- Contributed by
- People in story:
- George Staniforth
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 July 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross, of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team, on behalf of Mr. D.J. Wilson, who, after recovering the diaries following their disposal, has assumed responsibility for them. They have been added to the site with the Mr Wilson's permission who fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
23/4/45: Snow and rain all day; very cold. The electricity has been on and off for two days, so we’ve had no news from the wireless. We heard tonight that the American troops were 15 km from here. It’s deadly these nights with no parcels or cigarettes coming in. Everyone is downhearted and nasty tempered, we can’t speak to some of them because they lose their tempers so quickly.
24/4/45: I had to go to the dentist again this morning; three of us went, one stayed in hospital and it was 11.15 hrs when we got back, so I took the day off. I’ll have to go again on Thursday; that will mean another day off. It’s very cold with a little rain and snow. Two fighters over all morning; no news at all today, they say no news is good news. Let’s hope so. We heard last night that Hitler is in Berlin. If he is, it’s too bad for him. A German woman gave me two cigars yesterday and two more today, for a little coal. The civilians are crying out now because they can’t buy any cokes and they have no fires or lights. It’s a good sign.
25/4/45: Cold but sunny all day. We heard the 18.00 hrs news from the BBC. We get more hungry every day and more fed up. 26/4/45: Had to see the dentists today; another day off work. I was lucky that I took a bottle of spirits with me; I got eight cigs. The spirits are used for lamps, but the Ruskies drink it, so we sell it for cigs and potatoes.
27/4/45: Very easy day; sunny all day until 20.30 hrs, then it rained for two hours. I only had one cigarette today, but hope to get a few more tomorrow when I visit the hospital. It is now 21.30 hrs and we can hear the faint sound of guns. 28/4/45: Went to hospital at 08.00 hrs and took seven bottle of spirit; I got 40 French cigarettes for them; more coming this afternoon. I had the morning off work, saw some Americans in hospital and they are in a bad way. Some are so thin, you can hardly see them. The Pole from the hospital came down with five bottles of spirits. I got 40 fags; doing well for smokes today. I can hear the sound of gunfire in the distance. It rained today; no fighters over for two days. We heard that Italy is finished and we took 500,000 German P.O.W.s. I couldn’t get the 18.00 hrs BBC news (no power). The trains haven’t run along this line for three weeks between the hours of 06.00 and 20.00. Then they only run from here to 60 km south.
29/4/45: A little snow today. We hard a good one today: Himler asked England for a lay down of arms for 48 hours while he speaks to Hitler who is supposed to be ill, to see if peace can be had. Everybody thinks that Hitler was killed last year when the bomb was thrown at him. All the photos of him have been taken down and burnt.
30/4/45:It is rumoured that Hitler died this morning (we hope so). Everybody is wondering what Himler will have to say. Our fighter bombers came over in great force at 15.30 hours. Three lads went sick this morning; we saw 26 other lads who had walked from Chemnitz last week. All they had to eat for eight days was a little soup at 12.00 hrs and 500 grams of bread; the bread had to last the eight days. We hope tomorrow brings good news for everyone.
1/5/45: A little snow and frost in the night. One lad who had walked from Chemnitz was caught stealing in hospital. It is believed the Americans have started their push this way.
2/5/45: The flags were at half mast all day. At 22.00 hrs., last night, the German troops were passing through here. Some of them saw the flags, so they pulled them down and the Home Guard fired at them. They had a battle between them but no one was killed. Our rations are getting worse every week. This week we haven’t had anything but water with one or two potatoes in it. “Roll on the Yanks.” That’s the saying here.
4/5/45: The Yankees are coming.
5/5/45: We heard that Chemnitz has fallen without a fight. The war is nearly over; everywhere, they are laying down their arms and now there is only this place to give in, then it’s all over. We had a good dinner today, the first for over a fortnight. We can hear the guns very plainly.
6/5/45: The war is expected to finish any day, any hour.
7/5/45: We worked until 15.00 hrs, then the French shouted over and said the war is over for us. Our guard knew at 13.30 but they didn’t tell us. At 19.00 hrs., a German officer told us it was all over, then a small van came and stayed the night. It was left unattended, so we were in it. We found plenty of food and other stuff. The two civilians on nights, got a lot of kit to take home. We never went to bed. Six left in the night and started to walk it. At 3.30, I was making flapjacks for all of us. Some of the lads went out to some women friends and had a good time with smokes and drink. It is now 5.15 hrs., and everyone is getting all polished up and ready for, well, I don’t know what to put here, so I’ll say, going home. Yesterday afternoon, 40,000 were sent home by air. We heard the midnight news. It was great.
8/5/45: At 06.05 hrs, we were told to pack up. We were going home at 06.30 hrs. At 07.30, we started to walk to Elsonhow, 11 km away. We walked up and down hills; we rested at 11.30 hrs for one hour. The weather is warm and sunny. We received a two Kg loaf from the gas works. When we’ll get any more, I cannot say just yet. We stole some food to last us a few more hours. We walked on until 19.30 hrs, when we met some French at Burnsback. We asked some jerry civilians if they knew where the Americans were, and they laughed at us. They didn’t know the war was over. We walked 34 km all told; we met the French 3 km outside Ause. They took us to their lagar for the night and gave us soup. They had plenty of bread but wouldn’t give us any. At 05.30, we were up, had a little macaroni and soup. At 08.30 we started to walk some more, making for Zwickau, 48 km away. My feet were very sore before we met three Americans in a car who gave us a cigarette. We had three Yanks with us. After another 2 km, we met more yanks who took us a further 3 km. We had a wash, then travelled by lorry another 40 miles to Gera. Here, there were plenty of Americans and P.O.W.s. We received a packet of K rations for dinner. Inside was as follows:
4 Chesterfield cigarettes
1 tin of cheese,
1 pkt of coffee,
1 pkt of matches,
1 bar of chocolate and
1 pkt of P.K.
We moved into a civil house where the people were moved out 4 days ago by the Yanks. The reason for moving them out was that a shot was fired from one of the windows when the Yanks came through. If any shots came from the houses, the people were moved out and all they could take was their food and clothing. The rest was left for us. One lad slept on the sofa, two on a small bed and two on the floor by the fire. Of course, it was 01.30 before we went to bed. We had a piano and a gramophone, a writing table, which I am using now, a sofa and a sideboard. It’s a very nice room, but small.
10/5/45: It was 06.30 when we woke up to find it was a lovely day. At 07.00. two of us went out and came back with two, 2 kilo loaves and a 2 lb tin of meat, seven pkts of sweets, so we had breakfast at 09.00 hrs. Our rations came at 12.15. We got one tin of meat and spaghetti in tomatoes, 5 cigs, seven biscuits, 1 pkt of P.K., 1 pkt of coffee, 1 pkt of lemonade powder, 1 bar of chocolate. We have just had bad news, we are not moving today. There are about another 2,000 expected in this afternoon. Three of the lads have gone out to try and get some bread and one came back with one loaf and three pounds of sugar. At 16.45, our C rations came up. Two women who lived in here came in at 09.00 hrs to clean up the place and wash the mugs and plates after our meal. They left at 17.30 hrs, they are living about 300 yards away from here.
As I look through the windows, I can see 5 more families being turned out of their houses for more of our lads to live in. Three of the boys went out at 20.00 hrs to try and find something to eat. Shorty and I waited until 23.00 hrs. I had a jug of cocoa ready for supper, when in they walked with four-quart bottles of wine, two of them were red wine. They also had three jars of cherries and 80 American cigarettes.
11/5/45: We woke at 06.30. We are expecting to move at any hour; we have heard we are going to France by plane to be cleaned up before we go over to the Motherland. We are looking forward to those planes putting their wheels on the ground at home.
The two women who come in here every day try their best to make us feel at home. The woman who owns the room, her husband died ten years ago. He was a composer and was well known throughout Germany and other countries. We had an hour’s sleep after dinner, then at 15.30, we got the order to pack up. At 15.50, we were on the lorries moving out. There were 50 of us on each lorry, which was too much. We saw a forest fire about 300 yards from the road. Just as we were passing the fire, a great explosion took place. Shrapnel and stones were falling all around. One lad was badly cut around the head and another one stopped it in the arm. The lorry behind us stopped one through the windscreen and broke the driver’s left arm.
We are now waiting for the planes to take us home; we can see the airfield. The Americans have been running this camp until today. This is how it was done: some English lads came in here three weeks ago and are still here, but the Americans have been coming in one day, and were on the planes in less than 24 hours. Another thing is the meals. The dining hall will only hold 300 at a sitting. The Americans were always first in. They had bacon, sausage, tomatoes, fried potatoes, 3 rounds of bread and jam, and coffee. Now this is what our lads got: 2 or 3 boiled potatoes, tomatoes, one round of bread, and coffee. The French got a few boiled potatoes and Jerry bread. The Yanks get American cigs, our lads get none and the French get none. Tomorrow, 1,000 more men are leaving by plane. Our sleeping quarters are very bad and filthy. The Yanks have very good ones that are clean. We sat talking until 02.00, then we turned in.
12/5/45: Up with the birds at 06.30, some lads are leaving this morning, at least 1,000. 80 planes have just arrived and we are waiting. It might be any minute, or hours, or even tomorrow, but no later. Some planes are going overhead with some lads in; 25 to each plan. They land in France because they are American planes from here, and British planes from France which can carry only 24 men. We had breakfast at 09.45 which I enjoyed. We had oat meal, scrambled eggs, ginger biscuits, butter and coffee. At 11.30, we got 20 Chesterfield cigarettes, a bar of chocolate, chewing gum and shaving cream. At 12.30, dinner up: mashed potatoes, meat, peas, bread and butter, sweat and cocoa. We are just going down to the square to wait for the lorries to take us to the airport. We arrived at the airport at 14.30, but we had bad luck. At 17.20, we got on the lorries again to go back to camp. I think we are best off, because the ones who went after dinner will not carry on to England until Sunday. We had a lovely dinner on arriving back. Pork, beans, potatoes, milk, tomato soup, tinned pears, bread and butter and cocoa. We had as much as we wanted.
The evening is cool, it is now 23.45 and I’m going to bed.
13/5/45: Out of bed at 06.45, breakfast at 07.30. We were at the airfield at 07.50; we left for Brussels which is a three hour flight. We hope to be in England tonight. We are travelling in an American 'C42'. When we reach Brussels, we catch English planes. I am writing this in the air. As I look through the window, I can see all the towns that have been bombed out. It’s a lovely day and below looks very nice while the sun is out. We are now passing over Aachen, which is very badly bombed. We have just crossed a river into Belgium, but all countries look the same from the air. We are now going down. We can see the ground coming up to meet us. There are lots of planes on the air field. After stepping onto the ground, we were given a cup of tea and a sandwich, then came a 210 mile run in a lorry to camp. On arrival, we went through different things. At 13.00, we were ready to move at 20.00, but at 18.30, we were on our way again. We were put into hotels for the night where we received chocolate, cigs, soap, razor, toothbrush etc.
It’s now 14/5/45, 01.45 hrs and we are still not in bed and we have to be up at 02.30 for breakfast, to catch the planes at 04.00 hrs. We were on a train by 04.15 hrs heading for France. It’s good to ride on a good train instead of cattle trucks with a Jerry by your side. After we came out of the plane and took the lorry, we passed a small hill with a great stone lion standing on top marking the place of the battle of waterloo, where Napoleon was beaten.
Every house had flags out, some American, some English, French, Russian and Belgian. We have just stopped at A.T.H. for 10 minutes. The airfield is 3 miles off. The planes have been waiting for the wind to change. They are not taking risks with ex P.O.W.s. We are now in France, it’s 15.15 hrs and the planes are now taking off as quickly as they are landing. I’m writing this on the landing ground whilst waiting our turn to get into the plane. There’s mine on the ground and the first one is just taking off. They are Lancasters, four engines. They only carry 24 ex P.O.W.s and a crew of six.
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