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A Prisoner of War’s Diary from Stalag VIIIB — 1944 April to June

by actiondesksheffield

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Archive List > Prisoners of War

Contributed by 
People in story: 
George Irving Beck, Alice Beck
Location of story: 
Monren, Schönhengst
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
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 — 1944 April to June
George Irving Beck

April 02, 1944 — Sunday
Played pontoon tonight and won 59 marks. This makes me over 300. Russians still advancing. Lovely weather today, snow thawing fast. Clocks go forward a hour tonight. Wrote letter to wife. No parcel for months, don’t know what’s wrong with post.

April 04, 1944 — Tuesday
Air raid alarm sounded last night about eleven p.m. whilst we were in bed; we just lay there and wouldn’t get up. No news of any importance regarding war. Today I have had pains in the stomach, to just seems as if I can’t take any decent food, God knows what the reaction will be like when I return to civil life. But roll on. Weather raining.

April 05, 1944 — Wednesday
No news regarding war. Expecting five new chaps here anytime, making room for them. So many civilians called up that it’s a wonder the firm keeps going. Still suffering from bad stomach.

April 09, 1944 — Easter Sunday
Today we went for a walk as far as Monren and back. Quite enjoyed it. Last night the air raid alarm sounded and we had all to get out of bed, lasted from eleven to one. No news regarding war. Still waiting for second front and above all peace. In a bad way for cigarettes now no parcels are forthcoming, received last 10 November. Ten new men coming to work here shortly instead of five. Confirmed. Weather lovely.

April 10, 1944 — Easter Monday
Air raid alarm last night again. Today we had a visit from the other party. Wrote to mother-in-law. No other news.

April 11, 1944 — Tuesday
Today’s report from Deutsche Volksbeobechter “Odessa has fallen and now in Russian hands”. Other news says that Krim and Sebastopol are encircled. They’re doing marvellous and I can see the war being over this year if they keep it up. Still suffering with bad stomach awake all night.

April 13, 1944 — Thursday
Bought a watch last night for forty marks and twenty cigs. Lot of money but we can’t spend it. Still no parcels, its months since we had any. Went for a walk tonight. Last night the air raid alarm was on again.

April 17, 1944 — Monday
Friday night air raid alarm also Saturday, had to get up. Played soccer Sunday afternoon against another Kommando, drew 2 — 2, scored a goal, lovely header but knocked myself dizzy. Lovely weather, quite enjoying it but roll on Sheffield and Alice.

April 20, 1944 — Thursday
One of the Czechs from here put in prison today, the police fetched him, no one knows why. Other news “Secret organisation running in fifty different towns in Czechoslovakia, discovered by Germans, girl overheard conversation and reported it2. Czechs are being shot all over, chaps who works here says his two mates were shot last Sunday. Attempt to blow up gas works in Politchka, men caught red handed. Bridge and ammunition dump blown up near Brünn, success.

April 21, 1944 — Friday
Today I had trouble with one of the civilians, I was in such a temper I grabbed him by the neck drew my fist back but another chap intervened. I went to his machine and retaliated for what he did to mine. All the women and the tischleres staff were watching on. Calling the guard and explained things cleared myself. No news.

April 24, 1944 — Monday
Another sixty men escaped last week not far from here. Czech who works here questioned by police about helping Englishmen, got a bashing but they got nothing from him. “All the west coast of France heavily bombarded by air force. Hungarians captured a town from Russians. Two old men, one to organisation TODT. Englishmen and Czechs running the firm now. Latest order here to civilians posted today “All civilians working here must report straight away during an air attack, even if their homes are blown up, the firm and work comes first, other things will be seen to later after receiving report”.

April 26, 1944 — Wednesday
The war seems to have gone quite all over excepting for the bombing of Romania and Germany. Tonight I was just thinking the second front must come during the next couple of weeks.

April 30, 1944 — Sunday
Snowed a little today but on the whole it wasn’t a bad day. Played soccer against Mattlers, lost 3 - 0. Everything already for ten new prisoners we’re expecting. Latest news “Russians massing behind the lines by Romania, big push again expected. Germany states in paper she is ready for the big invasion, they’re on about it every day. Hope it’s a great success when it comes. Played pontoon won 73 marks.

May 03, 1944 — Wednesday
Went to Schönhengst in the lorry. Felling trees all day. Had quite a decent day for it was a change from working the ‘Seumen’ machine. No news.

May 08, 1944 — Monday
News from England to the Czechs, forbidden wireless news but received “When the first shot of the invasion is fired, it will be a signal for an upheaval of all political affairs and the biggest revolution in Europe the world has ever seen. All bells will ring out in England when the time arrives. Still working at Schönhengst felling trees. Roll on peace.

May 11, 1944 — Thursday
Russians have now retaken Sebastopol. Got to know today that there is no airmail for prisoners of war now that must be the reason the mail is running terrible. Parcel post is also bad, about six months since I received a cig parcel also clothing. The two guards have now to patrol outside all night in relief, special watch has now to be kept over us.

May 14, 1944 — Sunday
Nothing fresh to report. Lovely day. Played soccer in the afternoon against Neubouers party. I played right wing and we won 1 — 0. Receiving no mail from home, seem to have lost touch with everything. Roll on.

Do You Remember

Do you remember the wonderful plans, we made before the war?
Standing together and dreaming our dreams of golden days in store.
Do you remember the hopes that we held and the things we vowed to do,
Do you remember the castles we built in our paradise for two?
Do you remember — oh please don’t forget, in that loveland over there,
The house and the home and the garden, you love, and your favourite fireside chair.
They are waiting for me, just as you’re waiting too, for the good and the happy day, when I knock at the door, and come back once more with the war clouds rolled away. Do you remember the words that we used when we said those last goodbyes?
Do you remember the promises made as tear drops dimmed our eyes?
I can recall how you waved to the end as the train moved out of view.
These are the things I keep in my heart,
Will you remember them too?

May 15, 1944 — Monday
Sack of clothing and cig parcels up, but none for me, terribly disappointed for I’ve had none for months. Latest news “Heavy fighting now going on in Italy, men and materials being thrown in”. Coast of France bombed and Portugal warned by Britain against helping Germany. Newspaper full every day about the expected second front. Germany is certainly shaking.

May 16, 1944 — Tuesday
Today’s news from German paper “Krim evacuated by Germans in Russia. Heavy fighting in Italy”. News from our secret source “First line of defence by Cassino broken through by our troops”. Turkey broken off diplomatic relations with Germany. Still working in woods tree peeling.

May 17, 1944 — Wednesday
(Fall of Cassino)
Today I had to knock off work through stomach trouble again. Can’t understand it. German doctor doesn’t bother.

May 18, 1944 — Thursday
Czechs are being called up to fight for Germany. First batch left last Monday for Italy, second Tues and third yesterday. Today’s Zeitung says “ Attacks in Italy can be compared with last war, amount of men and material thrown in by us is enormous”. Everything going great for us.

May 28, 1944 — Whit Sunday
Today we have marvellous weather. Scorching hot. Some of the lads went to swimming pool for the first time this year. Two officers brought an army car into town and left it in the square. They disappeared and it appears they were English prisoners. A nurse in nearby town was asked if she wanted hand with suitcase, she refused and as she bent down to pick it up, hairs were observed on wrist, report proves it was an Englishman. Parachutists again dropped in Czecho- ten still at large.
We’re doing marvellous in Italy, we have seven divisions on 7 mile front. Yesterday, German troops and ours were racing towards Rome to get main communications road. If we succeed, the Germans are cut right off in one sector. Russians are very quiet, we think they’re coming with a second front. Leaflets dropped in our camp trying to get us to enroll in British Army Free Corps to fight against Bolshevism. Germany must be in a state now, printing stuff like this for prisoners.

May 29, 1944 — Whit Monday
No news whatsoever to put down regarding the war. Today we went down to the pool for a swim. When one looks around as a prisoner, and sees all the young couples so carefree and happy, it makes one realise what he is missing. Five years ago now I was with Alice at Derby Races. Sometimes I think that this war will go on for years, I cannot see it ending at all. God knows what the reaction of this lot will be. It will be like starting all over again.

June 3, 1944 — Saturday
Very little sleep again last night again through stomach trouble. I think I must have got a gastric stomach or something, on and off for about eighteen months now.

June 4, 1944 — Sunday
No news at all, one of the worst weekends I’ve spent. Roll on a long time. Had to tear my letter up, couldn’t write.

June 6, 1944 — Tuesday
Today marks the greatest day of my prison life. News received from our inside information man “the second front has arrived”. What excitement it brought to us lads who are always eager to snatch at the least thing regarding the war. This morning, our troops landed in France at Le Havre, Midday we were in Dieppe, Cherbourg, Biscay and one or two other places. Good foothold has been obtained and we await further results. Eisenhower’s speech was great.

June 7, 1944 — Wednesday
In France, everything is progressing according to plan. (Official BBC news in German). 4,000 large ships supported smaller manned by international brigades landed in positions all along French coast. 11,000 planes took part. Alexander says, “Our aim is the freeing of Europe, a task for heroes and patriots. Have patience, be prepared and above all, have faith in leaders. Your burdens will be harder to bear than before, but remember, not as hard as the French people. My best wishes to you all and God guide us to success.” German news “Large number ships supported by air protection enabled Anglo-American troops to make landing”. Drone of planes, crossing and re-crossing together with thunder of guns heard all night. BBC news 9 o clock am — 20,000 men supported by 2 new tanks released by para. Street fighting Calais. Bridgeheads established, Cherbourg and Yvetot. Troops going forward after cleaning up mine fields.
5pm news, BBC — German troops counter attacking at Cherbourg. Troops landed at Le Havre established contact with airborne troops that were landed rear of German lines.
8pm — further landing at ??? and mouth of River Loire. Bottle front now 200 kilometres. Rumour says 1 million troops now landed.

June 11, 1944 — Sunday
Events are moving great for us of late. Tonight’s Swiss radio report (under cover news) says that the Germans are simply fleeing in Italy. Other news 2,000 British planes bombed German lines and railroads also rear lines of communication German announcer says that the amount of damage done is unimaginable.

June 13, 1944 — Tuesday
German general captured at Stalingrad spoke to the Germans people telling them to pack in now. Tonight I spoke to a man and his wife at the fence, there’re all for us and when I said take care someone might see them, she said “what does it matter, they can’t take no more than our life”. He showed me Turkish cig. Packets with initials. Stambul. ohne. M. Stalin’s army marchiert bis unter den linden ohne musik. Received first cig. parcel today from regiment. War news is great, going well.

June 14, 1944 — Wednesday
Everything going swell for us in France and Italy. The Russians are now advancing through Finland. No further news.

June 15, 1944 — Thursday
German newspaper today gives the name of first prisoner of war to be captured in France. He was an American and he dropped by parachute right in divisional headquarters. A German officer who had spent years in England, and captained the team eleven at Cambridge University said “Hands up old man your invasion is over”. Reply, “Yes, thank heavens”.

June 19, 1944 — Monday
No English news. German newspaper talks about nothing but their new invention, the flying bomb. It says London has been bombed day and night by these remote controlled bombs, people in underground shelters for thirty-six hours. Two days ago Morrison said that this is the resource for Germany same as the ‘Big Bertha’ last war. Paris is the place they are sent from.

June 20, 1944 — Tuesday
Went into Czechoslovakia with the lorry for timber. Today news says that the Cherbourg Peninsula is cut off by our troops. Nothing else to report.

June 21, 1944 — Wednesday
Tonight I watched the big parade of Hitler Youth, firemen, soldiers, nurses, this is held every year on this day, the young girls looked wonderful dressed in white. Still on the lorry job.

June 22, 1944 — Thursday
BBC news in German 2,000 planes bombed Germany yesterday; they were escorted by 700 fighters of the latest type, capable of doing 600 kilometres per hour. Newspaper says England is still racking her brains to stop this new flying bomb. They call it the ‘Spreng Körper’.

June 24, 1944 — Saturday
40 officers and 12 men have been shot by the Gestapo, they escaped and sooner than be knocked about by the Gestapo they preferred death. English news says that Germany is given while today to send in the names of the men responsible for these murders, they have the name of the chief. Order issued to the guards today no noise has to be made by prisoners after lights out, it appears men have been escaping while others have been singing to bluff the guards. News is good for us everywhere, two more towns taken in Italy; Finns are fleeing from the Russians.

Mein herz und mein sinn, stent nur für wien,
Für wienwie es weint wie es lacht dort
Bin ich zuhaus dort kenn ich mich aus,
Bei tag und noch mehr bei der nacht,
Und keener bleist aus ob jung oder alt;
Mütst ich einmal fort von dem schönen
Ort da nehm meine sehnsucht kein end:
Da hört ich aus weiter ferne ein lied,
Das klingt das jauchst das zieht:

Wien, wien nur du allein sollst stets
Die stadt meiner traüme sein,
Dort wo die alten haüser stehn, dort
Wo die liebtsćhen mäderln gehn.
Wien, wien: mur du allein sollst stets
Die stadt meiner traüme sein,
Dort wo ich glüchlich und selig bin
Ist wien mein wien.

June 26, 1944 — Monday
Mad all night with stomach trouble again. Today I was writhing in agony, couldn’t get no relief. Vomiting all morning and couldn’t get anything up. Roll on England. Get it seen to.

June 27, 1944 — Tuesday
Taken by ambulance from the billet to the hospital. In terrible pain and sick all over. The chef refused to take me down in is car, said he had other use for his petrol, the dog.

June 28, 1944 — Wednesday
Taken in the operating theatre, a rubber tube was stuck up my penis into my inside. Said to be cleaning stones out of my inside. Test of urine made, temperature high.

June 29, 1944 — Thursday
Tube put down my throat into my inside, it nearly choked me, and acid was pumped out into a bottle at the side. Received two injections.

June 30, 1944 — Friday
Received two more injections and blood test. Evening had to put two cocoa butter tablets up my backside. Stool test.

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