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WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
National Trust WW2 Rural Learning Events
People in story: 
Mr Geoffrey Ransome Transcribed at Berrington Hall
Location of story: 
Stalag 3
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 April 2005

I was called up and joined the RAF in 1941. I trained as a pilot at Wellesbourne on Tiger Moths then I went to Canada to a training aerodrome at Medicine Hat and learned to fly twin engined Ansons. I returned to the UK to fly Wellingtons then I learned how to fly four engined Sterlings. Our job was to drop sea mines in the shipping channels around the Friesian Islands. We did not have the benefit of Radar so we had difficulty flying in heavy cloud. We had to wait for a break in the cloud so we could locate our position. At this point we were hit by anti aircraft fire but managed to lay our mines in the correct channel and to fly in at low level under their Radar to drop our three spare bombs on Borchum aerodrome. As a result of atmospheric pressure changes we were lower than we thought and skimmed an island, lost our bomb doors and came down in the sea. We managed to escape including our front gunner who had a broken leg. The tide was going out and we were on a small island with a single house on it. We tried to escape by launching a fishing boat but the tide was against us. Eventually we were taken prisoner by German troops from Borkum.
We were taken to this house to be kept and the islander there gave us seagulls eggs and black rye bread to eat. It tasted awful but we were very grateful. Later we were collected by the German Army and taken to Emden by boat and then to a POW reception camp where we were interrogated and then we were sent to a dispersal camp Stalag 3. At the beginning we were very grateful; to receive Red Cross food parcels, but as things in Germany became less organised the supply dried up.
Eventually by early 1945 the American Army was advancing . We were marched in an easterly direction along sandy forest roads. After a few days we came to a place where there was a store of Red Cross parcels. There was a distribution of parcels, one between two. Because of the precious nature of the parcel and its contents no-one was content to let another person carry his half! Sticks were broken from handy trees and pushed through the string of the parcels so that each one could be carried between two men. Sometime later we heard three RAF Typhoons flying towards us. They opened fire with cannons and the column rapidly dispersed. Several men were killed and the Typhoons came round to run through again. The first one opened fire. Before the second one started shooting someone had been brave enough to stand up with his RAF great coat turned inside out showing the white inside. All three aircraft pulled off and disappeared. Each night we were penned up inside a large two storey barn and locked in by our guards. About 300 of us without toilets ! We were roused at about 7 am by hammering on the door from a guard and cries of “ Raus Raus “ On one particular morning there was silence and we eventually broke out . The guards had disappeared. We broke up into small parties wondering what to do. There was some slaughtering of hens and pigs and some of the men were violently ill from eating half cooked pork.. While scouting around we found an abandoned hospital with an abandoned ambulance with a tank very nearly empty of petrol. We drove and the petrol level remained the same. We came across an American party in a jeep who were unable to give us help apart from a supply of American White Bread. It was so light and fluffy that we found it difficult to swallow after years of black rye bread. We carried on driving following directions we got from the Americans and eventually ended up at an aerodrome. We were told that we would be returned to the UK but that it would take a few days. In the meantime we could go to the canteen an fill up. We spent VE day sitting in the long grass in the outfield waiting for Godot.

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