to keep marching through more towns and villages such as Womnen, Neustadt, Gerstungen and Obersuhl where we arrived at 2:00 pm. To-day we did twenty-six kilometers and all we had to eat was whatever was in our pockets, a mangel or whatever. There were no signs of rations. One of the guards dropped a roll. It was a piece of bread bun. He was going to pick it up, but saw a sergeant coming so left it. About six POW’s pounced on it. One of them was lucky to grab it and stuffed it in his mouth before anyone else could get a piece of it. It’s a wonder he didn’t growl like a dog as he ate it. We were bedded down in a barn, some in the small hallway of the barn about 4:00 o’clock. There were still signs of a party ahead of us, even cigarette butts and red-cross tins. Some guys have all the luck. They still have Red-Cross food. It’s so long since we have had any. There was no coffee this morning and the Gerry officer said it was because of the wheat stealing. First gen that we have heard in a long time is that Dusseldorf and Cologne have fallen to the Allies. If we keep marching we will be near our own front line before long. To-day we did another twenty-six kilometers. They say we should be in Stalag 9A on Saturday. This is one day we don’t want repeated. A day we won’t forget, especially those Gerries who beat up the fellows who couldn’t defend themselves. Heavy aircraft passed overhead this evening.
Thur Mar 8, 1945:
We are up at 6 am, no kaffee. We marched out into the village. The Serbs and Yanks from Gorlitz are already on the road. About 10 am the snow stopped. No rations all day yesterday nor to-day and it is now noon time. We did get some mint tea, but had to climb a steep hill to get it. Everybody is hungry and just lying around in the hay. This can’t go on. No food day after day, hell, we won’t be able to march much longer. These Gerries are just starving us all to death. Last night, don’t know what time it was, but it was dark, wakened by the sound of a rifle shot. Everyone jumped up thinking the guards had started to shoot all of us, however this was not the case. What had happened was that one of the guards had opened the barn door to see if everything was alright, saw the glow of a cigarette. Instead of calling out or getting some light, raised his rifle and fired at the glow. As I said before, smoking was not allowed in the barns. That was agreed by all of us due to the high possibility of fire, because of all the straw and hay on the floors, however if you were very careful, I guess it would be alright. It was Sid Bailey, of Montreal, who was taking a puff on his fag, when the shot was fired. The bullet went through his wrist, the bottom of his jaw and came out the other side of his cheek. Naturally this caused some commotion and the Gerry officer was there in no time at all. Meantime the fellows who were lying near Sid were calling out for everyone to lie on their stomachs as they were going to carry Sid to the barn door and there was no pathway to follow. Everyone turned over and the three fellows picked Sid up and took him to the barn door by stepping on the backs of all the fellows lying down. Heard that the bullet wounds were not too bad though he may have to have some skin grafting done on his cheek, when he gets back to England. The Gerry guards took Sid to the local hospital to get patched up and we don’t know if he will join us later. At 2:00 pm we were told there was some soup at the top of the hill by the barn. So we climbed up to get it, then back to lie down again. There were no other rations all day. Some of the fellows are able to do some cleaning with the civilians. One of the Gerry guards looks and acts as if he is crazy, always walking around with his rifle at the ready, staring at us as if we were going to run away. Every once in a while he starts yelling nothing in particular. I hope he doesn’t start shooting. He was one of the Volkstrom types, meaning a civilian. That particular guard we mentioned to one of the other guards, an elderly fellow, named Walter, also wearing the Volkstrom armband. Walter had been a POW in England during the first World War. He said that the crazy acting guard was obtained from an insane asylum. Walter was trying to relearn the English he learned while a POW in England during WW1 and he told us to avoid certain civilian guards, who had been in an insane asylum. If those guards say move, then move. According to Warrant Officer Curry and the Gerry officer there will be no marching to-morrow unless we get some food because we have gone two or three days now without any rations. We left Mellingen on slippery roads. The snow melted later in the day and our boots soon became soaked. We tramped along country roads covered with soupy mud. My hips are stiff and sore. Everyone is leg weary and tired. We had a three-quarter hour pause. I ate most of my bread, meat and curd cheese. We then walked on a dry Macadam road to within sight of Erfurt. We turned onto a muddy road and into a barn at Busselaben. There was a roll call before they issued hot water for tea. One of the fellows was shot in the face by a guard. The farmer hates the English and is making trouble aided by the Lamsdorf guards.
Fri Mar 9, 1945:
Slept well. Roll call at 8 am, given hot water for tea. A Geneva Red Cross man is at Stalag 9 C, so the hunger conditions are known, but transportation difficulties are causing a food shortage. A five day march will get us to the Hanover area. We were given one-quarter loaf and a slice of sausage. Soon afterwards we received Red Cross parcels - 11 Yank and 1 Medical parcel between 60 men. Pierce, Hedley, Delaney, Porteous and I had 17 fags and 2 and a half biscuits apiece. We mixed Klim milk till it was thick and ate it with a spoon. This was washed down with instant coffee (the real type). Other items shared were cheddar cheese, jam, chocolate, sugar cubes, tinned ham, tinned salmon, raisins and margarine. Tinned beans went into the soup we had bought with bars of soap. We felt full and contented. We saw a lot of aircraft as we marched, or I should say struggled along. The ranks are getting thinner. Don’t know how these fellows are going, but they are dropping out all day long. Some of them have just stayed in the barns. They were unable to get up and walk. Heard that a number of these fellows have just given up and died. Through the usual farmyard villages, Kleinense and Grossensee. One of the fellows who were sleeping in the barn across from us, died of starvation last night. The Gerry officer says they will look after his burial sometime to-day. We arrived at Honebach. We were bedded down at 12:30 pm in a good barn holding 150 men, which gave us ample room to move around. That is if we felt like it, but in our weakened condition nobody did much moving. The German’s brought us some cold water then a lot of swede soup. We had five large ladles each and then we felt as if our stomachs were full. Of course our stomachs have probable shrunk a lot since leaving Lambsdorf. Civilians in a little village near here brought us some soup made out of, swedes, carrots and potatoes, which was hot and tasted real good. It is nice to know that some of these Germans have feelings. Maybe it was because they saw the condition we were in, when we marched through their village. We only walked ten kilometers to-day. The coffee kept us awake so we talked for some time. The Arabs or whomever they are have been urinating in one of the lofts. They were moved down and made to go outside. Tonight there was an air raid near here.
Sat Mar 10, 1945:
Well that’s just over a month since we left Gorlitz. Up at 6:30 am. Real instant coffee at 7 am. We were issued one-quarter loaf and a small piece of cheese. We leave the village at 7:45 am and were issued a tiny piece of sausage. At 10 am we pass through Erfurt, a dirty industrial town. The area near the railway had been bombed. The center section of one house was missing. The second floor was intact, two chandeliers were hanging from the ceiling a picture of Hitler was on the wall. The entire front of the building was missing. It was raining and windy all day. Very tired our legs are still weak. It was a good thing those civies had given that soup yesterday. Through Sorga, and then it continued to rain and drizzle the rest of the day. Received rations at two o’clock, two thirds of a small loaf of bread, one quarter of a tin of meat and were told this was for the next two days. We then sat by the side of the road and ate it in the drizzle. It was good to have the bread instead of those damned knackerbrot even if it is German black bread. The past four days all we’ve had in the way of rations was two boxes of knackerbrot, two soups, some mint tea. That is what this detaining power, Germany calls feeding its POW’s. We marched 27 kms to Seiblein which is 4 kms from Gotha. Parties of 100 men were put into barns. Our group is in one of the smaller barns. The farmer’s wife made a good soup from peas, spuds, onions, swedes and meat. One liter per man. The best soup we have had so far. Aircraft dropped bombs nearby. The old barn shook, but stayed upright.
Sun Mar 11, 1945:
Thirty-sixth day of this march from Gorlitz. Weather cloudy. Up at 6 am, packed and drew water for the last of the instant coffee. Rations - three loaves for 13 men and 120 grams of cheese per person. We got them as we left the village. Two-thirds of a small loaf and a quarter of a tin of meat for two days. A guard butted me with his rifle for no reason. We leave at 7:30 am. Marched through the town of Badhersfeld, where there was quite a large army stationed. The pubs and other standing buildings have fancy fronts, some with scenic paintings on the side walls. Today is cool and dry. It should be good for walking. At 11 am we move off the road at Westhausen for a 5 minute rest. Early in the afternoon we pass through Langenselza, a picturesque town with winding streets and quaint buildings. There are small shrines at the side of the road. This being Sunday some Yanks stopped to pray. The guards raised hell because of the delay. At 4 pm we reached Schonstedt and were put in a large barn. Unthrashed wheat was stacked at one end of the barn. As fires were permitted I roasted some spuds. Hot water had to be brought from the village. When we had passed all of the barracks we were taken for the first time on to Reich’s autobahn, which went over the mountains. It was marching uphill and it seemed to go on forever. The autobahn was two, two-lane highways with an unfinished boulevard in the middle. The roads were made of cement with an asphalt covering. We finally turned off the autobahn and walked through Frielingen, where once more we were bedded down in another barn. There were only about 150 men, resulting in lots of room for everyone. No soup, but we did get one-fifth of a tin of cheese per man and it tasted very good. We are supposed to get to a stalag to-morrow, but I doubt it, as we have heard that story too many times in the past. One of the fellows traded his fountain pen for a little piece of German sausage. Walked another twenty-one kilometers to-day.
Mon Mar 12, 1945:
I slept well. Weather was cloudy and dull, but it was not too cold. We have an early start. No kaffee served, but rations were issued at the next village. Rations - one-third fresh sour loaf (the real stuff) per person. One-quarter basin of freshly made blood sausage for 16 men. It was a hard march up to and through Michlhausen before a noon time rest. The Yank POW’s are ahead of us. One is so weak he keeps falling behind. The guard beats him every time he falls or slows down. We passed the sick column from Gorlitz. I saw Jim Vaughn among them. Allied aircraft passed overhead at Micklhausen. We could hear bomb explosions We could hear bomb explosions and ack, ack in the distance. The civilians take quite an interest in our South African black. Through Asterod, Neukirchen, Ruckerschausen and just past Riebelstors. Well we did come in sight of stalag 9A, our home to be we hope. We were all checked outside the gates for some time. They finally marched us into the camp at 3:05 pm, bedded down in huge tents and marquees. There are only 1600 British troops as the majority of the camp are French POW’s. That is it. We travel in a wooded valley by a winding brook opening out to the village of Zella. Snowdrops are in bloom. We are very tired. These bastards would walk us into the ground. We pass Helmsdorf with its wool weaving mills. Next is a small sawmill. The planks are horizontally stacked in the original shape of the trees to dry. One hundred of us end up in a tiny farm in Silberhausen. We travelled 28 kms.
Tue Mar 13, 1945:
Last night we had a tea brew. I made a spud meal stew with cheese, margarine and liver paste. This morning I ate what was left of the stew. This is a day of rest. Everyone contributed soap or fags to buy spuds and other vegetables for a soup. Rations - one-quarter large loaf, some blood pudding and 42 grams of a good white cheese per man. I bought a ration of cheese for 1 fag and one-quarter loaf for 6 fags. At 1 pm we had a good soup. At 4 pm the Gerry supplied one and a half centairs of cooked spuds. Following this there was an issue of kaffee. I bought Harry Simpson’s share of spuds for 1 fag. Al turner, one of our Lamsdorf buddies died of dysentery recently. We have been travelling in a north westerly direction. The other barns are in trouble, the fellows there were caught stealing wheat and chickens. These fellows were beaten and will spend the night outside. That means sleeping on the cobble stone yard.
Wed Mar 14, 1945:
I was so full last night that I didn’t get to sleep for hours. At 7 am - kaffee. At 8 am - rations - one quarter loaf and 125grams of cheese. Sharp bargaining with the Yanks for their cheese. I bought 2 rations for 2 fags apiece. This is a sunny spring morning. There are yellow butterflies, a yellow bird and a skylark in the sky. Farmers are sowing their fields. We passed through a beech wood and along the side of a wooded hill. The day became so warm we started to stagger. As we passed a beer wagon I grabbed a bottle. It had a good flavor, but no kick. We reached a village near Warbic. Four engined aircraft pass overhead on a mission. Two hundred of us were put in a barn behind a bakery. I boiled spuds and made tea. Leeks in the back garden will be used in our soup. The oats and chaff that I found will be sorted out for soup. People here are a cheery lot. The friendliest that we have met. Air raids took place in the afternoon and evening. We travelled 16 kms today.
Thur Mar 15, 1945:
We had mint tea or sweetened hot water this morning. Hard to tell what it was. Two fellows caught in the back garden will not get rations today. They are in the local jail. We are not allowed to wander. There is a guard at the back gate now. We had a check parade on the street. The sisters of Mercy gave us a thick vegetable soup. This is a rest day and is warm and sunny. The Frau and the baker collected spuds and slices of bread from the villagers. There were not issued section by section so one half the men didn’t get any. The villagers are very pro British, even the guards are enjoying themselves. I heated water, stripped to the waist for a wash. I am very thin. This being a rest day I washed some clothes. Rations - one-third loaf and 2 cakes of cheese. I separated the oats from the chaff. Lawrie and I made oat cakes over an open fire. Two air raids in the vicinity during the day and a heavy one at night.
Fri Mar 16, 1945:
This is another rest day. Roll call on the street. Everyone had to put on paper his rank, name, POW number and last Stalag. When we reach a Stalag any NCO who wishes to work will make the Gerry happy. He is desperate for people to clear up bomb damage. Rations - one-third loaf and 2 cakes of cheese. Sunny and warm. We sit and dream. Hanover Province is so full of POW’s that we will stay here for awhile. The Children’s Home sent two keebles of thick vegetable soup. Some fellows are going through the back fence, along the creek, past the policeman’s house to trade with villagers for spuds.
Sat Mar 17, 1945:
St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish would call this a soft day. It is raining softly. The food situation is becoming grim. The villagers have given us all they can spare. The Children’s Home is still able to send over some soup. A daily work party for a farm was assembled, but cancelled because of the rain. I could have been on a spud carrying detail, but I had a beard. I’ll shave it off tonight.
Sun Mar 18, 1945:
We were to parade at 7:30 am. Instead they issued a thin ersatz kaffee. I mixed my kaffee with potato meal and made soup. The Children’s Home sent a purple sauerkraut soup. A guard sold one-third loaf for 2 fags. Another fellow and I tried to smoke Gerry chewing tobacco - yuck! We are hungry and it didn’t help when the Gerry issued one sausage between 200 men. There have been daily air raids in this area.
Mon Mar 19, 1945:
Around 4 am many aircraft passed overhead. Heavy ack, ack fire woke us up. At 8:30 am we parade on the street. More work parties go out to do chores for the villagers. For this they are fed. This on a section roster, but I think they started at the end of the alphabet. The Children’s Home sent a soup. I tried smoking thrashed wheat heads, but it was too hot and burned too quickly. At 5 pm rations - one-fifth loaf, half cheese cake, tablespoon of liquid cheese, which tasted of caraway. Late on another half cheese cake was issued. Fifty men who had slept on damp ground moved into the attic above us.
Tue Mar 20, 1945:
Today our section supplies the workers. Les Delaney, South African Army will go. So cold today we stayed in the hay. An old guard stopped our interpreter from cutting wood. A great fuss. All fires are forbidden because of stealing. Rations - one-fifth loaf and one-tenth margarine. Roll call at 2 pm. We move to another village at 3 pm. The move was cancelled. Instead 56 army privates leave. I bought a dixie of beer for 1 mark 50, good flavour, no kick. The baker gave us a slice of bread. It tasted like cake. Twenty-five men from another barn came in. Three Yanks were shot for stealing meat. I tried to trade moccasins and a blue sweater for bread, but no luck. More air raid alarms this evening. The civilians hope the British get here before the Russians. They have a crazy idea that the Americans will but their throats. There is no reason for them to think this way.
Wed Mar 21, 1945:
This the first day of spring. Yesterday’s three litres of beer kept me up last night. Around 4 am waves of aircraft passed overhead. This lasted for two hours. No kaffee, but hot water was issued. At 10 am we are to move to another village about three kms away. This was later cancelled. The weather is cool, but may warm up later. The Children’s Home sent us a good sauerkraut soup. Our thoughts are always on food. No chance of a job with the civilians and no chance to trade clothing. Les Delaney and I roasted some mangels. They tasted a bit sickly. Rations for two days. - one-third loaf, two cheese cakes, two-twenty-fifths margerine. I ate my ration immediately. The baker gave us spuds and a bit of pork to make a soup. The fellows who do chores for the civilians get plenty of good food, but it makes them sick as they are not used to it.
Thur Mar 22, 1945:
During the early hours of the morning there was the sound of heavy bombing and flak near here. No kaffee issued, but the Gerry gave us a thick barley soup with meat. After morning parade the Children’s Home sent over some carrot soup. The Gerry then gave us a greasy cabbage soup. Rations - one-tenth loaf per man. Two air raid alarms this morning. We lined up on the street at 12:30 pm and moved off. We soon had to move to the side of the road to avoid being straffed by fighters. The vapor trails of the bombers formed interesting patterns. Later we saw the aircraft going back home. Back on the road we headed for Duderstadt. There is supposed to be a Stalag in or near this town. After two kms we stop. The privates go to the front of the column. The sun was hot and the sky clear. Crocuses were in bloom. Apple trees on both sides of the road were in bud. During a rest period on a sunny stretch of road we could hear a tractor on the terraced fields. It sounded like the one lung fish boat engines at home on the West coast of British Columbia. At 5 pm we arrived at a disused brick factory. We rest in a field while a French POW registers us. He said the brick factory was a Stalag. Eleven air raids in the past twenty-four hours have left a heavy cloud of smoke.
Fri. Mar 23, 1945:
I slept fairly well. Out of the building at 6:30am for sweet mint tea. I feel very weak this morning. I saw George Cook, Jim Vaughn and Ray Nichols. George has been here eight days. The Yanks are also here. More RAF NCO’s are volunteering for work. We took our kit outside and sat on a pile of bricks to enjoy the warm sun. Others are washing and delousing themselves. I had an attack of diarrhea, left me feeling sick and weak. Excreta everywhere. People can’t make it to the trench, which is our latrine. This is a Stalag? There were heavy air raids in the vicinity all day. It is impossible to keep clean, dirt drops through cracks in the floor above. Everything is coated with brick dust. We went to the field across the road where we were put into 12 men sections for rations and soup. Rations were one-sixth loaf and one-twelfth pat of margarine per man. We lined up for a well cooked swede soup with some barley and a little salt and pepper in it. I retired to bed. Between 11 pm and midnight the second group drew their soup. As there was lots of soup left over we had some more. During this time there was an air raid, lights were doused, the keeble of soup was rushed, one Yank was pushed in, he survived, a good humored type. Rumour - Allied paratroops are in Kassel. We learned about Al Turner from Lambsdorf. He was the fellow who had a gramophone, record-player sent to him. We heard that he had died of flu and dysentery. Al’s hair turned white in camp and he had plans of opening up a motorcycle agency handling Norton motorcycles. English Norton’s in Calgary, when the war was over.
Sat Mar 24, 1945:
At 6 am 400 Arbeiters (workers) drew mint tea and left. We were up at 7am and drew lots of sweet mint tea. I put some in my beer bottle. I have been drying mint leaves to smoke in my pipe, not a very good smoke. A warm day and there are more air raids in the vicinity. Three hundred more stragglers arrive at noon.Among them are Cec Loughlin and John Lamb. They said that on March 5, at Zeitz Freddy Whitfield and Al Turner died of dysentery and starvation. The guards say they will shoot anyone lighting fires inside or outside the building. Three fellows have been killed in the last fortnight. In spite of the threat I lit a fire on our floor and cooked some spuds. The advantage of smokeless fire. At 3:30 pm, after an air raid alarm, dozens of low flying FW 190's flew over us, some returned later. Rations today were one-sixth loaf, a half cheese cake and some margerine. We managed to open the windows in our area and to sweep away the brick dust. Among the 300 late arrivals were some French and Russian POW’s. At 6 pm it was dark, a thick swede and pea soup was being issued when the Russians tried to muscle in. A real fight broke out. The guards stood around laughing. One New Zealander kept the Russians away by bashing them with a brick. The Russians got their soup later. A Russian tried to take a Yank’s belongings. Several fellows had their dixies stolen. The Russians played their balalaikas till early mornings, difficult for us to sleep.
Palm Sunday Mar 25, 1945:
I didn’t sleep well, my stomach isn’t happy. Mint tea up. Some to drink warm and the rest I put in my beer bottle. Someone stole Jim Vaughn’s kit last night. Outside we saw a skeleton - like POW lying dead among the brick piles. The new arrivals paraded in the field to be split up into groups for rations and soup. The German’s want a big working party. Promises of Red Cross parcels and more food offered as an inducement. Fifty American bombers and fighters passed overhead. They looked great against the clear blue sky. At 10:30 am everyone had to parade in the field. We took our kit with us, otherwise it would be stolen. I had a bath in the brook. I am very thin. Lost my soap in the brook. No towel so I dried in the warm sun. Many fires were lit and vegetables cooked before the guards put them out. We still have some of the Gorlitz Stalag Volkstrom guards. We were told by a guard that some of the others were recruited from an insane asylum. This explains some of their antics. We marched in at 1:30 pm and drew rations - one-sixth loaf, one half cheese and some margarine. Tried to make toast. We share our floor with some Russians. The bonfires they built drew the German’s attention to our floor. They put the fires out. We were unable to light our small ones. The Russians were first on soup. We lined up for ours at 11pm. The Russians wanted our soup as well. The fights that started caused the soup keebles to be tipped over. The Russians ate the soup off the ground. We didn’t get any. The guards beat the Russians with their rifles, then attacked us. My ribs took quite a beating. Approximately 1000 men got no soup.
Mon Mar 26, 1945:
A cool morning. Light rain fell at noon and the sun shone by 5 pm. We are last but one on the night soup. The Russians will be getting a separate keeble and at a different location. What a dump. We will be glad to get out of here. No future here. I roamed around the building looking for friends. I saw Bill Mcmurray and met Meyer Bernstein, and Yank from Pittsburgh. I bummed some cigarette papers from Ron Bartlett (Aussie). Shot the breeze with Jim Vaughan, Tom MacNeil and Colin Campbell. Five hundred volunteers go to work tomorrow morning. Cec Loughlan will be in charge of a party of 150. At 5 pm rations - one-sixth loaf and l spoon of German syrup. I ate mine immediately. To night the soup line up was orderly. During last night’s mob scene in the soup lineup, Laurie Hedley’s dixie and scarf were stolen. Jim Vaughn’s blanket was missing from his bed when he returned. Tonight the soup line was orderly. It was a thick soup with swede turnip, meat and sandless spinach. Tasted great.
Tue Mar 27, 1945:
Mint tea issued at 6 am. The sun shone in the morning and it was cloudy in the afternoon. 500 British, a small group of Yanks, including Meyer Bernstein and all the Russians left at 7:30 am. At noon the French were told they leave tomorrow for Stalag 11A between Berlin and Magdeburg. At 1:30 pm we paraded on the field for a ration count. There was a call for workers who will leave tomorrow for delousing at Nordheim. Rations issued at mid afternoon. One-sixth loaf and l cake of cheese. I traded half of my cheese for a smelly cake of cheese. I ate my bread and half of the smelly. I saved 2 pieces of bread for tomorrow. I went upstairs to share a brew of kaffee with Jim Vaughn. Later I swapped my half cheese for a smaller smelly piece. Soup up before I had eaten the bread and the half of stinky cheese. The soup today was swede turnip, barley and some meat (probably horse). As there were fewer people here there was more soup for everyone. Made up my bed in the dark. That was difficult. A radio set has been put together. Various people carried pieces of the set. It will probably be used tonight to hear the BBC news.
Wed Mar 28, 1945:
Up at 6:30 am. I was in the first 5 of the queue for mint tea. I went round for seconds. A guard recognized my tousled appearance and chased me away with his rifle at the ready. Breakfast was a piece of bread and the quarter of the smelly cheese from yesterday. Cool, dull weather all morning so I went back to bed. At noon I heated the remainder of the mint tea and made 2 pieces of toast. Last night’s radio news was in french and the fellow on the set didn’t know the language. The French POW’s have left. Sunny at 2pm. I sat outside and read economics till rations came up at 5 PM - one-sixth loaf and margarine. I nearly wore myself out pumping water. At 7 PM soup issued - swede and lots of peas in it.
Thur Mar 29, 1945:
I was sick this morning and didn’t collect any mint tea. I stayed in bed all morning. We couldn’t make toast because the guards patrolled the 3 floors. They will not permit fires. I felt much better at noon. The topic of conversation is often about food. Rations brought in at 1 pm - one-sixth loaf and 1 and a half spoon of syrup which was very sweet. I managed to buy some extra syrup. I obtained a scotch short bread recipe and pastry recipes from Jock MacConigy a baker by trade. Jock is from Banff shire in Scotland. Soup at 5:30 pm This was a very orderly line as there were no hungry Russians. They had all gone. A last call for 400 volunteer workers to leave tomorrow. I was sick again tonight. We got news on the radio at 8 PM. The Americans are advancing towards our area.
Good Friday Mar 30, 1945:
A cool day, high clouds. Had diarrhea twice this morning. Mint tea issued. I made some toast. The best way to eat sour black rye bread. Lighting fires is forbidden, but by keeping them small we can succeed. Last night’s news - Yanks advancing 135 km east of the Rhine river.. The work party of 400 left this morning. It rained later in the morning, making the clay ground very slippery. I made a brew of treacle. I think it is a sugar beet product. The guards are raising hell about the fires that we light. This is a very chilly day. There are air raids all day. Soup issued at 5 pm - thick barley with meat and swede turnip.
Sat Mar 31, 1945:
At about 4 am we were awakened by two heavy explosions nearby. Sick again this morning. I had to sprint to join the line up at the trench. Stayed in bed all morning and read economics. This is a windy chilly day with clear sky. All morning there were waves of bombers overhead. The roar of their motors was deafening. Last night’s news stated the Yanks were 25 kms from Kassel. The soup this night was thick spinach. The peas in the previous soups have given all of us the trots. The Hauptman says we will move next week in small groups. This evening the 400 volunteer workers who left yesterday are back. They were 8 km from the delousing station at Nordheim. The Gerry’s had no explanation for the return.