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The Diary of Alan Forster, POW 3921, Stalag VIIIB (October 1944 — May 1945) Part 6.

by Bill Forster

Contributed by 
Bill Forster
Article ID: 
A7283702
Contributed on: 
25 November 2005

Continued from A7261841

THE COAL MINE AT KLIMONTOW: E702 STALAG VIIIB
27 November - 31 December 1944

Monday Nov. 27

A rotten day on sand - got in at 3.30. Winter has started again - it honestly seems only a month or two ago since the last. Nothing else has happened of any noteworthy importance.

Tuesday Nov 28

Another long and very weary day on sand. It wouldn't be quite so bad if it were not for the walk which is the last straw after 8 hours on one's feet. The march takes an hour over, presumably, a mixture of mud and sand. When we go out in the morning at 6 o'clock it's quite dark and one stumbles over the frozen cart-tracks, tussoks, etc. When we return these obstacles have turned into mud into which one flounders drunkenly ... The most harrowing part is the climb up the hill. About 300 yards of about 1 in 5, slime and stones. By the time I've reached the top my heart is like a steam-hammer. Still - it can't before much longer - we hope! Had small jam issue. 1/2 cup between two.

Wednesday Nov 29
*
A red letter day. I had my No. 15 clothing parcel. But I was disappointed because it wasn't No. 14 which should have contained boots.
At the same time a pair of socks came in most useful for we ate well. A kilo of onions and the same of bread - what a life!
Had another rotten day on sand and didn't get in until 3.30.
A surprise bathing party too - what's come over them?
But everyone - them included - seem expecting an early finish to this ... I wonder?

Thursday 30 Nov

Sand again. Cold and misty. Got in at 2.40. Small sugar issue. Feldwebel [German N.C.O] is back again, gone is our peace.

Friday Dec 1

Xmas approaches rapidly ... last year I was quite certain I'd be home this Xmas - now I'm growing a trifle doubtful!

Saturday Dec 2

20 more men for the hut and a promise of 40 more to come. Came in off sand at about 2.30 was at Mifka Grube [probably Nifkagrube, Polish Niwkagrube, also part of Sosnowiec] on coal - a nice little job. A mine in full production (staffed by South Africans) who go about, apparently, without guards.

Sunday Dec 3

Out until 1.50 collecting broken down wagons on the sand-coal party. Which would have been interesting but for the cold wind which fairly froze my marrow. There were a few free days - maybe I'll have one soon.
Acknowledged No. 15 clothing parcel and also wrote Bun. Difficult to write tonight. I'm not in the mood for anything much except eating and that's impossible.

Monday Dec 4

Small parcel list - no luck. Rained and blew like fury all day and I'm very wet and very very browned off. This looks as if it may go on for ever and ever.

Tuesday Dec 5

Coal-sand today. A freezing but - thank God - a dry day with a strong E. wind. We returned at 3.00 very browned off indeed. Lack of food is now noticeable in the fellow's tempers - it's the same as the nine weeks we had in Rauch without parcels. People snap at one another quite easily and quite trifling incidents (at ordinary times) are magnified into major insults. It's stupid I know but it wouldn't be quite so bad if there were plenty of fags - but there's not! Such is this ghastly life! If only I could get back on PA again things would be OK for we've still stuff to contact.

Wed Dec 6

Norman and I had a full day. Managed with effort of will to do all my washing. Relief! Been a most pleasant change to be around a while and just read. Small air raid alarm, a single plane flew around all afternoon without being in anyway inconvenienced by sporadic flak around it.

Thursday Dec 7

Out collecting broken wagons - got back at 3.00. Small sugar issue.

Friday Dec 8

Sand again. Was in earlier than I've ever been on the job - 1.50. We had a clothing card check today. Surprising how many things fellows seemed to have handed in at Rauch! Wardrobes are being steadily eaten now. Rumour has it that we are to have a loaf a piece at Xmas and 1/2 a parcel. I hope the latter is true as it would make a world of difference.
Everyone dreads the advent of Xmas here - that is those of us who've experienced just how jolly and high spirited a Xmas can be even in POW life. Usually, at least, one feels about this time the atmosphere of the holiday breathing around one - the shops displaying holly etc and a bustle of preparation for the feast but here ... here! Nothing, nothing at all.

Sat 9 Dec

*
Back on PA. Spent today being Brickies Labourer.
Sunday 10 Dec.

Out at 6.00. Back in at 7.30. Out at 8.30 back at 10.30 all without any work being accomplished. No wagons to load pipes upon.
Wrote answer. Went out again at 2.15 came back at 4.15 after clamping some spuds.

Monday 11 Dec

Clamped more spuds ...
Had ours taken off us as we came in.

Tuesday 12 Dec

Started the morning working on the new hut. Came in at 10.30 for an air raid - very near - heavy bombing all around the district. Pamphlets dropped in which they say the war will be over in a month. Same old rubbish. Went clamping again afterwards getting back in a 4.45. All our sack of spuds taken out of the cupboard. Our spuds given us to us from the cook house - bloody silly game I call it.

Wednesday 13 December

Nothing at all important.
Nothing ever interesting - there very rarely is these days.

Thursday 14 Dec.

The same.

Friday Dec 15

Shifted the small loco half around the pit - 17 of us amid the snow. Returned or rather were dragged back at the Feldwebels [NCO] order at 16.00 - dawn to dark, that's us now! There has been a heavy fall of the usual brand of fine dry powdery Polish snow which is quite alright if the temperature keeps below 5 degrees but is hellish to work in once it melts. Small cheese issued tonight - two pats per man. The Poles had their usual schnapps and sardine issue from the mine today but unluckily I didn't manage to be on the spot due to the bloody engine so I missed my monthly excess (?).

Saturday Dec 16

Finished by 12.00 in repayment for last night and (thank God) had my washing drying by 1.00. Feel very virtuous indeed!
Today sugar issue.

Sunday Dec 17

A free day for the camp with the exception of 20 men. An air raid broke the morning up a little - certainly a lovely day. Sparkling snow under a brilliant sun but it isn't appreciated due to the lack of decent food and the imminence of Xmas.
We've been officially informed that we can expect no parcels for Xmas at any rate - I rather doubt myself whether I'll ever see them again.

Monday Dec 18

Another sparkling day and on the whole quite successful. A very heavy raid near us lasting until 1.00. Bought my first Polish tobacco today ... how are the mighty fallen indeed!!
The best thing of course is that we shall have half a parcel for Xmas - it seems pretty certain but - many a slip you know! I'm sure everyone is of the same mind.

Tuesday Dec 19

Very cold again. We managed to get in at 11.45 for dinner and as we entered the gates the siren blew. Another 1 1/2 hrs in the shelter.

Wednesday Dec 20

Cold and damp. Remarkable how we get away so easily on our jobs - I hope it continues until we finish here. An amazing thing tonight - we had an issue of Red X jam from God knows where. A small quantity true (two tins, 1 lb each, and 4 1/2 tins Lemon Curd) but a welcome change. Took out Norman's boots today and saw the contact very luckily; all that remains is to get the stuff in ...

Thursday Dec 21

Went out on a .... job after we came in at 4.00 - unloading .... a couple of carts of oats.
A seven day sugar issue.

Friday Dec 22

Nothing to report.

Saturday Dec 23

After great difficulty managed to ...
.... old Xmas which had after time ... then ... too light for here - .... to go! - we received an offer of RM 200. We took it in goods - ..... not certain but in the region of RM 15 per 100.
An issue of 1 1/2 Kunsthonig per man. And last but not least an invalid parcel between 2. Tea at last - a real Godsend! And 10 Players ... What a difference from last Xmas.

Sunday Dec 24

P.A. had a free day while land worked. The miners had to do a double shift to get their holiday but for all that the night shift .... at 6.15 pm ... what a sickening place this is ... Still today has been pleasant. The room has been quiet and four of us sat around the fort (?) in the afternoon chatting about anything and nothing. It struck me rather as an intimate family gathering somehow.

Tuesday Dec 26

I've purposely left Xmas mention until today to see if I still felt better better about it. We worked from 6 am to 6 pm with a meagre break for dinner shovelling coal - about 300 or so tons. The coal heap is ... well and they seized upon the chance offered, by the other pits being closed for the holiday, of having the wagons they would otherwise have used. So we worked - best to draw a veil over it I think. However, we had a nice dinner of mashed spuds mixed with pork, turnips and a pound of sausage each, very nice. As soon as I came in at night, I washed, changed shaved and had tea - also from the cookhouse composed of two meat (RX) sandwiches and an excellent biscuit duff and tea. Then out to the quite eagerly awaited variety show during which Norman and I consumed the drink. I became well lit and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Supper was bread and cheese and marmite with tea and beer. Bed at 11.30. I slept like a log until 4.00 when I ... with after effects - ...! That was .... Xmas and I'll never forget it - the first one I've ever worked.
Today we were out on the coal again and after two hours work this morning owing to further trouble with the conveyor belt we had dinner (bad) and went into the shelter for half hour or so. Out again at 2.15 we sat around the fire until we packed in at 4.30 not having done a stroke. The belt never even started!

Wednesday Dec 27

*
Playing about with the coal again amidst the smoke and steam from the water. Finished at 5.00.

Thursday Dec 28

Shifting a heap of dirt from one place to the other but in spite of opposition finished at 4.00.
7 day sugar issue.

Friday Dec 29

On a new job — a sand Grube [pit] about 5K from here as the crow flies but about 12 as the train crawls [probably a sand pit at a place called Maczki-Bor in Polish, a goods train still runs there].

Saturday Dec 30

Job has depreciated sharply. We think the Admiral had had a hand in this. Didn't get in until 5.45.
Cocoa brought in 5 kilos bread.
Had issue of 1/2 NZ parcel and 7 1/2 fags.

Sunday Dec 31

This is the last time I shall write in this for 1944 - solemn thought. I have a free day tomorrow at the expense of the miners. Goodbye to 1944. 1945 will, I hope and pray, bring us freedom. Taking it by and large this year has been the worst in Gefangenschaft [imprisonment].

Monday Jan 1. 1945

Had today free - the miners were out on our job. It was a terrible New Years day I must say ... better not to comment upon it.

___________________________________________________________________________________

LETTER HOME - KRIEGSGEFANGENENPOST

Stalag VIIIB E702
1 January 1945

Well, here we are kicking off on another year - what do you think it will bring? Last year at this time I was quite certain I wouldn't see another Xmas over here - absolutely positive about it - we both were, weren't we darling? But now I don't know; sometimes it seems as though this could go on endlessly, especially when I'm as browned off as I am at this moment! Speaking out of years of experience this has been the deadliest holiday (?) I've ever had. It's over now and I'm not sorry for it is, in many ways, a relief - I'll tell you all about it when I get back for it's no use having this letter censored out of existence. Certainly the memory of this Xmas will remain vividly and burningly with me the rest of my life.
___________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday Jan 2

Work. Terrible. Out on the sand job every bloody thing frozen hard, the sand just like rock.

Wednesday Jan 3

The same. God! How long the days are!

Thursday Jan 4

No change. A small sugar issue at night - half a .... tea between two for the week.

Friday Jan 5

Nothing of note - there seems to be so little time now of my own that I shan't write anything further in this until I'm in the mood or until something specially exciting happens.

* Jan 10

Sunday Jan 14

Here I am on my bed after another day spent in Germany's service.
In the intervening measure of time since my last writing parcels have been resumed again. Last Saturday (5) we had 1/2 NZ parcel and the following 1/2 (per man) on Wednesday. On Sat (..) - oh I've forgotten already. Anyway, the last week we have had 1/4 NZ parcel each and an English ... American staff (?) per man - we live again. I must say these new Anglo-American parcels are a great improvement on the old type. We have also had a sugar and cheese issue this week. No letters or parcels for ages. Not I feel, as though anything matters very much now somehow.
Snow and ice have been lying for over a week now and a gale of wind blows regularly during the night.

Thursday Jan 18

As Norman and I were peacefully lying about 12.00 listening to the wireless we were rudely disturbed by the door being blown open and the boys told to be ready for a 2.30 am move off. What a night! Air raids off and on, a bomb ten yards from the Lager, all the ......... in hand lobbed out (unequally of course) clothing etc. What a night. We eventually paraded about 7.00 o'clock Friday morning and after being .... warned by Ti...ale that any man breaking ranks would be shot we staggered off on a perfectly horrible march to Dombrowo (which must have been a lovely camp) owing to the snow and too much kit. During the Friday night we made a sledge of sorts for five men. Air raids were constant. If only I'd known what I know now - 9 weeks later - I would have escaped. We were all fools, absolute idiots!

Continued on A7284387

Return to "CONTENTS" page on A7280291

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