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- George Irving Beck, Alice Beck, Arthur Roberts
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- 11 January 2006
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mrs. J. Broomhead and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and condition
A Prisoner of War’s Diary from Stalag VIIIB — 1943 July to September
George Irving Beck
July 09, 1943 — Friday
No news worth noting has been available this last couple of weeks except to say that we played soccer last Sunday against another camp, I scored a goal but they were the better team, they are fit and play every week. Other news Russians now started attacking again in strong forces.
July 11, 1943 — Sunday
Today we have heard the best news for a long time, “English and American troops landed in Sicily last Friday”. We’ve been waiting for this for ages and now we wish our lads every success and hope for the best. Roll on when Italy is finished altogether and then we can concentrate on Germany. It won’t be long now, and then Civvy Street and Alice.
July 12, 1943 — Monday
Today’s newspaper headlines say “ Grotzkampf an der ostfront und im Süden,” “Der angriff auf sizilian hat begonner”. From other sources we have heard that 300,000 Italian prisoners have been taken and 100,000 German, we hope so.
July 14, 1943 — Wednesday
Today’s report says that the Germans damaged 42 transport ships of ours, and that they are counter attacking in Sicily.
Tuesday 11th June saw the arrival here of a young woman refugee and child from the bombed area of Wuppertal. It appears she has lost her house and everything and the boss has had to provide a room for her. The civilians are all crying out here about the food and the war. Roll on.
July 16, 1943 — Friday
Today our guard left us and was replaced by a civilian instead of a soldier, what are things coming to in this country. He says that he’s come from Wilhelmshaven, where he was in a punishment camp consisting of English prisoners. The guards had to walk about with grenades, pistols and rifles, and three or four of our lads have been shot daily. It appears one of the Englishmen said “Its better to die with a bullet where they are than on the job they’re on”. The work they are set to do is “rendering mines inactive when they are swept up by the sea”. Dangerous job and this is defiantly contrary to the Geneva Convention.
July 19, 1943 — Monday
Yesterdays newspaper article was the best I’ve read since the war started. For the first time the British get praise from an eyewitness in Sicily. It says “One must live through these attacks to realise just how grimly the British struggles for each metre of ground”. Our landings were made in five places it appears “Licata, Geta, Pachino, Syrakus and Augusta”. We have just heard that half of Sicily is in our hands but this is not net confirmed.
July 20, 1943 — Tuesday
Today’s news “340 tons of bombs have been dropped on Rome” according to the wireless. Germans and Italians have evacuated the town of Agrigento in Sicily so we’re still advancing. I was just thinking what an awful lot of soldiers there is just around here with legs off and arms. All the civilians are longing for peace if only to get decent food.
July 22, 1943 — Thursday
Received my first letter from my old pal Rex, also one from Ron. It appears the wife is getting no letters from me, why I don’t know for I’ve wrote every time possible.
July 23, 1943 — Friday
Today’s headlines are about the bombing of Rome. One page is full of pictures of great buildings, churches, etc., which have been destroyed by us. Regarding Sicily, our attacks are being repulsed.
July 24, 1943 — Saturday
To days wireless news “The town of Cologne over here has had a terrific bombing by our air force, hardly a house is left standing. Three thousand civilians have been killed. Our report says that the same is going to happen to the rest of old Germany. Roll on.
July 25, 1943 — Sunday
Newspaper report says that “the town of Palermo in Sicily has been evacuated,” we are now in possession of three quarters of the island. It appears by Catania the Italians say that our guns are firing heavily, the usual smoke screens are put up for attacks but none are forthcoming what are the British waiting for, the Americans still advance, we’ve got them puzzled.
July 26, 1943 — Monday
Todays wireless news “Mussolini is ill”. From other sources we have head that he is finished and they have formed a new government. King of Italy has given a speech to his people. Hungary has asked especially for peace but Stalin says that Germany must ask first. Germany was bombed again yesterday by our air force. This news has not been confirmed.
July 27, 1943 — Tuesday
Yesterday news confirmed today in the paper. Our attacks in Sicily have been repulsed. Eight Englishmen escaped from a camp in a nearby town. Scorching hot weather.
July 31, 1943 — Saturday
Latest news to hand “Count Cianno of the Vatican City has offered his services to Italy to fight against us”. Churchill declared according to the paper that Italy can have peace but on unconditional terms. The Germans here say that they themselves may take over Italy so this may bring trouble itself. There is a curfew in Italy and everyone must be in by a certain hour. Received eighth clothing parcel from wife also cigarettes.
August 02, 1943 — Monday
Sent photograph home to Alice. No news to put down regarding the war. Roll on. A month tomorrow the war will have been on 4 years.
August 07, 1943 — Saturday
Leaflets have been dropped over Berlin ordering civilians to leave the town by the 15th. Evacuation in progress now. In Hamburg 120,000 civilians were killed in the last big air raid. The Germans in Russia have now lost Orel and Btelgorad and the Russians are pushing hard by Krackow. In Sicily we have taken Catania. The war will soon be over there. Most of the people here now say the war will be finished in a few months, one fellow says all the Englishmen should be laughing now. I myself give the war up to February and there’s no doubt that we can’t lose now.
August 09, 1943 — Monday
Not working owing to bad finger. Got a splinter in it at work, had no sleep all night. Roll on. No news at all regarding the war. Only wrote one card this week and that was to the wife. Lovely weather.
August 11, 1943 — Wednesday
Compelled to go to the hospital, getting me down going without sleep and paling the washhouse all night. My finger is as big as two. The doctor cut it open today, got to go again tomorrow.
August 12, 1943 — Thursday
On the operating table again and received anaesthetic. Finger cut right open and skin tape pushed through to drain it. Got to bathe it regular and go down again Saturday.
August 14, 1943 — Saturday
Doctor stated that I myself just saved the finger by coming down when I did, it was just checked at highest possible time. The poison had got into my blood and maybe my other fingers would have been affected or the hand. Half litre of black blood was taken from me. Stated that I have a very strong heart, had to give me two doses of Chloroform.
August 17, 1943 — Tuesday
Today we received marvellous news “Sicily is now in our hands”. At six am the last German troops left the island according to German news. I myself think a lot of prisoners must have been taken. Wonder how long Italy will last at this time. Still off work with bad finger.
August 20, 1943 — Friday
We had quite a bit of luck today, for the first time since being prisoners we heard ‘London Calling’, the old Blighty news. The guard was out and the other guard was kept busy talking, while we tapped in and got Blighty on the radio. How grand it was and according to that Orel, has fallen in Russia, and Germany may fall this year.
August 23, 1943 — Monday
Still off work. The Russians appear to be driving the Germans back. Roll on.
August 25, 1943 — Wednesday
Still off work sick. Germans said to have evacuated Smolensk in Russia, Our air force visited Germany again, and bombed a few towns also occupied western territories including Mannheim, Nuremburg, Bonn and Bochum. Germans claimed to have bombed Plymouth and Portsmouth.
August 27, 1943 — Friday
No news regarding war. Still of work sick. This last week we have had an old guard with us while the other was on leave. He goes back on Monday to the company and we shall be sorry to lose him. He’s a real toff and been wounded in four places in Russia, lost his teeth with frostbite. If anyone is pro-British its him, can speak English too. Today I wrote two letters to Alice, as I couldn’t write a fortnight ago. Roll on more. The war has been on 4 years next Saturday.
August 28, 1943 — Saturday
Tonight I feel browned off and I can’t take my mind off England, Saturday night, the main night of the week. I wonder what Alice is doing now, sometimes I think that I am not fated to stay in England at all. Getting down to sleep, best place when one feels like this.
August 29, 1943 — Sunday
Today we had a visit from the other working party and had quite a decent chat. They have two new fellows and one of them was a journalist for the Telegraph and Star in Sheffield. He used to write the column ‘Uncle Bob’. He gives us news that Italian prisoners are arriving in Lamsdorfe from Italy; it appears this is contrary to Geneva Convention. There are 14,000 prisoners altogether there and they’re sleeping on floors. Some razor slashing going on amongst them for a gang has formed. All the camp now is entirely run by British.
September 03, 1943 — Friday
News received this teatime puts fresh hope into us. A Frenchman tells us that our troops have landed in Italy. This is confirmed by the German wireless news tonight. Hope we’re successful.
September 04, 1943 — Saturday
Today’s report goes that the Italians have evacuated three towns so it looks as if we’ve got a foothold; the navy is also shelling heavily. Yesterday Berlin was bombed again also Paris, heavy casualties. Wonder how much longer this war will be, roll on.
September 07, 1943 — Tuesday
Tapped in to the old Blighty news again, how nice to hear ‘Big Ben’ chiming. Special communiqué “Russians taken a hundred places on twelve mile front by Kiev and 90 in another sector. Advance by our troops tem miles in Italy. Landing in New Guinea.
September 08, 1943 — Wednesday
News received today but not confirmed. British troops landed in Yugoslavia 60,000 said to have dropped by planes.
September 09, 1943 — Thursday
What news today “Italy capitulated”, this as been confirmed by wireless and the Germans are calling the Italians traitors. Rumour goes that that 40,000 planes were waiting to be sent over Italy until they gave in. Well, most of the Germans give the war a couple of months now and I now myself it can’t be long. The women and children will suffer now for there’s no doubt this country will get a terrible bombing now.
September 11, 1943 — Saturday
Germans have taken the Island of Albania. No further news.
September 13, 1943 — Monday
The Germans have occupied Rome, capital of Italy. Our troops have landed in Salerno and come into contact with the enemy.
September 15, 1943 — Wednesday
Today I received a June letter from the wife, this is the first for a long time and I haven’t received a single July one yet. It appears that young Walter passed away on the 27th of June, poor kid. This is two of them, him and dad, how things are happening. Wonder how long it will be before I get back. Roll on for God’s sake.
September 16, 1943 — Thursday
Paris was bombed By the Royal Air Force today. Heavy fighting in Italy by Salerno. Today my finger has come up again it appears all the poison isn’t out of it. Received letter from Annie. Civilians here are desperate for cigarettes.
September 17, 1943 — Friday
Latest news not confirmed “Island of Sardinia taken by us” in Corsica the Italians are showing resistance against the Germans. Paper report “Heavy losses on the American side at Palerno, Italy.
September 21, 1943 — Tuesday
Island of Sardinia taken by us, confirmed report from today’s paper. Nothing mentioned regarding Corsica. No further news except to say there is fierce fighting around Palerno yet.
September 23, 1943 — Thursday
News received from main prison camp by one of the lads. “My mate Arthur Roberts who used to be here with me goes back to England next week with the wounded, lucky devil. Another fellow who was there says he was in my platoon in France, and while he was home he was in the wife’s company with Bestwick in our house. By description I remember him. States he is a relation of mine but how I don’t know. Other news there is very little except to say trouble seems to be breaking out against the Germans in different places.
September 29, 1943 — Wednesday
Another place in Italy evacuated by the Germans, Foggia. And also in Russia they have lost another town. Received two cig. parcels yesterday, one from Alice and one from the regiment. Pair of boots issued by Red Cross.
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