- 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.
The story is in five parts:
August 25th: At 07.00 hours, we were all packed up and at 12.00 hours, we marched through the gate. As we went through, we received on invalid parcel and some got a book.
We did pretty well with the red Cross food and cigarettes that were left, and the last to leave would be even better off. After getting our parcel, we were put into very small cattle trucks. Of the forty in each, every one had to stand because there wasn’t enough room to sit down.
We travelled north to Port St Giorgio, just 15 kilometres from camp. Here we got into larger cattle trucks; as soon as we were inside, the doors locked on the outside. The only openings were from small windows at the top and they had thick netting on. Inside the truck was a tea chest and a Dixsy. The Dixsy contained cold coffee, ½ pint per man, and the tea chest had rations. Each man got three loaves of bread, each one weighing 8 oz (ounces), one piece of cheese (3 oz), one six ounce tin of bully and 12 cigarettes, that is to last us for three days. The rest of the day passed. We had to get down to it early owing to no lights in the truck. There wasn’t enough room to lay down, so we had to sleep sitting up. It was very warm and stuffy through the night.
26th. Everyone was awake at 05.30 hours; at 09.30 hours, the doors were opened for ten minutes, then closed again.
As the day passed, it got colder as we travelled north.
27th: It rained in the night and half of us didn’t sleep owing to the cold. The doors opened at 10.00 hours for five minutes and the rest of the day went very slowly.
Up to now, we had only travelled northwards and now we were going west. At 22.00 hours, everyone was resting when the train stopped, and three German officers came round to count us before we passed through the Brenner Pass into Austria.
28th: It rained all night and at 07.00 hours, a train passed us with snow on the roof. The doors opened at 08.00 hours and half a dixsy of boiled barley and ten two pound loaves of black bread, and later on, we had a dixsy of cold water.
The trucks are worse than pigsties now. There’s one thing all German officers and men cannot understand, and that is that our lads are always happy and singing, no matter what they go through.
29th: We are somewhere in Germany. As we were singing, the train stopped inside a large station. A German sergeant told us to stop singing. All the civilians look downhearted and not one of them has a smile. At 15.00 hours, we pulled into a siding where we finished our train ride. We could see the camp, just a few minutes’ walk and it takes us until 19.00 hours before we get there. The night was very cold and we had sleep on the floor of some unfurnished bungalows.
30th: The first thing I saw was a frost on the ground. At 12.30 hours, we got one loaf to four men (1,500 gm), ½ oz (ounce: approx 35 ozs to a kg) margarine each. At 15.20 hours, we received five small potatoes, boiled, and something else, but I don’t know what it was, and no one else did. Everything is going all right, but for cigarettes; we just cannot get parcels or cigarettes here, and the Jerry doesn’t give cigarettes to prisoners, so we’ll have to wait until we reach a permanent camp in the middle of Germany.
I have just got over a four-day illness. With parcels, we shall be able to live pretty well. But the weather is very cold first thing in the morning. We get news from the German papers, but you cannot believe it. The last seventeen days have been very bad.
We left this camp at 08.30 hours and walked five miles to another camp. We stayed there three days, then went through a hot bath and had all our hair cut off. This took place at 01.30 hours in the morning. We arrived in another camp at 02.30 hours. Here, they got a parcel every fortnight.
I have been in this camp with a pal of mine for ten days now, and still not had a parcel, but the N.C,O,'s, the Americans and Navy have had one. We two cannot have one because we are going out working. We have both been put onto a party to leave, we leave at 15.00 hours this afternoon. We left at 04.50 hours, where to? We do not know. We have been on the train for fourteen hours and now we have finished. We arrived at the place where we are to work. It is a gas works and our room is the right size for 25 of us; it has a small fireplace and the beds are very clean and good. We are fed by the firm and the food wasn’t very much at the beginning, but it’s a lot better now, but we need it with the work we do. I have a nice warm job; I am working on the fires. We have had no parcels for three months, but we are expecting them sometime next month.
The cigarette situation is the worst here. Sometimes we get them from the French prisoners who come into the works with carts. All the German civilians get there every day; even the German Army only get three per day.
The winter was the worst I have seen in my life. One place, 19 kilometres from here, the snow was ten feet deep. Food was dropped by planes. We kept getting bits of news from different places. One German civilian was known to us as 'Hello boys,' Another is known as 'The American,' because he said he used to live there. Every week, we get the P.O.W. called 'The Camp'. We have two rooms to live in now. The old room has 15 in it, and the new one had 10. The food is a lot better these days, but we still throw a lot thought the window into the river. We get plenty of Red Cross parcels now. I’ve only had one cigarette parcel here.
The weather is very cold, but we have had some lovely weather these last few months.
2/9/44: It is getting near to the end of the fifth year of war, and we heard at 19.00 hours that the American and English troops came into Germany at 2 o’clock yesterday. This came from a French man, then a Jerry civilian ½ an hour later.
It is 21.30 hours and two of the English boys are trying to get the English news on the wireless in the guards’ room downstairs. The lad has just run up with it, but they didn’t get it all. This is the third time they have tried, and they have only just found out that the time here is the same as in England.
We have nearly all of our kit taken from us at night before we are locked in, owing to many English prisoners getting away.
All the German people are getting very frightened these days. Some old men who work here are being called up to fight. Lads of 15 and 16 are going as well. One workman I know here told us the police came to his house. They knew the son was the only one in the house, so the police asked him if he would like to be an S.S. man. He said, “When I get a little older, I might.” They came for him a few days later.
The chief of the works here always keeps two pigs; they were killed in November for Christmas. It was our first anniversary on the 30th of November, so we had a good dinner and a little bit of the pig. Christmas is getting near, so we are doing our best to have a good one. Some of us get chocolate changed for bread from the French (or coupons). I get 3½ lbs for a bar from a civil French driver who comes in for gas. For the coupons, we can either get 500 gms of bread or 375 gms of meat per coupon. A fortnight before Christmas, three of us went, together with some meat and the English parcels; we were able to make a steam pudding and a pie. With a bar of chocolate, I asked a little friend of mine to ask his mother to make a cake for me. His mother sent it on Christmas Eve. It was a very nice one. My young friend is a young German boy of 16 years of age. He is an electrician; he is always in our lager and he likes our cigarettes too.
24/12/44: Christmas Eve once again, but we have no snow on the ground (I wasn’t working today, only 12 men worked). I put up trimmings and made ten Christmas cards for the ones in our room. We have a Christmas tree, which our guard brought us. But the civilians are not allowed one this year. The German children don’t get much for Christmas. If they get an apple and a sweet, they do very well.
Some French prisoners work in a wood yard over the river. We speak to them very often. One of them has an accordion so they let us have it for Christmas week. We all sing on Christmas Eve. Generally, we are all in bed for nine or ten every night, but tonight, it was 12.10 before we turned in.
I was up at 05.30 hours for work at 06.00. 12 men worked but seeing as 10 wagons of coal came in, six more turned out. The Air Raid alarm goes every day; when it goes, we always know it’s dinner time because it goes at 11.45 every morning. The German civilians say, “No alarm today, it’s Christmas.” But look on the other side. As the clock pointed at 11.30, the alarm went full blast. At 11.35 we could hear them coming from the south. At 11.40 hours, we saw them. It was a great sight; the sky was full of them. After waiting for ten minutes, we heard it coming down. It was a good way off. Some time back, in September, Langh Losser was hit with six small bombs, but it made a mess of it. That was approximately 200 yards away. Stones went everywhere; four came into the works. One came through the roof and fell behind one of the beds. It broke a form and chocolate was all over the place. One went through the window of the works Forman and broke everything. That made him mad for weeks. His son-in-law is in America as a P.O.W. The bombers came back at about 12.30 — 1.30 and the alarm went again. The place they went for was Brikes, a small arms works.
I had finished work by 10.15 hrs, but six of the boys on coal worked until 15.30 hrs, so we had our dinner at night. The German dinner wasn’t very good, but at 17.00, we had our own dinner, which we provided ourselves.
Programme for Christmas Day:
06.00................................German coffee. Work until 10.00.
09.00..................................Breakfast: boiled potatoes, bread and butter, tea.
12.00.................................Dinner from cookhouse: boiled potatoes, boiled pork, red cabbage, coffee.
14.00..................................Cake, cheese and butter, tea.
17.00..................................Our own dinner: fried potatoes, onions corned beef, steamed raisin pudding, pie, Cake, butter and jam, tea.
19.00...................................Singing with the accordion.
20.30...................................Biscuits, butter, cheese, tea; not forgetting plenty of smokes all day.
The rest of the week passed quickly; we had two days off for New Year with 12 men working each day. If we want anything, we get it from some German. As I write this, one of the boys has walked in with a 10 lb (10 pounds, approx 4½ kilos) sack of spuds. It cost him a bar of chocolate.
If we want butter or sugar, we can get them at any time; all it costs is one bar of chocolate. I’ve just heard that the civilians have had their sugar cut down this month, but they get a little extra jam. I’ve just heard that there has been no tea or coffee in this country for four years; cocoa has not been seen for seven years and chocolate for five years. So you can see why we can get anything we ask for. The Germans get just one cigarette a day, so for a few cigarettes, we can get anything. Last week, I managed to get four packets of custard powder; one packet makes ½ a pint. The civilians don’t bother with them because they cannot get the sugar and milk to make it, so we get them for one cigarette.
We manage to get the English news at 21.00 hrs, at least twice a week; sometimes every night. One of our lads had a very bad fall last Sunday morning (the temperature was 16 degrees below zero). He was taken straight to hospital; he’d fallen approximately ten feet down a ladder. It’s not been too bad for the last two days. Yesterday, it was four below, but today it was 15½ below zero, until after dinner, when it went up to 7 below. It’s 18.00 now and it’s 11 degrees below. We are expecting it to be very cold tomorrow morning. The civilians go to bed at 7 o’clock because they have no fires, but we use two buckets of coal between 15.00 hrs and 22.00 hrs. We have two rooms, so we have two fires.
We have just received our last parcel and have no idea when the next one will come. There’s been no mail since Christmas. The work is getting very low now because the coal is running out and there’s no sign of any more.
Our rations are cut once more, so are the civilians’. Every day is getting worse.
Today has been a very bad one, very little work to do which is good for us. There’s enough coal to last another week. There’s very little to eat and nothing to smoke. Two of the lads had a fight last night, everyone here is fed up. We had an air raid on the sixth of February 1945. One town near here had it very bad. All the mains were blown up: gas, water, electricity and food dumps went up.
Another Sheffield lad and I have been watching some chickens over the last few days, we will be after one or two of them in the next day or two. The weather is getting warmer and the snow is nearly gone. We had a parcel of books come in today; posted to Italy in July 1943.
Today is 12/2/1945 and everything is quiet these days with very little work and very little food. The weather is warmer but sometimes a little cold in the morning. It was very nice weather today (14/2/1945) but there was an air raid about 50 Km away.
Today ahs been a great day, the air raid went just after dinner and we knew it. Bombs dropped very close; approximately 10 km away. We could feel the works shake; there were plenty of planes overhead and we could hear the bombs coming down. At 21.30 hrs, they came once more, but this time, a little closer. We saw the planes and the bombs as they left the planes, as they dropped all the way around us, and very close to us. Once, we could see a church, but now we cannot. A great many workmen here have had their houses blown up. At Buchholz, they had it bad, 58 houses, a church and many other things were blown up when a land mine came down. We heard the B.B.C. News very good today.
They were over here again at 20.45 hrs; they dropped the bombs very close.
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